BRUTAL TREATMENT CONTINUES AGAINST JAILED PROTESTERS

"One thing this article doesn't mention is the bail set for Kate Sorensen, ACT UP Philadelphia member, at $1 million as well. She is being charged with 10 felonies, from what I understand, including inciting a riot."


New York Times, August 5, 2000

Convention Demonstrators Are Held on Very High Bail
Lawyers Call Action Preventive Detention

by FRANCIS X. CLINES

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 4 -- With bail being set as high as $1 million for protesters accused of blocking streets during the Republican National Convention, defense and civil liberties lawyers today questioned whether the city court action was a punitive measure intended to discourage the next round of civil disobedience, planned for the Democrats' convention in Los Angeles.

The bail of $1 million was set for John Sellers, identified as a 33-year-old leader of the Ruckus Society of California, which says it trains demonstrators in nonviolent civil disobedience. Larry Frankel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said the amount seemed extraordinary since Mr. Sellers had been charged only with eight misdemeanors.

Bail for three other defendants whom the police considered ringleaders of the street protests was set at $400,000 to $500,000, with only one of them, 20-year-old Darby Landy, accused of a felony. The charge came after a street fracas with biker police officers led by Commissioner John P. Timoney.

Mr. Frankel questioned whether the city's intention was to keep protest leaders "in detention until their date of trial" sometime after the Democratic National Convention's opening on Aug. 14, rather than serving bail's basic purpose of guaranteeing a defendant's appearance for trial. Other defense lawyers noted that defendants charged with misdemeanors typically were released on their own recognizance and that bail as high as $1 million was unprecedented for misdemeanors.

In arguing for the high bail, Assistant District Attorney Cindy Martelli contended on Thursday that Mr. Sellers was one of the key leaders of the illegal street demonstrations Tuesday in which more than 200 protesters were arrested.

"He facilitates the more radical elements to accomplish their objective of violence and mayhem," Ms. Martelli said.

There were few reports of major property damage or serious personal injury in the demonstrations.

In the bail argument, prosecutors referred repeatedly to the coming Democratic convention and to street protests earlier in Washington and Seattle. Defense lawyers said the simple misdemeanor charges at issue were being inflated into ominous-sounding national conspiracies to draw the high bail.

"This is Philadelphia, Ala.," said Lawrence S. Krasner, Mr. Sellers's defense lawyer, who contended that the city was using bail as a tool of
preventive detention and punishment.

"Bail of $1 million for a misdemeanor is absolutely ludicrous," Mr. Krasner said, adding that he would appeal it on Monday.

After 371 arrests made during the convention week, most on misdemeanor charges, only about a third of the defendants were free as of this
morning, by unofficial count. The police and demonstrators accused each other of deliberately slowing the arraignment process. Civil liberties lawyers said a number of protesters were refusing to cooperate and withholding their identities.

"I'm getting parents calling us up asking if we know what happened to their kids," Mr. Frankel said, emphasizing that he was urging cooperation and proper identification.

Mr. Sellers was arrested as he engaged in a cell phone conversation on the street. Amy Kwasnicki, organizer for the protest group Philadelphia Direct Action, accused the police of pre-emptively arresting people they considered protest leaders even though she said Mr. Sellers had only trained others in methods of nonviolent civil disobedience.

Seventy of the defendants were arrested on Tuesday in a puppet-making factory that the police raided with a search warrant, contending they would uncover hard evidence of criminal plans to disrupt the city during the convention. Demonstrators said the factory contained only street-theater puppets and agitprop paraphernalia intended for nonviolent civil disobedience.

As defense lawyers awaited details of the evidence that the police considered likely to be found, a judge ordered the warrant's contents sealed at the request of city prosecutors. "Highly suspicious," said Stefan Presser, legal director for the A.C.L.U.

The police denied accusations that the factory raid was a pre-emptive strike.

"We think we can prove they've engaged in criminal activity," Commissioner Timoney said on Thursday.

He raised the question of whether there should be a federal investigation into the activities of protest groups moving lately from one city to another to stage street demonstrations during major, media-heavy conferences. "Somebody's got to look into these groups," Mr. Timoney said.

The police were widely praised by Philadelphians for restraint in dealing with the demonstrations. But leaders of the protest groups said defendants were being abused in jail. The police denied this, and Mr. Presser of the A.C.L.U. said legal monitors inside the detention area had received no complaints of the alleged brutality.

Friday August 04, 2000 @07:00PM

My Arrest > by Joseph Rogers

I'm writing to update everyone about my particular situation in regard to the protests about and around the Republican National Convention Tuesday night and some misunderstandings that are being perpetrated by the press about the demonstration.

In my conversations with several staff members, I found that there was some misunderstanding about why I would in any way be associated with the activities of Tuesday night. I think this may have resulted from the fact that the press has been painting a pretty negative picture of the events, as they usually do when it comes to protests.

I got caught up in Tuesday's events primarily because I had volunteered, as a member of the Quaker meeting located at 15th and Cherry Streets, to provide counseling to protesters or anyone else who might be in an emotionally distraught state in relation to what was happening on Tuesday night. We had received advance notice that there probably would be some demonstrations and that they might include civil disobedience. (If you would like more information on civil disobedience, see below, at the end of this message.)

Since there is no way to predict how such events will turn out, we at the Quaker meeting wanted to be available to provide sanctuary to the young people involved in the protests so there would be a place where they could get support and get off the streets if things got too dangerous. There are many young people who are associated with the Religious Society of Friends who are active in efforts that include civil disobedience; and we have a particular concern not only for the protesters in general but especially for those of our members' children who are activists and become involved in such initiatives.

Part of what we were doing at the Quaker meeting house on Tuesday night was trying to monitor what was happening so that, as an established group in the community, we could advocate on behalf of the protesters if people's rights were being violated, and if police were treating people badly. Part of my job was to encourage the protesters to stay peaceful and non-violent, and I was able to do that on several occasions. We also wanted to encourage police in their own efforts to stay non-violent, and I was also able to do that on several occasions.

But in the process of trying to be a peaceful presence, both with the protesters and the police, I found myself in the middle of a sit-in at the intersection of 15th and JFK, where the protesters were blocking that intersection. Some of them had formed what they call a lockdown, which involves linking arms and sitting in the street to create a human blockade.as a way of making a statement. Aside from the protesters, other people, including police and reporters, were milling about on the road preventing the flow of traffic. In fact, in one situation there were a lot more police and reporters blocking the road than there were protesters.

It looked like they were going to arrest a group of young people who were blocking the road, and I went up to see what was happening. Then I did the one thing you're not supposed to do in such a situation: I turned my back to talk to a Chicago Sun-Times reporter. And during the few minutes I had my back turned, the situation had changed so rapidly that I found myself in front of a police line that was sweeping the area, using their bikes as sort of a moving barricade; and a police officer took his bike and shoved it hard into my back and then shoved me down with the bike and dropped over me. Several other officers behind him were grabbing people and arresting them. So I was arrested while engaged in support activities involving trying to maintain peace between police and protesters. I had no intention of doing civil disobedience (CD), although in the past I have done lots of CD and supported other people in their efforts to do CD.

Despite the fact that the press has been portraying the protesters as confused, unthinking, spoiled-brat anarchists, the reality is that the vast majority of the kids I met were involved in these activities in a well-thought-out and caring way. They were engaged in Gandhian non-violence, not confronting the police but, when the police confronted them, sitting down in a non-violent way and trying to communicate messages of love and peace, not hate. And they continued, and are continuing, to do this after their arrest.

Although I did see some instances where the police behaved badly during the demonstration, for the most part they handled themselves well. The protesters also, for the most part, behaved very well, with the exception of a few individuals, associated with a group commonly known as the Black Block because of the black clothes they wear. This group, who style themselves after some of the European anarchist efforts of the late sixties, see themselves as being helpful by doing what they call trashing, which involves spray painting and smashing windows. But it is my understanding that the efforts of even this group are to try and avoid physical confrontations with human beings, and they see themselves as non-violent (although we could question that characterization since they are destroying property). It is my understanding that, in some scuffles with these individuals, police did get hurt.

Again, unlike the papers have been playing it, the vast majority of the protesters did everything they could to avoid harming anyone. They were employing non-violent tactics, which involve going completely limp. I witnessed one instance where a police officer told a protester that he had a bad back and asked if the protester would walk instead of needing to be carried, and this individual got up and walked so that the police officer would not be hurt. Again, the vast majority were peaceful, non-violent activists engaged in traditional civil disobedience, and trying not to harm police officers. A common theme among the protesters was that their action was not against the police as individuals. Although one of the issues was police brutality, they were trying to reach out to the officers and assure them it was not personal. But some police took it personally and reacted in ways that were not professional and not helpful to anyone, either fellow officers or protesters.

Overall, although I had not planned to be active in the protests and my goal was simply to be a peaceful presence, it's not always possible to control these things.

In regard to tonight's (Friday's) planned vigil, I want to assure you that everything reported in the earlier memo that I forwarded from Laura Smoot of the Quaker Information Center was true. I was locked up for two nights myself, and at one point I was hog-tied by plastic restraints from my right arm to my left ankle and told to hop back to my cell. When I told the guard that I had a bad knee on which I had had surgery, they then made me crawl back to my cell. They did this to me because I raised my voice in protest about another prisoner who was being tortured. If they did this kind of thing to me, a 48-year-old CEO of a large non-profit agency, I hate to think what they will do to these kids as time passes and the guards get tired and fed up. So please pass the word about the vigil.

I want to thank everyone for their support, particularly Jack, Susan Rogers, Bob Turri, Cheri and Cece; I'm sorry if I'm leaving anyone out. My trial is set for September 16 (although that may change); I have six misdemeanor charges against me. I will keep people informed as the situation progresses.

About non-violent direct action (the following was printed in The Key, the newsletter of the National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse, Winter 1998): "Commiting civil disobedience [also called non-violent direct action] means stepping over the line and breaking the law," said Joseph A. Rogers, executive director of the National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse. "For example, you might occupy a private space - say, move inside the lobby of an insurance company, where you're not legally allowed to demonstrate. "There are risks and consequences when you do that," Rogers added. "You can be arrested, although in most areas you would just get a simple fine. Before you contemplate such an action, make sure you have legal help and support, and that your group is disciplined and non-violent. If people get into fights with the police, resist arrest or damage property, instead of a simple misdemeanor you can be charged with a felony." In any demonstration, "people must understand what is acceptable behavior, and what is not," said Robert M. Smith, staff coordinator of the Brandywine Peace Community. "That is especially the case with civil disobedience." Brandywine does not allow demonstrators to participate in civil disobedience unless they attend a preparation meeting. The following is excerpted and adapted from Brandywine's guidelines, which conclude with a notice that the organization "has no funds available for bond and/or fines, nor can Brandywine be responsible for providing legal assistance and/or representation if desired in any court proceeding(s). "We will observe with co-actors, police, [our target's] employees, and passersby the rules of human courtesy. We will exhibit no hostility - physical or verbal - toward anyone. . . . We will trust in the representation and facilitation of the designated coordinators. For those doing non-violent civil disobedience: "When asked to leave by [our target's] security or police, we will politely decline . . . When we are placed under arrest, we will go peacefully, for we understand the legal jeopardy of our witness. Those of us who choose non-cooperation also understand that [this] does not mean resisting arrest; "going limp" means to assume a posture of stillness. We will commit no acts that could endanger anyone..." - SR

 

Protesters Denounce High Bail Amounts for Jailed Leaders
by TINA DAUNT and NICHOLAS RICCARDI, L.A.TIMES STAFF WRITERS

PHILADELPHIA (Los Angeles Times) 8-4-2000 - With bails set as high as $1 million, hundreds of protesters arrested earlier in the week remained behind bars Thursday as the Republican National Convention drew to a close. Police said some of those arrested were deliberately tying up the system by declining to give their names and otherwise refusing to cooperate with authorities. However, protesters, their attorneys and civil libertarians accused police of abusing some of those in jail and setting excessively high bail amounts. ``What we are seeing in Philadelphia is nothing less than a civil rights catastrophe of the first order,'' said Ronald McGuire, an attorney representing many of the protesters. ``This is nothing less than political detention.'' Protesters said they believed the bails were being set high to keep demonstrators off the streets. In one case, John Sellers, the high-profile director of a roving boot-camp for protesters, was being held on $1-million bail for a variety of misdemeanors, his lawyers said. The activists alleged that the high amount was an effort to keep Sellers, who heads the Ruckus Society training camp, out of Los Angeles during the Democratic National Convention later this month. Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney acknowledged that the police had arrested the leaders of the various protest groups. However, he insisted that his department had probable cause. ``There's a cadre of the so-called leaders that I think is very concerning, and some people need to do something about.'' The protest leaders were among 369 people arrested during or shortly after sometimes-violent clashes with police, most of which occurred Tuesday. Several dozen protesters continued their vigil Thursday outside the downtown facility where many demonstrators were being held. Larry Frankel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, gave the police department ``a mixed grade'' on their handling of the protests, praising their general restraint in the field. But he raised concerns about their raid of what was described by activists as an art workshop in West Philadelphia, where protesters were making puppets. ``What it seems is they went out with this [search] warrant to prevent people from taking part in these activities,'' Frankel said. Still, he said police handled peaceful demonstrations Sunday and Monday admirably and generally did a good job during Tuesday's unruly actions. ``The police in many cases, not all, did show patience, did show restraint.'' Los Angeles Times

 

more reports continue 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > latest update


PLEASE CALL:

Mayor Street's office at 215-686-2181
District Attorney Lynn Abraham: 215-686-8000
Mayor's Chief of Staff 215-686-7508
Councilman Nutter 215-685-3416--ask for help
Councilman Blackwell 215-685-3418--ask for help
The Roundhouse Jail 215-686-1776, 215-685-8574

Some things you could ask: Why are the demonstrators being held? Why on such high bail? Even people who give names and contact info are receiving high bails that they cannot possibly meet.... Point out that this is an outrage. Further questions: Why haven't they been arraigned? Please note: 30% of demonstrators have given their names and are still in jail. They haven't received due process--we haven't heard from them, so they haven't been given their right to a phone call Legal observers are telling us that people are being denyed bathroom privileges, medicine, and food--what can you say about this?

If you can contribute to the bail fund, please send needed money.

DONATIONS & LOANS:

Because of the torture and the denial of access to medications, it is extremely important that bail be raised. The organizers and the arrestees are committed to seeing the charges through, and we are soliciting loans/donations with the full intention of returning the money. We do need some straight-out donations since in Philly the court takes 30% of the bail money as a "service charge" (outrageous but true.) Donations ARE tax-deductible.

The nature of bail: to be released, we must post 10% of the bail amount...70% will be returned 31 days after the case is completely over. The nature of loans to the bail fund: If requested, total amount will be returned to lender. (Of course donations are preferred to loans.)

Make your tax-deductible check out to "ISMCH" (our Fiscal Sponsor),
The Institute of Social Medicine and Community Health, and mail it to:

P-DAG
POB 40683
Phila, PA 19107-0683
___ Thanks!

If your money is specifically for Act Up members please specify that on the check and by sending an e-mail to:
ACT UP Philadelphia treasurer Rebecca Ewing, rbecca@critpath.org

Questions? call Jen Flynn at (718) 940-3964 , or e-mail her at flynn@dti.net

 

 

 

 

back to ACT UP @ Republican National Convention, Philadelphia July/August2000

 



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