10 Charged in Anti-ICE Banner Protest from Top of Westin Gaslamp Hotel

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Banner saying ‘FREE OUR FAMILIES NOW” was hanged from near top of Westin Gaslamp Hotel. Photo via mijente.net

Ten people who took part in an immigration rally in downtown San Diego last month, during which two of them rappelled off the 16th floor of the Westin Gaslamp hotel to hang a large banner, have been charged with misdemeanor trespassing and resisting or delaying officers, City Attorney Mara Elliott announced Tuesday.

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All 10 defendants — associated with the Mijente activist group — entered the hotel with the intent of trespassing on Westin property, blocking its roof access in order to hang the banner that read, “FREE OUR FAMILIES NOW! #STOPSTREAMLINE,” and rappelling off the side of the building without permission, Elliott said.

Five defendants went to the roof. Three appeared to be “spotting” the two who rappelled off the side of the hotel, the city attorney said.

The other five defendants blocked and/or delayed hotel and law enforcement personnel from accessing the roof, some by chaining themselves inside a stairwell, she said.

“I sympathize with the protesters’ message that families should not be torn apart, but do not condone their tactics,” the city attorney said. “Their actions required a robust public safety response.

“Police officers were pulled from our streets and placed in a potentially dangerous situation. So were hotel security personnel and members of the public. Thousands peacefully protested in San Diego this summer without breaking laws or putting others in harm’s way. These 10 made a different choice, and will be held accountable.”

Hilary Nemchik of the City Attorney’s Office said arraignment is set for Sept. 24 in San Diego Superior Court. She said the defendants can be arraigned by fax or at the counter in the business office, or appear in court on the arraignment date.

The two alleged rappellers, both charged with trespassing, were identified as Kevin Chun Pang, 24, of Columbus, Ohio, and Brittany Renee Baker, 29, of Berkeley.

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The other defendants, and the charges they face, are:

  • Ethan Michael Buckner, 28, of Oakland; charged with trespassing to interfere with a business and resisting or delaying a peace officer.
  • Roberta F. Capoblanco, 27, of San Francisco; charged with trespassing and resisting.
  • Katherine Nicole Wires, 31, of Oakland; charged with trespassing and resisting.
  • Nora Wagner Rasman, 33, of Washington, D.C.; charged with trespassing and resisting.
  • Nora Rachel Leccese, 26, of Boulder, Colorado; charged with trespassing and resisting.
  • Brianna Latrell Gibson, 27, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; charged with trespassing.
  • Jaque Fragua, 31, of Jimenez Pueblo, N.M.; charged with trespassing.
  • And Avery Sinclair, 23, of Washington, D.C.; charged with trespassing.

The day after the protest, Mijente director Marisa Franco commented on the original arrests: “The attacks our communities are facing from the Trump administration require that we fight back in every way, sometimes putting our bodies on the line for what we believe is right. That is what those 10 protesters arrested yesterday did.”

She said the protesters’ actions also spotlighted judges and officials in San Diego holding “mass trials of immigrants, trials that will happen right across the street from the very building the protesters were arrested in.”

Franco, urging that charges be dropped, called the counts extreme and “cannot be read as anything other than an attempt to discourage protest.”

Updated at 10:40 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 29

— City News Service contributed to this report.

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