Dozens protest Chicano Park arrests outside downtown jail

SAN DIEGO -- A large group of demonstrators gathered outside Central Jail in downtown San Diego Thursday night to protest the arrest of  a man in Chicano Park.

Video posted online showed a man struggling with several officers at the park Thursday afternoon before being tackled to the ground. At one point, an officer punched the man's side several times as police tried to pull out his arms and place him in handcuffs. Bystanders recording the encounter stood nearby yelling at officers to stop hitting the man, who had a camera around his neck, and asking what he had done.

Eventually the man, later identified as 22-year-old Eddie Alvarez, was brought to his feet and led to a police car. Witnesses told the San Diego Union-Tribune he and a group of people had been filming the arrest of another person, 35-year-old Georgina Ramirez Mercado, at the time of Alvarez's arrest.

Officials with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said Alvarez had been booked into jail on suspicion of  felony resisting arrest.

In an official statement released Thursday afternoon, the San Diego Police Department said the incident started when Mercado tried to interfere with a traffic enforcement stop in which she had not initially been involved.  Mercado was then arrested and officers were in the process of deciding what to do with the children she had with her --ages 8, 7 and 4 -- when Alvarez entered the fray with another woman, offering to take the children.

Police said Alvarez refused to identify himself to the officers and was eventually arrested for interfering. During Alvarez's arrest, he "would not place his hands behind his back and a struggle ensued," the SDPD's statement said. "Officers used strikes while they forcefully moved his arms behind his back. Using these tactics they were able to handcuff him and take him to jail."

Later Thursday evening, dozens of people gathered outside the jail chanting in protest of the arrest, which they say was unnecessarily violent.

Protesters with the Brown Berets De Aztlan said the man arrested was one of their community activists. They told reporters the man had been recording officers at the time of his arrest.

"(He) did absolutely nothing wrong but record the police," Cuauhcemoc, an activist outside the jail Thursday night, said. "They retaliated because they didn't like to be recorded."

Police said they would conduct an internal investigation to determine whether or not excessive force had been used in Alvarez's arrest.

We will update this developing story as we learn more.

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