The fallout from last summer's Democratic National Convention continues to collect around events conveniently invisible in the mass media. Conspicuously absent from news coverage at the time were positions critical of the Democrats, particularly events like the "No Justice, No Peace" anti- criminal justice system march, and the "Active Resistance" anarchist counter-convention. These events received disproportionate attention, not from the media or politicians, but from the police. Surveillance and harassment characterized the week, culminating ultimately in arrests and violence.
As reported in PPR #10, two Portland-area activists, Missy Rohs and I (Kristian) were among those arrested for their political activities during Active Resistance. We were charged with misdemeanors relating to a parade called the "Festival of the Oppressed." During the parade itself, a police horse stepped on my foot. A short time later, the police stopped the van transporting us, and further injured me during the arrest. They also held me for interrogation before allowing me to seek medical attention, and cut my wrist while removing my handcuffs. To add insult to injury, these same cops charged me with battery, obstructing a "peace officer" and disorderly conduct. Missy and the other people in the van were charged with various combinations of these crimes as well.
On February 10, 1997, six co-defendants returned to Chicago to stand trial. The prosecutor dropped one case before the trial even began, since the complaining officer failed to show. In testifying about the other cases, the cops proved themselves so incapable of telling a plausible story that the judge issued a "directed verdict" on all but one charge. Basically, this meant that the prosecution didn't have enough evidence to convict, and the defense need not make any case at all.
The one count remaining after the directed verdict was a battery charge against Julia Moonsparrow. Officer Keeter testified that Julia delivered a "karate kick" to his knee and "tried to break it." However, he also stated that, though he had recently had surgery on that knee, he finished his shift that day, and never saw a doctor about the injury. Three defense witnesses followed -- Missy, Julia, and myself. We offered a mostly-coherent story, characterizing the police as aggressive and violent. I testified that I was hit with a nightstick, dragged from the van by my hair, and kicked repeatedly in my already-injured foot. Julia said she too was dragged out of the van and thrown to the ground, and then lifted by her handcuffs (with her hands behind her back) by the very cop she was accused of kicking. In the end, the prosecutor was reduced to an argument that "The police have no reason to lie." The judge backed away from calling the cops liars, but he did say that the state had not met its burden of proof, and found Julia not guilty.
This decision was surprisingly fair, considering the fact that the judge had himself been a cop during the riotous 1968 DNC (also in Chicago) But none of this should be taken as demonstrating the fairness of the criminal justice system generally. Many equally innocent, but less fortunate people are convicted of far worse everyday, and on the basis of no better evidence. Racism, classism, perjury and brutality are only "corruptions" of the judicial system in an ethical sense; functionally, it is these elements which characterize our legal institutions.
Even in the case of a "fair trial" such as ours, it must be considered that the process itself serves as punishment. Having never been convicted of a crime, we were intimidated, harassed, threatened, battered, jailed and robbed -- all by agents of the state who disagreed with our political views. Sixteen people were arrested for their association with Active Resistance, and none were convicted. Most of the cases were dismissed because the police failed to testify.
Unfortunately, possibilities of recourse are limited. Legal action may be in order for wrongful arrest, unlawful use of force, and for preventing me from seeking immediate medical attention. The police behaved illegally, but there is virtually no chance that they personally will be held to law. At best, civil cases help the individuals and organizations involved cut their losses, but they do nothing to change the fact that our rights were violated by precisely the people charged with protecting them. On the positive side, however, such cases can be useful in documenting and publicizing police misconduct and political repression. I have already filed a deposition in a current "consent-decree" case, in which the Chicago police are seeking to revive their red squad. I offered my story as evidence that the police ought not be permitted to collect intelligence on legal political activities.
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People's Police Report
#11 Table of Contents
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