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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Civil Rights Claim Against Alameda Sheriff

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A sheriff's deputy ordered a civil rights protester to strip to her underwear in front of male deputies and prisoners, then knocked her down and ripped out clumps of her hair, she claims in court.

Christina Arechiga was at Oakland's State Building on Feb. 13, 2014 to protest Attorney General Kamala Harris's failure to prosecute police officers who shot and killed unarmed citizens. The California Highway Patrol arrested her for misdemeanor trespass and sent her to Santa Rita Jail.

At the jails, she says, defendant Alameda County sheriff's Officer Karla Varela lined her and others against a wall, in the presence of several male deputies and "approximately 17 to 20 male prisoners who had a full and clear view of the women."

Varela ordered the women to strip off their shirts "down to their bottom layer," and when Arechiga refused, Varela "launched into a scream" and told her that she had "no rights," Arechiga says in the complaint.

Arechiga says she asked to speak to a duty officer, citing the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, whereupon Varela handcuffed her, kicked her to the ground and pulled out clumps of her hair.

She was put in a 5-by-8-foot holding cell, filled with "close to 11 women," in which the toilet was overflowing with menstrual blood and feces and the floor was covered with urine, feces, menstrual blood, decaying food and bloodied clothing, according to the complaint.

Arechiga says charges were never filed against her.

The sheriff's office could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Arechiga seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, sexual harassment and negligence.

Defendants include Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern, Assistant Sheriff Brett Keteles, Varela, five other officers and Alameda County.

She is represented by Arnoldo Casillas, with Casillas Moreno, in Montebello.

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