Adventure to Obama’s White House, part 4


At sometime in the morning an officer comes down the hall yelling for us to get ready to grab our breakfast. He comes by with a Styrofoam cup that is later filled with a white slush from a gallon jug labeled “Lemonade Flavored Drink.” It is cold which helps us feel better about the fact that that drink wouldn’t know what a lemon was if it passed it on the street — or so Ward imagined. We also got our requisite two sandwiches, same as our midnight snack hours before. We trade with each other but forgo the “generous offer” from Joe and Fr. Bill if either of us wants one of theirs. Ward only eats one of his. I combine the two pieces of “cheese” into one sandwich, not wanting another lump of sponge bread in my gut. I have no way of knowing that is the last food I’ll get before being released after my court appearance at 4 PM.

Meanwhile we wait, hoping they’ll come and get us to take us to court in the morning. Ward tells me this is his first overnight jail experience which he doesn’t hope to repeat. But he adds that so far it has been a good, if difficult, learning experience. I tell him my strong conviction that every judge, prosecutor, police officer, and guard should have to undergo (incognito) a trip like we are experiencing before sending others into this zoo. Ward continues to joke about the dreadful food asking me who “recommended this restaurant?” Then he adds, “And to think they gave me three times to leave and I didn’t get up and walk on the other side of that police tape!” We both laugh at what many people would surmise is our “stupidity.” I told him earlier how a previous inmate I met in Federal Prison in 2006 told me I was “stuck on stupid” after I told him I had been in jail before for “protesting” and I had done it again.

After we are once again herded into our sardine can for a short trip to jail #4 under the Courthouse, we discover that it is after 11:00 AM. Some of us still hope we can see the judge before the lunch break but after we are patted down once again as well as going through a seated and standing metal detector, we are shuffled in another holding pen for “traffic” offenses. There is a black T written on our wristbands. One of the first persons I see (a white man stands out in this jail!) is John Braun and we all inquire how he is doing. He is clear that he doesn’t suspect he’ll “do this again” but does seem in good spirits. Our caged area has about 30 others in it with only enough seats for 5 or 6. Fortunately one opens up and Joe, John, Ward, and I take turns sharing it.

If you walk to a corner of this cage, you can read a clock on the wall. It doesn’t help to make the time go faster. At some point we are told that “traffic cases” will be held at 3 PM. Then we are told that we will be divided into two groups: those with traffic offenses and those with the “failure to obey a lawful order” charge, namely the 6 of us. Later we are told the traffic cases will go first and will start at 2 PM, then 2:30. When they come to get us, the officer mistakenly takes the six of us first but doesn’t want to send us back after he is told of his mistake.

Meanwhile, it is during this 4 hour period that we witness the increasing verbal and hints of physical abuse heaped on “us” by the guards. Some have US Marshall outfits. Others read Metropolitan Police. Some say PSA, others have signs or symbols I know not of. A few “suits” walk by and they seem to be lawyers, probably Public Defenders. Two officers in particular are increasing abusive and brutal — obviously playing for a bigger audience. After one inmate mouths off about not getting anything to eat, he is loudly cursed out by one of these officers. When he continues to complain, he is grabbed out of our cage by this officer and two or three others and slammed up against the wall. After being cuffed, he is hustled down the hallway, out of our sight and hearing, most likely to be “tuned up” by macho cops who want to release their extra testosterone. We never see him again before we are called out for our court time.

Joe notices one guard who is clearly different and respectful in his treatment of all the inmates. He calls him over to ask his name and thanks him for treating all of us decently. He asks me to memorize the guard’s name, “Samuel Newman,” so he can write a letter of commendation to the Court when we are released.

When we are called out, we face the wall and are patted down again before being placed in leg irons, waist or belly chains, which are then attached to metal handcuffs. Up to this time we’ve only had hard plastic “flexicuffs.” I don’t have a strong preference for either and I always try to tell the officer I have carpal tunnel before they ratchet them down on my wrists. For the most part I fare better than Joe has as far as tightness of the cuffs cutting off circulation. Does anyone seriously think we’ll try to escape after refusing to leave after three warnings before arrest? It appears everyone gets this treatment – even those with minor traffic violations. How demeaning!

Because the 9 of us from Minnesota were locked up for 28 hours, we missed the appointments we had made with our Member of Congress and our Senators. I told Ward that since we signed up for “Breakfast with Al”, I was hoping Al Franken would deliver us a real breakfast in our cells. I told him how proud I was that our Congressman, Keith Ellison, had been arrested in the past year for civil disobedience in front of the Sudanese Embassy. He and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus arrested with him had paid a $100 forfeiture bond and were released right away. I really would like to see him tour the facilities we had experienced.

As we are about to be marched upstairs, we see our women co-defendants for the first time in at least 15 hours. They seem in good spirits and Marie beams when she spots her husband John in the cage with us. We ride up to the court level on separate elevators and then again are locked in separate holding cells making it difficult to hear one another.