| Rebecca Johnston was arrested at a protest against President Bush on October 30. Witnesses said San Antonio Police Officer Rafael Medel and three other officers threw her on the street and handcuffed her. The officer's report alleges that Johnston "began kicking violently" at the policeman. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)
Last month, Rebecca Johnston felt the strong arm of President George Bush's influence in the United States, in the form of the San Antonio Police Department.
On October 30, as Bush was in town collecting campaign bucks at a $2,000-per-plate dinner, Johnston joined hundreds of protesters on the sidewalk outside the Marriott River Walk Hotel - and she ended up spending 13 hours in a holding tank at the Bexar County Jail.
Johnston has been summoned to appear in municipal and county courts to face charges of failing to provide identification, disorderly conduct (language), and resisting arrest.
Johnston characterized the events leading up to her arrest as "weird." That evening, protesters settled into a space on the sidewalk along Commerce Street, waved signs and chanted anti-Bush slogans. A man in the crowd, who was accompanied by a woman and a baby, singled out Johnston, she said, and reportedly told her to "stop yelling in his baby's ear."
"I put my hand on his arm to pacify him, and he freaked out and yelled 'Get your fucking hands off of me,' and I cursed back at him," Johnston explained.
SAPD's Rafael Aureli Medel, Badge No. 1452, saw the confrontation and intervened. "While working downtown for the president's visit, I then contacted W2 (the angry father) and AP (Johnston) about the disturbance," Medel wrote in his incident report. "I then advised AP to move away from W2 to solve the disturbance. I then walked away ... turned around and saw W2 and AP going at it again. I then walked over and heard AP calling W2 a 'fucking asshole.'" Medel reported that Johnston then said, "you law fucking stand where ever you want."
Johnston said that after the confrontation with the man, Officer Medel began to shadow her through the crowd, and later pulled her into the street where he threw her down and handcuffed her, with the assistance of three other police officers.
According to several witnesses, the officers roughed-up Johnston, who sustained a bruised cheek, knee, and wrists. Witnesses said that officers grabbed her wrists from behind and lifted her up before tossing her to the pavement.
Officer Medel wrote in his report that Johnston "began kicking at me violently" after he had arrested her.
"He `the police officer` continued to pull her," said protester Tom Flowers. "I tried to hang on to her. Eventually it moved out into the street. He literally threw her down to the ground and handcuffed her and put her into the car."
"I only weigh 120 pounds, and it was really intimidating," Johnston said, alleging she was further harassed at the police station before she was carted off to jail. "They told me, 'If you hate this country so much, why don't you get the hell out? This is America, love it or leave it.' It was very much a political agenda."
Johnston plans to fight the charges with the help of an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union. "It has made my resolve stronger. They can't just break people down like that, it's not fair." •