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Occupy L.A.: An Arrestee's Story

Occupy L.A.: An Arrestee's Story
Ted Soqui

Editor's note: Matt Kresling was arrested last Wednesday along with 292 others at the Occupy L.A. encampment. He submitted this first-person account to the Weekly share his reasons for involvement - as well as explain what happened after the arrestees were separated from the watchful eye of the media.

BY MATT KRESLING

I wasn't a camper, just a sympathizer. Like a lot of Angelenos, I visited the Occupy L.A. encampment on the occasional afternoon to attend meetings or teach-ins, but didn't stay for any extended length of time until Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared his intention to close it.

It seemed to me that the camp's presence was too important -- that by its sheer existence encircling City Hall, it was the physical embodiment of a financial elephant in the room that the government and media had heretofore too easily ignored. And so it was with a sense of outrage that I read Villaraigosa had declared that it was "time for the protest to end." Gosh, that made me mad. The time for a protest to end, it seems to me, is when there has been a redress of grievances. It wasn't for the Mayor to dictate when that had occurred. That was a bit like the people of Vicksburg dictating to the Union Army that it was time for the Siege of Vicksburg to end. Sieges don't end until the besieging army is defeated or the city falls.

And so I went to the encampment on the night of Sunday, Nov. 27, with the intention of defying the mayor's 12:01 a.m. eviction deadline and probably getting arrested.

Arriving at City Hall, I took part in a short class in non-violent resistance on the north steps. We practiced the proper ways to sit with locked-arms; how to clasp your hands so that your thumbs wouldn't be broken when the police pried them apart (keep your thumbs in); what to do if beaten with a baton (duck your head!). Basically it was a class in injury-minimization, though we also practiced restraining fellow protesters in the event they become violent. There were additional details on police behavior and how we would respond in various unique situations, and I got a profound sense of "I-will-immediately-forget- this-in-the-chaos-of-the-moment," which I later did.

Then the other "Arrestables" and I took our positions, sitting cross-legged with locked arms, around a symbolic center tent in the middle of the south plaza. In our pockets were vinegar-soaked bandanas, in case the police employed tear gas. I found myself sitting at various points next to an eighth grade teacher from Compton, a professor of urban planning from UC-Irvine, a cook from a Chinese restaurant and a sales representative for high-end baked goods, none of whom lived at the camp and none of whom had been arrested before. Somehow these disparate people had spontaneously decided that now was the time they would put their bodies on the line for something they believed was too important to let die.

The park was full of people milling around in the darkness, maybe 2,000. At times it felt as if the Arrestables (around 50 or so) were outnumbered by the media members photographing them, but as the morning wore on and the police failed to enter the park, the population seemed to bleed away. We worried that the LAPD would merely wait for our numbers to sufficiently diminish, then move in, but the blow never came. Sometime around noon, having chanted "New York was raided, but L.A. won't take it!" about a thousand times, I took a bus home.

I remained home Monday, but returned Tuesday night. Previously, I'd spoken to a reporter from KPCC who'd made an interesting observation. The LAPD had exhausted itself calling 1,400 officers into service to clear the park on Sunday, he said. They would probably need a day or so to recuperate before activating so large a force again, so the inevitable closure would probably not occur Monday night, but Tuesday.

 

When I arrived about 9 p.m. Tuesday, the LAPD had already closed the streets around the camp. Clearly they were determined to prevent the population from ballooning as it had Sunday night. To get through their lines, another protester and I had to walk through a parking structure between 1st Street and Temple, then leap a high, spiky fence to cross a long-condemned area in front of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Courthouse. There was a point when I hung snagged at the top of the fence, spike hopelessly enmeshed in the crotch of my pants, thinking, "Christ, what am I doing?!"

But then I freed myself somehow and entered the park, which had assumed the appearance of the besieged refugee camp that it was, barricades of garbage cans and protest signs at the entrance, emergency preparations occurring in every quarter. I told an organizer how I'd managed to get through the police lines and she asked me to spread the word. I did a live-stream giving directions, but doubt that anyone else was able to get in -- the LAPD seemed to have sealed the gaps in their cordon.

I took my place in the circle around the center tent and waited with the 50 or so other Arrestables. We heard reports of policemen massing in the streets. A small group in yarmulkes went around offering to escort those who wished to leave. Sitting directly behind me, Michelle Shocked sang "If I Had A Hammer" through a megaphone.

Around midnight, the police stormed the park, emerging from City Hall and barreling down every path that converged on the center plaza. They held their batons horizontally in front of their bodies and rammed whoever happened to be in their way. I saw a number of people knocked to the ground, arms flailing, stumbling backward awkwardly, dropping in heaps - both protesters and photographers. The police quickly formed a perimeter around the Arrestables and began clearing the outer lawns of the park. They also removed the reporters and legal observers, much to our dismay. Later, it seemed as if some photographers were allowed back in, but in the chaos it was hard to know who anyone was or whom they represented.

From the center circle, we had a clear perspective of the removal of protesters from a tree at the southern corner of the plaza. After shooting at them with a beanbag round, police mounted a cherry-picker and began to tug at their makeshift fort -- only a shipping palette, really -- with some kind of hook. The crowd gasped when the protesters slipped, seeming on the verge of falling from their perch. Surely a police department exhibiting the restraint and patience for which the LAPD had been lauded would simply out-wait protesters in a tree, who must inevitably become exhausted and hungry?

I recall, around this time, being surprised to see Antonio Villaraigosa standing, arms crossed, some distance back from the circle. It was, as far as I know, the first time he'd ever visited the encampment. Protesters in the circle tried to engage him and asked him to speak, but he remained where he was. I don't think I'll ever forget the image of his emotionless face as he observed the police converge upon the center circle.

Police removed the Arrestables one at a time. After explaining that keeping our arms locked would be considered "resisting arrest," a felony, many decided to cooperate and walked away under guard.

I, however, felt that it was important to refuse to cooperate in any way with an action one considered to be unrighteous, and when I said as much to the police commander, his friendly disposition quickly dissolved. He shouted that I would inflict grievous injury upon my fellow protesters if I insisted on remaining intertwined with their various limbs.

"If you're concerned about our safety," we shouted back, "don't try to pull us apart!" Our "safety": the old excuse to justify every infringement upon our liberties.

 

A half-dozen policemen descended upon me, pulling either arm, some pulling my neighbors and one pressing as hard as he could on a "pressure point" behind my left ear. I remember thinking, "Interesting... he must be pushing a pressure point." I may have also shouted, "GAAAAAAAH!" I had assumed that such a thing would magically trigger some kind of immobilizing response in my body, cause me to go limp or something, but really it was just annoying and painful. (I still have a bump and a bruise behind my ear.) But it didn't make me release my grip. It was two huge cops pulling, one on either elbow, that finally did that.

The cops asked if I would stand and go willingly now, but I repeated what I'd said earlier: "I respectfully refuse to cooperate in any way." So three of them hoisted me up and carried me off. I was annoyed at myself for having worn a favorite ballcap, lost now in the scrum.

The cops carried me out of the plaza up the northern path. I hadn't noticed any media, but one said, "Okay, we're past the media now--are you willing to walk?" I said again that I was sorry but I couldn't cooperating any way, which seemed to really annoy them. The root of non-violent protest, it seems to me, is the refusal to comply with unrighteous actions, with a full acceptance of the consequences, whatever they may be.

"We're going to get you with a felony," the officers said. "Resisting arrest."

"I'm limp," I said. "How is that resisting?"

"Learn your penal code," they said.

We approached a line of officers and protesters waiting at a folding table that had been set up to do immediate processing. I noted that the other protesters were standing, which was disappointing.

"Let's just drop him," said one of the officers, and I was pitched forward onto my knees. To be fair, it could have been done more forcefully than it was, but I got the impression that the three cops carrying me were angry in differing degrees, the two very angry ones checked somewhat by the one who was only mildly angry.

"Are you going to cooperate so we can handcuff you?" When I said again that I couldn't, they thrust me forward onto my stomach. One stepped on my leg and another my neck, shoving my face into the pavement and raising a welt on my left cheekbone. The cop putting the cuffs on seemed to deliberately twist my right hand high up behind my back, until it seemed as if the wrist would snap, before finally bringing it back down into a position where it could be bound to my other arm.

The plastic zip-tie cuffs didn't seem extraordinarily tight at first, but when we moved to the processing table, one of the cops lifted me by the cuffs themselves, and afterward they were tight as hell. One also grabbed me by the hair, which lent irony to their response every time I repeated that I couldn't cooperate: "Oh, that's real mature," they said many times. "Real mature."

 

The policeman at the processing table copied the information from my license, then asked the officers if I had said anything incriminating. That brought me up short, as it hadn't occurred to me that anything I said would be used against me in a court of law. They hadn't read us our Miranda Rights, after all, which is apparently not required in cases of unlawful assembly.

"Yeah," one said, "He said he'd be ashamed to not resist."

The officer at the table wrote it down.

"Are you sure I said 'resist?'" I said. "I think I said I'd be ashamed to 'cooperate.'"

The processing officer looked at the one holding me, who shrugged. The quote was changed.

My property was deposited into a plastic bag: keys, cellphone, 27 cents, and, amazingly, my ballcap, which one of the officers had picked up. "Hey, my hat!" I said. "I honestly appreciate you saving my hat--I really do." Say what you will about the LAPD, they seem to be scrupulous about property.

Then they lifted me to go to the waiting buses. One grabbed me by the pants pocket and, when it began to tear a little, he gave what seemed to be a deliberate yank, splitting the leg open about eight inches.

"Oh, whoops," he said, deeply sarcastic. I didn't say anything. This was a guy who had heretofore berated me for my immaturity, acting like the worst sort of playground bully. It was depressing. They hauled me across Broadway and onto the waiting bus, one cop deliberately grabbing my underwear and giving me a wedgie.

I took my seat amid general exultation; the other protesters were amped up, and we cheered as each new person boarded. A few women were kept in a separate caged area, the men in the benches, everyone with their hands cuffed securely behind their backs, which made sitting awkward and leaning back painful.

After the bus filled, we drove the short distance to the main LAPD office, almost exactly across the street from the Occupy L.A. encampment. The convenience was striking.

We pulled into a bus garage and the officers disembarked. At first they left the engine running, but later returned to shut it off, which cut the air conditioning. It began to grow stuffy. We wondered how long we'd be left on board, and how deliberately. To their credit, when one of the protesters complained that his cuffs were too tight and cutting circulation to his hands, one of the policemen boarded the bus to cut them off and apply a new set of looser cuffs.

Roughly an hour later, we were moved into a large empty bus garage and made to sit along one wall. As I was coming in, one of the protesters was vomiting, and his vomit marked the edge of the area where people in my group were made to sit.

We waited, arms cuffed painfully behind us. Various protesters asked to use the bathroom. At first they were told to wait, but finally the officers relented and took them to a cell with a toilet in it, where they were made to drop their pants and urinate with their hands still cuffed behind them.

When I heard that we weren't allowed to take our cuffs off to urinate, I asked one of the officers if it were true, a boyish-faced Latino guy who couldn't have been more than 22. Expressionless, he said, "Yup."

 

"How is that physically possible?" I said.

He shrugged.

When a mustachioed sergeant appeared in the garage and assumed control of our processing, I said, "Can this be true? Are we really not allowed to remove our handcuffs to take a piss?"

"What? No, of course we'll remove your cuffs," he said. "You need to use the bathroom?"

"Yeah."

He directed a junior officer to accompany me to the cell with the toilet in it.

I said to the sergeant, in passing, "You should know that your officers told us we weren't allowed to have our cuffs off."

"Hey, I'm doing what I can," he said.

Awaiting processing at more folding tables, we remained in the garage for some seven hours, cuffed the whole time. Some managed to wriggle their arms around their legs and get their hands in front of their bodies, to their great relief, and the officers didn't correct them. But many of us were unable to do so, thanks to some unfortunate combination of arm length and ass size.

I said to the sergeant, "If it's all right for some of us to have our hands in front, can we all have our hands in front?"

"You want your hands in front?" he said, and directed a junior officer to redo my cuffs.

"No, I want you to let us all have our hands in front."

"Well, they aren't asking to have their hands in front," he said, indicating the long line of protesters against the wall.

"Who wants to have their hands in front?" I called to them, to which about 50 guys responded affirmatively.

"Look, we said we'd do you, not everybody, and now you blew it," said the junior officer, going back to his business. It seemed as if that was their modus operandi: dispense special favors to whoever complained, but otherwise decline to do the humane thing.

Around this time, the occupants of the largest tree fort on the plaza arrived to much cheering. They'd held out the longest, but arrived with various bloody welts on their arms to show for it. The police had approached atop the cherry-picker and ordered them to raise their hands. They complied, and only then were shot with beanbag rounds, they told us, which were obviously not the harmless things their names implied. To the LAPD's credit, everyone with injuries was taken for interviews with Internal Affairs and photographed.

When called to the processing table, I was made to answer a number of questions, including about my sexual orientation (which I declined to state). The processing officer noticed blood on the crotch of my pants and came around the table to search my body for wounds. I had two skinned knees, with corresponding blood spots, and a gash on my hand that had presumably occurred during the scrum on the plaza. We weren't sure if this were responsible for the blood stains or not and let it go.

Finally, a large number of the protesters were made to line up facing the wall for a thorough body search. Our shoelaces and belts were removed, as were, gloriously, our handcuffs. My hands were so puffy and white by this time, it appeared I was wearing gloves.

Some of us were moved to a cell. Cement-brick walls, polished cement floor and harsh lights overhead. Cement benches lined opposing walls, with three phones on one side allowing only collect calls. Recording: "This is a call from an inmate at Men's Central Jail. Will you accept collect charges for [YOUR NAME]?" Several protesters called the number of the National Lawyer's Guild that we'd all written on our arms with Sharpees, but were unable to get through. They were swamped, presumably.

We were pretty fatigued at this point. It must have been about noon. We were given our first meal -- two microwave burritos and two small cartons of cranberry juice cocktail -- and were so hungry that we ate it. My arms and shoulders, bound in the same position for so many hours, ached terribly. Amazingly, a couple guys slouched down behind the toilet partition and began to take hits from a marijuana pipe. Later I asked the owner of the pipe how he'd gotten it through the multiple searches and he said it was a question of moving it from pocket to pocket, mid-search.

A couple more hours of waiting. Additional protesters appeared, ones who'd been left cuffed in the bus garage even longer than I was. Also, a huge new group arrived at the jail, one that had been loaded on a bus and driven to Van Nuys, before being turned away for some reason and brought back to where they started, spending at least seven hours on the bus, cuffed the whole time and not allowed to use a bathroom. A couple women had been forced to piss themselves and one guy managed to get his pants down to defecate somehow. For about an hour, the bus was parked in front of a Starbucks while the officers were inside for coffee. (For more on conditions endured by some protestors, see Dennis Romero's report, "Occupy L.A. Arrestees Say Bathrooms Off Limits for Hours, So They Went on Buses.")

At some point, we were called out individually to be booked and fingerprinted. I was put in the charge of a big bald homicide detective who seemed vaguely sympathetic to the movement. When I requested treatment for my numb and swollen hand, he took me to the infirmary for a cold compress and a couple tablets of Motrin.

As we dealt with my personal property, he also allowed me to consult my cellphone and copy whatever phone numbers I would need onto my pink arrest receipt, which would be the only item we'd be allowed to keep in our cells.

I told him I appreciated his humane treatment, but that for every decent officer, there were two cruel ones.

"Oh, it's more like two decent officers for every cruel one," he said.

"That's not how it feels when you're treated cruelly," I said.

 

My mugshot was taken, and then I was searched again and made to go through a metal detector before being returned to the cell. The detective wished me luck.

Interestingly, our arrest receipts also enumerated our various rights as prisoners, including the right to make a phone call within three hours of our arrest, which we all had a laugh at. Finding we were entitled to a newspaper, I asked a guard for one but was told it wouldn't be provided until we were moved to a housing cell.

Some hours later we were finally moved, taken in small groups to the large split-level cells where we'd sleep. Rows of bunks lined the walls upstairs and down and a stainless steel table occupied the communal area. Each level had two stainless steel toilets behind a low partition, as well as a sink and a shower that we were pleased to find yielded hot water. Also, each level had a small visitation room where detainees could converse with visitors on a video monitor. No more being separated by a pane of glass, apparently; now visitors sat in some distant part of the building.

Having already spent long hours with nothing to read or do, I was thrilled to note two newspapers on the table, but crushed to find that one was Spanish-language and the other Korean. (The man in the bunk next to mine, who read Spanish, was stoked.)

The guards sat in a central room that allowed views onto the four cellblocks where the protesters were being held, and could be alerted by means of a button near the door. I pressed it, and was answered by a booming voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere and was almost totally impossible to make out in that echo-y cement cavern.

"What's your emergency?" it said.

"Can we get our newspaper?"

"Later," the voice said. No explanation given, just later. It would be the most frequent response to our requests. Can you turn on the television? Later. Can I get an aspirin? Later. Can we get towels, toothbrushes, soap? Later. I wasn't given a blanket -- can I get one? Later.

Several of us weren't given blankets, in fact, and had only sheets. Fortunately, I'd worn thermal underwear, expecting to sit on the plaza all night long. Some of the others had nothing, however, and slept cold.

Late in the day, a copy of the Daily News was finally delivered, slipped through the waist-high slot in the door. But it turned out to be a few days old and contained no news about the camp closure.

After being read by everyone who cared to, it and the other papers were put to use as paper airplanes, makeshift jewelry, finger footballs and, most ingeniously, a fairly-decent chessboard made of woven strips and populated with oddly-shaped chessmen whose roles I had a hard time keeping straight.

Late in the day, the monotony was broken by dinner--two thin ham sandwiches, an apple and two small cartons of milk--but otherwise, we were bored. Bored as hell. No books, no pens, no computers, no phones, nothing. The one thing we looked forward to was a court date in the morning. The alternate, dismal prospect was that we wouldn't be arraigned until Friday.

I tried to sleep. Relative to sitting in a crowded cement cell, having one's own bunk seemed like an unbelievable luxury. There was a strong stink of unwashed bodies around the bunks, but over time I stopped noticing.

 

Sleep was fitful. The bright lights burned all night. The flush of the toilets was regular and unbelievably deafening, like the howl of industrial hydraulic jets. And worse, some of the protesters had quickly assimilated the jail-cell practice of repeated flushing to cover the sounds of one's shitting, willingly waking the entire block for the sake of their peculiar modesties. My bunk being near the toilets, I remember waking up and making eye contact with one of the repeated flushers and calling, "I'd rather hear you shit," before realizing he wasn't a protester, but one of the half-dozen regular inmates with whom we were sharing the cell.

"Yeah, all right," he said, as if that were enough from me.

Periodically, the loudspeaker would boom, calling the name of some detainee who was being moved to a different cell or being bailed. Everyone cheered for the protesters who were bailed and wished them well, but I always felt a pang of envy. Our bail had been set at $5,000, or $500 non-refundable if you used a bail bondsman. Most of us were priced out of such a thing, including me. Friends had offered to pay for me, but it occurred to me that part of my commitment as a practitioner of civil disobedience included the full acceptance of the legal consequences of my actions, namely sitting in jail and refusing to leave early. Henry David Thoreau, I remembered, was infamously bailed out of jail by his aunt (or freed, at any rate, when she paid his delinquent taxes). I didn't want to puss out like that coward.

Breakfast call was at 3 a.m. "LINE UP, GENTLEMEN! EVERYBODY UP! BREAKFAST CALL! LINE UP ALONG THE WALL!" We crawled out of our bunks and slouched against the wall, waiting to show our wristbands--printed with our names, numbers and barcodes--and receive a plastic-wrapped cardboard dish of potatoes, scrambled eggs, a slice of French toast and two sausage patties. It was the slightly inferior cousin of a McDonald's breakfast, and was probably our best meal of the day, although some people couldn't stomach it and gave theirs to the ones who could stomach anything.

Then, it being not yet 4 a.m., most returned to their bunks to try to sleep again. If granted a court date, we knew we'd be moved shortly after breakfast. And so we grew increasingly disappointed as the hours crept by and the call didn't come. It appeared we'd be spending another long day in this House of Nothing.

Sometime during the night, our television had been turned off. When we asked the voice to have it turned on ("What's your emergency?"), we were told, "After lunch." After lunch--two microwave burritos and cranberry juice cocktail again--we were told, "Later." When we asked why the television couldn't be turned on until later, there was no response.

By contrast, the television in the neighboring block had been left on, and when inmates requested it be turned off, they'd heard the usual response: "Later." We learned this by calling through the respective slots in our doors, swapping frustrating stories.

Further perusal of our rights, as enumerated on our arrest slips, revealed that we were entitled to Bibles and other religious materials. So desperate was I to have something to read at that point, I believe I would have even read a Bible, but when one of the others made the request, he was promptly given a New Testament in Spanish, and that was all.

Our impression was that we were just being constantly fucked with, subject to minor but arbitrary acts of sadism at every opportunity, like animals poked in a cage. None of us were under any illusions that this was as bad as things could be, of course. We knew that non-political inmates probably had much worse treatment; none of us had been beaten since we entered detention, none of us put in solitary confinement. And certainly, none of the Occupy L.A. protesters had been subject to chemical weapon attacks like those in Oakland, New York and Davis. (Or Egypt or Yemen or Syria!) And yet the low-level cruelty of the guards on our block made clear to us that the kinder, gentler LAPD touted in the media was more a question of improved image-management than any sincere new sense of decency. And thus in the course of three long days were nearly 300 protesters--who heretofore had primarily concerned themselves with issues of economic injustice--radicalized, to one degree or another, on the issue of police misbehavior and the humane treatment of prisoners.

 

The last day, we were awakened as usual at 3 a.m. -- same breakfast -- then marched out sometime mid-morning and put back into the holding cell from the first day. (Any movement was invariably followed by a profound sense of disappointment when we realized we were just going to another cell.) This cell had a posted occupancy of 16, but a head count revealed that we were 47 in total: crowded, loud and, by this point, mad as hell.

After a couple hours, we were called out individually and cuffed into chains of four men each. Put into another cell, we were made to wait again. Finally, we were returned to the bus garage and loaded onto a bus. It pulled out, but began moving away from the courthouse, where we expected to go, and towards some kind of release center, our first indication that we might not have our day in court.

Now we were no longer in the custody of black-shirted LAPD, but brown-shirted sheriffs. Word went around that, whereas the LAPD was somewhat reformed, the L.A. County Sheriff's deputies were not, and they would "hit you for looking at them wrong." As with a lot rumors I heard in jail, I don't know if it were true. I certainly didn't see anyone get smacked for looking at anyone wrong, but then again, the mere rumor seemed to compel new levels of obedience.

At the release center, we were brought to yet another holding cell, then told to pile our clothes and shoes on benches in the center of the room, whereupon we were patted down again and our clothes searched. I was wondering what contraband we could possibly still have after enduring so many previous searches, when the ceramic marijuana pipe fell out of a jacket and smashed to pieces on the polished cement floor.

"What do we have here?" the sheriffs said. "Whose jacket is this?" The room was quiet for a while before the guy glumly identified himself. I felt terrible for him, given how close we were to being released, but when we were moved to a subsequent holding cell, he was allowed to go as well. Apparently they'd had enough of us.

Amazingly, we were then divided into races, whites and Hispanics in one room and blacks and Asians in another. There was a room-wide sense of hesitation when they told us to separate, as if we couldn't quite believe what we were hearing. I'll never forget one of my black friends shaking his head and saying, "Yep... yep," as we split up.

Arriving at the next holding cell, I asked the deputy why. His answer was patronizing. "I understand that this is a new situation for a lot of you and that you don't understand why a lot of this needs to be done, but the fact is that we need to separate everyone by race because of gangs."

Continuing, speechifying now: "And I know that a lot of you believe in... alternate systems... Socialism... but we've looked at that stuff and found that it always becomes corrupt, and that this system, the way we do it, is the best possible way we know right now."

No one responded. It was hard to know where to start. There was just something so depressing about being, literally, a captive audience to a lecturer with zero knowledge of alternate humane systems of justice and no apparent shame defending the squalid, ugly, demeaning one we had. He told us not to ask any more questions that would only slow our processing, and we didn't.

Another couple of hours in that cell, packed, unbearably loud. At noon we were given two slices of wheat bread and a packet of peanut butter and packet of jelly, as well as an apple. Nothing to drink. (I would carry this meal as far as my apartment, before vomiting.)

Periodically, we were called out in groups of 20 or so for release, and when I finally heard my name, I more or less ran, not even saying goodbye to anyone. Naturally, we were taken to other rooms and made to wait, but one had the sense of being close. Finally, we were taken to an administrative area where brusque sheriffs confirmed our information and fingerprinted us again. I got a glimpse of my mugshot, for which I'd tried to smile. Somehow the photographer had managed to capture a moment when I looked uncharacteristically rough, a spitting image of that famous shot of Nick Nolte. Fucking sadists!

At last our wristbands were cut off (they wouldn't let us keep them as souvenirs) and we were released through a gate into the bus garage, some walking and some skipping. Across the street, at the building where we were to pick up our personal property, an impromptu rally was occurring. The crowd threw up a cheer as we emerged. We started across the street in their direction before someone shouted, "NO! USE THE CROSSWALK!" Which we did.

Those of us with homes returned home to find our mailboxes already mysteriously stuffed with letters from law offices. The rest slept somewhere, Pershing Square, Olvera Street, anywhere they could.

Upon our release without charges, the police said absolutely nothing about the conditions. I've since heard on the news that the city has reserved the right to prosecute, conditional upon our completing a 90-day course on the First Amendment, wherein we're to be schooled on "the limitations associated with the First Amendment."

I'll take the class if they will.


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