Tei, Gumby and Deva have been followed all weekend. When they pulled up at a stoplight and looked out their windows, they saw the San Diego Police. When they came out of Von's with bags of supplies, they were interrogated. When they grabbed a lift in a friend's truck, they were pulled over. Their crime? They volunteered as medics for the week of events around Beyond Biodevastation, a teach-in and protest against BIO, the biotech industry event being held this week in San Diego.
Ken and Mike, a couple of musicians from San Diego, were surrounded by three cop cars as they walked down the sidewalk with their drums. They were told they were being detained on reasonable suspicion: their instruments looked like weapons. They agreed to give their ID, but took the ID of the officers in return. Forced to wait on the sidewalk for almost 20 minutes, they decided to play. Under the watchful eye of four of San Diego's finest, they drummed their hearts out. When the cops could no longer take it, they were released.
Anthony, a volunteer with Food Not Bombs was carrying water and fruit to protesters at an action outside of Burger King. He was stopped, the police accusing him of providing ammunition for demonstrators to throw. When he explained he was simply trying to feed the protesters and make sure they were drinking plenty of water in the hot sun they let him go. But he was told if anyone threw anything, he would be arrested.
These activists are part of a relentless campaign of harassment against protestors in San Diego during this week's events. With the teach-in placid, the march pacific and no one wreaking any havoc, the San Diego Police Department have resorted to petty persecution. Protestors have been pulled over and cited for everything from bald tires to not changing the address on a license. On Sunday alone 25 citations were given, mostly for jaywalking. Sign carriers have had their sticks measured, resulting in at least one arrest for "possession of lumber." Virtually every demonstrator has a story.
Siu Hin, an activist from Los Angeles was detained in the parking garage of a local mall, where his car was parked. He was approached by a plainclothes officer who had cited him and 20 other protestors the day before for jaywalking. His interrogation included allegations that he was loitering in the parking lot in order to commit rape, steal a car or solicit a homosexual advance. In reality, he was in the parking lot to keep his car from being towed, another tactic being used by the police.
The most menacing case of harassment involves Rampage and his friends, activists from Los Angeles. One of the protestors arrested in Long Beach on May Day, Rampage has six charges pending against him, including inciting a riot and disturbing the peace. He and his friends were followed continuously after they arrived in San Diego. At one point they were cornered by an unmarked and unidentified car who had been tailing them for hours. When they confronted the drivers of the car they were told, "Get the fuck out of San Diego." They were watched until they left.
In addition to these incidents, officers rifled through the supplies in the medics' tent on several occasions; a plane hired to pull a banner reading, "Biotech out of our bodies" was prevented from flying over the convention center by police helicopters, even though clearance had been given by Lindberg Field; and a natural science student was pulled from the registration line by police and prevented from registering for a public discussion on safety and regulations at the BIO conference.
Unfortunately, as the week progresses, so do the incidents of harassment. With two days left to go, there will certainly be more. Clearly, the first amendment carries an addendum in San Diego: exercise it at your own risk.