To: Chicago Reader
From: John Doe
Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
In the hopes that readers in Chicago are curious about some of what happened during the Republican National Convention protests here in Philadelphia, I am writing to give one aspect of what is real. I live and work in Chicago, born and raised in fact. I am a union construction worker with a penchant for building not buildings but puppets. I came to Philadelphia to demonstrate against the duopoly that runs our badly run system; I also had hoped to go to the DNC in LA in order to protest that half of the two-headed monster. The organizers of R2K (the umbrella group of all the RNC protest goings-on) had the good sense to decentralize the convergence of protesters, hence to avoid what happened in Washington, D.C., in April. There were a few puppet-making convergence centers, one of which the cops had tried to shut down much earlier. A bunch of trade unionists got together and fixed up the space back to code, thus defusing the police’s weapon. I plugged into what was known as the “ministry of puppetganda”–a huge warehouse capable of withstanding any burgeoning puppeteer’s wildest fancy. On Tuesday, after Sunday’s “Unity 2000” march and the Kensington Welfare Rights Union march on Monday, the real action was slated to take place. At 3:00 puppets were supposed to be in place at two key points to make broad sweeps through the streets of Center City, Philadelphia. This would never happen.
At 2:05 PM Tuesday police officers came to the ministry’s door, which was promptly shut and locked. Everyone had heard the helicopter all day, but this was obviously it. In less than 30 minutes, the building was surrounded by more than 180 police (by people on the outside’s count), three helicopters, a dozen or so paddy wagons, and a mounting crowd of community supporters of the puppet space. We were illegally detained within the space for over an hour and a half without a warrant. Someone was maced through a mail slot and cops on the roof spat at us.
When the warrant did eventually arrive, we decided to open the garage door and stage the best puppet rally possible. We had made 138 skeletons on long sticks with the names of everyone G.W. Bush has executed on them, for instance.
I don’t believe any of us were prepared for what followed as we were “detained” in un-air-conditioned sheriff’s buses with windows that opened a mere two inches for over ten and a half hours! The first six of which we were denied water. Everyone’s clothes were soaked through with sweat. Thankfully, someone figured out a way to loosen our handcuffs, which made the experience at least somewhat bearable.
All that happened in the bus goes on for a long time, and in terms of torturous behavior was paralleled by what would happen when we got to the detention unit, known as the “roundhouse.” With what I have been told was around 600 arrests, the scene was obviously chaotic. There are currently upwards of 328 people practicing what is known as jail solidarity–a previously agreed upon policy of nonviolent noncooperation.
We were handled horribly inside the roundhouse, with six to eight people jammed into single-person cells, forcing many to curl up with filthy toilets to sleep, as we were held there on average for three days. One person, to the best of my knowledge, may have contracted hepatitis A from this! (And is currently in medical lockdown–i.e., isolated but still in our “pod” within the jail system.) Individuals were methodically singled out, especially people of color, and much violence was inflicted on all of us who practiced noncooperation. One fellow who was in my cell was repeatedly kicked and stood upon as I resisted being processed. I was slammed several times headfirst into whatever wall was convenient and cuffs were applied extremely tight, immediately making my hands go numb. So tight in fact that they could barely be cut off without cutting my arms (not much of a consideration of the cops, I assure you).
While not the first to be processed, I was early in the game. It did not take long for the police to escalate their level of violence. Many people who practiced noncooperation were hog-tied and dragged around the block. The same fellow who was kicked in my cell had his penis twisted, his arms almost broken as well as his fingers, and had a considerable amount of hair yanked out.
Our legal team (R2K) at this point suggested we cooperate and do whatever we could to get out of there as it was becoming a very dangerous place for us to be. While this is not at all an exhaustive list of what happened there, I hope the point is clear. Currently, there are 328 of us in county jail at either CFCF (men) or PICC (women) in complete solidarity. Many of us are on hunger strike, and everyone will be as of tomorrow until some of our key demands are met (unconditional release; dropping of bogus felony charges; no isolation; food we can all eat–i.e., vegan and vegetarian). I am on day seven of hunger strike, personally.
For building puppets I have been charged with: possession of implements of crime, obstructing a highway, reckless endangerment of others, resisting arrest, and a litany of other misdemeanors, as well as conspiracy to commit them all. I have never been read my rights and the telephones here have worked so seldom as to be a sham.
Philadelphia’s Mayor Street and district attorney Ms. Abraham have publicly vowed to play hardball with us. The mainstream media has done what it always does: protect the protectors of the status quo. All of us in here have vowed to play hardball, too. For many of us, that may mean staying in here until September 23, when our court dates come up. We are on maximum security lockdown, confined to our cells 23 hours a day. A slew of psychological scare tactics are being used against us, but our solidarity remains very strong.
Money will need to be raised to post bail for many of us I fear. The lowest bail has been $10,000, the highest was $1 million! Many of us have $10,000, at least those with misdemeanors. Bail reduction hearings began today, but without telephones the results are unknowable for now. See thepartysover.org or indymedia.org for more information.
There is so much more beyond this perfunctory account, it’s shameful. I wish I could give my name or address, but to do so may compromise my solidarity, which largely depends on our all being John and Jane Does. As you can see, we are all related in here, all brothers and sisters. My action nickname is Trashio of the garlic revolutionaries affinity group of the puppetista cluster.
Note: The author of this letter, Dave Bailey, was released after 12 days in custody. His bond was set at $10,000.