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Rose Henna is San Diego-based journalist focused on protest coverage. You can follow her work on Twitter here.
On Monday, August 24, 2020 at approximately 1:00 PM a flyer began circulating on popular social media sites calling for a protest at 1401 Broadway in San Diego, California (San Diego Police Department Headquarters at 5:00 PM to show solidarity with protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Outrage over the August 23, 2020 police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man from Wisconsin, sparked protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Approximately 50 protesters arrived around 5:00 PM at SDPD headquarters and some formed a line blocking the entrance to the SDPD parking lot. By 6:10 PM San Diego Police Department Officers made three arrests. At 7:52 PM San Diego Police Department tweeted from their official Twitter account @SanDiegoPD “A group of 50-55 people are at Police headquarters protesting the Kenosha (WI) incident. At one point, they blocked the entrance/exit driveways. Several warnings to let officers in and out of headquarters were given by megaphone. Officers moved forward to clear the entrance/exit when an officer was hit in the head with a cane. Several officers were punched. One arrest was made for the assault on the officer with a cane and two arrests were made for resisting/obstructing the officers.”
LCRW spoke with Parker, a protester and local, who was arrested during the demonstration. When Parker saw the flyer, he joined others downtown. Parker felt as a white person “I Have a duty to put my body on the line to protect BIPOC,” Parker told LCRW. BIOPC stands for Black and Indigenous People of Color.
“I know as a [clinically diagnosed] epileptic, that I can have a seizure at any time. I’ve been arrested because of them before,” Parker said. He recalled that around 5:30 PM he formed a line with other protesters at the driveway of the SDPD HQ parking lot. What happened next is not clear as Parker nearly lost consciousness. He remembered being shoved and seeing flashes of faces around his. He felt his neck and head repeatedly pressed on by arresting officers
Parker reviewed video footage of his arrest that show his legs giving out as two uniformed officers carried and dragged him through the parking lot with his hands cuffed behind his back. One uniformed officer accompanied them. Parker pointed out that when his legs appear to give out in the video is when he “likely experienced a full on grand mal seizure.”
The next thing he recalled was waking up in the police department sally port in handcuffs. An officer asked him for his wallet. Parker explained that he was confused and could not recall his own home address. He recalled hearing another arrestee complaining that an officer dug his fingernail into his eye. Officers repeated “we will get you out of here, but your friends are blocking the driveway.”
Eventually Parker was led out of the sally port to an ambulance. Emergency Service Workers asked officers several times to remove his handcuffs and the police eventually complied. Parker was then issued paperwork stating he was being charged with Penal Code Violation 148—willfully obstructing a police officer—and was then transferred to a local hospital where he was treated for the seizure. He was released on his own recognizance.
While Parker mentioned he had been arrested in the past due to his seizures, he said “what hasn’t happened is me getting hurt because of them.”
“BIPOC get shot and killed for existing or reaching out towards waistbands, I’m over here out of the hospital with a minor scrape. White people make excuses not to be out here, but this is life or death,” Parker said. “I’m vulnerable to COVID as an asthmatic and I’d rather die, able to say I stood up to oppression than hide in my white tower. I know my skin color saved me from bruises and a severe beating this day. My body lacking bruises is a testament to that.”
Another arrestee who wished to remain anonymous shared that he watched as fellow protesters formed a line at the drive of the SDPD HQ driveway. He saw an officer “drag a woman’s face on the ground and slam her into a tree” and that he “ran over to render aid.”
“I was punched multiple times by an officer as I lay on the ground and I felt the officer dig his fingernails into my eye,” the arrestee told LCRW. They have since been released on bail. A video clip shared by a protester to groups on Signal shows the responding officer punching the arrestee repeatedly as he lay still on the ground.
Following the arrests and attempts by SDPD to surround protesters, the group marched away from SDPD headquarters and through downtown San Diego’s historic Gaslamp quarter. They walked through the street attracting the attention of restaurant goers at local businesses. Many cheered the protesters on as they chanted anti-racist and police accountability. One bystander attempted to assault a member of the press but was quickly dissuaded as the group turned on him. The National Lawyers Guild also reported an assault on one of their observers by what they think was a plain clothes officer.
The march through San Diego’s Gas Lamp Quarter continued for hours. Protesters faced criticism by some passing by including bar goers who appeared intoxicated. LCRW reached out to a protester who wished to be referred to as Johnathan who livestreamed portions of the protest. Johnathan was not active in the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He explained that he was invited by two of his African American friends to attend the protest in La Mesa on May 31, 2020 and said “Since then I haven’t been able been able to feel right not showing support. I am white and easy for me to not think about this stuff. So, when I heard about the protest last night had to go.”
During the protest May 31 at La Mesa Police Department Johnathan, along with other protesters, were struck by rubber bullets, pepper balls and teargassed. At a June 5, 2020 protest in Downtown San Diego, he donned an armored vest and a respirator and was again gassed and struck by rubber bullets. This experience led him to protect himself at protests going forward.
“After that weekend we started seeing just atrocious injuries from people taking headshots from rubber bullets and riot control and, quote-unquote “less lethal munitions,” Johnathan recounted, continuing, “and so I started looking around for helmets and shatterproof googles, just things to protect myself from when the police don’t follow procedure and chose to shoot people with riot control munitions in ways they have not been trained to.” Johnathan and other protesters have made the choice to dress in “bloc”–wearing all black to blend in with one another out of fear of being “doxed by counter protesters.”
But not all the protesters wore helmets and shields. Long time civil rights activist Tasha Williamson joined protesters and took up a megaphone to address the issue of police brutality and murder of black people. She cited the recent police killing of 49-year-old San Diego resident Richard Lewis Price and raised issues with the investigation of the shooting.
“Six officers gunned him down including their sergeant and it went viral when they released the video, but they sealed the medical examiner’s report. This is what the police chief does, cause he doesn’t want you to know that Richard Price was murdered by SDPD,” Williamson said. “July 9th, they emptied 40 bullets out of their guns directly at him. They shot him as he fell to the ground and while he was on the ground. This murder was done here in San Diego, July 9th, let’s also lift him up, lift his name up.”
Several actions around San Diego County are planned including a recurring presence at San Diego Police Department headquarters at varying times. A protester who wished to remain anonymous shared, “we will continue to show up downtown until demands have been met. Those demands include dropping all charges against the protesters arrested on Monday.” Several flyers have been posted for upcoming events including a Block party event set for September 5th from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM at 6th Avenue and Laurel Street in San Diego.