Isabel Miller | @Isabelmmedia
Editor’s note: The videos embedded in this article contain strong language and depict violence.
Updated 12:46 p.m. 6/29 to include a statement from the Carbondale Police.
Updated 8:19 p.m. 6/29 to update Bruefach’s first name.
Video footage from witnesses shows Carbondale Police spraying protesters at Sunday’s “Queer Wrath March.” The altercation occurred at a grass field across from the Italian Village.
Cat Bruefach, a transgender woman, was arrested during the encounter.
Carbondale Police released a statement regarding the incident and said they were arresting Bruefach, 20 years old of North Carolina, for vandalism after a witness claimed she spray painted private property.
The release said Bruefach resisted officers and while that was occurring, three people who were a part of a larger group approached the officers during the arrest.
“One officer deployed pepper spray in the direction of the three people after they refused to comply with the officer’s verbal directions to retreat,” The release said. “One of the members of the larger group subsequently struck a police vehicle containing the person arrested with a flag pole.”
Video footage of the encounter filmed by witnesses can be found below:
Dan Milam of Carbondale was having a drink at the Italian Village restaurant when he witnessed and filmed the encounter.
Milam said he saw a small protest of about 20 people marching up the middle of Washington Street, northbound toward Route 13.
“I assume they came from the protests earlier, and were continuing to protest. They were holding flags and signs and chanting ‘Black Lives Matter.’ A few of us cheered as they passed and I noticed a police cruiser following slowly behind them,” Milam said. “A few minutes later, I look around the corner and noticed the police cruiser was now parked, as well as other police cruisers.”
Milam said he walked through the restaurant to the front doors to see if everything was OK.
“I saw a police cruiser drive through the grass field across from Italian Village towards a few of the protesters who were in the back of the group,” Milam said. “Most of them had already crossed 13, so my video only shows the few that they harassed.”
Milam said he immediately pulled out his phone to film the next few moments.
“The other citizens started asking why they just did this and the cops started to push them back away from them,” Milam said. “About 30 seconds later, they started pepper spraying these protesters directly to the eyes. Right after that, they quickly got out of there, leaving with the woman arrested.”
Milam said he ran back inside to grab pitchers of water and ran over to aid those who were injured.
“They were in visible pain and completely confused,” Milam said. “This all unfolded within 10 minutes. My video only shows the pepper spraying but it’s still a hard video to watch. These people were peaceful. I saw them only about three minutes before one of them was slammed into the side of the police cruiser.”
Justin Lee, another witness to the event and an employee at the Italian Village, filmed the encounter as well.
“It’s awful to witness something like that especially when it has targeted my own community as a fellow gay,” Lee said.
Milam said he was surprised at how violent the encounter was.
“It brought tears to my eyes because I felt so helpless,” Milam said.
According to the release, Officers transported Bruefach to the Carbondale Police Department and issued notices to appear in court for Carbondale City Ordinance violations of Criminal Damage to Property and Resisting a Peace Officer. Bruefach was released with pending court dates.
“There were no injuries reported as a result of this incident and the police vehicle which was struck was not damaged,” The relase said. “Additional graffiti was reported following this incident but it is unknown at this time if the graffiti is associated with any of the demonstrators who were a part of this protest. This incident is still actively being investigated.”
News Editor Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.
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