Friday, April 13, 2012

Remembrance Day: The Detention

UPDATE (30/May/2012): It seems many people finding this post are coming through Google Images search. If you're interested in the whole story of this day, please start here.

With this third post I believe I will have covered most, if not all of the events surrounding the November 11th eviction of the Occupy Nova Scotia (ONS) encampment. This last entry about that day is about the time spent being held at the police station. My recount will begin with our arrival at the police station. Thank you for taking the time to try to understand this event from my perspective.

When the police van finally came to a stop I heard the front doors open and close. We were still asking for medical help for our friend at this point and when the back doors swung open, we turned our pleas in that direction. The officer who opened the doors listened attentively as I told him what was happening. He quickly got those of us still capable to exit the van and proceed into the station; an officer stood at the door to direct us inside. What I did not mention until this point is the state of another individual in the van. Unaware until we arrived at the police station, Kyle apparently had been injured quite severely.

Of the seven of us in the back of the van, only five entered the station on foot. Kyle drug himself across the ten or so feet of cold, wet concrete to the door of the station. Police officers just watched him crawling, blood and mud dripping from his face and clothes. As he cross the threshold of the door, he collapsed forward onto the floor and lay there moaning and unresponsive to our calls to him. A paramedic stopped briefly to check on him, asking his name to which Kyle's response was an incomprehensible groan. I told her his name. She told him to sit tight and someone would come check on him. We were told that we could in no way help him by the police when he was in obvious need of medical attention. It was over ten minutes before someone came back and that was only after they had brought James in in a wheelchair from the back of the van, now conscious. Kyle ended up being transported to the hospital and later released with an appearance notice.

The rest of us remained standing there for another ten minutes except one youth offender who was hauled off sooner due to his aggressive and derogatory language towards the officers. They brought us into the booking area in twos. I was asked to remove all personal items from my person and to shut off my phone; it was 3:16pm. I was also forced to remove the laces from my boots. Once they frisked me I was brought past one of the large, communal holding cells and into another area where there were about ten or so small cells side by side to one another. These cells, all with their own locked doors, were also protected by a large wall of bars with another locked door. The police had been pairing us up into cells, until they arrived at the last two: Michael and myself. We were put into our own separate cells until Michael's cell door malfunctioned and wouldn't lock. He was then put into a cell with Ryan, who incidentally was the only other person in that area in his own cell. In the end, everyone was paired up and I remained a lone cell occupant.

Now obviously a jail or holding cell is not meant for comfort but I have been in one before and what I experienced there was just terrible. The cell itself was no more than five feet across and no more than seven feet in length. The flat slab of metal covering half this space was considered a bed I assume and the open toilet and sink combo covered one third of the remaining space. What floor space there was was covered in puddles of something I dare not wonder what it was. No blankets, no warmth, no toilet paper (we were forced to ask each time). The walls and lights dull and flat; optimal for sensory deprivation. Cameras and microphones spying on us. A less than comfortable situation.

When we arrived, we arrived soaking wet. It had been an intense rain and windstorm after all. We asked for a simple request of a blanket so that we could keep ourselves warm and not get sick; did I mention it was cold and damp in the cells as well? We received nothing and were forced to sit in cold, wet clothes. In the end it caused me to get sick for two weeks. They came around one time to give us a 10g energy bar and bottled water. I don't drink bottled water as a personal choice so I explained that and asked for a cup of tap water; I never received any water despite several repeated requests.

I have yet to mention the length of time we were held and there is a reason for that. I want you to understand what I, we, endured first and then I want you to know the length of time this happened over so that you can really put it into context and understand why I use words like endured as they do come across as dramatic. During our stay, three times different officers came to ask us the same questions over again. They called it our Tombstone Information; kind of sick huh? On one of these occasions it was an actual detective. He took offense to James running his mouth in anger. This detective actually unlocked and opened James' cell and antagonized him to step out and step up. Yes, this happened and should be on their surveillance cameras that were watching us; unless of course they have mysteriously been deleted or lost. 

Eventually they began processing us; again two at a time. They brought us out, finger-printed us and then put us back in our cells. Once everyone had been processed, they held us more. It was over eight hours before the first pair were released. Eight hours. They had informed us that we would be out and on our way by nine or ten o'clock at the latest. They lied. The release continued; two at a time. There were some occupiers waiting for people to be released outside the station that night. One identified a known cocaine dealer, overheard he had been arrested for possession and saw him leaving 45 minutes later. A known drug dealer in possession of cocaine is in and out in 45 minutes; some peaceful, non-violent protesters sit on a tent and we're stuck there for over eight hours. That, Halifax, is the priority of your police service; not much unlike many others across the world.

At last there were just two of us remaining. Michael and myself. I had no idea what time it was anymore. I had lost all concept of time. I will also share with you that I wept for an hour. Why? Well it had nothing to do with the arrest; what I was devastated over was the plight of the street youth I'd grown to know and care for. What would they do? Where would they go? Who will help them now? I had made promises to them that things would turn out; a promise I knew I could never keep but damn, do they not deserve the same hope we all share? I never let them see or hear me because I didn't want them to think they had achieved anything with their arrest; they did not. 

It was 4:20am when I walked out of the police station with Michael. 4:20. Over 13 hours had passed since I had been put through booking. 13 hours. 13 hours. 13 hours. A cocaine dealer stayed for 45 minutes. 13 hours with 10g energy bar for food, no water, wet and cold clothes, no necessary corrective eye wear, no information, alone. I said that I could say nothing bad about my personal arrest or the officer who arrested me because he did his job the way it should be done. I do have bad things to say about being detained. It was unnecessary, it was unnecessarily long, it was mentally, physically and emotionally draining on my person (sensory deprivation is just wrong), it was cruel (no water, little food), it was a danger to my health (cold, wet clothes in a cold, damp cell) and most of all it was a complete insult to my humanity. The way I was spoken to, the way I was treated, the purposeful intent to detain, intimidate and break me was all beyond was it necessary or required to protect and serve

Me After Conditions Released
As a final insult, we were forced to sign an undertaking in order to be released and not transferred to the actual jail for the weekend. It had three things we must adhere to: be of good behavior (easy enough) and show up for court (also pretty standard) were the first two. The third one, well, it was the most ridiculous attempt at going beyond your authority I have ever experienced personally. We were banned by a municipal police force from ALL municipal, provincial and federal parks in the city of Halifax. No joke. Banned from the park? When I went to court, representing myself (sans lawyer), to have the conditions removed the judge actually laughed! He laughed at the lunacy of the condition and immediately removed it. Even the judge thought it was that ridiculous. But that was just my conditions; there is still the matter of the charges which do carry the possible, but unlikely scenario of jail time.

I do not presume to know what jail is like; I have never been nor do I intend on going. I do however have a good idea on what it might be like now although at least in jail you get fed and you get blankets (trying to make light as I really have no concept of what real hard time would be like). What I do know is that there was no need for a great portion of our detention. We were and continue to be peaceful and non-violent. At no time could I possibly see how ONS could be misconstrued as a threat to anyone; well I guess I could see how SOME people in positions of power and authority might be threatened by the presence of a crowd demanding a change to the status quo.

This is my story. I have done my best to recount it for you in as much detail as possible. It may be that I have omitted or absentmindedly forgotten some things but everything that is here is 100 per cent factual. Not one word is exaggerated, fabricated or concocted. I swear and stand by this like I were giving an official court testimony on the events of that day (which I may well end up doing anyway so having it written down is always good). There is much more to the story of ONS and I intend on sharing it as I continue to write. I hope that you've gained a special insight into what happened that day that you can now share with others. I did not make any attempt to conceal the shortcomings of the police nor did I make any attempts to conceal the shortcomings of any occupier. I have done my best to attempt to report an unbiased recollection of that day; obviously I have added my own opinions but the facts remain the same and opinions were identified as such (I think; feel free to ask or correct me).

As a final note I would like to add that I hold no ill will towards any of the officers. None. Some of them acted against every core value of being a police officer and someday, I hope, they will come to the realization of what they did. I still do not wish bad things upon them. However, I am completely disillusioned with the policing institution as a whole, among many other institutions, and what it has evolved (or de-evolved) to: brute force and lack of critical thought. Remember, police officers, individually, are people too. They share the same emotions we do; feel the same pain; know the same love; laugh and hurt. How can I turn my back against one of my own? I cannot. So I will go forward loving them as people, but suspicious of them as insitutionalized officers. One day it will be their turn and they will look around to the people for help and I...I will be the first one there.