When I met Eric, a Occupy Wall Street (OWS) person at a party in Brooklyn
I never thought it would lead to a night in jail. I simply tried to
interest him in a concern of mine. I felt it was wrong for Stop and Shop
and Giant supermarkets to sell bottles of diet soda with nothing on the label
other than fine print on the back to show it was diet. Eric listened to what
I said and invited me to talk the next day at a meeting of OWS in Zuccotti
park in Manhattan.
I arrived the next day but did not get very far. A few people
listened mostly out of politeness. Two guys played drums but it seemed
in general a low keyed meeting basically uneventful until the cops told them
to stop playing. They said no. They said they had a right to play drums.
All of a sudden the cops grabbed them and started pushing them into a white
van. Everyone got caught up in it. I saw a guy photographing the arrest,
he was grabbed and pushed in too. I've been is situations like this
before where I keep thinking "what can I do" The answer is always the same.
Nothing. Sit back watch it happen and go home ashamed.
During the years of the Viet Nam demonstrations I had never joined in, always
in fear of some consequence of stepping out of line. Now 70 Years
old, I began to ask myself what I really had to loose..
“I saw what you did” She said. I was grabbed by a plain clothes police woman.
“You slashed the tires”. I went limp. they dragged me to the van put handcuffs
on me and pushed me in next to the photographer. The world changed.
Now everything was different. I, a engineer retired from Brown
University had got caught up in the melee.
There were 4 of us in the van. Felix, and Richie were the two drum players
Kevin was the photographer I had seen. Half way to the seventh precinct the
tire went flat. No problem, in minutes we were underway in a second van.
When we reached the precinct house we were lined up, searched and our valuables
were taken. I could see the arresting woman officer across the hall and could
see hatred in her eyes. To her I was a criminal, a bad person, someone she
had helped pull off the streets.
Next to her was another young plain clothes policeman. He wore a zippered
windbreaker with the zipper down. Around his neck was a strap and a gold
badge. Very convenient. Zipper up and he was no different from a million
other New Yorkers. Zipper down, an instant cop.
We were all put in one cell. Kevin the photographer was a OWS person who
had a lot of experience advising people on how to deal with arrest. He schooled
me on his experiences as a Quaker. In September his 17 year old son had been
arrested and held for eight hours with no notice to his parents. No phone
call. “We are allowed to do this because of the patriot act” he was told.
Felix was a dancer, very slim, face painted with glitter, He had been
arrested 5 times mostly for OWS. The first time was when he was very young
and had jumped a subway turnstile.
Richie was an actor and singer. When we needed the cops for a bathroom visit.
He stepped up to the door. In a rich deep unbelievable opera singer's voice
he sang out the word “officer” It was beautiful. The cops were really impressed.
Perhaps it was Riche’s singing voice that impressed the officers. That was
why after about 5 hours he was released under a DAT. ( desk appearance ticket
where he agreed to show up at a later date) We remaining three were to be
transferred to the central processing area known as the tombs along
with other general prisoners. This terrified me.
Some time after midnight our billfolds were returned to us we were handcuffed,
put in a van and driven to the central holding area. Along the way we stopped
at a Mac Donald's. While one officer went for food another turned around
and released one of my handcuffs and snapped it on the seatbelt. This
gave me a free hand. At least I could eat. When he reached over
the seat to release one hand of the two behind me His gun wound up two inches
from my face. My first thought with one hand free was… I can grab his gun.
It was so easy….. Holding onto my sanity I recoiled at what I was thinking.
We finished eating, were re-handcuffed and delivered to the central processing
We passed through a variety of procedures and waiting including a iris scan.
Finally about 3 AM Felix and I Were put into a holding cell. It was about
14 by 20 feet and contained about 20 men. All African American. Kevin was
placed across the hall in a identical cell. They were offering breakfast,
boxes of corn flakes and a container of milk. There were benches around the
edge. In one corner was a 9 by 8 foot razed platform with a toilet and sink.
Privacy consisted of a waist high wall. There was no toilet paper.
People were sleeping on the benches so there was no place to sit. I tried
to sleep on the floor. It was cold and I needed to decide wether to keep
my jacket on and be warm or use it for a pillow which was very much needed.
I saw another prisoner using 2 boxes of corn flakes as a pillow so I did
The next morning were were moved to another holding cell down the hall. Here
we waited to be moved up to our court appearance. Lunch was served. The same
container of milk and a choice of sandwich, peanut butter and jelly or cheese.
Later supper was the same. The toilet here was really filthy.
I met an author. He had nothing to do with OWS. He was arrested for putting
a sticker on a wall advertising his book. As I slept on the floor he came
over and put his jacket over me. It was a striking act of kindness.
Another inmate said he went into a knife shop and brought a gravity knife.
He was caught with it and now faced a felony charge. His concern was that
if he was imprisoned on a felony charge his social security would be stopped
leaving his family destitute. I aways thought the money we paid into social
security was ours. That we were entitled to it. Well that was almost true.
Our next move was upstairs. Here I met Kevin again. He was in the first cell
with about 20 people. This was where we were to meet with our public defenders.
Kevin had seen his and was soon called to the courtroom.
The time dragged endlessly. I was alone. The room emptied others came in.
Finally I was called to speak with a public defender. How did I plead?
More waiting. Finally after 32 hours I was called to appear before a judge.
Walking into the court room was like passing between night and day. A fancy
wood paneled room after 32 hours of cement cells. I had about 20 seconds
in front of the judge. The case was to be continued. Then they told me to
sit in the second row. When I sat down a hand touched my shoulder. It was
Dian my stepdaughter. She and my wife as and Eric were there. We spent a
few minutes with the lawyer and left for dinner. Free at last.
I had always wanted to do something to help the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Now I was one of the 6000 that have been arrested on behalf of OWS.
One of Eric’s first questions was did I do it. Damn right
I did it I told him. I would have slashed all four tires if
it could get aspartame off the market.
My court date was set for the end of March where I was offered a deal. If
I pled guilty and paid $57 for the tire the case would be held for six months
and then if I was not arrested again the record would be erased. I took it.