By Nancy-Leigh, Co-Founder, Existence is Resistance
On October 20, 2013 I spent a traumatic and humiliating night in the San Francisco County jail. I was finally released on a $56,000 bail. While protesting a gala held to raise millions for the Israeli army, an armed force accused by the United Nations and international human rights organizations of crimes against humanity, I was physically assaulted by an attendee. The person smashed by bullhorn into my mouth, requiring me to retaliate in self-defense. In the end, I was the one who was held culpable, forced to spend a night in prison, while my assailant walked free.
Some context on the events in question: I was invited by many comrades to take part in a demonstration against another IDF fundraising Gala here in San Francisco. The demonstration was confined to the sidewalk and we were forbidden to enter the paved area which led to the doors of the Intercontinental Hotel where the fundraiser was being held.
The San Francisco police were posted in front of each door of the hotel as well as 6 or 7 more standing by their patrol cars. They told fellow protesters that they would be arrested for trespassing if they set foot on the pavement outside of the hotel. One of our protesters who had arrived earlier innocently entered to use the bathroom, unaware that the police were threatening arrest for “trespassing.” On her way out she was immediately pounced on by three police officers. A videographer who attempted to document her arrest was accosted and brutally dragged by police to a waiting squad car. Another was violently pushed and forced into the police car by 3 officers who kicked her repeatedly, leaving bruised and in searing pain.
When a group of four IDF dinner attendees emerged from the event to taunt us at close range, members of the SFPD looked on with blithe smiles. Suddenly, a woman accompanying the group of IDF supporters approached me and smashed the bullhorn I was holding into my face with the full force of her fist, causing the my lip to gush blood. I turned to her and swung both my arms to repel her attack, a clear act of self-defense.
When a SFPD officer approached me, I told him, “You were just watching, did you not just see her hit me first?”,
“Yes” he answered, “we just need you to step over to the side for a moment”
When I complied without argument, two other officers helped him grab me, handcuffed me, and dragged me to a waiting squad car. I asked what I was being arrested for and I was told, “Causing a Public Disturbance”.
As the same officer who saw the incident unfold entered the police car with me, I asked him, “How can you arrest me when you saw what happened, you told me you saw her hit me first?”
“No, I didn’t,” he claimed, contradicting the statement he made earlier. I informed him that the entire incident had been captured on videotape. “well I was confused, it was chaotic”. I was in utter disbelief that they let my attacker walk away and return to her dinner. Later on, when I watched the video of the incident, I was shocked by the image of her winking, smiling and waving at her fellow attendees in a show of triumphalism as she sauntered back into the gala.
Upon arrival to the police precinct, I was forcibly led from the parking lot to the back door of the precinct by the same officer who was witness to the assault on me. I asked him why he felt he had to push me when I was fully in compliance with his demands.
“I’m not pushing you,” he claimed, throwing me into the glass doors of the entrance. I assumed this was his way of demonstrating his absolute dominance without regard for the law or internal police code of conduct.
For the first four hours in jail my seven requests to numerous officers to use the bathroom were ignored. I was told the videotape would be reviewed, leading me to believe that I would soon be released. I was the victim of the assault, after all. Instead, after 5.5 hours I was sent to county jail under a trumped up but incredibly grave charge: “Felony Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon” and “Public Disturbance.” It was hard to describe my sense of despair as I was marched off to San Francisco County Prison with $56,000 bail.
At 12.30PM on the following day, Monday Oct 21, 2013, I was bailed out. I retained legal representation on Tuesday Oct 22 and by 10am Wednesday Oct 23 when my attorney and DA reviewed the footage it was clear as day who the aggressor was and who was the victim.
ALL charges against me were immediately dropped and dismissed.
Despite being completely exonerated, various pro-Israel zealots have attempted to exploit the incident to smear me and incite hatred against me in online blogs. As well as false SFPD statements stating I “entered the hotel and attacked hotel guests with a bullhorn”. My attorney will be requesting retraction of these false statements; should they fail to comply, legal action will be taken.
The fact that I cooperated during the rally, was viciously attacked, thrown in jail and treated like a criminal then stuck with paying thousands in bail is outrageous.
Existence Is Resistance is an internationalist organization determined to promote non-violent resistance through cultural arts. In our work we use the arts as a means of expression and liberation of marginalized peoples throughout the world with a focus on connecting to the situation of occupied Palestine. E.I.R. believes that liberation is self-determined and to obtain freedom without violence, the arts are an outlet of communicating struggles globally and efficiently. E.I.R is not a charity; our projects implement human talent for inspiration and empowerment in the face of oppression. E.I.R. is open to people of the human race, all cultures religions/non religion, ethnicities, socio-economic positions, genders and sexual orientations. Existence Is Resistance believes that if even one human is bound, we are all bound to the freedom of that human.We are a grassroots organization with no ties to ANY political parties.