Protests and arrests
someone asked about protests, arrests, and safety, and it seems like something to be shared more generally,“. also i’m interested in how other cities handle protest arrests, and share my perspective that the women’s march may be one of the last safe and easy protests for a long time.
i’m 33, older than a lot of you, so I was very involved in anti-bush protests and Iraq war protests here in Portland. I can ONLY speak for Portland, Oregon. I got arrested the night we started bombing Iraq. We were blocking an intersection and a bridge, and the arrests took like five or six hours; the protests had been going on for hours prior.
When we sat down to block the intersection and the bridge, we intended to get arrested. USUALLY before an action like that word spreads, "we’re doing such and such thing, if you don’t want to be arrested leave now.” At the last BLM protest I went to, they tried to block another bridge. They’d kind of waited way too long and allowed the cops to box them in, but the word still went out thru the protest “we’re gonna try this thing, if you don’t want get arrested stay back.”
Then you do the thing. Sit at the intersection or take the bridge. If you’re planning on going for a bridge or the freeway, you have to get to access points before the cops. That was the big mistake BLM made, too much marching around in circles before the cops closed in and we got stuck in the circle and access points to freeways and bridges were cut off.
In 2003 we did the thing (blocking the bridge) and we were allowed to do so, the cops had been hanging back for much of the march, unlike last summer where they closed things off and waited for people to come within hours.
Once you’re at the spot that’s clogging things up, at a certain point they show up with paddywagons, noise grenades, &c.
Depending on the city and what’s been happening in the city, they will also show up with pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The anti-bush protests I used to go to, PPB was always trigger happy with the bullets and pepper spray; at the first war protest they weren’t, for whatever reason. Not even noise grenades, they just let us sit and then started arresting us by midnight. so don’t take any response for granted.
OFTEN they will tell you to disperse or “___consequences___ will begin.” Consequences being either arrests or “dispersal tactics” tear gas, pepper spray, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, bean bag pellets.
HOWEVER they do not always do this here and i don’t even know how often they give warning in other cities.
After that big anti-war protest when we were blocking the bridges and got arrested and flooded the jails, they went back to being trigger happy with the pepper spray and rubber bullets. They also stopped announcing that they were going to start arresting people, and started tripping activists, attacking them, arresting people for “JAYWALKING” omfg. just picking us off from the sidelines, and as always people of colour and trans women were the first targets.
The night of the bridge sit in they told us that anyone who wanted to leave and not be arrested could, and then a trans woman tried to leave and was arrested. You can’t take cops at their word. That seems obvious but it can still be shocking to be at a protest, talking to people, and then suddenly have a face full of pepper spray. I cried the first time that happened, not just from pain but also because I was so shocked! no warning, just BAM, they attacked us.
If you get arrested over the weekend there’s a possibility that they’ll keep you in jail until Monday. That’s what they did to the trans woman they arrested even when the rest of us were allowed out within 36 hours.
Bear in mind that they may keep you in a paddy wagon for hours and hours, without access to a bathroom. I had to pee and it was agony.
When you get arrested, they don’t remove your cuffs. You share a cell with a bunch of other people and they can help you get your pants down :D
If you can get out of your zip ties, at least friggin pretend to keep them on or they’ll put you in metal cuffs (experience).
If you don’t want to get arrested, it is okay to try to walk away at any point. I don’t have backup care for my dogs and I try not to be arrested now because of that.
If you aren’t able to be peppersprayed or tear gassed or shot at (and like, those things can have really negative consequences on your health?) it is okay to try to walk away. There are and there will be other ways to resist.
I say “try to” because as that one woman showed, they don’t always let you, even if they said they would.
And finally, protests thinned out because Bush created “free speech zones”: specific areas where it was okay to gather but only in certain numbers, in other spaces gatherings could be arrested, and too large a gathering could be interrupted and arrested.
I think it’s likely we’re about to see a return to those conditions, and the women’s march, as racist, ableist, whorephobic, and mainstream white feminism as it is, may be one of the last big protests you can expect to attend without too many negative consequences for a while.
So whether or not you go out today is up to you and there is no right or wrong choice. Remember that resistance is ongoing, and it looks as much like feeding hungry people as it does like wearing a fuzzy goddamn cat hat (my dad texted me that he’s wearing a “pussy hat” in DC today and i died of shock. but i’m back.)
go get em. whatever that looks like.