Pier 57
September 15, 2004 9:37 AM   Subscribe

A firsthand account of the RNC arrest sweep in NYC by 2600 editor Emmanuel Goldstein, who was covering the protest for WBAI radio and Indymedia. Complete with photos and video.
posted by dr_dank (20 comments total)
I've read enough accounts of folks netted in this haul that I could probably write my own account - complete with gross baloney and oil stains. They all make me sick. Regardless of political viewpoints on who should lead the country, this sort of uber efficient sweeping up of large groups of citizens followed by ridiculous abusive bureaucratic kafkaesque nightmares for those captured and eventually accused of no wrong doing is wrong. Isn't this what we're supposedly fighting against? You know, the whole freedom and democracy thing?

Really, what harm would have come to NY from letting the people mass and mill and march and yell and chant for a few days. Oh, wait they did - it's just that a couple thousand of them were pointlessly abused at the cost (extravagant overtime pay!!!!!) of the taxpayer. FUCK!
posted by dorcas at 11:07 AM on September 15, 2004

RNC is so last week.
posted by smackfu at 11:10 AM on September 15, 2004

Damn that was some grim reading.
posted by Voivod at 11:12 AM on September 15, 2004

Thanks for posting your experience.
posted by LinemanBear at 11:47 AM on September 15, 2004

I'm hearing that the pier where Gitmo on the Hudson was established may have been leased to the RNC for the convention.
Anyone else been hearing that?
The management folks for these piers are definitely pro-RNC so there may be something to the rumors.
posted by nofundy at 12:21 PM on September 15, 2004

A letter that seems to be the source of that rumor. (thanks for this post, dr_dank)
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:36 PM on September 15, 2004

This is horrifying. The writer was there to report, and so went in with the tools and ability he needed to do it, but I still admire him for being able to provide such a detailed account of his experience. After more than 30 hours of confinement, it must have taken him quite a while to complete the grim task of piecing everything together with documentation.

Of all the many ugly descriptions and images, this gave me a particular chill. Perhaps that's because I have been to many an event where Fred Phelps and his imps have had signs with slogans and images that very closely resemble this. It's one thing to see them while attending an event where you are free to turn away from their hateful messages. But to see a literally captive audience taunted with those images begs the question: how could someone whose job it was to control the crowd safely make such a decision? If any truck should have been rerouted, it should have been this one, with its singular purpose to enrage the crowd. Whoever let that truck through endangered everyone present, apparently to gratify some sadistic impulse.

That's the hallmark of the whole story: law enforcement directed to behave with deliberate inefficiency and harshness, obviously to detain people as long as possible until the RNC was safely out of town, and to cow them from future protest. Nonviolent people -- hell, passersby -- were denied safe shelter, bathrooms, food, water, and lawyers. Really, who gives a damn about Zell Miller? I wish Jimmy Carter and anyone else weighing in with RNC-inspired outrage would write to Bloomberg instead, and keep on shouting about this until there's some accountability for what happened here.
posted by melissa may at 1:11 PM on September 15, 2004

From the Article:

[Aftermath] It took me quite some time to start feeling normal. A friend came over to see how I was when I woke up Thursday night. We had food brought in because I just couldn't deal with going outside. Normally I would have been at the Garden, getting more material as George W. Bush gave his speech. Instead I stayed home and watched it start on television.

I knew this wasn't healthy so I decided to try and handle going outside. But I didn't want to go anywhere near the convention. They say if you get picked up a second time, you go straight to Riker's Island. I realized what an effective job the cops did instilling fear into people. Usually I'm the one who stands up to that kind of intimidation and here I was going right along with the script. The sound of a helicopter sent a feeling of dread through me and I felt like bolting. I saw cops ahead and moved to the other side of the street, sculking like a rat. That's when I knew I wasn't just snapping out of this. I was fucked up from a day and a half in confinement. Imagine what would happen if they were serious?

posted by milovoo at 2:06 PM on September 15, 2004

Well, I hope this has dissuaded you to the mindless illusion that, when it really comes down to it, anything beyond raw power has any sway in this world. Even in america.
posted by delmoi at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2004

Ok, EG, Verizon does suck, but the other companies suck only slightly less; no, you can't copy DVDs legally; and do you know where I can get a copy of Big Audio Dynamite's "Much Worse"?
posted by ParisParamus at 4:59 PM on September 15, 2004

i didn't get a chance to post this in the last RNC arrest story, but here's a (very long, detailed, and disgusting) first-hand account from a friend of mine.

Eddie's story

i think PP has gone further insane.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:27 PM on September 15, 2004

What a great thing it is, to be a US American. You guys have it so damn good down there.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:36 PM on September 15, 2004

Albany and political practicality won't let the city raise taxes, or cut police wages, very much at all. If all of the these massive lawsuits succeed, the damages are going to be paid by cuts in NYC government services and in non-police government jobs and wages. Go ahead and go to court, and when the elevators go unrepaired an extra week at the housing projects in the Bronx, the residents will know who to thank.
posted by MattD at 6:19 AM on September 16, 2004

Chilling. Bone chilling. I read the Gulag Archipeligo and no, we weren't killing people like Stalin was, but it's very much like the wanton rounding up with no rights.
posted by aacheson at 8:39 AM on September 16, 2004

On the other hand maybe the Police Department will be a little more reluctant to spend money on this kind of harrassment.
posted by Mitheral at 9:16 AM on September 16, 2004

MattD, the only way I can think to change this sort of easy brutality is to make wrongful arrest and detention less easy--a more expensive, less politically expedient proposition for the city than not. Really, I don't think those elevators are getting fixed any time soon, and I also think most housing project residents are smart enough to know who to thank: politicians who routinely sacrifice their interests and shut their voices out of the political process.

You might also want to consider that the overlap between RNC protestors and people who generally work and give charity to aid the poor is high. The idea that protestors should be blamed for the expense of their own mistreatment would be repulsive to many poor people for that reason.
posted by melissa may at 9:30 AM on September 16, 2004

Melissa, the point I'm making is that lawsuits for damages are a singularly inappropriate way to address this matter.

Protesters can feel all high and mighty about the justice of their cause, but the simple fact is that the money to pay any damages they are awarded will be coming straight out of the hides of the service consumers of New York City, people who did not have anything to do with either the Convention or the protesters against it. That's simply unfair.
posted by MattD at 9:48 AM on September 16, 2004

MattD, I see your point, and I agree that no one should profit from what happened here: I would hope the cases would be fought pro bono and that any damages awarded would be paid back to the city -- ideally, in the form of a big fat check to those social services that most benefit the poor.

However, that said: how else does reform happen? Obviously, not protest. People in NYC who didn't attend it, want it, or even had complete apathy toward the convention are still Americans. But maybe tomorrow, they'll be move to nonviolently protest some policy -- or they'll just be walking down the street as it happens -- and it'll be them on the line. That's not a tangible thing, like a working elevator, but it's vital to our democracy: that pompous, overused phrase actually has an application here.

Also, I'm sure there are the usual smug exceptions, but the tone I've heard from the aggrieved protestors is humble -- in this particular piece, the writer takes great pains to emphasize that his suffering is relatively small. But unlawful detention isn't always so. Different circumstances, different cases, different severity levels, but they all boil down to an essential question -- how else do you most quickly persuade government to stop ignoring civil rights, except to make it pay for its mistakes?
posted by melissa may at 10:56 AM on September 16, 2004

MattD, what is an appropriate way to address this matter? Protesting obviously doesn't work. What next?

Seems to me there are only two real outcomes for successful lawsuits: cash is paid out, or someone goes to jail.

Barring the ability to hold any one person or small group of persons responsible for deciding to incarcerate a bunch of peaceful protestors, it looks to me like hitting 'em in the pocketbook is the only viable outcome.

You have a better idea?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2004

New York Times article(login required) reporting on the matter. Facts reported dovetail precisely with the above link. Apparently a judge got out of bed at midnight and ordered the police to allow the detainees immediate access to their attorneys, but she was ignored.

So much for the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:12 AM on September 17, 2004

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