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Streets of New York
Anthony Barreiro - Thursday, September 2
Hi friends and family. Thank you all for your support, concern, and caring, and for your phone calls to Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly, and DA Morgenthau.
Deborah got out of jail late this afternoon. I was in the courtroom to greet her. She is unharmed and in good spirits, but tired. She spent much of her time in jail supporting and educating a young journalism intern with the Associated Press who got arrested in the same sweep near the World Trade Center with her. The reporter the intern was working with was released by the cops at the site of the arrest, but the cops decided the intern's credentials weren't good enough for her to be released. The floor at the mass detention center at the pier 57 on the Hudson River is filthy with oil and other sludge, but otherwise conditions were okay and the cops were humane. Deborah was released 23 hours and 57 minutes after her official time of arrest -- the city is under a federal consent decree to charge or release folks within 24 hours of arrest. Deborah agreed to an adjournment in consideration of dismissal of charges. If she stays out of trouble for six months, her disorderly conduct charges will be dismissed and the case sealed.
The New York Civil Liberties Union is interested in filing a class action lawsuit on behalf of the the 120 people who were illegally arrested with Deborah. Deborah told me that they were directed to get on the sidewalk, everybody did so, then each end of the small downtown block they were on was barricaded, and they were all swept up in big orange nets, without any order to disperse. Just before the barricades went up Deborah even asked an officer if she could leave, said she did not want to be part of the march, but she was physically prevented from leaving. (Deborah was a party to a successful class action suit against the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff Departments for inhumane treatment after she was arrested during a critical mass ride during the 2000 Democratic convention. She has donated much of her settlement to progressive causes, and put a new roof on her house.)
My day was pretty chill today. After making some phone calls to call for charges to be dismissed and people released from custody, I walked down to the courthouse through Chinatown -- it's amazing how alike Chinatowns are in different cities. Outside the exits on both sides on the buildings, in Columbus Park and some other little park on the front side, there were clusters of activists to greet folks getting out of jail. People came out singly or in small groups and were greeted with applause, bottled water, food, medics asking if they needed care, and National Lawyers Guild folks getting their arrest and arraignment info to keep track of all the cases. The New York NLG totally rocks.
I checked in with the medics and legal folks, let them know I was available to offer psychological support, and gave them my cell phone number. But people were getting the support they needed, and I didn't get any calls. This has been a learning experience for me as a social worker. Not being familiar with the local community resources, e.g. not even being able to tell people people being released from custody where to go to retrieve their property, I don't really have a lot to offer clinically. That good old hierarchy of needs. But I do know how to work with energy and notice little things that need doing, and I'm good with a broom. Probably the most consistently helpful thing I've done this week is remind people to drink plenty of water.
After hanging out outside for a while, I went inside. The New York State Court police were consistently very courteous and professional, and that really helped the energy feel calmer inside than it was outside, where the NYPD was watching to make sure people weren't blocking the sidewalks.
A very helpful NLG volunteer lawyer helped me find the courtroom where Deborah's case would be heard. I got to talk with Marty Stoler, the President of the NYC chapter of the NLG. A sweet man, unabashedly proud of the work his organization is doing, very helpful in discussing Deborah's case, and quite hopeful that many arrested demonstrators will plead not guilty and force the District Attorney to either prosecute or dismiss their charges.
I waited an hour or so for Deborah and several other demonstrators to be brought into the courtroom. A half dozen NLG lawyers were up front waiting to represent the defendants. I sat in the back and chatted with a couple of volunteers with the People's Law Collective, an anarchist law collective. Deborah's case was heard quickly and we walked out. The property office is in a trailer four blocks away, and there was a long line of tired activists waiting to get their stuff. It would have taken at least an hour and a half for Deborah to get through the line, so she said goodbye and exchanged contact info with a couple of folks she'd been arrested with, and she plans to get her stuff tomorrow morning. We got Chinese, went back to the hotel, and she took a shower and went to bed.
Approximately 1000 people have been arrested in demonstrations on the streets of Manhattan.
I went to St. Mark's and listened to more names of Iraq war dead. The most memorable story this evening: a 49 year old man who was a prisoner at Abu Ghraib for several months. A couple of months after he was released without being charged with a crime, he experienced chest pains, and his cousin and nephew tried to drive him to the hospital. They were stopped by two US soldiers, and held in the car at gunpoint for over half an hour. When his cousin opened the car door to try to explain that they didn't have any weapons and were trying to take the man to the hospital, the soldiers opened fire and wounded all three men in the car. The man who had been in Abu Ghraib lost a lot of blood, went into a coma, and died four days later. His daughter misses him a lot.
I did a little fluffing in the healing space, went out for a cup of tea, and came back to the hotel. I'll probably go back to the court building tomorrow to support folks being released from custody (I now know where the bathrooms and exits are, so I'll be useful). In the evening I plan to go to St. Mark's for more names, Union Square for a candlelight vigil, and after the RNC is over back to St. Mark's to help take down the altar in the healing space and clean and release the energy that has been raised there over the past week. I'll send another message to you all, probably Friday morning, then I'm going to be a tourist for a couple of days. I'll be home Sunday night.
Anthony Barreiro is a Reclaiming Witch, a radical faerie, a queer christian, and a clinical social worker who lives in San Francisco. His email to family and friends is reposted here by permission. ©2004 Anthony Barreiro.
Many protesters are still incarcerated and need our support!
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