Thousands took to the downtown Fort Lauderdale streets Sunday night to protest the hatred and bigotry that President-Elect Donald Trump represents. Though it was a mostly peaceful demonstration, there was some conflict with a few pro-Trump counterprotesters. They were allegedly carrying a banner and chanting "Build a wall!" and "Hillary for Prison!"
During the kerfuffle, Fort Lauderdale police arrested an activist named Marah Lieberman, who says she was only yelling back at Trump supporters. "I didn't put my hand on anybody. I didn't touch anybody. I was just shouting," Lieberman told New Times after posting bond Monday evening. "I got tackled on the ground. My back hurts, my wrists are sore, and my thumbs are still numb."
Since election day, anti-Trump demonstrations have spread across the country to cities including New York, Portland, and Los Angeles. Scores of activists have already been arrested. Lieberman is the first, or one of very few, to be arrested in South Florida for protesting. After Trump was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the largest police unions in the country, Lieberman and other protestors began to worry that officers might become more likely to quash civilians' right to protest.
"It was clear off the bat that the police did not like us and liked [pro-Trump counterprotestors]," Lieberman says. "It didn't make sense that they were protecting this small group of Republican Trump supporters who were harassing us on our march for a very long time."
FLPD has not yet returned a message from New Times seeking comment about the arrest. But Lieberman says she was initially arrested for disorderly conduct. Video shows Lieberman sitting handcuffed on the curb. "I have done nothing wrong. I want an attorney. I want to be released," she shouts over and over again. Three officers then lift the young woman up by the elbows and carry her away.
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According to Lieberman, officers later found an empty baggie in her purse and told her it had cocaine residue — a claim that Lieberman vehemently denies. (It's not impossible. The quick drug tests used in the field are notorious.) Lieberman is currently being charged with felony possession of cocaine. She was released Monday after making her $1,000 bond.
"I can only express total disbelief that a superexperienced person like [Lieberman] would have coke on her," says Nathan Pim, a local activist with Food Not Bombs.
In response to the surge of Trump protests across South Florida, Food Not Bombs activists will be hosting a session geared to newer protestors with tips on keeping rallies nonviolent. It is open to the public and will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 18, at Stranahan Park.
"The most important thing is for people to look out for each other," Pim says. "Especially with the Trump people... Those people [Sunday] night were the ones looking to incite someone and clearly they succeeded."