A brave few campers remain at Occupy Long Beach headquarters in Lincoln Park. Christopher Perkins, an organizer, counts maybe a dozen, tops. Every night at 10 p.m., when the park closes, they drag their tents from the lawn to the sidewalk, then wake up at 5 a.m. to move them back. Such is the in-limbo state of Occupy Wall Street factions all over the country -- too strong to die out, yet unsure of exactly where to take things from here.
At 4 p.m. today, Occupy Long Beach protesters and their supporters will be marching "against police brutality," says Perkins.
The "use of force" in question: On Tuesday, former marine George Diller, 24, was tackled to the ground by Long Beach cops after they caught him smoking a cigarette at the edge of Lincoln Park, a violation of the city's smoking ordinance. (Far cry from L.A. in that respect -- where LAPD Chief Charlie Beck simply smiled and waved at occupiers who openly smoked pot on the City Hall lawn. Seriously.)
Susan Williams, a witness to Diller's arrest and a writer for the indie Long Beach Post, tells LA Weekly that the officers showed "absolutely no restraint" when detaining the young smoker, who was on the phone with his dad when they approached him. Here's Williams' full account of the takedown:
Diller was seemingly too slow in getting off the phone in the opinion of Officer Brad Dinsdale (who "has been abusive in the past" to OLBers), and so Dinsdale wrenched Diller's arm and pulled him to the ground, then put him in a chokehold and held him there 30 seconds beyond when Diller became unconscious, then hit Diller in the head, and then picked him up and dropped him to the ground -- all this even though Diller not only offered no resistance but went as far as to say he wasn't resisting.
It's a far cry from the Long Beach Police Department's version of events. Spokeswoman Nancy Pratt tells the Long Beach Press-Telegram that both officers and "multiple witnesses" have claimed Diller swore at Officer Dinsdale, tried to fight him and even hawked a loogie at him.
Here's the department's
statement in full version of events, as relayed by Lisa Massacani in media relations.
- The officer approached the subject who was talking on his cell phone, advised him that smoking in the park was illegal and asked him to put out his cigarette
- The subject refused to do so using profanity
- The officer advised the subject a second time that he was in violation of the law
- The subject continued to argue with the officer and refused to extinguish his cigarette
- The officer then advised the subject that he was now being lawfully detained, that he needed to put down his cell phone, and that he was going to be cited
- The subject continued smoking while talking on his cell phone, refusing to comply with the officer's directions
- Due to the subject's uncooperative behavior and failing to comply, the officer moved toward the subject who was sitting on the grass
- As the officer took the suspect's arm to place him into handcuffs, the suspect began pulling away from the officer and rolled on to his side, and attempted to kick the officer twice
- The suspect, who is approx. 6' 2" tall and weighs approx. 200 lbs., then reached back, hooked the officer's elbow with his own arm, and pulled the officer on top of him, preventing the officer from moving away
- A second officer had arrived at the location, ran to the officer's aid, and first removed the cigarette from the suspect's hand for fear that the suspect would use it as a weapon
- The second officer then attempted to gain control of the suspect's other arm to place him handcuffs
- The suspect was advised numerous times to stop resisting and to put put his hands behind his back but he continued to resist and fight with officers
- When the suspect attempted to stand-up, the first officer was finally able to free himself and applied a carotid control on the suspect causing the suspect to momentarily lose consciousness
- The suspect was then handcuffed, rolled on to his side to so his breathing could be checked and monitored, which is standard procedure when the carotid restraint is applied
- The suspect regained consciousness right away
- The officers then heard and observed the suspect as he began to form a large amount of phlegm in his mouth preparing to spit on them
- To prevent the suspect from spitting, the officer immediately placed his knee on the left side of the defendant's face to direct his head towards the ground, and requested an additional police unit respond with a spit mask
- At one point, the suspect did yell that he was going to spit on the officers
- When the additional officer arrived, the spit mask was placed on the suspect
- The suspect was then placed in a police vehicle and transported to a local hospital to be medically cleared for booking, which is also standard procedure when the carotid restraint is used to control a combative suspect
- Once cleared, the suspect was transported to the LBPD where he was booked for obstruction/resisting and for smoking in a public park
- There were multiple witnesses interviewed, several who supported the officers statements
Diller, who was released from jail yesterday, tells a much different story.
"I remember I was talking on the phone with my father and smoking a cigarette on the guardrail," he says in an interview with the Weekly. "I said, 'Hold on a second,' which I was saying to both [the officer and my father]. Like, 'Hold on, let me set this phone down.' But when I went to put out my cigarette, [Dinsdale] drug me into the yard and put me in a chokehold and put me to sleep."
Cops do admit to that last part. (See above.)
Diller says that after being in the marine corps, he has "no problem with authority figures," and remembers complying with officers' requests. "I didn't resist, and I remember telling them, 'I'm not resisting, just handcuff me," he says. "They went from asking me to do something to ... aggression and animalistic behavior."
He says he left the station yesterday with "a couple knots" on his head, pain in his back where he was injured in the Marine Corps and charges of "resisting arrest, obstruction of justice and assault on a peace officer."
According to Diller, he was offered a plea bargain of a year's probation if he plead no contest. And Massacani, a media-relations officer for the Long Beach PD, says he
accepted the deal did plead no contest. "As part of the plea, the smoking in public charges were dismissed," she adds.
Ironic, seeing as that's what got him into this mess in the first place.
Perkins, who's organizing the brutality march today, doubts the ordinance was ever being violated at all.
The ex-marine was "sitting on the curb on the edge of the park," Perkins claims. "It was totally unclear as to the boundaries [of the no-smoking zone] -- they change the boundaries whenever they deem it necessary."
Kind of small-town stuff, but reminiscent of a post-Occupy tension between cops and protesters in general, all across the country. Lots of bickering over the protocol of responding officers, the exact wording of local zoning codes, etc. -- young people picking apart the actions of their public servants, at last.