Californians in the Bay Area are well known for taking their rights and duties as citizens seriously. Part of that history has been the tradition of protesting certain actions by politicians, law enforcement agencies, or governmental decisions as a whole. Most recently, the story of 4 women with a history of political activism has caught the attention of the public.
This past February, a registered nurse, a social worker, a civil rights activist, and the wife of an Oakland mayoral candidate (names withheld in order to protect privacy) were arrested at the Elihu Harris State Office Building in Oakland for participating in a protest against police brutality. What happened next was shocking, even to these 4 seasoned protestors who have, between them, been arrested on similar charges of civil disobedience at least 13 times.
In a civil suit against the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the women all claim that they were subjected to abuses bordering on the criminal. They argue that they were asked to take off the outer layer of their clothing in front of male prisoners and deputies without any consideration from the officers conducting what was supposed to be a routine strip search. One of the deputies helping to search the 4, seems not only to have been unsympathetic, but downright offensive.
For example, when one demonstrator said aloud that she refused to take of her shirt because she felt especially vulnerable due to her age, the deputy is said to have yelled, “You must take off your shirt. You have no rights,” according to court documents. Furthermore, the complainants allege that the cell they were housed in was abominable, the walls and floors, they say, were covered in human waste and blood, along with other putrefied foodstuffs and trash. The suit requests that restitution be made to the women involved and that the procedure for processing and conditions of housing in prisons be altered for the better.