Her face and body swollen and bruised, Jamie Loughner, 36, is visceral proof of the violent police tactics that have been used to suppress direct-action protests this week at the Republican convention in Philadelphia—tactics thathave been ignored by most major media.
The self-professed “den mother” for the anarchists of the Washington, D.C.-based Black Bloc, Loughner says she and a “partner” took to the streets on Tuesday with a 20-foot banner that read “Stop the Texas Killing Machine”—referring to Governor George W. Bush’s feverish rate of executions.
The banner was fashioned from red parachute nylon, and Loughner had reinforced it with strands of wire to make it “harder for the police to cut.” At around 7 p.m, during the permitted rally to support death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal outside the Municipal Building, Loughner and a fellow Black Block activist darted into JFK Boulevard to obstruct traffic.
“A cop approached us and tried to cut the banner,” says Loughner, “but he got mad because he couldn’t cut it. So he started pulling the banner away from us, but I couldn’t just let go because I had my arm wrapped inside the banner to make it easier to hold.”
Loughner says that when the officer yanked, she “went flying to the ground.” According to Loughner and other witnesses, several officers then began pulling her down the street. “They were kicking me,” she says, revealing dark contusions on her thighs and arms. She holds up her hand, with the fingers bloody from having the tips ripped off her fingernails when she tried to pull loose of the banner.
“They rolled me face down on the ground and cuffed my hands in the back, with the banner and the two poles still wrapped awkwardly around my body,” Loughner says. She claims she was “thrown onto the floor of a police van filled with their stash of ice water and soda,” and driven around town for 20 minutes by an officer, who decided to release her from custody and even drove her to a local hospital, when he discovered the extent of her injuries. After vomiting in the hospital waiting room, Loughner was diagnosed with a minor concussion and “deep bruises and contusions” to her right eye, forearm, thigh, and hip.
Philadelphia police declined to comment on the incident, noting there was no record of Loughner’s arrest.
Despite dizzy spells and a limping gait, Loughner has not given up in her campaign against what she and other activists have dubbed the “criminal injustice system.” On Wednesday afternoon, she joined a crowd of 500 to 700 protestors who circled Philly’s police headquarters, in solidarity with the more than 450 activists who have been arrested since the start of the protests. In her hands she held yet another banner, this one reading: “Stop Police Brutality: Where Is the Brotherly Love?”