Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Continued Police State

The video speaks for itself.

Following is a first hand account, via Pharyngula, of Nathan Acks, who was arrested Monday August 25th at the protest that I posted below.

Last night at approximately 7:30pm I was arrested as part of a mass arrest at 15th & Court and charged with disrupting a permitted assembly and blocking public streets. A third charge - throwing rocks and missiles - was listed on my pre-printed ticket, but the crossed out.

At the time I was not protesting. I was acting as an observer for the People's Law Project, and was dressed in a button shirt and a neon-green baseball cap stating that I was acting as a representative of the National Lawyers Guild. I followed the protestors out of Civic Center Park, but remained on the sidewalk until pushed by riot police into the street. At no time during the abortive march did any legal observer, or any marcher that I have spoken to, observe any destruction of property, any thrown objects, or ANY ORDER TO DISPERSE BY THE POLICE.

At some point during my visit to Gitmo on the Platte, the compact flash card I had been carrying that contained photographic documentation of the protest disappeared. This included pictures of the badges of some of the officers involved, images of a marcher OBEYING police orders being shot with pepper spray point-blank in the eyes while trying to retreat (when I was hauled away he was sitting with a street medic, and I could hear him sobbing again and again, "I can't see..."), and photographs of a second protestor who was shot three times by what appeared to be three separate officers with bean-bag guns while KNEELING, motionless, 15 FEET AWAY, hands outstretched as if in prayer, and wearing nothing but a pair of POCKETLESS shorts.

The arresting police officers - Aurora PD - were uniformly assholes, but the officers from the sheriff's department who handled us after we arrived at Gitmo on the Platte were professional and sometimes even courteous. However, I know that this was not an experience shared by everyone, and did notice a significant change in attitude when it became apparent that I was functioning as a representative of the National Lawyer's Guild. My hat had been confiscated from me during the arrest, but one of the officers at the holding facility returned it to me shortly after I arrived. I wore it from that point forward.

At 10:53pm I had posted my own bond. At midnight myself and woman who was also arrested and had been able to make bond were released. We were the first two people to leave. I hitched a ride back with her friends, gave a video interview when I arrived back at the People's Law Project offices, and helped man the phones for the rest of the night, fielding calls from arrestees and worried friends and relatives.

At least as of last night, those of us who had been released were returned to the world STILL WEARING THE ZIP CUFFS WE HAD BEEN ARRESTED IN. The
police would cut out one of our hands, but leave the the remainder of the cuff
on the other hand. When I left the PLP offices this morning at 10am, calls were
coming in that folks being released from the courthouse were being hassled by
police in riot gear - ON THE STEPS OF THE COURTHOUSE ITSELF - and that more police in riot gear were stopping individuals - some minors - in Civic Center
Park and demanding to see photo ID and to be allowed to search any bags they
were carrying. Many of these officers - including many who made the arrests last
night - ARE NOT WEARING VISIBLE BADGES, or otherwise have their names and badge numbers obstructed. THIS IS ILLEGAL.

The way that the arrests were handled, the way that we were released still in zip cuffs, the way that bystanders are being hassled today, all represent a continuation of a pattern of intimidation that began before the convention and was already legally questionable. At least some police actions today have now fully crossed that line.

I will not be intimidated.

I've slept as much as I can, and am about to leave again, return to the streets, and again take up my position as legal observer. If I am arrested again, then so be it. I have the resources right now to overcome this - something that many others do not. And I have a job to do.

I almost closed my last e-mail with a saying from Frank Herbert's Dune that has its roots in modern Arabic. I decided that doing so would make the letter too melodramatic (something that several of you commented on anyway), but
today I have no qualms. If the explanation I have seen is correct, then it feels very appropriate. I say it now not for myself, but for those I was arrested with, those who stood up and sang as the riot police called in, and those who will also refuse to be intimidated and return to the streets today.

Long live the fighters!