(ed. Original post from Jan. 13, 2012 – here)
Sergio Ballesteros, OLA Occupier, peaceful radical and tireless education advocate working for the People’s Collective University, was arrested late last night during the monthly, downtown ‘Art Walk’. An event held on the second Thursday of the month to showcase artists, galleries and photography, the event has seen an influx of peaceful Occupiers attending and contributing with artwork over the last few weeks. Last night a group of Occupiers marched to the Latin Museum – who are displaying Occupy Artworks – from City Hall in order to protest against the Nigerian Oil crisis, and to promote a boycott of Shell. The focus of the action was on outreach, and raising awareness of the Shell boycott. The Occupiers had 200 ft of butcher paper which they planned to display outside the museum for people to sign. Kandist Mallett and James Bigelow witnessed the events that transpired leading to Sergio’s arrest. In James’ words:
“We were marching down Spring St, just outside the Latin Museum, and Adam [Alder, one of the OLA drummers] walked around a car to get to the other side of the sidewalk. It was very crowded, there was barely room to move – but when he did that, he came back on the sidewalk and the cops hemmed him in. They grabbed Adam from the sidewalk [for walking on the street]. I didn’t see Sergio step between the cops or on the street [as the cops claimed]. The cops grabbed Sergio from the crowd, and hit him, and he ran away and put his arms up, trying to protect himself. The cops pushed into the crowd, a small child got bumped and hurt – the force seemed excessive. It was chaos. So many people were walking in the street – there were too many people walking in the street for him to have done anything exceptionally different.”
Sergio’s girlfriend, Carina Clemente, hugged Sergio to protect him as he was being beaten. As the Police dragged Sergio into the street and threw him on the floor, they pulled Carina – a tiny, 5 foot 2”, 90 pound girl – with him. This was witnessed by hundreds of non-Occupy art walk participants that were, in Kandist Mallet’s words “immediately radicalized by the excessive force used”. Despite the fact the majority of these bystanders were not Occupiers, they began to chant with the Occupiers “This is what a police state looks like” and “The whole world is watching, the art walk is watching”. The police became panicked by the chanting and support, quickly growing to numbers which onlookers have estimated to be around 800 people, and James recounts a cop picking up a bike and throwing it onto the sidewalk into the crowd, before the police left quickly.
“Once they left, the street was occupied by people who had been radicalized. I was hearing conversations from people, like “Shit, this is crazy, I’ve never done this before! This is what Occupy does! I can’t believe what I just saw the cops do!” and I’d hand them a flyer and teach them what was going on, that we’re still here as a movement, and then we marched 3-4 blocks together.”
Carina was detained and released without charge. Sergio was arrested on a felony charge in violation of CA Penal Code 405a: Lynching, and his bail set at $50,000. Adam was charged with a misdemeanour – PC 148 “obstructing, resisting or delaying” the police – and bail set at $10,000. Numerous eyewitnesses (details upon request) testify that both Adam and Sergio were not resisting arrest, nor attempting to interfere with an arrest, but had been targeted and beaten by police at the Art Walk event, “almost as if police had recognized them,” says OLA Legal Committee member Seraphime Angelis.
A third Occupier, William Palomares, was also arrested at the event at a separate location, apparently for having an open warrant.
For an example of how our comrade, Sergio, carries himself when not being brutalized by overzealous and antagonistic pigs merely for participating in a monthly art event, here’s a video from MSNBC filmed just days ago: