Photo: AP, from Seattle November 1999
in a Police State Not So Far Away
By R. Lipperty
I have rested and attempted to catch up on work, so now I feel as if I can reflect on what happened in DC that weekend. Since I am sure all of you heard through one source or another I decided it would be best to write ya'll myself and explain what happened. For those of you who did not hear, I was arrested in Washington DC for absolutely nothing. [I was told not to be to specific in case this whole thing goes to court; we wouldn't want anything to be misunderstood.]
I left for DC eager to kick some corporate booty on Thursday, September 27th. It rained the entire way down there and was quite stressful. I was going with a friend from Santa Fe. We got to DC around 11 and met up with some other friends to find out the plan for action. There were a couple of events that were happening on Friday which we were interested in. There was a snake march, a critical mass bike ride and a drum circle in Freedom Plaza. My friend and I had decided that as a two-person affinity group we were not going to participate in direct action that had a high risk of arrest. We were worried that we might be split up because of our different sex and did not feel like facing the DC police or the legal system alone.
With that in mind, we agreed to meet our other friends at the snake march, and we would simply step out of it if things started getting sketchy. We finally made our way into bed (we were staying with a wonderful, generous friend of my sister's) at 2 a.m. We both started laughing sadly at 5 when the alarm went off. We groggily made it to the snake march.
We were disheartened by the hundreds of cops who were on every street corner. There were probably 300 people at the march which did not seem like enough to 'shut down the city.' Everyone seemed eager, though, to cause a ruckus. The march left about 7:45 and made it about two blocks before being enclosed by the police.
We stepped out of the crowd as a brick was thrown at a Citibank (this was of course what made the news). The police made many arrests here and at another snake march that broke off from this one. My friend and I were feeling sketched out by all this and we decided that it would be most beneficial if we volunteered as baby-sitters or something like that. Alas we could not get in touch with any one at the 'anti-authoritarian baby-sitters' club' so we decided to go to Freedom Plaza for the drum circle.
When we got there it was a typical scene, drumming, dancing etc. More and more people showed up along with the critical mass bike riders (who we would later find out were forced into the park by police). For a while no one noticed the amazing number of cops creeping in on us. And then all of a sudden the cops moved in and we found ourselves (350 people) cramped into a tiny space. They kept us there for two hours not letting anyone leave and slowly making arrests. It was so ridiculous, I did not believe that we were actually getting arrested until they put the cuffs on me. The people at the park, me and my friends included, were doing nothing illegal. We were not charged with anything because there was nothing to charge us with.
My backpack was taken from me and thrown on the ground. I was not sure I was going to see it again, which really scared me because the car keys and house keys were in it. After that we were put on a bus (I was with most of my friends from Santa Fe including the one I traveled with) and we began our 27- hour stay with the DC police. It was so stupid. We were on a bus for 15 hours and on a police academy gym floor for 12. We were the absolute last bus of people to be booked and were taken back and forth between the police academy and a court in the city. Our hands stayed cuffed the entire time we were on the bus, but at least the police let us have them in front of us instead of behind us.
We were fed bologna sandwiches which did not make any sense because 3/4s of the bus were vegetarians or vegans. We were not given enough water and we were all dehydrated. But all in all it actually was not that bad. The police were 'nice,' and in regards to other arrests I have heard about, it was just more boring then anything else. When we finally got booked it was five a.m. We were put on mats with our right wrist handcuffed to our left ankle. I could not sleep at all here because of the fluorescent lights and the constant noise.
This was where we were for the next 12 hours until our names were called. We each paid $50 and were let go. My final charge was 'Failure to obey.' I told the cop who was writing the ticket that there was not an order given that I could have obeyed. He ignored me.
Thankfully my backpack had made its way to where I was and the only thing missing were a pair of underwear (EWWWW gross). At the end we were exhausted, starving and so so so grumpy. I cannot believe that we were made to waste 27 hours of our lives and pay $50 for sitting in a park.
After we were let out, my friends and I went and ate and then went to the court room where they were releasing people who chose to stay in jail as a show of solidarity. These people were let go six hours after us and did not have to pay the $50. I learned a lot about the whole process.
We all went back to the place I was staying and passed out for 11 hours. In the morning we had a bite to eat (still starving) and got the heck out of DC.
Looking back on all of it, it seems very unreal. I have been incredibly tired and moody all week. I am angry at the DC police, the media and everyone involved in the crap that went on. To all of you, please visit independent media sites like www.indymedia.org to find out the real story of the arrests because the mass media is not being honest. The DC police preemptively arrested 649 people who were using their first amendment rights. It is shameful. We really do live in a police state, I learned that in DC. At any rate this article is long enough. I love you all. Keep fighting.++