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(en) US, NYC, One version of events during A31 and subsequent 46 hours in jail from one of 1,200 arrests in one day

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 4 Sep 2004 08:18:54 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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Tuesday, which was designated as the day for civil disobedience
and direct action against the Republican Convention started out
very mellow for me. I went down to the convergence center at St.
Mark's Church in the Lower East Side to meet some friends and
check out the jail solidarity training, as I knew there was a decent
probability of getting arrested. After Seeds of Peace/Food Not
Bombs served up a nice lunch we headed up to Sotheby's where
there was an auction going on for the Republican delegates in
honor of Johnny Cash. As most Cash fans know, he wrote songs
about the poor, the working class, and standing up for those
downtrodden souls. People weren't ready to let the Republicans
take him for their own, so around 600 people gathered to tell
them "Who's Cash? Our Cash!". My friends and I made it up
there with a couple of bucket's of fruit and bagels/pastries for the
folks willing to come out and defend the Man in Black's honor.
Almost immediately an officer pulled me over to another officer
asking her "Can I let him go with this? They could throw it back
at us!". It was a bucket of bananas, plums, and apples. I told the
second officer I was feeding people, and asked twice if I was
being detained, until she said "Go". The rest of the demo was
pretty mellow, around a hundred riot cops made sure of it with
the help of those metal barricades the NYPD loves so much.

After awhile, we decided to head down to Union Square as their
was to be a text message about the location of a spontaneous
street party in Midtown announced. A few minutes after we got
down there, we found out it was to leave from Union Square.
What luck, following the Infernal Noise Brigade (from Seattle)
out onto Park ave., the cops blocked off our northbound route, so
we turned east onto 16th street. But as soon as we got near the
end of the block, they rolled the fancy orange netting across any
possible exit onto Irving Place. Immediately approximately 30 of
us sat down, linking arms and started the ever present "WHOSE
STREETS? OUR STREETS!". However, the streets were
apparrently belonging to the NYPD this fine night. As soon as
the cops moved all the photographers/videographers out of the
way, the entire group jumped up, apparrently not ready to sit
down yet. My partner and I were baffled by this action, why the
heck were sitting and locking arms if we weren't willing to do it
until the cops removed us? So we tried to backtrack to get out,
but exit onto Park was blocked, and they were giving no dispersal
order. So, we danced. the INB and another marching band
continued to play while some danced in the street, and others
tried to stick to the presumed safe space of the sidewalk. But
then the cops started tackling random people in the street,
cuffing with these horrible plastic handcuffs (a million times
more uncomfortable then the classic metal style). I backed up
onto the sidewalk, and looked over to see the cops pulling
members of the marching band into the streets to be arrested. I
linked arms with one of them and as she was pulled out a cop
yelled "Grab him too!". I tried to squirm away, but three more
joined in and slammed me onto the street. My right arm was
pinned under me, so they lifted me to get it out, and then
slammed me back down with a knee on the top side of my head.
The cops then scooted me forward a bit, with the knee still on
my head scraping the bottom side of my face along 16th street. I
screamed to get off of my head, and fortunately they did, but then
promptly threw me in the back of a windowless van.

The next girl that was put in had her cellphone attacked to her
wrist, so I maneuvered around to dial and her boyfriend what had
happened. Once our van was full, they pulled us around to the
other side of the block. We talked candidly with the two arresting
officers of our group, trying to convince them we were right and
they were wrong. The one had parents from Iran, and was
muslim, and was quite sympathetic to us. He told us about how
he had always wanted to be a doctor, but couldn't afford the
schooling, so he became a cop because of the job security. They
were both generally nice about our subtle joking with them, and
seemed to be genuinely nice guys, just unfortunately willing to
take orders they believe to be wrong. It must have been a couple
of hours before they finally took us out of the steaming van, and
loaded us into a city bus with many others. Several people had to
stand, with their hands cuffed behing their backs, while officers
sat in the seats. They took us to the now infamous "Pier 57",
which is a former bus garage. We were finally there at around
midnight, I having been arrested around 6:30 in the evening. The
city had constructed chain-link fence cages topped with
razor-wire for us. After I had my picture taken about 9 times,
they finally put me in the big pen, as their were many small pens,
and one big one. I first noticed the sign on the wall outside the
fence that read "Raw Chemical Storage Area" and several other
signs instructing that goggles and other protective gear be worn
at all times. There were no seats or benches of any kind set up,
only the bare floor, covered in oil/grease, dirt, transmission fluid,
gasoline, and who knows what else. After several hours of
chanting "Let us out!" and other stuff, we were given an apple to
eat. The process they had set up in this place was ridiculous. My
arresting officer told me that the commanding officer kept
changing the process, and where each step in the process would
take place. He told me the CO was possible insane.

After awhile, time became very elusive, but some hours after the
sun came up, they reloaded us into Department of Corrections
busses and took us to Central Booking. I was in three different
cells before they ever searched me, and then it was several hours
before they took me to be fingerprinted by a very fancy computer.
In the meantime most of the officers were just sitting around,
dozing, reading the paper, talking about the interesting stuff that
cops talk about, etc. I was in a 20x20 cell with 65 other people,
several of which had just gotten swept up in the dragnets while
going about their daily business. After the fingerprinting, they
had taken us into the basement, where there was a long hallway
lined with cells. I was put in a cell marked Max. Capacity 20, but
it consistently had around 25 people in it. Fortunately, somebody
had got through all the searches with the list of all the phone
numbers of the Republican National Committee and a phone
card. So half that night was spent talking to answering machines,
as there was nowhere near enough room for everyone to sleep on
the floor. That night (wednesday) we heard from the National
Lawyers Guild that a writ of habeas corpus had been signed by a
judge instructing that we all be released by one in the morning,
that night. But by that time, the City was defying the order, and
was again ordered to release us by four in the morning. The
Department of Corrections had also been disobeying the judge's
order to allow lawyers into Central Booking to speak with us.
After that was denied, the NLG took the case to the Appellate
Court at around 9 in the morning, where the judge denied the
city's plea for more time, and ordered everyone release by 5 that

All this time, the city, and the DOC was claiming to just be
backed up, that they couldn't process us fast enough. But first
off, before the convention, they City said it was prepared for
1,000 arrest a day. We learned there had been around 1,200
arrest on our day. Secondly, the DOC workers, were just sitting
around. Hours passed without people being taken out of the cells
to be processed. Meanwhile, they fed us more white bread than
I've seen in years. Though apparently at some point Mayor
Bloomberg claimed they were providing us with some sort of soy
"meat", I find this to be hard to believe. One of my cellmates
asked for soy, and the DOC reached into a crate of bologna
sandwiches and said "here ya go". When he pointed out that it
was clearly bologna the guard randomly reached in again and
said "Oh, sorry, here it is." But spirits were generally kept up on
our block with songs (not typical protest songs, but horribly sung
horrible pop songs, and even a couple Johnny Cash songs as I
still had the lyric sheet from the Man In Black Bloc demo),
having dance contests, trying to convince cops and DOC workers
to quit their jobs, and generally acting like children on no sleep.

But finally, after 46 hours in custody without seeing a lawyer, or
being charged with a crime, I was finally pulled out to see a
lawyer, and be charged with Disorderly Conduct and (the horribly
demeaning) Parading Without a Permit. Both of these "crimes"
are generally treated about as seriously as a speeding ticket,
requiring neither arrest nor anything else except an appearance
before a judge at a later date. I was offered 6 months probation
and clean record, and took it without officially being found guilty.
I was dissappointed with taking this option as it precludes me
from taking part in the civil suit the NLG is bringing against the
city, but could not afford to go back and forth between the coast,
just for a little settlement money.

The bright side came when I was released, and came out of
Central Booking to find hundreds of people waiting to greet us as
we came out. I was immediately approached by an NLG
volunteer to fill out a complaint against the cops/city (of which
I'm sure a lot of good will come) and then medics to make sure I
was OK. They treated the scrape on my face (which by now was
very dirty and dried up from lack of treatment), and then sent me
off to where seeds of peace/food not bombs had come through
once again with some yummy vegan food to replenish after the
steady diet of white bread and "cheese".

Afterwards, the NYPD was fined $470,000 over the arrest on
August 31st, though the money does not go to protesters, it is
assumed that a portion of it will go to the wonderful NLG.

AFTERWORD Though the entire experience was ridiculous,
some good did come out of it. We were pushed closer together,
and I forged friendships with people I either never would have
met, or never would have befriended before. We discussed
everything, and I was happy to see several people who were not
previously politicized claim to have lost faith in their government
in 24 hours, proclaiming that they would be in the streets with us
from that point on. So many of the people who had just gotten
swept up while going about their daily business, were then
radicalized, praising us for what we were doing. Even some cops
and DOC officers had great conversations with us about the
system and what's wrong with it. Hopefully we can maintain
those relationships, and the energy that flowed in NYC this
Copied from infoshop.org

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