Thursday, August 28, 2008

U-S-A, U-S-A Denver: Leg Shackles, Pepper Spray, Gitmoesque Frigid Air, Sleep Deprivation. Constitution? Just a Piece O' Paper

From the Denver Post, Mobile edition.
Editor's note: The following is a firsthand account from Martin, a young Colorado protester arrested Monday evening when police in riot gear surrounded a group of 100-200 protesters as they marched on 15th Street between Court and Cleveland Place.

"The first thing I really noticed was at Civic Center Park when I was in the 'Food Not Bombs' area. The police seemed to be ready for conflict. They walked through the 'Food Not Bombs' crowd, which was a peaceful group, holding their weapons out and looking at people, really intensely, trying to intimidate everyone. It made us all a little worried.

"I was planning to march with the group that night. We all had different reasons for being there. I was marching to make people aware that they should be worried about our civil rights being stripped systematically right now, and show people that habeas corpus is six feet under. I just think the time we live in has so many deep-rooted problems that I don't understand how people can NOT protest. I'd never been arrested before, and I have no criminal record or significant run-ins with the law.

"The group first gathered outside the City-County building, getting ready to march, but the police blockaded us. I didn't see the pepper spray there, but the whole group decided to retreat because we didn't want to be encircled by the police. So we went to the promenade and crossed onto 15th Street, linking arms, trying to stay as tight as we could and stay together.

"Everything happened really fast. We knew there were police behind us, and that presence was growing larger, with more police, but then suddenly there were police in front of us at the other end of the block. Shortly after that, the police encircled us. A lot of people were able to escape before they closed the circle, but the rest of us were inside, along with a journalist from Brooklyn, and a woman who started writing on her laptop about what was happening, and some photographers. There were many people who weren't protesters, just citizens, who were in the encircled group.

"We moved to the sidewalk - a few people stayed in the street - because we didn't want a confrontation, but it didn't matter.

"People started pleading: 'Let me go,' 'I want to go home.' The police started using the pepper spray. Some of the police on horses were whacking people with their batons. I was told later that the police were telling us to disperse, but I didn't hear them say that. And where would we go? The police were all around us, not letting us leave.

"We asked why we were being detained, but they wouldn't talk to us. They told us to sit down, and we sat down.

"Then they said that anyone with a photo I.D. could show it and be let out of the circle, and anyone without I.D. would be arrested. I saw a handful of people hold up their I.D., and police walked up to them, grabbed them and took them out. I don't know if they were arrested.

"They set up an arrest squad - two police per protester, and talked about who to pick - 'Get this one with the bandana' or 'Get that one in the black.' They were targeting individuals.

"The arrest process was: The two officers picked you up, searched you, took your bag and everything except your money. They put you in blue plastic handcuffs and walked you to a line where you stood in front of a camera, holding a placard with the charges against you, and then there was footage of the officer who'd arrested you. All I can remember is the officer claimed I'd done some things I had not done - said I'd thrown rocks, which I didn't do; I didn't see anyone with rocks. I asked him why he said that when I hadn't done it. His answers were vague, ambiguous.

"Then I was taken to another area, loaded onto a bus that took us to a warehouse in a Denver industrial park. There were Special Operations Response Team police there, who took our pictures again, printed both hands - not just the fingers, but our whole hand rolled onto the ink - and did a medical check. Then they assigned us to different chain-link cages, maybe 15 feet by 15 feet, all chain link, with a padlock. Between 10 and 20 of us were in one of those cages. Females and males were separated.

"They pumped in cold air, in these big white tubes, all night and all day the next day. It was freezing in there. I was lucky; I had a jacket, but other people were in shorts and T-shirts. We asked them to turn off the cold air, but they didn't.

"Eventually they put all of us in metal leg shackles, and re-handcuffed us in pairs, with our right hands together — right hand to right hand - so it was difficult to move. . .

"We were utterly confused. We did not understand why we were being detained. We hadn't been read our Miranda rights. We didn't know what we'd done to merit such a violent response, or why the Special Operations police were needed.

"After they shackled us, they put us in a van with no windows, and took us to the courthouse, where we were supposed to speak with a judge to hear the charges against us. We were still handcuffed, right hand to right hand. They took us in an elevator that went up to a jail cell, and we were told to watch a video of a judge telling us our rights, through the bars. It was surreal, like being in a futuristic movie, like "1984" or "A Clockwork Orange."

"Eventually, at about 2 a.m., we got to see a real judge, who explained our rights to us, and explained the charges. There was a lawyer, an angel, who explained everything in plain language. There were five charges against me: Blocking a public thoroughfare, not abiding an order to disperse, throwing rocks and missiles, loitering, and begging. At times, I had begged them for water, when we were sitting down on 15th Street before going through the arrest process.

"The attorney explained we had three choices: Plead guilty and post a $300 bond ($500 if you were from out of state), or accept a plea bargain that dropped all the charges but one that you had to pay $141 for, or plead not guilty and either post your own bail or wait in jail till your court date. But nobody had given us a court date. So I took the plea bargain, because I didn't have the money for bail.

"Then they walked us out of the courthouse, and we saw another group from the protest walking in. We were the first group to meet with a judge and a lawyer.

"Then they took us back to the warehouse. The only place to sleep was on a chair, if you got one, or on the concrete floor.

"I was really worried because I could not get any responses from the police. We kept asking how long we'd be there, when the bus was coming, and they'd keep saying, 'It's coming.' It felt inhumane, utterly terrifying. If they'd answered some of our questions, I think people would've been less terrified, less frightened, but I think the police were intentionally fatiguing us. They'd keep us for long periods of time in one cage, and then re-handcuff us and move us to another cell, as if something was about to change, but it didn't. It was all psychological.

"In the cells, we talked to each other about where we were from, the places we'd been, and if we'd been in situations before. We reassured each other of our rights, made sure everyone knew the People's Law Project hotline number, and that it was really important to get names and badge numbers. . . .

"I got out on Tuesday around noon. We learned we were the first wave of protesters to make it all the way through the process — 7 p.m. last night to noon today. . . .

Update here at Democracy Now.
Hat tip to anon for update links, top pic.


Anonymous said...

wow freaking wow. Found more links here, including some with pictures. :(

Anonymous said...

Also, Democracy Now! covered it.

Bukko_in_Australia said...

Next comes the torture, when it's a less-media-noted protest. The cold air pumping was just the appetiser. What America does overseas, it will eventually repeat at home.

SeattleTammy said...

aww, they've been doing that since the Battle in Seattle. And someday, I'll tell ya about the Mother's Day Battle held 5 months later.

Anonymous said...

Fuck the City of Denver and it's poor excuse for a police force. I live in Oswego, NY which has a large Customs/Immigration presence for such a small town. We are on Lake Ontario, at about the midpoint of it's 160 or so mile length. WTF do they think the attackers will do, swim across when they walk over the border at either end? This country is fucked.


smith said...

well this blog has the total giving look which makes it a well informer website or web blog. Thanks for making such a beautiful blog

Denver SEO said...

This is actually one of the few very informative blogs that ive seen out there. The department of safety can do a better job but for the mean while, we can settle at where we're at because nothing is really going to change anytime soon, even if they say so.


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