By Sonu Wasu of Tucson News Now
“A couple of them seized my arms, it seemed like they wanted to break my arms,”
An independent journalist and a woman in her 70’s who was observing the event were taken into custody by BLM officials.
It happened on Sunday afternoon. Here is a statement about the incident released to Tucson News Now by a BLM spokeswoman from the Arizona state office.
“On June 10, 2012, two public observers were contacted by BLM Law Enforcement Rangers outside the designated viewing area. One of the individuals (MROZEK-MALE) had been previously asked on numerous occasions to leave the viewing area based on his failure to comply with instructions from law enforcement officers. The other individual (HAYDEN-FEMALE), who was in a restricted area, was asked repeatedly to move to the designated viewing area, for her safety and the safety of those involved in the gather operations, and she refused to comply. Rangers had to make physical contact with both individuals to gain compliance. Both individuals were detained pending charges. Both individuals were placed in air conditioned law enforcement vehicles. Both individuals requested medical attention. Ambulances were called at their request. One individual was transported by ambulance. One individual was evaluated and released at the scene. Charges are pending against both individuals.”
Carl Mrozek spoke to Tucson News Now about the arrest. Mrozek was there to film a documentary about burros. It started out as in interest in the animal, but the interest grew as he observed roundups taking place throughout the country, and noticed the numbers of burros out in the wild rapidly declining.
A video Mrozek shot in 2009 in the California desert raised a public outcry. The video showed a contracted BLM pilot chasing a burro in the desert, causing it to collapse.
BLM officials say that pilot was reprimanded, and was never used by the BLM again.
Mrozek said on Sunday, he along with several observers had set up in an area designated for the public, by the BLM.
Mrozek said their view was obstructed by a line of trucks. He noticed an older woman step around the line to get a closer look at the action, when BLM officials approached her and took her into custody.
He started filming the arrest. That’s when Mrozek said two BLM officials approached him and asked him to speak to them.
Mrozek said they suddenly jumped on him and started putting hand cuffs on him.
“A couple of them seized my arms, it seemed like they wanted to break my arms,” said Mrozek.
He kept asking them if he was being arrested. He said the men said they did not know, and told him to “just relax.”
“I felt like the burro. I had no rights. I was under the control of the posse of men with machines and guns. I felt like one of the burros,” said Mrozek.
He said the officials then put him in the back of a pick-up truck, he was crouched in a back seat with his hands still cuffed behind his back.
Mrozek said he sat there for a long time. He says it was over an hour, when he started to feel hot and faint.
“I started feeling light headed and fainted. At one point when I woke up I had trouble breathing. My circulation was bad. It was 103 degrees outside, we were parked in the sun for over an hour. It was unpleasant, very unpleasant.
Mrozek said he had to be taken to the hospital, where he was given fluids and treated for heat exhaustion.
Mrozek said BLM officials returned his camera to him, but he noticed his microchip and all of the footage he had shot that day was missing. The footage included video of the roundup from Sunday, along with video of the arrest and confrontation with BLM officials.
Mrozek said he felt like his First Amendment Rights had been violated, and he planned to seek legal counsel.
We asked BLM officials why they did not return Mrozek’s footage, along with his gear.
In an email, spokeswoman Carrie Templin stated: “I will not answer any of the questions in the second paragraph as they pertain to details of the case, at this preliminary stage it is inappropriate to respond to these questions.”
BLM officials say the roundups are conducted to save vegetation in the area. Opponents argue it is inhumane to round up burros in temperatures over 90 degrees.
BLM officials said the roundup was now complete. They had gathered 350 wild burros from the Cibola-Trigo Herd Management Area north of Yuma, Arizona.
BLM officials said they had met their Cibola-Trigo Wild Burro gather objectives safely with no incidents with the burros or personnel.
Officials said the Standard Operating Procedure for high temperature days was also met with gather operations shutting down when the temperature reached 95 degrees.
All animals are expected to be transported to the BLM Ridgecrest facility and made available for adoption to citizens willing and prepared to provide good care.
BLM officials said they offer wild horses and burros gathered from public lands in the West to qualified adopters who must demonstrate humane care for the animal for a year in order to receive title.
To qualify to adopt, you must be 18 years of age, have approved facilities to keep the animal, and transportation home for it from the adoption site. For more information and adoption qualifications, please call the BLM at 1-866-4MUSTANGS (468-7826) or visit BLM’s website at www.blm.gov/az/.
In addition, the goals of the gather, daily gather reports, and the 2010 Cibola-Trigo Gather video can be found at this link. http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/whb/gather.html
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