Ivo Skoric on Sat, 22 Apr 2000 18:37:00 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Protests and arrests American way

This is the first-hand account of a protests in Washington DC 
written by a student from Wesleyan. Police wanted to actually 
charge people $50-100 per arrest, but when 80% of people would 
not pay, they just let them all go, and then protesters protested 
being let go.
Dear family, friends, professors et al I'm really sorry for those of 
you who hate forwards, but this is a first hand account of the 
conditions of imprisoned protestors in DC written by a trustworthy 
student at Wesleyan.  It is essential that as many people as 
possible are aware that people's constitutional rights are being 
entirely neglected by the authorities in this situation.  Please pass 
this on to as many people as you can and if you know people who 
can help (ie media or influential lawyers...) please encourage them 
to do so. 


--------------------- two wes students and at least 100 others are still in 
jail in dc.  we need to  get these people out fast.  here's the scoop 
from behind enemy lines.  i am writing only what i have 
experienced myself or witnessed firsthand.  sorry if  some of this is 
redundant, but this information needs to get out before i forget  

i was arrested along with four other wes students at noon on 
monday at the intersection of pennsylvania avenue and 20th street. 
 600 protesters had linked  arms to form a "soft-blockade" directly 
in front of police barricades, and several hundred cops in full riot 
gear stood on the other side of the metal barriers, resulting in a 
stand-off that had lasted about two hours. directly  behind the cops 
stood the world bank headquarters, symbol of global capitalism  
etc.  our plan had been to walk two blocks down the street and 
attend the wb  meeting, but the police weren't cool with that, and 
they had pepper sprayed us  when we tried to cross their (arbitrary) 
line.  in a very real sense, they were  defending the global 
economic system from assault by the people.   

by noon we had negotiated a deal with the cops that would allow 
us to cross the  lines and risk arrest in return for the police sheding 
their riot gear and pledging not to use violence.  ten feet past the 
line, we were handcuffed, searched, photographed and then 
escorted to the paddywagons.  some protesters  decided to "go 
limp" to make the process more difficult for the arresting officers 
and make a stronger statement.  those who chose to resist in this 
way  were handeled roughly and some had their heads smashed 
against solid objects. 

 prisoners were divided among eight busses and people sitting next 
to one another  in the blockade were deliberately seperated on 
different busses.  the prison  system was already overflowing from 
mass arrests on saturday and sunday, so many  of us were 
shipped to a juvenile detention center in a police station for 
temporary "storage."  once there, every prisoner had his property 
taken away,  including shoelaces and belts for fear that we might 
try to hang ourselves.  (i  am not being gender-inclusive because i 
have no first hand information about  what happened to the 
females).  all prisoners had their fingers printed, and  those who 
resisted printing were given pain compliance until they gave in.  
some  prisoners with serious illnesses were deprived of their 
medications.  we were  then handcuffed again with a plastic band 
connecting an ankle to a wrist. when  several prisoners complained 
that their circulation was cut off or that their  hands were numb, the 
police responded by tightening the restraints. 

once we were processed, we was faced with two options: we could 
"sign out" and  leave immedietely by paying a $50-100 fine and 
volunteering our names,  or we  could refuse to pay the fine and 
withold our names in solidarity with other prisoners.  most of us 
chose option one unless we had an unavoidable commitment.   the 
theory behnd jail solidarity is that prisoners can clog up the system 
if  they act as a single inseperable body instead of many 
individuals. solidarity  is also symbolic: we are a community that is 
concerned about the entire group  instead of our personal well-
being.  this was important, for we soon learned  that some 
prisoners were facing more serious charges than others even 
though  everyone had participated in the same non-violent action.  
charges ranged from  "incommoding" (blocking traffic) to "crossing 
a police line" or "resisting arrest" or even "assault".  the group's 
central demand was that we would not  give our names until we 
were allowed to see a lawyer and everyone's charges were  
reduced to a simple infraction like incommoding. 

those of us who chose to remain in solidarity were stored in the 
police station  jail cells for about 4 hours.  at one point we were fed 
two pieces of Wonder  Bread with a single slice of bologna in 
between and each handed a carton  of "fruit punch drink".  the cell 
next to us ws only fed donuts, so we did our best  to help them out 
by passing food through the metal bars.  some of us were 
permitted to make local phone calls, but the number we were 
supposed to call for  legal defense was continually busy.  we later 
learned that police were using a  machine that automatically dialed 
that number over and over again.  our clothes  were damp and the 
cells were deliberately cold, so some of us began shivering.   after 
prolonged insistence, the cops gave the 11 of us in the cell a single 
blanket to share.  to their credit, most of the city cops were not 
abusive.   many of them were working 30-hour shifts to 
accomodate the never-ending  flow of  protesters into city jails.  
some of the guards even admitted to agreeing with  our stance on 
the imf and world bank when we pestered them.  the point is that  
with rare exceptions, these cops are not sadistic human beings.  
they are just  puppets controlled by an evil puppeteer. 

after a few hours (not sure about the time because they took our 
watches) we  were transferred to a holding cell in the municipal 
courts building.   our new  guards were federal police marshalls.  i 
dont know if it is standard practice to  turn ordinary criminals over 
to federal officials, but the district of columbia's status as a non-
state complicates legal matters.  13 of us were stuffed into a cell 
so small that only three could sit down at a time.  the rules of the 
game changed dramatically once we arrived in this jail.  phone 
calls were not permitted.  food was not supplied.  our cell had no 
running water, and the autorities promised to bring a pitcher but 
never followed through, although they later moved us to a cell with 
a working sink.  we were  still not offered a change of clothes or 
additional blankets.  the offer to pay  $50 and walk still stood, and 
the police strongly encouraged us to accept it, to  the point of 
using scare tactics.  if we refused to comply, they explained, we  
would be transfered to the dc city jail, which in their words "is not a 
good  place for white boys" and is "filled with murderers and 
rapists."  they also  told us that "our solidarity bullshit" was 
breaking down, and that most  people  had already paid the fine 
and left.  we were constantly being shifted to new  cells with new 
cellmates - an obvious effort on the part of the police  to undermine 
solidarity by making communication difficult. 

after a brief meeting, we communicated to the police marshalls that 
we would not  give our names until we were allowed to meet with 
our lawyers.  The group that  organized the protests (mobilization 
for global justice) had supplied a legal  team called "midnight 
special" to represent us.  however, most of these lawyers  were 
prevented from communicating with arestees in any way or even 
entering the  cell block.  instead, court-appointed public defenders 
were assigned to us.   some were sympathetic, most were not.  
one woman claimed to be a lawyer from  midnight special, but was 
unable to produce any credentials, or give us  the name  of her 
firm, or inform us of our rights.  (she "forgot" that we had the right 
to  remain silent, and explicitly denied that we had the right to food 
and water).   after interogating her for awhile, it became apparent 
that she was an undercover  agent posing as a lawyer.  eventually, 
the police allowed us to meet with a guy  who we were pretty sure 
was in fact a real midnight special attorney.  he told  us that 
solidarity was still around 80%, and gave us instructions for our 
upcoming arraignment. 

after a long night of fake lawyers, non-existent food and trying to 
sleep while  standing up, they began taking us away to be 
arraigned.  during an arraignment,  the accused is read his or her 
charges and asked to plead guilty or not-guilty.   if he wishes to 
stay in solidarity, the accused remains silent rather than plea  not-
guilty.  he also continues to withold his name, and is arraigned as 
John Doe  or Jane Doe.  however, when we were taken to our 
"arraignments", we never had  the chance to plea.  Instead of being 
arraigned, we were each handed a slip of  paper that explained the 
police had lost our papers and our charges were being  dismissed.  
we were then escorted out of the courtroom and told to leave the  
premises.  when some of us protested, the federal police marshalls 
 threatened to  arrest again for trespassing on federal property if we 
chose to stay.  obviously, the cops never lost any papers.  they 
were simply trying to divide us  by eliminating minor offenders so 
they can focus on people with more serious  charges.  it just didnt 
make sense anymore to clog up the dc city jail  with 600  
protesters.  i left the courthouse around noon without paying fines 
on tuesday  as john doe number ---.  good for me, but bad for 

most of my comrades experienced a similar fate.  however, i 
watched several actual arraignments, and even these were 
extremely one-sided:  the accused stood  before the judge.  the 
judge delivered a long tirade indicating that the accused  had two 
options - give his name, pay $50 and leave, or remain john doe and 
be  relocating to the dc city jail.  the judge implied that the 
accused could expect  to be sodomized by people of color in the 
city jail, and that he would be better  off returning to society so he 
could "continue to exercise [his] first ammedment  right to petition 
the government."  the accused recived support from the gallery  in 
the form of raised fists and cheering.  some support was tolerated, 
but when  one member of the gallery yelled "this is a mockery" he 
was roughly dragged away  and shoved through the courtroom 
door.  we heard loud noises outside as his escort moved him down 
the stairs. 

most of the remaining prisoners continued to maintain solidarity 
through the  arraignments, but their numbers had fallen drastically 
at this point due  to mass  dismissals.  they need our support - call 
the authorities right now to express  your outrage: Central Holding 
202-727-4213, DC Jail 202-673-8000, Cell B & C  202-727-2392, 
Superior Court 202-879-1010, Police Academy 202-645-0055,  
Subdistrict #4 202-727-4655.   

as poorly as we were treated, we must remember the millions of 
people who face  these same oppressive conditions everyday.  this 
is a polemic not against individual officers or a single jail system, 
but against the modern prison-industrial as a whole.  and we must 
the role of the world bank and imf in  setting up conditions that 
encourage countries in global south to imprison millions for 
speaking out against a corrupt system just as we did on monday.   


Abe Walker awalker@wesleyan.edu (860) 685-5311 

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