Monday, September 06, 2004

How I was arrested, part 4

The bus sat for quite some time in front of Central Booking, and there were photographers that came and just started to take pictures of us. They were told to stop, and so another photographer came, but they also had to stop. When we finally were released from the van, we were lined up against a wall in a little alleyway. So across from us, in front of the other wall, there were about fifty some policemen, and they all just stared at us. Since at this point we were all female, and had been referred to as the females, and called lady among other names for quite some time, the overwhelmingly machismo male presence staring at us was quite uncomfortable. Furthermore, they kept asking me how old I was. The first time I was asked was when I had been sitting next to Jerry Garcia on 16th street, and then outside of Central Booking, they also asked me. I am 18 years old, and granted I do look young, but it was a strange situation to be repeatedly asked.
We were then led up a staircase, where the two policemen near me talked about how they got paid less than cops in a different area. They also said that we were dangerous, and by we, I mean all protestors. They mentioned that someone had showed up in armor to outside Madison Square Garden, and that they had just been looking for a fight. I won’t deny that there are people out there who are just looking for fights, but in all the people I’ve met, I’ve never met an anarchist or protestor who really just wants to go out and fight police. Mostly people do self-defense and the do-it-yourself armor about which the police were talking sounds as though it was self-defense. Even just a little research into history will demonstrate that people have been seriously injured at protests, and that a good proportion of the violence has originated from police.
After we got out of the stairwell, we were put into a holding cell for a few minutes and they would call out our names and we were patted down, and searched. They took away my cell phone at this point, and gave me another voucher. We walked through metal detectors, and were sent into another holding cell. This cell was an actual room, and there was a toilet, but there was no door, and there were a few benches. There was a television suspended from the wall that was stuck on Channel 1 and stayed on the entire night. By this time, it was approximately 1 pm. I stayed in that room until about 4 am.
How did those hours pass? Slowly...I tried to fall asleep, and was able to sleep for about 15 minutes at a time, and then would be startled awake, thinking that my name was being called. At one point, they thought someone had a cell phone, and so everyone in the first three holding cells was re-searched, and then crammed into our room. That means that there were over 100 women in a room that was pretty small. I looked around for a maximum capacity sign, but there wasn’t one, but I’m sure it would have exceeded it. We were given cheese sandwiches again, and some bad peaches, and some peanut butter sandwiches, that also just tasted really watered down and horrible. Mostly people slept, or tried to comfort other people around them, and talked. Everyone was super strong emotionally. One woman I saw though had severe chemical burns on her hand. She had to beg to be let out to even just wash her hands in soap and water. I saw her hands and they were really red and raw, and one area was even blistering. On the positive side, I met some really nice people in there.
Most people were from all over the country and one woman I met wasn’t intending to protest at all. She had just been walking home from the bookstore where she said she was buying books on peace, which I guess was dangerous enough to have her locked up for at least over 24 hours. I saw one of my friends walk by outside to go get her fingerprints. She had been kept for a long time already, and was most likely singled out because she had helped to organize the Life after Capitalism Conference, which the city put a lot of pressure on to stop. She had been arrested at the die-in. Slowly people started to filter out, and they would call out names in a seemingly random system. One girl I met, U and I, watched for awhile when there were about 40 people left in our cell. There were about 3 holding cells at this time. We noticed a pattern and when we looked around our cell, it was pretty obvious as well. The police would take 6 people at a time to get fingerprinted. They would be linked up to metal handcuffs and a chain. As we looked around the room, we realized that our room consisted mostly of people of color, radical looking types, or lesbians. The pattern seemed to be, since they had our pictures on our files, to pick 5 people that looked normal, and then have one odd looking one. Our holding cell seemed to contain the odd looking ones, and so moved the most slowly. The pattern seemed to hold true for the majority of the groups. As we were looking out the barred window, we both saw our pictures in a pile they were sorting through. For some reason, I was singled out as well, because I definitely saw my picture on top and then was ignored for awhile.
As I mentioned the tv was on, and so there were news updates, and the news showed that members of ACT UP / AIDS activists, had disrupted the convention. I knew some of the people, and we saw them come in and get searched. They were placed in a different cell, but everyone viewed them as heroes.
Whenever someone was called, the rest of the people left would cheer. No one was like, why wasn’t I called first, but most people were really happy when someone they had been talking to or someone that was particularly not feeling well or upset was called. So when I was called, people cheering and clapped for me, and I blew them kisses. We walked down the hall, and were given wipes to clean up to make the fingerprinting easier. The wipes were black, and yet looking at my hands, they were still ingrained with dirt. The man who took mine was pretty rough, but the nice part of it was that the guys were getting their fingerprints taken simultaneously, and I saw another AIDS activist I know, as well as some people I had met in the large pen.
From getting our fingerprints, we were taken to another cell, which was smaller and there were about 12 of us in there. Another group was taken from there, and told us that they had been there about four hours. All of these cells were part of the Corrections department, and just as Pier 57 is referred to as Guantanamo on the Hudson, these prison cells were referred to as the tombs. We were held in this cell for approximately four hours as well, and then taken downstairs to get our mug shots and talk to the police departments EMS. Our officer for this part was actually exceptionally nice. His name was PO Wagner, and he told us that he had been injured, and was trying to retire soon, but there were lots of complications. He felt truly sympathetic for us, and listened as one girl described how in her van someone had completely passed out, and no one would help them. He seemed to be pretty upset by the situation as well. My picture was taken, and then they passed me into another room where a medical person asked me questions. I said my wrists were swollen, and bruised, but that otherwise I was fine. We had been told that people who said they had some respiratory problems or asthma years ago were taken to the hospital, and then had to start the whole jail process over again. Everyone wanted to avoid that, and so probably downplayed anything that was bothering them.
Next, a woman came and took all my information, like where I lived, how old, what I did, where I went to school, etc. When we had all finished, PO Wagner asked if we had used the phone. There had been a phone right outside the cell we had been in before fingerprinting, but there was a long line, and you had to have a police person dial for you and many were too busy to dial. Also, when the shifts changed, anyone that had been on the list during the other person’s shift was no longer considered as needing to use the phone. So effectively, very few phone calls were made. Wagner took us downstairs and we walked past a few men’s cells, and were placed in an empty cell. One woman offered her calling card to let people make phone calls, and a bunch of people made phone calls. We took our time, since we knew that the only other thing we had to do was sit in a cell and wait. A few people started crying talking to people, but everyone was so grateful that Wagner let us use the phone.
Then we were taken to the 12th floor, and placed in another jail cell with benches. There were maybe about 30 women though in our cell, and there certainly wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit, and certainly not to lay down. They gave us some cereal, and we were kept there for a long time. Nothing really happened for hours, but at maybe around 2 o’clock they started calling some names. At around 2: 50, they called my name, and like earlier, people cheered for me. I was taken downstairs, and they placed some other people in another holding cell, but they asked my birthday and since I was 18, they put me with other minors, or 18 and younger. We were then taken into the court room, which was the speediest part of the whole process. There were four of us, and a Legal Aid lawyer came up to me and started asking me questions. She told me I was charged with disorderly conduct, and parading without a permit. Both of these charges were violations.
Violations are like speeding tickets, you can get fined, but they are much less serious than misdemeanors. So essentially, over 1800 people were held in jail for violations, which if anything should just result in a ticket and a later court appearance. Generally, we were told there were two options–a desk appearance ticket (DAT) or an ACD which stands for Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. An ACD means that if someone doesn’t get arrested for 6 months, then the charges would be dismissed, and the person wouldn’t have to plead either not-guilty or guilty. The Legal Aid woman didn’t really explain all this to me, or what any other options I had, so I requested to have an NLG lawyer. About 10 minutes later, I had an NLG lawyer, and she explained that if I was planning on being involved in a class action lawsuit, then an ACD would look weak, as though my actions had been wrong. Also, since I live in NY, it’s easier for me to come back to court. So I was arraigned before the judge, and I plead not-guilty, and therefore will be going back to court on November 17th.
While I had been sitting on the bench waiting for the NLG lawyer, one of my friends, H, came into the room and pointed which way I should walk when I left jail. A few parents were also in the court room, and a boy, O, who was acting as a legal observer. When I left, I was asked if I had seen a few people, but I hadn’t seen them. I walked out, and I was finally free. The total hour count, since I had been arrested at approximately 7:30 was about 43 hours. Jail support was across the street, and they all cheered. I saw some friends, and they came up to me and hugged me. I saw a medic I knew, and she took me to see some other medics, who were just so nice and caring. The medic, B, rubbed a salve on my wrists, and told me what to eat, and some other things I could do to feel better. Their kindness was just so overwhelming.
I also went to the legal people, and gave them my information. I saw a few more friends, and one person gave me a flower, and they all gave me hugs. Their concern was so amazing, but I pretty much just stuck around for a few minutes and then headed for home. Apparently my roommate, and a medic that had been staying with me were there, but they were in a different court room. They had been there all day, even though I only discovered this later. The vast amount of kindness and love that I received was just so shocking from my experience for the past 43 hours. The contrast was so shocking that as I was walking toward the subway, I just started crying, and sat down for a few minutes and just sobbed. I then got on the subway, and looked so crazy because I was extremely dirty and had tears in my eyes. A few people looked at me, but most people ignored me. I went home, and finished moving out of my apartment. I was arrested on August 31, I was supposed to be out of my apartment by September 1st, and I was released from jail on September 2nd, so I certainly caused some confusion with my old roommates. I showered, and took care of everything, and then went back to the courthouse to see if any of my friends were released. A few more people had gotten out, and I saw some more of my friends who had been released on Wednesday. One friend rushed at me, and gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I stuck around for a few minutes and then headed over to get my backpack from the property trailer. I stood in line for about 4 hours, which after everything was the shortest wait I had for a long time.
That would have to be the conclusion of my direct jail experience. But there are so many more stories, and I can write them out too. And if you stuck it out reading all this, I really appreciate it. And if you want to know more please look at these websites:
Useful noRNC websites:
www.nyc.indymedia.org
www.foodnotbombs.net
http://www.rncnotwelcome.orghttp://www.counterconvention.org
http://www.stillwerise.orghttp://www.a31.org
http://rncwatch.typepad.com
http://rncguide.com
http://www.lifeaftercapitalism.org
http://www.nlgnyc.org/RNC.html
http://www.norncposters.org
http://nycplc.mahost.org
http://www.times-up.org/rnc_2004.php
http://nyc.indymedia.org
http://www.campshutdown.com

How I was arrested, part 3

At about 4am, I was taken to be processed. My arresting officer, PO Blackmon, took me out, but since I was the first female, he had to register somewhere else and was told that he couldn’t bring the prisoner out. I went back to the big pen, and they finally cut off my flexcuffs from my other hand and offered me an apple. Eventually he came back to get me, and then we went and stood in another line. He grabbed the plastic bags with my stuff, and I held them. I ripped open the one and took my cell phone back. They searched my bag and transferred it to another bag, recording the contents and then they gave me a voucher. After that I was taken to someone else, and they asked me basic identification information. Next, I was taken to a smaller pen, and they gave them one of the pictures they had taken earlier that night. This pen was all women, and they offered us cheese sandwiches, which were 2 slices of imitation cheese between 2 slices of white bread. They kept bringing people into this smaller pen until there was barely room to sit or lay down. Everyone was crammed in, and we were kept there for the remainder of the night. In the morning at around 6 o’clock, we were told that we would be sent to Central Booking in 20 minutes. By 20 minutes, however, we discovered that they really meant over 4 hours.
Within that time span, some people started to feel really sick. Some women had respiratory problems, and were coughing. Others just felt sick in their stomachs, others had migraines, and one woman that I saw was already experiencing the chemical burns. There were over 100 women in the one pen we were in, and the pens didn’t touch each other but had space in between so that the groups were unable to communicate with each other. Some women asked the police officers for medical attention, but were refused, or even worse ignored completely. Thus, medical attention was denied, and one can just imagine that if something even more serious medically had occurred, what the consequences might have been. We were given cereal while the men were moved back into the larger pen, and they started transporting people to central booking.
My phone did not work at this time because I had no reception, but someone’s did and we sent around pen and paper and wrote down our names and our contact information. Someone started calling the NLG and telling them everyone’s name. We also held a meeting to state a few issues, mostly concerning medical attention. Someone kept saying that we shouldn’t be treated like criminals, to which someone replied that no one should be treated the way we were being treated. People started shaking the fence, and chanting, "We need medical attention. When? Now." Nothing happened in terms of anyone receiving medical attention, but at some point they started calling some names. Those people would leave, and were taken to central booking. My name was called, and eventually everyone’s name was called, but rather than taking us anywhere, they just put us in the cell next to us while they cleaned our cell block, cell 5aa. One woman said that they told her the burning of the chemicals on her hands was just PineSol.
From the new cell block, they took us to a paddy wagon, and there were about 20 some people placed in this police van. We had all been rehandcuffed by this point, and when we were in the van, people had limited mobility. My cell phone had reception at this point, and so some people made phone calls. One woman was really claustrophobic though, and she started to have a panic attack. We called out and asked if she could at least move to the front to get some fresh air, but they denied her, even after we stopped and were just waiting in front of Central Booking. Two of our fellow prisoners gave up their seat that was closer to the door, and so she laid down there. She was really shaken up, and not coherent in the slightest. Another woman was having major back and neck pain. She had a back injury and when she told the police and asked them to put her handcuffs on the front side of her body, they refused. She was in tears, and really upset, and there was really nothing any of us could do.
One nice thing though was that as we left the jail, we could see people protesting that we were being held in there for no reason at all. It was comforting to know that there were people in solidarity with us. In the van, we also sang a solidarity song, and it was just really nice, and seemed to keep everyone’s spirits up.

How I was arrested, part 2

We sat in the park for a little while longer, and then we got a text message saying that people who had gathered on the steps of the New York Public Library were being arrested. At this point, we decided to get up and walk around a little. The text message for the street party came at around 6:10 and told us to meet in the southeast corner of Union Square. We headed to Union Square, and when we got there we saw some friends and went over by them. Another text message told us to look for festive signs, and then someone came up to us and gave us a flyer which told us to follow the tin man. When we looked around, we saw that there were a few different painted signs, one of which was the tin man from the Wizard of Oz. The march started at around 6: 50, and we headed up Union Square East. People walked in the street, and the Infernal Noise Brigade helped to lead the way.
At 16th street, the police said that we could no longer go forward, and instead that we had to turn down the side street. J said that this was what happened with the bike bloc, but B and I were rather swept up and confused. We continued down the street and at the other end, the police were blocking the street with barricades. Some people pushed through, and others sat down peacefully in the street. We got caught in the middle of the people sitting down, but we decided quickly we didn’t want to be stuck like so. J, B, and myself all tried to get back to Union Square East, but it was blocked off as well by the time we got there. We were therefore effectively trapped on one block.
The police pushed everyone on the street onto the sidewalk, and then separated us into groups by how radical we looked. The three of us got pushed into a liberal group, meaning that people who were in it were wearing Kerry/Edwards stickers. We stood surrounded for quite some time, and the police packed us in the smallest area possible, causing people to fall onto the bike and bike rack that was behind us. The group to the side of us was wearing black bandanas over their faces. Wearing a mask of any sort is illegal in New York City, unless it is for a theatrical production. These boys were not in any performance, and thus their bandanas merely singled them out as likely anarchists. The police are not such fans of anarchists, even though throughout the last century, anarchists have been the most peaceful political group. The police rushed at the boys in masks and everyone behind them, and started beating them up some. I was in the second line of people of my group, and J, B, and I had all linked arms so that we wouldn’t get separated. I wasn’t able to see everything, but the police definitely were rough and more violent with members of the more radical looking group. The police were also pretty rough with the marching band. I could hear instruments clattering to the street, and see a lot of instruments that looked damaged and were just disregarded by the police.
In a few minutes, the police told everyone in our group to sit down, which was a difficult task having so little space. One other boy who had accidentally gotten confused in the liberal group told us that they were singling him out because he was part of a group that organizes speak outs in Union Square. I forgot exactly what he said the speak outs related to, but they were obviously political. He continued to tell us that all the other members of his group had been arrested already, and as the police started arresting people, they definitely pulled him out of our group first. Next they pointed at the three of us. (I’m not quite sure how they could tell–was it J’s tattoos, or just being a little less than clean cut?) They started shouting, "Get the one with the glasses. Get him right there." B was the only one wearing glasses, and the police grabbed him next. There was a bag filled with liquid on the ground behind him, and the police were like, "Grab his bag of piss too." A rumor had been propagated in the media that the anarchists were going to throw bags of urine at the police. Personally, I had never met anyone who had planned to do anything related to that, and I know that B definitely did not have a bag of liquid with him earlier in the day. Thus, the police had planted it there during the confusion, and then singled B out. When I spoke to him later, he said that nothing ended up happening with it, which was really lucky.
They grabbed a few more guys–one who looked like Jerry Garcia, was wearing a Peace Love shirt, and told us that the police wouldn’t arrest us if we just sent out a healing vibe. A Democrat behind us had also been saying that the police couldn’t arrest us; however, the police shouldn’t arrest us, they’re not supposed to arrest anyone in a crowd without first giving a warning to disperse. There was no warning, there were just indiscriminate arrests. People that were just walking home from work, or from the bookstore, grocery shopping, and even tourists were all arrested. Neither Jerry Garcia’s positive energy or the Democrat’s pleads could stop them from being arrested. I was also singled out as one of the next ones to grab. They were like "Get that one with the yellow bandana." (Which, may I mention, was on my head, and not around my face.) So I was taken forward from the sidewalk, and placed in front of a car that was parked on the street.
First they took my backpack and searched it without asking, and without receiving any consent. I took out my cell phone, and placed it in my shorts. Next, they put my hands behind my back, and handcuffed me with plastic flexcuffs. Flexcuffs are not like normal handcuffs, they are adjustable, and you slide them to fit around the person’s wrist. Most of the cops slid them too tight, and they did that in my case, but not as bad as others. My wrists were definitely swollen the entire time I was in jail, and I have bruises around them too. I was then propped up on the car next to the radical looking boy that was in our group. They pulled him away pretty quickly, and I was stuck next to Jerry Garcia who tried to make the cops smile. On my other side, they brought over a legal observer. Legal observers are there to witness the proceedings, and act as witnesses. They were from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and wear bright green hats, thereby making themselves easily identifiable, and usually less arrestable. This man told me that they grabbed him, he thought, because he was making too many phone calls.
During this whole time, the police were also walking around with video cameras and taking pictures. This filming is highly illegal, but like the whole situation, it was going on anyway. There’s only so much of your face that you can hide when sitting, handcuffed, surrounded by police, especially when masks are illegal. I called my mother, and told her I was most likely going to be arrested, and I also had called my roommate and told her that I wouldn’t be coming home and she should call the NLG and tell them my name. As we were sitting there, they placed all our belongings in large clear plastic garbage bags. The whole proceedings took about 2 hours, and eventually they arrested J. There was a woman sitting further down from me, and they were trying to separate everything by gender. They pointed at her, and she was wearing a hat and glasses, but the police were really confused by her gender. They pointed and were like "Female?" And she was like, "Yeah." She got placed next to me, and then eventually we were moved to sit next to another group of girls. We were moved from there, and I was placed in a group with one other girl, and the rest were guys. They moved us down the street, and then took pictures with our arresting officers holding up our bag of belongings. They took three pictures and then led us up to a city bus.
The buses were being used during the RNC specifically to take prisoners to jail. My arrested group, which consisted of 6 people, 2 guys and 4 girls, sat in the way back, with PO Allen. J was also placed on my bus, but B was long gone. J sat next to me, and we all talked to PO Allen. Some people asked him questions, and he told us that he thought it was good to be arrested for what we believe in, or in other words, to be arrested for our beliefs (like, for example, freedom of speech and freedom to assemble.) He continued to tell us that if his daughters were out there, he would have arrested them too, and felt no different. I just want to make a little comment here about the police. I don’t like making generalizations, and so I will try not to about the police. There were some officers who were just sadistic and awful, and others who were generally caring. Also, the police in general did not want to be there either, working over 12 hour shifts, in a horrible environment (Pier 57) and the city government hasn’t even given the NYPD a contract, from my understanding. I don’t know the specifics of the situation, but I know that many police officers were not even getting paid for overtime. The majority of the people I talked to were also able to and willing to see the situation from the side of the police as well, and feel compassion for them. However, the people who were brutalized horribly, most definitely and most understandably, felt less compassion, and didn’t like the violent feelings they did experience towards the police.
We drove to Pier 57 in the city bus. I saw some friends of mine as we were stopped, and they performed the banana dance for me, which was amazing. They had not been arrested, luckily. J and I waved at other people on the street, showing them our hands in their flexcuffs. Eventually we pulled up to Pier 57 and sat in the bus for some time. I saw one of my friends outside waiting in a line to be put in a pen. Eventually they let us off the bus, and were stood in a line. Every two people were placed under the "protection" of an officer. They held our arms, and walked us in a line. My cell phone rang, and it was my roommate again. I picked it up on speaker phone, but someone higher up than the officer I was currently with took it away from me with the rest of my property. I was then led to a large pen.
Pier 57 is a large warehouse on the Hudson River which during the RNC obtained the nickname Guantanamo on the Hudson. The pens were like cages, with large metal fences with razor wire on top. There were no benches, and nothing placed on the ground. We were not given any blankets or anything of that nature. All we had were the clothes on our back. The ground was absolutely filthy, and if the general dirt wasn’t enough, it was full of toxic chemicals. There was diesel fuel and grease on the ground, and talk of asbestos that had never been properly cleaned. Since we were there at night, many people were tired and upset, and so laid or sat down on the ground. People were absolutely disgusting, black from head to toe. Anytime I touched my leg or arm, underneath my fingernails would just be covered in black dirt. I had showered in the morning, so this dirt was pretty much solely the result of Pier 57. Also, looking around, there were signs stating that it was a raw chemical storage area, and noted the names of some of the chemicals. Furthermore, there was a sign stating that people shouldn’t be back there without protective gear. I was wearing shorts and a tank top, which is definitely not enough to guard against the chemicals that were there.
When I got in the large pen, I saw my friend M from school, and we talked for a little bit. He told me some more about people that had gotten away, and people that hadn’t. I stood with him and J in line for the bathroom, and they ended up splitting up the line into men and women’s. The line led to 2 port-a-potties, a small water cooler, and a few moments of freedom from the handcuffs. Many people stood in line in the hopes that the police would put the cuffs on looser since they were already losing circulation. I stayed with them in the men’s line, and then eventually transferred to the women’s line. J came out from the men’s line, and his policeman had put his cuffs on loose enough so that he had been able to take them off. The line was moving at an incredibly slow pace, and so he went away for a bit, and when he came back he said his arresting officer had seen him, and tightened them so that they were incredibly tight. He left for a moment, and I talked to some of the women around me. One was a stand-up comedian/actress/writer who had recently moved to NY from Los Angeles. There were about three older women around me, and by older I mean, white/grey hair and one had a cane. They were not at the street party, but at a die-in. The majority of the people came from either the street party, Herald Square, the die-in, the public library, or just the general Madison Square Garden area, where they were arresting anyone and everyone.
I finally got into the bathroom, and when I came out, and had a few glasses of water, they were ready to put my cuffs back on. I told the officer that I had a circulation problem, and so could he please put them on less tight. He stated that he would double cuff them, which means linking two so that there is more leeway in between. He did that, and I twisted my head so that I would be able to watch, but he refused to do anything until I turned my head around. He told me he wouldn’t "help me out" unless I faced front. He made one somewhat more loose, so I was able to slip my hand out, but the other one was too tight, so unless I broke my thumb, I couldn’t get out of it.
J had been taken away by the police and I couldn’t find him anywhere when I came out. I sat with M and another boy, G, from my school. The group I was arrested with was all sticking together, and we were told that since our group was mixed gender it would take us longer to get processed. The police seemed to have no idea what was going on, and there seemed to be quite a lot of bureaucratic activities that no one understood. The police were from all the different boroughs and precincts. The two guys in our group were taken away first, and I had tried to fall asleep by sitting and leaning up against the fence. I rested somewhat but couldn’t get comfortable on account of being too cold.
By this time, a large number of people were milling about, and I recognized some medics. Medics are people trained in taking care of people at demonstrations primarily. They had balm for people’s wrists, and they carry around supplies in case someone gets pepper sprayed, or shot at with rubber bullets or pretty much any injury. The medics are very skilled, but since they are on the side of the activists, they are given no immunity from arrest. The entire marching band gathered together. I didn’t see as many people I knew as I thought I would, because they either came earlier than I did and were already separated by gender, or they came later when the Pier was too full. Someone joked and said it was like an RNC pre-party, except without any alcohol, but obviously the situation was much more serious than that.

A31-How I was arrested, part 1

August 31 (regime change begins now)
A31–A Day of Non-Violent Civil Disobedience and Direct Action to Confront the Bush Administrations’s Unjust Policies at Home and Abroad
www.a31.org

Hello there, and welcome to my story about my experience of August 31, 2004 during the Republican National Convention (RNC). Please feel free to link/distribute/forward or simply tell anyone else about what you read here. The more that know, the better. If you would like to contact me, please email me at brink@riseup.net.
On August 31 (A31), I started the day by going to St. Mark’s Church, located on 10th St. and 2nd Ave. in Manhattan. At St. Mark’s, I helped a group called Seeds of Peace to package boxes of fruit that would be used to feed the protestors. Many protesters came into the city from all over the country and world; many do not have the financial means to live without help from others; many are also people that you see on the street everyday who are opposed to the Bush agenda, so Seeds of Peace was there to welcome and take care of protesters need for food. From the website www.counterconvention.org, I found this description of their group:
Seeds of Peace: A working group of kitchen folks, some of who come out of cooking in Miami for Root Cause and the larger mobilization against the FTAA. We are here to feed people in the streets! Network with other groups providing food for organizers and activists here against the RNC, including all FoodNotBombs (http://www.foodnotbombs.net/ ) groups and the Anti-Capitalist Kitchen (http://ack.interactivist.net/ ). We will be delivering food throughout the city depending on the day, action, and necessity. Anyone interested in cooking, distributing, or contributing is welcome, as well, any affinity groups or activists who need food, feel free to contact us.
St. Mark’s church was being used as a convergence space during the RNC, meaning that activists gathered there to get information about housing, events, receiving medical attention, legal, trainings for jail solidarity, defense, and legal support. After helping to sort fruit that was going to be delivered to various direct actions, I ran into two of my friends, J. and B. We decided to form an affinity group, which is a group that sticks together in a protest. We helped to do dishes for Seeds of Peace, and then decided to head to Union Square where there was going to be an info booth where people could get information about the direct actions that were planned for A31. When we got to Union Square, there were people all over, as well as police. We went to the info booth and got a list of the actions that were planned and decided that we wanted to go to the street party.
The street party was going to be, as the name implies, a party in the street. A marching band, called the Infernal Noise Brigade (http://www.infernalnoise.org/ was going to be leading the party, and inspiring people to dance and enjoy themselves with their wonderful tunes. There was nothing violent planned–just a celebration in the streets. The instructions were to be in midtown Manhattan and wait for a text message that would reveal the location of the street party. Anyone could sign up to receive the text message, and all these events were well publicized--the more the merrier. These actions are actions in opposition to the Bush agenda and regime–so where the current system is centralized, hierarchical, patriarchal, elitist, these actions are intended to be the opposite–decentralized, consensus based, equal and welcoming to everyone. The disadvantage, however, is that the police are also signed onto these lists, and not as friends. The text message, which was supposed to arrive at 6 pm, was to be received simultaneously by both activists and police.
During this interval, my one friend went to change his shirt in a bathroom and I waited with my other friend outside. The reason for changing is that the police target people that don’t look like your average capitalist citizen. J. was wearing a black t-shirt, and since black is the color associated with anarchists, is not recommended attire. (The three of us would, I believe, describe ourselves as anarchists. The corporate media–anything other than independent media–has been portraying anarchists as terrorists. Anarchists are not terrorists–anarchists are perhaps the most peaceful political group. If I have time and if people are interested, I can write an addendum about how I perceive anarchy. Anarchists do not have a manifesto, so my beliefs are unique even though there are basic tenets that anarchists believe.)
As B. and I waited outside, a woman approached us–older with a large hat, bright pink lipstick, and a black dress. She started to solicit us to adopt an animal from PetCo., and when I said I was unable to do that, she asked us for money. When we couldn’t do that either, she started to yell at us, and so my friend B started to wander away. I followed him as she continued to harass us. When we were a few feet away, he asked me if I had seen her pin. Her pin was a New York Police Department pin. He said that the police force has members that are really quite skilled in impersonating crazy people, and other characters, and go undercover in such a manner.
When J came out we walked up to 23rd street and went to a park there. We sat in the middle of a large grassy lawn. There was less of a police presence in this area, and we wanted to talk in peace about what our plans were for the street party and the rest of the evening. We talked and each assessed our comfort level, and determined meeting spots if we got separated, and what we would do if one of us got arrested. Discussing these issues is by no means "conspiring against the government," but is merely recognizing the reality of being an activist and being involved in a direct action. We finished talking and B. went to go fill up his water bottle, and a man in plain clothes with a backpack followed him to the water fountain. He stopped behind B and waited. B came back to us, and as we started to walk around just down 5th Avenue, we discovered that this man was following us. He was an undercover cop, and was probably describing us in detail to his police communications department. We walked slow, and he slowed down; we stopped and he went behind a truck; we got to another park and sat at a table, and he walked by and watched us. This man is no coincidence–the undercover cop presence was heavy throughout the RNC as well as in the planning process. J told us that when he was involved in the bike bloc he heard an undercover cop describing the bikers in great detail, including items such as what color hat they were wearing, etc. (In any large march, there are different blocs. The bike bloc is a group that sticks together, and everyone in it rides a bicycle. On Sunday, August 29, the United for Peace and Justice March contained a bike bloc, which the cops infiltrated and then arrested about 80 bikers. The police feel threatened by bikers because of their mobility and their function as scouts.)