“My head was opened up with a hit from the GoPro holder,” says Rafael Bautista, one of the founders of Tenants United, a group seeking to implement rent control in San Diego. But Bautista's activist effort that led to his injury on December 9th had nothing to do with the high cost of living in San Diego.
Bautista, a City Heights resident, says he was one of the 15 to 20 anti-wall protesters at the border-wall rally held at the east end of Enrico Fermi Place, near the Otay border crossing, on December 9th. Besides him, Bautista says his group consisted of “three children, four or five women, and an elder male.” He says he was expecting a peaceful protest, but the situation heated up really quick.
“After physically harassing one of our comrades for over 200 meters,” Bautista recalls, “the father and son [wall supporters] attacked a professor [in our group] by sucker-punching him more than once.” A brawl between some members of both groups ensued and then Bautista noticed one of his buddies getting choked with a flagpole.
“[Another man] then tried to kick the guy that was getting choked,” Bautista says, “[and] that is when I punched him in his face. Then someone hit me and I stumbled. [The man] tried to kick me but [instead] I gave him a kick to the sternum [and] when I tried to stand up; he hit me in the back of the head with his GoPro holder.”
Bautista then pointed out on a CBS 8 video clip in which “You can see [the GoPro holder] fly up in the air after he hit me.”
After the scuffle, one of Bautista’s friends took a photo of him with a bloody white shirt wrapped around his neck and posted it on Facebook. Bautista also posted photos of the bloodied GoPro holder and the wound on his head.
“We are pressing charges,” Bautista says.
On December 9, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department posted a news release that stated “There were no injuries, property damage, or other crimes reported during the incident. There were no arrests made. The event was a generally peaceful assembly with minor disturbances between the two groups.”
The event lasted from noon to about 1:30 p.m. with approximately 60 “wall supporters.”
The following Tuesday (December 12th) Bautista went to the hospital to get his head wound examined. He says he plans on filing a complaint against the sheriff’s department for “their inaction and their reluctance to uphold our right to protest.”
UPDATE 12/12, 2:10 p.m.
San Diego County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sammy Castañon sent the following statement:
"On December 9th, there was a rally at the United States/Mexico border. Some of the people attending the rally were there to support increased border security and others were there to express their opposing viewpoints. Each group was afforded an area to assemble and to express their opinions. At some point, several members from each group circumvented security measures and there was a physical confrontation. Deputies take action when a crime is observed or reported. In this case, Deputies responded when they observed the altercation and intervened. Maintaining a safe place for people to express their opinions is our highest priority. At the time of the incident, no arrests were made and none of the involved parties desired criminal prosecution. However, the incident is still being investigated and we have identified a victim who is working with us to file a report. We are currently reviewing available video and conducting an internal debrief to ensure safe and efficient responses for future events."