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September 02, 2004

fun things i got to do that led to jail

So I talked to my folks yesterday, and they said they had been checking my webpage and that I hadn't been posting anything. I told them it was because Id been very busy, and because I was calling them from the Central Processing building of the NYPD. They caused for a minute, and then said "oh."
but Im getting ahead of myself.

So back on Monday we went to 2 marches, one in support of housing and better jobs, and the other in solidarity with the poor on New York. The second march had no permit, and we sat waiting near the UN plaza with hundreds of other people as the organizers and the cops frantically decided upon a parade route. In the end it was decided, and we headed out towards Madison square garden. I marched with Kelsey, her friend Ruthie, Andrew, Aaron Maret, BJ, Simon, and some other folks. We strategically placed ourselves between the two marching bands, and danced our way through the streets. After taking a second look at the guy marching next to me, drew and I modified my sign so that it had an arrow pointing next to the words "I am a cop." we outed 3 undercovers that way, and it became easier and easier to spot them because of their white shoes and fat cop bellies. The best was holding the sign up, and then watching as they got the cell phone call to fall back because their poor cover was blown.
That march ended up corralled in fencing on 8th avenue and 31st street. the whole fencing us in strategy has been quite effective and very frustrating. As we walked peacefully into the barricades some cops on scooters roared in behind us, screaming and irate, and then they brought in horses and some police trucks. It wasn't the first or the last time that the police reacted so radically to what we were doing in our peaceful manner, and it was strange to watch them all, bald, fat and fuming at us as they gave order after conflicting order.
Eventually that march ended, and we headed home. I was a bit tired, and we all knew that the next day, Tuesday, would be a long one. How long, of course, I had no idea.

So Tuesday we met uptown, misinterpreting an unapproved march's starting location as Columbus circle instead of Columbus Park. After that we headed back towards midtown, and watched the direct action press conference at union square. My friend Justin who I met in Israel had met up with us, and he, Andrew and I decided to head back uptown on the subway to a rally in front of Sothebys auction house. Apparently the daughter of Johnny Cash had been convinced by Lamar Alexander to donate some items from the Cash estate to the RNC for an auction, and people were up in arms over it. i personally felt such revulsion to think that these people were connecting themselves and their greedy legacy with the music of Cash, who always supported the poor and the beaten down, not the wealthy masters of humanity. many of the protesters were dressed in black, and some were singing songs and waving signs, my favorite read "send W to Folsom." The anarchist cheerleaders were across the street at Sothebys, and we all decided to ignore the protesting pen they'd placed us into and cross over to personally heckle the delegates. As their buses and taxis arrived our numbers grew, and soon we were howling at a raging volume at them as they entered the building, about how they were unwelcome in this city and that they should go home. Following the theme of the traditional protest chant "whose street? Our street!" which came from the civil rights movement, I whispered to one of the anarchist cheerleaders to start the chant "who's Cash? Our Cash!" and soon the entire crowd was bellowing it at the smug, well dressed and ugly-hearted delegates.
drew, Justin and I figured out that if we went behind the new barricades and came around the other side of the street, that we could personally deliver a message to the delegates as they entered the building. perhaps this was one of the most satisfying moments of day, me being able to tell this rich assholes to their smarmy and dull-eyed faces that Johnny Cash would never approve of what they were doing and how dare they soil his name with their callow and soulless legacy. The cops watched me flip these people off and tell them to go the fuck home and didn't do anything, and I hope that the asshole delegates, through their thin veneer of tight smiles and gaudy semi-color-coordinated clothes, felt our contempt and our resolve against them.
Justin and I decided to head back towards midtown to meet up with the rest of our affinity group for one of the bigger actions scheduled at 6. We met up with BJ and a friend of hers, Aaron, Becky and her friend Nancy. Then Justins girlfriend Sarah arrived, and we left for where we thought the street parade/reclaim the streets party was beginning. Justin and Sarah left for a few minutes to buy some flat shoes so that she wouldn't have to march in heels, and before Simon, Andrew and some other friends could merge with us the march began. It was an excellent parade, I have these beautiful memories of us marching and dancing in the streets as the full marching band kicked out amazing songs. We headed along the east side of union square, and then made the ill-fated turn onto 16th. As soon as the party began cops in riot gear began swarming, and as we turned down narrow 16th street towards Irving they appeared in front of us, menacing in their riot gear and Billy clubs. the band did an about face and we tried to head back out from whence we'd came, but many more moped riding officers showed up. They began tightening in on us and the band didn't stop until we were all pinched in and no one could move. Our completely peaceful march was surrounded, and it was a frightening moment. Aaron and I were on the south sidewalk, in the front of the crowd facing back towards union square. The police marched up the street, and began violently grabbing people and slamming them to the ground. They kept urging us back but there was nowhere to go, it was confusing and dangerous as we crowded on top of ourselves. My arms were locked with Aarons and other protesters, and I looked left to see a cook looking out the kitchen door of a restaurant. in hindsight I should have used my Spanish and spirited myself, Aaron, and whoever else I could through that kitchen and to safety, but the rest of our group was behind me and their wasn't time. The cops began picking people from the front of our group, dragging them to the ground and grinding their faces into the pavement with knees on the back of chests and heads. People were singing the sh'mah and other low hymns, and Aaron and I looked at each other, knowing what was coming. The order came for us to sit down, and over a loudspeaker they read that were all going to be arrested. This was after we heard no order to disperse, nor were given any opportunity to. it was a blanket arrest of more then 100 people, intended to keep us off of the streets so that we could not voice our discontent with our government. it was a violation of our 1st and 4th amendment rights backed up with paper thin excuses, and I felt sad and numb as they zip tied my hands behind my back and loaded me into a police van.
They took us to pier 57, which has earned a deserved measure of infamy. As we arrived I could see hundreds of other protesters locked up in cages topped by razor wire on either side of us. They unloaded us, took our personal possessions, and threw us into a huge pen. I hopped in a line and waited for at least half an hour for someone to finally cut the plastic handcuffs off of my wrist. Folks on my bus had their forearms turning purple from lack of circulation, and my shoulder was in a good amount of pain when they finally cut those damned things off. I drank some water and was allowed to pee, and then I tried to find a good spot to sit down and maybe sleep. Rumors were circulating in the crowd that people had suffered chemical burns from sleeping on the floor, and a thin film of oil and diesel fuel coated the ground. Looking at the walls I noticed signs that read raw chemical cleanup area. I did my best to lie down, trying to keep my face away from the concrete. Hours later I was moved to another smaller cage with all males, where I was able to get maybe 45 minutes more of sleep.
The next morning, somewhere between 9 and 11, they pulled us out of the cage and sent us back to the large one. To my disbelief, they lined us up in long rows the length of the cage, and the head cop in charge marched out. It felt like a scene out of some Vietnam film, and as the commandant walked between the rows a terrific howl went up. My fellow prisoners began clapping a fast rhythm, drowning out whatever he was trying to say, and he grew frustrated and stormed out of the room. We began to swarm, and at least 14 hours after depositing me in that dangerous building they began reading out names of prisoners bound for central processing.

I will conclude the second half tomorrow.

Posted by bendan at September 2, 2004 09:12 AM

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