Didn’t actually find any . . . but didn’t expect to. The media didn’t cover our other good works/news/the rally, but they did cover people being arrested. And, it must have been the right thing to do . . . as we were able to help a friend out in the process.
THE ARREST/JAIL EXPERIENCE
In a word. Absurd. And I don’t even know where to begin.
First of all, the “arrest”. So, we are in the City-County Building and at first, only one cop appears. The cop just stands there watching us. Smiles every once in a while. Approaches no one. Soon, 3 more cops come, maybe 4. They come right in the front door, as opposed to the guy who came up from the basement behind us. Eventually the maintenance guy yells that the building is closed for the evening. Some people dutifully leave the building. Several linger. There were about 80 people at the rally, about 40 came in the building (including two county board supervisors and an alder). After the room cleared of many people, there were about 20 of us and the cops tried to get us to leave. They explained what tickets we would get, explained that they would give us tickets ($429 for trespassing) and then that if we didn’t leave, they would arrest us and take us to jail. There was angry cop, and “just help me out” cop and “what can we do to help you make your point” cop and the friendly cop who was talking to me about friends we have in common.
They were all just doing their jobs, and knew we were just doing ours. Eventually, they started asking us for our id’s to give us tickets. 9 of us got tickets. We sang to pass the time.
Again, we were asked if we wanted to leave. 2 left. Sasha is a young man under 18 who agreed to pay the fine himself or do community serive and Steve Burns a long time activist in Madison. A huge thanks to them for sitting in with us. The others contemplated the consequences. We had already gotten $429 tickets, what else could they do to us? The cops were really nice explaining the booking process, the bail/posting process, that we could get our tickets reduced if we went to court etc. I was busy explaining what happens if you don’t post and end up in front of the judge. Discussing pros and cons of pleading guilty or standing mute or pleading not guilty. (Stand mute – they have have to enter a not guilty plea on your behalf and then you can negotiate your charges/fines down or challenge them in court.) People discussed getting community service vs. paying fines, etc. Eventually, much to the cops chagrin, we decided 7 of us would go through the process. We spent time taking pictures of ourselves with out tickets and talking.
They started filling out the booking information right in the lobby of the building as they were calling in other cops to transport us across the street to the jail. I had to ask why they would ask me my employers information – why would they need to know that. I didn’t really get an answer. The one cop I was talking to requested that “next time” we do this, don’t do it on a Friday night. Anne and I were the first to go, they put us in the back of the cop car and gave us a ride around the block. We weren’t cuffed or searched before being put in the police car. We did offer to walk over. Which is what they did with the others.
When Anne and I entered the booking room, I realized there was another woman there that I knew (see more on this below). They gave us shirts to put on over our clothes. They didn’t make us change into the full scrubs that everyone else had to wear. They took our shoes and other things. They took the ring on my finger, but not the my two toe rings, even after I told them they were there. They left us our credit cards to post bail. They didn’t count the money in my wallet, there was a ton of change, they asked me if I trusted them, I said yes – but then, I have the privilege to say yes, because if they stole from me, everyone would know. And yes, all my money was there when I left. Eventually Ed Kuharski joined us, he was actually hand cuffed – the only one – and he walked over with an officer. Then Meg Rothstein and Tami Miller arrived, also walked. And eventually Noah Phillips and Allen Barkoff. Once we were all there, they were asking us medical questions. Several of us had many illnesses and they were talking about them opening in front of everyone – seemed like some kind of a HIPAA violation. They were a little freaked out by my insulin pump – they don’t get many of those in jail. They had to call the nurse down to take several of our blood pressures, and they took the blood sugar level of two of us. Announcing the results out loud for all to hear. They informed me that if my blood sugar level was too high, they would have take me to the hospital. All was good. They then breathalyzed me. They did something where they scanned my finger, but it was still bleeding from the ridiculous blood sugar test (damn the need modern equipment, my blood tester is much faster and the barbaric needle they stuck me with was absurd.) so they used my left finger instead of my right. They searched me, I was searched by a male but the wall I was facing said I could request a female if I wanted. I giggled about something people were saying behind me, he apologized for tickling me. Eventually, they were done with the initial poking and prodding and I was the first to leave and go to the holding cell. Not once did they ask me about my citizenship status, which I have been assured was asked of everyone. I wasn’t asked. It took about 2 hours up to this point.
I spent about another 2 hours in the holding cell. Luckily, I was with friends. When I got there, one woman asked me why I was allowed to have my turtleneck shirt on, she asked me where I got it. I told her it was what I was wearing (I was also still in my jeans, unlike the others). Eventually, I figured out why she asked, it was freezing cold in there. There were three other women that came and went, including the one in the booking room (again, read below). We spend our time waiting to get fingerprinted and photographed. Oddly enough, there was a tv in the holding cell and of course, what was on . . . WWF wrestling . . . a little violence to fill our time. Basketball was on on the TV outside the holding cell. The woman I knew they had told that she could leave, they were getting ready to let her go after taking her photos and fingerprints and when they handed her her purse she said it wasn’t hers and then they realized they had the wrong person and they brought her back to the holding cell with us. She wondered aloud to us what would have happened if she would have just left? One woman has missed dinner and asked for something to eat, they refused her request. Another woman got sick while in there and she asked for a private restroom, they refused that as well. So we sang “Solidarity Forever” to give her a little privacy. We made a few phone calls, even a few to our elected officials. Eventually, one by one, they took our mug shots and fingerprints. Again complained and asked that next time we do this to not do it on a Friday night. I waived to our male comrades in the holding cell next to me on the way back. When I got back to the holding cell I thought, wow, now they have all that information about me and I’m “in the system”. I told that to someone that and she said she had the same thought as she was getting fingerprinted. Took me til I was 44 to get a mug shot and fingerprints taken, believe it or not. Anyways, we had to wait as men were leaving and they couldn’t have men and women leaving at the same time.
Eventually, we were given our property bags, they told us there was pizza waiting for us in the lobby, they instructed to walk single file down the hallway and eventually to another room where we were asked to change, throw our shoes and scrubs in a bin, put the bag in a pass-through door and then wait to get our tickets back, sign for our bail/bond. They charged us the $429.00 for our municipal trespassing tickets and an additional $21.45 nonrefundable service fee for using a credit card. We signed, were told our court date was April 10th at 8:30 and then we were allowed to leave, after some sadness that we were not allowed to keep our lovely jail shoes.
As we came out, we were cheered on by about a dozen people waiting for us in the lobby, along with the 3 aforementioned gigantic Ian’s pizzas. We waited for others, and were told that Allen and Noah were choosing to stay in jail for the night. As we were sitting in the lobby, Ed Kuharski was quick to ask, why can we do what we are doing here, but not in the other lobby where we just were. By now, it was about 10:30 and we were off to reunite ourselves with some of the belongings that we had left with others . . . and a beer at the Fountain.
HELPED A SISTER OUT
Literally. So, the part of the story above that I skipped was . . . my friend that was in the holding cell with me had told me in the booking room that she was there because she missed a court date that she thought was rescheduled and was picked up when she went to visit someone at the Huber Center. She was in court on Tuesday during the snow storm and was surprised everything wasn’t worked out. She was really worried because she had finally gotten her SSI and was about to get housing, but she had to make an appointment on Monday and if she didn’t she would lose the subsidized housing she was finally getting. She was counting on her son to call and make the appointment for her, but was worried about that. I had kinda decided that I would just call the CDA myself on Monday and explain the situation and hope that was good enough. Later, while in the holding cell, she was making phone calls and telling her pastor about her predicament when my friend Meg overheard her conversation (you have no privacy there!). She asked if I was listening to it, and I said yes and told her that I knew the woman and her situation. When she got off the phone, we exchanged stories and explained why we went to jail – she informed us that she is currently homeless and staying in a shelter. The more we talked about things, the more we realized how it was somehow appropriate that we were there with this woman who was homeless and about to potentially lose her chance at housing. My friend Anne finally just offered to pay the portion of the bail that she couldn’t pay. She had $300, but it was $800 and she would have the rest of the money soon. Anne offered again, and Meg and I offered to back her up. My friend was in tears, she gave me a hug and was extremely grateful – and we were left kinda speechless by the whole situation, it was like we were meant to be there. And it seems our (volunteer) work is never done.
SO WHY DID WE DO IT
Besides the accident of making sure my friend can keep her housing, why did we do it? I think we all have our own reasons. Me, I’m like Rosa Parks, I’m just tired. I have lockers on my porch, people living in my house, I let people sleep on my porch and in my basement when they need to be safe, I drive people to appointments, I pay for prescription co-pays people can’t afford, I give information about programs, I help when and where I can. I testify at local county and city government meetings, I lobby (annoy) my elected officials. And yet, we’re getting no where. I’m tired of banging my head against the wall, getting roadblocks from my local government and watching the number of homeless persons increase, and their options dwindle. 831 homeless persons on January 31st – and those were only the one’s that fit HUDs definition of homeless and are surely under-counted because advocates wouldn’t say where people were sleeping. Last quarter, there were only 1094 housing units available in Madison, Monona, Fitchburg and Cross Plains, the math doesn’t work. Additionally, that is a 45% increase in homeless persons in the past two years. The 2% vacancy rate, the long waiting lists and the lack of services are a gruesome set of facts for homeless persons, and many others, to face at this time.
We held a rally to draw attention to the fact that as of today, 157 men are out of shelter days and can’t go to shelter until November 1 unless it is extreme weather or below 20 degrees outside. We held a rally because on March 17th the people at Token Creek will have no legal place to go until April 16th when the campgrounds open and the city is threatening $11,460 in fines if a private property owner steps up to let them camp on his land. We held a rally because on March 31st they Day Center closes, along with all the services it provides, until November. We held a rally. 80 people showed up. No media. We held a rally, and no one knew.
We found a piece a property to camp on, and the property owner is being threatened with $11,460 in fines. No media. No one knew.
We decide to go to jail – that the media covers. Go figure. It’s the only way to get attention.
But that’s not the only reason. I went to jail because I could. I did it in solidarity with my friends that have no legal place to go. I took the ticket they can’t afford, but they will continue to get.
I’m tired. I went to Jail for Justice . . . I didn’t find any.
WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES?
I kept smiling the whole time this was going on. It was a weird reaction. This is a deadly serious issue, with deadly consequences if people aren’t able to get into shelter and I was smiling. Clearly, I care about this issue and it is serious, but I kept smiling. Why, because the whole damn thing is just so absurd. I just kept thinking, look at all this money they are spending on ticketing 9 of us, booking 7 of us and 2 spending the night in jail. How much did all of that cost? Add the $11,000 and the raid from Lake View Hill. How is it that they can spend thousands and thousands of dollars ticketing and harassing us, and yet, we don’t have money for homeless services. Where are our priorities? Why is petitioning our government not working? When will they have a plan to deal with this crisis? I went to jail for justice, and I will do it again and again. Until the government stops harassing Occupy Madison, until my friends have a warm place to stay, until the many, many issues are addressed, I will go to jail for justice. Someday, I hope I find it.
Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media