2pm: The next day, Sunday, m25, when I got to 100 Centre Street, there were half a dozen Occupiers holding camp outside. They had a supply of food, water and cigarettes ready for anyone who might be released. There were several others inside the courtrooms as well; they were tracking docket numbers and arraignments, and liaising between the National Lawyers Guild, those of us on the outside, and off-site Jail Support coordinators.
The off-site coordinators handle a phone and text line that people can contact to insure the NLG has been notified of an arrest and to get information about a comrade after arrest. By reaching out to the jail support team via text and email, and the larger OWS community via Twitter, the team helps to make sure that people—jail support—are at the precinct or courthouse whenever someone is being detained. They also provide “Know Your Rights” and Jail Support training. This educates people on the roles and tasks that are essential to keeping track of our comrades as they move through the system. Additionally the training outlines the information required by the NLG during the arraignment process, as well as preparing for potential future court dates.
Although we are there specifically to provide support to Occupy Wall Street protestors, we will offer support to anyone getting out of jail, if it is within our means to do so. If we have food available, and they’re hungry, we feed them. If we have water or juice or coffee, and they want some, we give it to them. When people ask to bum or buy a cigarette—the most common post-release request—we oblige, free of charge.
This is arguably one of the most important and effective outreach efforts that OWS partakes in. The opportunity to talk with working class people, mostly black and Latin@, who are especially targeted by the NYPD, allows us to reach members of targeted communities on an incredibly personal level and make a connection between their situations and a larger political struggle. We’re all at the arbitrary control of the system, dehumanized for profit, and made to to struggle so others may gain.
Hopefully they share what they saw and talked to us about with their friends, families, and communities.
3pm: Ravi, who was coordinating inside the court rooms, came outside to report that the NLG believed that ten of our comrades, including Amelia, Negesti, and Mesiah, would be arraigned and released before the courts closed at 11pm.
There was a lot going on on Sunday. Despite nightly evictions, we continued a 24-hour occupation of Union Square. There was a pop-up occupation in Fort Greene Park, in Brooklyn. This was the latest in a series of Occupy Town Square outreach events that brought the Movement to parks throughout the city for one day.
Sitting outside of the Tombs is neither fun nor exciting. We try to entertain ourselves, but many of us have firsthand knowledge of the conditions inside, so it’s difficult.
But even with all of these fun activities going on, there were never less than 12 people at jail support. By sunset we were pushing 30.
In fact, there were so many of us that we were getting on the nerves of the court police, and we were asked to move. Out of concern that our presence might effect the treatment or arraignment of our comrades, most people relocated to Foley Square just one block away. Our new location was far enough away avoid confrontation with, and the constant glare of, the police, but close enough to get back within a moment’s notice should anyone be released.
10pm: With only an hour till the court’s closing, a comrade announced that Mesiah’s arraignment was imminent. Within a few minutes she was released.
When she appeared at the top of the steps there was a tremendous burst of noise and excitement. People ran up and hugged her. Her smile was incredible. Friends from Foley soon ran over to join in the celebration.
Her arm, wrapped in a large sling, discomforted her, but as I tweeted shortly after seeing her, “She’s tough as fuckin’ hell.”
After a few minutes, her mom, who had flown in from Oakland after hearing of her daughter’s brutal arrest, whisked her away to get some sleep and lay low for a few days.
We were thrilled, but the clock ticked for our other comrades. Amelia and Negesti, already locked up for almost 33 hours, were seemingly not lined up for arraignment.
10:44pm: A friend inside the court said that they would be up in five minutes.
10:50pm: Court was adjourned. Amelia and Negesti would spend another night—at least 10 hours—in jail.
The week before, following the raid on Liberty Square, 18 comrades were released from jail at 3:30am, several hours after jail support had left. There had been no one to greet them.
I was not going to risk that happening again.
After commenting on Twitter that I intended to stay the night, two friends, Kira and Kyle, offered to come out and spend the night with me. They brought snacks and blankets, and we had a slumber party on the steps of 100 Centre Street.
From 11pm to midnight, there was a steady stream of court employees, and police, leaving the courthouse for the night. They walked right by us, but we no longer seemed to be much of a concern. Not one of them spoke to us until nearly 9am the next morning.
There were about twelve of us doing jail support until 2am, including members of the Accounting Working Group who were coordinating a bail payment for Angel, an Occupier who had been brutally arrested—grabbed by the hair while asleep and dragged across the ground—in an early morning sweep of Union Square, for lying down in the public park.
Because he’d been arraigned in the early evening, the court wouldn’t allow us to pay his bail until nearly midnight, and he wasn’t released until after 2am. The timeframes are always shifting, always arbitrary. The rules are made up on the spot, and we are forced to play along.
There were six of us on the steps when they finally brought Angel around. Jo and Jonathon came to stay the night with Kira, Kyle and I. Mark hung out until Angel was released, then he went to a friend’s place to crash for the night, disappointed that he didn’t have enough warm layers to stay.
Angel was someone I had seen around the community but had never met or spoken to. When he saw us sitting on the steps, he figured that we’d be there all night, and he was overwhelmed with joy. He hugged me and kissed my cheek. We chatted for a little while. At one point, he put his hand in his pocket, and his demeanor shifted. He asked if we wanted to see something fucked up; then he pulled a fistful of hair from his pocket.
“This is what they pulled from my head when they dragged me across the park.”
Mark put his arm around him and told him to get some rest.
For the next seven hours Kira, Kyle, Jo, Jonathon and I waited with only a small glimmer of hope of seeing Amelia and Negesti before court resumed.
6am: I woke up. A cold wind kicked in, and sleeping on a pizza box on top of marble steps, even with fleece blankets, was not working. We sat close together, huddled for warmth. We alternated between chatting and staring off into the distance.
For an early Monday morning, the area was surprisingly busy. Every 15 minutes or so someone would wonder by, early for their court appearance or just passing by and wanting a cigarette, and inquire about why we were there.
“Is this a protest thing?”
We’d explain that we were waiting for friends who had been arrested. Sometimes we’d say that we were Occupy. Other times we chose not to. Or we didn’t have to.
Regardless of what we said, they were impressed. They were touched. They seemed to know that we’d been there all night, perhaps from the blankets, and the small stockpile of food. They may not have used the word, but they knew that this was what solidarity looked like.
9am: Negesti was brought from the Tombs to the pre-arraignment area. She sat there for over 90 minutes watching dozens of other people get arraigned before her.
11:30am: I stood at the foot of the steps, looking up at 100 Centre Street. A handful of Occupiers, including some that spent the night with me, and others who joined in the morning, walked joyously out of the courthouse.
I saw Negesti first. Still wrapped in a fleece blanket, I stretched my arms out, and she ran over to me. I hugged her as tight as I could.
“Its nice to see you,” I told her.
I stepped to the side and saw Amelia a few steps back. Again, I unfolded the blanket just in time for her to run over and wrap her arms around me. I kissed her cheek and she cried into my neck.
45 hours after their arrests, they were out.
Disorderly conduct for walking in a public street. Resisting arrest for lying down in a crosswalk when arrest was imminent. No bail, released on their own reconnaissance.
They stood up for their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble, to speak their minds, to protest the government and spent 45 hours in jail for it.
After a low-key afternoon, Amelia came with me to a Community Meeting to discuss action steps for OWS’s move into the spring.
The next night we visited comrades in Union Square. At midnight, the police moved in to evict us. They set up barricades and harassed us for being in a public park.
Amelia made sure to let them know that their behavior was shameful.
It was back to business as usual.