On Saturday March 20th, a huge anti-war rally and march was held at Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. It was sponsored by A.N.S.W.E.R. Speakers included Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright, Ralph Nader, Matthis Chiroux, Mike Ferner, and many others.
The march ended in front of the White House. Some of the protesters placed faux coffins representing different countries we have harmed during these illegal wars against the fence in front of the White House. The Park Police set up a perimeter around these coffins using the “POLICE DO NOT CROSS” tape. My guess would be it was around 50ft x 50ft on the front sidewalk of the White House. People like Matthis Chiroux laid down in front of the coffins to protest. If you entered this zone, you were arrested. I refer to it as an arbitrary “arrest zone.”
Cindy Sheehan, myself, and others walked through the crowd until we reached the barrier closest to those laying down on the sidewalk. As you can see in this video, the barrier failed, and Cindy Sheehan walked across. As soon as she entered the “arrest zone,” the Park Police immediately grabbed her, and handcuffed her. They were literally manhandling her.
This made me angry, and I yelled at the Park Police to “let her go!” Before I knew it, the barrier was back up. I tried to push through the barrier, but the Park Police pushed back. I managed to push two Park Policeman back until one of them grabbed for something on their side to use against me. It was probably mace, but it could have been anything. I stopped pushing. I walked around to the side where the police tape was, that failed, and I found myself within the “arrest zone.” I decided that I was going to allow myself to be arrested in order to keep an eye on Cindy. One of the Park Police grabbed me by my arm, and placed me next to Matthew and the others.
When I sat down next to Matthis, he said to me, “you’re on the right side of the line,” and I said, “I know.” One of the Park Police walked over to me, and said to another officer, “he crossed the line, arrest him.” That Park Policeman lifted me up, and put me in regular metal cuffs. As I stood up, I screamed as loud as I could, “THIS ARREST IS DEDICATED TO 9/11 VICTIM FAMILY MEMBER ROBERT MCILVAINE JR.!!!” and part of the crowd cheered. As they walked me away I could see Ann Wright waving her fist at me with a big smile on her face as if to say, “RIGHT ON!”
Before I was placed in the van, they changed the metal cuffs to the plasticuffs. They put them on WAY too tight. I told them I have a bad shoulder, but it didn’t matter. They were not too concerned with our comfort. As a result of the plasticuffs, my left thumb is numb. Joshua Smith took this video of me being taken to the van.
This arrest was completely unplanned. The action Camp OUT NOW did plan was to take place about 45min – 1hr later (around 4pm) when the Democratic Caucus arrived to discuss the new health bill. The plan was to sit in front of the entrance ways to the White House to block them from getting in. We never had the opportunity.
Personally, I think it’s a shame that more people didn’t cross the line. That is a public sidewalk paid for by the people of this country, and we have a right to peaceably assemble. This arbitrary “arrest zone,” is unconstitutional as far as I’m concerned.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – The First Amendment to the United States Constitution”
A song had been going through my head all week. Power To The People by John Lennon. I started singing it in the van, and everyone else joined in. It was really quite amazing to see.
When we arrived at the Park Police station, they took us out of the van, and brought us in to get our information, and to strip of us of everything we were carrying. Including our shoelaces. I told the officers that my shoulder was hurting, and that the plasticuffs were on too tight. They clipped them off, and Matthis described the way my arms shot forward like a “spring board.” My wrists had these huge purple gashes in them where the plasticuffs were. They took my information, and placed me in a cell by myself with a window, a small metal bench, and a metal sink with a toilet. The air conditioning was on, so that was good for me, but a lot of the other arrestees were freezing.
We spent several hours in those cells only to come out to get fingerprinted, and photographed. Two of the people that were arrested with us eventually were allowed to leave, but six of us were not. Other people found out that we would most likely not be getting out until Monday, but I didn’t hear anything from within my cell.
“The two that were released were from DC and those of us held were out-of-towners. Immediately, we knew this explanation was total b.s. because I have been arrested in DC about 13 times now and I have always been from “out-of-town,” and have never even been held overnight, let alone two nights.
Was it a coincidence that Camp OUT NOW had two major actions over the weekend to try and hold our campsite that I missed due to being jailed? I don’t think so.”
I asked officer Walker if we would be getting out that night, and he said he had to talk to his supervisor. Eventually officer Walker opened my cell door, and placed a tag on my wrist with my info and mugshot, and said “put your hands behind your back.” This time they didn’t put the plasticuffs on me so tightly. One of the officers TIGHTENTED Cindy’s plasticuffs after another officer put them on less tighter than before. Elaine had cuts on her wrists.
From there, we were placed into a truck that had a VERY cramped sitting area. I am somewhat claustrophobic so it was hard for me to get in. I did. On the way to the jail, we were talking about how we should have been let go, among other things.
After we arrived at the jail, they took off our plasticuffs, and they frisked us. Then we were placed into what can only be described as a human kennel. The cells were SMALL, and comprised of steel walls, steel beds, steel sinks, and steel toilets. The bars were made up of big bars, and a steel mesh that kind of looked like this from Star Trek TNG. It was easily 85-90 degrees in there, with one big fan blowing. There was very little air circulation. My shirt became my pillow, and I put my socks in the water, and wrapped them around my head Rambo style in order to cool off.
As I said, I’m somewhat claustrophobic, and I started to get a panic attack. I asked to be taken to the hospital in order to get something to calm me down. They did, and as I was there, I was watched by two different shifts of officers from the Metropolitan Police Department. Most of them were nice. We talked about politics, and other things. Every single one of them laughed at me when I told them why I was in jail. They told me I should have gotten a $25-$100 fine, and been released after a few hours.
When I was returned to the kennel, they put me in a bigger cell by myself. In there, I sat for 30 some odd hours. Oddly enough, the fact that I didn’t have cigarettes really didn’t bother me. The cockroaches kept all of us company. They were ALL OVER the place. One of them crawled into bed with me.
The one commodity in jail is the time of day. There were no clocks on the wall so you had no idea what time it was. The only way you could get the time was to ask a guard as they passed by. Some of them gave us the correct time, and others lied to us about it. They fed us bologna and cheese sandwiches every 12 hours, along with bug juice and lemonade.
It is very hard to sleep in jail. Someone told me the guilty sleep well, and the innocent do not. I could only sleep an hour here, and an hour there. It didn’t help that some of my cellmates were talking, or that my neighbor sang and banged on the wall for all hours of the day.
This was my very first arrest, and the charge is “crossing a police line.” I expected a phone call, and to have my rights read to me, but the big joke of the weekend was, “that’s only on TV.”
On Monday morning, we were eventually taken out of our cells to be taken to the court house. They plasticuffed us together. Three or four people per grouping, and placed us into the vans with the VERY cramped sitting area. We arrived at the court house, and they walked us into an area to put leg shackles on us. We saw Cindy and Elaine for the first time in this area. Obviously men and women are separate in jail. From there, they took us to a holding cell for traffic court offenders. It was run by the U.S. Marshal service.
Attorney Ann Wilcox came walking through one of the doors, and we finally got to hear a little bit about what was happening with Camp OUT NOW, and with our arrests. A BIG thank you to Ann for doing everything you did for us.
When it was time to go to court, they put handcuffs on our wrists that attached to a chain around our bellies. Then we were taken to a cell that is meant to hold four people, but they managed to shove 14 in. Cindy, Elaine, and other ladies were in the neighboring cell.
Never before have I wished for my name to be called. We waited for at least 2 hours in that cell before we finally were able to see the judge. We all plead not guilty, and have a trial sometime in June, but one of the more interesting things to happen was a request from the White House to create a “stay away” area around the White House that if we were to enter, we would get an automatic sixth months in prison.
When I finally entered the court room, I was THRILLED to see some of our friends from Camp OUT NOW waiting there for us. It made me feel really good inside.
Finally, the shackles and everything were taken off, and I was able to have a cigarette outside (thanks Josh). PressTV was there to interview us, and they took pictures of the purple abrasions on my ankles from the leg shackles.
The one thought that I had all weekend was that anything that I and the others experienced PALED in comparison to what those people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have had to endure. Cindy said they couldn’t do anything worse to her than taking the life of her child.
I was often asked if I would do it again. My answer is without hesitation.
PEACE OF THE ACTION!!!