Fighting The Man

Palestinian protester Riadh Atmani wants to clear his name.

With last week's agreed cease-fire in Gaza, there's temporary peace in the Middle East. But in Miami, another battle is boiling.

This past week, the Florida branch of ANSWER (Act Now to End War and Stop Racism) launched a campaign to get Miami Police to drop the felony battery charges against an Islamic Bonita Springs veterinarian picked up at a recent Miami protest.

A few Sundays ago, around 3 p.m. on Biscayne Boulevard, the bearded, NBA-player-size doctor found himself pushed up against a cop and a heavy-set woman in a mosh pit of angry protesters. Signs bobbed up and down, red-and-green flags waved, and then, somehow, the burly 42-year-old found himself on the wrong side of the law.

The way Miami Police officers tell it, Riadh Atmani, who works for the humane society and is the director of an Islamic nonprofit, grabbed the cop "and [the officer's] prisoner" and pulled them into the crowd. The report notes that afterward, Atmani "hit [the cop] in the face" and "broke the sergeant's glasses." The cop then arrested Atmani on felony assault charges that could put him in jail for up to 15 years.

ANSWER spokesperson Emmanuel Lopez contends Atmani was helping a female protester who was being "manhandled" by the sergeant. He says the officer then got knocked into Atmani's backside. "The only reason they arrested him is because he looks large," Lopez says. "He's actually a lighthearted, respected community leader. If anything, he was protecting the woman."

Atmani would say only that the police report was "one-sided." He has no Miami-Dade criminal record.

Lopez is now collecting video footage of the tiff, and the group has hired lawyers. "The charges are trumped up," Lopez says. "We're going to clear his name."

 
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