Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning
Many of the individuals who were swept up by last week's LAPD raid on the Occupy LA encampment at Los Angeles City Hall were arrested even as they attempted to disperse in accordance with police directives, according to testimonials from some who were detained in the early morning hours of November 30th and held on misdemeanor charges for days after.
Their videotaped testimonials [some of which are posted below] both corroborate and reinforce the excessive force and post-arrest abuse charges detailed in our previous article on the Occupy LA raid, in which detainees charged that they were hand-cuffed behind their backs and left to languish inside L.A. County Sheriff's Department (LASD) buses for eight to nine hours without access to food, water, medicine, or toilets as they were left to urinate on themselves in their seats.
The details also suggest that these conditions were imposed upon innocent demonstrators who were the victims of indiscriminate, false arrests by law enforcement officials. Worse, one written account suggests the LAPD's misconduct included not only pillaging the encampment and police brutality, but even torture...
Arrested for complying with police orders
In this first video, a woman who identifies herself as Deirdre, an OccupyLA Food Committee member, describes how her efforts to comply with LAPD directives resulted in her getting arrested:
To my surprise, within moments, I watched [fellow Food Committee member] "Mud" zip-tied and taken away. I then saw a legal observer ... taken away as well. And then it happened to me.
The people who had hopped over the fence, who had disobeyed the orders to go to the sidewalk, were left alone. The people who had listened to the police, remaining calmly and peacefully on the sidewalk, found themselves zip-tied and taken away.
Dierdre's account corroborates one of those we reported on last week from a separate video interview of three arrestees, shot by video live-streamer "OccupyFreedomLA," after the women were finally released after several nights in jail.
The testimonial from Deirdre follows below...
Excessive force/deplorable conditions
Both of the unidentified individuals in this next video describe excessive force during their arrests.
"They slammed me on the ground and put me in a compliance hold, put their knee on my back and said, 'Quit resisting!'" the unidentified middle-aged African-American man says in the video.
"'I’m not resisting. I’m being peaceful. I’m not resisting,'" he recounts telling the police. "They kept screaming, 'Quit resisting!'"
"The more they did that," he adds, "the more cops came and started jumping on me, dancing on—putting their foots on me, kicking me on the ground, squeezing my hand."
Once again, this video reinforces details we covered in our previous article about the deplorable conditions in which detainees were kept once inside the LASD buses --- the same LASD that is the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation over inmate abuse inside L.A. County jails.
The details include zip-tied female prisoners forced to urinate on themselves while in LASD custody...
Brutal arrests and torture
Perhaps the most disturbing report to date comes from the written account furnished by Patrick Meighan, a writer for Fox' animated sitcom Family Guy and a member of the Unitarian Church of Santa Monica.
Meighan was one of the non-violent demonstrators seated around a tent, arms linked, at the center of the City Hall Occupation on the night of November 29 and early morning hours of November 30 as the LAPD moved in. They were among the few who had intended to be arrested at Occupy LA that night.
Meighan's description of what happened, as almost all media were denied access to the center of the Occupation that night, is chilling...
Thoroughly terrorized, Meighan decided to voluntarily unlink from the others and "stood as instructed," only to have his arms "wrenched" behind his back. His wrists were "hyperextended" which caused Meighan to "involuntarily recoil in pain" before things began to get worse for the peaceful demonstrator...
Meighan reports that he was zip-cuffed so tightly his hands "turned blue." He is still suffering from "nerve damage in [his] right thumb and palm."
But the account as to what occurred after he and fellow detainees were taken "to a parking garage in Parker Center" is perhaps the most troubling...
Recall that in Part II of our five-part series on the History of CIA Torture, we described the academic studies that combined the relatively simple techniques of sensory deprivation with the KGB’s use of self-inflicted pain. This combination produced the how-to-torture manual called the "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation—July 1963." ("KUBARK" was an early cryptonym for the CIA itself.)
The use of similar techniques to the ones described by Meighan above were seen in the photos that emerged from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib of hooded prisoners who were shackled and forced to remain for extended periods in stress positions.
While there is no evidence of sensory deprivation in the Parker Center garage, if detainees were forced to kneel for seven straight hours on concrete with their hands cuffed behind their backs, it would amount to a classic form of KGB torture --- here applied by ostensibly civilian law enforcement against our own citizens for the act of peacefully protesting and petitioning their government for a redress of grievances, as per their First Amendment rights.
Pillage and plunder
Meighan's account of the LAPD raid on the OccupyLA encampment mirrors the allegations made in a federal complaint filed against the Oakland PD --- slashing tents, smashing personal property and scattering the remnants across the park, which action, according to Meighan, culminated in the widely distributed corporate media description of "'30 tons of garbage' that was 'abandoned' by OccupyLA."
Democracy Now! revealed that a nearly identical tactic was carried out by the San Francisco PD during their predawn raid yesterday morning on the OccupySF encampment, where police "tore down the approximately 140 tents, destroying the camp and throwing the protesters' belongings into the back of a garbage truck."
One wonders whether our increasingly militarized storm troopers actually believe that the Occupy Movement is nothing more than a series of encampments; that this organic demand for genuine, egalitarian democracy can somehow be silenced by destroying tents and personal belongings and by shackling, abusing, and even torturing its supporters.
Criminal as well as civil remedies?
In our previous article on this matter, citing the landmark U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal decision, Collins vs. Jordan (1996), we raised the question as to whether detaining the arrested members of OccupyLA on $5,000 bail, plus a demand by the City Attorney that release be conditioned on preventing the detainees from returning to the City Hall lawn (as opposed to simple 'cite and release' as mandated by California Penal Code § 853.6), might have violated their First and Fourth amendment rights.
We also noted in an update, that per an article from KPCC, the court denied the City Attorney's request that releases be conditioned upon not returning to the City Hall lawn.
These new testimonials reveal that the City Attorney, along with much of the corporate media, have overlooked one other fundamental tenet of our legal system --- the presumption of innocence. The Huffington Post, for example, reported [emphasis added] that some "1,400 police officers, some in riot gear, cleared the Occupy Los Angeles camp early Wednesday...arresting more than 200 who defied orders to leave."
Testimonials which continue to emerge from those detained contradicts those initial corporate media reports.
If it were simply a matter of false arrests and excessive force by law enforcement, civil remedies to those wrongly treated might suffice. But the Meighan account, in particular, goes well beyond that. Torture is a war crime. If Meighan's account is accurate, U.S. citizens were subjected not only to brutal arrests but torture for a simple act of non-violent civil disobedience.
These allegations appear to be so serious that perhaps the only appropriate course would be a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the LAPD and the LASD.
[Hat-tip Jeannie Dean for links to OccupyLA testimonial videos.]
UPDATE 12/11/11: New video has emerged which appears to confirm at least one protestor being arrested after following the directives of police officers at the corner of Spring and Temple. The video reflects columns of police in riot gear moving in and eventually encircling a group of people standing on the side walk.
At 1:29 a.m. Officer #1 says, "In a few moments, we're going to ask those who will voluntarily leave to head down to these stairs." He assures them that they will "not be harassed" and will "be escorted to another area."
The video jumps forward to 1:52 a.m. Officer #1 says, "Those who want to leave, wait by that tree and you'll be escorted out." He tells a female (believed to be the camera operator), "Wait by that tree, ma'am." She asks which tree, appears to comply and after some time passes, approaches Officer #2, "Am I allowed to leave? Am I being escorted out?" Officer #2: "No."
As the camera moves along the police line, she asks, "Am I going home tonight? Am I being escorted out or am I being trapped in a circle." When officer #1 again tells her to wait by the tree and to "Back it up!" She complies.
Moments later, officer #3 says, "Ma'am, do me a favor. Come over here." When she asks why, he says, "Because you're being arrested." As she protests that she had complied with their orders, the camera is jostled and the feed stops.
Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.