Three members of Occupy Tampa arrested Friday; Protesters say video disputes battery charges
At about 3 oâ€™clock this morning the Tampa Police Department arrested three protesters from the Occupy Tampa movement on the sidewalk in front of Curtis Hixon Park. WMNFâ€™s Josh Holton reports, video shows Corporal L.J. Miles and about a dozen police told the group to remove newly-erected tents, and arrested the first of three protesters, Karel Soucre.
Protester Samantha Bowden said Soucre is originally from Venezuela. She said he is seeking political asylum in the U.S. He has visited the Occupy Wall Street protests, and has acted as a legal observer and camera man for Occupy Tampa. Protesters say he was targeted first so that there would be no evidence of illegal arrests. Occupy Tampa demonstrator Rafael Rodriguez said that Soucre was arrested while filming the tent removal.
Soucre was released from Tampa General Hospital, where he was assessed for injuries. His mug shot showed him wearing a neck brace. He was been released from jail this afternoon on $500 bail and was charged with opposing an officer without violence. Here is audio of when Soucre was detained, from a video shot by protester Alex Schlegel.
Keith Cuesta was arrested and charged with two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, but bystanders said that he accidentally walked in front an officer who was navigating the crowd of about 50 protesters on the sidewalk. Cuesta and Stephen Gentile were closely filming Soucre's arrest according to Schlegel's video footage. Cuesta can be heard screaming, "Why are you arresting him," as Soucre was being restrained. An employee at Orient road jail said Cuesta has been released after someone posted his $4,000 bond by paying $400 to a bondsman. This is audio of Cuestaâ€™s arrest from a video shot by protester Derek English.
Officer L.J. Miles said twice in the video, "you're next." Videos show that the protester to be arrested, Stephen Gentile, approached the arresting officer, apparently confused why his friend Cuesta was being arrested. He had filmed both prior arrests according to video footage provided by Schlegel. Gentile was released on a $2,500 bond this morning. Cari Welsh watched as Gentile was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer, and nonviolent obstruction.
The video shows that when Gentile was arrested, he was walking away from officer Miles with his hands held high above his head. Here is more audio from Schlegelâ€™s video.
With three of the camera men in custody, current video evidence remains unclear as to who got physical first, although protesters claim officer Miles "body slammed" Soucre to the ground first, leading to outraged cries of "police brutality" in Schlegel's video. Gentile is shown in one of English's videos as having the best view of the action, but his whereabouts and the contents of his camera footage are still not known since his release. The police claim the protesters pushed them while Soucre was being arrested, but protesters say that Cuesta only walked by an officer without touching him, and that Gentile only filmed the officer, without touching him either.
On Tuesday the Tampa Police Department told protesters to remove one of several tables that Occupy Tampa has been using for the purposes of distributing political literature. Protester Nick Dubyah said some of his friends named Jordan Harrah constructed a 24 foot long table since they are only allowed to have one.
Shortly after 9 this morning, Police Captain Brian Dugan led a team of about 7 officers who tore up the table. They also removed a folding table that had been stored under the larger one. Dugan claimed that if no individual would claim the table, then they would need to claim it at police headquarters. Protesters claimed that they collectively owned the table. Occupy Tampa's legal team is working to determine whether this was a violation of their first amendment rights.
After the police took all of Occupy Tampaâ€™s tables, a protester named John Thomas erected the smaller table. Yesterday two other protesters were arrested. Alex Schlegel was skateboarding in the park, and was stopped by police. Police told him he couldn't skateboard in the park. The park rules state that no skateboarding, bicycling, or rollerblading is allowed on metal edges, walls, and terraces, none of which Schlegel admitted to doing. When they asked for his identification, he asked for their probable cause.
Schlegel was arrested along with Daiquiri Jones, both of whom were released without bond that same day. Jones was arrested while sitting in the park during the daylight. They were among several protesters who were asked to leave the park.
The sign he was holding said â€œTPD are a layoff away from being one of us.â€
About 150 protesters marched through the streets of downtown last night. Some of the protesters attempted to occupy Gaslight Park, but were asked to leave by an Officer Fernandez. The group then dispersed. The police showed up one hour after WMNF left the scene, and the police left the scene immediately when media vans and reporters arrived at 3:15 AM.
Here's all of our Occupy Tampa coverage.
Following the first impact with Karel on the ground:
Stephen Gentile's arrest:
Police leave the scene:
Aftermath of the arrests:
Protester's reaction to arrests: WMNF News
Arresting officer's license plates:
OpenLetterNews.org has two videos of the police officer coming at Sourcre. He is holding the video camera in one of the videos.
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