Coalition Wants Miami Cops to Drop Protest Charges

As the world collectively crosses its fingers that a second cease fire talk will work in Gaza -- and raging South Florida protests fade into tepid peace rallies -- a temporary truce in the middle east doesn't seem so far away. 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 a the felony battery charge an Islamic Bonita Springs veterinarian picked up at a recent Miami protest.

(More after jump.)

A few Sundays ago, around 3 p.m. on Biscayne Boulevard, the tall, bearded vet found himself squished next to a police officer and a heavy-set woman in a mosh pit of angry protesters. Signs bobbed up and down, red-and-green flags waved, and it seems the burly 42-year old ended up pissing off the wrong cop.

The way Miami police tell it, Riadh Atmani, who works for the humane society and is the director of an Islamic non profit, grabbed the officer "and his prisoner" and pulled them into the crowd. The report notes that afterwards, he "hit [the cop] in the face" and "broke the sergeant's glasses." The cop then handed him a felony 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 light-hearted, 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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