A new video produced by lawyer Ben Rosefeld includes disturbing footage of deputy sheriffs under the supervision of Paul Miyamoto using excessive force on peaceful protesters. It reflects charges in a 2007 lawsuit against the city -- and evidence collected in that case shows that Miyamoto, now a captain in the department and a candidate for sheriff, was an active participant in the alleged misconduct.
The lawsuit is a result of a protest that took place in June, 2004, when activists were demonstrating against a biotech conference in the city. Protesters dressed as mutant animals marched through the streets, and 17 were arrested and taken to the county jail.
The protesters declined to give their names -- and at some point, sheriff’s deputies were directed to remove them from a holding cell.
As the video -- taken by the Sheriff’s Department and released as part of the lawsuit -- shows, the deputies used physical force to pull the protesters out of the cell. The protesters were holding on to each other -- and in some cases, the level of force used certainly appears excessive.
Remember: These were nonviolent activists who never threatened the deputies or gave any sign that they were dangerous.
Miyamoto, then a sergeant, both supervised and participated in the removal. In a legal document responding to questions from Rosenfeld, who represented the protesters, Miyamoto said that he, along with another sergeant, had developed the extraction plan and “became physically involved in the cell extractions on more than one occasion.”
I called Miyamoto and sent him a copy of the video. He told me that he was, indeed, involved and said the video was “a fair representation” of what happened.
“I stand by out decision that night,” he told me, saying he didn’t see anything in the video that bothered him or that was inappropriate.
“Our job was to get them out individually, and we took great pains not to harm anybody,” he said.
The lawsuit charged that some of the protesters were seriously injured during the extraction. It was settled when the city agreed to pay $25,000.
Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who is running for sheriff, told me that the video was, indeed, disturbing. “I think it speaks for itself,” he said, adding that he didn’t think the tactics were appropriate.
“This is why we need an independent sheriff who isn’t connected to the Deputy Sheriff’s Association,” he said.