Occupy Tampa protester arrested Saturday for trespassing in the park

10/31/11 Josh Holton
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:


This weekend another protester with Occupy Tampa was arrested. Tampa Police have now arrested 12 occupiers in total. 55-year-old diabetic Christopher Villanueva was arrested at 3 in the afternoon on Saturday for trespassing in Curtis-Hixon Park. He has posted bond, and was released an hour ago. Although he used to work, he has been homeless and unemployed since an assault left him with a serious shoulder injury several years ago. Speaking at the General Assembly last Thursday night, Villanueva foresaw that his own arrest was imminent.

With the RNC convention less than a year away, many like Villanueva feel that establishing the right to assemble and rest in a public space should be the primary concern for the group.

Later that night Officer Matas gave a park trespass warning to a protester named Felix who was walking on a public sidewalk on the side of the park. He said that Villanueva was arrested while sitting upright in the park on Saturday.

The police report says Villanueva attempted to sleep on the grass near the restrooms in Curtis Hixon Park. When officers told him to leave, he refused, and was arrested. Rather than post bail, he chose to stay in jail overnight. He is the first Occupy Tampa protester to take his case before a judge, and his attorney Roger Breit said his bail was reduced from $500 to $50, and was posted this morning. Early last Friday morning three protesters with Occupy Tampa were also arrested. Two were charged with pushing an officer. But multiple angles of video footage show that Corporal L.J. Miles pushed Occupy Tampa camera man Karel Soucre first.

In the mugshot, Soucre is wearing a neck brace. He is seeking political exile from Venezuela.

The Tampa police initially came to the park to remove tents, which protesters had set up to avoid the rain. Soucre was charged with obstructing a police investigation, but video footage shows that Soucre was nowhere near the officer while he investigated the tents.

Tampa Police Department did not respond to interview requests by deadline, but spokesperson Andrea Davis told Channel 28 the protesters were at fault.

After Soucre was detained, Keith Cuesta was arrested on two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer. But Cuesta said the officer actually ran into him.

Cuesta can be heard on tape shouting, “Why are you arresting him?” at the officer. Cuesta said that he only bumped into the officer while attempting to comply with the order to remove the tents.

Stephen Gentile filmed the whole thing, and video shows he was arrested with his hands in the air.

He was charged with opposing an officer without violence, and battery on a law enforcement officer; charges that Gentile denies.

While Gentile filmed Cuesta’s arrest, video shows the officer told Gentile, “you’re next, you’re gonna be in handcuffs!” Gentile told him he would be the one in cuffs for making what he thought were unlawful arrests. Gentile thinks that he was only arrested for mouthing off to the officer.

Both Gentile and Cuesta are hoping that the video evidence of the arrests will work in their favor.

Previous Occupy Tampa coverage

Video footage:

Soucre's video of him being pushed by Corporal Miles

Stephen Gentile filmed Soucre's arrest from another angle. This also include Cuesta's arrest, and the events leading up to his own arrest.

Here's WMNF video from Saturday morning after a rainy night in which protesters, like Felix, struggled to keep their sleeping bags:

comments powered by Disqus