It’s time to get arrested
The Supreme Court is the triumph of the Trump administrations authoritarian desires. Rights are being stripped by religious zealots who lied during their confirmation hearings and should be impeached, but wont be. You are frustrated, you are angry, you want to do something, but you are not quite sure what to do. Please note new information about bail from Angie at the bottom of this post.
It’s time to get arrested.
For many folks, this will seem counter intuitive. How can getting myself thrown in jail help anyone or anything? It just seems like a waste of time, money and a hassle.
It turns out it is one of the most effective tools mass movements have to change the political tide. It has been used effectively around the world, even in some of the most repressive regimes. In the US, the end of the Vietnam war, the death of new nuclear construction and getting the right to vote for both women (1920) and POCs (1965) in the US relied on civil disobedience to win.
If you want to dig into the logic and practice of civil disobedience, I encourage the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which goes deep into both how and why.
From the Boston Tea Party to Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March, and from suffragists’ illegally casting their ballots to whites-only lunch counter sit-ins, civil disobedience has often played a crucial role in bending the proverbial arc of the moral universe toward justice.Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
But if you are willing to consider this option, i want to encourage you to go to this Saturdays action defending abortion rights in DC. Here is some of the more practical advise, i shared with Oakers who are organizing this action.
Who you get arrested with matters. The Women’s March organizers have an arrest training and orientation on July 8th at 6 pm in DC. Folks interested in this should fill out the form of the principal organizers. and plan on being there in person. If you get arrested with or near the black bloc who are breaking Starbucks windows, your police experience will likely be much more headachy and physically difficult. Try to stay with other protesters the night before (avoid the temptation of hanging with DC friends not involved with the action).
The key piece of information, especially for people who have not been arrested before is the overwhelming experience of this choice is boredom and some confusion. You will spend lots of time after you are arrested waiting to be processed, sometimes in a hot police vehicle. You will spend a lot of time in holding cells. You will be told to wait often with no indication how long. Your cell phone will be taken from you (typically) once you have been processed and usually (but not always) any reading material you have. Often you can smuggle a zine or some other pocket sized reading in. This is recommended to help cut the boredom. And of course make friends with other arrestees.
Bail is complex. If you do need it, it is designed to insure you come back for your court hearings. When you do, you get typically get your bail money back (or 90% of it if you use a bail bond person). Angie is the queen of bail, she is copied on this message, supportive of this action and will have useful contacts on bail bonds services and how not to get stung by them.
For 90% of non-violent actions in DC there will not be a need for bail money, assuming arrestees are willing to identify themselves to get released and go thru the legal system. DC mostly has a “catch and release” policy around non-violent protesters – usually you are released with a summons to appear before the court. There is a high chance you will get a fine or community service at your court hearing, because you will almost certainly be found guilty – but this is not bail. And thus not needed at the time of arrest.
Separately, the organizing groups will likely have lawyer services available to folks risking arrest. You should get their legal contact info and write it in marker on peoples arms. Also you should have a TO support person who is not getting arrested and is in DC and their number should also be put on peoples arms, with instructions to call when folks are released.
While it is pretty easy to get arrested (block any intersection and refuse to move when the police arrive). After some hours of processing and being held, they will quite likely release people (who have identified themselves with id) on their own recognizance without a fine. Remember holding people is expensive for the city, they don’t want to feed you and also they don’t want the jails overwhelmed by protesters. They also don’t want you once released to go back and immediately get arrested again, so they will often hold folks until most of the actions are over.
They will hold you and not release you if you refuse to identify yourself. People wishing to do this type of action (refusing ID) should talk with action organizers to see what support and advice they offer. I discourage people from carrying full wallets into arrest actions – instead ID, a metro card plus $20 or so, recognizing this will be taken from you at the time after you are processed (as will your wallet if you bring one). 90% of things confiscated from arrestees will be returned by the police.
People who require daily medication need to know they will be separated from their meds for at least hours, possibly an entire day if there are many arrests and lots of on going actions that the police/the city don’t want you to return to. People should not assume the police are going to be either reasonable or accommodating around getting your meds to you once you have been arrested and separated from them.
Wear comfortable clothes and while the action will likely be hot, your holding cell experience will be air conditioned (often set very low) and folks should dress accordingly (typically using layers). Skip jewelry.
I personally discourage people from resisting arrest, especially on their first arrest action. Mostly because it is frustrating (you can’t do it for long without serious hardware) and the DC police are experts in compliance holds and you will feel disempowered by how quickly they are able to stop you from resisting and are likely to face more serious charges.
If people want to “hit harder” then instead of arrest and release I recommend hit and run actions (this is not civil disobedience). And if people are interested in this I have other contacts to offer.
Organizers have to make sure you have sufficient support people (not risking arrest) to accommodate how ever many people are getting arrested. The most important thing here is getting folks after they have been released. Especially for people who are getting arrested for the first time, the terrible part of the experience is not over until there is a friendly known face checking in with them after release. This means some support people must be willing to stay until everyone is released, this could easily be 2 AM on Sunday. [Here again I am assuming people want to ID and return for trial or pay the fine, refusing to ID can leave you in jail for days] assuming you have multiple vehicles in the city, a 3 arrestees to 1 support person is a good ratio. Several of the DC detention facilities are not near the metro, so getting people back can be slow or frustrating, every arrestee should have a metro card (which works on the buses) with over $5 on it.
It is wise if support people have something nice to give people when they get out – candy or some other appropriate treat. Getting arrested for the first time often changes peoples lives, in slightly unpredictable ways. Some will never do it again. Some will realize it is their calling. Nearly universally it will result in detainees disliking and not trusting the police more.
Support people need to realize there is an important emotional part of their job. Even short stints in jail can mess people up. Mass actions arrests usually do not have you in solitary- so you might end up in gender segregated general population. If gender is unsure to the police, they will generally use the gender listed on your ID to determine where you are detained. Police will not respect your selected pronouns.
It is important to remember that these are very popular actions. This means if you don’t bring a phone – every other person in DC will lend you theirs if you say “Hey I just got arrested defending abortion rights and I was hoping to borrow your phone to call my support people to tell them I have been released”.
As an organizer people are going to want to know that you are going to take care of them in their on going legal hassles. This means getting rides back to DC for court stuff (typically two trips) and labor credits for that work. Here I would assume you will be able to accommodate folks, we have in the past.
And while getting arrested is a fine, desirable and noble thing. People should take the decision seriously and not be shamed in anyway if they chose not to do it and attend the protest or do support work instead. Especially people in fragile or compromised mental health circumstances or who are likely to be traumatized by physical boundaries being disrespected by the police should consider support roles instead of arrests. There will be many more options for getting arrested in the future – this is a long haul campaign.
If you are getting arrested for the first time for a protest, try to stick near someone you know and like who is also getting arrested – for the same crimes as you. Generally this will mean you have company and someone to talk with. This does not always work, you can be separated for all kinds of reasons.
People need to be ready for police to completely change their behavior on short notice. They can be friendly and accommodating one minute and the next they can be pushing you around or using unnecessary force for no apparent reason. The police are not your friends in this situation- even if they mostly have been in your life before. That said, DC police are better than most in dealing with NV protesters, because they have so much experience.
A note from Angie:
Two big things- first, whenever possible (especially if you’re working
with low bail amounts), it’s better to post cash bail than to use a
bail bondsman. Bail bonds usually cost 10% of the bail cost, and you
do not get that back- even if you’re found not guilty, even if the
charges are dropped, that money is a set cost that the bail bondsman
receives. OTOH, cash bail is also a risk, especially if someone other
than the arrestee is paying- if the person doesn’t show up to court
dates then the bail may be forfeited. Think about who is paying the
bail ahead of time, have a plan for how you’ll deal with $50 bail vs
$500 bail vs $5,000 bail. And obviously, a 10 person bail of $50 is a
different burden than a 2 person bail of $500.
Second- there may be other, more violent protests going on in and
around DC this week. That kind of thing can impact how smoothly (or
not) your nonviolent arrest action goes. Cops are people, they get
tired and worn out and stressed (1312 tho, don’t get me wrong). If DC
cops are dealing with violent protestors on Wednesday, Thursday, and
Friday, the might be harsher on nonviolent protestors on Saturday.
The big one I’m watching is the trucker convoy, now called the “1776
Restoration Movement”. they have been in DC on the national mall since
the morning of the 6th, are violent, some are registered sex offenders
(including one who pleaded guilty to child molestation of a kid under
14), and they’re all facist religious bigots. A few have been
arrested. The situation is fluid and changing fast.
A few of the 1776RMers know about the Saturday action, some many
attend, most are instigators and shit stirrers. If the action is near
the mall then it’s a major concern, if not it’s probably not as big a
deal. If you want more info let me know.
Best of luck with your action, and if I can help or support let me know!