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Continues Post-Release Diary

New York Moment (Runner Up): Discovering the my arresting officer and I attended the same Queens high school. I visualize our alma mater's next alumni day:

    You remember him, he arrested you.
    You remember her, she detested you.

New York Moment (Winner): While the police were holding the detainees in an MTA bus (for over an hour), a shopping bag laden little old lady pounded on the door, demanding that the "driver" let her in. No amount of explanation could convince her that an MTA bus parked on the corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue was not the 42nd Street crosstown. Very eventually, muttering anathemas against the extremely ill-mannered "driver", she hoisted her shopping bags and toddled eastward on 42nd. If the police had not been so diligent in restraining the media from documenting the arrest, Woody Allen could have immortalized the moment.

Virtually all the detainees were white. The NYPD, at least in the lower ranks, reflects the racial composition of the city: white, black, Hispanic. Neither side commented on this anomaly.

Detainees from the metro area repeatedly chided the police for working so much overtime while Bloomberg denies them their long overdue new contract. No arguments there. Like all true New Yorkers, the NYPD rank and file detest the Mayor.

Less successfully, detainees tried to convince police that "we" and "they" were both part of the working class and needed to unite in solidarity against oppression from the corporate state. That dialog was a non-starter. Clearly progressives need to refine their rhetoric before we can recruit real honest-to-goodness blue collar workers to the cause of economic justice.

Relations between police and detainees were reasonably amiable, given the circumstances. RNC 04 was not DNC 68 revisited. One detainee at Pier 57 kept furiously insulting  the police. But his outcry remained a solo, not a chorus.

For their part, the police seemed embarrassed to be doing Bloomberg's dirty work. The younger arresting officers tried to keep the atmosphere light and breezy, sort of like urban summer camp.

Centre Street police staff made clear they felt professionally insulted at having to continually shuffle and regroup the detainees from holding pen to holding pen just to keep us off the streets as long as possible, admitting that the procedures for getting fingerprinted, photographed, and going before a judge do not require upwards of 15 hours detention, and that real criminals were getting processed and released far more quickly than the detainees.

At one point late in the afternoon, a tall, distinguished looking, expensively dressed and barbered gentleman strolled thru the holding pen area accompanied by an entourage. He began to recite a statement about how expeditiously the processing was proceeding--and was immediately rebutted by detainees who were in regular phone contact with the National Lawyers Guild. According to the NLG, at that point judicial hearings had ground to a standstill and the city had ceased negotiating with the detainees' lawyers. The tall, distinguished looking gentleman immediately pivoted about and exited the cell block. Unconfirmed rumor identified him as the "New York City Corrections Commissioner." But he could just as easily have been a city PR flack or an actor hired for the afternoon's performance.

Speaking of badly received performances, during the afternoon the holding pens were also visited by an expensive but casually dressed woman of a certain age unsuccessfully attempting an impersonation of Meryl Streep in Manchurian Candidate. Looking at the detainees as if we were caged animals, she informed us that she was inspecting the cells to verify that sanitary conditions met city standards. The detainees loudly informed the lady that conditions at Pier 57 were unspeakably filthy and that after 12 hours or more at Gitmo North, our clothes and skin were saturated in god-knows how many toxic contaminants. To which the lady replied with a wintry smile that Pier 57 conditions were no concern of hers. The Centre Street cells met sanitary standards. All is right in her little corner of the world (and, continued the unconcealably  contemptuous look in her eyes, we filthy subhuman scum can go and Cheney ourselves!) And another good German rides the bus.

Intellectually, I know the woman is just a municipal wage slave. When she retires her city pension and social security will just barely keep her in the middle class, and if she develops major health problems, forget about it.

But my imagination pictured La Princesse de Lamballe, favorite of Marie Antoinette. After the guillotine had done its work, the revolutionary mobs hoisted Madame de Lamballe's haughty head atop a metal pike. Dancing throughout the Parisian streets the revolutionaries brandished the pike aloft and sang la Marseilles. In my imagination, the decapitated aristocrat's lips wore the same wintry smile as the inspector of the prison holding pens.

Originally posted to stevew on Sun Sep 05, 2004 at 02:14 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good to hear (none)
    that most of the police seemed to dislike what they were being asked to do.  But from the stories I have read there were a few bad apples whose conduct was deplorable.  It's good that you seem to be able to laugh a little about your experience now.

    The ...Bushies... don't make policies to deal with problems. ...It's all about how can we spin what's happening out there to do what we want to do. Krugman

    by mikepridmore on Sun Sep 05, 2004 at 02:25:39 PM PDT

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