Social Issues

Harassed, caged, tortured by US police

By Alex Segura Lozano

Los Angeles, Jul 15 (efe-epa).- Laura Montilla was peacefully protesting in Los Angeles against disproportionate police violence against minorities when she herself became a victim of excessive force by cops, who – she says – used “military torture” methods on her and other people in custody and sexually abused her.

“I was handcuffed against the wall and this lady (police officer) came toward me, she hit my ankles and grabbed my vagina and my breasts on two occasions, despite the fact that the whole time I was being watched by several officers and it was impossible for me to have had anything in my possession,” Laura, 22, told EFE in a halting voice.

During that time, the young Venezuelan-born woman was trembling and she was only thinking about getting through that situation without breaking, trying to stay “calm,” she recalled through tears.

The abuses didn’t stop there and were repeated during the day while she was in custody, according to her account and the lawsuit she filed against the Los Angeles Police Department, in which she also says she was subjected to military torture methods.

And she is not alone: dozens of other women have also filed complaints against the LAPD in the past month.

Laura, who recently graduated from the University of Southern California, went out on the street on June 1 with a group of friends to protest the death of George Floyd and other African Americans who have died, or been murdered, while in police custody.

That afternoon, the Los Angeles City Hall moved up the prevailing curfew by one hour, to begin at 5 pm rather than 6 pm, giving the public little advance warning of the change, while Laura was out on the street.

When the protesters learned about the curfew change, it was too late: hundreds of police officers surrounded them and began taking the demonstrators in Laura’s group into custody.

“My friends began to run before the line of officers and they escaped somehow, but my grandma always told me not to run from a police officer so as not to give them any reason to shoot me,” she said.

At that point, Laura’s nightmare began. She was arrested, groped, thrown into a cell, taken to a local cemetery and released after five hours after being subjected – while in custody – to rock music blaring at maximum volume and without being given access to water, a telephone or being allowed to use the bathroom.

In all, her seven hours in police custody made that day the worst of her life, she said.

After the female police officer touched her private parts repeatedly in broad daylight, Laura was transferred to a bus and locked in a cage with about 10 other people “so crowded” that she could not move.

Then, they were driven to the National Cemetery in Westwood, in northwestern Los Angeles, a 30-minute trip.

“We were shouting for help, when an officer came, turned on the radio with rock music at maximum volume and left us there, without giving medical attention to anyone despite the fact that some were already having panic attacks at that point,” Laura said incredulously as she recounted her experience with this well-known military “torture” method.

Hours later, when police began to release the detainees, Laura got up to ask one of the officers something. In response, the cop shouted at her, took her by the arm and told her: “You’re surrounded.”

“I was literally handcuffed, I couldn’t do anything inside that cage,” she said.

When it was her turn to be released, she had no cellphone, purse or wallet and was about 40 minutes by car from her house. She asked the officers for help and they responded: “Good luck getting back home.”

In an unknown neighborhood on a dark night, Laura began walking without a clear direction until she was able to thumb down an unknown woman driver, who kindly took her home, thus bringing to a close the worst day of her life.


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