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(en) US, Civil Rights Trampled in DC

From kirtu@earthlink.net
Date Tue, 1 Oct 2002 11:37:43 -0400 (EDT)


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Police brutality is alive and well in DC as our civil rights are rapidly
disappearing. I found this out the hard way on September 27 when I was
"preemptively arrested" in Pershing Park along with many hundreds of others.
A total of 649 people were arrested that day, the majority of them from the
park.

What happened to us next was unbelievable. I was hand cuffed for over 22
hours. I was barely given any water or food and spent the night on a wood
floor while half hog-tied the whole time.

What did I do?  Nothing. I was in Pershing Park mostly sitting on a bench
listening to some great drumming and people were dancing.

We were assembled in the park taking part in a permitted rally to oppose
corporate globalization and to stop war with Iraq. There was no blocking of
the streets or sidewalks going on at or near the park, no property
destruction happened there at all. It was a nice sunny morning when hundreds
of DC Metro Police surrounded the small park with full riot gear on, batons
at the ready.

The police blocked any chance of exit and refused to let us out. I, and many
others, asked repeatedly for two hours if we were being detained and if so
for what charge. No answer was ever given, no response. We were not allowed
to leave and we never got an answer why. All they did say was that we could
not leave.

The Metro Police held us in the park for 2 hours against our will. Then the
arrests. No charges were given. No reason.  Innocent or guilty, it didn't
matter. There were media people in the park, onlookers, passerbys, kids,
twenty-somethings, punk kids, hippy chicks, old people, drummers, dancers.

We were driven across town to a parking lot at the Metropolitan Police
Acadamy where were held on a packed bus and kept hand cuffed for 14 hours.
It was 7 hours before we got any water, and then just 9 ounces. The only
food we got in 12 hours was two sandwiches split between the entire bus of
detainees. And that was the bus driver's own lunch, who was not a police
officer but a metro bus driver.

While held on the bus we asked repeatedly what the charges were against us.
We were not given an answer. Our legal council from the National Lawyers
Guild was not allowed to speak to us on the bus. They tried to shout some
legal information to us from across a sidewalk while we were in the bus with
the engine running. When that happened the police moved the bus a few dozen
feet down the street so we could not hear our lawyer anymore.

At 1am we were processed into a holding facility which was a gymnasium with
a wood floor and some old beatup gym mats. Two hundred of us were held all
night in the gym, half hog-tied all of the time. Our right wrist was
handcuffed to our left ankle so you had to remain hunched over or stay in a
ball. There weren't enough mats so I ended up with half my body on a mat and
half on the wood floor. I curled up on my side in a ball all night as I
tried to use by boots as a pillow so as not to wrench my neck. No blanket.
Some people unfortunate to be near the huge fan were freezing.

For those who wore contacts, there was no eye drop solution or anywhere to
put their contacts. Eyes were burning. No aspirin for anyone who got a
splitting headache. No soap and water available after a bowel movement in
the dirty port-o-pottys. We got a terrible meal at 9pm that consisted of two
slices of white bread with a thin sliver of what I though was baloney,
whatever it was I got sick for two days. If you were a vegetarian, there
were three cheese sandwiches available for 200 people.

We were held in the gymnasium with no windows, no clocks or anyway to tell
how much time was going by. The bright overhead lights were on twenty-four
hours and we were woken up every 15 to 30 minutes as they called out names
all night long. Sleep deprivation hit everyone and made me unable to think
clearly.

Some of the police were sadistic and mean. If you bugged the guards the
punishment was to cinch your hand cuffs so tight your hands would turn white
and you'd be in pain.  I didn't know till after I got out that some of this
treatment was against the Geneva Convention. Now I know what it must be like
to be a P.O.W.

I realized after hours upon hours of this treatment that I was not a citizen
with civil rights. I asked repeatedly to speak to an attorney. I was
actually told that Miranda Rights were a privilege, not a right.

We all had our prison tattoos. That was the Legal Aid number for the Lawyers
Guild that we had hastily written with a permanent marker on our arms just
minutes before our arrest at the park. But as time dragged on and the abuse
got worse, the guards started to hover over the phones and watch what number
you dialed. They then forbid anyone to call the legal aid number anymore.

I was held for 24 hours total. At the end, I was charged with one of the
lowest misdemeanors there is, equivalent to a traffic citation. It's likely
a judge will drop the charges against almost everyone, as happened last year
in DC.

I see the DC Police in a whole new light now. They are a despicable
organization and Police Chief Ramsey is a criminal. The DC and US government
that day, night and the next day engaged in terrorism against the citizens
of their own country.

I'm far from a radical. I'm just a 43 year old political progressive who
tries to get people to vote. This experience did not keep me from attending
the Mobilization for Global Justice rally just two hours after I got out of
that prison, even though those same Metro cops were there threatening us
again with their aggressive posture. And it did not stop me from marching
through the street that day or marching to stop the war with Iraq the day
after that. Just the opposite.

I, like the others that were illegally imprisoned and tortured by the DC
Police, have even more resolve now to stand up and try to change things. I
realize from my experience that things are much more desperate than I ever
thought.

Doug Malkan
writer's home address: 362 Shekel Lane, Breckenridge, Colorado 80424
home telephone number: 970-453-6695
business telephone number: 970-453-6695

Donate to Infoshop.org: http://www.infoshop.org/feed_infoshop.html
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