Covention Protesters Claim Abuse
by JENNIFER BROWN, The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Activists say the detention center is filled with screams, that a man was handcuffed in a crucifix-position to force him to submit to fingerprinting, and that a woman on a hunger strike writhed on the floor from lack of water and food.

Philadelphia police deny the accusations and say they have treated the nearly 400 protesters arrested during the Republican National Convention fairly. Civil-rights attorneys who visited the detention center said they found no evidence to confirm abuse.

However, dozens of protesters told similar stories after their releases beginning Thursday afternoon. Some younger activists appeared visibly shaken, while even veteran protesters sounded weary and worried.

``I reacted by just collapsing in fright,'' said longtime activist Paul Davis of Philadelphia ACT UP, the nation's largest chapter of the AIDS advocacy group.

Police arrested 391 protesters during six days of sometimes-violent demonstrations coinciding with the convention, which ended Thursday, and more than 200 remained in a detention center Saturday.

Among those held in jail are prominent leaders John Sellers of Berkeley, Calif.-based Ruckus Society and Kate Sorenson of Philadelphia Direct Action Group, who are being held on $1 million bail though they are charged with misdemeanors. Philadelphia ACT UP leader Terrence McGuckin was held on $500,000 bail for misdemeanors.

Protesters complain that medical attention was denied, food and water was not made available for 18 hours and that cells were so crowded some detainees were unable to move.

``I saw one individual who was cuffed to his open cell door with metal cuffs, in the cross-position. Police would move them up and try to get him to agree to be fingerprinted. This went on for 10 to 15 minutes where he was screaming,'' said Davis, who was released late Friday. ``I saw several people hog-tied with plastic handcuffs.''

Activist Jeff Ebbsen, 38, of Philadelphia told The Daily News he saw a female police officer grab a male inmate by his genitals to make him move.

Two attorneys affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union toured the detainment center and said they saw no evidence to substantiate the complaints, though they did not reject the possibility of mistreatment.

``I think it's highly unlikely, the kinds of things that have been described,'' Philadelphia ACLU legal director Stefan Presser said Thursday.

Philadelphia defense attorney Jules Epstein said the cell conditions were not unconstitutional.

Police said protesters have been uncooperative but no mistreatment has occurred.

``Some of the protesters had to be carried to the arraignment. Some had to be carried to be fingerprinted,'' Deputy Commissioner Thomas Nestel said. ``They are being treated fairly.''



Saturday, August 5, 2000 (Phila. Inquirer)

No Break for Protesters, Mayor Street Vows
by Jacqueline Soteropoulos and Craig R. McCoy, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

The 390 protesters arrested during the four-day Republican National Convention will not get off easy, but will be fully prosecuted, Mayor Street said yesterday.

Joined by Police Commissioner John F. Timoney, Street portrayed the demonstrators as out-of-town troublemakers hell-bent on bringing Philadelphia to its knees. The two unveiled a cache of items - a giant slingshot, kerosene-soaked rags tied to chains, and devices designed to lock demonstrators together - that they said were designed to wreak havoc and disrupt the convention.

For that reason, Street said during a City Hall news conference, the demonstrators will not receive the break that those who protested in Washington in April received: having their charges knocked back to jaywalking and fined $5 each.

During the four days ending Thursday, police arrested 325 people on misdemeanor charges, 35 on felony charges, and 30 on summary violations - an infraction that usually draws a citation. As of yesterday afternoon, police had identified 130 individuals - all but 17 from outside Philadelphia, Street said.

There are three grades of misdemeanors in Pennsylvania. Those convicted of the lowest grade may receive up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. The most serious misdemeanors can be punished by up to five years behind bars and up to a $10,000 fine.

Timoney said that police helicopters hovering above Center City on Tuesday, the peak day of the confrontations, spotted protesters stringing piano wire across Market Street near City Hall.

"The wire was meant for one thing, and one thing only, and that's basically to knock down police officers on horses, on motorbikes, on bicycles," Timoney said. "This is not a game, folks."

Of the hard-core demonstrators, the commissioner said: "I call them conspirators and criminals and cowards."

A representative of the eclectic group of demonstrators immediately offered an angry response to Timoney's remarks.

Patrick Reinsborough, an activist from San Francisco, stood up in the back of the City Hall briefing room to denounce the commissioner's statements.

Reinsborough said later that the chains with kerosene-soaked rags at the end were actually a juggler's prop.

"Are you familiar with fire twirling?" he asked.

As for the slingshot - a device that police said would take three people to operate - Reinsborough said that the "sling" was used for carrying a massive puppet.

Police also seized bags of quick-drying cement that they said were intended to form instant street barricades and a number of walkie-talkies that were part of demonstrators' communication network.

"Sometimes, innocent-looking things can turn into things that can really hurt people," Police Capt. John McGinnis said.

The kerosene-soaked rags on chains, McGinnis said, could be whirled around and thrown into crowds.

Police said that neither a slingshot nor the chains with kerosene-soaked rags were used during the clashes. No guns were seized.

Although many of the demonstrators remained in city holding cells yesterday because, authorities said, they have refused to provide their names, a few were being steadily released. Public defenders said they were arraigning people in batches of 20, which took about four hours per group to process.

They said the number of people released would probably pick up for a couple of reasons: After being detained for more than two days, some protesters were wearing down and starting to cooperate more by giving their real names. Also, public defenders said, the police had gotten the kinks out of the makeshift arraignment court.

By last night, 90 protesters had been arraigned and returned to jail, 70 had been arraigned and released, and 230 were still awaiting arraignment.

Timoney said he believed federal investigators ought to "take a look" at the groups involved in planning disruption and violence.

"We are the third or fourth city to suffer," Timoney said, mentioning recent demonstrations in Seattle and Washington.

"I think that there is . . . a cadre, if you will, of criminal conspirators who are about the business of planning a conspiracy to really cause mayhem, to cause property damage, to cause violence," in cities hosting major events, Timoney said.

He described their organization and communication system as "sophisticated."

"The events of this week did not happen in a vacuum . . . they were planned for a long time," Timoney said. "We have received information early on, that prior to the convention, the city of Philadelphia, specifically the police department would be tested."

Timoney also detailed events leading up to Tuesday's raid on a West Philadelphia warehouse occupied by protesters - a move that has drawn sharp a criticism from civil-liberties groups who questioned whether police had good cause to take the step.

Police were working to get a search warrant to enter the premises when they observed two trucks leaving, he said.

One truck held 19 people chained by devices called "sleeping dragons" - PVC pipe encased in chicken wire and duct tape that is difficult to remove.

"Their intention was just to lock down the entire city on that day," Deputy Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said.

The second truck contained additional materials intended to disrupt the city, Timoney said without specifying what the materials were.

Timoney refused to discuss what led police the site.

"Had those trucks not been stopped . . . it would've added more to the chaos, and my sense is the chaos would've lasted a few more days," Timoney said.

Lawrence Krasner, an attorney representing several people arrested in the warehouse, said it was unfair to link the two trucks to those arrested in the warehouse.

He noted that police had not said explicitly that they saw anyone from the warehouse loading equipment into the trucks.

In fact, he said, hard-core protesters were told that "they couldn't bring that stuff into the warehouse because it wasn't allowed."

He suggested that those in the vehicles were not affiliated with the people in the warehouse.

As for chicken wire and other materials found in the warehouse, Krasner said they were merely materials to built agitprop puppets and other objects used during the demonstrations.

Street said that the protesters appeared to have "a very well-thought-out, well-planned conspiracy to shut down the city of Philadelphia."

Street also said that protesters had been given the choice to walk away before they were arrested. Detained demonstrators were offered medical attention and allowed to make a phone call, he said.

"It is their lack of cooperation that is responsible for the delay," Street said."They refused to give their identity, they failed to cooperate, they did virtually everything they could to stymie, to slow down, and to defeat the process.

"We do not take lightly the nature of the activity that took place in this city, particularly on Tuesday," Street said. "Each person that has been arrested and that is charged will be fully prosecuted.

"We will also fully and completely defend the city of Philadelphia, the Police Department and every single officer that was involved here," Street said.

"We believe that this department did an excellent job balancing the rights of the protesters versus the right and obligations of the city of Philadelphia to protect its citizenry and our guests."

Also yesterday, a small group of protesters hoped to protest to Street about their comrades' lack of medical treatment in jail.

But at 6 p.m., four protesters - two women, two men - were arrested outside the mayor's City Hall office. They were arrested because City Hall closes to the public at 6, and they refused to leave.

An activist identifying herself as "Bork" claimed that one jailed protester has AIDS and has been denied medicine. City officials have said that no one was denied medical attention.

One of those arrested yesterday in City Hall, a woman calling herself "Aurora Borealis," told reporters that she had an illness that required daily medication and that her arrest would force jail officials to provide her with her needed drug.

"If I don't take it," she said, "it's a life-or-death situation."

Jacqueline Soteropoulos' e-mail address is
Philadelpia Inquirer staff writers Monica Yant Kinney, L. Stuart Ditzen, Ralph Vigoda and Jennifer Lin contributed to this report.

I wrote a letter or protest to Mayor Street. If you feel like writing a letter too and wish to save yourself time, you are welcome to reuse what I wrote. Mayor Street's Fax number is 215-686-2555 _ --Vickie

August 6, 2000

Mr. John F. Street
Mayor of the City of Philadelphia
City Hall, Room 215
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
Fax : 215-686-2555

Dear Sir,

It is with great horror and absolute indignation that I read in the Philadelphia Inquirer about your call for the arrested demonstrators to be dealt with harshly.

Mr. Street, these people are guilty of absolutely nothing except publicly voicing a political view that is off mainstream. It is not the fault of the demonstrators that they have been shut out of the political process - illegally. They have the right under the First Amendment to voice their opinion, complete with giant puppets and street theater - whether the City of Philadelphia likes it or not.

As you are well aware, Mr. Street, peaceful civil disobedience is a time honored tradition in this country, going all the way back to the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence itself was an act of civil disobedience toward the British Crown. If the civil activists of the fifties and sixties had contented themselves to quietly sit in a corner without disturbing anybody, we would still be living in a segregated society.

The 390 arrested demonstrators, contrary to your expressed opinion, were not "out-of-town troublemakers hell-bent on bringing Philadelphia to its knees." They came to voice their opposition to the politics of the Republican Party, in a peaceful manner. It was their right to do so.

Mr. Street, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Criminal Justice System have a long tradition of violating the civil rights of Philadelphia citizens - least you've forgotten. It is your duty as an elected official sworn to uphold the law to actually uphold the law - not prolong the record of injustice. You know perfectly well that bail of $1,000,000 is reserved for serial killers and acts of terror. Yet, Mr. John Sellers of the Ruckus Society is being held on $1,000,000 bail for alleged misdemeanor offences. That, Mr. Street, represents an act against the Constitution of the United States, more precisely against the 8th Amendment that specifically states "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." In addition to Mr. John Sellers, Ms. Kate Sorensen of ACT UP Philadelphia is also being held on $1,000,000 bail, also for charges that clearly do not justify a bond of 1/1000 of that magnitude.

In addition, it appears perfectly clear from the comments of Police Commissioner John Timoney that activist leaders such as Mr. John Sellers and Ms. Kate Sorensen have been arrested purely as a preemptive measure. It is illegal, Mr. Street to hold people in jail preemptively for what your police department thinks they might possibly do - without any actual proof of criminal conspiracy. Such a concept is against the 4th Amendment that clearly states "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause."

John Sellers and Kate Sorensen are not "conspirators and criminals and cowards", Mr. Street. They are activists well knows for advocating only acts of peaceful civil disobedience. That fact has been widely reported in the national media.

Mr. Street, your actions and those of Police Commissioner John Timoney and District Attorney Lynn Abraham are shaming the good name of the city of Philadelphia. I am not going to insinuate that the Constitution of the United States and the due process of law are being violated on purpose, for I'm willing to believe that honest mistakes have been made in the frantic atmosphere surrounding the Republican Convention. But when honest mistakes are made, it is the responsibility of honest officials to correct them - promptly. Otherwise, it is a shame, an outrage, and an attack on the Constitution.

I am appealing on you to reevaluate the circumstances under which those 390 people are jailed. That those that should be released are released immediately. That the bail of those that will be tried be set to a reasonable and customary amount - as stipulated by the 8th Amendment.

Mr. Street, justice demands nothing less of you.

If this letter is bitter, Mr. Street, that is because circumstances are grave. I am well aware of your distinguished record as a community activist and councilman. That is why I'm hopeful that, with you as Mayor, justice will prevail in the City of Philadelphia.

Vickie Kostic

Mayor Street's Fax number is 215-686-2555


more reports continue 3 > 4 > 5 > latest update



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.


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:

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,

Questions? call Jen Flynn at (718) 940-3964 , or e-mail her at





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


use back button on browser to return