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Occupy Des Moines lawyer: Iowa State Patrol showed ‘brutality’

A lawyer assisting the dozens of Occupy Des Moines demonstrators arrested earlier this month on charges of trespassing on State Capitol grounds says Iowa State Patrol officers showed a “level of brutality … I hadn’t seen in the over 20 years I’d been here.”

Sally Frank, a professor at the Drake University Law School, said the officers that arrested the demonstrators used pepper spray, cuffed the demonstrators too tightly and dragged them away. The tight cuffing has left some of the demonstrators with numbness, she said, and one of the people arrested had his arm injured by the officers.

“The Des Moines Police Department doesn’t do that and knows how to deal with protesters and do it professionally and appropriately,” Frank said. “It was clear that the state patrol members were angry and wanted to take it out on the group and wanted to inflict their own punishment on the group.”

Megan Felt, one of those arrested, said before a court appearance on Wednesday “our brutal arrest epitomizes the profound inequality and injustice of our governing system.”

Jessica Lown, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said “the officers used the appropriate amount of force necessary to take folks into custody.” The department oversees the Iowa State Patrol.

“Everybody was offered the opportunity to walk of their own free will, and they were also invited to leave the property, and there were folks that chose not to do that. So officers did the best they could to safely and appropriately move them to the transfer wagon.”

Lown said the Professional Standards Bureau in the department investigates claims of inappropriate behavior. But she said no complaints have yet been filed.

“We have heard numerous accusations but that’s passed mostly through members of the media,” Lown said. “If (the demonstrators) would like to do so they’re more than welcome and what will happen is the Professional Standards Bureau will look into policies and procedures and determine whether officers acted inappropriately and according to procedures.”

Frank also said none of the demonstrators have yet filed a complaint with the department over the arrests.

“The defendants will certainly preserve their options to look at civil actions after the criminal charges are resolved,” she said.

About two dozen of the demonstrators are seeking a jury trial, while five have pleaded guilty. Those that pleaded guilty must pay a fine of $317 for the simple misdemeanor.

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