TAMPA, Fla. — More pro-Cuba demonstrations are expected into the weekend around Tampa Bay.
Organizers are hoping to avoid the sort of clashes and arrests that occurred over the past couple of days.
10 TampaBay spoke with two people right after they were released from jail on bond. They say TPD’s response has been anything from heavy-handed to disrespectful.
But the department has released photos and video that show demonstrators grabbing police officers.
Julian Rodriguez-Rodriguez was one of three people arrested during recent pro-Cuba demonstrations. He was released Thursday from jail on bond.
He says police officers were mocking demonstrators when he and his girlfriend joined the crowd.
“They was laughing. Ha ha ha. Look at this,” he said. “I did this, I did this.”
Rodriguez says he’d been there less than 20 minutes when he claims he saw a TPD officer repeatedly tasing a fellow demonstrator.
“I don’t know how long,” he said, “But it was long enough to me to stop the police.”
After leaving the jail, Maikel Vazquez-Pico denied hitting any officer. He says he was trying to get the police to stop pepper-spraying a young man who he said was later hospitalized.
Tampa Police declined to comment on-camera regarding those accusations. Chief Brian Dugan, they said, would be out of town until Monday.
Instead, TPD released photos and video from police officers’ body cameras that they say do the talking for them.
Images, they say, show Rodriguez-Rodriguez climbing onto an officer’s back. “ … punched in the face breaking his glasses,” the police report reads, “… the defendant continued to resist...”
A neighbor described Rodriguez as a mild-mannered man. Hard-working, quiet and respectful.
Others arrested also seemed to support the accusation that tasers and pepper spray had been deployed, in their opinion, excessively.
The department, knowing there will be more demonstrations, went on social media with this message:
“Tampa Police Department supports everyone’s first amendment right and will continue to work with groups who want to have their voices heard in a safe and secure manner.”
The department says it is looking into all of the allegations made.
A spokesperson says organizers of the demonstrations have been supportive of the police department. These sorts of incidents, they say, are a distraction from the message they’re trying to get out when it comes to showing solidarity with the Cuban people.
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