Javascript Menu by Deluxe-Menu.com Jim's Eclectic World: My Experience at the 2004 Republican National Convention Protests - Part III: A31 and Guantanamo on the Hudson (August 31 – September 1)


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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Saturday, September 26, 2015

    My Experience at the 2004 Republican National Convention Protests - Part III: A31 and Guantanamo on the Hudson (August 31 – September 1)

    My Experience at the 2004 Republican National Convention Protests - 
    Part III: A31 and Guantanamo on the Hudson (August 31 – September 1)

    By Jim Macdonald
    September 8, 2004




    This series of essays will consist in four parts: 

    I.Prelude (March 21 – August 27) http://www.eclecticworld.org/2015/09/my-experience-at-2004-republican_89.html
    II.The Great Big Opening Act (August 27 – August 30) http://www.eclecticworld.org/2015/09/my-experience-at-2004-republican_26.html 
    III.A31 and Guantanamo on the Hudson (August 31 – September 1)

    IV.Copwatch and Aftermath (September 1 – September 3)


    Opening Salvo
    For better or worse, getting arrested while protesting can be a badge of honor for an activist. It seems to be the demonstrator’s equivalent to a Purple Heart. Yet, all too often, whether one fights for war or for peace, there seems to be too much glory associated with the wounds of the fight and not enough emphasis on the reasons that began the fight or what the fight was for. Too easily, we fall into the trap of being victims or being heroes, or being soldiers or being cowards. 

    Since the moment I began these essays, I knew that people would be interested in the story of my arrest more than anything else. Nothing is more sensationalized and interesting. Here, we can talk about our victimization or our heroism and dramatize every moment as though it was the greatest or the worst thing that could possibly happen. Lost would be the story about how we got there or how we took care of a blind man. Even dragons cannot survive such flames on the front lines of the social justice movement.

    Even so, what I have to share was different, unique, and one of the better and most profound experiences of my life. The people I met, the compassion I saw, and the spectacle was one of the best I have ever witnessed during my time as an activist.

    What I fear, though, is that as we tell about horrors and heroes that we forget all the people suffering in our world at the hands of injustice. While we were in jail, many children and others were being held hostage in Russia. Many of those people ultimately died. In Iraq, people on all sides were dying. In Sudan and in every corner of the world, true tragedy was happening. Abuse reared its ugly head in ways you could not imagine. Women were raped, people were murdered, animals were slaughtered, and wilderness was destroyed. In New York, others went to jail, and whether they committed crimes, they became stuck in a system that had every potential to abuse and lose them. 

    What happened to protesters and others arrested with them on August 31 was truly a crime by the city of New York, and the conditions the city subjected them to were ludicrous. However, we who were there have the responsibility to take with us our brothers and sisters who have been forgotten, who need our help. I am afraid that we care far too much about the mysteries surrounding burning dragons than we do dying blind pacifists. Now, I am afraid that we are far too fond of drowning in our own miseries than we are of raising up the misery of others.

    With this all in mind—namely those my story does not directly concern—I share my own story from August 31 and my day in the New York City jails.

    Marching on behalf of those Detained
    August 31 began as many of our other days in New York had begun, half awake on a floor in the West-Park Presbyterian sanctuary. Today, however, Genevieve was not at my side, and the day had the uneasy feeling that we might not be sleeping in the same quarters that evening.

    Even though my affinity group did not plan on being arrested or participating directly in any nonviolent civil disobedience, we knew that arrest was a possibility. My group at that moment also consisted of Dave, Nat, and Chris and would soon also consist of Andy, Ria, Pete, and others who came in and out. Generally, for various reasons, it did not make sense for most of us to put ourselves in a dangerous situation. When I originally came to New York, many of us hoped to participate directly in nonviolent civil disobedience, but as the realities of my logistical responsibilities weighed on me, I realized that participating directly was nothing less than selfish. Even so, if for some reason the group decided to change its collective course, I was more than willing to do the same.

    Our plan for the day was straightforward. First we planned to eat a short breakfast followed by a journey to St. Mark’s church to see if we could get a better idea on what was happening that day. Then, my affinity group hoped to attend an unpermitted march highlighting the detentions of foreigners and others at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Then, we planned to walk along the sidewalk during the War Resisters’ League die-in, which was action designed to highlight the victims of Bush’s policies since 9/11. Finally, if all went well, we wanted to work on the outskirts of the Truesecurity action taking place that evening in Herald Square. Needless to say, we did not quite finish our day as planned.

    Our trip to St. Mark’s followed a brief breakfast. St. Mark’s was the convergence center for many activists in New York. There, you could get medical attention, take care of your housing needs, eat free food from Food Not Bombs, participate in trainings, or mill generally about and catch up with old friends or make new friends. These convergence centers are remarkable places in many respects. While many there are suspicious of anyone with a camera and not always open to people who look like strangers, generally most of the people there are incredibly kind. In that area, I would often run into old friends or into people I had met at other demonstrations. Many there I had seen in Boston while protesting the pro war policies of the Democratic Party. It was a beautiful spot with kind people, and the space became indicative in many respects of the alternative culture many in the space wanted to see. 

    We did not stay long at St. Mark’s before the four of us headed to the detentions action down in Columbus Park. Most actions this day, and this was no exception, did not have permits. Organizers dubbed August 31 as “A31”, and A31 became synonymous for nonviolent decentralized direct actions. In other words, though there was some inter-coordination between groups putting on actions, there was not one centralized organizing body putting the actions together. Particular actions were even more decentralized with particular affinity groups taking control within the scope of larger actions. This sort of organizing tactic, or some might unfairly say disorganizing tactic, threatened the police in New York. They had no sense of the scope of the actions, who the leaders were, or when or where they would happen. So, New York invested a lot of time and money into undercover operations to unearth the plans of the protesters. To the extent that the actions had already drawn such an inordinate amount of attention, the organizers had already succeeded in their aims to distract from the Republican National Convention.

    The action at Columbus Park did not have more than 100 or 200 people marching; however, it attracted a large number of lunch hour television cameras. The point of the march was to highlight the plight of those lost in the detentions system, especially those being held without charges and under hoods in Guantanamo Bay. Can you imagine what you would do in such circumstances? What is it like not to know when and if you will ever leave, or whether you will even have so much as a chance to defend yourself? If you are not guilty, then you must be that much more upset, stuck in a system where you might be lost and forgotten. How desensitized we have become to the suffering of others. Even as I marched on this action, I did not exactly feel it. I knew it was wrong, but I did not dare imagine what it was like to be hooded, or what it was like to live so many days in such isolating conditions and to be treated with such fundamental disrespect for my very being. I did not dare imagine what others experienced in our system and systems around the world, whether you are in Castro’s Cuba or Sweden or Washington, DC. The suffering we as humans perpetrate on other humans is enormous, and that does not begin to figure in what we do to the other beings in this world, from the suffering caused to the smallest insect to the slow death of an elm tree in a forest. I cannot say the degree to which insects and elms suffer, but if we have any inkling of what it feels like ourselves to be treated without respect then maybe we would not take any chances on even the least known being in our universe.

    This march proceeded with a police escort and without incident, perhaps the irony of arresting those standing up for the detained being too much for the New York Police Department. Toward the end, though, there was an incident that would become somewhat of a pattern for our day. While Dave and others had masks on for a photo op highlighting the conditions at Guantanamo, the police arrested a man nearby. The man, witnesses claimed, had climbed a tree. When police ordered the man out of the tree, he immediately complied. As soon as the man got down, police immediately arrested him. Despite pleas from the crowd to let him go, police took the man away. He was the only arrest at this march.

    After the march, several of us went to lunch before heading to the War Resisters’ League and SOA Watch action that was supposed to congregate near Ground Zero at 3:00 PM.

    Ground Zero: Detained Almost Immediately
    Around 3:00 PM, we arrived near the subway station on Church Street across from Fulton. Normally, I would not remember the intersection, and so you can guess it is pretty significant. What we remember and what we forget, what we choose to remember and occasionally what we choose to forget have been themes of these essays. We cannot remember a man dying of AIDS, but we can surprisingly remember an insignificant intersection, the color of a shirt that someone we’ll never meet was wearing, and many other things of little note. This is not necessarily a judgment in that I do not think it is possible for us to remember or forget in some sort of arbitrary rank order of significance. Even so, to be aware of this process may be of some good to us and others, especially in recognizing that we are in need of other perspectives, other memories, other experiences to make our own whole and complete. John Donne wrote that no man is an island. No island is a man, either. That latter thought is obvious but in the right time and place is one worth highlighting. In this context, the intersection of Church and Fulton holds a similar significance.

    For the next hour, we rested and waited lazily for our march to begin. I spent much of my time worrying about keeping our group together. Someone was off getting water or off checking out the crowd or off talking to a friend. It can get annoying keeping free spirits on the same page, making sure that we are all listening to what each other is feeling. In any group, the actions of one person can ripple through all the others. Often, precisely the person acting misses that point. We all work in worlds bigger than ourselves, and we act unwittingly into events where our own particular actions can change everything.

    For instance, what if we did not choose to go down to Church and Fulton? The chances increase that we would not have been arrested. Yet, from our standpoint, simply being on a sidewalk or walking up a sidewalk did not seem to affect much of anything. It did, however, affect everything for us. It may affect others as well. Now, this is the story I am telling. The previous stories I have told have been affected by what happened this day. All sorts of consequences followed thousands of times over because of actions each of us took whose consequences we could not have understood. That is one reason why I cannot understand the justification for any war. Often, people say that the war will have particular good consequences. Yet, how is one so omniscient as to know the greater consequences for the universe at large of any of our actions? It seems to me so pretentious in our planning to believe that we have the answer that will change things for the better. So, how can we believe that the only known consequence of war, which is death, will produce other better consequences? I do not believe we should act with a particular consequence in mind, or even the particular set that my group had to start the day. We should act much more humbly in our frameworks, open to what the world may open up to us. More than that, we should be attentive to each other, to that inside our world that we do know and can care about. That is to say, just as we know that war produces the consequence of death, an act of kindness produces a consequence we can know and appreciate immediately. In humility and sacrifice, we can give up the game of figuring out all the consequences we can never know, like the game of consequences we were playing that Tuesday with the police.

    At about 4:00 PM, members of the War Resisters’ League and SOA Watch told us to line up in pairs along the sidewalk on Church Street. The sun was hot, but it was not nearly so warm as previous days. In the crowd, we sensed many hundreds of people, and behind us, thousands perhaps. Our group lined up toward the very front of the line. The crowd dressed predominately in white just as the organizers had asked of us. The organizers intended the march going to Madison Square Garden to be solemn and fairly quiet. Organizers discouraged signs. They also stressed the point that we were not to block the sidewalk and should stay in pairs walking in a straight line. While the end of the action involved civil disobedience, the organizers took great care that the first part of the march be compliant with the city’s laws and regulations.

    Before we marched, I heard some confusing talk coming from people in the march about the possibility of arrest on this action. However, we knew that, and that is why we planned to duck out at the first sign of trouble.

    Soon after, we began to march. No more than 100 feet later, we crossed Church Street onto the sidewalks of Fulton. There, I heard the only police command I was to hear. The police officer said, “Hurry up and cross the street.” We hurried up and crossed the street. On the other side of the street, press cameras crowded the sidewalk. This upset some of us who were beginning to notice a heavy police presence crowding around. Our aim was not to block the sidewalk, but these cameras had begun to do just that. What we did not realize at the time, though, was that the police had already blocked off the top of the march with bicycles, and by this action they created a backlog on the sidewalk that made holding the line difficult. 

    At that point, Chris became very worried. He faces trumped up disorderly conduct charges for an incident that has been well documented in the alternative press back in DC. He noticed that we might get trapped, and consequently left the area immediately. Soon, Andy and Ria joined in the worry, Ria adamant that she did not want to be arrested. Andy informed us that they were about to duck out, but by then it was too late.

    At that second or a few seconds following, at approximately 4:02 PM, the police surrounded and sectioned off the entire march. Organizers from SOA Watch told us to make sure that we stood on only one side of the sidewalk to show that we were doing our best to be compliant. Immediately, the entire crowd shifted.

    While this was happening, a young man stood along a church fence near us yelling at police. I motioned to him to be quiet. He saw me and got mad. I informed him that the organizers had asked us to be quiet. He said, “No one organized me.” My fear was that he might provoke a police response, and since the call to action was that we not fight back that he risked foisting on us an unjust claim by the police that we started it. Others like Andy spoke with the young man to try and calm him down, but he continued to do his best to speak with the police. I became worried at that point that he was a police provocateur; however, I later became convinced that he was just trying a different tactic with police.

    At this point, we were all being detained. Police surrounded us with plastic orange netting and held a line between them and us, with feet to spare—given all the space we were allowing on the sidewalk. Many in the crowd, almost none of whom intended on being arrested, began crying. Most were in shock because there was no order to disperse. What’s more, such an order to disperse should have been unnecessary since those walking on the sidewalk were not blocking the sidewalk, not even chanting, and in many cases were not even there to protest. Several members of the media were stuck in this dragnet. Ultimately, those with media credentials were allowed to leave, and those members fled and in most cases did not even stay to cover what was happening. Other members of the media without media credentials were detained with the rest of us.

    Soon, a middle-aged woman hysterically went up to police very upset that she could not be let out and was not given a chance to be let out. Police surrounded her with the netting and immediately arrested her. Again, many were afraid at that moment that the police might try and rush the rest of the crowd at that moment, but they did not.

    For awhile, we had hope that organizers might negotiate our release and allow us to continue the march. All of us knew that we had done nothing wrong and that the only order we had heard was to cross the street. However, several minutes later, one of the organizers told us that negotiations had failed and that we would be arrested. This was in spite of chants like, “Let us disperse!” and other chants aimed directly at the police like, “Give them a raise!” Many in the crowd sang a song of union solidarity in an effort to let police know that we were friendly and not trying to work against them.

    Now that about 300 of us were going to be arrested, many of us in the crowd realized that we had better get on our phones and fast to make sure that our friends and family were aware and that our responsibilities were attended to. I immediately called Genevieve, who said right away, “Don’t get arrested.” I told her that I had no choice and that I was doing my best that day to do nothing that would get me arrested. When she realized the situation, she asked me what she needed. I needed her to call my dad, needed her to talk to West-Park and Jan Hus about our housing situation and to get the word out to the DC activist community. After calling her and then Ryan with DAWN, I began talking with the press. I called Grant McCool from Reuters, who later wrote a story that did not accurately portray the gist of my statement or the reality on the ground. I tried to leave a message to a contact with Mother Jones. Then, I called Ryme with WPFW. WPFW is the local Pacifica, community-owned radio station that does an excellent job covering the local activist community. Ryme immediately gave me the opportunity to record my story. She had Drew Poe call and interview me for the station. I do not know whether the interview appeared on the radio, but I know that you can hear it over DC Indymedia (hear me atimages.indymedia.org/imc/washingtondc/media/audio/3/rnc20040831arrestsdawn_byrymedrew.mp3) Around me, so many others called loved ones or media outlets by phone. Other legal observers came through the crowd taking names for the list being kept by the National Lawyer’s Guild. Little did they know that they too were about to be arrested in this sweep.

    Those who had been scared to be arrested eventually calmed down. We did our best to comfort each other and express our confidence that everything would be okay. Many of us were quite prepared to deal with just this situation because of previous experience or past training. The knowledge of so many in the crowd certainly helped put others at ease who had never been in or had no knowledge of these situations. So few there expected to be arrested that so many were unprepared, but by and large the lack of faith in the system had driven many others to take precautions to protect themselves. Many of us had memorized the phone number for the National Lawyer’s Guild, and many of us knew our basic legal rights. All of that preparation was invaluable for those chaotic and uncertain moments before being put in handcuffs. Even as we waited, people began memorizing officer names and badge numbers.

    As I looked down the street, I noticed that those in my group would soon be arrested. In my group, Dave, Nat, Andy, Ria, and I faced arrest. Jay, who had been with us, had already been arrested—the details of his arrest I will not share. Others from DC also faced arrest, including Christy and Ozone from SOA Watch, whom we knew either from past meetings, trainings or from the bus ride from DC. Throughout the city, many DC activists were arrested. Later, our friends Karen and Suzanne were arrested and held for two days. Prior to this, though at the time unknown to us, Sam, Morrigan, Mike, Matt, and others from DC had been arrested. In fact, it seemed that most of the DC Cluster was arrested that day.

    Eventually, the police singled out five of us to be arrested. With me were Nat, Andy, and two others who had met up with us before the march. The police searched our pockets and stuffed them all in a bag. At the same time, they handcuffed us in plastic tie cuffs. In my case, the cuffs were not on very tight, but in Andy’s case, the cuffs dug into his wrists and were uncomfortable. When he complained, the police re-tied the cuffs only to make them just as tight.

    As our possessions were bagged and as we were cuffed, the police used Polaroid’s to take our pictures. In my case, I made sure I grinned. It was important to me to let them know that they could not break my spirit. When I saw my picture, I was quite pleased. Andy even asked for his back after the process was over, but they declined the request. Soon, the five of us, who had been assigned to an arresting officer named Gard (a guard named Gard) with badge number 422, boarded a charter coach and sat down in cuffs holding our plastic bags.

    Onwards to Pier 57, Guantanamo on the Hudson
    The conditions we faced were not so much harsh as they were ridiculous. The whole notion that we had broken any law was ridiculous, and the strange way we were cuffed and assigned an arresting officer was ridiculous, and even some things that worked in our favor were ridiculous. Many of us rode to our next location in an air-conditioned charter bus. All around us were young men, old men, old women, and priests all tied up sitting in this air-conditioned bus. I did not understand the mix of good treatment and bad treatment. Some of the people arrested at other times left in paddy wagons or other assorted and uncomfortable vehicles, but we got a bus. On the bus, I sat on my hands to relieve the pressure from the cuffs. The scene of absurdity had a tendency to amuse me, and I was determined to stay in high spirits. I’d hum to myself George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” as I waited. 

    For others, the experience was not so friendly. A woman was on our bus who said she was dying of terminal cancer. No one would give her any medicine or use any common sense. Whatever the reason, whether the orders from on high were so rigid or because the officers on the ground were unsympathetic scoundrels, no one helped her. Occasionally, Lt. Shay appeared, whom others said they had video of making inappropriate comments, and he would smirk and try and strike up conversations with passengers. Generally, I said nothing to him.

    Our arresting officer, Gard, looked like he was about 20 years old. He was a young blond man who had the look of a deer lost in headlights. One of the passengers asked Gard why we were being arrested. He told us that it was a disorderly conduct charge and that we were being arrested because we blocked the road and when given an order to disperse had failed to disperse. I asked him whether he saw any of us that he was arresting do this. He said that he saw all of us doing that. I asked him whether he had seen any of us in particular, that is the five he arrested, breaking the law. He refused to answer the question. So, the man began by lying to us and then when faced with a specific question about his lie could not answer. We have learned that police will lie to you, are trained to lie, and are under no legal obligation to tell you the truth, but that if we lie that we face big trouble. The best thing to do is not to talk with the police in this situation, and by and large, that is what I did, somewhat frustrated when others continued to try and pry answers (almost always lies) from police.

    Many have said that they do not believe the police lie so much as do not know the answer to the questions they are asked. This fails to be convincing because I do not remember a single police officer prefacing her or his answer to a question with, “I am not sure, but I believe it is this way.” Instead, the answers when given were always direct. Most commonly, people asked about the law concerning when we needed to be released and how to define that. Some said, “24 hours from the moment detained.” Others said, “24 hours from the moment your mug shot is taken.” Others said, “48 hours.” Others said, “72 hours.” Others said, “Whenever we decide to let you out.” This is one of many examples of police misinformation. I personally heard from police all these answers to the same question. The best thing you can do in that situation is to remain silent when talking to the police. Even with that advice, it does not always seem possible not to engage in conversation, if only occasionally, and because we have no reason to believe anything we say is in fact incriminating ourselves. It is the main reason I write this. Though from what I say, authorities may try to use in a court of law against me, there is nothing that I say that they could use against me without it being misleading at best.

    The bus eventually rolled away to another part of town. Earlier, one of the buses had been delayed because at least one protester jumped in front of the bus and lay on the ground. I would later meet someone, whom I don’t remember in any detail, who claimed to be that person. That was an act of civil disobedience that I applaud because it forced the police one more time to see the consequences of their unjust actions in arresting us.

    On the bus, we began to sing with each other and get to know each other. It was as though they had arrested a festival, whose participants generally refused to believe the festival was at an end. There were generally good spirits on the bus, and I could not stop grinning even as my cuffs became more uncomfortable as the ride grew longer.

    Shortly, we entered a large warehouse-like building that I later learned was an old bus repair area called Pier 57. The building was enormous and dark, and it was teeming with police. Some have said that the New York police are one of the largest standing armies in the world. In such a small area, you can imagine just how many police are all over the place. Everywhere one would go one would see one dark uniform after another.

    We also saw a lot of other protesters. Our arresting officer, Gard, kept telling us that he hoped the process would go quickly because he wanted to get off work. Apparently, his entire evening would be taken up by the enormous paperwork in processing us. There sure were a lot of protesters around us, and they would continue to come through in large numbers until about 1 AM.

    Early Hours at Pier 57
    When we got off the bus, our arresting officer and his superiors lined us up, asked us some questions, and then moved us through with our bags. Soon, I was facing more officers whose task it was to search my backpack and belongings for arrestable evidence. I did not know at the time that was what he was doing, but later paperwork made it evident that the way he divided my belongings made it clear that that was what he was doing.

    I did not consent to a search of my bags. The police simply searched them. However, since I was confused very much by the process, I did not try to stop the officer from searching my bag. It was very confusing. Certainly, I did not offer permission for the officer to search my bags. Others, especially the arrested legal observers, made a point of telling officers that they did not consent to a search. In those cases, I heard reports that police swore at people and tried to pressure them in allowing a search of their bags. When denied, they still went through the bags, making an inventory of items before keeping all items together. In my case, they took my camera, several flyers talking about actions, some videotape that someone had handed me that I have never even looked at and could not tell you the contents, and all of my emergency contact info for bus passengers from our August 27 trip. They set that aside as arrestable evidence. When seeing my bus passenger list, the police officer rhetorically and ignorantly asked, “What is this? An activist manifesto?!” In fact, it was simply a list with passenger information, emergency contact info, and needed medical info for anyone traveling with us so that I could make sure that they were safe. If an activist manifesto is sheets intended for the care of others, then that would be quite a compliment. However, it was obviously nothing like a manifesto. That just tells you the haphazard way that police processed us.

    At that point, the officer allowed me to have my wallet, my money, and two keys so long as they were not car keys. Others received uneven treatment. Some did not receive wallets back. Anyone with more than $100 had at least the excess money confiscated. Others did not receive any keys back. All my other possessions were kept for “safe keeping” to be picked up immediately upon release. As I stated, I did not know any of this until later in the process.

    After going through a metal detector and having to take off my shoes, finally police released me from my cuffs. They escorted me to a pen with many other protesters who had been jailed. The pen had a small walkway leading into it with two portable outhouses. As I entered, an officer handed me a cup for drinking and warned me not to lose it. Soon, I was inside with about 50 others waiting for the next step in the process.

    Inside, I could see the vastness of the surroundings. My first thought was that it looked like a huge version of the infamous “free speech zone” in Boston. That area was surrounded by high fences, followed by high black netting, and lined at the top with razor wire. This area had high gray metal fences that were surrounded also by razor wire. Above us were large fans, general darkness, and high beams making it clear we were in a warehouse. The ground was a dry black soot mixed with motor oil that did not look so imposing until you sat down and touched it. The soot would not come off entirely even when water was applied, and some who had been there prior reported that the ground caused rashes. The mixture was one of a kind. However, when faced with a choice of crowded benches and standing for hours with my generally flat feet, even this nasty soot and the risks involved seemed more bearable than standing. Each pen, I estimate 5 pens to each side of the prison, were approximately 25’ X 30’ and held about 50 to 75 people on average. At each end was a Deer Park water dispenser with lukewarm water. Generally, the police replaced the water when it was empty, though occasionally there was some wait. Each pen usually had an officer looking inside allowing people to use the portable toilets, though later in the evening, the use was much more restricted.

    All of this description many others have reported. When you add in the nasty bologna sandwiches, the stale milk, and the general lack of accommodation for anyone who was vegetarian (forget about vegan), and one can definitely say that these were not pleasant conditions, especially for people who were in most cases innocent of even the smallest charge. 

    However, I cannot say that I felt all that bad for myself. All around me I saw people doing their best to take care of others. Some made sure that others had the legal number. I made sure that people who got out had access to housing. Others offered encouraging words about the prospects of a class action lawsuit. In my case, I made special point to seek out others who were either to themselves or who had claimed that they were not protesting. In one case, I met a man from Victoria, British Columbia, who had been parted from his 18-year-old son on their way to a Yankees baseball game. The man had been crossing the street near a protest when he exchanged a few words with an officer. He was immediately arrested and separated from his son, who had to find his own way back to wherever they were staying. The man was worried to death about his son, whom he described as naïve and extremely shy. I, in part, found myself worried about the father. I wanted to make sure, since police were not going to allow him a phone call, that he was okay, that he had friends, and that he understood that this situation faced many others in our police system far worse than it affected us. As it turns out, the man was a historian and had lived in the United States, having written the standard historical work on the history of the Lincoln Memorial. 

    To me, we had entered this space meant to scare us, separate us, and punish us, but we had turned it into the space we desired our world to see. Outside, some were trying to occupy Herald Square, but inside, we occupied our new jail with just the sort of spirit that would not allow us to be slaves. Inside our space, conversations and friendships formed. Those with medical needs had instant help from medics who had been arrested along with the legal observers. Strangers no more we were becoming to each other. Our chants and songs overtook our cell and all the others. It was not uncommon to hear the entire Pier 57 break out into songs like “Power to the people.” We could hear the women on one end of the jail singing, followed by the men. At almost every point that someone’s name was called, cheers and congratulations erupted throughout the crowd.

    Who was in jail? I should have been outside, but here inside this space was sufficient. So many philosophers write about the jail metaphor, about what to do in jail, about where jail really resides. Socrates, when faced with the choice of escape, refused and failed to see the point, even as his captors prepared his death. He claimed that it was impossible for the unjust to hurt the just. Sartre wrote convincingly about the freedom available even, and perhaps especially, in jail. Here now I was experiencing that same feeling, that here in this world, as physically restricting as it had become, I was witness to so much freedom and beauty. Who was in jail? I knew that I may be in jail, but I was assuredly free.

    Our police, however, were imprisoned. Repeatedly, protesters asked their captors why they were doing this. Those who answered most often said, “Because I have no choice.” If so, how sad indeed! What is the very definition of imprisonment than the lack of choice? Each police officer, even the most scoundrel of them, suddenly had my most profound pity. They had no choice; they lacked freedom. In this case, they acted on orders even when those orders called for arresting people many of them knew were innocent and participating in a systematic lie that ultimately took more than 1,100 people off the streets in a single day, a Manhattan record. How would they do when faced with the great tragedies of human history, like slavery in the South and the Holocaust in Germany? When faced with orders would they say they had no choice? If they truly believe that, then what a sad existence, to be faced with a real choice but to believe you have none. Here are people who were far greater victims than us, those who were perpetrating the crime against us. My spirit was not only not broken but at one of my highest points, and all the man watching our pen could say was, “I’d rather be at the beach.” When pressed by others about how he felt about the arrests, he would not allow himself a direct answer. Others who were more direct and yet sympathetic said that there was nothing that could be done. Who had the hoods over their eyes? Who was in prison? I was in jail; I could not move and see the beauties of our world. My world and the world of those with me could have and should have been better, but how far worse it is to be imprisoned in your mind, in your actions without so much as a razor wire cage stopping you. 

    Final Hours at Pier 57 
    In my group of five arrested by a boyish guard named Gard, I was the last to be moved from my cell and through the next part of the process. Yet, because of the way I noticed that our group had been staggered, I believed that I would be leaving to the next step eventually. By 9 PM or so, I moved to the next step. As I left, people applauded me. I waved a peace sign at them.

    My arresting officer escorted me through a short series of tables. The officers took basic information from me. My group had declined doing any kind of jail solidarity because of the responsibilities we faced, and so our aim was to move through the system as quickly as possible. Not all that many participated in any jail solidarity, whose aim in this case was not to slow down the system but to make sure that other prisoners in the system who were not protesting received equal treatment and to make sure that other minorities and generally-oppressed people in the jails also received equal treatment. If my group had some consensus on this, I would have joined, but lacking that, it would have been selfish of me to insist upon this while at the same time punishing my friends for their very personal decision. In any event, my point here is that I did not withhold information from the police when asked, and they asked me nothing more than identifying information. At the final table, the arresting officer and another officer filled out paperwork on my belongings, sorting out the arrestable evidence from the possessions they were holding for “safe keeping.” They handed me paperwork at the end of that process telling me where my possessions were being held and instructions on how to receive it once they released me from jail.

    After the tables, my arresting officer took me to a new pen on the opposite side of the warehouse with others waiting to go to the courthouse for booking and arraignment. In this pen, I saw some others who had been in the previous pen with me while being mixed with others who had been in other pens. This was great because it meant a new set of conversations to have, and there’s nothing I live for more than the conversation between friends. At this point, we all were becoming more tired, and it became harder to avoid sitting on the soot/motor oil floor. Generally, I could not find space on the bench on which to sit, and we tried to reserve that space for many of our older cellmates. I did the best I could. 

    In the meantime, I conversed with some journalists who had been scooped up in the sweep, and others who had varying degrees of mood about their experience. One particularly upset journalist was worried he’d miss a photo shoot he was doing for the PBS Series “Frontline.” I failed to find a single case where someone was incarcerated where they blamed the protesters for his predicament. All people, protesters and others alike, joined in chants of “Lawsuit! Lawsuit!” and “We win! We win!” Even so, many did not have as glowing a sense about the experience as I did. Others, however, did. It was not hard to communicate at all the sense that the police were less free than we were. While we sang adapted Queen songs at them like, “We will, we will, sue you, sue you!” the police became more agitated. Sometimes, a group of them would come to my cell, yell at us, and threaten us if we did not stop singing. 

    Throughout the night, buses of protesters rolled in a large stream. As people marched by us in cuffs, we cheered them. Even as we became more sedate, the entire cell made a point of clapping and yelling whenever and wherever we saw brothers and sisters in chains walking by. Often, these people were beginning their jail experience, and you could see the palpable joy on their faces to see us showing such support for them.

    The jail support was so overwhelming that I could not take seriously the idea that we had it all that bad, however absurd and ridiculous and unfair and unhealthy our environment. Repeatedly, I pleaded with others in the jail to remember those who are suffering in this system more, to turn our hearts from our own plight to those who are truly hurting and lost in these jails. What support system do you have when you are an out of work drug addict, perhaps with mental illness, picked up on a marijuana habit you cannot seem to control? However you feel about the guilt of such a person, the place we were in did not inspire confidence that these people would be treated with any kind of fairness or community. It is community and fellowship that keeps us whole and sane, but if you are without family, if you are without education, if you are without friends, or without any means to help yourself, you are going to be surrounded in a scary world. I wanted people to emphasize that reality and the reality of all those suffering at the hands of others all over the world. No one wants to hear about more white middle class activists claiming to be beaten down by the system. Come on! Yes, what was happening was unjust, but the sensationalizing that comes out of places like this unwittingly continues to trample on the very people that our social justice movement is supposed to uphold. If we are not careful with our publicity, we run great risk of oppressing these communities again. What happened to us was wrong, but if we do not take care of others less fortunate than ourselves, then all of the self righteousness that essays like this smugly portray will be weapons against all those oppressed people who remain without voices. 

    When I would make those pleas, people heard and agreed with me. However, I continue to read in the reports of those who have gotten out a deep “woe is me” attitude coming out. We have to stand up for ourselves and tell the truth of our condition, but we must not simply become victims over this. Where it counts, they cannot victimize us. Our defiance must be an encouragement to others and empower others whom the system has successfully victimized.

    For several hours, I sat becoming sleepier. My bowels needed to move, but I became afraid that if I asked to use the bathroom that my name would be called and that I would not hear it. At times, I helped relay messages from other cells. Occasionally, I would talk with Andy, who was in the cell next to mine. My arresting officer occasionally came by to ask for my information. Once, he took my ID, and the time it took him to return caused me to fear he was not returning it.

    Finally, after many hours, it was now at least 2 AM, I saw several of my friends heading toward the wagons that took people to the jail. In fact, I was afraid that I would be left behind. Soon, though, an officer called my name, cuffed me very tightly in plastic cuffs, and took me to the wagon where many of my friends were, which was about to be transported to the jail. By now, I believe it was closer to 3 AM. The cuffs were tight, and cut into my arms. Ultimately, there was no physical damage, though others I saw had welts from their experience. This time, Andy’s cuffs were quite loose, thankfully.

    The ride over was not the most pleasant. Andy sang some songs and performed some poetry, but we had a couple smart alecks in the wagon. The officer boarding us was a really abusive man, who did his best to make all the passengers feel low. This egged on some of the passengers to heckle him. This officer left fuming that it was like a fucking kindergarten. Those passengers continued being somewhat belligerent while a female toward the front complained of their being too much testosterone. Sitting there in the mix of what was now becoming a gender dispute, I felt very uncomfortable and sad. Andy’s songs and poems helped to break the mood some, but not entirely. One of the women complained of her hands becoming numb from the cuffs. So, the woman who had complained about the men demanded we all do jail solidarity until her cuffs were loosened. After having gotten on a bad foot with all the men, it was remarkable that everyone generally agreed to go along with this, intimidated from saying anything else. Finally, another woman struck a compromise and said that we should wait until we got to the station. In the end, the police uncuffed us immediately at the station, and the situation diffused.

    As we arrived at the station in this mixture of sad tenseness and some joviality, we saw protesters yelling for us at the station. There, we saw Shahid and Sam from DC. Later, we learned Sam had just been released. It was so great to see our friends out there showing us support at 3 AM.

    The Tombs
    Pumped up from our support, we wondered how many hours we had to go. Since we had been arrested much earlier than most others we saw coming after us from Ground Zero, from Union Square, from the Library, and from other spots in Manhattan, we thought there was a decent chance we might get out in the next few hours. The mood became lighter as a result of the change in scenery. 

    The police took us inside, uncuffed us, emptied our pockets yet again, and put us through another metal detector. They then put us in another cell and fed us another bologna sandwich. This time, vegetarians were able to eat a terrible cheese sandwich while vegans still got the shaft entirely. The jail had no windows, had inadequate bench space, but at least the floors were not covered in soot and motor oil. Each cell had a toilet and a faucet with cold water. Generally, the colors of the cells were light green. Outside, we saw a lot of police processing people and otherwise milling about.

    Over time, the police called individuals from the cells. After an hour, my name was called. In my group of five, they called Nat as well. They chained us by the hands and had us walk in a row of five. From there, we moved through these cavernous hallways through the city jail. I understand now that we were well below ground in a part of the courthouse/jail complex known as “The Tombs.”

    After walking around and going through another metal detector at some point, the police took us to electronic fingerprinting machines. There, many officers stood nearby taking protesters to be fingerprinted. Generally, most of the police there were unfriendly. My officer took each hand and each finger for fingerprinting. It took a lot time for the computer to capture each image. My right thumb took at least ten times to get right. Since there was so much soot on my hands, he even used Windex to wash them when he was unable to get a reading. The Windex only minimally cleaned my hands. I noticed how embarrassed I was by my dirty hands, and yet now looking back it was really their fault. Finally, he got a reading that he saved before cuffing me again to those being booked with me. In my case, I guess they got the fingerprints correct because no one called me back to redo them. Others had to go back hours later for another round of fingerprinting due to errors. Those people, police said, now were in the system as though they had just begun. I do not know whether that is true, but that is what they told people. It did break the spirits of some.

    After that experience, the police took us through more caverns to wait in line for our mug shots. By this time, most of us were quite exhausted, and there wasn’t a lot of talking except to support fellow prisoners as they passed by. However, at this spot, we had an especially talkative police officer covered in tattoos. Some of the younger people with us struck up a conversation with him. They asked him how he felt about this. Just by the look of this man, he seemed out of place, as though he were a member of the rap group Public Enemy, except in a police uniform. He sat on some plastic crates bouncing back and forth against the wall. He said, “Fuck da police!” People looked somewhat stunned. He said, “I’m totally sympathetic with you. When I’m out of here and out of my uniform, I do everything I can to fight the motherfuckin’ system. If my union didn’t tell me I couldn’t protest in uniform, I’d protest in uniform.” Stunned, some asked why he wasn’t sitting over with us. He told us that familiar story about not having any choice, that he needed to make money for his children, needed health care, needed the stability of a union job. Andy, who was in chains nearby, told him that that was what we were fighting for. He said that what we were doing would do no good, that it would be the same fuckers controlling things no matter what, and that’s why he might as well be a cop. He had given up and lost his spirit. Though he won many fans in our group, I did not actually trust him. Why? I did not trust him because other police heard everything he was saying and did not so much as interrupt, only a few staring. Then, he proceeded to tell us a set of lies about what was coming next. He said, for our charge, we could be released on one to two days of community service. He then asked another officer if that’s what they were doing with us. That man, said, “Yeah.” So, others who now trusted him because of his “I fight the system when I can” attitude now were trusting him about what was to happen next. For me, knowing he was lying made me wonder how much else he was lying about. Was he toying with people? Did he really feel that way?

    Soon after, police led us near the room where we would be filmed for mug shots. Around us, we saw paper “Bush/Cheney 2004” printouts in white. The officer moved us along the wall into the photo room, forcing us to move and keep our back against the wall. He and other officers called us “Perps” or “bodies,” but never “people.” In jail, there is no presumption of innocence. At this point, in the middle of the night, I was exhausted, but all I could think about was that I was determined to smile for the mug shot. Finally, it was my turn, and I grinned for the man behind the computer. Then, I turned my head to the side. The side shot was another “Bush/Cheney 2004” sign. That made smiling easy. If that was the best they could do at that moment to get under my skin, they had to do better than that.

    Following the mug shots, the police led the five of us who were chained together through more caverns and finally into another cell. The only thing remarkably new about this cell was that it was the first to have a telephone. Inside, there was a pay phone. Immediately, my fellow cellmates called the National Lawyer’s Guild number, and we began giving them our names, our charges, our arrest number (which we were not actually given) and any other details they asked for from us. Soon after, each of us was called out of the cell momentarily to answer more identifying questions. However, this time, they asked whether we had a drug and alcohol problem and whether we had been tested for drugs. To these questions, the National Lawyer’s Guild advised silence. In my case, since I never drink alcohol or use drugs, I answered, hoping it might help me avoid any subsequent bail.

    After a short time in this cell, the police moved many of us to another cell where others were being held. Near us were cells filled with other protesters and at least one with regular prisoners. In most cases, protesters were not housed with regular inmates. I do not know the reasoning for it, but I wonder if it was done not so much for our sake but rather to keep us from helping to better inform those inmates who were stuck in the system. We had plenty of legal phone numbers that could have helped them out, and I hope that some who were with regular prisoners had the chance to share information.

    My cell, just as the others, had light green walls, a toilet, a faucet without cold water—the faucet in the cell across from ours had hot but no cold water. We had just missed breakfast, according to a chart in this cell telling us when meals were served. The cell had two pay phones. It was now just before 6:00 AM. My particular cell held a maximum of 29 people and fluctuated between 9 and 25 people during the day. When the numbers were higher, some had to lie on the floor. 

    At this point, I needed a bowel movement. When I got out of jail, one of the things I heard repeatedly from men was the need for a bowel movement. However, since we were in tight quarters, no one in my cell risked the inconvenience to other cellmates that the smell would cause. As the day went on, I became more and more sick holding my bowels in. At times, I would shiver. Later, I developed a soar throat and the first stages of a cold I am still recovering from.

    Even though the conditions could only get worse the more tired and ill we became, I refused to let my spirit dampen very much. George Harrison or Richie Havens, depending upon my mood, kept singing “Here Comes the Sun.” The choir singing “Power to the People” over at Pier 57 was so powerfully stuck in my internal radio that even now I cannot get the song out of my head. At times, I’d hum it aloud to myself.

    Now at this time of the morning, the cell became quiet. Soon, someone saying he was not a police officer but an advocate from the court came over to interview me. I was wary. None of my training had told me that such a person would be there. However, I decided to trust him and answer all sorts of questions, including my work situation. These questions embarrassed me, and I hoped to God they were not questions that would keep me in jail longer than necessary. Apparently, the man, and others wearing the “Visitor” tags, who were interviewing us, used the information so that the judge could determine the conditions of our release. In this case, less information meant less likelihood of seeing the judge. When I and others finished our interviews, we sat silently with the others.

    By 7 AM, I decided that regardless of the quiet, I needed to call Genevieve. She had an 8 AM class and would be unreachable after that. So, I used a phone card that she wisely bought for me before the trip in case of something like this. She seemed calm, although she later told me she was very anxious. I heard news about my interview being featured on DC Independent Media and about her phone ringing off the hook because of DC activists looking for information. She told me about others who had been arrested and a little bit about the general news. She had called my father and had taken care of some of our housing details. Thanks to her resourcefulness, I felt as though I would be ready to pick up my responsibilities as soon as I was let out. I figured that would be in a few hours since the police kept telling people that the next step was arraignment. 

    As for arraignment, apparently the courts in New York had cleared their docket for the week to do nothing but arraignments of protesters and others. One judge worked throughout the night while three judges worked throughout the day on nothing but arraignments. However, at the pace the police called us, I realized that it would be impossible to call everyone in the 24 hour period that people had told us was required for arraigning charges like the citations we faced. While it looked good for those of us in our cell, those behind us, I reasoned, would be backed up geometrically. In fact, that is what happened.

    After talking to Genevieve, I slept for half an hour. I was desperately afraid to fall asleep out of fear my name would be called and that I would be skipped by. The officers never seemed to know which cell many of the inmates were in. They would walk around the cells yelling names of people, and sometimes people could not hear their names called because the police yelling were in cells much further away. The cellmates passed word as best as they could by yelling names out loud. Again as before, as each name was called, the cell roared with applause at the good fortune for the person whose name the officers was calling. 

    Eventually, my affinity group member Nat had his named called just before 9 AM. At this point, since he was arrested with me and booked with me, I thought that my name might soon follow. However, for hour after hour, my name and others who came in at the same time as me or just before me or after me were passed over for people who came into our cell much later. Nat eventually made it home to DC by 8 PM. Where was I at 8 PM? I was still in jail.

    If there was anything that wore on my good spirits more than anything it was the sense that I might be lost in the system. Since there was no order whatsoever to the names being called and only conflicting lies coming from the police about the reason for the delays, one wondered if it might be forever that we were locked up. Generally, police ignored questions asking for status. In some cases, they provided answers. In others, they would not. It seemed the more some asked for answers, the more annoyed I became with them. Could they not see that every question produced yet another lie and that every lie produced lower morale? I preferred quiet defiance toward the police and warm conversation with cellmates, but the more they persisted on talking to those who would not talk honestly, the more annoyed I became. I became even more annoyed when I would see others who had not even been in our cell very long complaining about the length of their stay in the cell without worrying about how those of us who had been there longer felt. In one of the female cells, I heard of a jail solidarity where the women refused to leave before those who had been there longest left. We had no such luck in our cell. I thought of suggesting it, but since such a tactic was going to benefit me and a couple of others the most, I declined mentioning it to others.

    Yet, despite those annoyances, I do not remember a single argument in our cell between cellmates. I also only remember support for those leaving. Any general angst was saved for the police who continued to treat us unfairly. People shared money for the pay phones and other numbers of interest. One cellmate wrote his pay phone card on the wall for others to use. This number remained long after he had left and may still be there for all I know. He also included numbers for legal aid, Mayor Bloomberg’s office, and City Hall. Other cellmates shared food they did not plan on eating. In some cases, some cellmates used the bologna sandwiches as pillows on which to sleep.

    The day dragged on, but the conversations continued. In my cell, one cellmate dressed in army fatigues attracted some interest. His name is Dennis, and he was a Gulf War veteran. In the cell, he educated others about the dangers of depleted uranium. I asked him if he knew Doug Rokke, the world’s foremost expert on depleted uranium, whom I had met while he was giving a teach-in that DAWN hosted, and he said that Doug was a good friend of his. Others in our cell talked about the dangers of dairy and the virtues of a vegan diet, even as they must have been the most starved people in the jail. My new friend Ozone, who had come on the bus with us, talked a lot with me about the sense I had of prisoners often being much more free than those who put them in jail. When I shared my feelings, his face lit up. Apparently, while in prison, he had written a book with that theme.

    At 4:02 PM, 24 hours had passed, and some of us had failed to be arraigned. We called the National Lawyer’s Guild, who told us to sit tight and that there was nothing they could do for us at that moment. Soon after, the jail warden came down to check on conditions. When questioned, he claimed not to be a lawyer and that he did not know the answer to the question. Like hell he didn’t! That same warden asked an officer to check into my status and that of another protester, but that officer never did. People became angrier. Then, at dinner, the police officer serving the food said that many of these bologna sandwiches were in fact soy. We all eagerly took them but were disappointed to discover that the policeman had lied to us and given us more baloney. How much baloney can one take?! Some vegetarians, ignoring the evidence of their senses, ate the sandwiches anyway tired of starvation.

    Many times all I could do was laugh. I would look at the harmless people in my cell, of all ages, and then I would stare at the bars. I would laugh again. When being taken on the bus, a woman with an English accent said, “What is this? Open season on pacifists?” Those who had been arrested at Ground Zero, especially, going with longtime pacifists like the War Resisters’ League really felt the irony. The police officers had this look often that they were in an absurd situation. Were they told we were all these mean scary black bloc, who incidentally are not as mean and scary as their reputation? Most of the black bloc are just children, and by far the vast majority of all anarchists have renounced violence. Yet, here in my cell you mostly saw people in their thirties and forties, and few even had the look of anarchists of any stripe. In some cases, you had people in their fifties, sixties, or older. One of our cellmates said that he believed the police had no idea what to make of all these normal middle-aged people. I cannot say, but I do know I was with the most harmless set of people I could imagine. And, yet, there we were behind bars, many of us there for walking on the sidewalk. What positive reaction can one have at that moment except laughter?

    Finally, at about 6:30 PM, my name and the names of others who had been held as long as I had been were finally called. When the officer called my name, the entire cell erupted in applause. My first thought went to the two others who had been in the cell even longer. Soon, the offices called their names as well. When the officer called names, each cellmate had to identify himself with his date of birth. I thought it ironic that we had to verify our own identification but that I am not so sure that the police could possibly have kept track of everyone without losing a few. Who was more untrustworthy? 

    When the officers cuffed us, it never felt so good to be in handcuffs. It meant that we were one step closer to arraignment.

    Finally Released
    The officer took us to an elevator. From there, we could see that we had been buried deep underground. Eventually, the elevator arose above ground and up to the twelfth floor. From there, the officer led us into another cell. This time, however, we had light. We could see windows just outside our bars that were open to the air. The air felt pleasant, and it looked like Wednesday, September 1, had been a nice day for those outside of the jail. 

    For the next couple hours, this cell was my home. At this point, the police finally allowed people their free phone call. Naturally, I called Genevieve, although I needed to use my calling card since she was long distance. There, I heard more stories and heard who was now arrested and who was now out. We heard rumors that our friend Suzanne had been arrested, which we later verified. On the whole, though, there was not a lot of news we had not already received in jail. One officer near another cell even allowed her radio, while other officers were not around, to be tuned to the local Pacifica station, WBAI, so that those cellmates could receive news. We had heard about an action Act Up managed inside of the Convention while Andrew Card was speaking. We heard about Codepink’s infiltration inside of Madison Square Garden. Each bit of news excited us and made everything we were now experiencing feel worthwhile. Already threats of lawsuits against the police permeated alternative media. In fact, we found out that the National Lawyer’s Guild was about to participate in a hearing to try and win our release. Since we had not been released in 24 hours, the Guild argued that we should be released, having not been served a writ of habeas corpus. As I waited, I continued to hold out hope that we might just be released with our charges dismissed.

    As I waited, others who came before me into this cell again were processed ahead of me. As we waited, our captors gave us a large supply of some nasty purple punch. Some of my cellmates and friends jokingly warned us not to drink it out of fear it would wrongly enchant us into pleading guilty. So, one clever person dubbed the punch, “Gil – Tea.” They then served us peaches. I managed a good peach. Prior, I received one that was rotten. While we eagerly waited, we played quarters, warning that the winner would be forced to drink a cup of Gil – Tea. However, each winner declined the drink.

    Then, we heard some amazing shouting coming from outside the jail. Indeed, a sizable protest was going on outside the jail demanding our release. We began whooping and hollering hoping they could hear us. Later, we discovered that they did hear us but thought we were chanting. So, they chanted back something to the effect of, “Over 24, let them go!” This really cheered us up. When we were not yelling back at the crowd we could hear below, we all began whistling.

    Finally, the officer called my name at about 8:40 PM. She cuffed me, taking me through the halls looking for other prisoners. However, she was new to this particular job and repeatedly got lost. A great many police had been brought in from other jurisdictions to work on this week, and the incompetence was permeable. If we as protesters wanted to stop the processing system from functioning, we could have easily done so. As it was, it barely functioned. Police could not find inmates, fingerprinting records were all wrong, and people were processed haphazardly and in no particular order. Now, I figured I was going to see a judge where I planned on pleading “not guilty.” Others planned on taking a deal where if they avoided a disorderly conduct charge for 6 months, the original charge would be dismissed. I had no such plans because what had happened was fundamentally wrong. They say to pick your battles, and this seemed like one for me to pick.

    However, my fate did not involve a judge. Instead, the authorities gave me a “Desk Appearance Ticket,” which when I signed committed me to returning to court on September 30 to be arraigned on the charges. In return for that commitment, they released me.

    When I was released, it was 9 PM. What follows in the story is as intriguing to me as the jail story itself, but I need to pause here. 

    In great detail, I have described two days of my life, especially the 29 hours that I was in jail. As I prefaced, I am a little annoyed by the importance given to this time over other times. Yet, here, I have written just as much. While I have your attention, I hope I reminded you enough of what has gone unsaid, hope I have showed to you that I was not a victim. What happened to me and others that day was wrong, but I only want to use my story to shed light on the stories that have not been told. Please seek them out, please wonder about them, and please do what you can to support them. My time in jail was remarkably easy because of the tremendous support of our activist community. They took care of me before and after this ordeal. Others are not so lucky. They need our support, and I hope that what I have written does something on their behalf.

    If we can do that for each other, we shall all be free of the shackles that continue to imprison us.

    To be continued…

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