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The Horrific Accounts of Women and Gender Non-Conforming People After They Were Arrested During L.A.’s Protests

1:34 PM PDT on June 12, 2020

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]ens of thousands of Angelenos have taken to the streets all over the city demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to a system that has brutalized Black people for generations. Neither a deadly pandemic, hastily changing curfews, nor a militarized police presence could stop them.

    Of the hundreds who were arrested, women and gender non-conforming people took to social media to document the abuses they said they endured, which included accounts claiming mental, emotional, physical, and even sexual abuse. L.A. Taco spoke to several individuals who lived through these incidents. According to these multiple accounts, women of color and trans people faced the most egregious treatment at the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

    Here are their accounts. 

    Ale’s story

    On Sunday, May 30th, Ale left her job to get food with three coworkers. They walked from their job on 14th Street and Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica to 9th Street and Broadway Street. Police were on the scene clearing out protestors from a nearby protest and were throwing “tear gas,” according to Ale. Three of Ale’s coworkers ran, with two of them running out of sight, and another staying across the street.

    The air turned white and heavy. “For sure tear gas, it wasn’t nothing else,” Ale told L.A. Taco. She couldn’t see much and her eyes were red. Confused and disoriented, she was stopped at 3:28 PM and detained on the spot at roughly 3:35 PM because the police mistook her for a “looter.” 

    “They grabbed me and a police officer started beating me. I couldn’t breathe,” Ale recounted. Ale believes she was beaten with both a police baton and the officer’s fists. 

    Ale’s coworker, who ran across the street to avoid the gas, came out and yelled at the police to stop. She was released without citation, zip-tied, and placed face down after the police officer that detained her took off running after someone breaking into a store at 3:50 PM, 10 minutes before Santa Monica’s curfew started. Ale laid on the floor zip-tied and bleeding from her nose from the beating she endured for 10 minutes, waiting for a safe opportunity to get up. Her back was sore from the beating she took.

    She went home, instead of going to the protest she planned to attend. “Since I don’t have medical insurance, I couldn’t go to the hospital,” she recounted. Her friend who works as a nurse tended to her wounds which included bleeding legs, bruises from her violent encounter with the police officer, and a bleeding nose.

    The next day on May 31st, Ale and one of her friends were pepper-sprayed and beaten with a police shield and a baton by police in Downtown L.A. by the Civic Center when she went to retrieve a protest sign she accidentally left behind at the protest site right at the beginning of curfew. 

    On Tuesday, June 2nd, she protested in front of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s home in Hancock Park. She was arrested around 8:30 PM at 8th Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, after hundreds of police officers boxed protestors in, a tactic they have used throughout the last few weeks to corral and detain protestors who were out after curfew. Ale alleges that she saw three officers with body cameras arrest female protesters who were white but officers without body cameras arrest women of color, who were also subjected to vaginal searches, unlike their white counterparts. 

    Devon Young, was arrested during the same mass arrest as Ale. She also witnessed women of color being subjected to vaginal searches while she, a white woman, was not. She spoke to L.A. Taco about this in an interview to and in her Instagram post detailing the arrest

    Official LAPD policy stipulates that body cameras are required for searches, arrests, and use of force. Their policy also says that arrestees are not to be subjected to physical body cavity (including vaginal) searches until after booking approval has been obtained and the appropriate search has been authorized by the watch commander (Volume 4, section 620.22 & 620.25).

    The constitutionality of full body cavity searches have been challenged historically in Los Angeles. California penal code 4030, a state law that directs how local agencies craft their policies on searches, says that arrestees with misdemeanor charges shouldn’t be subjected to body cavity searches without a search warrant.

    Audio clips via Julia Dupuis

    When a female officer went to search Ale, she told the officer that she was on her period. Ale said the officer then “sucker punched” her vagina. 

    She and other protestors were then herded into buses, where she was held until 12:45 AM, going to an unknown location. There were no bathroom breaks. Women urinated on themselves. Ale begged for another woman to be able to change her tampon for health reasons, as an old tampon can give someone toxic shock syndrome. 

    “At the end of the day, I’m just trying to let this female pee in peace,” said Ale.

    Ignoring the pleas of women on the bus, a couple of the women in the front (see Maggie’s story below) noticed an officer pull out her phone and allegedly use Snapchat to record their cries.  The other officers laughed.

    The women chanted “Black lives matter” to keep the morale up throughout the bus ride.

    Ale’s zip tie was tied so tight, she could no longer feel her hands, she banged the side of the window trying to get the attention of an officer. A woman vomited. Ale and two others were eventually let off the bus at 12:46 AM according to time stamps she took on her phone.

    One woman urinated on herself after an officer told her that the sidewalk was a restroom.

    She said she overheard a male officer say, “We can’t take them in, they have proof of abuse on them.” They were brought to the sidewalk. One woman urinated on herself after an officer told her that the sidewalk was a restroom. The woman who vomited in the bus was also taken off the bus. She collapsed on the ground and dry heaved.

    The rest of the women were processed at Harbor Community Police Station in San Pedro, 25 miles away. Ale stayed until 2 AM, making sure her fellow detained protestors were safe. She Lyfted home. She noticed a police car tailgated her driver part of the way. The police car disappeared and then she was tailgated by an unmarked car with no plates all the way to her home. 

    When L.A. Taco followed up with Ale, she said that she had been in and out of Glendale Hospital due to the injuries she sustained at a later arrest at another protest. Ale said that her doctor considers her right shoulder to be in “unstable condition,” and explained that during one of the beatings a sensitive vein had been torn, stopping blood flow in her shoulder or wrist. 

    “I need physical therapy and stuff like that. I can’t pick up anything more than 25 pounds. I can’t physically work anymore, ” she told L.A. Taco. She gets constant migraines and throws up frequently.

    Ale has not filed a complaint against the LAPD.

    Julia Dupuis’ Story

    Julia Dupuis, who identifies as a gender non-conforming woman, sat in front of Ale and was arrested in same mass arrest off 8th Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, on June 2nd, Ale corroborated this but couldn’t remember where on the bus Dupuis sat.

    After the police surrounded the protestors, Julia remembered one protestor calmly guiding the other protestors through the arrest: “Don’t run, just kneel, let them do what they’re gonna do.” She said that at that point, “I felt like we were just begging them for the protest to stay peaceful.” Then the police began to arrest every protestor.

    Dupuis said two male officers grabbed and zip-tied her, and had her face a wall. “Are your grandchildren going to be proud of you in 50 years?” Dupuis asked an officer. Her zip ties were so tight, her hands and wrists would be sore for days later. The male officers began to pat her front and back pockets. Then they started to pat down her breasts. 

    “Do you think it’s a female?” Dupuis said one officer asked another. They continued to laugh and pat down her breasts until one of them finally said, “We shouldn’t be doing this.” A female cop took over. Julia noted that she wasn’t the only gender non-conforming person to be called “it.”

    “I felt very humiliated and violated...I was called “it,” she said. The pat-down continued. Dupuis let the police know that her rib was in immense pain from being hit with a rubber bullet. She informs L.A. Taco that she later discovered that it was broken. The police continued the pat-down. 

    “Physical pain was something they used to control us and silence us,” Dupuis added.

    All of the arrestees were loaded onto the same bus. Dupuis described Ale as “the class clown” that kept up everyone’s spirits on the bus, hurling jokes at officers as she simultaneously yelled about not being able to feel her hands due to her zip ties being too tight. The bus eventually took off to an unknown location. It appeared to Dupuis that the driver didn’t even seem sure of where to go with so many arrestees.

    “Do you think it’s a female?” Dupuis said one officer asked another. They continued to laugh and pat down her breasts until one of them finally said, “We shouldn’t be doing this.” A female cop took over. Julia noted that she wasn’t the only gender non-conforming person to be called “it.”

    At one point, the driver drove erratically and nearly hit a wall, according to Dupuis. Ale shouted, “Where did you learn to drive? Bikini Bottom?!” Dupuis said the bus went to one precinct, but there were too many detainees on board, so the bus left and eventually arrived at the Harbor Community Police Station, where they were left sitting on the side of the road for four and a half hours. Dupuis witnessed protestors vomiting, fainting, and urinating on themselves in their seats. Some losing circulation in their hands.

    Their pleas for medical attention were ignored, save for an officer telling the arrestees to “stop acting like high school girls.” Officers drowned the girls out by playing loud music on the bus, playing “Old Town Road” by Lil’ Nas X, and then stopped when the women started singing along. They switched to “Africa” by Toto, the women sang along to that too, so they switched to country music. The women didn’t sing along.

    One officer said, “You have no rights here." 

    Eventually, Ale was taken out of the bus. Another woman that was throwing up was also taken out, and a third woman. Dupuis heard other women close to the window say that they saw the woman who was throwing up, collapse to the ground and dry heave and the third woman urinating on herself.

    The women on the bus stayed united according to Dupuis. Those that freed themselves from their zip ties tried to free others, and they tried to text their family members. “I think the LAPD made a mistake in arresting a bunch of young activists, they only made us stronger and more committed,” Dupuis told L.A. Taco

    Dupuis was finally released at 2 AM. She didn’t get to her vehicle parked near where the protest began in Hollywood until 4 AM and didn’t find a safe place to sleep until 5 AM. She’s currently a houseless college student due to the coronavirus pandemic measures her college took which led to her losing her student housing and her news internship.

    “What frustrates me the most,” she said, “Is that Black and POC have been experiencing this for a long time. Why are people barely listening now when people like me are speaking? Now that white people are experiencing police violence, it’s waking people up to police violence.”

    When asked if Dupuis filed a formal complaint against the LAPD, she said no, but is looking into the possibility of legal action. 

    Officer Cory Palka messaged Julia on Twitter after her tweets detailing her arrest went viral, and offered to have a complaint taken on Julia’s behalf and an investigation conducted.

    Screenshot of Cory Palka's Direct Message to Julia Dupuis

    Julia has not responded.

    Maggie, Maya, and Ariana’s stories

    Maggie, Maya, and Ariana also appeared to be on the same bus as Julia and Ale. They requested to be interviewed together and helped Maggie remember certain details.

    The three women are friends and were protesting together. They were also arrested together. Maggie was zip-tied just after 8:30 PM, shortly after they witnessed a cop taking a knee with young protestors and walking away.

    The three of them would stay zip-tied for what they all agreed was about five hours.

    As they were beginning to be loaded onto the buses, Maggie noticed that some gender non-conforming people had to “not say that [they were gender nonconforming], they had to say that they were women” in order to avoid being put on the bus for men. The three of them were not subjected to vaginal searches. Maggie, Maya, Ariana were marked down as white on their citations, despite Ariana identifying as half Asian-American-Pacific-Islander.

    The chest pat-down was intrusive, they told L.A. Taco. “She really cut into my boobs,” said Maggie. Once they were loaded onto the caged bus, Maggie sat at the front. There were no bathroom breaks for anyone for hours. 

    They pleaded for medical attention and were ignored as the bus stayed parked on the side of the Harbor Community Police Department in San Pedro. One woman had a panic attack and started vomiting. Another’s hand turned purple. Maggie recalled Ale “freaking out about her too tight zip ties”

    She also remembered a woman who said she had a nerve disorder desperately calling for help as she needed medicine, and was promptly ignored by officers. Maggie, who was sitting in the front, was close enough to see an officer’s text messages, “because [the police officer] was old and the font was huge.” She became aware that another officer was recording the women’s cries for help on what appeared to be Snapchat 

    “You’re fucking Snapchatting us, stop!” she shouted at the officer. “Yea, I’m Snapchatting this,” the male officer responded. The women on the bus worked to get three women off the bus that were in appalling condition, Ale included. 

    “We had to promise to behave a certain way to get three women off,” Maggie recounted. Eventually, Ale, the woman that was panicking and throwing up in the bus, and another woman were escorted off the bus. Maggie saw the second woman collapse on the floor and dry heaved. Neither Ale, Maggie, Maya, Ariana, nor Julia knows her name or what happened to her. The third woman urinated on herself. 

    The women on the bus supported each other throughout their time on the bus. “We all discovered our talents that night... one woman got a hand free, another was lookout, Kat was a woman had a phone charger,” Maggie recalled.

    The three friends weren’t released until after 2:30 AM. Maggie was released first. As they were being processed at the police station, they witnessed a Black woman who had just turned 18 getting fingerprinted. They themselves were not fingerprinted, however.

    Maggie, Maya, and Ariana were able to text a friend to get a ride home. 

    The three of them concurred that they think the police did not protect anyone or show any form of care that night. “I don’t understand how any of that served the community,” Maggie told L.A.Taco.

    Maggie, Maya, and Ariana did not file complaints against the LAPD.

    Laura Montilla’s story

    On Monday, June 1st, Laura Montilla was arrested while peacefully protesting in Downtown Los Angeles at 6 PM. At 4:21 PM the Los Angeles curfew was changed from 6 PM to 5 PM. The protest began in front of City Hall. They marched to 5th and Main Streets and many continued to protest after the hastily updated curfew. They were cornered and surrounded by an innumerable amount of police and the national guard. By 6 PM if you were out protesting past curfew, protestors say there was no escape.

    Protestors who tried to leave were promptly halted. 

    Montilla kneeled alongside other protestors, some of whom even laid face down to show compliance.

    When everyone was arrested, up to two cops guarded each protestor who was being detained.

    Around 7 PM, people began to be loaded onto buses. 

    They were zip-tied. Montilla and all the women around her which she says were all women of color were patted down and subjected to invasive searches, including a vaginal search and “harsh” breast pat-downs. According to Montilla in an L.A. Taco interview and her Instagram post detailing her arrest, she was subjected to four vaginal searches, two before she got onto the bus and two times after. She said that they didn’t even check the insides of her pockets.

    According to Montilla, arrestees never were read their Miranda Rights. “Should I be told my Miranda Rights?” asked Montilla to an officer. “I don’t know,” the officer replied. (L.A. Taco has confirmed that law enforcement officers are only required to read you your Miranda Rights if you’re in custody AND being interrogated. Interrogations generally happen later on down the line and are typically handled by detectives. If a suspect is in custody but not being interrogated and they criminalize themselves, their statements can be used against them without having to read them their Miranda Rights.) 

    They were put on caged buses separated by gender with smaller cages in the front and larger ones in the back. The bus departed.

    Video via Laura Montilla

    The women weren’t informed where they were headed. No one answered their questions.

    A friend that followed Montilla’s phone location later told her that she saw her location go all over Los Angeles during the bus ride. Some of the women peeked out of the bus window and saw that they had arrived at the National Cemetery at Westwood. The bus stopped in the parking lot and stayed there for five hours.

    “They took us to a cemetery parking lot and left us there for five hours.”

    When asked about the decision to take arrestees to a cemetery, Montilla felt that it was “strategic.” An officer turned off the lights inside the bus, leaving the zip-tied passengers in the dark. The women began panicking. Some passengers had panic attacks, and others urinated on themselves. Montilla and some other women tried to calm down others by playing games and singing songs.

    “They took us to a cemetery parking lot and left us there for five hours.”

    A mentally unwell homeless woman who wasn’t even protesting but was caught up in the mass arrests started to have a major panic attack. The other woman called for help. They were ignored. Instead, an officer boarded the bus and drowned out the sound of their cries and pleas with what Montilla described as “heavy metal” music which caused more women to have panic attacks.

    The caged passengers begged for them to turn off the music. They eventually did after what they say was 20 minutes. Montilla volunteered to ask officers if they could provide medical attention for those who needed it and if they could notify her how long they’d be there. The cop asked where her voice came from, making Montilla stand up. He promptly reached for his gun. She was still zip-tied with no possessions.

    When Montilla finally got off the bus, an officer informed her that she was in Westwood, an hour away from her home. The houseless woman, an hour or more away from her community and belongings, collapsed on the ground. Police officers pointed a gun (whether it had lethal or non-lethal ammunition is unclear) at her when she motioned with her body to point out which bag was hers when they were giving the women back their belongings.

    “I slightly lean slowly and multiple men grab their guns ready to shoot me!?” Montilla said in her Instagram post.

    The police finally released her and other young women at midnight, far from many of their homes. Montilla’s phone was dead. A kind stranger, a Latina, drove Montilla home. “I pray no one was kidnapped that night.”

    Loki’s story

    According to Loki, it all began as any other protest. She protested in front of the mayor’s mansion on June 2nd. When the organizers left, the protestors stayed. She remembered police saying that protests could stay past curfew as long as it was peaceful. However, the police boxed in protestors for an hour and a half after curfew and continued to make arrests. 

    “It’s like they didn’t know what they were doing,” Loki said. The arrests began and Loki was one of the last people to be detained.

    The women later used the undiscovered lighter and scissors to free each other by melting and cutting the zip ties.

    Loki observed officers putting on zip ties tightly on arrested protestors. She heard some protestors say their blood circulation was getting cut off. After she was zip-tied, police made her stand by a wall for 30 mins. She was also given an intrusive pat-down that included a search onto body areas “where they shouldn’t be touching,” Loki says. 

    “What could I possibly be hiding in there?” Loki said later. Loki heckled the cop searching her, who seemed “done and annoyed.” 

    “They groped every inch of people, but they didn’t find a pair of scissors or a lighter?” Loki recounted. The women later used the undiscovered lighter and scissors to free each other by melting and cutting the zip ties. “I was one of the last people to be detained” 

    Because of this Loki was put on the first bus to leave. After the bus left, the women asked “Where are we going?”

    “They just ignored us, They wouldn’t talk to us,” she said.

    The women noticed the bus leaving the Los Angeles metro area and Loki heard someone ask, “What happens to our cars?” One officer replied, “They’re calling a tow truck.” She heard someone else ask if the officer could tell them which company towed their cars. “No I can’t,” the officer replied rudely.

    Loki told L.A. Taco, “We were on the bus forever.” The driver eventually stopped at the Harbor Community Police Station. He didn’t come back for about three hours. There were no bathroom breaks. No one peed themselves in Loki’s bus. One woman held it in for hours and began weeping in pain on the bus from holding it in.

    During her detainment, Loki made friends with an undocumented woman and tried to stay together with her, keeping a watch over her the entire time and making sure she wasn’t further oppressed due to her immigration status. To keep up their spirits, the women on the bus chanted together in unison, writing “Black lives matter” on the bus’s cages.

    After about three hours at roughly 12 AM, an officer started taking people off the bus two at a time to be processed. They were finally able to use the restroom, but they could only go one at a time and there was no door to the toilet, so one could easily be seen from a passerby. There was no soap. “Which is extra gross, because there’s a virus going around right now,” Loki said later.

    Processing at the station took a long time, Loki noticed only a handful of cops processing paperwork and working, the rest appeared idle and were “super chill like they were at a cookout.”

    “I was saying yesterday that I was going to these things alone and I came out with friends.”

    “If they were all working they could have processed us sooner,” she told L.A. Taco. The cops gave everyone their citation and explained what it meant, when their court date was, and how much the fines were, except for Loki. They handed her citation with no explanation and she had to ask other women for information regarding court dates and fines.

    After she was released, she saw a visibly ill woman that was sitting down with her head down. Other women pointed her out as the woman that threw up in another bus and fainted afterward on the sidewalk after she was removed from the bus. Some people were talking to her and giving her water.

    Loki was released at 2 AM. She says the women on the bus united and bonded together. “We made a group name, I forgot it,” she said.

    Needing money for a $40 Uber ride home, Loki says she took to her personal Facebook account to ask friends for cash. They gave her $200. She paid for both her and a friend she made during detainment to get a ride home. “I was saying yesterday that I was going to these things alone and I came out with friends,” Loki told L.A. Taco.

    Update at 4:30 PM: In an interview with The Appeal, Garcetti addressed the use of tear gas in Los Angeles, saying it has not been used in the city "in 50 years."

    Julia Dupuis, Maggie, Maya, Ariana, Ale, and Loki were in the same mass arrest and taken to the Harbor Community Police Station. Dupuis, Maggie, Maya, Ariana, and Ale were all on the same bus, Loki was taken on a different bus with other protestors.

    When asked for comment regarding the misconduct allegations made in these accounts, LAPD provided no further statement besides providing L.A. Taco with the directions to file a formal complaint.  

    L.A. TACO contributors, Lexis-Olivier Ray and Brian Feinzimer were at 8th and Crenshaw when suspects were being detained and they were excluded from being able to cross police lines to document arrests.

    Lexis-Olivier Ray contributed to this report.

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