Activists Shut Down National City Town Hall Meeting
National City Mayor Ron Morrison, not used to public backlash, began today's meeting by making a plea to sign-holders put the signs down, so that people in the back could see the proceedings. The people sitting in the back responded by saying that their views were not obstructed and encouraged fellow supporters to hold their signs up high. Unlike previous town halls, those attending this time seemed unified in their disgust for the way city officials are handling the case of Earl McNeil and want more answers.
The group gathered just after 5PM on Tuesday night to talk to press and hold up signs such as "Earl McNeil: His life mattered" and "Stop smirking" in reference to the disrespectful expression National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez made to families and supporters in both a recent private meeting and at a previous town hall event. Others had poster sized pictures of the smirk Chief Rodriguez made during that town hall event.
This time however, the National City Police Chief was noticeably missing and replaced by Assistant Police Chief Jose Tellez, and supporters filled about half of the room, with many other supporters in the waiting room. Because of fire code regulations, about half of the supporters had to wait outside of the building. Speakers included California State Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, and representatives from the ACLU, NAACP and Black Lives Matter. Also speaking were local activists Aeiramique Blake, Mark Lane, Marie Little and Tasha Williamson.
After the first few people who spoke for Earl McNeil were met with applause, Mayor Morrison began to say the names of the next speakers quietly. After he was asked to repeat himself a few times he lashed out at the audience, saying "It's hard for you to hear when you guys make noise after each one". The audience wasn't having it - after an initial five seconds of yelling, a man from the waiting room walked to the doorway and shouted, "The speaker needs to be louder! It's quiet and we can barely hear!"
Marie Little held up a poster of Chief Rodriguez smirking to Assistant Chief Tellez saying to him, "This is the face of your boss". Aeiramique Blake told the Mayor, "What happened to Earl McNeil is a reflection of leadership. You are racist, you are corrupt, you are a womanizer". Mark Lane lambasted National City Police Corporal Darren Pierson for violently blocking media in a previous town hall meeting, holding up a picture of the incident for all to see and saying "Look at his (Corporal Pierson's) face, he wanted to fight". Others simply took to the microphone to say "fuck the police".
It all started on the morning of May 26, 2018 when a 40 year old man with a history of bi-polar disorder named Earl McNeil, picked up the call phone at the National City Police Department looking for help. When police noticed he was acting erratically, they suspected he was on drugs so rather than provide treatment, they placed Earl under arrest. According to police, he then became combative and so was placed in a WRAP device designed to restrain a person in custody by their arms and legs. He was then taken to jail, but the Sheriffs wouldn't accept him because by then Earl had become unresponsive and stopped breathing. This is when paramedics were finally called. He was "unarrested", taken to the hospital and put on life support. The family took him off life support days later and Earl died June 11, 2018.
That's what both sides agree on. However, NCPD has changed their story four times regarding how Earl got his injuries. First an NCPD detective told the family that Earl had a heart attack, but the hospital informed the family that he had actually suffered brain damage. While still in a coma, the family took pictures of Earl's injuries, specifically bruising on his head and swelling on his wrists to show that there was damage to his body. The second version came out in a vague official statement saying that he was injured as police tried to place him in the WRAP device, suggesting that they used brutal force to do so. A third version came out in a second statement claiming that Earl had injured himself by hitting his head against the glass divider in the police vehicle, suggesting they didn't properly secure him in the vehicle and gave him a "rough ride". Finally, NCPD claimed investigators didn't find any trauma on Earl's body during the autopsy, despite the pictures showing otherwise.
Activists took to the National City town hall meeting the next day on June 19, 2018 to discuss their anger at the way the case was being handled. Chief Rodriguez was at this meeting. When Tasha Williamson spoke to the city council about the Chief's attitude, Rodriguez began to give out a smirk that grew into a smile. After an activist called him out for still smirking during a serious situation, Tasha looked back at the Chief, got angry and demanded the city to fire him. By this point, Tasha had already gone over her two minutes and Mayor Morrison began asking her to sit down. When she refused to move, Morrison called for a recess and about 10 police officers walked in, handcuffed Tasha, and took her out of the room. As cop watchers documented the arrest and attempted to follow Tasha out, Corporal Darren Pierson, who accidentally shot a man in 2015, decided to further escalate the situation by violently grabbing one of them. He let go of the man when the crowd yelled at him to stop.
Tasha began screaming at the treatment of Rafael, which could be heard by the cameras, that were still being blocked. Once the activists were free to exit the building, they walked across the street to the police station where Earl McNeil first went to look for help. When they saw an ambulance pull up to the back of the station, they followed it and witnessed as Tasha was being loaded on the ambulance. Officers refused to answer any questions, choosing instead to call for back up units. Tasha sustained swelling to her left wrist from the handcuffs.
What do they want?
-Independent investigation of Earl McNeil's death
-Video release of NCPD's interactions with both Earl McNeil and Tasha Williamson
-The firing or resignation of National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez
-For National City to cover Earl's final expenses