It was July 4, 1987. The Statue of Liberty had just under gone a face-lift and “Proud to Be an American” was the number one song. I was eight years old at the time and I remember being so proud to be an American, so safe and free. Ah, the rose colored glasses of childhood. Throughout the years those glasses have become clearer and clearer, but on June 19, 2005, they were ripped off, thrown to the ground and stomped upon.
After exiting Toby & Jack’s Bar on the plaza, I was standing in a crowd of people, trying to locate my friend. A man handed me something: a pipe. I did not want it and was giving it to the person standing next to me when two police officers stepped into the crowd. They flashed their flash light into my eyes and asked me for my identification. I was a bit startled, having never been involved with the police before so, I asked them to please take the light out of my eyes so I could see. I then began reaching into my purse to retrieve my ID for them.
The next thing I knew, the officers had grabbed both my arms and slammed me up against the brick wall. I began crying, asking them why they were doing this, telling them that they were hurting me. I had never experienced such pain. Little did I know that there was more to come.
The two officers dragged me across the street and slammed me onto the hood of one of the police cars. I lifted my head off the car for a second to see if I could see my friend Ryan, and an officer, with his forearm, slammed my face back into the hood of the car. I was handcuffed and thrown into the back of the police car. I asked the officers repeatedly what they were doing, where they were taking me and why I was being arrested. They just looked at me and never answered any of my questions. I was just their chosen rag doll for the night.
They drove me to the Arcata police station. When we arrived they asked me to get out of the car and get into another police car. When I asked them why and to tell me were they were taking me they said, “If you don’t get out oft his car and get into the other one we will physically pick you up and throw you in.” I did as they said for fear of more injury.
We then arrived at the Humboldt County Jail, where an officer came up to the car, opened the door and basically pulled me out, giving me no chance to get out or even walk down the hall that he pulled me through. We came to a small room and the officer pushed me face-first up against a padded blue wall. Behind me stood five officers, three male and two female, all of which were wearing plastic gloves. I was petrified at this point and no one would answer any of my questions. I did not have handcuffs and with my hands at my sides, staying close to the wall, I began to turn around to look at the officers while saying, “You don’t have to do this, just tell me what’s going on.” Before I even turned a quarter of the way the five officers jumped me and dragged me into another room where they pulled off my shoes and socks, my earrings and necklace. The pain they were inflicting on me was tremendous and I felt so powerless.
The officers then brought me into a cell and full-body slammed me face down into the ground. The officers then got on top of me and were pulling my arms behind my back. It felt like they were going to pull my arms right out of their sockets. They also had their knees going into my back with what felt to be their entire body weights.
I was then left in the cell for three or four hours when they let me out to sit in the waiting room. There they continued to be verbally rude and when it was time for me to be released, I had to ask them four times to call a cab for me. I spoke with my friend Ryan who was a witness to what happened, “After I watched them throw you against the wall and over eth hood of there car I was afraid for your safety. I walked up to one of the police officers to ask them why they were being so rough with you and where they were taking you. The officer immediately raised a tazer to my eyes and said if I didn’t step back she was going to taz me. I wasn’t coming at her in an attacking fashion I simply was trying to find out where they were taking you.”
They charged me with resisting arrest and possession of marijuana. They beat the crap out of me and charged me with resisting arrest! This is what our police force is here for? Their here to scare the crap out of good a biding citizens? Yes, I was holding a pipe and a ticket should have been issued but a beating was nowhere warranted and should never be. The police of Arcata seem to be bored and on a huge power trip. In the weeks that followed this incident I would freeze up every time I saw a cop behind me when I was driving or just walking down the street. I had always thought of them as protectors. Now I just don’t know what to think. I sure as hell know that I hate it when people call them “Peace” officers; I mean what kind of load of shit is that.
The other day a friend went up to a police officer and asked him if he was walking with the power stance to scare people. His reply was “What I don’t scare you?” as he took a step in her direction. I’m sorry but I didn’t realize that the police officers job was to scare the public. Maybe that is a new addition to the job description.
Now I am not saying that every police officer is bad, and I know that there are some officers that are truly trying to help the community but when situations like this occur it gives them all a bad name.
In the past few months there have been many incidents of police using aggressive force and nothing is being done about it. I spoke with Greg Allen, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer based in Arcata; he informed me that mine was not the only instance that he knows of and because of eth sensitivity of the cases the names of these people were left out. “In February 2005 I was contacted by and represented a woman who had an incident with a non uniformed officer from the Dept. of Forestry, she was pulled over at Samoa Blvd. and V in Arcata. After being instructed to produce her driver’s license and registration the victim complied and was looking in her purse. Without warning, the officer sprayed her in the eyes with pepper spray, dragged her out of the car and threw her to the ground. She was charged with speeding and resisting an officer. I went to court in March, and the District Attorney had declined to file.
Greg Also informed me of another instance that happened on the Plaza that was witnessed by a local shop owner. “One evening while looking out the window at the corner of 9th and H he saw three young women who appeared to be students walking north on H adjacent to the Plaza. He saw an Arcata police officer run behind the women and kick the legs out from one of them. She was taken to the ground and arrested. The women offered no resistance, and the violence seemed to the shop keeper to be unjustified.”
The ex-boyfriend of one of my friends was also beaten up outside of Toby and Jacks Bar. I spoke with Tyler Brown who was the bouncer at Toby and Jacks that evening. Tyler, “I watched the officers grab him by the shoulders and slam him into the ground. This was done after he was simply speaking with the officers about something that happened earlier. He then said he was going to just go home and took one step back and that’s when they grabbed him. They used over excessive force in the situation.”
I tried getting a hold of the Arcata police department for comments as well as statistics as to how many complaints are made against them each year but I was unable to get a response. Also it is not mandatory for these types of records to be available to the public. A government entity needs to put it into effect that the people be able to access these documents.
I asked Greg if anything was being done to get something happening in this community. Currently there is a group of people from different organizations in Humboldt such as the Human Rights Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project, as well as the Green Party working together to get something in place that monitors the police.
These people have formed a group called the Coalition for Police Review (CPR). What we need is community support so that the local government will acknowledge what is happening in our community. “We are not trying to attack the police; however it is difficult to expect them to investigate themselves. There is a small conflict of interest.” stated Greg Alan. If you are interested in helping with police review or would like more information please call the local branch of the ACLU at 707-215-5385.
We can not continue to let our government try to control our actions through fear of bodily injury. The police are being paid through our tax dollars. We are their boss’s not the other way around and its time somebody stands up and does something about it. We can not just talk about it we need to act on it in order to make a difference.
(for a picture of one of the injuries see: http://www.indybay.org/news/2005/11/1782998.php)