CARBONDALE — A transgender woman was arrested and pepper sprayed by Carbondale police at the end of a Queer Wrath March in the college town on Sunday.
The police department also deadnamed the woman in a press release and local media. She has been identified as Cat Bruefach, 20, of North Carolina by local activists.
The Daily Egyptian of Southern Illinois University reported that witnesses took video from the Italian Village restaurant across the street from the incident.
Dan Milam of Carbondale told the Egyptian that he had seen a group of 20 people passing by as part of a protest then saw a police cruiser come up to people at the back end of the protest.
“I assume they came from the protests earlier, and were continuing to protest. They were holding flags and signs and chanting ‘Black Lives Matter.’ A few of us cheered as they passed and I noticed a police cruiser following slowly behind them,” Milam told the newspaper. “A few minutes later, I look around the corner and noticed the police cruiser was now parked, as well as other police cruisers.”
Milam said he saw people asking the police why they were harassing the protesters. The police then started pushing people back away and pepper spraying protesters directly in the eyes. He said the police left soon later with the woman they arrested. Milam and others at the restaurant went to the protesters to offer first aid.
“They were in visible pain and completely confused,” Milam said. “This all unfolded within 10 minutes. My video only shows the pepper spraying but it’s still a hard video to watch. These people were peaceful. I saw them only about three minutes before one of them was slammed into the side of the police cruiser.”
The police press release stated that they were responding to a report that one of the protesters had vandalized property and located them on the 400 block of South Washington Street. The release stated that Bruefach had resisted arrest and when three people approached, “One officer deployed pepper spray in the direction of the three people after they refused to comply with the officer’s verbal directions to retreat. One of the members of the larger group subsequently struck a police vehicle containing the person arrested with a flag pole.”
The police stated that there were no injuries and there were reports of further vandalism after the arrest.
Bruefach was charged with criminal damage to property and resisting a peace officer. She was released with pending court dates.
The Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Youth Center, which had held a Pride Drive earlier in the day, condemned both the treatment of the protesters and deadnaming Bruefach.
“Regardless of any alleged violations, there is never an excuse for the use of excessive force,” the Rainbow Cafe’s board said in a statement sent to the Illinois Eagle. “And there is never an excuse to misgender or deadname a transgender person.”
The statement also pointed out that while the Rainbow Cafe was treated well in their Pride Drive, the protesters at the Sunday night protest were subject to excessive force and deadnaming.
“The respect we were shown as an organization should be shown to everyone,” the board said. “We stand firmly against police brutality, excessive force, homophobic and transphobic behavior, and decry the public misgendering and deadnaming of this individual in a press release and in ensuing publication. We hope that there is an investigation into this incident, and that appropriate procedures and consequences are in place for officer misconduct.”
The board called for police training on the needs of the LGBTQ and BIPOC communities.
A Defund the Police protest and march was held on Monday night as news of the arrest and police conduct spread. Protesters called for the Carbondale city government to condemn the police department’s actions and reduce the police budget.
Video of the police pepper spraying the protesters can be seen on the Daily Egyptian website.