A community organizer suing National City claims she was handcuffed, forcefully dragged through the council chambers, and abused in custody because she’s black.
National City Department officers arrested Tasha Williamson and several other protestors when they disrupted a July 24 council meeting.
Police stopped the demonstration when the group chanted “You have blood on your hands” and staged a sit-in to protest the in-custody death of Earl McNeil.
Williamson’s federal court lawsuit, filed Thursday by civil rights attorney Doug Gilliland, alleges NCPD officers used excessive force when they arrested her.
The lawsuit also alleges that the “violence, or intimidation by threat of violence (by National City police) was committed against Ms. Williamson because of her race.”
At a news conference Friday, Williamson and her attorney showed a video of the protest and subsequent arrests. That video appears to support Williamson’s contention that police “…treated the white protestors differently. Each of the three white female protestors was lifted off the ground with an officer on each side, lifting them by their upper arms, and carefully dragging them out of the City Council chambers.
“In contrast,” the lawsuit alleges, “Ms. Williamson was placed in handcuffs that were extremely tight, causing severe pain. She was then dragged backward by her wrists, which hyper-extended her arms, tearing ligaments in her shoulder. She can be heard in the video of the incident screaming in agony…”
At their news conference, attorney Gilliland said, “When [police] took out those [white protestors] one-by-one in a safe manner, and they took Ms. Williamson out by dragging her backward and having to call an ambulance for her, I attribute that to race."
Williamson said the mistreatment continued after her arrest. “They [the police] propped the white women up against walls, and asked them if they were OK,” she said. “They asked them if they needed something to drink, and even held a glass of water [for them] while they drank. I was not treated in the same way.”
Her attorney says police are only partly to blame for that alleged mistreatment.
Gilliland claims National City's elected and appointed leaders have a leadership “culture” that allows police to routinely use excessive and unnecessary force without fear of discipline.
“National City had knowledge of excessive force used by its officers [but] routinely ignored and failed to meaningfully investigate and discipline its officers, and failed to take any meaningful action on [citizen]complaints…”
Gilliland and Williamson said they hope their lawsuit forces the city to change those alleged policies.
“I think the changes in this case have to come from the top,” Gilliland said. “I don't think it's with the individual officer. I think it's the leadership in National City."
National City's mayor and a police spokesman declined to comment on Williamson's civil rights lawsuit.
The city’s attorney was not available for comment, and National City’s government offices were closed for the day on Friday, Oct. 19.