Protest at National City council meeting ends in arrest

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. – A City Council meeting in National City Tuesday night ended in mayhem and an arrest as protesters demanded the resignation of the city’s police chief.

Tasha Williamson was led away by officers after she was arrested for disrupting the meeting. Friends who came to her aid were turned away.

Before the meeting started, Williamson said she and others came with one goal in mind: that National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez be held accountable for the death of Earl McNeil, who died last month while in custody.

“We demand that Chief Manuel Rodriguez resign,” Williamson said.

Last month, McNeil walked up to a phone at National City police headquarters. According to police, when officers met him, they discovered he was under the influence and was taken into custody. They then reportedly found he was carrying crystal meth before he was driven to Central Jail.

“This is where we really don’t know what happened but at some point, he just stopped breathing,” Capt. Alex Hernandez said.

Hernandez said they are waiting on the Medical Examiner’s report that will show how McNeil died. But Williamson and others who attended the meeting believe the department is trying to cover things up. Now, they worry about what might happen to Williamson.

“Tasha Williamson is a colleague of ours, a friend of ours, a family member. She’s like family and we love her. We want to make sure she’s going to be OK. Right now, we don’t know if she’s OK,” said Cornelius Bowser, a community activist.

Bowser said officers overreacted when arresting Williamson, but Hernandez said it was Williamson who made things worse.

“We provided several opportunities for Ms. Williamson to stop. She didn’t. We understood that she exceeded her time, and she was really disrupting the meeting that was going on,” he said.

Other residents at the meeting asked that police officers show more compassion and get better training to de-escalate matters.