Tuesday, June 2
This post was provided by M. Cathy Harmon-Christian, PhD
I was arrested yesterday. I wanted to share my recent post about it.
I Thirst for Justice
by M. Cathy Harmon-Christian
I thirst for Justice.
I thirst for Black and brown bodies being treated like my own.
Yesterday, I peacefully protested and marched from Atlanta City Hall, around the streets. I felt the presence of Catholic social justice advocates who have put their bodies and lives on the line, and I knew it was time I did the same.
When the militarized police and national guard and many other soldiers of war came to stop our peaceful protest, I decided that if they are going to arrest Black and brown people, then I wanted them to arrest me. I went to the front of the lines. I followed Black leadership.
I, and 55 other people, were arrested yesterday. My charge was "pedestrian in roadway." Except we were on the sidewalk, and there is helicopter photos to prove that. The police said to stay on the sidewalk so we complied, even though the streets are ours, not theirs. When they said to move off, we complied, but the way out was blocked. They then started grabbing people. I was given a chance to leave, but I did not go. I chose to be with my people. So they arrested me.
I went willingly. I spoke with officers. I believe that if they want to dehumanize you, you must continue to humanize them. And yourself. I am peaceful. I am nonviolent. I will be my full human self in the face of a dehumanizing militaristic force being used against it's people, particularly Black people, with and without government authorization.
I and the 9 women with me were in cuffs for over three hours, hands tied behind my back. Everything but ID was taken from us, and taken to the Atlanta Police Department Property Control Unit. We have to arrange an appointment to go get our property -- which included my car keys, house keys, cell phones, money. The property office is only open from 10-2 on Tues and Th right now. (Another protester reported that they went to retrieve their phone and it had been factory reset while in custody, so all their data was taken.)
From a large school bus, where we sat for about 2 hours -- it's hard to tell with no phone or watch -- we talked and got to know each other. Everyone on the bus had never been arrested before. We shared stories. We became more We.
We were then driven somewhere where we were taken out of the bus and taken to a curb in front of Hope House. We had to sit down on the curb. We were taken one by one to go to a set of tables where recruits were writing up our charges. We were fully body searched by a female officer, with hands around my breasts and all around my body including my crotch.
Then back to the curb. One officer was able to pour water into my mouth, but we had to stay cuffed.
Then we were put into a prisoner transport van. We were told that because it was so late, we would be spending the night in jail and would see a judge in the morning. There was a bench place for us to sit next to each other. We were not seat belted in, and there was a wall in front of us that our knees touched. There were no windows and no light. When the van started moving, we were facing sideways, hands cuffed behind our backs, in the dark, with some air blowing. We asked for more air please, and then laughed as one person said "we are Polite as Fuck." This van was dehumanizing, but we were not going to be dehumanized. Every pot hole in the street was felt, and we had to gird our bodies so we wouldnt be tossed into the person next to us.
Eventually, the van parked. The double door opened, and I saw we were inside of a large garage. It was hard to stand up by myself and turn my body to get out the doors. We were taken together to a door for inmates at the Atlanta City Jail, which I thought had been closed? The door opened and we were assembled along a wall, facing it. They checked our temperature, mine was high, so they checked it three times. They asked me if I was sick, and I said no. I am sunburned and hot is all.
There are always a lot of officers. One came and asked if we were injured or under 17. After awhile standing and looking at the wall, we were uncuffed. Then we were told to take off our shoes, spread our legs and put our hands on the wall. Again, we were body searched with hands pressed around and on breasts and in crotches. They asked us to lift our feet to check the bottoms of our feet. Then we were told to put back on our shoes, taken through another sliding door, and told to sit in an area for "Female inmates only." One by one we were called up and photos were taken of eyes without glasses, and then photos looking forward without glasses or masks, and photos turned to the side.
We were sent back to our seats. There were lots of old fashioned touch tone phones, like we used to see in the past, pay phones. Very few of them worked, however. I was able to call Niles, thankfully I had remembered their phone number. (Many protesters learn that you have to put important phone numbers on your arm with sharpie in case you're arrested.) I called them, and they had to accept a call from "an inmate in the Atlanta jail." I can only imagine the pain and anxiety of a Black mother receiving such a call. Niles accepted the call, and we spoke about 1 minute before we were shut off. They had figured out my car was downtown, got a ride, and found it "near the Shrine where I thought you would have parked." I love my kid so much.
It was confusing to know how to call, or what it costed, etc. There were no directions or information. Those of us arrested worked together to call the Atlanta Solidarity Fund who were there for us, through and through. I cannot say enough about the support of these folks.
One by one, we were fingerprinted. We waited and waited. We were allowed to go to the bathroom. There was no running water or soap.
Someone came by and offered us two sandwiches - white bread, one piece of turkey bologna, and a packet of mayo and a packet of mustard. There were cups and a water fountain. The officers kept telling us to quiet down, that she was being nice because she had candy, but she might "take us upstairs" if we didn't quiet down. There was a sign on the wall about "feeding", rather than eating. Animals, not humans.
Then we were taken one by one to the nurse. We were told we would all get out if we signed the form that said we were fine and didn't need medical attention. So we all signed.
Then we were told we would be getting out, but there was a curfew at 9pm. It was after 10pm. Eventually, I was given a court date in August, as was everyone else. We were lead out of the jail, into the night. There were miliary people all around, this time sitting on walls. There were barricades around the jail. We were told to go across the street to the Bail Bond parking area and people would help us.
And indeed there were. People from the mutual aid Atlanta Solidarity Fund were there to help get us rides home, they gave us water and allowed us to use their cell phones.
One beautiful 50 year old women held my hand and her husband came to tell me that "it's all over the police station what you did. You didn't have to be arrested but you did."
This is not about me. But it is about We.
What can you do? Something. Doing nothing is complicit.
I love you. Peace comes with justice. Fight for justice. It matters.