Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Journal of a Mother Lode and L.A. Resident Arrested at Occupy L.A.: Post 2

By John Pulskamp

On Sunday November 27 it appeared that LAPD would raid the encampment that night. Mayor Villaraigosa, although he had initially supported Occupy Los Angeles and the encampment, had made statements that the park would be cleared that night. I had been in Amador County for Thanksgiving, but left at noon on the 27th to drive back to southern California. Holiday traffic resulted in my not getting to City Hall until 11:15 p.m. A couple of thousand Occupy Los Angeles supporters filled the camp and surrounding streets making it impossible for LAPD to move on the camp without it getting very ugly. Eventually LAPD withdrew after clearing the streets, but without attacking the camp. Thanks to the presence of all those supporters, the park was held against the 12:01 a.m. deadline that had been announced by the mayor.

I was in Solidarity Park through the night and most of Monday, the next day. On Monday the crowds were not as large as they had been the night before, but there were still quite a few people there, and the police did not attack. I had not had any sleep since early Sunday morning, so Monday evening I went back to my home in the San Fernando Valley and got about five hours sleep.

Late in the day of Tuesday, November 29 I returned to City Hall. There was a particular tent we had decided to symbolically protect from being removed. We formed concentric circles around the tent and sat down. Various reports of the numbers of Occupiers in the circles range from 50, 75, and up to 100. I was in the innermost circle right against the tent. Those in the circles locked arms and sat peacefully.

Line of LAPD squad cars.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in the event the police were to come in. I have seen LAPD dish out some pretty heave “street justice” on other occasions. I didn’t think it likely that they would use gas or pepper spray, mostly because of all the bad press resulting from the police use of pepper spray at U.C. Davis just a few days earlier, but I wasn’t sure. Someone from the Occupy Los Angeles supply tent gave me a bandana soaked in vinegar, which I was told would help in the event of pepper spray. I was also given some earplugs because there was concern that the police might use loud, damaging sound to force disbursement.
I was not wearing a watch so I am not sure of the times of anything that happened that night. It was sometime around midnight I think when the police began the attack. There was lots of noise, and protesters were chanting. Because of the noise, the chanting, and the earplugs I couldn’t make out clearly what was being said, but there had suddenly been a lot of yelling and people running in various directions. With that I assumed the police were moving in, and in short order that was confirmed, as we were quickly surrounded by a hoard of police in riot gear with some pointing weapons at us.

Police surrounding Occupy protesters and tent. From Washington Post.
After a while the police began removing the protesters one by one and taking them into custody. We had locked arms so it took the police quite a while to get to me since I was in the innermost circle around the tent. To facilitate separating the people from one another with locked arms, the police used various pain compliance techniques. I saw them twisting people’s legs, and I heard a cop tell the guy next to me that he had a choice to make, he could release his locked arms, or get the ligaments in his knee torn. The pain compliance they used on me was to press their fingers or thumbs (I couldn’t tell which as that particular cop was behind me) hard deep into my neck under the back of my jaw. This was done while they were trying to take the guy next to me to my left. Once he let go and was taken, I told the cops that if they could help me to my feet, I’d go with no problem. They helped me up and cuffed me with the plastic zip-lock cuffs. They were put on very tight, which caused a considerable amount of pain. As they were taking me away I asked what time it was and the cop said it was around 3:00 a.m, but I am not sure how accurate that was as most of the things the police said to me from that time on turned out not to be true.

It was probably well after midnight, so technically it was Wednesday morning, November 30th. In general LAPD was relatively gentle and polite compared to what I have seen them do on other occasions. They did have to physically pull us apart. They used pressure point compliance techniques pressing their fingers hard into my neck and took advantage of the opportunity to put the plastic cuffs on very, very, tight behind my back. The plastic zip-lock cuffs were painful, restricting circulation. I was kept cuffed for several hours until some time after sunrise, causing a lot pain in my wrists, hands, and shoulders.

LASD with Bus
After being cuffed I was handed off to other cops and walked over to the sidewalk at the west side of the park on Spring Street. My backpack was searched and it and its contents were taken from me. My medication was in the backpack and was put in a large envelope along with the contents in my pockets. My cash was put in another smaller envelope and placed in the pocket of my jacket. I asked where my property was going and they said it would follow me to wherever I was going. I was then walked across Spring Street and made to sit on the curb for some period of time, and then eventually put onto a Los Angeles Sheriff Department (LASD) bus. We sat on the bus for a long time not being able to sit back because of our hands being handcuffed behind our backs. Finally the bus departed.

I was taken to Van Nuys Jail by the LASD bus, which was carrying both male and female captives, but in separate cages. We were on the bus for a very long time, and a lot of the people needed to urinate. Some of the females had apparently been able to slip out of their cuffs or maybe they just helped each other, but by the time we got to Van Nuys Jail they handed over a plastic bag of urine to the deputy sheriffs when exiting the bus! Others had ended up peeing in their pants. During the ride to Van Nuys the women on the bus told the deputy who was driving that there was an 80 year old woman who was in great pain because of the tight zip-lock cuffs, and couldn’t he have her cuffs removed. That sheriff replied that the woman “should learn to keep her 80 year old ass at home!”

When we finally got to the Van Nuys Jail we sat on the bus, still hand cuffed, for another very long time. Sometime well after sunrise we were let off the bus, and my cuffs were finally cut off, but my hands were very swollen and painful. Right now my left thumb & part of my left hand are still numb.

Once in the jail more processing began. They took the small envelope with my cash away from me, and the envelope that held my medications and what had been the contents of my pockets. They wanted to cut the drawstrings out of my jacket, but I didn’t want the jacket destroyed so I asked them to just take the whole jacket, which they did. They had a form with a list of questions to ask each prisoner. One of the questions was kind of odd. “Do you like boys, or do you like girls, or both?” I told her that I pretty much like everybody unless they do something to irritate me. Then she said “No, do you like women, or do you like men, or do you like both?” So I said “Oh, do you mean sexually?” She said yes, and I told her my preference was for women, and asked if some would be provided in my cell, but she said no. So anyway, jail isn't as much fun as it could be.

On Thursday, December 1, I was allowed to shower, brush my teeth, and comb my hair for first and only time during my captivity. The shower had two shower-heads and was about 4ft x 8ft with seven guys crowded in. It was rather awkward because after rinsing off the soap, the guy next to you would still be soaped up and splashing his soap all over you while trying to wash yourself.

On Friday, December 2, we were rousted and told to grab our blanket and sheet, and that we were getting out. That was very exciting, but after we put our blankets and sheets in the dirty linen bin we were just put in another big cell and left to wait and wait. Eventually we were moved to a holding cell and made to sit on some benches for some time. After a while they came and chained us together in groups of four. Then we waited a bit more and were put on a LASD bus again.

 We were driven to the county jail, Twin Towers, in downtown Los Angeles where we were admonished by the deputies there to be quiet and to show “respect.” The deputy sheriffs were very aggressive and rude; they behaved much worse than LAPD. Then it was more waiting, and waiting, and processing, etc, and then finally release. When I was released I had to sign a “promise to appear” in court on January 5. Some of us had to do that, but many were released without having to sign such a document. Initially this led me to believe that their charges were being dropped. Later I learned that they have up to one year during which time charges can be filed. A few guys actually were arraigned that day before being released, and I have heard that some received court orders prohibiting them from going near Solidarity Park.

This all seems to be sort of random as nearly everyone involved had actually done the same thing that they were arrested for -- failure to disperse, CA PC409. After being released with no money, credit cards, driver's license or other ID, I began to try to locate where they had put all my personal property. I had to wait several hours at each location to recover my property which, in spite of having been told that my property would follow me, had been sent to several different places. My backpack and its contents were located at an LAPD facility on Los Angeles Street in downtown Los Angeles. What had been in my pockets at time of arrest was located in the property office of the sheriff's department. My cash was in the same building, but at a different location. My medications were at Van Nuys Jail, and I didn't get there until late that night. At first they tried to tell me they knew nothing about the medicine. I insisted and stressed that I just had to have my meds and that it was very important for my well-being. They finally gave them back to me. At that time I still had not been able to locate the jacket they had taken from me. The police at Van Nuys Jail said it must be downtown.

While we were in jail we were growing irritated by the fact that our attorneys had made no contact with us. After we were released, though, we learned that the police had thwarted the efforts of the attorneys to reach us. The police would not say where we were, and they sent the attorneys to different places than where we actually were. During our captivity we were deprived of legal council and of contact with clergy.

Until earlier that week it had been about 20 yrs since I had seen the inside of a jail. I had been jailed about a half dozen times back in the early '90s in protests against the U.S. funding of the death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala, and Regan's mercenaries, the Contras, being illegally funded in Nicaragua.

The discussions that occurred while I was in jail were great! My cell mates were mostly young people in their 20s and early 30s, at least one 18 year old and a couple of 19 year olds. Of course there were us old guys, myself, another 69 year old man, and fellow who was probably in his mid 50s. The young peoples' discussions typically revolved around making this a better world and how to achieve it. I would have to admit that I would not be able to agree with all of their ideas, but it was sure a lot more uplifting for me to hear that these guys were at least putting lots of thought into things besides getting to the concert , chasing skirts, or who scored what in which football, baseball, or basketball game. During the whole time, I cannot recall a single discussion of a sporting contest.

1 comment:

  1. The police seem to be getting more scared.