Wednesday May 23, 2012
When I was a freshman in high school, my typing teacher had us practice the phrase “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” on typewriters over and over and over again. At the time I didn’t think much of the phrase. After all, I wasn’t a man and I perceived the phrase to mean men should join the military to “aid” their country in bombing other nations, in killing other people because their nation was in “need.” The words did not speak me at all.
Over 25 years later, I look at this phrase differently.
While the word “women” may not be in the phrase, I assume “men” to mean “people.” So, if I were to re-write it, the phrase would be “Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country.” And if ever there was a time for Americans to come to the aid of their country, NOW is that time.
Coming to the aid of my country means I stand against a police state. It means I call out inequality when I see it. It means I talk to the media of how I owe twice as much on my student loans than I do on my home, that I cannot find a job paying a living salary, and that I cannot afford healthcare. It means I sit on a bus for 24 hours, cramped, uncomfortable, and smelling like vegan chili because my country is in need.
The United States is in need of compassion, of love, of equality. And lots of it.
I traveled to #noNATO courtesy of National Nurses United. The union paid for buses to travel from Boston to Chicago to support single payer. As a former healthcare provider I was quite pleased the union supports single payer as many individual healthcare providers I know are vehemently opposed to providing care to everyone regardless of their marital status, employment status, health status, and economic status.
The first few days I was in Chicago went without incident. I participated in a number of actions including the rally organized by the National Nurses in which Tom Morello attended. The point of the rally was to create a “sin tax” (also called “Robin Hood Tax”) to fund a single payer health program in the United States by
Their pitch: impose a tax of 50 cents on every $100 of trades of stocks, bonds, dividends and other financial transactions, which are not currently taxed. The U.S. would join more than a dozen other nations that already have a financial transaction tax, according to National Nurses United (NNU).
I also joined Chicagoians in a march to re-open many of Chicago’s mental health clinics which have been closed due to budget cuts. That march, Healthcare Not Warfare, had us rally in a park, march down the streets, sit-in in front of the Mayor’s house, then disperse. All the while, police followed us, some in riot gear, some in regular uniforms, some with bikes. Despite the constant police presence, we all remained calm. Few arrests, if any, were made.
That changed on Sunday though.
Sunday was the “big march.” It was the day thousands of people, up to 75,000 I heard, came to Chicago to protest the NATO summit held in Chicago. NATO, the G8′s army of mass destruction, has been instrumental in the destruction of lives, liberty, and freedom in so many countries, most poor, around the globe. I was glad to stand against such destruction.
I am a nonviolent, peaceful protester — always have been, always will be — and for years I’ve been protesting against such injustices. And for the first time, violence by the police was visited on my body.
Chicago Police Department (CPD) used bike racks along the march route to corral protesters onto the street. They then herded us like sheep, pushing us up the street but not allowing us to move OFF the street because of the barricades. All the while a loudspeaker informed us we had to move west because it was “unlawful” for us to be on the street. I assume this is because the permit to march on the street had reached its time limit.
The officers wanted us gone but we couldn’t go as fast as they wanted. Too many people were herded together and there weren’t enough exits from the barricades. Because we were not dispersing fast enough, the foot officers came, then the bike officers, then the riot officers with dogs and horses. (I feel terrible for those dogs and horses. They are peaceful animals trained to be weapons. Shameful.)
One male officer told me to disperse. I couldn’t move fast enough. He waved his finger as if to say “take her” and another male officer grabbed my right arm (he came up behind me, I never saw him), took my right hand, and bent it down so my fingers were touching my wrist. He held it there, deliberately using pain and violence to control me. I said to him “I am cooperating with you” but he continued to hurt me. I said “you are hurting me” but he continued to use pain to control me. I asked him his name but he didn’t say anything. I asked him his badge number but he didn’t say anything. As a matter of fact, he never said a word including not reading me my rights. Because of the way he was holding my hand, I could not turn my body to see his badge number. All the while, he was walking at a speed I could not keep up with. All I could do was some deep breathing to try and control the pain. I took deep breaths in through my nose and let the breath out through my mouth as slowly as I could despite the pain and the speed at which I was being forced to walk.
The male officer handed me off to a female officer. I’m not sure if the male officer or the female officer zip tied my hands behind my back but one did. The female officer whispered into my ear “why didn’t you cooperate?” I didn’t say anything because I remember my training from the NLG: remain silent. She then sat me down with a bunch of other Occupiers.
After a few minutes, the female officer assigned to me came back and helped me stand up. She was very polite and gentle and treated me with great respect (I will make sure to write a thank you note to her and to write a note to the CPD saying how great she was. She should receive accolades for her kindness) as she brought me to another street where I was instructed to sit down on the sidewalk with other protesters. We sounded off by counting out loud. I said “ONE” then the young man sitting next to me said “TWO” and so on until it was determined there were 19 of us.
Sometime later we were brought to another street and gender segregated into paddy wagons. I was placed in a wagon with three other females: a young girl from Oakland and two twenty somethings from NYC. The officers then took us out of the “old school” paddy wagon and placed us in another, a newer one with seats instead of benches, a padlocked gate, and where everything we said and did was video recorded. By this time I’d been cuffed for maybe two hours, quite possibly longer. There was no way to tell the time as there were no clocks.
Slowly the paddy wagon filled with more women. At the final count, eight of us were there representing Occupy Chicago, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Wall Street, and Occupy New Hampshire. I was thanked by each and every one of those women for coming from so far away to fight against Chicago’s clinic closures — something that doesn’t affect me! — and to stand against war and violence. I thanked them in return and invited them all to Hands Across New Hampshire.
To pass the time, we exchanged recipes while waiting to be brought to the police station.
After a while, I was starting to have a panic attack. It’s been years since I’ve had one but having my hands tied behind my back, padlocked into a small area with eight other women, really triggered my panic. I kept my head down on the seat in front of me because it was nice and cool and I kept my breathing as even as I could. Meanwhile, from my thumb to my middle finger, from the tips of my fingers to well below my wrirst, my right hand went numb. One of my fellow occupiers said to keep rubbing it to keep the blood going so I did but that kept tightening up the zip-cuffs.
Hours later we finally got into the police station at Belmont and Western streets. The officers sat us on chairs that were zip-tied together. They took the zip-cuffs off of us and handcuffed one hand to the chair. My right hand was cuffed. I kept rubbing it because of the numbness. One officer, a middle aged white haired man, came up to me and asked “is your hand ok?” to which I responded “no. I can’t feel it.” He then said he would have the doctor look at it but in the meantime he wanted to take the cuff off and put it on my left hand to which I agreed. In order to do so he had to twist the cuff — and my wrist — so he could get the key into the cuff to unlock it. It hurt really, really bad. I whimpered in pain and held the hand of the 50 year old elementary school teacher who also got arrested (and a thumb in her eye courtesy of her arresting officer) as the officer took the cuff off my right hand. He then apologized for hurting me. The same officer made sure we were well hydrated.
I don’t know how long we were there for. Hours certainly. The clock in the room was broken so I don’t know what the real time was. A tacit to keep us disempowered I’m sure.
A female officer was assigned to me to process me. She was really inefficient. All told, it took her almost 12 hours to process me. I’m not sure what the hold up was, but none of the officers were in any hurry to get us out of there despite the large number of arrests. She had already searched my fanny pack so she saw the menstrual pad in there so when I asked her to take me to the bathroom she asked if I needed to change my pad. I said yes. I did what I had to do in the bathroom stall and when I was finished I asked her for one of her Nitrile gloves. She asked why. I said “I use reusable pads and I don’t want to throw away the one I have. I want to wrap it up in a glove and put it with my stuff.” She was totally grossed out by the idea and absolutely refused to give me a glove, instead making me throw away one of my Lunapads, one I’ve had for 10 years. I was pretty upset by that but let it go.
I was brought back to the room with the broken clock where I waited for some more time, maybe two hours. The officer assigned to me asked me where my phone was. I told her I didn’t have it. She said “I know you have one, your charger is in here. Where is the phone.” I responded with “I gave it to a friend before I was arrested.” The officer asked why I gave my friend my phone and I replied with “I didn’t want to lose the pictures and videos I have on it.” She was furious at my thinking ahead.
Then I was taken to see the doctor — actually, it was a RN who examined me — who totally shut down emotionally when I told her how I was injured. She obviously didn’t want to know the CPD had deliberately hurt me. I assume it was her way of protecting herself emotionally and protecting her job. Then I was brought into another room with the school teacher who had a cop’s thumb in her eye — whom I will refer to as MJ — where two more cops, both female, babysat us while the cops who were assigned to us processed us.
MJ and I talked about why we were there. She is a school teacher who had her pension stolen by Scott Walker. A former Alderman, a developer sued her and the other Aldermen when they refused to permit the developer to build on protected land in Wisconsin. Her kids were harassed in school because of the lawsuit. The officers babysitting us listened intently while trying not to appear as if they weren’t listening. MJ and I managed to break through their gruff exterior and got them to nod in agreement with us a few times. We were getting through to them.
Quite some time later, MJ and I were taken to another room where another Occupier was being processed. He was a young man, 19 I think, who was terrified. We comforted him and thanked him for his dedication. You could see some of the tension slip off his body when he realized he wasn’t the only one who was being arrested for coming to the aid of his country. We talked to the officers who admitted they were not afraid of us and who believed we “have the right to protest.” All of the officers we talked to agreed the country is in the shitter and that “something” needs to be done. The manner in which change is brought to the US is where we differed in opinion. Some of the officers thought voting new people into office was the way to go. MJ and I stated that we vote in every election but voting hasn’t worked for good change, rather it has worked for bad change. We agreed that the US needs better candidates to run, and more choices in parties. Other officers thought writing Letters to the Editor was a better way to instigate change to which both MJ and I responded that we’d written many letters but nothing had changed for the positive.
MJ was sent to the holding cell well before I was. As I said, the officer assigned to me was really inefficient and slow moving. Just observing her she took her time with everything she did, taking time to eat some cheetos and donuts (seriously) and to get up about every 5 minutes to ask someone a question about the paperwork and how to work the computer program CPD uses to process “prisoners” (their word, not mine). I observed her “start over” three times. Who knows how many times she started over when I wasn’t observing her.
It was around 4am when I was sent to the holding cell. I was finger printed (again), had my photo taken again (the third time. I smiled each time), and was given .50 cents of my own money to call the NLG. I was kept in the holding cell with MJ for a couple more hours. The prison guards had taken my glasses away so I kept my eyes closed so I wouldn’t get a migraine. It was really cold in the holding cell, another tactic to keep us disempowered and under control. Poor MJ was shivering. Unlike me, she doesn’t have any body fat to keep her warm. I’d estimate her weight at 100 lbs where as I have 70 pounds on that and lots of fat to (kinda) keep me warm.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was released. I was taken to the front of the police station where I retrieved my possessions and given paperwork for my court date in July. It was there I was finally told why I had been arrested in the first place: resisting arrest. You will remember I was not resisting, I was cooperating with the officer. When I brought this up to the officer at the front desk she yelled at me in a forceful manner saying “I WAS NOT THE ARRESTING OFFICER, I WASN’T THERE. DON’T GIVE ME ATTITUDE.” I then didn’t say anything to which she said “I take your silence as compliance.” I responded with “My silence is not compliance, it’s protection from your aggression.” She gave me a death glare.
It was then I realized I was at the bathroom where the officer took me that had my Lunapad in it. I went back to the bathroom and found my lunapad in the trash and put it in my pocket. I was so happy to have it back.
MJ and I were then escorted out of the police station. Occupiers were outside cheering for us. I raised my hands in gratitude for their love and affection. A volunteer from the NLG met me and gave me some paperwork. MSNBC came up and interviewed me but I cannot find the interview anywhere on the net. As a matter of fact, my arrest made national news. My aunt in California saw it but now I cannot find the video on the internet.
It’s been three days and still my right hand is numb and tingly. I’m hoping it’ll return to its norm because the sensations are troubling.
Here is a podcast of my arrest from the perspective of my hostess.