By Chelsea Moosekian
Posted on July 28, 2011 by the Website Workers Council
On May 9, several Peace and Freedom Party activists were among 71 demonstrators arrested inside the State Capitol building. The charges were later dropped against all but one of the demonstrators. This article is her account. For more on the demonstration and arrests, see "P&F Joins Occupation of State Capitol".
Radicalized, I recently came back from a long day of protesting and an abusive night in jail with a hardened heart and a realization: they are throwing the money and the people into jail, instead of into schools.
On May 9, 2011, seventy-one students, teachers and allies were arrested at the Capitol Building in Sacramento, CA, for protesting and sent to jail for a night. We were demonstrating for many reasons, and my intentions in going were to support my fellow students and teachers in a political resistance against the budget mismanagement that has demolished numerous departments at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), and to protest the fee hikes that are dragging students further and further into lifelong debt. I am now the only person that is being prosecuted—out of 71 people who were arrested—and I have been unjustly charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. Here I will lay out my experience to my full ability in a call for justice
We awoke early that Monday morning and got on the road from Santa Cruz to Sacramento. Upon our arrival at the capitol building all the students from UCSC circled up and re-iterated our reasons for being there, and our intentions to attain justice by exercising our rights to gather and to speak freely. Around 50 students were present, most from UCSC and others from the Bay area. Among other affiliates there was Code Pink, CTA the EDU and Peace and Freedom Party.
Some of us followed CTA into the building when they arrived. CHP officers were present, and would not allow anyone else to enter the rotunda as an action was taking place inside of it. Many of the groups entered and exited the building over the next few hours as a number of actions took place. A legal permit was in place at this time. At one point, numerous UCSC students organized and re-entered the building with CTA and everyone convened in the 2nd story of the rotunda where we chanted and sang peaceably. After that we moved down to the hall of the 1st story and awaited the next action, which was planned for 5:00 in the rotunda. At this time a few of us came into contact with an “agitator,”—someone who is not actually with us but who is part of the police force acting as a fight-starter. Agitators are usually the first to get into fights with cops to cause violence at otherwise peaceful protests, so when we made contact with this person we quickly made it clear that we were not affiliated with him because our intentions were peaceful.
When 5:00 came around, we all marched in as the rotunda was opened to us, and began to circulate around its center in demonstration. Politicians who work in the capitol building watched us from the 2nd story as we circled the rotunda chanting, waving banners, dancing, and clapping—letting our presence and our needs be known. Media and California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers were present, and mainly on the outskirts of our demonstration. When a number of speakers began to form a line to speak, we all gathered around and sat together respectfully to listen to their words. There were so many moments during that rally when I was moved by our cries echoing through the stone halls, to stone faced cops with hands on their guns and disgruntled politicians in expensive suits anxiously checking their watches. I was overwhelmed with the reality of students and teachers screaming for help, and hoping that we were being heard.
As an hour passed, some members of the general group went to demonstrate outside the capitol building, and others left upon hearing that the building was closing. I chose to stay because I see the situation this way: the politicians who work in the Capitol implement legislation that currently puts teachers out of work and students into life-long debt. These politicians want to go home from work at 6:00 and forget about these problems. Since these problems do not go away at 6:00 for any of the students and teachers, I felt that staying was a symbolic act to make our reality their reality. So I stayed.
The CHP began multiplying in numbers, moving closer, putting on their rubber gloves and passing each other zip ties, so I moved across the rotunda to check in with some comrades about this. I had to remind myself to remain calm in the face of such intense police intimidation, and I ended up sitting down and linking arms with everyone else in the hopes of making a safe space in case the CHP became brutal with us. I was positioned between an adult man, who just happened to be C. T. Weber the Peace and Freedom Party state chair, and a younger boy, with the speakers in front of me carrying on the rally. My back was completely exposed because we were the furthest line back, and there were only a few people linking arms to my left. Officers began to swoop in from the edges of the rotunda in groups of two or three, arresting those who were speakers first and the rest of us next.
One speaker, a woman from Code Pink, was sitting in front of me when two or three officers came and began to try to pull her up out from in between our lines to arrest her. She went limp and the two arresting officers began shoving at us to drag her body over ours. One extremely big officer positioned himself behind me, took hold of my shoulders, and put all of his standing weight down on my collar bones, smashing me down into the floor as the other officers used extreme force to drag the Code Pink woman over the boy to the left of me. The force tore the boy’s arm out from its link around mine, and he fell back onto the stone floor as the officers dragged the woman over him, and I was shoved aside.
Understandably, this violence sent a deep, chilling fear through me, and I immediately re-linked arms with those nearest me in a desperate grab at safety. Swallowing tears, I began desperately looking around into the eyes of the officers present to try to find some humanity in them, to find one who understood what was going on. The very few who actually met my gaze did so with cold, calculated intimidation, or for a mere nervous moment. The report against me, filed by Officer David Ferreira, currently claims that I stared at officers “in an intimidating manner,” and I find it absolutely unreasonable and absurd to make such a claim because a young, seated, unarmed female student making eye contact with armed, adult police officers is intimidating for the student, if anyone. I did indeed make eye contact with as many officers as would meet my eyes, and I did so in a nonviolent way with the intentions to connect with these officers on a personal level—to reach out to them in the hopes that they would show us some compassion and understanding.
Within minutes of the violent arrest of the woman in front of me, they had chosen me as their next target for arrest. A few of them moved in on me from behind, and their rubber-gloved hands suddenly squeezed around my arms—tearing at me and shoving those aside who were linked to me. Two of them yanked me up to my feet and began to jerk me backwards—all the while threatening me verbally. I was absolutely not violent or aggressive in my reaction to their behavior, and any movements I made to readjust myself were entirely reasonable in the context of the unlawful and excessive force Officer Greenfield and Officer Repard used to arrest me. The violent way they forced my body into their control, moments after a woman was dragged over me by other officers, provide the contextual evidence for the reasonable nature of my behavior—behavior which has come under question due to false claims that I “willfully resisted and obstructed” one of the officers who was attempting to arrest me. I most certainly did not make any physical or verbal threats to obstruct either of the arresting officers in any way, and I reacted reasonably to the verbal and physical violence that they inflicted upon me as they arrested me.
A muscular, white, female CHP officer (Officer Greenfield) was constricting my right arm behind my back, and a very large, white, male CHP officer (Officer Repard) was constricting my left arm behind my back as they steered me across the rotunda. They proceeded to twist both of my arms behind my back, wrenching them upwards to overpower me and render me incapable of any movements they themselves did not puppeteer.
These arresting officers led me out of the rotunda and shoved me into an elevator. At this point I was nervous—feeling very uncomfortable being alone with these two in such an isolated place. They tore off my backpack and put zip ties tightly on my wrists, all the while clearly agitated by my insistence to make eye contact, and crossly barking demands at me excessively. None of my comrades were present, and the businessman who rode the elevator with us for a floor or two was wide-eyed in shock as he watched the two officers hold me tightly and threaten me verbally. Once we reached the basement of the building, the officers steered me into a parking garage where other arrested protesters were handcuffed and waiting to be loaded into vans by the CHP. As it turned out, we would be in cuffs for some six hours—well beyond any reasonable time frame.
I had not spoken a word to the officers who arrested me until this point when they demanded my identification, which I provided for them. I do not recall where Officer Repard went at this time but Officer Greenfield and I engaged in a brief conversation in which I told her that we wouldn’t need jails if we had better schools. She seemed to hear me, and her behavior was less agitated than it had been on the way there. She told me that I was going to be a “148.” I did not yet know what that meant, and became worried. Once in the van I let some tears out—tears I had been keeping in for a while—and a comrade comforted me, reminding me that I must do the same for others and remain strong.
The vans were driven to the CHP department where we were booked after hours of disorganized arranging and rearranging by officers. The van group I was in was taken into the CHP classroom (of all places) where we were sat at desks and made to remain silent by a dominating, large, white male officer. They immediately began to refer to me as “the 148” and sat me up in the front of the room at a desk. I witnessed an officer tearing prayer beads from around one comrade’s neck, and another officer denying an elderly woman her cane—making her walk to the bathroom with her hands zip-tied behind her back. Amongst themselves, the officers were extremely demeaning in their treatment of the female officer of color who I witnessed. Many of the teachers were in pain because their zip-ties were too tight, but it took hours for the officers to put on looser zip ties. It was an absolutely ridiculous, and entirely unnecessary process.
As the room filled up I realized that there were far more people outside, sitting on the ground. Stacks of forms were laid in front of each of us and our backpacks were labeled and piled up. As we were booked it became clear that the officers had no experience filling out the paperwork—they were saying so themselves—and they had never arrested so many people at once before. The booking officers made a point to count our money, but did not take inventory of anything else, and they specifically asked us questions about our race and gender, continually avoiding eye contact unless they were giving orders.
We were sent to jail for the night, where we were booked for a second time—entirely unnecessarily. Upon arrival, my forearm was injected with a substance that made my skin rise up—full of some liquid drug—and when I asked what it was the nurse did not know, or would not tell me. She would only mutter “TB skin test,” but such a test does not show results for three days so the administration of it to us was entirely unnecessary and questionable. During the “health exam” I asked if I was required to sign the form I was handed and I was told that: “if you don’t sign it, we’ll sign it for you.”
I was the first from our group to be put into the holding cell, and I was not released until hours after my paperwork said I was. During my stay, as witnesses will testify, officers were making derogatory comments about me to each other—referring to me as the “hooded” one causing “trouble” because I was wearing my sweatshirt, and making eye contact with them. Neither of these actions are criminal in any way, and the degrading things that officers were calling others and me is absolutely unreasonable. One girl was called a “jerk” while she was being fingerprinted, and another was called an “idiot.” And, this is how they treat a bunch of college students and teachers. I felt so humbled by some of the women who were in the holding cells with us who were not from our group because they were being treated even worse. One girl was pregnant and had been there for a week, being fed the most sickening food and treated with such disrespect by the officers. Another girl had stolen some food because she was starving and broke, and for that they gave her a $1,000.00 bail and sent her to put on one of the outfits that means she’s staying for a while. There needs to be more support for these people who get harassed by the police on a regular basis and have to live through such abuse over and over. And, there absolutely must be accountability demanded of officers and law enforcement officials. The current way that the falsely proclaimed “criminal justice system” proceeds must be exposed for its flaws and shortcomings now.
Ultimately, I found the CHP’s actions at the Sacramento protest violent and unlawful, and I do not plead guilty to any of the claims they have made against me. There is no justification for the claim made by Officer D. Ferreira that I was staring at officers “in an intimidating manner,” and the claim made by Sergeant M. Gomez in the Supplemental Report that I was “noticeably angry” fails to relate that officers had just dragged an adult woman over me moments before I was being identified as “noticeably angry.” No arrest should be made with the type of excessive force that Officer Greenfield and Officer Repard used when they arrested me, and there is therefore no justification under the law for the charge against me of a 148(A).
As far as the fact that I am the only one, out of the 71 arrested, to be charged, I would like to question the reasoning behind this. Why am I the only one being prosecuted? There were two others who were charged with resisting arrest (148) so that is not the reason. Every single other arrestee was charged with trespassing (602) so that is not the reason. What, then, is the reason(?) I ask.
Chelsea Moosekian is a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz.