I just spent 26 hours “in the system” after the Critical Mass ride Friday night. I don’t want to discourage anyone from following their conscience as they protest this week. But I do want to stress the level of disorganization and poor execution the NYPD showed in taking well over a day to process and arraign the 264 arrestees from the CM ride. Be prepared.
• Pier 57, the converted bus depot that they’re using as a staging area for protest arrests, is absolutely filthy. If you have open cuts or wounds, put some Band-Aids, alcohol wipes, and bactine packs in your wallet. Wear old clothes (you may want to burn them afterward), preferably the biggest, nastiest hoodie you have to use as a pillow/ground cover. Men who appeared respectable beforehand looked like they’d slept on subway tracks after the ordeal.
• Carry as little as possible. The less you have on your person, the less you’ll have to worry about the property clerks losing.
Incidentally, when my unsearched messenger bag was bagged and tagged on 35th Street and put in a pile on the pier, no one—not my arresting officer, not the bus driver, none of the guards at the pier—had any idea what I was carrying. I could have had a pipe bomb on a timer, an open vial of anthrax, or a lump of C4 and a detonator; and no one would have known until four in the morning, when my bag was finally inventoried. (For the record, my bag held a hoodie, some tools, socks, a samosa, and one peach.)
• Do not take the police seriously when they offer estimates on how long things will take. When we arrived at Pier 59 at 11 p.m. Friday night, we heard we’d be out by 9 a.m. I was released from custody at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, and I didn’t have my property—excluding my bike—back until 12:30 a.m. or so. (My bike is being held with all the others at a warehouse in Brooklyn. I’m going to try to get it back this week.)
• Most of the policemen I spoke to and dealt with were actually pleasant and polite and gave as they got. Some of them seemed genuinely disgusted about the system and the RNC. They try their best to move you through the system as they can. Cut them a break and they might give you Power Bars and extra bathroom breaks, which is no small deal after 12-plus hours on the pier. If they get grumpy, remind them that they’re making tons of overtime.
• Solidarity in the cells and between the cells is important. We enjoyed marathon bouts of pitching pennies (into paper cups), jail bowling (with paper cups), and hacky cup (with crumpled paper cups).
• Jail baloney is like no other baloney in the world. There are no vegan options (besides hunger) in jail, other than, perhaps, Frosted Flakes.
• Jail cockroaches are as big as kittens. (Or close, at least—too close.)
• Expect to be moved around a lot. I was in six or seven different cells before being released. You’re going to spend a minimum of two hours in every cell.
At a quarter to 10, I was taken in a group to the holding cell immediately outside the courtroom. After about an hour, we met our legal aid attorneys. They told us, finally, what we were charged with—disorderly conduct, a violation. We conferred briefly with our lawyers and waited to be called. Myself and four others were led into court and released after the district attorney asked for adjournments contemplating dismissal. As long as we’re not arrested for six months, the cases will be dismissed.