Santa Ana police arrested two activists late Friday night near a DUI/license checkpoint on West First Street for reasons that were spurious at best, illegal at worst. Theresa Dang and Maria Zacarias, both members of the OC May Day Coalition that helped changed Santa Ana police checkpoint policy in 2011, spent the night in jail--Zacarias for obstructing traffic, Dang for supposedly arriving to the checkpoint borracha herself.
The two were present during last night's Santa Ana Public Safety and Neighborhood Improvement meeting. Neither spoke out as they are lawyering up and have been advised to keep quiet (No fun!), but supporters demanded no charges be filed against them.
Community activist Tish Leon spoke out first. She's an office manager with the Public Law Center that Zacarias volunteers with in Santa Ana.
"The officer grabbed her really hard by the shoulder and she's petite," Leon said about Zacarias, who's 4'11 and weighs 100 pounds. Her holding cell conditions were described as putrid.
"I ask that the charges be dropped," Leon said to council members, police chief Carlos Rojas and other committee members.
America Najera, another community supporter, turned the tables. "I demand that charges be brought against officer Weston Hadley for false arrest and imprisonment."
Zacarias and Dang helped change checkpoints in Santa Ana when police agreed to allow unlicensed drivers 20 minutes to find someone with a license to whisk their car away from an expensive impound. The OC May Day Coalition said then that the previous policy unfairly targeted and profited off the undocumented community. The two went out to Friday night's check point and offered to be on-spot drivers when the arrests happened.
It isn't the first time Santa Ana police put the cuffs on copwatchers. Angel Juarez and "Bijan" of 'Fuck the Police' hat fame got arrested while observing a checkpoint in October.
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After public comments, Richard Garcia listened attentively to activists who left the meeting to gather outside. The Santa Ana Memorial Park Neighborhood Association President offered to try and broker a dialogue with Santa Ana Police Officers Association President John Franks. Garcia returned alone after speaking with Franks inside. The answer was no.
A followup press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Sasscer Park in Santa Ana.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2