DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Protesters upset by the arrest and termination of a community police officer in Deep Ellum converged at city hall Wednesday.
Residents and businesses are helping with their hands; taking up collections to help get Officer Martinez and his family through Christmas and New Year's. And they're helping with their feet, marching on city hall.
While police around the country are being scrutinized by communities they serve, these Deep Ellum residents came out in support of Martinez. They're doing fund-raisers, including "Jesus is my home boy T-shirts." They call him a prime example of community policing involvement. And they lobbied city hall directly to have him reinstated.
Photographer and Deep Ellum resident Stephanie Johnson is one of the organizers. "He is truly a peace officer, he's gone in there, he goes to every business on every shift and says, 'I'm here, what can I do for you?'
Sean Fitzgerald agrees. Fitzgerald is the President of the Deep Ellum Community Association. "Our neighborhood police officers are the folks who walk the beats. You get to know the people who are a problem and they react and that makes us stronger and that's why we are an incredibly safe neighborhood."
They claim the arrest of an aggressive panhandler, Joe Wesson, was warranted as the panhandler was aggressively interrupting a memorial service. And that the video itself is misleading because it doesn't show how Martinez was fighting pepper spray that had blown back on him. He wipes his eyes, they claim, and backup officers are seen shaking what appears to be spray off his dispenser and much later off a flashlight. 'He was doing his job, " said Fraternal Order of Police President Richard Todd, "despite the fact he was blind by the pepper spray in his face he continued to do what he needed to do."
And they found some support from council members, a few even wearing the Jesus T-shirts. "By all accounts this gentleman was a fine officer," said Rick Callahan adding, "and so I offer you my support and thank you for your involvement and engagement."
Late Wednesday afternoon CBS 11 News heard from the attorney for Joe Wesson, the homeless man arrested on the tape who is now suing the city in federal court. He says Wesson is disappointed in the demonstration, that Wesson has had death threats since the firing, but that Wesson's biggest fear is Martinez returning to policing the streets.
Next step in the process is a formal appeal to the city manager, then the trial on a charge of official oppression sometime next year.
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