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Old 09-10-2004, 07:39 AM   #1
The Fly
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Personal account of a young man arrested for demonstration

This is a true personal account of the arrest and detainment of a guy who was arrested and held 2 days for demonstrating at the Republican convention in NYC. He is a personal friend of a relative, that's how I got this. His name is being withheld to protect his privacy. But I think his story needs to be told.

I remember many times when I protested and the
sensationalist chant broke out, “Show me what a police
state looks like/This is what a police state looks
like!” and I refused to join in. But I don’t know how
to describe what I experienced over the past 48 hours
as anything other than a police state. We are
constituents of a state which uses the brute force of
the police force, without regard to law or the
Constitution, in order to buttress its own political
I arrived south of Herald Square, near Madison Square
Garden, the site of the Republican Convention, at
about 6:30PM, along with my girlfriend, a dispersed
swarm of protestors, and a burgeoning, flabbergasted
conglomerate of commuters. The cops had closed off all
intersections by surrounding each corner of the street
with metal stockades and orange fishnet-walls. I
wasn’t particularly angry; a gathering of republicans
were being filmed by MSNBC in the Square, so I
wouldn’t have expected the cops to let us anywhere
near live national television. I wouldn’t have
expected them to let us be counter-protestors, no
matter how many times I’ve put up with gauntlets of
Bible-thumpers and their homophobic epithets
countering my leftist rallies of choice.

I wasn’t particularly angry. I felt I had a right to
protest the Convention without being relegated to a
distant shouting point, but I didn’t expect to receive
that right. Many apolitical commuters were enraged at
the police. They wanted to get home, and they
certainly expected to get home; one man, after an hour
of waiting, screamed at the captain, “I was promised
two entrances to the Long Island Railroad to be open
during the entirety of the Convention!”

“Yeah, well, promises were made to be broken,” was the
response. The right to convenience, the ability to get
home, is a promise that the daily commuter can’t
imagine being broken. Why is it that the right to free
speech, freedom, is something I don’t even expect to
receive? Why do we only experience primal rage over
the little things rather than the big things? Have we
been dumbed down so much as to accept the trampling of
our rights? Where is the rage, the outburst, when will
we all be willing to definitively state, “I will not
put up with this!”

At approximately 8:30, the police told us to leave and
disperse. “People wanna go shopping,” they explained,
pointing to Victoria’s Secrets’ motionless revolving

“Hell no, I don’t wear women’s underwear!” retorted an
ornery commuter, but the majority of the crowd
followed directions and began to back off. But I sat
down, my girlfriend sat down, and three others sat
down with us. The police told us to back off with the
rest of our “buddies”, but we let them know that we
were just fine sitting where we were. Across the
street, we saw fellow disobedient sitters expressing
their refusal to back off by starting a 15-person
conga line.

The Republicans are counting on two things two be
reelected. They are counting on the 9/11 imagery they
invoke so shamelessly and incessantly, which is why
they came to New York. They are also counting on the
culture of fear that they have milked like a fountain,
which is why the convention was surrounded with such
ubiquitous, insubstantial threats of terrorism and
anarchy. Sitting down and refusing to comply with the
order that we turn our backs to their convention
addresses them by making the following statements:

The time and grief of New Yorkers is not yours to

We are not afraid, not of arrest nor any fabricated

We are not violent; if need be, you must exert
physical force on us.

Quite simply, we say no, and we’re willing to do more
than just say it.

So we locked arms and waited to be arrested. We waited
as three different cops pointed camcorders at us, and
the rest of them discussed who was gonna arrest who.
The crowds of protest-commuters were still there,
having moved back no more than 10 paces, with a metal
stockade separating us on either side. They tossed us
a bottle of water and chanted “Whose streets/Our
streets”. I cheered them on by removing my shirt and
writing “RNC GO HOME” on my chest and “BUSH LIES MANY
DIE” on my back. It took the police forty minutes to
arrest us. First they had to issue the proper amount
of warnings, then they had to arrest the fifteen
sitting on the south corner, and finally they arrested
our five. We refused to stand when they arrested us;
we made them carry us away. We weren’t going to resist
the arrest, but we sure as hell weren’t going to
participate in it.

They tied the plastic flexicuffs around my wrist,
painfully tight, lifted my limp body up, and carried
me to the bus, my feet dragging on the street. Inside
of the bus, we chanted, sang songs, and cited our
Constitution rights as boisterously as possible until
they replaced a few of the more insufferable
flexicuffs. Slowly the police tracked down film, and
took three Polaroid pictures of each prisoner. They
called us “perps”.

“At least they don’t call us ‘preps,’” I mused, “That
would actually be something to be ashamed of.”

The man sitting next to me had a cell phone, which he
took out of his back pocket, and lifted up to my ears,
his hands still tied behind his back. I called home
and told my father that I had been arrested. I had to
repeat it three times, because each time he thought I
was saying that I had been “elected”. When my
girlfriend called her mother, she thought it was a
practical joke. A few hours later, the police officer
called her mother, because she is still 15 and thus
was treated as a juvenile arrest; the officer had to
assure her mother thrice that she wasn’t joking.
Apparently, people find it hard to believe that
protest is an act people can be arrested for. That
doesn’t happen in America, does it? At least, not
since Kent State or the Deep South in the 60’s?

Then they slowly cut our flexicuffs so that we could
empty our property into marked plastic bags. In a
surprising stroke of bad luck, I didn’t have any
property, so my cuffs stayed on, burning my skin,
biting my bones, and halting my bloodstream for the
next three hours. I didn’t complain; I’ve been asked
before, “Why do you need to be uncomfortable in order
to make yourself comfortable?” Somehow, I would’ve
felt very awkward construing myself as a victim. But
deriding our treatment as a group, in solidarity, I
will not hesitate to do.

So I should mention at this point that I find it
despicable that upwards of 1000 people were illegally
arrested. As it turns out, I was one of the only
voluntary arrestees of the day; in almost all other
cases, people were not given the opportunity to
disperse, but were picked up off the sidewalk for
nothing worse than walking in the wrong place. Many
weren’t even protestors. The police were clearly
stealing tactics from Bush; they were launching bona
fide preemptive strikes on the protests. Before I made
my way to Herald Square, I came across a group
gathering on the steps of the Public Library. Just as
quickly, I saw a line of cops slice through their
gathering, then torment and arrest all the protestors
who found themselves on the wrong side of the line.
They didn’t even give protestors a chance to cross the
proverbial line or a chance to act out of line; they
assumed that we would be violent, presumed us guilty,
and arrested us while we were still innocent. George
Bush preemptively struck Iraq on the claim that they
possessed weapons of mass destruction. The police
struck the protestors because we had our weapons too;
the pen is mightier than the sword, and the will of an
organized people is mightier than any number of
corrupt policies. After 500,000 people marched
peacefully on Sunday, striking a harmonious note of
opposition before Bush’s convention even started, they
weren’t going to let protests steal the glory now that
the show was actually going on. Maybe they figured
that if they arrested all the protestors, there would
be no protests. Or maybe they figured that if they
arrested a thousand people, the rest of America would
assume we were all unruly anarchists, every last one.

I should also mention the despicability of Pier 57,
where we spent the first night. I arrived somewhere
around 1 AM, after we waited behind eight other busses
in a long queue to drop off the perps. As I stepped
off the bus, one cop, eyeing my Hendrix tie-dye and
African pants, shouted, “Take this kid to the Grateful
Dead show!”

Another shout followed him, “Four more years!” At that
moment, one would actually hope he was referring to
George Bush’s presidency, rather than the duration of
our stays in prison. I didn’t have trouble making that
differentiation; I expected to be out by the next
morning at the latest. We were still at Pier 57 the
next morning, meaning our booking process had not even

It was not the greatest place to spend the night.
Later I learned that Mayor Bloomberg explained, “It’s
not supposed to be Club Med.” Now, I am no fan of
luxurious resorts. But when we entered Pier 57, the
first thing we saw were signs on the wall warning
workers to wear proper protective gear, because
apparently it is normally a fueling station. Needless
to say, we were not provided with the goggles,
reflective gear, and boots that the signs prescribed.
Apparently, it is normally a fueling station. The
ground was oily and sooty, and because we were not
provided with blankets of any variety, that filth was
what we slept on. After a few hours, all our shirts
were blackened, many people’s eyes were burning, and
many more people felt nauseous. On top of it all, the
Transit Workers Union informed the National Lawyers
Guild that the building used to contain asbestos.
Eventually, we were all told to sit and we were each
provided with a single processed-cheese sandwich. And
finally, they started to call our names in groups of
10-20 people. It was probably about 8AM that I was
cuffed again and loaded into a Corrections Department

They brought us to central booking at 100 Centre
Street. They cut our painful plastic cuffs and put us
in metal cuffs, chained together, and walked us
through innumerable lines. First they walked us
upstairs. Wait. Then they walked us into a holding
pen. Wait. Then they walked us through a full-body
search. Wait. Then they walked us through a metal
detector. Wait. Then they walked us to a new holding
pen. Wait. Then they walked us to a third holding pen,
without any explanation as to what made this different
than the last holding pen. I guess the only thing that
made it different was that we were fed another cheese

Somebody was stalling. There was no apparent reason
for us to be moved back and forth. So, here’s Exhibit
A, published by the New York Times:

“’When the mayor bid for this convention, part of his
argument, to bring either convention here, was that
New York City had the only police force to deal with a
modern anarchist threat,’ said Kevin Sheekey, a close
adviser to the mayor who served as president of the
convention host committee.”

And Exhibit B? When my mother called central booking,
she was told, “The demonstrators will be held until
the president is done speaking.”

Clearly, they wanted to keep us off the streets as
long as possible. I want to address this “anarchist
threat” for just one second. Fox News, the New York
Post, and the Daily News ranted and raved about it. If
they knew anything about anarchism, they would know
that it centers around a utopian pacifism. And if they
knew anything about protestors, they would know that
most of us are pretty left-leaning, meaning, whether
we like to think about it this way or not, that we
support a strong government presence, at least in the
economic sphere.

A few days before the convention began, I read a Daily
News Article about the Nation’s 50 Most Dangerous
Anarchists. They mentioned an organization called,
redundantly enough, The Organization. I know those
kids from protests; they’re nothing more than a bunch
of college-aged kids, mostly girls, who wear all grey,
dig Che, and every once in a while stage guerilla
theater by dressing up as Arabs and dumping fake blood
all over each other in public. They might burn the
occasional flag or talk about Molotov cocktails, but,
as much as they would hate to admit it, they are
patently harmless. And they’re the scariest the Daily
News could come up with.

But, nonetheless, they wanted to keep us stalled and
imprisoned. And that is what they did, deliberately.
Exhibit C? The “regular criminals” got to cut all the
lines; they were booked, printed, pictures, and
arraigned in a quarter of the time we were. I guess
free speech is more socially reprehensible than public
drunkenness, burglary, or whatever the regulars were
in there for. Exhibit D? Twelve hours elapsed in
between our fingerprinting and our mug shots. That’s
not mere procedure. They tried to tell us that it was
because we got “lost in the computers,” but all the
other people on line for mug shots had been on line
with us for fingerprints at the same time. What, did
they lose every single prisoner in the computers?

This was twelve hours, mind you, spent in a cell that
could not have taken up more than 100 square feet.
Twenty of us in there, not a one who wasn’t
sleep-deprived. But due to space constraints, we had
to sleep in shifts. And we who weren’t sleeping,
talked. I must say, being locked up with fellow
protestors is not the worst company one can ask for.
For example, I can't say I minded spending 20 hours
with a guy named David Weddingdress (‘Dress’ for
short) who looks like Allen Ginsberg and wears a pink
dress everywhere he goes to declare his androgyny. We
discussed many topics, from where we got arrested, the
varying degrees of randomness of our arrest, the pros
and cons of the Kerry and Nader campaigns, and general
strategy for political organization.

When we requested vegetarian food, they brought us
soy-meat sandwiches, specifically ordered to cater to
our pinko-hippie needs. But when we requested phone
calls, we were nixed by our late-night guard with
indifferent scorn. It took thirty-six hours before I
was transferred to a cell with a payphone. And when we
requested lawyers, we were told that our lawyers were
too busy to see us. It was 41 hours before I saw a
lawyer; I didn’t see one until I entered the

New York law requires a writ of habeas corpus within
24 hours (federally, it’s 48 hours). None of us knew
what we had been charged with, so this was a clear
violation. Arraignment didn’t take more than five
minutes, and then I was free to go, so it’s quite
obvious that they were dodging arraignment to make it
as long as possible before we were all free to go. If
they held us until Bush was done speaking, they would
have held me for nine hours longer than they did, for
a total of 50 hours. For sitting on a sidewalk.

A few years ago I worked on the political campaign of
New York’s leading civil rights lawyer, who was
director of the NYCLU for 15 years, Norman Siegel.
When my parents found out that I had been arrested,
they called him; luckily, he had figured that
“concerned parents” would make the best plaintiff
group for a writ of habeas corpus, so he had my mother
write an affidavit about how I’m an “honors student”
who “did community service in Kenya” and how I “was
raised to believe in making the world a better place.”
That’s not the normal parental response to their son’s
arrest, I would assume. And when the judge heard that
the central booking phone operator had let slide that
we were supposed to be held until Bush was done
speaking, the judge was ready to rule. She ruled that
if all prisoners were not charged within the allotted
48 hours after their arrest (which only gave 5-10 more
hours in most cases), then they must be released.

Then things started to move. I found out when I
entered the courtroom that I had been charged with
disorderly conduct (a violation) and resisting arrest
(a misdemeanor). The prosecution offered to reduce my
sentence to just disorderly conduct, and give me time
served. I chose instead to plead not guilty. I didn’t
resist arrest; my arrest was quite purposeful, and I
let them carry me away. And if they are to convict me
of disorderly conduct, they have to prove that I
caused public alarm or panic. It took them forty
minutes to arrest me after I sat down; they would be
quite incompetent to let such an alarming character
sit on the sidewalk for forty minutes. Moreover, they
never dispersed the crowds around me who didn’t join
me in my sedentary civil disobedience. The only
ostensible “public” in which I might have instilled
panic was the “public” who was cheering me on and
giving me water bottles. So my court date is November

They probably expected all the protestors to plea
bargain and accept time served or an ACD. That’s the
only way they can make arrests on such massive a
scale; if they don’t have to give a real hearing for
each person. When the officers were explaining to us
why it was taking so long, they told us that we had
“bogged the system”. Perhaps, continuing to bog the
system is the only way to keep them from disregarding
the judicial and Constitutional system that supposedly
runs this country.

So please let everyone know that this is what happened
at the Republican Convention. A lot of people showed
up to peaceably protest the Bush agenda, and due to
pressure exerted by the Bush administration, they were
unduly inconvenienced and held for anywhere from 36-50
hours. Let them know that to the Bush administration,
which worked lock-in-key with the Bloomberg
administration, Constitutional rights are nothing but
trifling technicalities meant for bending and breaking
when they stand in the way of political expedience and
gain. We already knew he had no problem with Abu
Ghraibs and Guantanamo Bays for "alien others", so now
let them know that Bush has no ideological qualms
about initiating a police state. And let's wait to see
how self-proclaimed liberals and the mass media react
to this so we can see where they stand.

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Old 09-14-2004, 06:32 AM   #2
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I would have been shocked 4 years ago, but not now.

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Old 09-14-2004, 06:43 AM   #3
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Shocked about what???

This is a slanted view (obviously) of his own account where he clearly astates that he violated law to get arrested.

Sorry they didn't put him up in a nice hotel....
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Old 09-14-2004, 07:21 AM   #4
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Sure NB, he did get arrested, but that doesn't account for the way he was treated.

"Nice hotel".....original.
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Old 09-14-2004, 09:20 AM   #5
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For the record, this guy is a 17 year old native of NYC and the son of millionaires. He spent the summer digging wells and building a school for poor African kids. While I do agree the way he was treated was appalling, I don't see how it's Bush's fault more than the good old NYPD.
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Old 09-14-2004, 02:56 PM   #6
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Protests are as American as apple pie. Protesters shouldn't get arrested as long as they don't hurt anyone.

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