Hopita (hopita) wrote,

On what happened to me during my arrest

Once we'd returned to Downtown from the South Side, and were walking on Smithfield Street near Kaufmann's, I called Monica [last name deleted] on her cell phone. This was at approximately 7:00 p.m. She stopped on Smithfield Street at Mellon Square Park and waited for me. When we met up, we held hands. I told her I was exhausted and was heading back to my car; at that point, I planned to continue with the march until we returned to the Federal Building, and then to continue walking to my car, no matter where people marched next (my car was parked at a parking meter on Penn Avenue near 16th Street, between 16th and 17th Streets), and I told Monica as much.

We were following the crowd - the police were steering us from Smithfield Street to turn right on 7th Avenue. At the corner of 7th Avenue and William Penn Place, the police came into the crowd on the northwest corner of the street and threw a man against a building, then dragged him into the street. I remember he had a pickle barrel drum around his neck, and the strap was broken. The crowd on the corner started chanting "Let Him Go! Let Him Go!" but Monica was spooked by the police - she said she'd been in a similar demonstration in England when the cops went nuts and arrested everyone, and that it was time for us to go. We crossed the street - a police officer directed us to the southeast corner of the street with his baton.

We crossed onto the southeast corner into a very tight crowd of people. Once we were on the southeast corner, the same thing happened again - the police came into the crowd and started "subduing" someone against the building. Monica and I - still holding hands - attempted to keep moving down the block, but the police struggle was forcing the crowd back into the street, where there were more officers, forcing people back onto the sidewalk. People were getting crushed, people were screaming - I was screaming, I believe. I was losing my footing - Monica was trying to pull me forward in a safe direction.

Monica kept trying to guide me to safety and was leading me down the William Penn Place sidewalk toward Liberty Avenue, in the direction of both of our cars. The crowd was so thick that soon we were unable to move. When we were facing toward the street and realized there was nowhere to go, I picked up my cell phone. Monica asked who I was calling and I said "my parents." There was so much screaming and yelling that it was hard to hear, but when I thought I heard my father answer, I yelled into the phone "They're beating people up. I'm gonna call you when I get home and if you don't hear from me, then I need help!" Suddenly, a police officer reached onto the sidewalk, grabbed Monica and pulled her off of my hand and into the street. I had had an orange "NO WAR" balloon tied onto my wrist, and when the police officer grabbed Monica, the balloon went flying into the sky. I looked on in disbelief for a moment, then, when I saw Monica go down to the ground, surrounded by officers, I turned right and continued walking toward Liberty Avenue.

At this point, a police officer told all of us to turn around and grab the wall. I wasn't sure who he was talking to, but he made it clear, saying "now everyone's going to jail." I thought he was kidding. The police had been saying to stay on the sidewalk, and I had stayed on the sidewalk. Never once did they tell us to disperse. Up until that point I had actually been attempting to continue walking, but was unable to due to the actions of the police themselves.

The police were forcing us forward toward the wall, upset that everyone's hands weren't touching the wall, and a woman in front of me, Shannon [last name deleted], was getting crushed, telling her boyfriend, Manny [last name deleted], who was standing directly to my right, that she couldn't breathe. The officer went to push us forward again, and I turned slightly toward him, while keeping both of my hands straight up in the air, and told him that people couldn't breathe and were getting crushed. At that point he stopped pressing us forward and let us simply stand with our hands straight up in the air. I asked Shannon if she was ok and she said yes, she could breathe now, and thanked me.

Manny was arrested before me. He kissed Shannon goodbye and told her to relax, and that everything would be ok and everyone would be alright. They arrested me next. They told me to but my hands behind my back, which I did, but even though I was complying, they put the cuffs on very tightly (they were using plastic "zip tie"-style handcuffs on everyone. When the cuffs were finally removed, my hands were red and swollen. It took nearly 24 hours before the cuff marks went away). This was at approximately 7:20 p.m. on Thursday, March 20. The officer turned me around and told me to walk toward the horses and, at first, I couldn't see where the horses were. They guided me around and into a paddy wagon. Other people in that wagon included Ann [last name deleted], Rachel [last name deleted] and Manny. We sat in the wagon for a brief while, discussing what was happening and what was about to happen. A man sitting on the bench at the door had managed to free his hands from the cuffs and got his cell phone out. He called someone and let them know what was happening, and then he allowed Rachel [last name deleted] to call her mother. Then the police opened the door and moved us onto a PAT bus.

The bus I was on had Tiffany [last name deleted], Catherine [last name deleted], and Manny on it. There was an Allegheny County police officer toward the back half of the bus who was very respectful and polite toward us. I believe his name started with an "L" or an "La" (I think another officer called him something like "LaRouche"). He was a middle aged white man. Unfortunately, he was one of a very few police officers who treated the protesters as human beings.

The busses arrived at the Allegheny County Jail. We were on the second bus, and had to wait for quite some time before being seen. During this time, Manny's cuffs were on him so tightly that his hands turned a very pale, sickly shade of purple. After some talking to the nice officer, Manny was seen by another officer and taken off the bus to have his cuffs removed. Another person on the bus, Tiffany [last name deleted], also had very tight cuffs on, and her hands had swollen to a very large size. Another officer removed her cuffs and placed steel handcuffs on her instead, and at that point, we were all able to see that the plastic cuffs had been so tight on her wrists (and over her beaded bracelets) that one of her wrists was actually sliced open and bleeding. Additionally, while we were waiting, one of the juveniles on the bus had an asthma attack. Officers came onto the bus and assisted that person, giving them a blast from their inhaler.

The juveniles were taken off of our bus first. While this was happening, I could feel my cell phone ringing in my front left jeans pocket (my phone vibrates when it rings). One of the other prisoners, Catherine [last name deleted], tried to assist me in answering my phone, but by the time we navigated it out of my pocket, it had stopped ringing. Since my parents were the last people I had placed a call to, I was able to instruct her on how to call them, but simply pushing the green "dial" button twice to activate the redial feature. She held the phone in her hands (behind her back) and I listened, and, when I believed I heard my fathers voice, I yelled "If you can hear me, we're being taken to the Allegheny County Jail!" At this point, the polite officer told us that we had to put the phone away, which we did (Catherine and I discovered that I also had a $10 bill in my pocket, as it started to fall out when she put the phone back in. We managed to get both items back into my pocket).

The men were taken off the bus next, then briefly brought back on, and then off again. The women were then moved to a second PAT bus (parked nearby), where a female officer asked our names and wrote them down on a list. We were then taken off the bus, in the order in which our names appeared on the list, and taken inside the Jail garage, where we stood in line to have our handcuffs removed. While standing in line, what I believe to be the final group of protesters arrived in a paddy wagon. Ann [last name deleted] was among this final group of protesters.

While standing in line waiting, I struck up a conversation with some officers standing nearby. One was an undercover officer, in plainclothes, with red hair and a red mustache, who appeared to be in his 30s. He made some remark about age and about his being older than us - something along the lines of "when you get to be my age..." and I told him that I didn't think he was much older than I was. He asked how old I was and I replied "32." "32?" he said, somewhat shocked, "you look great for your age - what's your secret?" I replied that it was "all of that happy, hippie vegetarian living." I thought about this conversation after I was released from jail and had a chance to read some of the news reports and the Thomas Merton Center's official statement on the arrests. While my age may not qualify me to be considered a "youth organizer," it is also true that I look much younger than 32, and people regularly assume that I am 7 - 10 years younger than I actually am.

One by one our cuffs were removed and we were sent to various stations; I was first sent to the officers who were dealing with people who had bags, who told me to place any items for safekeeping into my purse. I placed my cigarettes and Bic lighter into my purse, but the officer removed them (as of the writing of this document, I have not yet received my purse from the police, so I do not yet know if these items will be returned to me). Had the officers told me I would need my drivers license, or that I would not be able to retrieve my property until two days after my release, I would have kept my wallet, keys, and cell phone on my person. Unfortunately for me, the officers were encouraging me to place those items into my purse, which I did.

I was then routed to a room where the women were being patted down by female officers, with male officers looking on and shouting instructions. A male officer told me to empty my jeans pockets onto a table, which I did. Catherine [last name deleted] was to my left as I was being patted down, and she was being patted down by a different officer. The officer who was patting me down grabbed my breasts very vigorously and shook them hard at least three times, at which point I said something to her like "Geez ... you should've bought me dinner first." Once she was done, I was told to sit in a chair and remove my shoes and socks, which I did. Once they checked them, I was told to put them back on, which I did, although while I was doing so, I was being yelled at for not doing it fast enough. Catherine [last name deleted] was never told by these officers that she was allowed to put her shoes and socks back on. I was then told to retrieve my items from the table, and when I did, I saw that my blue Bic lighter was gone. I told the male officer it was missing and he said they took it. I asked how I was supposed to get it back after I was released and I was told "You don't."

Next I was directed through a doorway and into a sort of hallway or lobby. This was, I later learned, the area where the holding cells are. I was directed to stand against the wall, which I did. A woman with a clipboard asked me a series of questions, including if I was on any drugs (I told her about my blood pressure medication, and she said no, she meant "street drugs." I then told her "no."), if I had ever been arrested before ("no"), if I had a history of mental illness ("no"), and finally, if I had any medical conditions (at which point I told her "yes," and then told her specifically about my blood pressure prescription, Aldomet). Next I was interviewed by an officer at the counter (whose left arm twitched) who took down my name, date of birth, address, and a list of what I was wearing. I was then directed to stand back against the wall, and, shortly thereafter, I was placed in cell H8.

The other people in cell H8 with me were Shannon [last name deleted], Leah [last name deleted], Tiffany [last name deleted], Diana [last name deleted], Ann [last name deleted], Lisa [last name deleted], Catherine [last name deleted], and Amiena [last name deleted]. The nine of us were to remain in that cell until the following morning, sometime after 7:00 a.m.

We were given bail forms to fill out, and, after we turned them in, an African American woman yelled at several people in the room for not filling out the "references" section. These women later filled these sections out, although from the form itself, we were led to believe that listing these references was considered optional.

One of the women in H8, Amiena [last name deleted], is a high school teacher for the [school name deleted] school district (10th Grade English), and at around 4:00 a.m., she was allowed to make a telephone call to make sure that there would be a substitute teacher to teach her class, and that the substitute teacher would have her lesson plan. I believe the call she made was to her mother, as she did not have all of the necessary phone numbers on her in jail. Amiena [last name deleted] was the only person in H8 granted a phone call. Several other women requested to be allowed one phone call, many of them so that they could call their employers, and they were all denied access to a telephone. I was very lucky to have been able to make that cell phone call from the PAT bus, otherwise no one would have known where I was.

Over the course of the night several officers were rude to us (yelling in the windows "Was it worth it?" and playing the t.v. news very loudly at the desk, making comments about the war and Iraq, saying "now you know what it's like to live in Iraq!", calling us "idiots" and "traitors," and swearing almost non-stop). There was an African American male who was stationed at the desk for much of the night, and he was reasonably nice to us. Also, another young White male officer brought the nine of us one lunch bag containing one baloney and cheese sandwich, one pint-sized orange drink, and one cookie. He said "I wouldn't eat this, but if you want to, go ahead." Those of us who were awake at the time split the food between us, with the vegetarians and vegans only being able to partake of the cookie and the orange drink.

There was a shift change sometime around 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. Friday morning. The nurse whose shift started at approximately 7:00 am on Friday called us cowards. She actually went from cell to cell, yelling in the windows and berating us all as "cowards" (we later asked another nurse, Ellen, for her name, but she refused to tell us. The nurse who called us names was working at the same time as Ellen, at the desk behind her. She was thinner and had short, wavy dark hair.) Additionally, many of the officers whose shifts began Friday morning came by our windows to yell at and taunt us.

There were also two or three officers on the Friday morning shift who were talking about Tiffany, singling her out, saying that she was the one who had photographed them assaulting someone as they were being arrested. One of these officers referred to Tiffany as "the chubby one."

Once the Warden came on duty, things changed somewhat. He came and spoke to the nine of us, was very polite, and even apologized for our being there, saying that the people who should be in the County Jail are "the thugs and thieves." While he said he could not allow us to make telephone calls, he did say that he would have calls made for us, and had Officers come around with paper and pencils for each of us to write down the name and number of somebody we would like to have called. I do not know for a fact one way or another if those calls were in fact made for us.

The Warden was also the first one to offer us all food, and had bags of Corn Flakes and milk brought around to all of us. This first meal occurred after we had spent approximately 14 hours in jail.

Sometime on Friday morning, the nine of us from H8 were moved to another, larger cell, with at least nine other women. The cell had no number on the door, but was located directly across from the Nurse's office. The other people in the cell included Sara [last name deleted] (who had been having bloody diarrhea all night long, had some preexisting medical conditions, and, as of 11:00 a.m., had not yet been allowed to see a nurse), Liz (the ACLU monitor), Kanna, Josephine "Josy" [last name deleted], Debora [last name deleted], Laura [last name deleted] (whose nose was fractured and who did not get x-rayed until after she was released on Saturday morning), Rachel [last name deleted] (who has diabetes and who had been denied medical treatment all night long), Analena [last name deleted], and Ana Cecilia "Ceci" [last name deleted] (whose right eye and face was bruised). There may have been one or two other women in that cell whose names I have forgotten.

It wasn't until around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., when the Public Defender and the Assistant Warden came to see us, that any of us were granted medical attention. The Public Defender asked for a show of hands of who needed medical attention, and once he left our cell, went straight across the hall and talked to the nurses. Once that happened, the nurses called us in one by one.

The nurse named Ellen was very kind and respectful. She took my blood pressure (it was elevated) and the information about my medication, my pharmacy, and my doctor, and, once she had confirmed my information, she gave me a Catapres (since they did not have my prescription, Aldomet, or the generic version, Methyldopa, on hand). The nurse whose shift was after hers also took my blood pressure (it was still elevated), and told me that if I was still in jail at 11:00 p.m., I needed to come back and see her for another Catapres tablet.

In addition, Nurse Ellen got an ice pack for Laura [last name deleted] (whose nose was fractured), and got some sort of anti-diarrheal medication for Sara. Sara did require additional medical attention throughout the day.

Our treatment remained satisfactory throughout the day, while the Warden, the Assistant Warden, and the Public Defender were on duty and somewhere in the facility. Once they were gone for the day, the taunting began anew.

I remained in that cell until Friday evening. Other women were one by one taken away for fingerprinting throughout the day. I was taken for fingerprinting sometime between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Friday evening. When I was taken, there were still five other women remaining in the cell: Ceci [last name deleted], Kanna, Laura [last name deleted], Diana [last name deleted], and Debora [last name deleted].

When I was taken to fingerprinting, there were three Fingerprint Technicians in the room: two Fingerprint Techs, and the Fingerprint Tech Supervisor, whose first name was Dave (and whose last name has a "dg" in it, like "Hodgepodge" or "Wedgeworth"). When I arrived in fingerprinting, Dave said to one of the Fingerprint Techs "I'm going to Boston Market." The Fingerprint Tech asked where Boston Market was. Dave said it was across from Pegasus, laughed, and then proceeded to make fun of gay men, talking in a high, "queeny" voice and waving his hands around.

After I was fingerprinted and photographed, three other women from my cell, Ceci [last name deleted], Diana [last name deleted], and Debora [last name deleted], were brought in for fingerprinting and photographing. After being fingerprinted and photographed, I was led out with Debora [last name deleted] and Diana [last name deleted]. The officer leading us to the next area told the guard there that Debora [last name deleted] and Diana [last name deleted] were to be taken to court and released on their own recognizance, while I was to be held longer and seen by what they alluded to be a harsher judge. I was then placed in cell CH1, with Shannon [last name deleted], Ann [last name deleted], and a young woman who was not a protester but who had been arrested for underage drinking (I believe her first name started with an "S"). Ceci [last name deleted] was brought to the same cell shortly thereafter. Not long after that, another woman, Brenda [last name deleted], was brought into CH1. She was not in jail for protesting.

There was a man in the cell next door to ours, an African-American inmate wearing red inmate scrubs, who was screaming, yelling, and taunting the protesters non-stop. He was yelling, among other things, that the women protesters were really prostitutes who pretended to be protesters when the police showed up, and that the male protesters were all "fags." The officers on duty were not only not chastising him, but were in fact egging him on, doing things like telling him when another protester was about to be brought in, and saying that we were all "rich, white college kids." After more than an hour of listening to this man yell and scream insults and threats of violence, Shannon [last name deleted] became very upset, and began crying uncontrollably. She called the officers to the door, in tears, and asked why they were doing nothing to stop this man, and she was mocked and told "this is jail."

In addition, this cell had no running water. There was a toilet that flushed, but the sink and water fountain did not work. The woman arrested for underage drinking requested something to drink, as did Shannon [last name deleted] and Ann [last name deleted]. They were told by the guard that there was only one container of orange drink left, and we all agreed that the woman who was arrested for underage drinking should have it, both because she was probably dehydrated from being drunk, and also, simply, because she had asked first. However, a short while later, the abusive man in the next cell requested some juice, and without any discussion, the Officer brought him an orange drink, even though he had told the protesters that there were none left.

After the 11:00 p.m. shift change on Friday night, two new officers, including Officer Olynski (whose name I may be spelling somewhat incorrectly) came on duty. I told Officer Olynski that the nurse had said if I was still in jail, I should go back and see her about my blood pressure. Officer Olynski refused to get my medication or contact the nurse, even though the nurse had told me to have her contacted if I was still in jail at 11:00 p.m. I told all of this to Officer Olynski and he simply refused to verify what I was telling him with the nurse. Additionally, both Officer Olynski and the younger, thinner White male Officer that came on duty with him at 11:00 p.m. on Friday made rude, snide comments about the protesters in general, beginning the very minute that they came on duty.

At approximately 12:00 midnight on Saturday morning, Brenda [last name deleted], Ceci [last name deleted], the woman arrested for underage drinking, Ann [last name deleted], Shannon [last name deleted] and I were all removed from CH1, handcuffed, shackled, and taken to yet another cell to wait for a hearing with the Magistrate.

I was finally taken from that cell to see the Magistrate at approximately 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 22, after spending more than 31 hours in the jail. The Magistrate asked when I was arrested and even he looked stricken upon hearing how long I had been held without being brought before a Judge.

It was at this time that I learned what the charges against me were: one count of Failure to Disperse (5502) and one count of Obstructing a Public Passage (5507A1).

I have participated in a number of marches, rallies and demonstrations over the past 15 years of my life. This is the very first time that I was arrested. At all of the other actions, there was some sort of line drawn in the sand; an announcement that if people stayed and participated in some sort of action, they risked going to jail. There was no such announcement made this time. There was no warning.

While I was charged with Failure to Disperse, there was never an announcement made to disperse. Ironically, I was actually attempting to "disperse," to get to my car and go home, when the arrests were made, but the actions of the police themselves made it impossible to do so.

Finally, throughout the entire time that I was held in the Allegheny County Jail, not once was I read my Miranda Rights, and not once was I granted one phone call. I was only given my blood pressure medication once during my entire 31+ hour stay, and, along with all of the other protesters, I was subjected to non-stop ridicule, taunting, and name-calling at the hands of the majority of the guards and nurses.
Tags: activism, amiena, balloons, boobs, bullshit, cops, dad, dearprudence8, homophobia, jail, peatasaurus, phone, pittsburgh, protests, queenama, smoking

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