An incident caught on video has resulted in three misdemeanor battery citations against a Fresno City Council member after he got violent with a group of self-described independent journalists pushing back on the city’s extended “shelter-in-place” order.
“Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias was issued three citations for misdemeanor battery Tuesday evening after a group with strong ties to shelter-in-place protests showed up on his doorstep,” the Fresno Bee reports. “Members of the group pursued a citizens arrest after videotaping Arias apparently pushing at least one of them. No one was injured, said Fresno police Lt. Anthony DeWall.”
The incident took place at the council member’s apartment building at around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, where a group of men and women appeared at the apartment to confront him about the damage done to people’s lives by the city’s “shutdown” orders, which Arias supports and which Fresno Mayor Lee Brand recently extended to May 31, prompting hundreds of Fresno residents to protest in front of City Hall last week.
As video posted on Facebook shows, a handful of men and women carrying cameras and microphones congregated outside Arias’s apartment. The group is “led by Ben Bergquam, who runs a media Facebook page called Frontline America and organized last week’s Freedom Rally protesting the shelter order,” the Fresno Bee notes.
Video shows Arias violently shoving Bergquam and at least one other member of the group, an African-American man. Below are two videos posted by Facebook user James Hoak:
“Lt. DeWall said the group of men identified themselves as independent media,” The Fresno Bee reports. “Both Arias and members of the group called police, and officers arrived about 20 minutes later. There were three alleged victims. Arias was not handcuffed. A court date for Arias will be scheduled in 90 days, which is standard, DeWall said.”
“This is over the top,” Arias told the outlet afterward. “This is not the way you engage in civil discourse.”
Arias also accused Bergquam and the other protesters of “threatening the safety” of his family, saying his two young children were also in the apartment. “They went from making a political statement to physically threatening the safety of my own family, and that was not going to be tolerated,” he said, alleging that Bergquam has publicly threatened him in the past.
As highlighted by the Fresno Bee, Bergquam’s group posted a follow-up video about Arias getting violent with the group and denouncing claims that they were trying to break into his house, calling Arias a “liar” and predicting his position on the council is “done”:
Protesters also appeared at Mayor Brand’s home on Tuesday. Brand says that he had a discussion with the group and they left peacefully.
Along with the Freedom Rally protest, a local restaurant, The Waffle Shop, reopened in defiance of the city’s mandate, resulting in one of the customers being handcuffed by police, though eventually released.
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