February 25, 2012

First Occupy Sarasota Arrest

The General Assembly at Five Points Park was over. The Reject-Citizens-United Working Group had finished meeting. A disgruntled citizen had walked through the park telling everybody how useless they were. Finally, a few folks settled in, creating sidewalk chalk drawings on this cool and sunny afternoon.

Photo by Emily Stech

I was gathering my belongings, getting ready to leave, when, suddenly, from the direction of Selby Library, came a tall police officer, bee-lining straight through the middle of the park. I had no sense of mischief, foul-play, or anybody in distress. I surveyed the scene, but could not determine who needed police help. The officer stopped to talk to Christopher, who was creating a chalk message about legislative corruption. Only then did it dawn on me that Christopher was the target.

The officer was demanding that Christopher leave the park immediately. Christopher asked why. Instead of answering the question, the officer picked up Christopher's cane and held it in front of his face and told him once again to leave. Christopher reached up for the cane, so that they were both holding onto it. Only at this point did I notice several folks reaching for their phone-cameras. Within about a minute, the officer had him lying face-down on the sidewalk and was handcuffing him. It was not excessive force, but it seemed pointless and needlessly rough for someone who seemed willing to leave on his own. The officer then walked Christopher over to a police car that had pulled up onto the sidewalk, leaving the cane behind.

Video by inkensoul
Many police arrived on the scene. More spectators gathered. Most folks were left with the impression that Christopher was arrested for chalk drawing. But based on my observations at the scene, I feel certain that Christopher was arrested because he did not follow the officer's orders soon enough, when the police officer told him to stop what he was doing and leave.

I came away with many impressions and at the moment I don't have a sense of what is most important. Here is what comes to mind. The arresting officer, Officer Neri, operated by the book, as far as I could tell. He seemed to have a mission as he came into the park. He seemed to have a sense of exactly what was about to happen and how he would control the outcome. Officer Neri interviewed one bystander, who turned out to be the disgruntled citizen who had walked through the park earlier telling everyone how useless they were. Officer Neri took notes in a small memo pad as he spoke with this man. Officer Neri did not ask any other bystanders what had happened. It left a bad taste in my mouth that Officer Neri left Christopher's cane behind, even after Christopher said he needed it. A man came out of the library, after Christopher was driven off and said that he had watched the whole thing from the library's second floor expansive windows. He felt that Officer Neri had been overly aggressive. At Officer Neri's suggestion, he went down and filed the following complaint at police headquarters.



  2. I hope this brings more people into the fray. Keep up the GOOD work!

  3. I am going to copy a comment I left on the Herald Tribune article:
    "This was a serious violation of Mr. Young's rights. We have something called the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, and it mandates reasonable accommodations, even during the arrest process, and believe it or not, protects prisoners who have been convicted of a crime as well. Regardless of whether the arrest was justified (which is dies not appear to be), a reasonable accommodation for a mobility impaired person is handcuffing the individual in the front (rather than with his hands behind his back) so that the individual can actually use his mobility device to ambulate to the police car. As a cane user myself, I can tell you I would NOT have been able to get myself off of the ground if my cane was taken away, nor would it be physically possible for me to get myself up off of the ground and/or accompany an officer from the scene if I had my hands cuffed behind my back and my cane taken away. I hope that Mr. Young files an ADA complaint against the Sarasota Police Department, and I hope that the Chief of Police sees that THIS incident shows his police officers need additional training on the laws of this country. I hope ADAPT comes down here to help educate the police on the CORRECT way to arrest a peaceful protestor who has a disability. Will the Sarasota Police take away their wheelchairs and still expect ADAPT members to comply with orders to leave the scene? The City of Sarasota has a large number of citizens of all ages who have physical disabilities. This is not the first ADA violation, and I daresay it will not be the last. It is absolutely unacceptable that the police be allowed to stomp on a citizen's rights in this way."

    I hope YOU follow up and file a complaint against the arresting officer, as you witnessed the violation as it occurred, saw the officer deny Mr. Young the use of his mobility device, and saw the officer abandon a piece of medical equipment that is crucial to Mr. Young's movement in the park. As a cane user myself, the crime committed by the officer seems to be much more egregious than the crime committed by Mr. Young.

    The Sarasota Judicial system has discriminated against the middle aged disabled population for far too long. Ask Tom Contant, the man attacked by teens who broke through a fence to attack him with his own cane, permanently blinding him in one eye, and got off with NO jail time. Now we arrest another middle aged cane user for not being able to get up off of a sidewalk quickly enough, especially as he was deprived the use of the assistive device he physically needed to do so.

  4. Well ..DUH ..... Guess what happens when you dont do as told by a cop ? You get arrested to jail !

  5. "The Chick with the Stick", it did not occur to me to file a complaint about leaving the cane. That is a very obvious suggestion that I should have thought of myself.

  6. I just want to cry when I read about the unjust and cruel things done to peaceful people by persons of authority.
    Good luck and thank you Diane for your devotion in making people aware and being able to help others.

  7. First of all by what right did the officer insist he leave? What law was being broken? Really, disabled Vet arrested for writing with chalk on sidewalk "give peace a chance" ??? Who ever thought that was a good idea should be sent into a war situation to fight themselves...for a few years...! The " CORRECT" way to arrest a peaceful protestor who has a disability? There is none! What gives anyone any right to impose a penalty on him for expressing his hard earned views to the public, in a PUBLIC park? We are to follow laws(however unjust or slanted some may be) but where is it written we are obliged to immediately do whatever an officer demands ( without explanation) we do? What makes them think they have the right to coerce citizens according to their whims or the directives of private citizens & use force to get "obedience" to THEM ? Absolute Cowards and pawns who should be ashamed of themselves, venturing outside of their greedy little bubble to commit this insulting action upon one who respectfully declines to be silenced as values & rights he protected then & now are trampeled in the name of money & the privilaged few who think they can get rid of everyone they deem unacceptable to them (homeless, protestors & places for either to assemble).Shame & more than that, they need to be held accountable for the misuse of the position they hold to protect & serve, NOT bully & abuse.

  8. Solidarity from Occupy Gainesville. Thank you Christopher. We all need to refuse to comply with these petty, stifling infringements upon our freedom to express ourselves in such a harmless way. It is obviouly the message, not the chalk, that worries them.

  9. I'm a little tired of my tax dollars being spent babysitting cry babies who continue to attack the people paid to keep order. This group looks for confrontation with anyone who disagrees with their view. I have heard them yelling profanities at people while the follow them for disagreeing. Does the constitution only apply to them? How about the rights of the people who just want to enjoy a quiet day in the park to escape this nonsense. It's our park, too! There's the 1% getting rich in this country and the 1% that keeps crying about it while 98% of us pay for this sillyness.

    1. Who was the cry baby that attacked the "people paid to keep order?" Would be nice to get this straight, who attacked whom???

    2. The police officer took the protestor down to the ground and then handcuffed him. Other than that, there were no attacks.

  10. Hitler also had a lot of gut-buergerlich supporters who supported civil order, the flag and the police.

  11. While I think the officer over-stepped, Christopher should have responded "Yes, sir" and moved off to the SPD to file a complaint.

    I can see him being told to stop chalking, but being told to leave the park as well was a bit much.

    The "Yes, Sir" response has likely saved me unpleasant experiences with the police. I note that they carry MACE, TASERs, night clubs and firearms. And that they are trained to use any and all of these devices for their safety as well as ours.

    Pushing the issue with an armed man is a fools errand. We have rights and the SPD should respect them. But the forum for disputing their action(s) is not the street. We don't hire diplomats to serve on the force. High School graduation and a clean arrest record can get one a chance at the academy and armed presence on our streets.

    Forewarned is forearmed. Put a "Yes, sir" in your protesting toolkit and save us all a lot of angst.