Despite my attempts to stay together with "H," we were immediately separated (I didnt see her again until we were released.) We were handcuffed with zip ties behind my back, searched twice, had our photos taken (I gave a big, goofy grin) and then sent onto a bus. We were then shipped off to some lower-level dc holding facility. On the way there, we (those of us in the front of the bus) had a great dialogue with our escorting cops concerning our reasons for protest, problems with the imf/wb, and the reaction of the police to our action. I also glanced towards the back of the bus and saw the third cd-er from our group, "C," whom I hadnt seen all morning. Once we reached the facility, our bus began a consensus meeting to determine whether or not we would leave the bus freely, or refuse to leave. However, before consensus could be met, the cops came to take five men. Four who were not planning to do jail solidarity went ahead, and then the cops grabbed me, since I was on the first seat. In an attempt at bravery, I stated "I cannot leave the bus until this group reaches consensus," to which they responded, "no, youre leaving," picked me up, carried me off, and abruptly deposited me on the ground outside. I decided to walk the rest of the way into the building.
Once inside, I was searched again, my shoelaces were removed, and an officer began to ask me for personal information. It was difficult for me to discern the humor of the officers, especially after being dragged after the bus, and Im afraid I was a bit more abrupt with the officers than was necessary when asked my height, I said "what do I look like?" (I felt bad about this.) Also, when I was taken to be fingerprinted, one officer said "this is John Doe," and another responded "oh, yeah, thats his given name." He was, of course, making a joke, but I was worried that I had responded to some question incorrectly, and fallen into some police trap and would be charged with giving false information. I immediately blurted "Thats not correct. I have chosen to remain silent!" with the officers replying something to the effect of "Ok, ok, were just trying to lighten things up." The point of all this is that I was pretty nervous about the whole situation when I was brought into the small room where fingerprinting was done, I honestly thought that some sort of interrogation room where they would try to squeeze information out of me I must watch too much TV. After being fingerprinted, I was asked to sit with my legs crossed as on officer ran one zip-tie around my ankle and looped it through another on my wrist I was bound hand-to-foot. I was then sent into a large cell to await my comrades.
It should be noted that on the property slip they gave me (in order to pick up my shoelaces), I saw my charge was listed as "incommoding," which basically means blocking traffic. Most everyone was either charged with this or "crossing a police line," both minor misdemeanors, with a minimum fine of $50 in the first case, $100 in the second. It should also be said that this was the first of many opportunities at which, by simply giving up my name and coughing up some cash, I could have jumped out of this whole ordeal and walked away with a slight blemish on my record. However, most of us chose to hold on and do jail solidarity. The purpose of jail solidarity is to ensure that everyone who was arrested got equal treatment and equal charges, so that no individual could be singled out for whatever reasons. There were many people who were arrested at various points throughout the weekend, who could, simply by crossing the wrong police line at the wrong time, received much stiffer penalties than those of us in the mass arrest. There also were a good deal of minorities, internationals, and persons of various sexual orientations whom we wanted to protect with our numbers, both in their final sentencing as well as their journey through the judicial process. We also had individuals who, for various reasons, had previous convictions, and sometimes even warrants for their arrest a good many of these were for similar political actions, and these people needed to be protected too, so that they might be freed to be disobedient another day. Finally, there were several persons during the mobilization who had been charged with felonies (many of which were trumped up charges), and it was important that we use our numbers to stand behind them and protect them to ensure that their lives werent ruined as a result of the weekends protest. Another purpose of jail solidarity is to use our power as a group to contest our charges collectively, to use tactics that would be unavailable to individuals in a courtroom. By arguing our case en mass, we at very least saved ourselves a trip back to dc for individual court trials. Finally, I think it was important to some of us to do time one of the ways by which civil disobedience is most effective is by creating a ripple in ones personal community. When I was gone from school for a week, every time someone asked "wheres greg?" to learn that I was in jail, they would immediately become curious as to why I had felt this issue was important enough to be arrested for. Thus, doing time raises a great deal of awareness of your issues among your family, friends, and colleagues. Certainly, my dad knows a great deal more about the imf/wb since I was put in jail.
Anyhoo, heres my understanding of how to do jail solidarity: First and foremost, you use your power as a collective group to stand united and make it impossible for anyone to become singled out. This is extremely important if you are split up or divided, you lose both your power against the system, as well as your personal support you power to keep yourself going. The second step is to do anything you can as a collective group to gum up the system -- to flood the courts and overwhelm the prisons, to bring the rumbling bureaucracy to a grinding halt in order to get your demands heard and met. This can be done simply by having large numbers, or various other tactics, as Ill get into later.
Oh, one more important point: when I start talking about all the crappy stuff that happened to us, Im not whining about it all, or lamenting, or saying "yeah, Im a tough guy. See what I did." Rather the purpose is simply a) to tell the story of how we got through the crap we went through, and b) to tell the story, first-hand, of all the crap that exists in the US prison system. Unless youre some kind of idiot who believes a society should use fear and intimidation to maintain order, or that the best way to deal with "bad guys" is to remove their rights and put them somewhere out of sight (hey, we did it to Native Americans), the US prison makes no sense. Oh, theres a third reason: theyre extremely profitable, which is prolly why the state of california now spends more money on prisons than it does on education, and the united states holds more prisoners than most industrialized nations combined. And profit-motivated insanity brings me back to globalization, which is why I went to dc in the first place. Its all related.
While in the holding cell, I began to learn others nicknames tree, grape nuts, chocolate thunder, pepper, polo, mr. green. I now realized the benefits of having a nickname to facilitate discussion between one John Doe and another and thus dubbed myself, rather spontaneously, "rasputin," for no other reason than it sounded cool. While we were in this cell, we were fed bologna sandwiches and donuts, of all things donuts, in a police station! I made one fellow very happy by giving him two of the thickest slices of bologna Ive ever seen.
I was then moved from this facility off to the central courthouse. This transfer occurred sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 pm. We learned that the women on this bus had not been fed. We were being transferred on a DC metro bus, and unfortunately, it wouldnt fit into the garage of the court. Thus, we were informed that we were going to be transferred from that bus to another. Once again, the group on this bus considered using cd tactics to refuse to leave the bus. The cop present informed us, though, that this facility was run by US Marshals, who would not hesitate to simply pump the bus full of teargas until we were choked out. One of our group agreed that US Marshals were not people you wanted to mess around with. We soon learned she was right. We were transferred onto one of those buses with metal grating all over it (like you saw in "the fugitive"), and then were driven down into the garage. There were two marshals on the bus during this process, and they immediately made it known that they would not be messing around. They were very big and mean looking, and only communicated through shouting. They pulled one person off the bus and put him in shackles for seemingly no reason at all. These people were extremely intimidating, and shoved us around a lot. We were pulled off the bus one by one, searched thoroughly once again (at which point I lost my extra pair of dry socks). We were led through a metal detector, and up to some holding cells. (To elaborate on the marshalls use of violence, I heard from several accounts of an incident in which they were looking from minors. On one bus, they asked as each entered "are you 18 or over?" One individual hesitates, and was screamed at "18 or over!?" When he did not respond, his face was slammed into the wall and he was thrown face-first onto the floor, and the question was repeated. He finally admitted that he was only 17, and was then transported to juvenile court. One witness said that it was quite possible that the kid had a broken nose from the incident.)
The first few hours we spent in these cells were pretty rough. We were told we were awaiting our arraignment trial, and after a while, a lawyer came out to speak with us. It didnt take us long to figure out she was not part of our group of lawyers (the Midnight Special), but rather was a public attorney appointed to defend some of us, and she was terrible. All she could tell us is that we would be giving up our names, paying $50, and walking away. She didnt know anything about jail solidarity, she told us that everyone before us was giving up names we couldnt even figure out from here whether or not we had the right to refuse her service and hire our own lawyers. Then the marshals came in, and informed us that if we didnt give up our names, we would be sent to the DC jail until our trial date. They then broke into long monologues concerning the conditions of DC jail, making very racist comments about its population, and about the kind things that would happen to us there we would be beaten up, raped, "eaten alive," the guards would split us up, take pleasure in being rough with us "DC jail is no place for white boys." All this was extremely intimidating and disconcerting. We were also informed that our "real" lawyers were not allowed into this area of the building, and that many of them had "declined to show." We were starving for information, and had no contact with the outside world. From all the evidence we were given, no one was performing jail solidarity, and jail solidarity isnt very effective when only a few people do it. Luckily, we had our process. By circling up, talking through our options, and filtering through the information we had been given, we soon realized that the lawyer was bogus, the marshals were just trying to scare us, and that we could set a precedent for all the groups that would follow us if we refused to give our names. We then began to be split up taken to various different cells, back and forth, shuffled around, always ending up with a different group of people. At first, this, too, was discouraging, but it didnt take us long to get over it, again because we had this amazing process -- no matter what sort of group we were in, any time there was anything to discuss, any decisions to be made, we could just plug in this process, circle up, and talk it through, and this would immediately build up solidarity within our group. We soon realized that it was beneficial that we were being mixed around, because it allowed us to disseminate information out among us much more effectively any time a new person came into our cell block, we would ask that person how many people he had just come from, and what their spirit was, were they planning on doing jail solidarity? It was in this manner that we soon deduced that nearly everyone in the place was planning on withholding their names.
At this point, we also began to receive stories about the women that would remain consistent throughout the week: that they were hardcore. 90% of the women were staying in solidarity, compared to 60% of the men arrested. The women were constantly singing and chanting, and continually giving the cards a hard time. They had amazing bonds to one another, amazing spirit, and this was very inspiring to us men. I dont know how many times I heard throughout the week phrases like "Man, the sisters are hardcore." "The women are tight!" "Weve got to keep up with the sisters."
My experience in the courthouse cells followed a pattern that would continue throughout the week: we entered a new situation, were given very little or false information, and would be extremely nervous and frightened. However, after some time to think it over, discuss it, and maybe receive some more info, we soon became comfortable with the situation, very positive, and even jubilant. I had entered the place basically cringing in a corner expecting the worst, whereas by the time my trial was up, we were talking about how were going to unite the entire prison population and take over the jail! It was basically an emotional roller coaster, and it had just left the gates.
After meeting several public defenders whose ability to help us ran from mediocre to making things worse, a new lawyer came back, and one of the first words out of his mouth was solidarity he was from the collective, and, lucky me, I had been assigned to him. He informed us of all the numbers 600 total arrested, more than half doing solidarity and exactly what was going to be happening to us as we got into the courtroom. We also learned that the judge had been lying to people in terms of the numbers of those who refused to give their names, and that what we had heard of DC jail was largely untrue.
I finally got called to the courtroom sometime around 3:30 or 4:00 am. As we were called to the bench, I realized that my lawyer wasnt there, and the judge spoke about reassigning us a new lawyer, to which I made some sort of verbal disagreement, stating that I had already spoken with my lawyer and I wanted only him to represent me. It was rather embarrassing, since she then asked me his name, and couldnt remember it luckily, he walked into the courtroom two seconds later. I didnt have a chance to plea "solidarity," as I had wanted to, but the judge tried to get me to give my name. I refused, the hearing was quickly over, and I was whisked out of the courtroom. We were then taken to a new holding cell and placed in shackles. After a short wait, we were herded into a van and driven to the DC jail (at about 80 miles an hour, lights flashing, and we were unable to put our seatbelts on.)
We got to the jail (I hope you realize by now that when I say "we," I mean myself and some random group of protestors) at around 4:30 am, and were ushered into very crowded holding cells. Here I stayed for most of the next 24 hours. Nothing happened for the first several hours besides the fact that some groups advanced through processing as new groups came in. The main guard there, Lucas, was basically a one-man good-cop/bad-cop show. He would first tell us about how much he supported us and what we were doing: "You guys are americans. Im an american. I support your right to protest." "When I was young, I was out there protesting just about everything there was to protest." "I dont trust the government. I work for the government, and I dont trust the government." But later, he would launch into this emotional monologue about what would happen to us when we went upstairs (into the prison). It was extremely convincing, as he was not directing his statements as warnings to us, but rather as anger at whoever had made the decision that we should be processed through the system: "Somebody screwed up. You guys should not be going up there!" "I cant believe this! You guys are gonna be eaten alive! Theyre animals up there!" "You guys are gonna stand out like a neon sign!" "If you guys make it out of this alive, and whatevers left of you comes back to sue this place, you can use me as a witness." He even would comment to other guards: "Can you believe theyre sending them upstairs!? Somebody messed up! This cant be right." Lucass comments were convincing enough that we pretty much decided that if we were split up in any way, to immediately call for protective custody (meaning you are held in solitary confinement with a guard specifically watching for your safety) and to try and sign out as soon as possible.
Besides Lucass sideshow, the holding cells werent too exciting. They gave us a meal around 2:00 some sort of weird gravy/meat/rice with corn bread, salad, and cookies on the side. The cornbread was pretty good. We were fingerprinted again, and about halfway through the day, I went through the process of getting my bright-orange jumpsuit. (This is after I had already stripped down to my drawers once with another group, but they called every number except for about five of us, who were left half-naked in the holding cell for 45 minutes before we realized we werent going anywhere.) We first received little blue plastic bracelets with our "T" number (the only way they could identify us) and the name "John Doe." We then turned in our clothes, were examined to ensure we werent carrying anything on our "person," and ordered to take showers. Frankly, after sitting for a day and a half in soaking wet clothes in dingy prison cells, I didnt have too many objections. Next, we were issued those great bright orange jumpsuits (the latest in spring fashion), dry socks (yay!), prison-issue underdrawers, a wool blanket and sheets, and a baggy with soap, toothbrush/paste, and a comb. Then we about 30 of us were huddled into a fairly small cell and kept there for about 2 hours. This was a pretty stressful time, since we had just received word from one of the guards that we would probably be split up, we were all extremely exhausted, and we were packed in this room like sardines. We decided that we should possibly refuse to leave the room until we were assured that we could stay together, but since nobody seemed in any hurry to get us out of there, this didnt appear to be a very effective tactic. We were all pretty close to cracking when a guard came back ad told us our lawyers were here to see us hooray!
The lawyers debriefed us on what was going on, in terms of outside political pressure (congresspersons calling the mayor on our behalf), what terms we needed to come up with to make to the corporation council (the prosecuting body who was handling all the misdemeanors) and the district attorney (handling the 20 federal charges), and our numbers: about 130 of us so far in the prison. We also learned that a large group of people was gathered outside the prison in solidarity with us. The warden was present at the meeting, and she assured us that we would all be kept together in a gym area, and that she would even try to see if the men and the women could get together for a consensus meeting. We sent three spokespersons to meet with the lawyers to hash out our demands, and then were sent back into the holding cells. More groups came and went, and it wasnt until around 2:00 am that the newest (and last) group from the court facility was given uniforms, and we were advanced with them to get our pictures taken. This newest group told us that many people at the court were just being dropped off outside; this was later confirmed by the lawyers. The judicial system was so bogged down by our presence that they simply "papered out" 150 people. This happened to "C" in our group, who explained that when she was taken into the courtroom (prepared, of course, to speak about solidarity and hold her name), a marshal simply handed her a slip of paper and told her to walk to the left. When she did so, the next thing she knew, she was on the street outside of the courthouse. Apparently, those who figured out what was going on before they got outside were dragged out.
Once we were finished getting our glamour shots, after some more waiting in the same cramped cell as I was in before, we were taken upstairs for medical examinations. The medical team was extremely concerned with our well-being the doctor was essentially saying "tell me anything you need to tell me now, because once you leave this area, I cant help you anymore." Upon finding out how many vegetarians and vegans there were in our group, apparently the med. staff had prepared 200 peanut butter sandwiches, and gave us oranges and cookies as well. While we were there, we inquired a guard as to where we would be taken next. He informed us that the gym area was full, and that we would be taken to a different cellblock. The guard also made it sound as if we were going to be split up into regular holding cells. This ignited a whole new wave of fear and confusion in our group of 20, after having been promised by the warden to be kept together. The doctor helped us out by trying to gather as much information as he could regarding our next location, although he was able to find out very little. Once again, we discussed locking arms and refusing to leave until we were assured we could stick together, but, luckily, a guard came to move us and told us that we would all be kept in the same room.