Today, and in the Coming Days: Be Careful

Hi everyone, I'm out of jail.

I want to warn everyone in New York about the coming few days, and tell you about my experiences.

If you are planning to protest today in today's "sanctioned" march, it is important that you stay away from people who are confronting the police, because the police have set up a system to arrest people indiscriminately. Be alert to even a hint of aggression from the police.

The police are expecting Sunday and Tuesday to be "big days." Sunday, because people will try to converge in Central Park, and Tuesday because of the civil disobedience planned. If you do go to Central Park, you may not be able to bring a bag with you, and you won't be allowed to bring any signs. Many people are bringing black umbrellas, because the police can't arrest anyone for that. I would recommend this strongly. Also, stay away from anybody confronting the police about today's Park rules. There will be large crowds, which may make you feel saver, but I'm not sure this isn't just a bigger, better opportunity for police to make arrests. Hopefully force won't be applied to the march itself, but the problem of crowd dispersal is a distressing one, especially since people will be trying to get to Central Park, and will probably be confrontational with the police.

I was arrested after the police let us ride up and down the city for over an hour, and before we were given an opportunity to disperse. In fact, the police were telling people to move as they arrested them, rather than making clear, unequivocal announcements and waiting for the crowds to disperse.

The police perspective in the articles I have read is abundant, but it is largely false. The police were telling people that riding two abreast was illegal, but most people did not hear this or didn't believe it, and the legal advisors and the NYCLU was telling people they couldn't make arrests on that charge, that it was a ticketable, not an arrestable offence. We were then allowed to ride. Only at the end were people arrested, after the police had cordoned off several sections of separated bicyclists.

Several people kept in detention with me were on their way to work, buying groceries, or just standing by, both on and off their own bicycles. Some were videotaping the event, some were asking police officers where to go. The papers I've read so far mention that a protestor threw a beer can at an officer and another needed stitches. This does not compare at all to being kept up all night in a holding pen on the Chelsea Piers, made to sleep on a floor covered with motor oil and transmission fluid, fed at 4 in the morning, transported to prison, being transferred from cell to cell, and never being told what is happening and ridiculed, harassed, and lied to. Many of us were bruised by police. One guy who was arrested with me had his leg gashed by an officer, another one had his arm dislocated. The plastic handcuffs on many of us were too tight, and some people will have to make a trip to the hospital later to make sure they don't have permanent nerve damage or blood clots. My arms and wrists still hurt from being handcuffed.

There is a large system set up to deal with protestors. First, the big space on 14th St, near the Piers, an old MTA bus warehouse someone said, where a temporary holding facility has been set up to hold about one thousand (two?) protestors at a time. Friday night, they arrived in city busses converted to transport arrested protestors. We were kept there and not allowed to make a phone call. The people I was with didn't get a phone call until noon the next day, after being up all night. In the jail downtown, they have a separate section for protestors, which are moved from cell to cell every 2 hours or so. Names are frequently called, and whether it is intentional or not, this disturbs people from their sleep, exhausting and frustrating them further. Everyone was jailed: men, women, young, old.

Someone jailed with me said the police wanted to arrest 500, but the police were only able to grab 250. I believe this is really because of the public, which was largely supportive of the temporary disruption. When I was first arrested, a crowd gathered and was yelling at the police, shouting their support for the cyclists, chanting "let them go," and telling the police they had supported their wage increase protests and questioning why the public was being treated in this way. So, I believe, this is why they didn't arrest more.

As Radical Reference people today, everyone needs to make sure they are getting the word out about police brutality and this attitude towards the public, and to warn people about Central Park today and the Tuesday action planned by A31. Could someone with a list of phone numbers of RR volunteers please call them ALL and tell them so they can warn people?

Because the media has reacted in the typical way, it is important to consider the effect our actions and protests will have on the rest of the country. Everyone has their own beliefs about what will happen, what should happen, and who they want to vote for. For most of the country, the "swing voter's" choice is Bush and Kerry, not Kerry and Nader. It is unclear to many of us if Kerry will be any better than Bush has been, but perhaps "unruly" actions are not good at this time because they may sway voters towards Bush, after they erroneously associate protestors in New York for being Kerry supporters. Should we be concerned? You decide, but do keep this in mind.

Thanks to Jenna and the other RR people for checking up on me. It feels really wonderful to be a part of this community. Thank you so much!