Shortly thereafter, they stopped Food Not Bombs organizer Abbi Samuels when she crossed the street with a coffee container. When asked her name, she referred them to Sgt. Forbis standing nearby, and was immediately handcuffed and hauled off to jail for “obstructing an officer”.
The level of harassment is rising
I have further comments below and encourage folks to go to https://www.indybay.org/
Wednesday Sep 16th, 2015 5:48 PM
On the evening of September 15, two First Alarm security guards, Nathan Hammack and Ken Hietala, violently detained Christina Latic Barnes, a black woman who had been peacefully sitting on the lawn in the courtyard of Santa Cruz City Hall during hours the area is open to the public. The security guards were employed by the city to monitor the Freedom Sleepers, who held their tenth in a series of all-night sleepouts at City Hall organized to protest local laws that criminalize homelessness. [Top video: The video can also be viwed at: https://youtu.be/sV9O-frMPyA ]
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When Barnes stood up, Hietala then walked behind her and stood very near to her body. Hammack also quickly moved in.
“I was bombarded by two men,” she recalled in an interview conducted later that evening.
She was standing next to her blanket, and within an area that was delineated by other possessions of hers that were casually laid out on the lawn close to her.
Barnes said she was stretching her arms and she accidentally touched Hietala, which is when the trouble began.
He told her she had assaulted him and that she was under arrest for battery.
“He was within my physical reach for no legal reason,” she explained. “He was within my boundaries.”
It is unclear which of the two security guards placed the handcuffs on her, but she said she thought they were adjusted especially tightly in order to intentionally cause her physical pain.
“Purposely, it was done,” she said.
Barnes was also barefoot through the entire incident.
After she was handcuffed, Hammack attempted to take control of Barnes’ body. She writhed in pain from his tugging and prodding, and in response he told her numerous times to stop “resisting” the arrest.
“I was not resisting,” Barnes said. “I was hurting.”
The two struggled physically back and forth and Hammack stated loudly to those present that Barnes had just bit him.
Briefly they both stopped tugging at each other, and Hammack dragged Barnes along on her feet to the front entrance of City Hall.
“Stop resisting, it’s gonna go a lot easier,” Hammack said to her firmly.
When in the front area of City Hall, Hammack pushed Barnes down into a sitting position on the stone retaining wall that surrounds the civic complex.
Over the span of the incident, Barnes asked Hammack many times to stop hurting her, and she also asked for a female security officer because she felt that Hammack and Hietala were touching her inappropriately. When seated on the stone wall, she began to push at both guards with her feet in what appeared to be an attempt to move them away from her.
Hammack responded by grabbing her with both hands and slamming her body on to the stone wall. She screamed and continued to say, “stop.”
When she was dropped on to the stone wall, she landed on her abdomen. The guards the shoved her face first into an agave plant that bore sharp, spiny leaves.
The security guards grabbed on to Barnes tightly and twisted her legs and body in order to flip her over. At one point her back was bent backwards as Hammack pinned her down to the retaining wall.
Barnes attempted to communicate and plead with the guards through the entire incident that the handcuffs they put on her were far too tight.
Angry onlookers surrounded the guards as they threw Barnes around on the stone wall.
“Stop hurting her,” they shouted repeatedly, though no one physically intervened.
At least four people video recorded the incident at close range.
Hietala used his walkie talkie to request a police backup. When Rodney Dukelow, the first officer from the Santa Cruz Police Department to arrive, he led Barnes away from Hammack and Hietala, and walked her to his patrol vehicle.
He provided some real relief for Barnes, she said. He worked to properly adjust the handcuffs that were placed on her by the First Alarm guards. She shrieked loudly in pain during the process.
“When the police officers came and tried to finish the arrest, I proceeded to get them to loosen up the handcuffs because First Alarm was not cooperating with my requests” she said.
Five additional police officers arrived and positioned themselves between Barnes and the large group of protesters that had amassed on the sidewalk in front of City Hall since the melee had begun.
Center Street was packed with police vehicles parked in the middle of the street.
Police politely escorted Hammack across the street from City Hall, where an officer briefly questioned him. She then photographed two areas on his body that he alleged were physically impacted by Barnes during the incident.
One officer on the scene could be heard calling for assistance, and the SCPD’s Lt. Christian LeMoss arrived a short time later. There were many witnesses and police took down the accounts of what they saw.
After a brief stay in county jail, Barnes returned on foot to City Hall at around 1am. She was in physical pain, but in good spirits. She said she had been treated fine in jail and that she was arrested on the charge of battery.
When asked where on her body she was hurt, she said her right hand hurt and her arms were, “still swollen.”
Additionally, she was bruised all over her body, she said.
Earlier in the day, Hammack openly exhibited abusive behavior towards a variety of individuals present in the City Hall courtyard.
Two different individuals stated that they had seen Hammack trying to coerce Barnes into leaving the City Hall courtyard, even though she wasn’t breaking any laws and it was her right to enjoy the space.
A short while later, Hammack could be heard telling another individual, “If you touch me I will arrest you, handcuff you, and drag you to jail.” The person Hammack threatened appeared to be maintaining a safe, respectful distance from him.
First Alarm Security Services was founded in Santa Cruz County. According to their website, the company employs more than 600 security guards throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Through growth, experience, and acquisition, First Alarm has become a name widely recognized for safety and dependability,” the website states.
“Our mission is to enhance life and safety.”
“At First Alarm we have a high level of accountability to our employees, our customers, and the communities we serve,” the website further states.
Over a hundred individuals have stayed the night at City Hall as part of the Freedom Sleepers’ community sleepouts, which began on July 4. The city government has not been supportive of the protests, though, and city staff has directed the police to aggressively crack down on them.
For more information about the sleepouts, see:
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( john.roncohen.colby [at] gmail.com ) Wednesday Sep 16th, 2015 9:06 PM
Wednesday Sep 16th, 2015 9:39 PM
The guards involved were not Nathan Hammack and Ken Hietla, so I wonder if First Alarm bosses are advising their patrol people generally not to identify themselves and to use a “battery” charge if they are confronted for abusive behavior or failure to identify themselves. Or whether they’re picking up this practice from some SCPD officers.
Several weeks ago, as Lt. Christian Le Moss set up the 30′ high klieg lights for the first time, I asked him why that action was being taken. He refused to answer. I didn’t recognize him as the man who fractured a elderly homeless woman’s arm some years back (See “Sgt LeMoss broke 60 year old woman’s arm May 9” at http://www.indybay.org/
It is generally my experience though that SCPD officers do identify themselves. As police and security guard force escalates at the Freedom Sleeper protests, this may be changing. For instance, I don’t recall that the three female officers who arrested Lucero Luna on 9-8 out of the blue responded to questions of who they were and what the charges were. [On being released from jail hours later, Lucero reported she’d been given the catch-all we-can’t-find-anything-else charge of “interfering with an officer”).
The more folks with video devices who show up at the protest next Tuesday, the better.