Suit filed in 2011 Occupy San Diego protests

SAN DIEGO - Four women are suing the city of San Diego and San Diego Police Department for what they claim were rights violations during the Occupy San Diego protests in 2011.
 
Part of their allegations includes having to urinate in a van they were held in for hours.
 
 “It was just a really scary experience,” said Kari Helstern, who helped with the Occupy San Diego protests for weeks.
 
Helstern and Nicole Gochmanosky are two of the four women suing for policy changes within the San Diego Police Department. The lawsuit alleges First Amendment violations, excessive force, false imprisonment and more.

 In late October 2011, 51 people were arrested in connection with the protests, including Helstern and Gochmanosky.
 
“I got swarmed by about eight cops and they arrested me,” Gochmanosky said.
 
Gochmanosky claims she did nothing wrong that night. She said she and several other women were placed into a van, where they were forced to remain for four to six hours.
 
“People ended up urinating and defecating in the van,” Gochmanosky said.
 
“It was traumatizing for everyone,” Helstern added.
 
The lawsuit states that San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies knew the women needed to use the restroom.
 
 “Deputy Shurtz witnessed a ‘waterfall’ of urine spilling out of the vans,” the lawsuit reads.  
 
It goes on to say that deputies asked San Diego police Sgt. Evan Ziegler “if they could take the prisoners to the restroom. Ziegler denied those requests.”
 
The lawsuit states that Ziegler “forced plaintiffs to remain in the parking lot for so long without access to a bathroom that they were forced to urinate and defecate on themselves while handcuffed.”
 
The women have since settled with the sheriff’s department, but not the city of San Diego.
 
“The sheriff’s department immediately filed a report, did an apology, changed written policy for mass arrests, and I just wanted to see the same thing come from the police department,” Helstern said.
 
Sources tell Team 10 that current San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman is against settling these particular types of cases. Meanwhile, the attorney representing the plaintiffs criticized the department’s lack of action.
 
“They refuse to investigate, they refuse to change policy, they refuse to do anything about it,” attorney Julia Yoo said.
 
In a deposition released to Team 10, former Chief William Lansdowne said the issue was looked at and “the officer was within policy.”
 
A court date is scheduled in late October, near the three-year anniversary of the arrests.
 
A San Diego police spokesman and the San Diego City Attorney’s Office had no comment on the case.

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