The community activist known as the Barrio Boychik — he's Latino and Jewish — said this week that he plans to sue Orange County authorities after he was arrested and held for more than 12 hours following his participation in a counter-protest against nationalists in Laguna Beach last month.
Samuel “Shmuel” Gonzales, who was born in Boyle Heights and now lives in L.A. County near the border with Orange County, says he was participating in a counter-protest at Aug. 20's "America First" rally when he was unceremoniously arrested by Laguna Beach officers for allegedly obstructing a peace officer.
Gonzalez, who describes himself as an assistant to his rabbi as well as a civil rights organizer, has posted obscured video of the arrest (above), which follows a shouting match between him and supporters of President Trump. Audio does not indicate he violated any police orders — he's just abruptly arrested, apparently.
"The white supremacist in chief," he says on video. "That's what you're standing with."
Gonzalez says the arrest happened after someone struck the camera he was using to take video. As police are taking him away, one of the America First protesters says, "Thank you for doing your job, guys."
But it got even more humiliating from there, Gonzalez says. Cops accused him of leading the counter-protest, he says, which wasn't the case. And, according to him, after officers told him he would be cited and released — basically written a ticket — he was put on a jail bus for five hours before being booked into a particularly unsavory part of Orange County's Central Men's lockup until the next morning.
That's when some interesting interaction with sheriff's deputies took place, he wrote on his blog:
A deputy allegedly said, "You minorities hate America so damn much," and, "You fucking minorities, all having a temper tantrum because you can’t have Hillary as president." Gonzalez remembers responding that his "ancestors suffered terribly in so many other places in the world, this is the most free and safe we have ever been. That is why this country and our values are worth defending."
The officer allegedly said, "So that’s what it comes down to, some white people killed your Jew family members somewhere and now you hate all white people. You are the leader of a hate organization; standing with antifa and Black Lives Matter. You’re standing and defending cop killers, you’re just as bad as them."
The exchange left him a bit shocked, Gonzalez says. The arrest, the booking into jail, the treatment there all seemed designed to punish someone authorities didn't seem to agree with, he said. "It was very obvious that I was somehow being punished," he says. "I was being talked to and preached to as the leader of this protest."
Although the 40-year-old does identify as anti-fascist, he says he attended the counter-protest to support "a bunch of old Jewish people whose family were holocaust refugees." Those included Irv Weiser, whom he describes as a father figure.
Cops said about 2,500 demonstrators — the America First crowd was vastly outnumbered — were in attendance and that only three arrests were made. The event was widely believed to have been organized by Orange County nationalist figure Johnny Benitez, whom the OC Weekly has identified as Juan Cadavid. In an interview before the rally he described it to L.A. Weekly as an event "in support of victims of illegals."
Orange County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Gail Krause said, "This office isn't privy to any complaint about" Gonzelez's "treatment" behind bars. "We can't comment on it at this time," she says. A spokesman for the Laguna Beach Police Department had not immediately responded to our inquiry.
Gonzalez's attorney, Jaime Segall, said his client's constitutional rights against false arrest were violated and that he plans to file a lawsuit on his behalf against O.C. authorities. He says alleged damages have yet to be determined. "It was false arrest, police abuse, all of that," he says.
"This is an ongoing practice of law enforcement arresting victims instead of perpetrators," he says.
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Gonzalez is due in court in Newport Beach at 8:30 a.m. Monday. A group of supporters was planning to attend, and some of them expect the case to be dismissed.
"He went out there to counter-protest these people he tried to dialogue with and they attacked him and the cops arrested him in typical biased fashion," Segall says incredulously. "If they take a close look, they usually drop cases like this."