Category Archives: legal

Corporate Prison Leaders Tell the Truth About Themselves

prison factory

From our friend Arnie over at Inzane Times, weighing in on the ugly truth about the corporate prison system and their efforts to get our Congress and state legislators to sell off justice:

Corporate Prison Leaders Tell the Truth about Themselves

March 17, 2013 by aalpert

FORM 10-K IS A TREASURE TROVE OF INFORMATION

Maggie Hassan made it pretty clear during her successful campaign for governor that she has no interest in turning over control of New Hampshire’s prisons to for-profit corporations.  The majority of Executive Councilors elected in November feel the same.  While the State is still formally reviewing proposals from four private companies to build and operate its prisons, the chance that a contract for prison operation would be drawn up in the next two years is about as close to zero as it can get.  So why have at least two of the companies (CCA and MTC) bothered to invest in lobbying services to defeat HB 443, a bill which would ban private prisons in New Hampshire?

Read more on: Corporate Prison Leaders Tell the Truth About Themselves directly from the source.

For more on the privatization of public services: check this excellent article at truthout.org : Five Poisons of Privatization

thanks to the folks over at the Privatization Blog

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Cops Gone Wild

Infamous lover of pepper spraying entrapped, protesting women, NYC police supervisor, Tony Baloney seen in action.

 

In the Raw Story report about the Crown Heights police brutality issue, a video is embedded below the story that discloses a series of questionable police practices throughout the country.

Exposed in these videos are a series of obvious police abuses of power throughout the country.  A police frisking of news crews, police frisking and holding of two African-American men who are detained and threatened by police who state they will “make stuff up” to put the two arrestees at fault:

Another case of outrageous abuse involving an arrestee in Pennsylvannia, Robert Leone who is still as far as we know, serving time for crimes that seem overwhelmingly fabricated by a state police department and many actors, including the treating hospital and the Pennsylvannia jail system in participating in covering up the outrageously cruel actions of the officers involved in brutally beating Robert Leone:

More information is disclosed here on on a blog hosted by Amy Browne. Unfortunately the Facebook page for Robert Leone does not show up on a search and the link goes to nowhere.  But, the videos contained here also link to many other videos of police misconduct throughout the country. Updates to Robert’s Leone’s story will be posted when we can find them.

There is no doubt that the proliferation of small, portable video recording technology has increased the exposure of police misconduct.  The exposure of the historic Rodney King beating at first led to an all-white jury acquitting all officers involved in Rodney King’s horrific beat-down.  Not until the people in L.A.’s African American community used the only force they had in response — angry rioting, did the greater community demand justice for what many still wish to believe was an isolated and rare instance of police brutality.

But as technology increasingly improves and no longer does one need to hope for the presence of someone with a hulking video camera to be present at the scene, illegal police activity hits the spotlight ever more frequently.  In an era of increased paranoia, fed by a government intent on justifying police repression, people seem all too anxious to pick up the phone and report ‘suspicious’ behavior, all too often arising from assumptions based on long-held social prejudices.

While this site cannot possibly spend the time highlighting all instances of police brutality (and many sites exist that do that — which we will link to as we find them), we will attempt to draw attention to this issue and its larger social ramifications.

Especially important to note is the increased militarization of local police forces in the name of the ‘drug war’ when in fact proof exists time and time again that tanks, high powered assault weaponry and battering rams often are excessive, unnecessary and provoke police departments to act more like small guerilla armies than protectors of the law.  The implications of this trend are disturbing, when put up against the ease with which law enforcement officers cross the line of humane justice and into the realm of fascist enforcers of control and suppression. This is issue that should concern every citizen in this country.

Many progressives in New Hampshire have expressed concern that the efforts of some groups, particularly Cop Block in Manchester, NH and their libertarian supporters, draws attention from the real issues of police brutality in a misguided effort to create instances of police brutality by unnecessary escalation and provocation.  There exist enough cases of police over-use of authority that purposeful martyrdom not only trivializes real abuse cases, but draws attention from the broader, more important issues of racism, socio-economic stratification and increasing public xenophobia fed by the military-industrial complex and the media.

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NYC Homeless Man Beaten by Cops

On October 16th, news broke nationally that a young man sleeping in a community center in the Crown Heights section of New York City was awakened by police and subsequently abused for almost five minutes for not complying with the cops’ demands that he submit to arrest.  The man repeatedly told the police he was allowed to be at the community center and had the permission of the center’s director, which one would think the cops would have notified to confirm and at least waited until the director came to the center to confirm.  But instead the cops acted on what appears to have been an anonymous ‘tip’ that someone was sleeping at the center without authority, thus trespassing.

How many times have people called cops asking for action on a particular issue only to have them say that they can’t act on ‘anonymous tips’, which on the whole seem to protect our rights and keep revenge seekers and busy-bodies from driving the cops all over on trivial, meaningless errands. Its still unclear why the cops felt that whoever called in had enough weight and authority for them to act by not only entering the center in the middle of the night, but to consider that person’s word of more value than a live individual or the community director, so much more weight that violating this individual’s right to safety and health was of secondary importance?

In the story as reported in Raw Story, you can see the senseless beat-down that this young man had to endure by these thugs in uniform.  Further down is the Crown Heights community coming forward to demand justice. I’m heartened to see the Jewish community coming together with the African-American community on this and I hope this is a trend we will see more of; police brutality is an issue that effects us all and we all need to be equally concerned and dilligent in calling out instances of its occurance. Far too often brutality in the African American community is over looked, despite overwhelming evidence. Let’s hope that will become more and more a feature of the past.

Raw Story: New York Police Brutally Beat Man for Sleeping at Synagogue

UPDATE: Charges have been dropped

From New York Daily News:

Brooklyn prosecutors have dropped all charges against a Jewish man videotaped getting pummeled by two cops at a Crown Heights synagogue.

Ehud Halevy, 21, was sleeping in the back room of the ALIYA youth center on East New York Ave. Oct. 8 when he was confronted by two police officers. After an argument about evacuating the premises — which the shirtless man refused to do — he was punched repeatedly by Officer Luis Vega.

A tape depicting the beatdown has gone viral and elicited angry responses from the Jewish community and elected officials, with many calling for the cops to be fired.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had called the video “disturbing.”

“We believe the police fabricated the police report that they submitted and have failed to publicly acknowledge what really happened that night,” said ALIYA director Moishe Feiglin. He said Halevy was there with permission.

“After review of all available evidence, I have decided to dismiss the charges against Ehud Halevy,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes announced Monday afternoon.

Halevy was facing up to seven years in prison for the assault rap. He was also charged with resisting arrest, trespass, harassment and marijuana possessions.

The DA’s decision means the case is now closed.

A petition on change.com asking Hynes to drop the charges garnered nearly 90,000 signatures.

“Justice was done here,” said Halevy’s lawyer Norman Siegel. “There was no legal basis for the criminal charges and the dramatic video was extremely helpful.”

He said his client “was very pleased.”

The charges will be officially dismissed Wednesday.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky as to have a whole unified community come together and put up such an immediate fuss that embarrasses the local department so much they can’t move fast to put the ‘incident’ out of public view.  Most victims of police brutality aren’t so lucky, often members of communities that the public has been trained to see as inhuman and in need of constant ‘correction’.

Even though Halevy and his attorney may be pleased with the outcome, nowhere in the Daily News story is any mention of punishment of the cops who obviously went way over board.  Some disciplinary action seems called for at the very least. It is disturbing that police officers who demonstrated an obvious lack of judgment and restraint still possess the power to restrain individuals without question and with deadly force.

It is distressing to say the least when a party that suffers under the weight of institutional wrong doing backs off when their personal wrong gets set right.  They forget is seems that the rest of the community needs them and their story to push for broad improvements in the institution that wronged them.  Dismissing the charges only amounts to an effort to move the stain out of the public view as soon as possible.

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Incomplete Democracy = No Democracy

Just Kidding!

Today the editorial brain trust at the Union Leader decided to weigh in on the Voter ID law and its “practice run” during the primary.  For those who didn’t vote in the New Hampshire primary or don’t live in New Hampshire, its worth pointing out that although the law won’t go into effect until the general election in November, the legislature decided to mandate a practice run at the polls.  Yes, of course you’re thinking, “what a wonderful idea let’s practice all laws out first!”  then if you are stopped, arrested or ticketed the cop can tell you, “Oh geez, just kidding, now watch out in November!”

Dispensing with all the other problems with that issue, one wonders how many people might get the idea that the law really already is in effect and thus abide accordingly.  I mean, I guess it would be up to the goodwill of those empowered with enforcement to give up the gag before the damage is done right?  One wonders when exactly that might occur? After said individual absent an ID walks out of the polls? Its their fault they can’t hear the “Oh shucks, just kidding!” all the way from the parking lot?

Well, basically the Union Leader chooses to overlook that problem, while of course having to make the odd construction that Democrats were protesting the Voter ID law by refusing to give up their ID’s, that oh wait! really isn’t a law yet.  Bet that’s a first.  But its all good right? No one lost their voting privileges that day right?

Nope not at all, unless you talked to people who went to the polls, who were confronted with the patently illegal signage that wards had no business posting that led people to believe that the law was in fact in effect.  Nope not all unless you talk to the people who knowing their rights, refused to produce an ID and were not given the Voter Challenge Affidavit until after they had surrendered their ID.  Funny thing, guess the workers at the polls need some more training, including those poll watchers.

But, it seems clear by testimony from those who experienced the denial of their voting privileges unless they provided satisfactory proof of ID, they had reason to believe they weren’t voting.  So, let’s take your average citizen who works full time, probably has a family to care for and has about a one hour window that they carved out for a week or more to be able to perform their democratic duty.   Is it reasonable to assume this individual would in good faith turn around and say, “Oh, let me call my boss and see if I can more time off to get my ID I left at home/work/in the car.”  or, “Let me see if the person who gave me a ride here will be available to shuttle me around to the DMV, fill out a form, stand in line for an hour and then go back?”

Or, the person who says, “You know what, I knew voting was stupid, I’m going home.”

Or the person who, in the case of one person in Manchester who has a strong Spanish accent, of being further humiliated by having to answer to the question, “Where are you from?” So much for that old folksy New Hampshire.  Let’s just dispel that right now.  Manchester is a city, just like Nashua and Portsmouth.  There aren’t docile dairy cows roaming between white clapboard farmhouses or farmers with red and black checkered hunting caps leaning on fences saying “Ahyup!”.  Unlike the charmed sentiment of the editor, New Hampshire has had its influx of newcomers, of which many who don’t fit the New Hampshire ideal citizen, aren’t exactly given the welcome mat and a pint of New Hampshire maple syrup.  But of course these folks mostly settle in the larger communities and their participation in the polls just might change some things up old Concord way.

Never mind that the other segment of voters that the those at the Union Leader editorial board and Keepers of All That is White and Right in New Hampshire also probably only fret about property taxes in the sense that they know they are paying too much and there’s a small segment of large landowners not paying their fair share.  They’d probably vote Democratic, just a hunch, but since that conversation has only occurred on a meaningful basis within the Democratic party, one might safely conclude that.

Much better to keep those folks home and why wait until November when the Voter ID law becomes an actual law, how about have a practice run, heck what could it hurt if this election some folks don’t turn up or go home without getting to exercise their right to perform the most important civic duty in the nation.

In the accompanying report on how the practice run went, it is explained that those who did in fact challenge the law will be chased down by mail, then if there’s a letter sent back they’ll send agents out we assume to track these people down and the Secretary of State’s office will pour over each and every affidavit to verify whether the voter exists or not.  Looks like the Secretary of State’s office will be hiring folks pretty soon.  Amazing how that works; legislation that grows government comes from an administration that claims to do just the opposite.  Guess the work will be done by special little Fairies for Freedom, to find those practically non-existent fraudulent voters.

But what about the people who walked away from the polls unable to vote? What does that do to our election?  Uh-oh, thinking too much.  In the Union Leader/Republican world those little people don’t matter and the results.  We just gotta live with it, because dammit, there are brown people, poor people, aged, students and disabled folks who we know vote overwhelmingly Democrat and who cares if they stay home?

Of course the richest misunderstanding of the law is encapsulated by the editorial writer’s comment, “Well, the constitution gives qualified voters the right to vote.” Yup, that’s right and there’s nothing in the constitution about presenting an ID.  More than likely the framers never envisioned a system would develop in which certain individuals would work and live in this country and not be eligible to vote — oh wait! We tried that too didn’t we? How did that work out?

One has to wonder, with all the fervor that never seems to end about “qualifying” voters, what exactly is the motive?  Could it be that not only a threat exists from the millions of truly “qualified” citizens actually exercising their right to vote enmasse, what would happen if those who fall between the cracks of citizenship, living, working and contributing to businesses and the economy, like the many that work in Manchester, Nashua and elsewhere in the state starting suddenly voting? Yes, its a scary thought indeed.

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The Protest of Nothing

Burning a registration card, circulated on Facebook with great enthusiasm.

Michael Moore states the case, bluntly and eloquently why although Obama may have disappointed most of us on the left, the fatalism of sitting out the vote this time makes no sense.  Moore’s point underscores the fact that we need to use every tool in the box this time, which reminds me of a post I recently  saw on Facebook  showing someone burning a voter registration card.  Like a 1920’s Dadaist’s wet dream; the Protest of Nothing.

In the 60’s, young men burned their draft cards. Draft cards mandated by law that men had to go to war to suffer unimaginable horrors or death, wherein refusal warranted direct jail time. Burning draft cards represented an exercise of the belief that no state supersedes the laws of humanity and that justice is suborned when citizens refuse to stand up.  Refusal to participate in the draft constituted an act of civil disobedience that represented not simply an individual “choice” but a popular mandate that society take a deeper look at the machinery of capitalist oppression.

On the other hand, what act of oppression does burning a voter card represent again?  Let’s break this down to the simplest terms possible.  Democracy demands participation.  Like an engine; the machine parts cannot move without the force of energy pushing against them.  Thus, democracy will not activate without the forces of the citizens pushing against one idea or another; creating the tension that spurns beneficial social structure.   So basically if one group wants effective change with the existing system, engaging with that system is mandatory.

Our culture is replete with demands to doubt the “system”, to feel disengaged and uncounted.  Mass media inundates people with the message that consumption equals democratic participation and that celebration of nationalistic barbarism equals patriotic service.  We as a culture are told repeatedly that watching a news program, engaging in conversations on the internet, all equal democratic participation.  The drive to consume is also pushed as a patriotic duty (remember Bush the Younger extolling people to get happy and go shopping when gas prices rose?) and the result of longer times engaged in making money to survive and pro-war hyper nationalism do not serve the interests of democracy.

They do though serve the interests of the owners of production, of the marketers and sellers of the machinery of war and endless meaningless junk that serves to distract the electorate.  If one feels satisfied talking on Facebook or watching the latest reports on CNN, then what else is there to do? Who’s got the time anyway?

While protests and other acts of defiance against unjust laws or systems have their place, we cannot discount the easiest process available in this country; the voting booth.  The anti-Obama forces proved this in 2010 when across the country people came out to elect far-right state legislatures as an act of protest against the election of a black president.  Even with a large number of people standing down in 2008, Obama’s message, that the right loves to sneer at, the message of “Hope and Change” caused a momentous move in this country.  —- people stood up and said they wanted change and expressed it through the voting booth. Now, whether Obama stood acted on those promises certainly is another issue and one that requires voter awareness and engagement for critical action.

Many alternative candidates and parties exist within our democracy, many theories, not all of them coming from the pro-plutocracy right wing.  But knowing about alternative parties and candidates requires engagement within the process.  It requires the effort to research the issues, talk to people about the issues, take the time to attend meetings and most of all, support those issues and candidates at the voting booth.

What is the plan with those who refuse to engage? Do they have a larger message or have they completely capitulated all their decision making capacity to those who will get up and engage with the process on all fronts?  Most importantly, do those who step in the vacuum have our best interests at heart?  Would it have been smarter to keep moving forward, no matter how slow, instead of allowing us to slip back ten steps?  While there exists an argument for deconstruction, within a social system where the free press, the voting booth and free speech remain, there exists the possibility for transformation through reformation.

What’s really astounding with those who refuse to vote as some form of protest is the apparent failure to understand that one can in fact participate in democracy, rebel against the present system, protest, engage and go and vote for the best candidate offered all at the same time!  It appears as though the right has this concept down pretty well; theocrats, outright fascists and plutocrats who express nothing but contempt for the democratic process know full well that participation within is their best hope of shaping this country into their dream state.  So far, they’ve been going at a pretty good clip forward thanks to low voter participation rates.

Democracy demands engagement for success.  Opting out is not an option; you’ve got skin in the game whether you like it or not.  Might as well go pull that lever.  If you want to change or overthrow it, better to study it and to whatever extent possible, move within it and outside it.  Only then can one begin to have some understanding of the system in order to fashion a better one.

Also, as Michael Moore points out, there’s no lack of justifiable anger to meet out to both political parties, but there is no reason to let the truck slide off the cliff and disintegrate into a burned heap.  What have you to work with then?  Nihilism was never considered a way to get anywhere but to nothing.  If nothing came out of doing nothing this election or any election cycle, then we’d have nothing to worry about.  Obama has been no prize for those seeking justice; Gitmo, drone attacks, his appeal of the court’s over-ruling the NDAA indefinite detentions.  His shameless refusal to use the bully pulpit and the Democrat’s own contradictory hold on power that often undermines the very values they claim to support; none of that should go unnoticed.

But to sit out and hand the reins over the the mad kings of the GOP just makes no sense.   The platform offered by the Republican party threatens to put working people into a tailspin faster than anything since the days before the New Deal or possibly even the days before the Civil War.  They threaten with their deep cuts in basic social programs, which are social welfare programs — not entitlements, because they are based on the idea that the social welfare is everyone’s welfare.  In a just society  there is no parsing of social well being and health, there is no judgment of who is entitled to not starve, who is entitled to not die a long, slow death by preventable disease. While most of America goes on with their lives, content to watch the political process as if they were viewers of some show they have no real connection to.  The GOP and often the Democrats as well, serve the interests of global capital and imperial power while using their corporate owned media to deceive and disarm the public and keep them away from the voting booth in every way possible.

So is burning a voter registration card an act of defiance against this oppressive corporate state?  No.  By committing an act that breaks no laws and requires no great courage to perform, sends no message to the public except that some people have no problem dropping out and leaving the hard work to others and leaves open a giant hole that others who have the money and will make the time, will eagerly fill.

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Boston IWW Commerates Sacco and Vanzetti

On Saturday, August 29th at Boston Common members of the Boston Industrial Workers of the World gathered to remember the tragedy of justice carried out by the State of Massachusetts against two men wrongly accused of committing of robbing a payroll clerk at gunpoint.

Marred by ethnic prejudice, perjured testimony, suspected collusion of the defense counsel with the prosecution, admittance of irrelevant testimony concerning the political activities of both men, conflicts of interest with the judge and other judicial errors, Nicola Sacco and Bartemelo Vanzetti were sentenced to death electrocuted at the Charleston State Prison on August 23, 1927 as innocent men.

The case garnered international attention as the public worldwide noted that the prosecution, for lack of real evidence, made use of the prejudice, racism and red-baiting in American society at the time to convict the two men.  To this day the case still conjures up study and debate.  No one who studies history can deny that the events leading up to the deaths of these two men, had more to do with their anti-war, anti-capitalist and pro-worker activities than with the crime they were accused of committing.

Most importantly, the case draws a hard lesson about the extreme tension between workers and the unfettered growth of industrial capitalism in America and Europe.  Activists who fought for worker justice, who spoke out against World War 1 were actively pursued as what we’d today call “terrorists”, rounded up, beaten, abused and oppressed in an effort to stem the tide of resistance to the newly developing and growing capitalist state.

One would do well to recall that the abuse and corruption of the American judicial system continues to disempower, abuse and control those entities of society that serve the capitalist interest best when exploited.

Click here for further details on the case.

Nicola Sacco’s statement to court after being sentenced to death (9th April, 1927)

I am no orator. It is not very familiar with me the English language, and as I know, as my friend has told me, my comrade Vanzetti will speak more long, so I thought to give him the chance. I never knew, never heard, even read in history anything so cruel as this Court. After seven years prosecuting they still consider us guilty. And these gentle people here are arrayed with us in this court today.

I know the sentence will be between two classes, the oppressed class and the rich class, and there will be always collision between one and the other. We fraternize the people with the books, with the literature. You persecute the people, tyrannize them and kill them. We try the education of people always. You try to put a path between us and some other nationality that hates each other. That is why I am here today on this bench, for having been of the oppressed class. Well, you are the oppressor.

You know it, Judge Thayer – you know all my life, you know why I have been here, and after seven years that you have been persecuting me and my poor wife, and you still today sentence us to death. I would like to tell all my life, but what is the use? You know all about what I say before, that is, my comrade, will be talking, because he is more familiar with the language, and I will give him a chance.

You forget all this population that has been with us for seven years, to sympathize and give us all their energy and all their kindness. You do not care for them. Among that peoples and the comrades and the working class there is a big legion of intellectual people which have been with us for seven years, to not commit the iniquitous sentence, but still the Court goes ahead. And I want to thank you all, you peoples, my comrades who have been with me for seven years, with the Sacco Vanzetti case, and I will give my friend a chance.

Statement of Bartolomeo Vanzetti after sentencing:

“If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, justice, for man’s understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words – our lives – our pains – nothing! The taking of our lives – lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler – all! That last moment belong to us – that agony is our triumph.”

Below, 2007 documentary, lots of original film footage, detailed.

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Dismissed!

Originally published on Occupy New Hampshire’s website.

Back in May I wrote about my experiences after being arrested at the #noNATO rally in Chicago on May 20th. Yesterday was my court date. My case was dismissed.

In the weeks leading up to the hearing, I spent the time gathering pictures of my wrist, getting the injury treated at the Concord Community Acupuncture, finding myself a place to stay, booking plane tickets, contacting the lawyer, and attending a fundraiser by OccupyNH to help pay for the NLG lawyer. To say I was busy is an understatement.

As much as I was working on gathering what I needed to be prepared, I was trying hard not to think about the actual hearing. I knew if I allowed myself to think on it too much I’d start getting really apprehensive so I focused on the details and some other work I have as a way to ease the apprehension.

I was so grateful to OccupyNH for hosting a fundraising dinner for me. The NLG wanted $100 in payment (though they didn’t require it) so I wanted to make sure I gave them some compensation. That ONH was able to come together and gather that amount, plus a bit more for, as Ryan put it, “a burger at Ruby Tuesdays”, moved me almost to tears. I announced at the end of the night that it was in the top 3 of “the best nights of my life, ever.”

Will Hopkins, Executive Director of New Hampshire Peace Action put me in touch with Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She provided me with a warm, dry bed, a shower, and some food. I was so grateful I got to meet someone I’ve been admiring from afar for a really long time.

Kathy is so kind, warm, and generous and really really busy. I could see how hard she works and did my best to stay out of her way while I was there. I also got to meet Brian Terrel and Joshua Brollier. Brian was especially influential on me because he gave me a perspective of Catholicism I had never seen before. Though my paternal side of the family is Catholic and my inlaws are also Catholic, I had never heard of the Catholic Worker. The flavor of Catholicism preferred by those I’m related to by blood and marriage is of wealth at any expense. To meet a male Catholic who was not partriarchal, demeaning, disrespectful of women and their choices, and chose to live a life of poverty in keeping with the tenets of “voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and foresaken.” (source) had a profound affect on me. So much did Brian affect me, when the announcement for Catholic Mass came over the loudspeaker at the airport while I was waiting to go home, I attended Mass.

It was the first time in years I’d been to church. I’m Pagan so going to Mass is something I only do at weddings and funerals and only because I have to. Catholicism, and Christianity do not call to me. While I believe in “God” I believe him to be a minor god in the pantheon and one I only pray to when I need money since he has always been a god of greed to me. That’s my own personal opinion. It is not my wish to start a faith debate here.

The airport chapel was pretty devoid of character, I assume to accommodate every Abrahamic faith. There was me and one white man, about 40ish. Late in the service a young Latina joined us. The priest, an elderly white male of the Passionist sect talked of how a beautiful flower may grow on a garbage heap. I took the metaphor to mean the Occupy movement is the flower on the garbage heap of environmental and economic devastation imposed on us and Mother Earth by the Industrial Revolution which has continued to this day leaving nothing but destruction and the wealth of a few in its wake.

Father MacDonald also spoke of bringing together those who don’t always agree. He spoke of Matthew and how, as a tax collector, he wasn’t well liked by the Jews. Jesus brought Matthew to an event and everyone was pretty pissed at Jesus for doing so. But Jesus just wanted to show the tax collector was human (I’m totally paraphrasing here). I took the sermon to mean the Occupiers, police, and city leaders (any city or town) can come together to solve problems even if we don’t like and trust one another.

But I digress.

I left from Manchester-Boston Airport on July 4th. My flight left at 6a so I got to the airport around 4a which meant I got up around 2a. As horrid as this sounds, I hadn’t been sleeping through the night for the last couple weeks. Each time I went to bed I’d be up by 3a at the latest. This is totally out of my norm. But the hearing and my other work has really been weighing on my mind so sleep just wasn’t staying.

I got to the airport and immediately after checking in, the TSA bullied me. I had to dump out a bottle of water and throw away two oranges, and I wasn’t allowed to eat what I brought with me. The TSA agent followed me to the bathroom, pretending to wash her hands. When she asked what was wrong I said “we’re in the middle of a drought and you’re asking me to dump out water.” She then said she didn’t make the rules she just enforced them. Then she called me by my first name. I responded with “how presumptuous of you to call me by my first name. You can call me Mrs. Hill.” Then I told her the Nazi’s were just following orders and that she was acting like a predatory bully. I’m sure I’m on the TSA watch list now.

Getting to Chicago wasn’t an issue once I got past the police state. My time in Chicago was spent just trying to stay cool. The temps were in the high 90s the whole time I was there. Brian and I walked to the lake for a small BBQ Joshua was having. The lake is so very beautiful but the trash that littered the beach and park, and in the water at times, was really disconcerting. It was July 4th yet I only saw four trash barrels that were totally overflowing. And while I believe in the “leave no trace” philosophy of outdoor events, I do believe the City of Chicago should’ve provided more trash and recycle barrels for residents to use. Also, I noticed there were only two bathrooms with long lines. Being a very hot July 4th, it would seem someone in City Hall would’ve thought to add porta potties to the park as a way to accommodate the thousands of people that were there. The trash barrels and porta potties may have been lacking but the police were highly visible. About every five minutes a large CPD SUV drove the strip. As a tourist, the litter, lack of bathrooms, and high police visibility didn’t make me feel safe or welcome and certainly didn’t inspire me to return.

Thursday I spent at the house trying to stay out of everyone’s way. Kathy and Brian had a lot of work to do so I didn’t want to be a bother. I read quietly and engaged them when they would come out of the office for a break. I tided up the kitchen a couple times. As the day wore on, it got mildly cooler due to some brief showers. I decided to take a walk around 4p. As I was walking I found a used bookstore and picked up two classics I never read: On the Road and The Idiot; I also got Brave New World, something I haven’t read since high school. Then I got myself something to eat and went back to the house.

I had finally connected with the lawyer on Thursday. Jeff Frank who works for, or with, the NLG called me before I went for the walk. We talked about my case. He felt the City would be offering me community service though he did prepare me for a mini-trial if it came down to that. Mr. Frank said we wouldn’t know who the arresting officer was until he saw the paperwork which is something he wouldn’t see until we arrived at the courthouse in the morning. I told him my story about how I tried to move off the street but wasn’t able to, how a male officer took me by the right hand and put me in a control hold then handed me over to a female officer who was very polite, courteous, and gentle with me. I also asked him what I should do with my backpack. “I doubt the bailiffs are going to let me in with it” I said to him “it’s got all my clothes. As soon as I get out of court I have to head to the airport so I don’t know what to do.” He said he would bring his car and I could put it in the back. We then described ourselves physically so we’d be able to recognize each other come morning.

Morning came and I made my way through the Chicago’s subway system to get to the courthouse on W. Fournoy Street. I got there before the building opened so I milled around outside with about 20 other people. I wore a long black dress, with teal jewelry. I stood out like a sore thumb for a three reasons: 1. I was dressed up. 2. I am white. 3. I had a big yellow backpack with me. My fellow defendants — not occupiers, rather victims of a broken system — where mostly young black or Latino men. They looked at me with confused curiosity for a minute or two then totally ignored me. Their loved ones, closer to my age, also looked at me with confusion and curiosity though no one spoke to me. I was curious about them too. I wanted to engage in conversation but none would make eye contact with me so I didn’t press the issue.

The bailiff, an African-American male about 45ish, came out and made this 5 minute long speech about how to get through security, what to do, where to go once you’re in the building, and about being polite and courteous. He then looked at me and said “ma’am you cannot bring that bag in there.” I responded with “The lawyah said he’d put it in the trunk of his ca’ah but he’s not he-ah yet.” The bailiff then smiled this broad, beautiful smile full of white teeth and said “HELLO BOSTON!” Everyone laughed, myself included, so I responded with “Hello Chicago!” The problem of my bag was solved as soon as Mr. Frank showed up.

Mr. Frank is a very handsome man of 60. He’s well dressed and well groomed. He worked as a corporate lawyer for 20 years which he described as “intensely depressing.” He said he lived with the depression until he made the money he needed so he could do the work he wanted, that is to work for the NLG. He said the cop who is on the paperwork as being my arresting officer always shows up to court, that she is really dedicated. I was surprised the woman was my arresting officer. I’ll remind you she was the one who treated me with dignity and respect and who said to the Paddy Wagon officers “you don’t need to worry about her, she’s been cooperative the whole time.” I said to Mr. Frank “she’s not the one who assaulted me. That was a man.” He then went into some legalese about how that actually works to our advantage.

My name was called and I went up. The City prosecutor said “Can I have a few minutes Judge? The officer isn’t here yet.” Mr. Frank got all excited. I sat back down as the judge gave the minutes requested. Then, about 15 minutes later, I was called back up. The prosecutor said “The officer was here on June 6th.” The judge then asked “what was she told to do?” The prosecutor then said “She was told to come back on July 6th. I have one piece of paper that says June 6th.” The judge then said “the bail slip clearly states July 6th. The officer was informed to come back. She’s not here. Dismissed!” I was jubilant.

Despite being jubilant, I was a little disappointed. Part of me wanted to go to trial so I could employ the advice from Kathy: “speak a little louder than you normally do, be sassy, and remind the court you have a right to free speech and the right to assembly both of which you were doing in an orderly fashion.” I live by the theory that everyone is entitled to my opinion and I was willing to give everyone in that courtroom my opinion loudly and sassisly. Alas, that was not my fate.

I have the opportunity to have my arrest expunged now that the case has been dismissed but I don’t think I will. This is my first arrest and something I’m proud off. I’m thinking of making a badge for my old Girl Scout sash, one with #noNATO on it and some handcuffs.

The day just didn’t end there though. My good fortune continued as Mr. Frank chose to drive me to the airport so I didn’t have to take the subway (though I love taking the subway). It gave us a chance to talk and get to know each other a bit. I invited him to NH. He gave me a hug as I was leaving and thanked me for being an occupier and for agitating for change.

At Midway Airport, I got myself an earlier flight home. The wicked nice security guard at the airport received my CTA pass because it still had money on it and I didn’t want to waste it. I sailed though the TSA this time, who didn’t make me pour out the water in my water bottle and let me keep an orange I had in my bag.

I got on the plane, got home, and had an impromptu celebration at Margarita’s in Manchester. A bunch of my fellow ONHers came when I called and texted and we hung out for a while. It was another fantastic day and night.

I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me: my husband, mother, brother, the NLG, Jeff Frank, Kathy Kelly, Brian Terrell, Joshua Broiller, Will Hopkins, and, of course, OccupyNH. To all those I don’t know who tweeted and Facebooked* support to me let me say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I could not, nor would not, have done this without you. Your support is valuable and I really, really appreciate it.

xo,

Michelle

*When did “facebook” become a verb?

__

Here is a copy of the note I wrote to my arresting officer.

Dear Officer ____,

The tension was heavy in the air, our emotions all ran high on May 20, 2012 at the #noNATO rally in Chicago. Protesters tried to remain calm, officers tried to control their fear. It was that day you arrested me.

It was the first time I’ve been arrested despite being on the front lines of progressive activism for 25 years. I was very nervous to say the least. Over the years I’d heard and read in the paper stories of how badly protesters are treated by police and feared I would be treated the same. And I was. A male officer put me in a control hold bending my right wrist to control me through pain despite my compliance with him. He handed me over to you. You leaned in and quietly asked me “why didn’t you disperse when you were told to”? I wanted to respond but I know anything I say can and will be used against me so I remained silent. What I wanted to say was “I was trying but there was no where for me to go. I was kettled by the police.”

While I was in your custody you treated me with dignity and respect. You were gentle and kind to me. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You restored some of the faith I’ve lost in the police with your warmth.

I was hoping to thank you in person at my hearing on July 6th – I came back from NH despite the financial quagmire I am in due to chronic unemployment and overbearing student loans – but you were not there. I wanted to hug you for your kindness. Since I cannot do that, I write this note to you in thanks.

We are the 99% (even police!),

Peace, Love, and Happiness,

Michelle

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