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

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