June 2, 2016 (San Diego) Last Friday were were downtown documenting events around the convention center. Donald Trump came to town and things got a tad heated. But how or when they got heated matters. For most of the day people were loud, but peaceful. Speeches were given, people brought pinatas and at one point it had the feeling of a block party.
Yes. there was a single incident when somebody tried to breach the police cordon. We were impressed. San Diego Police and other local agencies were doing an extremely good job of maintaining the peace. Then the mood changed. And this was right as Trump left the stage. The first thing that happened is that the police posture went on higher alert. Officers donned helmets, as if expecting trouble. We were there to report, so we of course donned helmets too.
Commanders likely knew that things were about to get heated. This is a pattern. Every time Trump finishes a speech, his heated rhetoric gets some people to do things that they might not otherwise do. It was obvious.
Then we noticed a group of Trump supporters making their way to the side where those who opposed him were. That would be L and 5th. We knew this happened because we saw flags that quite frankly did not belong there. This was a “Don’t thread on me flag.” This has become a symbol of the American right, and one that the Tea Party adopted. It was at that moment that we noticed the scuffle.
We knew arrests were made, and this was both Trump and non-Trump supporters. Since Friday we have been able to confirm that some of the Trump supporters used pepper spray to essentially assault other people. Yes, there were a couple bottles that flew. At the same time we saw something that was troubling. When the police decided to drive people from downtown to Barrio Logan, the logical expectation was that they would push them there, avoid trouble, that is what the police wanted to avoid, and quickly leave the area.
We did not walk there, so we need to rely on other’s reporting. A press conference was held and this is what Fox 5 reported:
“It is reprehensible that Mayor (Kevin) Faulconer and (police) Chief (Shelley) Zimmerman ordered riot police and armored vehicles to descend into Barrio Logan, a historic community with a rich tradition of advocating for civil (and) human rights and the self-determination of the Mexicano community,” said Kiki Ochoa, a member of Union del Barrio, one of the organizations that led a contingent into downtown San Diego from Barrio Logan to protest the Republican presidential candidate’s appearance.
This was a provocation. This is the way it was felt by residents of Barrio Logan. This is why we are having so many issues between the police and minority communities. The police is doing their job. They said they did a very good job, and until the events at Barrio Logan, even on the bridge, we would agree.
The community feels that the use of Bearcats, which are referred as many of the activists as small tanks, and riot police sends a message. The message is clear. People from south of the 8 are not welcomed. They are going to learn their place.
The city is already having higher tensions with these communities. This was one more example of the over policing they are subjected to regularly. We are lucky that in this city we have had no major conflict between the police and the citizens. But we have to wonder for how long? The other reason to raise this issue is that quite frankly the Trump supporters never faced the riot clad officers, for the most part. They were led away to their vehicles and safety and it was just the ones who crossed and created trouble that faced any arrest. This is the impression minorities have.
While there are minorities who support Trump, this is not a healthy way for the city to function At the moment the American Civil Liberties has not just issued a statement, but is currently collecting witness testimony.
We are also quoting their statement.
Police response to a peaceful protest with an overwhelming show of force leaves us wondering if we were watching events in the same San Diego that saw 100,00 people peacefully march in the city with the support of the police chief at the time. We have done much better in the past.
Law enforcement’s paramilitary tactics and mindset inflamed the situation. Law enforcement officers and officials are public servants tasked with serving and protecting their communities, not infringing on lawful and peaceful First Amendment protests.
ACLU stands in solidarity with Barrio Logan residents and other San Diegans who saw their first amendment rights trampled.
We want to hear your stories of what happened Friday. Please call us at 619.232.2121 to share with us your experiences. You can also email your account to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also here to provide you the tools to take any next steps, such as filing a formal complaint.
To serve and protect is not a suggestion—it is a mandate that must apply to all communities. We are demanding that police be held accountable for their overreaction to the people of Barrio Logan.