I was arrested on July 17, 2015, the 1-year anniversary of Eric Garner’s Murder by the NYPD.
At the time of my arrest, I was sitting with about 30 other activists in the crosswalk of 34th street at Sixth Avenue in an act of Civil Disobedience to Demand Justice for Eric Garner and all others murdered by police. The protest was organized by Millions March NYC and Black Lives Matter NYC. I had missed the rally at Columbus Circle because I was at work, but I found them at Herald Square just in time to hear a voice through a bullhorn state, “If you are willing to be arrested, come to the front of the group.”
I moved to the front, linked arms with the people next to me, we gave our names to Legal Observers from the National Lawyers Guild, and sat.
I was brought in a van of 12 people to 1 Police Plaza and held for 5 more hours. I shared my cell with two beautiful brown-skinned people who had just finished their Freshman year at Middlebury College. They gleefully commented that they could now cross getting arrested off their “Bucket List,” but worried about whether they would be released before their 10pm curfew. (That didn’t happen. They were also never allowed to call their parents to tell them where they were.)
I felt like Old Auntie Lu, On The Scene. We talked at length about activism, what books we were reading, the gender binary, Rachel Dolezal, and social responsibility. I reminisced about my first arrest (perhaps an upcoming #tbt post?), and we talked about continuing the legacy of Freedom Fighting. I assured them that even if their parents ended up being mad at them, they should be proud of their action because we are on the right side of history. And, not only that, but the fact that we were arrested on the 1-year anniversary of Eric Garner’s death was extremely significant.
Whenever anyone was released, we would clap. I was released at nearly 2am with a DAT (Desk Appearance Ticket) stating that I must appear in court to hear my charges on September 14. It was pretty surreal, walking through the precinct without laces in my shoes, wearing a hot green #Black Lives Matter tee-shirt, surrounded by cops, and soundtracked by applause from the protesters left in holding.
There were teams of NLG folks and Prison Support from the protest waiting outside to give us hugs and snacks, give us fact sheets about what a DAT is, take our information so that we could be represented by NLG lawyers in court, and–perhaps most importantly–make sure that none of the protesters were lost in the system.
On my train ride home, I learned what my options were: plead guilty, plead not guilty, or take an ACD (Adjournment Contemplating Dismissal), which isn’t an admission of guilt or innocence, and would mean that charges are dropped and the record is sealed as long as one isn’t arrested again within six months.
When I called the NLG folks a couple of weeks ago, it became clear that the ACD is the route that most protesters take, but that there was power in numbers if people decided to plead not guilty. Without continuing, perhaps, to state too much (right to remain silent and aaaaaaall-a-dat), I arrived at court unsure of my plan, but feeling that I wanted the opportunity to state my case, hold my ground, and stand behind my action. I felt like–for me–taking the ACD would be a cop-out (pun intended?). And I found out that a good number of us felt the same.
I also found out that one of the people arrested had merely been crossing the street at the wrong time and was arrested with us. The fact that he was a young, black man didn’t escape my observation. #CrossingTheStreetWhileBlack, anyone? It felt like just the extra push I needed to make a decision.
Today I pleaded Not Guilty to my charge of Disorderly Conduct, along with at least ten others.
We cannot be neutral. It is past time to take action. It is past time to decide Which Side You Are On. I am on the side of humanity. I am on the side of public health. I am on the side of love. I am on the side of continuing growth.
It is too soon to say much more before I speak with my lawyer and come up with a plan. I hope you will follow me on this journey to Demand Justice. In Solidarity. Be Well. Spread Love. SAY THEIR NAMES.