The State initiates a violent assault for the crime of wearing a hat.
Cop Block reports:
I was arrested on January 24th, 2011 and held for half a week. A week after that I wrote and saved (but never published) a post I titled “Pete’s Story.” Seems pretty fitting to share it here:
The below is my account of what happened two weeks ago when I was sitting in Keene district court and the following days. It’s pretty thorough, but if you have specific questions that aren’t addressed let me know.
Just before 10am on Monday, January 24th, Ademo, Ethan Lee Vita and I braved the subzero temperature and walked to Keene district court. We did a Qik update on the way. We went inside and up the steps to the second floor, where a few people were milling around, including two bailiffs doing security detail.
Lance Walton, one of the two bailiffs and the administrator of the court, spotted me and told me to take off my hood (I had my hat on with my hood over it). I told him I was cold but after his second request I pulled it down, figuring it’s not worth the fight. I was there to support my friends, not deal with petty bs. Lance wanded and patted me down and looked inside my hat. He gave the all clear. I put my hat back on and strolled down the hallway into court.
I walked toward an empty seat. Before I had even sat down another bailiff – Pete Macy – told me to remove my hat. “Why?” I asked. He told me it was policy of the court. I told him that I hadn’t signed the policy and that I wasn’t hurting anyone. He reached for my hat and I leaned back and advised him not to touch my property. My voice was calm and my hands were in the pocket on the front of my hoodie staying warm – I did nothing aggressive.
Moments later Keene police officer James Cemorelis barked “You’re out of here!” and yanked me to the ground. My friends whipped out their cameras and started recording. For no reason, Keene police officer Matt Griffon, who had been sitting in the front row, put his knee at the base of my neck as he assisted Cemorelis in the handcuffing (read a letter sent to Cemorelis about his actions). I tried to express just how uncalled for was the treatment I was receiving. I was roughly carried out of the room, down the hall and into another room. Another bailiff, apparently undeterred by the “Do Not Block Door” sign bolted to the door, stood in front of the door in an attempt to block Ademo from filming the scene through the door’s narrow vertical window.
From the ground, I asked the officers why they felt the need to utilize such a level of force. I glanced up and posed a question specifically to Griffon (his name was embroidered onto his shirt). Apparently he didn’t want to have a conversation. Griffon and police officer Chris Simonds (?) carried me toward the back staircase. As we approached, one of my captors commented, “I hope you don’t fall on your head”. I asked why, if that risk exists, would they choose to transport me – a peaceful person – in such a manner. Didn’t seem worth the risk…
Outside I was set on the ground in the snow as a cruiser door was opened. My bud JJ was there, camera in hand. I was shoved across the police crusier’s plastic molded bench seat and transported to the Cheshire County Jail.
I learned later that minutes after I was arrested someone else present in the same room donned a hat. Yet for some reason they received completely different treatment – some claim that was due to their different attire.
I asked Simonds if he felt the level of force used against me was just. He responded in the affirmative since that was the law – he had his orders. I asked if he would use deadly force against me for similar allegations. He said that was ridiculous. “Well what if you were so ordered?” I asked. “Of course not” he responded. “So, at what point between the force you used against me today and shooting me would you say “No!”? At what point would you stand up and do what’s right?” He didn’t respond.
Soon we pulled into the sally port at the jail. I could hear men talking. The door by my feet opened. I was told to sit up and get out. I explained that though I would not resist, I would not assist in my caging since it was I who had been victimized. I was dragged out feet first, carried inside and placed on the floor of the closest cell in the booking area. My hands were still handcuffed behind my back. I remember looking to my right, seeing a forest of black combat boots and thinking “There is no accountability for these guys. They could just beat the hell out of me right now and claim that I was aggressive.”
My handcuffs were removed and the gang of grown men yanked off my hoodie and workout pants. The cell door slammed shut. I lay on my stomach on the cold concrete floor in my thin gym shorts, t-shirt and socks, replaying the previous 30-minutes over and over in my head, trying to figure out how someone could possibly try to justify the treatment I had endured by “public servants”.
I was asked to provide my information for processing. Why would I willingly provide my private information to strangers who kept me caged? I was asked what name I wanted to go by in their system. I responded, “I just want to be free to go man. I haven’t hurt anybody.” “Ok”, came the response, “Free to go man” is your name. I didn’t laugh.
After a while I sat up and faced those who carried me into the cell. I figured that if I were out of sight my captors could more-easily put me out of their mind, thus allowing them to belittle or rationalize the force they used against me.
At 1pm, 4:30pm, 6:15pm, 8:15pm and 10:45pm correction officers approached my cell and pressured me to process. The 3/4″ Global Security Glazing glass muffled our communication. During later visits the correction officers opened the door to talk with me (presumably it took half a day for these folks to realize that I was not violent).
My cage was constructed of institution-white cinder blocks, each about 18″ long and 8″ tall, making the interior dimensions of my cell about 9′ 9″ deep, 8′ 3″ wide and 7′ 4″ tall. The front wall facing the elevated booking area was primarily made of glass and the heavy steel door. When it was light out I could catch glimpses of the stars and stripes flying outside. Land of the free, huh? A narrow elevated slab of concrete along one wall, painted red, served as the bed. There was a steel comode/sink with three buttons. One flushed the commode. The other two both ran cold water. I was told if I were thirsty the sink faucets doubled as a “bubbler”.
At one point I noticed a gentleman talking with the correctional officers manning the front desk. He stuck out to me because in lieu of a silly costume he wore slacks, a black turtleneck and a light blazer. I later learned he was Rick Van Wickler – the superintendent of the facility.
After explaining to one correction officer who stopped by my cell – J. Richard – that I hadn’t harmed anyone and that my caging only compounded and exacerbated the harm already inflicted, she noted that what I had done was a “victimless crime”. I followed-up on her statement by noting that when arbitrary man-made legislation conflicts with natural law one must side with the latter. She didn’t agree. She was just doing her job after all.
No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
– Stanislaw J. Lec
Night came. It was cold. I sat on the floor, legs pulled to my chest with my t-shirt over my knees and my head tucked inside to maximize warmth. I was still damn cold. I wrapped toilet paper around my exposed legs (I learned this tactic from Ademo, who turned himself into a toilet paper mummy when being held in a cold cell in Las Vegas earlier in the year). My feet, with layers of toilet paper under white ankle socks, looked like bloated marshmallows. And they were happier. The heat-sapping concrete now had a couple of layers of toilet paper to get through. Sleep came in short 30min snatches.
After a long, uncomfortable night, I was asked to process. I declined. Hours passed.
M. Willis asked if I wanted to speak with the judge. “Sure”, I said, “but I’m going to tell him the same thing I’ve been telling you” – that I haven’t hurt anyone.
I was escorted through the facility and instructed to sit in a chair while the video link connected with Keene district court. Initially there was a technical delay. I largely remained silent, not too keen to be buddy-buddy with someone willing to place and keep peaceful people in cages against their will. He was adamant that his policy, which does not investigate whether someone deserves to be caged, is best.
Why would someone unthinkingly take possession of another human being and place them in a cage without having more information? As I told Willis, the system does not result in “checks and balances” but unaccountability. Every individual involved – legislators, bailiffs, cops, correction officers, judges – claims that they personally are not to blame for your predicament but that you can fix it if only you talk to someone else.
Once the video link was made, Burke explained that he needed two things from me – 1) to identify and 2) for me to indicate whether I planned to apply for counsel. “Well, frankly,” I noted, “what I’d like to see is for the bailiff to apologize to me for using aggressive force” but Burke cut me short.
Burke claimed that I was “presumed innocent,” causing someone in the audience out of my field of vision to laugh. Burke ordered them removed.
I told Burke that they day prior I felt like the victim (i.e. tackled, carried, caged). Then Ademo spoke his mind for about 40-seconds (~4:00), ending with: “One of your men assaulted him! Assaulted him!” and “Get a life!”
Burke wasn’t too fond of what he heard and ordered those doing his bidding to handcuff Ademo and remove him from the room (note that Ademo had been walking out of the room on his own accord, and was only feet from the door). He was brought across my field of vision and into the room to Burke’s left.
Burke told me it was “up to me” to comply to gain my freedom. I told him that he had “the ability to throw this out and say there shouldn’t be a charge. I didn’t hurt anybody.” Burke said “Ok. Alright. I guess we’re not going to get anywhere. Thank you” and left.
Willis led me back to my cage, informing me not to breath deeply when in the lobby area as his colleagues had had to “deploy mace”. Against a lady.
I worried about Ademo. I hoped they cut him loose. I watched the sliding door that opened into the booking area, hopeful that I wouldn’t see him.
I was told that I was going to be moved since I’d reached the 24-hour-maximum stay in booking.
Then in came Ademo carried by a group of men wearing badges. We exchanged glances. He was placed on the floor of a cell two away from mine. He held up six digits and mouthed/yelled that he had been given a 60-day sentence. “What the hell!?” was all I could say as I was being led away.
I was told that I had to first take a shower. I stripped, lifted up my scrotum and spread my cheeks for Willis. Then I took a quick shower (which helped to warm me up) and put on jail duds. Fun fun. As I was led to my new cage other inmates looking through the window on their doors yelled down to my captor, “What’d he do?” Why is he going in there?”- the “there” being segregation.
I was told I would kept in the cage for 23-hours a day. I eyed the thin, plastic-covered mattress sitting up on the metal frame bed bolted to the wall. I laid down. A short time later a correctional officer brought me blankets and some toiletries. I turned myself into a human burrito and tried to sleep.
I didn’t eat. I was told that if I continued not to eat I’d end up in a hospital being fed via an IV. Days later I questioned my stance – if I wasn’t eating because I didn’t want to burden taxpayers wouldn’t ending-up in a hospital defeat that principle? Hospital tends to be damn spendy after all…
I chewed on the few options that I had any control over.
Van Wickler asked if I knew “Lance” [Weber, a liberty-friendly lawyer from the area]. “Yes” I said. Lance’s number was placed on a list that wouldn’t incur collect call charges.
I called Lance. It was around 11am. I told him about my last 24-hours and he updated me on the activity happening on the outside, specifically mentioning the Chipin George Donnelly created to help pay for a press release distribution.
Correctional officers peered through the window in my cage door on their rounds (hourly?), sometimes shining a flashlight my way. During mealtimes I was offered food. I declined.
On Wednesday Van Wickler stopped by my cage in the early afternoon and asked if I would like to speak with my mom. “Of course!” I responded. We walked to the phone, Van Wickler read her number while I dialed, then he left. It was good to talk with her.
Over the two-and-a-half days I was in segregation Van Wickler visited my cell about five times for a total of 45-60-minutes. He’s pressured me to process. He brought two copies of documents that outlined the information that I’d be required to share if I were to process.
During one visit Van Wickler asked his colleague to leave us so he could talk with me alone. He asked if I thought Burke was concerned with my actions in the jail and answered his own question with a single “No.” And, despite agreeing with me that the force that had been used in my situation was uncalled for he was unwilling to let me out. He had keys to the facility. He could act on his conscious.
At one point it was communicated to me that Ademo had processed and was going to be released later that evening. I hoped it were true, but doubted it. Like cops, correctional officers lie.
I thought through potential avenues to gain justice. I had lots of time to think and do some internal creative destruction about strategy, tactics, relationships with people, incidents, etc.
On Thursday I wasn’t able to reach Lance when I tried his number. I only remembered three other numbers – Ademo’s, which didn’t help, Allison Gibbs and Ian Freeman. I called Ian as my ultimate goal was to reach Michele Seven to see about getting picked-up if I did process. Ian was more than happy to help and conference called us all together. I informed them of where I was at and learned that M7 had unfortunately slipped a couple of times when in Keene exiting the district court and wasn’t too mobile. Ian offered to grab me so long as he could get an exemption on his no trespass, which stemmed from the insane arrests last year that became known as the Trespass of Twelve.
I decided I could have a bigger impact on the outside. I decided to process.
At one point when in segregation Van Wickler asked me if I knew “Brandon Ross” who he said had claimed to be my lawyer. I noted that Brandon was “a friend” and Van Wickler commented that a case like ours didn’t necessitate multiple lawyers (since Lance Weber had already been communicating with me and Ademo). Later, after I processed, I learned of the work Brandon did behind-the-scenes for us. At one point he had been told by Van Wickler that he’d be able to see me in segregation. Ross made the drive from Concord and waited six hours but was denied access entirely. I was never informed of his visit.
Thanks to lengthy time delays, sub-par “customer service” and accepted bureaucracy, it would be impossible to not know I was interacting with a government agency when processing. I sat in a chair in front of the counter and answered questions posed by Willis. My picture was taken – each side and straight-on. My fingerprints were taken and checked via IAFAS, the FBI’s database. Willis told me my fingerprints would be deleted automatically if they returned no hits. Sure.
I had questions about some of the stipulations on the paperwork Van Wickler had provided me. “Why was the check-box next to: ‘Is ordered not to drive until the defendant’s license or privilege is restored by the Director of Motor Vehicles’ checked?” I asked. “Or why am I to ‘refrain from excessive use of alcohol, and use of a narcotic or controlled substance as defined in RSA 318-B’?” Willis claims to not have known.
The bail commissioner – an angry man named Frank J. Obuchowski arrived. After getting his paperwork and “official” stamp laid out he barked orders at me. I stopped him and asked him why he thought it necessary to speak with such a hostile tone. Another inmate – who was a big dude – turned from watching the TV to us. Obuchowski quieted down some, but before leaving he made a point to tell me that he spoke that way so there was no question what he was communicating.
I asked him about the two check-boxed items. On the paperwork he brought the drivers license stipulation was not checked. He read to me that I could not have any alcohol or controlled substances. I pointed-out that on the form I had it just stated no “excessive” use of alcohol. He looked it over and, on his copy, angrily wrote the word “excessive” above to the sentence. Then I asked him how “excessive” is defined, and who gets to do the defining. He didn’t have an answer.
My arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday, February 9th at 9am. The paperwork threatened me with increased penalties if I were arrested when out on bail. I thought I was innocent until proven guilty. What if I were arrested by another out-of-control cop for a victimless action?
Obuchowski told me I owed him $40. Van Wickler, who had been hovering around the lobby through this proceeding, had earlier told me when I brought up that the fee was the man’s “bread and butter”. He indicated that it didn’t have to be paid. Sounds good to me. I told Obuchowski that I didn’t have any money (I didn’t), that this fee had not been mentioned earlier and that it was unfair for him and his colleagues to continue to add additional criteria so that I could regain my freedom of movement. He said, “Well who’s picking you up? Maybe they have money.” No dice buddy.
Then Obuchowski told me that I had to go to the Keene Police Department before 4pm (it was 2:30pm). I questioned why this was added? And at who’s direction? No one gave me any information.
Van Wickler called Ian and “granted” an exemption on the no trespass order. Soon he was on-scene and I was out.
In the five or ten minutes I had been waiting Van Wickler told me about how he’d recently declared three Cuban cigars on his flight back from Canada, where he had spoken to parliament about drug policy (Van Wickler is a speaker with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). He explained that he’d been barred from bringing the cigars across an imaginary line so he gave them to a taxi driver. If one can see the failures of drug prohibition then why not stand against all victimless “crimes”?
As I climbed into Ian’s car he handed me a meal replacement drink Meg Mclain had wanted me to have. Perfecto! I put out a Keene411 to announce my freedom and to see if any friends in the area wanted to join us for a bite at a Mexican place in town. About 16 did, despite the short notice.
After the hugs, conversation and burrito (thanks Heika!) I was reminded at just how many awesome individuals make up this community. It was exactly what I needed.
Afterwards we went to the Keene Activity Center to chillax and brainstorm. A couple of hours later Mark Edgegraciously sat aside so I could join JJ and Ian on the first couple of segments of Free Talk Live.
The support Ademo & I have received has been amazing. Thanks so much! It has not only had very real impacts for us but it shows others that we’re here for each other, which may make them more-likely to stand up for what they know is right.
Does it make sense that individuals who have harmed no one end up in cages? Though I can’t authoritatively speak for everyone I think it’s fair to say that we each are standing on principle, despite the threats levied at us, knowing that failure to do so today will make it more difficult tomorrow.
If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.
– Thomas Jefferson