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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Monday, October 17, 2011

Press Conference and the hardest thing about jail

The first person I see waiting at the doors of the courthouse is my dearest friend and commadre Kevyn! She is holding a CodePINK umbrella in her hot pink shirt, beaming her pride and love for me and the rest of us!

I know she is exhausted, yet she approaches and hugs me and then others. Soon a crowd of our co-Freedom Plaza folks are hugging and welcoming us into the bright daylight of freedom.

Half of the men have also been released. While we are waiting for the other half to be released, Margaret (one of the co-organizers) is looking around getting people - men - to speak.

There is a solid wall of TV cameras along with a phalanx of microphones standing together in the center. Before the rest of our people have been arrested, three of the organizers gather around the microphones beginning the press conference.

Margaret pushes a young male forward to speak first, someone who was not arrested or even part of yesterdays action. I am upset we are not waiting for everyone to be released and we are not putting forth the voices of those arrested.

Finally, everyone is out and Margaret again asks for men to speak. Dr. Cornell West goes to the microphones, surrounded by the three organizers.

We finally get all the arrestees in a circle behind Dr. West and the organizers. Cornell speaks as do several other men.

I hear no one speak of this current Supreme Court giving corporations the right of free speech, as if they were people; and we the people not having the right of free speech on the steps of our very own Supreme Court.

But even more importantly, I am shaking from our privilege and ability to walk into jail, and then to walk out - walk out on our sistahs, our poor, oppressed commadres that may never get out - which is the very hardest thing about going to jail: leaving without my sistahs.

As I debate when I am going to grab the microphone, Margaret motions finally for one womon to come forward. She speaks about the womyn still in jail and I feel so much better. A couple more males speak as the news reporters eyes are glazing over.I go to the microphones to urge everyone to come to Freedom Plaza, in case anyone is still taping.

Free at last!

No one really knows the time, but we think it is almost 2pm when we are finally led into the hall, all 6 of us. We are told to spread our legs, lift one leg, and an officer begins to undo our cuffs.

I am surprised, we are not going to have to be cuffed in court, or maybe they will just cuff our hands.

We catch glimpses of some of the men in an adjacent hall & raise our voices in greetings! We are told to be quiet.

When all 6 of us are uncuffed, we are instructed by a white male officer to head down the hallway, make a left, go up the escalators and leave the building.

I am sputtering, not being able to form the questions, as are everyone. Then I'm deeply suspicious, are they wanting us to 'escape' so we can be recaptured and the charges escalated?

A uniformed police officer comes into the hall, hands uplifted in greeting, and motions for us to follow him, he will show us out. We ask if this is an escort to court, and he says we are being let out along with Dr. West and the other men who were arrested.

This officer turns out to be an ally and an admirer of Dr. West, and by default those of us who were arrested. He looks too young to be part of the civil rights movement but he certainly wanted to help us. He says there is a big fanfare awaiting us outside the building!

The courthouse holding cells before our court appearance

The paddy wagon let's us out in the basement of the courthouse, we assume. Our handcuffs are taken off, our bodies search once again, our wrist bands left on.Our feet are cuffed.

We get placed into a cell again, in the basement of the courthouse that holds about 6 cells, three on each side. We are first with other womyn inmates, and then put into an adjacent cell together by ourselves.

We are told someone is coming to collect our urine. We tell everyone they have the right to refuse. Some womyn are afraid. Others smile shyly. The guard swiftly comes back and says things will be harder on us if we refuse - and we make sure she confirms several times we do have the right to refuse.

A white guard acts like a female nazi, snarling at womyn, man-handling and demeaning people, as if she's afraid if she's not the meanest she can be, she might one day be end up on the other side of this fragile divide.

Our fellow inmate from the city jail is now weeping to the depths of her very soul. She sounds so young now, and so in pain. It is difficult not to wail with her. We ask for her to be placed in our cell but are patronizingly refused.

We couldn't handle her mental illness, we are told. There are 6 healthy, courageous womyn in this cell. Surely we can handle one broken fellow citizen. No, we are told again.

We sing in harmony and in protest, this time "Circle Round for Freedom...For those of us imprisioned, Circle For Release". The acoustics are great in this cellar, the regular noise deafening. The guards implore us to sing softly so as not to be heard outside the cells. We hid our incredulous laughs behind sweet smiles and continue singing - as loud as we are able.

Groups of womyn in handcuffs and dark blue uniforms are brought in, body searched, hand cuffs released, replaced by ankle cuffs, and they are put together into a cell. They are already incarcerated and are to see a judge again.

There is no food in here and we are told to drink the water from the fountain attached to the toilet. The toilets in here are stainless steel also, with no lids. We make human screens when someone has to pee; the other womyn politely avert their eyes. We ask for and receive more toilet paper.

Our traumatized sistah still wails, on and off. Other womyn, in the farthest cell, with the most amazing voices begin singing. We strain to hear the tune, the lyrics above the deafening noise of the cells. We hum and exchange smiles.

We are given numbers and/or letters that are then written on our wrist bands. The six of us all get the letter T - we figure it is for Traffic Court, a court that meets at 1:30 or 2pm. We are taken from that cell and put into yet another cell. By the time we go to court, we have been in half of the cells down here.

It is freezing cold in this jail too. The jail keepers smile knowingly and inform us we wouldn't want to be here smelling 'things' if it weren't cold. We ask to no avail for blankets or jackets if they insist on freezing us out.

In the city jail with the Metropolitan Police in charge!

These kind womyn Metropolitan Police officers tell us that it is those friendly Supreme Court police that have decided we should be kept in jail over nite and brought up before a judge tomorrow.

The womyn we are incarcerated with are mostly sleeping or quietly resting in the large, freezing cold rectangular gray cell, three sides cold painted grey stone walls, stone floor, and bars across the front. There is one stone 'bench' carved out along the length of the small side of the room.

Every womon in the cell is African American except one, who is Iranian American. Most of the womyn are incarcerated because they are accused of "domestic violence": i.e. defending themselves against the men that are battering them.

It is the only area of our society where men make sure they assert their claim to be not sexist! Whenever there is male violence happening, men make sure to loudly insist it could be a womon doing the violence. Every other area of our society, womyn are not considered equal - in smarts, in government, in business, in the home - but in violence, men love to deflect the truth of their violence by pretending to consider womyn as perpetrators.

A womon angrily screams, loudly rants, bangs, bursts into frequent raves from a cell opposite ours. She is in obvious distress - and ignored by everyone but us. We are told she has returned from the prison hospital and most likely her meds haven't kicked in yet.

The shift changes and a male officer comes on duty with a burst of fluorescent lights. He turns on all the overhead lights and finally answers our repeatedly asked question "will you please turn off the lights?": "NO", he exclaims " and to our why "because I said so!"

The 6 of us bond with each other, and with several of the other womyn. We trade stories, values, theories, life's lessons. Cold, damp seep thru the walls, the floor. Wafts of cold air swirl around us. We sing a little, snuggle together for warmth and comfort. And some of us even sleep.

We ask for water. The other womyn ask for juice and food. Yellowish dry bread with a slice of baloney wrapped in clear plastic is handed thru the bars to us. The 6 of us collect this 'food' mostly for the rest of the prisoners, womyn who have not yet been convicted and proven guilty of any crime. I am on a hunger strike - easy to do after getting a look at this supposed food.

The "juice" the women officers bring is red suspiciously syrupy liquid resembling medicine more than drink. The officers do give us lots of cold water, and bring more, urging everyone to drink and prevent dehydration.

Early in the morning, while it is still dark, the 6 of us are called out, handcuffed, and placed into another paddy wagon. We are going to holding cells at the courthouse.