Monday, September 06, 2004

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.)

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