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Mexican-American Woman Says She Was Wrongfully Arrested After Protest Clash

Margarita Servin Ruelas being wrongfully arrested by San Diego Sheriffs after an altercation between Black Lives Matter protesters and Sheriffs near the Imperial Beach Pier on June 6, 2021.
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Margarita Servin Ruelas being wrongfully arrested by San Diego Sheriffs after an altercation between Black Lives Matter protesters and Sheriffs near the Imperial Beach Pier on June 6, 2021.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an altercation among three of its deputies and Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors in Imperial Beach on Sunday.

Tensions flared after a peaceful BLM protest concluded that afternoon at the Imperial Beach Pier. Margarita Servin Ruelas, who is Mexican-American, was writing pro-Palestine slogans on the sidewalk with chalk when a middle-aged white man confronted her, according to Servin Ruelas and other witnesses at the scene.

Mexican-American Woman Says She Was Wrongfully Arrested After Protest Clash
Listen to this story by Melissa Mae

The man threatened to pour water on her writing, Servin Ruelas said. She said she pushed the cup away and then another woman punched him.

The man then went to three Sheriff's deputies who were gathered nearby. He pointed toward Servin Ruelas and said she was the one who punched him, according to a Sheriff's Department statement. Deputies then approach her, the statement said.

"As the deputy told her she was being arrested, the woman pulled away from the deputy," the statement said, referring to Servin Ruelas. "At least three of the protestors grabbed the woman to keep her from being taken into custody. Additional protestors began attacking, pushing, scratching and spitting on the deputies resulting in minor injuries. One protestor was seen stomping on a body camera. Another body camera was stolen."

The Sheriff's statement went on to say that a patrol car was also damaged and "despite provocation, deputies were professional in their actions throughout the incident," which was captured in part by cell phone video. The Sheriff's statement acknowledged deputies later learned that it was not Servin Ruelas who punched the man.

In an interview with KPBS, the 24-year-old Servin Ruelas said said she was wrongfully accused and injured during the arrest.

Video: BLM Protester Says She Was Wrongly Arrested By San Diego Sheriff's Deputies

“I’m kicked and bruised and hit and I’m yelling, 'No,' and all I can do is go to a ball and try to force myself down because I don’t want anyone touching me," she said. "I’m freaking out and have no idea why I’m in this situation and definitely not the right person to be in this situation.”

She went on to say the man "made up a story about me. He told the cops that he got hit by me, so in return they hit me and abused me because they think I did something wrong to him.”

Marcus Boyd, member of the Imperial Beach People’s Alliance. This Alliance organized of the march and is familiar with the man who made the allegations.

“Imperial Beach People’s Alliance members have helped that individual in the past as he is unsheltered and on the beach. We’ve given him clothing and food.” Boyd said.

The video shows deputies body cameras on the ground as well as a gun magazine.

Servin Ruelas says she sustained injuries when deputies forced her into a squad car. “Opens the car and throws me in," she said. "The only thing that hit the car frame was my head. I had this huge welt."

The Sheriff’s statement does not disclose that Servin Ruelas was initially rejected from the Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee. She was taken to Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa to have her head injury examined.

Servin Ruelas said she feels she was not heard and not read her Miranda Rights until she was being booked at Las Colinas.

“I didn’t have my voice respected at all that day, she said. "I wanted a Supervisor there. I wanted his watch commander there. I wanted the situation to sizzle out and not be escalated to me being assaulted by three officers.”

Servin Ruelas was held overnight at the Las Colinas on charges of battery and resisting arrest, according to the Sheriff’s statement. She was released after posting $20,000 bail. No other arrests have yet been made and the Sheriff’s investigation is ongoing.