Greetings to all readers, friends and family! I hope this finds you well! I’ve been meaning to follow up on information about my recent incident with NYPD and my arrest ever since it happened but before doing so, I had to check in with folks that could advise me on how much I can say so that my friend, with whom I shared this experience with, and I are protected. My purpose for this blog is to answer the “What happened?!” question which many have asked since I posted the incident online. Also, I want to provide one of many outrageous examples for which young people of color in NY and throughout the U.S. are criminalized, traumatized and incarcerated everyday.
This is how it all happened: It was late/early Friday morning when a friend and I were waiting for the train to Brooklyn at the Delancey/Essex station on the lower east side. It had been a simple, relaxed and trouble free night that we had gone out for drinks like many people do in the city. We were standing by the tracks talking, minding our own business, not attracting attention of any kind when a cop passes by. My activist artist friend expressed in a cynical yet normal private conversational tone "I love cops." I nod and the next thing I know the cop turns back around and asks accusingly "Did you call me a PIG?!" Huh...? My friend repeated in a relaxed tone without any anticipation for conflict "No, I said I love cops." Within seconds, my friend was aggressively being forced out of the station. In shock, I asked the cop to please stop and explain what the need for this aggression was. I mean, how did we go from a peaceful, ordinary moment, to this?! The cop pushed my friend so hard, it caused him to stumble and almost fall. "Wait", I followed and by natural (and unintended) response, I touched the cop's arm. Big mistake.
I was put in cuffs first. Alarmed I kept asking, "What are you doing?! Why are you arresting me?!" to which he would not respond. There were no words, just physical aggression coming out of him. While I was being hand cuffed, two other cops showed up and hand cuffed my friend, and they continued pushing both of us out of the train station.
As we were going up the stairs towards the station exit, my friend who was being held by two cops fell, or rather was pushed, face first onto the concrete and steel steps. I stopped to look back, and saw my friend lift his head off the stairs with a cut on his forehead that began to bleed down his face and onto his clothes. That's when I lost my shit, sat down and refused to move until my friend got up and/or some reason was given. "What the hell is going on!? Why are you doing this?!"
Within a few minutes we had over ten cops surrounding us, two skinny, unarmed people of color, one bleeding and the other sitting on the steps crying in confusion. The few other people that were at the station started gathering to see what was going on. I noticed one person beginning to record the incident, although I have not heard about a video since. One cop above me tried to pull me by the chain of the cuffs, saying “stand up and walk like a lady” and another tried to carry me. I responded firmly to both that I could stand up and walk by myself. My friend got up, and I gave in to the orders walk. I came out of the station first, screaming to whoever could be a witness that I didn't know nor had been told why we were being arrested.
They put me in the cop car where I realized I still had my phone, which is when I sent the message that I was being arrested on facebook and twitter. I was taken to the police station at Union Square and my friend was taken to the hospital. He was brought to the station a couple of hours later with stitches on his forehead.
We spend the night in separate (men and women) but adjoined cells at that station with three other young people until late morning when we were taken to central booking for paperwork, mug shots and the rest. As we waited in line to get booked, I observed to no surprise, that there were nothing but shackled people of color and one or two white brothers and sisters. I had a nurse (in his scrubs) to my right, an organizer to my left and two students behind him, and as an educator I’m thinking, “We are trying to do good things out in the community. What are we doing here!?” The booking process was one of the most drawn out, frustrating and unbelievable moments in my life. After our group was done, men and women were separated to their respective holding cells.
Once I got to the women’s holding cell, there was nothing else to do but wait and wait. Women I found out, have to wait longer because for some reason, even though there are many more men than women, they let men see the judge first and more quickly. Throughout the waiting process we shared our stories and talked about the countless young people who are arrested for ridiculous reasons such as hopping over turnstiles at train stations or falsely accused of violence or possession of drugs (mostly marijuana). These and other more serious reasons for arrests revolved around the lack of social services and support that all people need to survive and have healthy physical and emotional lives in this belly of the beast.
The testosterone driven arrogance, mockery, aggression, racism and sexism that police practice inside was unbelievable, but that will be a whole other blog, healing project, creative endeavor or something...
Throughout my arrest and waiting time I was never told why I was arrested nor was I read my rights. I found out in my five minutes with the public defender right before seeing the judge that I was charged with a felonies (obstructing government administration and assault on an officer) and three misdemeanors that included, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obscene language. All of these charges were dismissed because the cop never signed his own report, I was the last case for the night, the judge was "tired", and obviously because I didn't do a damn thing! The judge ended up giving me two days of community service, which I have to complete and report to court within a month.
I was released at 1am on Saturday morning, and my friends, Lori and Jazmin, were there to meet me. God bless them forever!
The next day when I recovered all my stuff and was able to call people, I found out that my friend was released before me and was well. With a sore head and body, he said he will be going back to court for his case, which I’m looking forward to until all is dismissed and justice is restored on his behalf.
I was also able to read all the supportive comments, prayers, resources, updates and words of motivation that lifted me straight up and forward from the experience. There are too many people that go through this everyday and society at large can immediately place blame or judge without knowing what has happened. Having the support of friends and community got me out of the mind state of fault, helping me move forward with a clear and strong spirit, and I will always be grateful for that.
I also want to thank Lori Chien and Jazmin Chavez for covering all grounds on the outside. My family was beyond relieved and grateful to receive their updates. I thank them and all folks that supported by spreading the word, posting resources, making calls and expressing their support. Every effort made a difference on all levels and that was the brightest outcome of the entire experience. That's what community looks like!
I send my love and gratitude to everyone. Let's all keep an extra eye out and work towards documenting all the ways that police continue to abuse their authority to harass, discriminate, criminalize, traumatize and terrorize our communities until there is peace and justice. One.