Body camera video released this week shows a Tucson police officer helping to keep the community safe from dangerous immigration-rights protesters by giving an 86-year-old woman a good hard shove, knocking her to the street where she hits her head. The miscreant, estimated to stand about 4 feet, 5 inches and to weigh less than 100 pounds, was part of a crowd of protesters who had spilled into the street near Tucson’s Federal Building during a February 16 “Day Without Immigrants” rally, and officers were trying to herd the crowd out of traffic and back onto the sidewalk. What part of “law and order” doesn’t this old lady understand, huh? After catching the elderly woman in a flagrant act of shaking a finger at cops and shoving her to the pavement, the officer then further protected the public from a 65-year-old woman who had reached down to help the older woman, pepper-spraying her in the face to show her who’s boss.
Not everyone in the crowd was well-behaved, either; the Washington Post notes the altercation resulted in four arrests and minor injuries to three police officers. Neither of the women shoved by the cop were among those arrested.
A Tucson Police spokesperson, Sgt. Pete Dugan, told KOLD-TV that while police were trying to get part of the crowd back to sidewalks, an officer was hit in the back, and when he tried to arrest the person who struck him, the crowd “started moving in on the officers,” prompting the officer to use pepper spray on the protesters. Check that video again — we certainly see a tiny shouting woman scolding with felonious intent, and then the shove, followed by the cop reaching for his pepper spray and using it on a grey-haired woman who’s leaning down to help the fallen woman. But it’s a hell of a stretch to call any of that “moving in on the officers.”
Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said the incident is being investigated, but also believes TPD cops behaved appropriately; when the crowd began to spill from the sidewalks onto the streets, he writes in a statement on Facebook, police attempted to move them back to the sidewalk:
Most of the crowd complied, but a very specific subgroup elected to remain in the road and challenge the directions they were given by the officers.
Magnus argues the protesters in the street had created “an extremely dangerous situation on a busy road” and that the crowd was out of control:
One of the officers working to get a protester back to the sidewalk was assaulted by that protester. When the officer went to arrest this subject and place him in a patrol car for transport, he and the other officers who were assisting him were quickly surrounded by members of the crowd. Some of the crowd interfered or attempted to interfere with the officers’ lawful arrest process.
According to a witness, the 86-year old woman was interfering with that arrest by blocking the squad car, but the video sure doesn’t look like she poses much of a threat to the big strong cop — he looks like he just lost control and had to take it out on an annoying little old lady who was getting in his face.
Rolande Baker, who received a face full of pepper spray for her effort to help the fallen woman — who wasn’t injured — told the Washington Post she’d crossed the street to join the crowd when she saw police arresting 24-year-old David Leon:
“I saw the police being way more aggressive than I’ve ever seen them be,” she said. She has been participating in peaceful rallies and protests in Tucson since she moved there in 1987, she said, and has never had any problems with local law enforcement. […]
The 86-year-old woman had joined with three other women in locking their arms in front of the police van, blocking it from leaving. After officers unlinked the women’s arms, one pushed her to the ground. Officers then pepper-sprayed Baker in the face.
“Here’s this woman on the ground, and they’re so busy pepper-spraying those who were helping her, they never help her up,” Baker said. “Do we look violent to you?”
Come on, Ms. Baker, everyone looks like a violent threat when a cop’s adrenaline is up. He may have thought the old woman was bulked up like a linebacker.
After hearing complaints from people who attended the rally, the Tucson City Council has called for an investigation of the incident. For her part, Baker is worried that what she sees as increasing aggressiveness from police, coupled with the passage of an Arizona Senate measure to apply anti-racketeering laws to protesters if any property damage occurs, are intended to stifle protests of Trump and Republican policies.
“They’re trying to shut us up is what they’re trying to do, in my opinion,” Baker said. “It’s scary that this is all happening at the same time.”
In one small bright spot, after public backlash against that anti-protesting law, the speaker of Arizona’s House of Representatives announced the lower chamber wouldn’t consider the Senate bill, killing it for this session.
As for TPD officer Shovey McToughGuy, it doesn’t appear he faces any disciplinary action at the moment. Maybe further investigation will result in action, maybe not. For now, the mean streets of Tucson are safe from the depredations of old ladies.
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