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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Local activists file civil rights suit against four SAPD officers

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 6:50 PM

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The Texas Civil Rights Project has filed a lawsuit against four San Antonio police officers, saying they “brutally dragged” and injured an activist who staged a sit-in at the Mexican Consulate two years ago, then unjustly arrested his four friends waiting for him outside a local hospital.

The lawsuit names the Texas Indigenous Council and Antonio Díaz, who founded the group, as plaintiffs in the case.

On April 29, 2009, Rodolfo Macias, a long-time political activist with a penchant for public protest, staged a sit-in at the local Mexican Consulate after he was denied political asylum, Díaz recalled. When consulate officials tried to close the building for the day, they took the rare step of calling local police onto what is considered Mexican soil.

Macias, an undocumented immigrant, suffered a hairline fracture to his femur while being dragged out by police, the lawsuit states.

Díaz, who was on the phone with Macias during the ordeal, gathered friends to meet at the Metropolitan Hospital downtown, where Macias was taken after his arrest.

Diaz and the others stood on the sidewalk outside the hospital, but were soon met by several officers telling them to leave or face arrest. “At first, they mainly seemed mad because we had a camcorder,” Díaz remarked, saying he eventually put the camera in its case.

“When they kept saying they’d arrest us, I said, ‘We have our rights, our Constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly,’” Díaz said. According to Díaz, one of the defendants named in the case, a San Antonio police sergeant, then replied, “ ‘Not in San Antonio, you don’t.’ ”

An SAPD spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Police arrested Díaz and four others, charging them with blocking a sidewalk, though the charges were eventually dropped over a year later, Díaz said.

TCRP executive director Jim Harrington remarked, “Regrettably, this is not a rare or isolated case.”

“I think it’s ironic that 220 years after we passed the First Amendment, some cops still don’t understand it,” he said.

The protest that sparked the whole situation landed Macias in the hands of local U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents, Díaz said. Macias was eventually deported to Mexico sometime last year.

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