I, by far the oldest, had not come to get arrested, but as we tried to leave, several enormous undercover cops in sweatshirts and jeans appeared, blocked the exits and quite literally pushed us back into the bank. One giant in particular seemed to have it in for me, saying, “Oh no, you’re not leaving!” his right arm shoving me. Ready to pounce on us, they made leaving the bank impossible. Two of the student participants had come to close their bank accounts; customers in every sense. They, too, were to be arrested. Police officers in white shirts seemed to swarm from everywhere. They rushed into the bank and told us we were being arrested. At no point was there a warning from anyone in authority offering a chance to leave without being arrested, As they handcuffed us, we did not anticipate the next 30 hours that was in store for us.
The writer is a 70 year old woman. Is it ever necessary to treat a 70 year old woman this way? Ever? My mother is 71 and the idea of a large man shoving her for any reason at all is offensive – and my mom is mean!
Barely back in our cells, we were taken out again, handcuffed again, this time with a chain between our cuffs, and led “upstairs.” But there had been some mistake. A female officer told “our” officer that, no, she couldn’t process us. Some paperwork was missing, some order, some stamp. Time to cuff us again and go down the stairs back into our cells. How many more instances of handcuffing, uncuffing, leading us up and down stairs and long hallways, waiting, returning, repeating what seemed nonsensical procedures and reversals then followed I do not know and did not count. But a deep sense of disorganization, competence fighting incompetence, if not chaos, reigned. It seemed as if, in the name of bureaucratic rules and regulations, in the name of “security,” we were witnessing a dysfunctional institution and people not used to daylight shining in; people generally accountable to no one but themselves.
Idiots. Blowhards. Testosterone-soaked douchebags. Did you know that nobody has to be a douchebag? Yeah, little known fact!
During the long, cold night in the Tombs, at some point we asked a female officer if we could have some blankets. “We have no blankets.” Some mattresses since we were 12 or so people? “We have no more mattresses.” Some change in exchange for dollar bills so we could call parents and loved ones? (The one public telephone in the cell would only take coins.) “It’s against regulations.” Some soap? “Maybe we’ll come up with some soap.” After no, no, no to every reasonable request, we wound up with a small jar of soap. Distressing is hardly the word for a culture of willful neglect and the exercise of what power those officers held over us for those 30 hours.
But there were a few – mostly black cops – who, as we were transferred from point A to point B, told us openly, “We support you. If I could, I’d participate in what you’re doing.”
You know what? The police can participate in what OWS is doing.