Democratic Congressional candidate Francine Busby (CA-50) and her allies have been embarking on an extensive public relations campaign in the wake of a raid on a campaign house party by the San Diego Sheriff's Department -- due to a noise complaint that is believed to have come from a person who heckled the event -- which ended in multiple people being pepper-sprayed and the full complement of deputies, including a dog unit and helicopter
, coming in to arrest one of the hostesses and a guest.
On Monday, three of the women held a press conference
, blasting the arresting officer, Deputy Marshall G. Abbott. "He had a raged look in his eyes and his head was bobbing from side to side," said Kimberley Beatty, who said that she had called 911 to report that he "appeared to be out of control."
And last night, the San Diego ACLU put out a press release
, which was forwarded to us by Busby herself, lambasting the Sheriff's Department for all manner of improper behavior here, and calling for greater transparency as the process of investigating this whole mess goes forward. The opening paragraph of the press release is essentially a dry narration of the reported events -- ending with an extraordinary closing sentence, emphasis ours:
On Friday, June 26, 2009, according to press reports and witness statements, a San Diego County Sheriff's deputy, responding to a noise complaint, entered the home of Shari Barman who was hosting a political gathering to support Francine Busby, a candidate for Congress. When the homeowner questioned why she had to provide her date of birth, the deputy grabbed her arm, put it behind her back, and brought her to the ground. Feeling intimidated by a group of mostly middle-aged women, he pepper-sprayed a number of guests and arrested Barman.
The San Diego Sheriff's Department has launched an internal investigation into the matter, and as a result they are not publicly commenting. The District Attorney's office is also examining the matter as it has been put before them, as it weighs whether to actually press charges against the two women who were arrested.
In an interview with TPM on Monday, Busby said that the original noise complaint clearly had a political motivation. "The deputies were telling people that they were taking statements from, that the call came in about noise from a Democratic rally, or Democratic demonstration," she said. She also lambasted Abbott's performance: "He was not listening; there was no controlling this person. The people who asked him to stop hurting this woman were pepper-sprayed without warning, there was no talking to this man."
And Busby also immediately set out to parlay this development into some good for her campaign, putting out a fundraising e-mail about the incident. "I am going to fight even harder to stop this hateful intimidation," she wrote. "I hope that I can count on you to fight this battle with me."
Shari Barman, the homeowner who was arrested, also released a statement Monday night: "He told me I was under arrest, grabbed my right arm, twisted it behind me and threw me on the ground. Some of the 25 or so people who were still in attendance observed what was happening and started asking the deputy what was going on. My partner, Jane Stratton, asked him to please be careful as I had recently had right shoulder surgery. His response was to knock her to the ground."