Below is a harrowing account of what happened to one woman who was
arrested in Philadelphia, written and sent to me by one of my former
students, Kate Cortesi, who is now interning at the Village Voice.
(She gave me permission to forward this.) Another
friend of mine had a very similar experience after being arrested. It
seems to me that this story has been vastly under-reported thus far, and
that it might be of interest to subscribers of this list-serve. It's
---------- Forwarded message ----------
What's up you guys. Here is an incredibly disturbing bunch of information
about the protests in Philly, really different from the ABC/NBC coverage.
My source is Rebecca Hill, a 31 year old woman who is about to start her
first year of being an adjunct professor at NYU and Kingsboro College in
Brooklyn in their History departments. She marched in the Kensington
Welfare Rights protest on Monday, and then was part of a pro-choice civil
disobedience act on Tuesday afternoon, which is where she got arrested.
I'm writing this, literally, after I hang up the phone with her, so this
ain't gonna read like Shakespeare.
Rebecca Hill went to stand outside the GOP convention in Philadelphia to
protest the way "big money controls national politics." Hill sees the
Republican conventions as "Big pageants that have nothing to do with the
way people really live."
To back up this statement she points to the Kensington march on Monday,
which took protesters right through a fairly poor, all-black part of
Philly. In honor of the convention, a flag from every state hung off the
street lights in the neighborhood, and right there flying alongside the
rest of them were a bunch of confederate flag. In the middle of an
entirely black neighborhood in Philadelphia. "This convention is not about
the people here at all," Hill said.
That night, she missed her train, and went to bar at the train station. A
roudy group of guys in town for the convention was in the bar, totally
wasted, carrying Republican convention 2000 paraphanalia. They were
talking shit like "We didnt need credentials! They just let us in and we
has some champagne, got into ABC press box, and got wasted!" Hill pointed
this out to refute the media protrayal of and the police attitude towards
protestors, i.e. on of not being intelligent or political, just there for
the party of protest. Hill saw these guys at the bar, waving around
convention material, drunk, and not about anything polical at all. But
this is nothing but an intro to what she told me next.
Hill was in the "youth block section" of the pro-choice protest,
advocating that not all young people are "fetuses," they are those who are
hurt with parental notification laws for abortions etc etc. Hill was
participating in an act of organized non-violent civil disobedience,
sitting in the intersection of Broad and Spruce. At the center of the
intersection was a chain people sitting down with boxes and tubes
connection their arms, so that their chain of bodies could not be easily
broken. This form of protest makes these guys vulnerable, so a group of
protectors encircled them to shield them from the police/violence that
might erupt and render them defenseless and immobile. Hill was one of the
people sitting around them as protection. A cop moved his bike practically
on top of her and said: "If you touch my bike youre gonna bite it." She
asked him: "What do you mean, youre going to shoot me?" He snapped,
"figure it out." She still doesnt really know what that means, but she
knew she was being threatened. She says thats what the cops did: theyd
move the bikes in and they yell at the protesters, "get off the bike!
Part of civil-disobedience is willingly accepting the punishment of the
law. Hill and the other protesters sitting at Broad and Spruce were
arrested and handcuffed willingly. She said the handcuffs were clearly put
on unnecessarily tight. The hands of the man next to her turned blue, and
when a cop finally came over to loosen, she heard him say under his
breath, "damn, who put these on, theyre really tight." Hill was arrested
along with about 30 other women who were protecting the chain of people at
the intersection. They were loaded onto a police van with the windows
rolled up and the heat turned on (what was the temperature on Tuesday?)
The protesters asked for water and, instead of giving it to them, the
police officer sitting in the front spilled her bottle of water down the
glass between the herself and those under arrest; the most they got was
the view of water sliding down the glass.
Hills Arrest time: 5:15
Time on her jail slip: 9:52.
Hill was on that bus, in the heat, windows rolled up, for a good four
hours, (some had been in there longer) even though the bus only had to get
to 7th and Race (in Center city) from Broad and Spruce (also in Center
City). They were left to sit a while in parking lot and then left to sit
in the garage at the police station, where there were a total of 3 buses
of about 30 people. They were not let off the bus until someone on another
bus passed out from dehydration. There was a hose in garage, everyone
drank out of that. "We were thankful to have it because we had been in a
boiling hot van for over four hours." She told me to imagine a hundred
people overjoyed because there was a single water hose hanging from the
ceiling in a garage. Hill points out that Philadelphias police tactics
are reminiscent of those employed by the cops in D.C. and the IMF/World
Bank protests (i.e. keeping people on buses for hours and hours without
water or food.)
Hill got into her cell at around ten. The cell was a 5 foot by 7 room,
much of which was occupied by a large toilet and the five other women
already in there. Over the next day, two more people were held in there
with them. Here are some descriptions of the people in her cell:
One woman was shaking violently like she was cold. What happened to her
was this: At the protest, she was put into a police van, but then looked
out the door b/c her boyfriend was getting arrested. The officer slammed
her head in the van door, causing an open gash to the head, and she
received no medical attention waiting in the van, or for her first many
hours in the holding cell. For this college student it was her first time
arrested, maybe even her first protest, though Hill is not sure. She was
not allowed to go to the hospital, police medical people said she was
fine, even when she passed out and fell off her chair in the room.
One woman was hypoglycemic but was only fed every eight hours (supposedly,
though it was more like twice a day). The woman started having
convulsions, and they still didnt feed her anything until hours of the
women in the cell pounding on bars and screaming for medical attention.
Another woman just flipped out and she punched her hand into wall. She
broke it. They took her out of the cell to treat her only after hours of
screaming for medical attention again. She got some cream and bandages,
but nothing more substantial, and no X-rays. They said she could stay in
jail or be admitted to a mental institution. She stayed in jail for days
with the untreated broken hand.
Another woman had psychiatric medication that she needed to take. The
police wouldnt let her take it there, but they offered her the option of
being admitted to a mental institution where they could administer the
drug for her.
They were fed twice in 24 hours (every 8 hours) 2 pieces of bread, one
slice of American cheese, some sort of ice tea. At a couple points the
guards said, "look guys, here peanut butter and jelly and chocolate
milk," and everyone got excited, but then they would just give the usual
bread and cheese. It was virtually impossible to sleep at all, because
there were so many people, no room, no blankets or anything.
One woman was put in solitary confinement She was held in a plexiglass
single cell. Then the police put 8 more people in there and left them for
an hour, only letting them out when they said they couldnt breathe.
One woman gave her name from the very beginning. She had a five year old
son outside, she wasnt able to get in touch with him.
Hill heard the sounds of a man being beaten. All women were left to wonder
if it was there own boyfriend/friend. One guard started crying when the
sounds of the man being beated, and another cop said to him: "Stand up and
walk like a man, bitch!"
Hill points out that most people arrested were very cooperative, giving
their names from the very beginning, eager to be fingerprinted and gotten
the hell out of there. This was the case for all 6 people in Hills cell
(I think). At 1 a.m., Wednesday, more than 24 hours after she had first
been admitted, was first time allowed to leave cell at all and the first
chance she was given to make a call. People were only allowed to go make
calls in the middle of the night. Hill does not think this is a
coincidence, but a deliberate act on the part of the police to make in
inconvenient for families and friends to come down and demand to know why
the hell people are being treated like animals. Also, the calls that
everyone tried to make to the R2K lawyers didnt go through. Other calls
worked fine, but not the ones to the lawyers. R2K said their end had been
working fine, but they were suprised when the calls slowed to virtually
none at all from the jails after Wednesday. Hill says this is very fishy.
Especially since the lawyers were not allowed into the prison until after
waiting outside the station for practically a whole day.
Hill was held in that cell Tuesday night, all day Wednesday, all day
Thursday, and was finally released Friday morning at 1 a.m. This is a
common story, even though pretty much the entire womens cell block was
willing to cooperate and just wanted to process to move along and go home.
Even after many had been finger printed, they were still not allowed to be
arraigned. Just kept there for days and days. Most of them are still
there. Some people she were brought over from Helmsburg. (That condemed
jail opened to put protesters in.)
The first wave of women got bail posted at $50,000. People who went to
jail (as opposed to holding cells while their arrests were administered
to) got much higher bails. (They went to jail and not just a holding cell
because they didnt give their names and cooperate with giving
fingerprints. Protesters do this to protect the anonymity of the leaders,
who would otherwise have gotten much more severe penalties than anyone
else.) Hill herself had her bail set at $10,000, the typical case for
women who gave their names and were ready to leave (although some people
got $15,000.) Amy Goodman reports that at least one leader has had bail
posted at a million dollars, which is totally ridiculous.
The women in holding cells spent the days chanting ("Ive got B.O. yes I
do! Ive got B.O. how bout you?"), singing songs, playing word games,
telling jokes, strategizing about getting medical attention to pass the
time and keep their spirits up. The women shouted down to the row of mens
holding cells: "Hey boys! How are you? Are you okay?" And the men would
respond. Some people made dolls out of toilet paper.
Okay so that is pretty discombobulated and anyone who made it to the end
of this is the MAN! Now I have to go learn about this organization that
tracks web company names and if you are saying bad things about a company,
the company can learn your real identity (through this service) and if you
are actually committing slander or libel, they find your identity and
arrest you within 48 hours! (yeah thats their guarantee for the bargain
price of $137,600!) Big Brother is most definitely watching, kids, so
watch your back!
Alright, for those of you whom this does not interest at all, sorry for
this long ass e-mail. love kate.
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