BRUTAL TREATMENT CONTINUES AGAINST JAILED PROTESTERS

 

August 5, News from the Streets of Philly, Republican National Convention protests
Crashing the Executioner's Ball

On Tuesday, August 1, about 4000 protesters stormed through Philadelphia, site of the Republican National Convention. They stopped traffic for hours in the center city as they chained themselves together to block intersections, jumped on cars and threw debris into the street, and some battled the cops. At 4:30 the demonstration called "Crash the Executioners Ball" started up in the same area, as bands of youth roved around. Scattered demonstrations and arrests continued into the night. By evening, police arrested over 450 people, including 70 people in a warehouse called the "Ministry of Puppetganda," who were making puppets, one for each of the people Bush has executed in Texas.

The media attempted to praise the police for their "restraint." But the "Officer Friendly" facade of cops in shorts riding bikes quickly gave way to the reality. The police brutally beat many of the protesters, much of which was documented on the people's video cameras.

From a message from Refuse & Resist!: "August 1 became a day when all those who yearn for a spirit of justice could take hope and rejoice. It was a day of repudiation of the death penalty, the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the entire criminal injustice system. The day was remarkable for its breadth of participation. Rev. Jesse Jackson and author Jonathan Kozol spoke to a packed press conference. Musician Michael Franti, leaders of anti-death penalty organizations, Ramona Africa, and activists from many groups spoke to a rush-hour rally. The statue of the infamously racist Mayor Rizzo was appropriately desecrated. And thousands of youth as well as older people took to the streets in many different forms of protest. Everyone shared a determination that their cry for a different future must be heard."

As of today, Saturday, hundreds are still in jail, and conditions inside are horrendous. Theyíre cuffing people very tightly, sometimes ëhogtiedí (wrist to ankle), people have been held at various times in closed, 100-degree buses for hours with no water, food or bathrooms. When food is brought it has been very stale bread and cheese. All water was cut off, and the women were forbidden to use the bathroom. People have remained very strong through this. About 150 people are on hunger strike. Prisoners are demanding water, bathroom facilities, and other food. There are reports of people being beaten, dragged and tortured - and then denied medical attention. One juvenile who was arrested was terrorized by the cops during interrogation and came out sobbing. Many people have never been allowed to see a lawyer.

Bail has been set at the highest level anyone has ever heard of for misdemeanors. The lowest is $10,000 and some people accused of being leaders are being held for up to a million dollars. On Saturday, the Philly police announced that 325 of the protestors are being charged with misdemeanors, 30 on felonies, and they are vowing to fully prosecute everyone, unlike what happened at the April 16 DC demo. They are threatening as much as a year in jail for misdemeanors.

The protestors profoundly punctured the hypocrisy behind the Executionersí Ball and are now facing the inevitable backlash from the police, the politicians, and the press. And many of those not in jail are being stopped on the street and subjected to totally illegal searches, threats, constant surveillance and picture taking. The politicians and the press are trying to use their ëconspiracy lawsí and "RICO"laws to try to portray all of this as a criminal enterprise and to isolate particular individuals.

Members of the Youth Network of Refuse & Resist! have been down in Philly since July 24 with over 80 youth as part of Philly Freedom Summer-- a project which brings youth from around the country to work in the community building support for Mumia Abu-Jamal. One woman from PFS said yesterday, "we are living in a police state." On Friday, about 15 PFSers who were on their way to the Roundhouse, the police headquarters where protestors are being held. They were surrounded by about 25 cops. They were all frisked and searched, had their ID recorded and were all photographed. They were told it was part of a federal investigation. When they asked if they were being detained or arrested, they were told no, but they would be if they didn't cooperate. They were threatened with arrest if they didn't disperse.

This wasnít the first time they had been photographed either. Police openly videotaped all of the protests at the Roundhouse and the other street protests. The cops are now trying to build up their files on who is there and trying to match up people with photos from the demos. All of this is blatantly illegal.

For more info and pictures: www.refuseandresist.org and www.phillyimc.org.

August 4, 2000
Paul Davis, ACT UP Philadelphia, just released from jail, 215 280 7536 (cell)
R2K Legal: 215 925 6791, R2K Media: 215 545 1505

BRUTAL TREATMENT CONTINUES AGAINST JAILED PROTESTERS
UNPRECEDENTED CRACKDOWN HIGHLIGHTS SYSTEMATIC ATTACK ON DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES OF PEACEFUL PROTEST AND PEOPLE OF CONSCIENCE

Philadelphia, PA ~ On the last day of the Republican National Convention, in Philadelphia, the cradle of democracy, police and federal authorities have demonstrated a determination to undermine both the US Constitution and people^Rs basic human rights. Demonstrators continue to demand medical treatment, access to lawyers, access to phones, and timely release. Outside, solidarity actions continue, with rallies planned at Franklin Park at 7 p.m.

Guards, police, and administrators continue to attack protestors in jail, seeking to demoralize and divide. Recently released prisoners have reported eyewitness accounts of widespread abuse that can only be described as torture. There are numerous accounts of arrestees who have been isolated, verbally abused, punched, kicked, thrown against walls, bloodied, and dragged naked across floors, in one instance through a "trash trough" containing refuse, spittle and urine. There has been a reported sexual assault by a female officer who pulled and twisted a prisoner's penis. Seven witnesses saw one woman dragged naked and bleeding. Diabetics, epileptics, and asthmatics continue to be denied medication. Trauma and psychological stress are evident.

Paul Davis, from ACT UP Philadelphia, reports his eyewitness accounts of brutality inside the Philadelphia jail. "I saw a man handcuffed to his cell door in a crucifixion position He groaned and bellowed for 20 minutes that they were using metal handcuffs to smash his hands. I heard women screaming and being dragged along the floor. I saw a woman screaming in pain as a police officer said, "You want more?! You want more?!"

Arrestees have now been held for over 60 hours without arraignment, some without phone calls or contact with their lawyers. Detainees report missing paperwork, and arraignments with incomplete or slipshod records. Philadelphia continues to restrict R2K Legal Committee lawyers, allowing only a total of three lawyers access to all six detention sites, and hundreds of defendants. Prosecutors have set unprecedented high bail for non-violent civil disobedience. Most bails range from $15,000 to $30,000, while others are much higher. Two individuals have bail of $1,000,000, an amount typically reserved for serial killers, not community organizers, non-violence training facilitators artists and puppet makers charged with misdemeanors.

"I consider this a civil rights catastrophe of the first order," R2K Legal Committee counsel Ron McGuire stated. "This is an attack on our 14th Amendment. An attack on due process and reasonable bail. This is a systematic political effort to undermine and destroy the momentum of a growing movement for social and environmental justice."

R2K Legal has documented 381 confirmed arrests, not including members of the International Action Center and School of Americas Watch (15 more). Additionally, there are people we have not heard from (we estimate up to 30), but due to restrictions on protester's access to telephones, there is really no way to tell. Of these people, approximately 60 have accepted "Release on Own Recognizance" or "Signed On Bail." Prisoners are working together to agree on and communicate their demands. Solidarity tactics to demand their release include singing, chanting, and story telling, along with a 150-person-strong hunger strike. Some have been on hunger strike for as long as 56 hours. Three men have fasted without water for 28 hours. Supporters are asked to phone Mayor John Street at 215.686.2181 and demand the immediate release of these political prisoners.

 

Key activists were earmarked by police
Protesters say their leaders were arrested not for what they did, but for what they might do. Police deny this.

By Craig R. McCoy ,Thomas Ginsberg and Emilie Lounsberry
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

Even as the world's media shone a bright light on Philadelphia police clearing masses of protesters from blockaded streets this week, police were carrying out a much less public - and much more selective - operation to collar demonstration leaders. Eyewitnesses accounts and video taken by demonstrators document police moving in to swiftly arrest at least two such leaders.

One, John Sellers, 33, a nationally known civil-disobedience activist from Berkeley, Calif., was arrested Wednesday as he walked along JFK Boulevard. Yesterday, Sellers, who grew up in Chester County, was held on $1 million bail - even though he was only charged with misdemeanor offenses. Defense lawyers called the sum unprecedented and punitive, while a prosecutor portrayed him as the real puppetmaster in a protest replete with puppets and other theatrical agitprop objects.

Another protester, Paul Davis, a Philadelphia activist on AIDS issues in his 20s, was arrested Tuesday as he walked on a blockaded street and spoke on a cell phone. It was unclear last night whether his bail had been set. Police Commissioner John F. Timoney yesterday spoke of "some arrests effected in the Center City area that included some of the so-called leaders," but declined to provide details. He did say police had good reason for every arrest. "We think we can prove they've engaged in criminal activity," the commissioner said during his morning news briefing. There were no preemptive strikes "just to take leaders out," he said.

Furious demonstrators yesterday strongly disagreed. They said that the strikes were indeed preemptive, and that police arrested people for what they might do -- and not for actual crimes. The critics said the arrests of several protest leaders -- "ringleaders," as the District Attorney's Office termed them -- were part of a pattern in which police aimed to decapitate the leadership of the demonstrations. People involved in the protests acknowledged that the arrests scrambled their communications and reduced their effectiveness. They said people had been arrested on false pretexts -- especially during a Tuesday raid on a West Philadelphia warehouse that was a key protest facility. Then, they said, protesters were held behind bars for unusually long times, thus keeping them off the streets.

As of early yesterday, they noted, police said only about 30 of 369 arrested protesters had been released. Scores more were released later in the day, but officials could provide no figures. "The whole point of this is preventive - preventive detention. Get them all off the streets until the Republicans are out of town," said Ann Northrup, an AIDS activist from New York City with the group ACTUP. "It didn't matter if they had done anything." Her view was echoed by Larry Gross, a University of Pennsylvania communications professor who served on a blue-ribbon panel critical of police misconduct during a 1991 protest. Gross noted that police had been photographing demonstrators in weeks before the Republican National Convention. "They spied on the protest groups. I think they prepared a list of organizers that they were looking for, and when they found them, they arrested them," Gross said.

Apart from the protesters sitting on streets, police this week targeted certain activists who they knew had been involved in past protests or who simply looked as though they were organizing actions over a mobile phone. The result was that scores of people, even medics and bicycle messengers trying to do their jobs, were swept up in the search for a select few who may have been pivotal to the protests. Police interest in people with cellular phones and walkie-talkies led them to detain and question several bicycle messengers over the last two days, managers of several messenger firms said. Some were stopped going into Center City office towers, others near hotels or on the street. "They wanted to make sure he wasn't scoping out the area, or starting to gather," Ted Teschner, general manager of Heaven Sent Couriers, said of an employee who was stopped. Police seemed to key on people carrying Nextel mobile phones, favored by protest organizers because they cost about $125 each and permit users to conduct mobile conference calls.

Activists said at least 15 important players had been arrested by police in apparently targeted collars. A similar police tactic was employed in Seattle late last fall and in Washington, D.C., in April during crackdowns on disruptive protests there. Temple University law professor Edward Ohlbaum said that $1 million bail - -which was set in Sellers' case -- for a misdemeanor charge is extraordinarily high. Authorities provided few details of Sellers' allegedly illegal acts but did say that at one point he chained himself to a trash barrel in order to obstruct traffic. Sellers, who has been unable to make bail, faces misdemeanor charges of obstruction of justice, obstructing a highway, failure to disperse, recklessly endangering another person, and conspiracy. Sellers was also charged with possession with an instrument of crime, but officials did not specify what that instrument was or at what point he was using it. Colleagues said yesterday that he had been carrying only a Palm Pilot and a cell phone at the time of his arrest.

Ohlbaum said he could not recall a previous case in which bail was set at $1 million for a misdemeanor. Four other activists charged with assaults were held on lesser bails of $400,000 to $500,000. Only one of the four, Darby Landy, 20, was charged with a felony. He was charged with robbery and assault in connection with the heavily publicized incident in which Timoney and other officers on bicycles were involved in a fight a block from Rittenhouse Square. He was held on $500,000 bail. Lawrence Krasner, a criminal defense lawyer in Center City representing Sellers, said he was astounded at the high bail. "The D.A.'s behavior is like nothing I've ever seen in my life," said Krasner. "This is a desperate effort to systematically punish these people without a trial, to lock them up, keep them off the streets."

When Davis, the AIDS activist, was arrested Tuesday, he was walking with other activists on a blockaded Center City street - and talking on a Nextel. It was not immediately known what he was charged with. In a scene Tuesday captured by a videographer working for the protesters' Independent Media Center, police rushed Davis from behind. "Come on, you're coming with us," an officer is heard saying. At one point, a supervisor says: "I want him out of here." As Davis is pulled backward, he can be seen pushing buttons on his Nextel even as a police supervisor reaches to grab it from him. Then a voice, apparently that of a protester, says: "The Nextel! The Nextel! Throw it! Throw it!" Davis, who has been active for many years with ACTUP in Philadelphia and took part in the mass protest in Washington earlier this year, tossed the phone toward other protesters, but it slipped through several hands and tumbled to the asphalt. A police supervisor, identifiable by his white shirt, kicked it about 10 yards. The phone ended up under a police cruiser.

Timoney yesterday declined to say what objects had been seized in the raid. The search warrant itself, signed Tuesday by a Municipal Court judge, and related paperwork, including the police affidavit outlining probable cause for the search, are under seal, barred from public inspection. A judge sealed the file Tuesday at the request of the district attorney. Presser and lawyers from the Public Defender's Office faulted the secrecy, with Presser calling the arrest of those at the warehouse "bogus." All were charged with misdemeanors. The "decision to seal the warrant only strengthens my feeling that this whole process was a pretext," he said. "It's not a question of national security, or anything that requires ongoing investigation since these demonstrations are at an end." Once arrested, many suspects spent long hours in prison. Philadelphia lawyer David Rudovsky, who specializes in civil-rights cases and is representing some of the protesters, said some of the arraignments definitely took too long. "There's a fair number of people that have been identified and still haven't been arraigned," Rudovsky said. "I think that's completely unfair." Ohlbaum said long waits between arrest and release are common. Even so, he said, many of the protesters received citations for minor infractions, which he said "generally means that bail is not an issue and everyone gets out." One of those arrested at the West Philadelphia warehouse Tuesday, Milan Marvelous, 31, said he was kept on a bus for nine hours, from 4 p.m. Tuesday until 1 a.m. Wednesday, and then detained in a cell until he was released at 4 a.m. "We were preventively arrested. We had done nothing wrong," said Marvelous, of the Northern Liberties section of the city. "We were detained many hours on incredibly hot buses with incredibly painful cuffs," said Jeremy Varon, 32, a history professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, also among those arrested at the puppet factory.

Craig R. McCoy's e-mail address is cmccoy@phillynews.com

 

more reports continue 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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