Report from Chicago Spring: Thank You for Returning My Shoelaces and Belt. Now Can You Please Find My Drivers License and Computer? – My Experience Being Detained Prior to the NATO Summit

Well, it's something (photo: Jo Bourne/flickr)

I had returned from attending a book signing by Kevin Gosztola of his book Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning and arrived back at the Halsted El station in Bridgeport, Chicago around 10:00 pm. I took the bus to within five blocks of the apartment that was housing a number of protesters for the upcoming protest of NATO on May 20. When I climbed the back stairs to the second floor apartment, I met two people on the second floor porch I had not seen before. A guy with a black bushy beard introduced himself as Turk and said that the lady in the hoodie with him was his cousin Nadia.

After introducing myself, I went inside and told folks who had been staying there about Kevin’s book signing and sat down at the table. While I was seated at the table, Turk came to chat some more and said his name was Mo and then went to join the other folks in the living room of the apartment.

I was tired and went to sleep in my sleeping bag on the kitchen floor while the others were talking and partying in the front room.

I awoke to the sound of a loud bang near me and the shout of “Police!” As I opened my eyes to see what was going on, I was staring into the muzzle of an automatic handgun held by one officer and a flashlight shining in my face, held by another officer. They ordered me to stand up, and helped me get out of the sleeping bag when I complied. They told me to hold my hands up and spread my legs while they frisked me and then ordered me to put my hands behind my back as they led me by the arm into the living room where the others were standing, legs apart, hands behind their backs, and heads resting against the wall. We were frisked again; the officer who frisked me felt the chest belt of my heart monitor and the strap of my money belt (called in the inventory a “fanny pack”). He searched through the money belt and found my drivers license, Medicare card, senior discount transit IDs, and a CTA 30-day fare card. He took the drivers license and left the rest and left me wearing my money belt.

After everyone had been frisked, we were handcuffed (tightly), led into a bedroom and told to sit down. One of the others chastised the officers saying that they should “be easy on the old guy,” meaning me. The officers brought a chair for me to sit in, facing the others and with my back to the bedroom door. The officers then asked those of us who hadn’t had cell phones on us where they were. I told them that it was in my electronics bag; they found it and a small camera that looked like a cell phone and came back to confirm that they were mine. I identified which was the cell phone and which was the camera.

During this time, someone asked “Where is the warrant?” and someone else asked “What are we being charged with?” An officer replied, “You’ll find out in court.”

Having secured all the cell phones, the officers began dividing the group to transport based on the orders from a commander of the Organized Crime Unit. (I identified his rank as a gold leaf and saw “Organized Crime Unit” on his name plate peeking out from under his “Police” vest. I also noticed that the officers were dressed in black shirts, not the light blue of beat cops in Chicago. They brought those of us who did not have shoes our shoes; the logic for who went first became who had shoes on. I stepped into my shoes, unlaced and the officer leading me by my right arm led me (and supporting my balance) as we slowly went down the back stairs of the building. [cont’d.]

We went out the sidewalk between the building and the one to its east and to an unmarked car, not a police cruiser, that did not have a screen between the back seat and the driver seat. As he started driving away at high speed, forcing pressure on my tight handcuffs, the officer said, “What sights of Chicago do you want to see?” We went to the Dan Ryan and then to the Eisenhower and turned off at Homan Avenue. As we were going up the ramp to Homan Avenue, the officer said “Who wants ice cream?” We were silent. “Uh, nobody wants ice cream?” he asked with a mock-hurt tone.

We went into the back alley and entrance to the lockup, arriving at a garage entrance between two sections of industrial woven wire mesh, like businesses use to create supply areas in industrial plants. After the car in front of us unloaded the first three folks from the apartment, the officers led us through the gate, a door, up a few stairs and down a short hall that had three doors on each side. They took me into the middle room on the left. It was maybe 10 feet by 12 feet, lit by fluorescent tubes on the left and the right, and had a metal bench fitted with a round rail on the wall opposite the door.

I sat on the bench, and the officers put shackles on my legs. Then the officer asked which hand I wanted handcuffed to the rail on the back of the bench. I told him it didn’t matter to me; he handcuffed my right hand to the rail on the back of the bench. And then he left and locked the door.

I noticed, across from me, posters of the Illinois statutes regarding arrests (big print) but could read none of the provisions (little print) from where I sat. I also realized that I had not been able to ask for an attorney or to talk to someone. I had also not been asked about any health conditions or whether I required medication. I do. I have a heart condition, and my meds were were in my backpack in the apartment.

My heart monitor was on the time-of-day function. I noticed that it was 1:18 am, a hour or two after the raid I guessed. That became my benchmark for how long I was there.

The flap over the one-way glass was flipped up and someone looked in. Then the door opened and the officer began chatting, finally getting to “How did someone your age get hooked up with these young guys?” “I was sleeping on the floor; it was a place to stay,” I replied. “Were you all anarchists?” “There was a diversity of opinions in the house.” “What does your family think about what you are doing?” “My daughters contributed money to help me get to Chicago.” He left and locked the door.

A long period of sizing up the situation and my surroundings and fitful attempts to sleep by resting my head on my hands with my elbows on my knees ensued.

The door opens again and an officer with a card to fill out says, “I thought there was a table in here.” pointing to two metal plates on the floor toward his side of the room. He then puts the card up against the door and asks me for a list of identifying information–name, address, phone, emergency contact, Social Security number, and more. Then he left, and I was alone until the next morning.

I tried various ways of sleeping, finally figuring out how to lie on the bench on my left side, my right handcuffed hand keeping me from falling off the bench.

I must have gotten a fair nap. I heard the door open and a voice say “Breakfast” as a hand handed me a White Castle Breakfast sandwich in a waxed paper envelope. I ate it and prepared mentally for a very long day. I wondered why I was there; no one in the apartment had done anything in my presence that would merit either a raid or being locked up in solitary rooms. I wondered if anybody outside knew we were there. I wondered how long it would take the National Lawyers Guild or my wife to find out where I was. I tried telepathy with my wife to tell her to call and inquire as to whether they were holding someone with my name.

“Officer, I have to use the restroom.” The loud sound came from another room. “Officer, I have to use the restroom.” “We are short-staffed. I’ll be there in a minute.” Minutes pass. “Officer, I have to use the restroom now.” “Officer, I have to use the restroom now.” The hollering from another room continued. “You have a black flag by your name,” said an officer in reply. And later, for almost twenty minutes, “Officer, I have to use the toilet.”

I determined that the officers holding us were denying us access to the toilets, and being a quiet sort decided to wait them out in silence. However, the breakfast sandwich was doing its work. It became more difficult to hold it, and I was beginning to feel like I had to pee too. I considered the possibilities. Going directly on the cell floor seemed preferable to being released and having to ride the El back to wherever with soiled clothes. I tried holding onto a ring used to store handcuffs an squatting. Nothing. I struggled with one hand to get my pants back up. I held out some more. I figured out that I might be able to crap between the bar and the bench without soiling either. I waited some more. I struggled to get my pants clear enough and sat up against the bar and let go; the sound of a splat on the floor seemed a major victory. I then peed down the same space. I had positioned myself way at the far end of the bench; that end of the bench became my bathroom. The other end my living room.

I then moved back to my living room and sat with my head in my hands trying to take a nap. The flap over the mirrored window lifted, and I heard someone say, “Great God”.

I waited. I began to be chilled and lay down on the bench. The door opened and someone said “Lunch”. “I’m not terribly hungry.” “I’ll sit it right here just in case.” The door closed and locked.

After a while, I felt better and saw a McDonalds bag sitting on the floor away from me. A little later I felt good enough to eat and reached out to the bag. It was beyond my reach. Later I extended my feet to see if I could reach it. I could, but I had to be careful not to turn over the tall cup containing the medium Coke. When I finally got it to the bench, the bag contained two McDonalds cheeseburgers and a bag of fries. The thought occurred to me that the diet for breakfast and lunch was exactly that which would catalyze the need to go to the toilet, but I wrote that off as coincidence.

After lunch, the flap on the door lifted and two people looked in, one a lady with long blond hair. Taking the chance that it might be a National Lawyers Guild lawyer, I hollered, “I want to see my lawyer.” The flap closed, and nothing happened.

Later, in what now was clearly afternoon, I heard “Officer, I have to use the toilet.” “Who’s calling?” Someone in another cell hollered out their name. “Just a minute.” I then heard a door open and feet shuffle down the hall. It gave me hope. I was now feeling I had to go to the toilet again. When I heard voices again in the hall, I called out, “I have to use the toilet.” “Who’s that?” I hollered out my name. The lock made a noise, the door opened, the officer looked in, and then escorted me to the toilet. On the way back, he asked why I had gone on the floor. I said honestly that I had hollered out three times and no one had come to take me. He asked when that was. I said it was around 11 am. He offered to give me diaper wipes to clean up the mess in my cell and a trash can to dump them in. I cleaned up the mess and thanked him.

And settled in for what I thought was going to be a very long time by myself.

I took another nap, awoke, and sat up thinking about how long it would take someone to find out where I was.

From the hall I heard, “The State’s Attorney wants to interview you.” Then again, at another room the same message. And then the door opened and I got the same message.

Shortly afterward, an officer came to get me and escorted me into the room of another person taken from the apartment. The two of us were handcuffed to the bench awaiting what we thought was an interrogation by a prosecutor. An officer opened the door and asked the person I was with, “Do you want to talk to a National Lawyers Guild lawyer?” “Yes.” He was led out. When he returned, I was asked the same question. I answered “Yes.” I was taken to a holding cell with wire mesh. The NLG lawyer and I talked through the wire mesh. And then I was returned to the room, after being able to use the toilet again.

The two of us sat in the room waiting for the State’s Attorney to come interrogate us. Instead, officers came in and told us we were being taken for processing, walked us to police cruisers, and transported us to what the sign on the wall said was the 11th District – Fillmore. After we were taken through a secure entry, our shackles and handcuffs were taken off and we began being processed. We were asked if we had any medical conditions; I did and I needed my meds; the desk officer placed a call to get transport to a hospital for me to get a prescription. We were photographed (mug shots) and fingerprinted and placed all together in a holding cell.

After a while, the officers who were to take me to the hospital arrived. I was placed back in shackles and handcuffs and walked to the police SUV. My feet had swollen during the day and I mentioned to the officer that the shackles were hurting. “That’s what it means to be in custody,” was the reply.

I struggled to step up to the running board of the SUV in the shackles and was instructed how to get into the very narrow back seat. The officers then drove down a street with many speed bumps, the handcuffs hurting my hands as we went over each on. Then we got on the Eisenhower and went west to Lorette hospital. At the hospital, I had to walk into the emergency room in shackles and handcuffs and be admitted. Then I was taken to a hospital bed and one hand was handcuffed to the bar of the bed. A nurse took my blood pressure and heart rate and asked about my medications. Then a PA did the same. And then the physician came and listened to my heart and wrote a prescription. To each person that dealt with me, the officers showed a sheet with my mug shot, my charges, and other information.

A nurse brought my meds and waited until my blood pressure dropped in response to them. While we were waiting, the officers were chatty again. “What’s your beef with NATO?” “It was successful, and now is a hammer looking for a new nail.” “What’s your politics?” “Progressive democrat?” “What do you think should be done about drugs?” “It’s a medical problem, not a criminal problem.” After I found out that one of the officers thought school funding should follow kids (be available to private and parochial schools), another team of officers relieved them.

My blood pressure lower, these very quiet officers drove me directly back to the 11th District. After being asked to pick up a sleeping mat, I was led back into the the holding cell where the other males arrested in the apartment were. It was near midnight. An officer rapped on the cell an asked if we wanted bologna sandwiches. After handing out sandwiches, he asked if we wanted toilet paper and proceeded to hand out two-foot strips of toilet paper. Those who got toilet paper folded it up and put it into their pockets.

We went to sleep on the mats.

At 6 am the next morning a rap on the bars of the cell announced wake-up and we were instructed to carry our sleeping pads and stack them in the hall.

Shortly afterward, an officer came and called three of our names. He then escorted us out, without handcuffs and shackles to the front desk of the 11th District. A clerk there told us that we were released without charges and handed us the plastic bags containing our shoelaces and belts, which had been taken from us at the 11th District detention facility. We asked where our other property was and found out that it was at the Organized Crime Unit facility. The clerk called the officer at the Organized Crime Unit to have him bring our property. After a long delay, he arrived and I received my money belt back (still minus my drivers license). A National Lawyers Guild attorney arrived and took us to the coffee shop by the Woodlawn Mental Health Center occupation.

Later in the day, we had access to the apartment to gather up our belongings. All of my belongings were there but my electronics bag and the netbook, wifi hot spot, camera, cell phone, and associated adapters. But I had my belt and shoelaces. The chain of custody had worked for them.

There are five things to notice in this. (1) I was held over 12 hours before the National Lawyers Guild could find me; essentially, I was in a black site. And it was another 18 hours before I was released. (2) The experience was structured to be punitive before any charges were made not to mention any due process. (3) The police violated my privacy at the hospital in order to emphasize how “dangerous” I was and to build up the idea of a general threat. (4) I never saw a warrant, even a “no-knock” warrant for the police break-in to the house. (5) There is property that the police have not returned to me; if it is “lost”, either the CPD is violating their own procedures or there are officers on the organized crime squad stealing items in raids.

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