[Hpn] My Arrest

Coalition on Homelessness, SF coh@sfo.com
Sat, 05 Aug 2000 14:58:35 -0700

Friday August 04, @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

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

End Oppression
by wolf on Friday August 04, @02:32PM EST (#1)

In the largest democracy on Earth, hog-tying and humiliating a 48-year
old Quaker who was not even protesting, but was trying to render
humanitarian assistance and talk to a reporter is apparently sound
police procedure. All Christians should affirm with one voice that it is
not. Get out in the hundreds of thousands and vote both the Republicans
and the Democrats out of office. The Lone Wolf

*	Re:End Oppression by wolf (Rating: 0.00) on Friday August 04,
@03:03PM EST

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