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Reports of Police Abuse Emerge After Occupy LA Eviction

An East Los Angeles College nursing student who stayed at the Occupy LA encampment until the LAPD raid on the night of Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 said he witnessed bruises, black eyes and broken bones during the eviction.

Rudy Rodriguez, 40, a member of the Occupy LA medical crew, told EGP on Monday that he treated the injuries of those who managed to escape getting arrested by the LAPD.

Lea esta nota en Español: Surgen Informes de Abuso Policial Después del Operativo Contra los Indignados de LA [1]

He has not been back to Occupy LA’s former site, but is now camping at Occupy ELAC in Monterey Park, where he says it is a good thing his services are not as needed.

According to Rodriguez, for the first month he was the only person to man the medical tent at Occupy LA, mostly in order to prevent supplies from being stolen and to ensure supplies were kept sterile. He was later joined by an EMT instructor and a registered nurse, he said,

“Don’t believe what they tell you,” he said about early reports that the LAPD avoided violent clashes with protesters. He claims one of the officers hit him with a baton, though he did not suffer bruises

Rodriguez said LAPD officers used a technique called “kettling,” barricading protesters from leaving and than arresting them.

Other media outlets have also reported that some of those arrested were trapped inside LAPD’s barricades, which prevented them from leaving. The Filipino-American newspaper Asian Journal interviewed Stephanie Lopez, one of 292 people arrested during the raid. She said she was arrested as she tried to evacuate.

The Occupy LA eviction was heralded by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck as a peacefully orchestrated affair, but photos and accounts have since emerged that seem to indicate otherwise. Many witnesses are now claiming officers took a heavy-handed approach to arresting the protesters. They also say the pleas by those arrested to attend to medical issues such as asthma or injuries, or even to use the bathroom, were ignored.

Witnesses say many of the arrests and clashes took place out of the media spotlight, and involved protesters attempting to obey LAPD’s instructions to leave the occupation area.

Only twelve media outlets were allowed official access to cover the eviction process, but even they were limited to designated “free speech zones,” and not allowed to get close enough to observe all of LAPD’s actions. Smaller, non-mainstream media outlets have complained they were excluded from the authorized media pool, which put their reporters at risk of being arrested.

A wide range of media outlets captured LAPD officers pouring out of city hall to raid the Occupy LA encampment around midnight. They kicked over tents and porta-sinks, and shouted at bystanders and protesters to leave the area immediately. An EGP reporter was pushed twice by officers while attempting to take photos of the scene. A woman attempting to gather her belongings from her tent located outside of the city hall lawn was pressured by officers to leave immediately.

Once the city hall lawn was cleared, officers posted a human barrier around the encampment. Officers and protesters faced off for nearly two hours. Most LAPD officers were stone-faced, some used their batons to prevent protesters from getting too close, and a small number struck up conversations with some of the protesters.

Meanwhile, protesters yelled comments that ran the gamut from calling the officers “pigs” and accusing them of enforcing a “police state,” to appealing to the officers to drop their weapons and riot gear to join the “99 percent” protesting income inequality.

Students from Occidental College, who said they were “non-violent monitors” or “peacekeepers,” stationed themselves between protesters and officers to keep potential clashes from escalating, while lawyers and others from the legal profession functioned as “legal observers,” documenting any potentially abusive police actions.

The standoff ended abruptly when LAPD officers began actively widening their perimeter and chasing after the crowd of protesters who took off in the direction of Little Tokyo.

At around 3 a.m. one protester who was on his way to a meeting area at an Olvera Street church pointed a warning finger back at one of several Sheriff’s buses meant to transport prisoners and told EGP, “Don’t go in that direction. That’s a bad place.”

Photos and accounts by two journalists who were themselves arrested tell a different story than the Los Angeles Times and other major news outlets given official access to the eviction process.

Freelance photojournalist Tyson Heder posted a picture of himself on Facebook on Saturday, Dec. 3, showing his bruised right eye and claiming he is “looking forward to proving the charges against me completely and thoroughly fraudulent … and if anyone says to you LAPD did a good job, show them this photo.”

His encounter with LAPD was one of the few incidences captured on television; CBS News has since taken down the video, but is still available on YouTube and other unofficial channels.

Another journalist, Yasha Levine, who was arrested and released, said most of the abuse occurred “while the protesters were in police custody, completely outside the range of the news media.” He and some of the arrested protesters writhed in pain from the plastic zip-tie handcuffs that dug into their skin and cut off their circulation. Levine said he lost feeling in his thumb, a condition that lasted even after he was released.

Levine reported that one injured protester had a grapefruit-sized welt on his elbow and was denied medical attention for five hours, while another young man complained his arm may have been broken.

He also took down accounts of protesters who were kept for seven hours in small cages inside one of the buses. They were forced to urinate in their seats while officers took a break at Starbucks, he reported.

EGP has been unable to independently verify these claims.

Levine is a reporter and editor at The eXiled, a Los Angeles-based newspaper that was originally founded by editors Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi as an English-language newspaper in Russia. They were banned by the Russian government over three years ago, regrouping in Los Angeles.

“There was nothing peaceful or professional about the LAPD’s attack on Occupy LA–not unless you think that people peacefully protesting against the power of the financial oligarchy deserve to be treated the way I saw Russian cops treating the protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg who were demonstrating against the oligarchy under Putin and Yeltsin, before we at The eXiled all got tossed out in 2008,” Levine said in his first report after being released.

Levine says he is working with the National Lawyer’s Guild, who served as legal observers during the raid on his misdemeanor “failure to disperse” charge. The typical bail amount ranged from $100 to $5000 and in some cases was $10,000.

By Wednesday, the LAPD had received 16 formal complaints from those arrested during the raid regarding detainment conditions on the buses and the jails and treatment by officers. A spokesperson for the LAPD, Cmdr. Andrew J. Smith, told KPCC radio the complaints will be investigated by internal affairs.