One Legal Observer’s Arrest And 22 Hour Detention By OPD

Legal Observer

As some of you may or may not have heard, I was arrested by the Omaha police over the weekend while I was acting as a legal observer during the protest that took place between the Midtown and Downtown areas. As a legal observer, I was
wearing a yellow reflective vest clearly marked with “LEGAL OBSERVER” on both the front and back. I am bound to the same laws as any other citizen, and for this reason, I was very careful to adhere to all applicable laws as I observed a protest as it was occurring, not taking part in it. This means I kept on the sidewalk, observed all crosswalk signs, etc., however, none of this mattered to Omaha police when an officer grabbed me by the upper arm/shoulder and kick swiped me to the ground and yelled at me and others to stay down.

As the protest moved back towards Midtown, and was only blocks away from where it started, the police, comprised of Omaha SWAT and Omaha Police Gang Unit members, blocked the protesters, journalists, and myself in on both sides of an overpass bridge and proceeded to conduct mass arrests. They pointed weapons at the crowd, shot pepper bullets at people, and indiscriminately arrested those in the area. Among some of the first to be attacked by the Omaha police was Mark Benjamin Vondrasek and Bear Alexander. I heard one officer bragging to a group of predominately women who were zip-tied and on the ground that he was strong enough to beat any of them up.

I, along with roughly 100+ protesters, were zip-tied for approximately 6 hours. During this period, protesters were denied water for a long period of time, and one protester even passed out, hit his head on the concrete, and was hospitalized, before eventually being brought back to Douglas County Corrections. Trans individuals were placed in solitary confinement (ostensibly for their own protection). At one point, 43 of us were placed in Holding Cell 1, a holding cell fit for perhaps 15 to 20 people maximum if I had to guess. The cell became increasingly hot, and request after request for keeping the door open for fresh, cool air was denied. One of the correction officers told the women being held in Holding Cell 6 that their conditions could be blamed on “Sinéad O’Connor,” referencing Taylor Leigh.

Despite being eligible for bail, many of our friends, family, and The Nebraska Left Coalition (NLC) were unable to actually pay for people’s bail, as they were told that the “system was down.” I would like to thank NLC for their assistance this weekend. So many of us in jail were very thankful for their nonstop work on the outside to ensure that our bail was posted. If you can make a donation to them, know that your money is going to a good cause. In addition, I would also like to thank Peyton Zyla (who should be credited for the video below), Jazari Kual of Kualdom Creations, and Melanie Buer for documenting the events that took place on Saturday night. All in all, I was detained for roughly 22 hours before finally being released shortly after 7pm on Sunday night. For those who have told so many of us for so long that they do not disagree with the message that we offer, but simply disagree with the tactics and wish to see peaceful protests over violent riots, this is exactly the type of protesting you should be applauding. Acts of civil disobedience that bring attention to the most abhorrent acts of our government are noble and deserve the respect of any decent human.

The Omaha police arrived to the scene ready to escalate and harm people who were taking part in a peaceful protest; they made the willful decision to cause harm to peaceful protesters when they had the opportunity to escort protesters along the route and ensure the safety of drivers and protesters alike, but they did not. If you truly believe that violence is not the answer, I hope to hear you make a forceful stand against the behavior of Omaha police that we all witnessed in our city this weekend.

The police continue to be the source of the problem, which is exactly why it is so necessary for us to defund the police, with a move towards abolition, and reallocate those resources to actual programs within our city that help people, not hurt them, such as affordable housing, libraries, healthcare, skills training and jobs programs, education, mental health resources, crisis and substance abuse counselors, and social workers. There is a better future for our city, and it can begin when we choose to make a policy decision that elects help over harm and people over profit.

Lastly, if you were arrested on Saturday night or know somebody who was, please let me know so that I can tag you/them in this post.

Reprinted from Riley Wilson’s post on the PRI Facebook page.

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