Tyson Heder, Photojournalist Mauled by LAPD, Still in Jail After Occupy L.A. Raid; Others Allege Baton Brutality
Updated at the bottom with a photo of Heder's black eye.
Update, 7 p.m.: According to the "Free Tyson Heder" Facebook group, his bail is set at $20,000 -- four times the standard $5,000 bail of the other protesters.
Update, 5:30 p.m.: According to the City Attorney's Office, Tyson Heder (or Header, as the City Attorney spells it), was just arraigned. Of the 20 protesters who have been charged so far, only Heder has charges that extend beyond "failure to disperse." Here they are:
"Tyson Header, during the operation, spit on an Officer and resisted arrest. Defendant Header was charged with three counts: Battery on a Peace Officer, Assault on a Peace Officer, and Resisting Arrest."
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is notoriously harsh on protesters. (And street artists, but that's another story.) We didn't see any spitting in the video, but the mauling was such a blur, it's hard to say.
Original post: Along with one City News Service reporter and indie journalist Yasha Levine -- and about 300 other protesters -- a freelance L.A. photographer named Tyson Heder was taken into police custody at the Occupy L.A. eviction on Wednesday night.
That's exactly what LAPD officials warned would happen to any reporter outside the exclusive media pool selected the night before.
The difference with Heder's arrest is that the young photojournalist (here's his music video blog) was shoved to the ground by one LAPD officer, then mauled by three others. He was documenting their tear-down of one of Occupy's tent structures, looking into the viewfinder, when he was thrown onto the ground and wrestled into submission by cops.
A huge front-page piece on the Occupy L.A. raid in the Los Angeles Times today (it jumps twice!) is very much in the tradition of that press conference hosted by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa yesterday morning. Big fat pat on the back:
Through a combination of effective tactics, daunting numbers and -- significantly -- restraint by both sides, police managed to bring the encampment to a largely peaceful end, avoiding the melees that marred the eviction of protesters from similar camps in Oakland, New York and elsewhere.
In the process, the LAPD took a major step toward shedding a reputation earned over decades for heavy-handed crowd control.
"The LAPD had their A game on," said Pam Noles, an Occupy protester and legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild.
Our own reporters at the scene -- though they were only allowed to observe from the sidelines during the LAPD's unlawful-assembly arrests, thanks to the "pool" rules -- made similar observations. Even when occupiers would heckle them and call them pigs, cops remained calm and poker-faced. (That's what 18 hours of pre-raid training will get you.)
But one Occupy blogger, and some protesters that stayed to the bitter end, tell a different story. Writes Ruth Fowler, the girl who broke the media-pool story:
"Approximately 300 of us walked down 1st towards Los Angeles, leaving 300 left standing by the cops. The police moved in after us, and kettled the 300 left behind. Seeing this, we ran, as a group, a couple of blocks to get away from them, losing people all along the way. Then suddenly a group of police emerged. We were blocked (kettled) in on Alameda between second and first. The police started running towards us - the group was now about 100 people by this point - and everyone ran into a parking lot to escape. The police ran after them and started beating protestors with batons repeatedly as they were running away trying to escape. I saw about ten police hit protestors. I did not get video footage nor photographs as I was running."
Officer Bruce Borihanh of LAPD media relations says the estimated 1,400 officers at the scene never once used their batons with force.
When we share the conflicting account on Fowler's blog, he says, "Oh. If someone's blogging about it, I'm sure they said [cops] hit them over the top over their head like a home run."
[Update: Lisa Derrick at Firedoglake has posted bruised photos of a protester named Josh. He tells her that he was "struck in the wrist by an LAPD projectile fired from a green shotgun at a distance of about 30 feet away." See left. Derrick also reports that "a man with him who declined to be named or photographed had been struck in the face with a police baton; there was slight swelling around his mouth, and the inside of his lip was broken."]
The situation at the Metropolitan Detention Center today -- where photojournalist Heder and gobs of other arrestees are being held -- is, by all accounts, total chaos.
"They're all scheduled to be out of here by Friday, within the 48 hours," says watch commander Sergeant Angelo. "Thats our goal." But he adds that "there were so many bodies, so many people" that he can't guarantee anything.
Heder's attorney, Joe Singleton, says there's a "big wait" at the detention center, where he's trying to help Heder. "The court is having problems tracking down the right paperwork from the City Attorney's office. They're just trying to figure out what's going on. Nobody's told me anything."
Gene Griffin -- a friend of Heder's who has set up a fund for bail, medical bills, broken cameras and the like, all the way from Texas -- says Singleton sent him a photo of Heder after the arrest.
"It appears that Tyson has a couple black eyes and a bump on his head," says Griffin.
The Weekly spoke at Glendale Community College on "media coverage of Occupy L.A." earlier this afternoon. (Shout-out, y'all -- It was fun!) One woman in the audience, who said she was the mother of an arrested protester, told us she's been given no information on when she can see her son, or when he'll get arraigned.
She reiterated the story her son had told her about the post-park arrests -- very similar to Fowler's.
There couldn't have been more than 100 arrests on the actual Occupy campus. In the LAPD's masterfully excecuted eviction plan, an endless supply of riot cops completely surrounded the greater perimeter of the park. Many protesters have told us they felt blocked in. This guy described the ensuing arrests as a "cat and mouse" chase. Of course, there were also the hecklers -- so it's hard to say which way information is being skewed.
The LAPD told Blogdowntown the night of:
Officers fired their only beanbag shots of the action in its last hour as they removed four protesters from a tree fort next to the City Hall steps. No other weapons were used during the encounters. There were two other use of force incidents that the department says did not result in injury.
The big problem here is that, largely due to the tight "pool media" restrictions, and occupiers' cellphone batteries dying as the night wore on, not enough footage exists of those couple hours between the park arrests and the night-capping victory speech by Chief Beck.
The whole LAPD sweep was so precise, there's no way the media brownout wasn't planned to a T. It was the final precaution in Beck's (and the mayor's) flawless front for dealing with Occupy Wall Street in Los Angeles.
Thankfully for Heder, he's got something more solid to work with. See Facebook group "Free Journalist Tyson Heder Now" for more.
Update, December 5, 10:30 a.m.: Heder posted this photo of himself to Facebook on Friday night, almost 72 hours after the raid. We can only imagine what he looked like before the bruises started healing.
"Free Journalist Tyson Heder Now" via Facebook"If someone says to you that the LAPD did a good job this week feel free to share this photo with them."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.