Protesters Shut Down National City Council Meeting Over Earl McNeil Death, Arrests Made
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July 25, 2018 1:54 p.m.
UPDATE: 1:55 p.m. July 25, 2018
Jade Hindmon, reporter, KPBS News
Related Story: Protesters Shut Down National City Council Meeting Over Earl McNeil Death, Arrests Made
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Of more protests more arrests and this time police in riot gear.
At a Tuesday night city council meeting in National City. The meeting was called to a halt when several people staged a die in lying on the floor in front of council members. Those protesters were taken into custody. This is the fourth consecutive city council meeting ended after protests over the death of Earl McNeil a man who stopped breathing while in police custody. He died last month. Police say this week they've given the McNeil family more information about URL's death but the family says questions remain. Joining me is Kate PBS reporter Jade Heidemann who was at last night's city council meeting in National City. And Jane welcome Marine. I have to start once again with the question What was it like to be at the council meeting last night. What happened. What was the atmosphere like.
Well the atmosphere to start was more controlled last night. I will say you know they were only letting a certain amount of people in. They let folks and five at a time. And it was filled to capacity which was about 97. They relocated media to the back corner of the chambers and sort of kept an eye on everything. Again the meeting opened with public comment everyone but one person went up to speak about the Earl McNeil case. During that comment section about six or so people went up front for a die in protest where they laid down on the ground with their palms in the air which had been painted red and said blood is on your hands. At that point officers moved in and detained those people and the meeting was halted at that point. After that a lot of people went outside to sort of find out where they were bringing people out. But those protesters those those activists were met with officers in riot gear first from the San Diego County sheriff's office and two hours went by. And then a number of officers showed up from several different agencies heavily armed and more riot gear to move in. There was also a helicopter circling the area to sort of surveillance what was happening. I did hear canine canine unit and some of the officers vehicles. So there was a heavy police presence to confront what seemed to be maybe about 50 or so protesters.
You talked to one of the people there about this heightened police presence. Tell us about that.
Yeah I talked to one activist whose name is Mohamed El Kiba and he was there and felt that that things were just a bit excessive.
It's a waste of tax money. I think that there should not be 80 to 100 cops here as literally there are 30 to 40 protesters that are demanding justice and order here with tactical gear. This is this literally reminds me of what's happening in Palestine. This is what happened in the Middle East. This is what happened in Ferguson.
Now as you say eight arrests were made do we know how many.
We haven't gotten official word from National City Police yet. We saw six people be detained.
What about National City police chief Manuel Rodriguez. He's been sort of a lightning rod for many protesters. Was he at last night's meeting.
He was he was at last night's meeting again and he was the subject of a few angry comments as he glanced down at his cell phone during public comment and even smirked.
Now do we know anything more from police about what caused Earl McNeil's death.
We don't know a whole lot more about that because the investigation at this point is still sealed. We do know that the the National City Police Department did meet with the McNeil family on Monday the McNeil family says that they were able to hear bits and pieces of that emergency phone call that McNeill made the morning of May 26. They say though that it was bits and pieces they were not satisfied with what they've heard. They still want to see video. They'd like to hear the the exchange in its entirety rather than in bits and pieces. So at this point there's still not a whole lot of information. They were also privy to a preliminary report from the medical examiner. But again still not able to release any details about what is in that. The medical examiner says they will actually be finished with that report this time by mid August.
What are city officials and the National City mayor saying about all of this.
You know they're they're silent on this. They have not said a whole lot about this.
So this whole investigation is now on the radar of law enforcement agencies outside of National City isn't it.
It is. So the Department of Justice it's on their radar it's on the radar of the FBI. They the FBI has not opened a formal investigation on it but they are looking into it. Also the district attorney's office will look into this once the National City police finish their investigation. And I should also mention that this case is also on the radar of a number of community organizations to have you've got the ACLU teamed up with a number of legal groups MidCity Kande the Center on policy initiatives. All coming together and asking questions about this case in particular about the Purt team response. Was there a team available and if not why. And also asking questions about the device that was used among many other things.
I've been speaking with CBS reporter Jane Heidemann. Jade thank you.