The arrest of Arizona’s ACLU leader was caught on video, but it’s up to a U.S. District Court jury to determine whether police arrested her unnecessarily or whether she had it coming.
During opening statements at a civil trial Tuesday in Phoenix, a jury of seven women watched portions of the video — jerky footage from a roller-skating photographer. Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing Phoenix and two police officers who were assigned crowd control for a presidential visit on Sept. 27, 2002.
Eisenberg was at Third and Washington streets in downtown Phoenix shooting a video to document the arrests of demonstrators who marched to the Civic Center, where President Bush held a fundraiser for East Valley gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon.
Eisenberg’s attorney, Stephen Montoya, said the 64-year-old political activist was simply shooting the arrest of a demonstrator when Phoenix police officer Wesley Martin started yelling at her and then used his horse to shove her.
Martin then pointed her out and detective John Bottoms of the Arizona Department of Public Safety arrested her.
Eisenberg, less than 5 feet tall, was hobbled from foot surgery at the time and was about to leave, Montoya said.
They handcuffed her and lifted her over a barricade, which she objected to because she didn’t want people looking up her skirt, Montoya said.
"It shook her," Montoya said. "For months after the arrest she was paranoid."
Defense attorney Georgia Staton said Martin warned her repeatedly not to get near a restricted area and used his horse to get between her and the scuffle she was shooting.
Martin considered her a danger to the officers arresting the demonstrator because their backs were turned, and when it comes to protecting the president, a person’s size doesn’t matter, Staton said.