So what happened next? Well, you've probably seen the news, and frankly, if you haven't and you've made it this far in this story, it should be fairly obvious. They arrested every single person in that kettle. There was a group of people who had parked their motorcycles in that lot just as police closed it off. One of them ended up in handcuffs before some careful talking got them all free. There may have been Ross shoppers or employees stuck in there as well. The process of arresting everybody was, and I'm not joking, one of the stupidest things I've ever personally witnessed. There were enough officers standing shoulder to shoulder to surround a group of no fewer than 150 protesters, plus dozens more officers scattered around, and they arrested those 150 people ONE. AT. A. TIME. Are you a person who is opposed to paying taxes for public services like roads, and really opposed to supporting things like Medicare? Well your taxes are going to paying something like 75 officers to stand around watching while three of them actually arrest anyone. It took about two hours for everybody to end up in cuffs. If you've been handcuffed and forced to sit on the cold, hard asphalt in those cuffs, you know how uncomfortable it is. If you haven't, I'm sure you can imagine. I got tired of being uncomfortable, so I slipped out of mine.
Next, they spent an hour loading everybody into the buses. People actually cheered when they saw the buses arrive, that's how ridiculous this situation was. Meanwhile, those 75 officers were burning your tax dollars taking selfies and chatting about the game. There was a single officer who moved around the group giving people water and attending to their medical needs. There was one woman who claimed she was suffering from toxic shock syndrome because her tampon had been in for too long. I can't speak to whether or not this was true, but my inclination was to believe her, yet despite her crying out and being visibly distressed for ten minutes, nobody attended to her. In fact, I don't recall anyone ever attending to her. Finally, it was my turn to get on the bus. Unfortunately I was stupid and didn't slip my cuffs back on when I was up, so the officer searching me took my gloves and watch off and then re-cuffed me so tightly that my wrists hurt for a day afterwards. The bus, as it turns out, was worse than the ground. There's no good way to sit in a seat with you hands cuffed behind your back, it was shockingly hot, dark, the bus felt like it lacked any suspension at all, and they played all of the worst hits of the 1970s.
We finally arrived at the prison and were loaded out of the bus, ladies first. Gee, how chivalrous of them. When I got out of the bus, I witnessed a line of men facing the wall, legs spread out. I looked to my right briefly and saw a group of scared looking people get off another bus and face a chain link fence towards me. I was told by an officer no talking, no looking away from the wall. To be honest, at that moment, the images running through my head were all those that you see in World War 2 movies. The ones where they line people up on the walls in the camps and mow them down. The first wave German Jews likely didn't expect to be killed when they were jailed, and nor did I. I'm not saying that the police are just going to start rounding up people and executing them like Nazi Germany, I'm just saying that's the imagery this situation evoked. It was rather unpleasant. I, having forgotten my ID at home, was led into the "keeper" tank. Side note: always carry your ID everywhere. Here I meet the eleven men who would be my cell mates for the next twelve hours. After giving them my name and phone number for the third or fourth time, we were led to another holding tank for our phone calls. The phone didn't seem to work, though, so I don't think anybody got a hold of anyone. We were then led down an immensely long set of corridors and courtyards to our cell. Santa Rita is quite large.
The jail cells sucked. Metal bunk beds with no mattresses, pillows, or blankets, and it was freezing cold. I normally run very warm -- I'm the kind of person who takes short walks through the snow barefoot -- and I was shivering. The bunk I stupidly picked had dried vomit or something on it. I of course could have gotten up and moved to another of the 36 bunks in there, but I didn't for whatever reason. Jail is also very boring, imaginably. It is supposed to be a punishment after all. We got to the cell around 4am, and around 7 or 7:30am, the first group was released, and we also received food. This was one of the most dehumanizing experiences I've had. They brought up crates with sealed plastic bags containing an assortment of food items. They then opened the cell door, had us all line up against the wall, and walk one by one up to one guard who'd basically throw the bag into our hands while the other guard said, 'you're welcome' like a drone, and then we went back to the cell. While she was handing us the food, she said, 'this is normally how we do feedings.' "Feeding." Like you feed an animal in a cage. The food was disgusting, as you might imagine. There was something that looked like bologna but I just threw it out and ate my stale bread with the mustard packets they gave us. The bread was still really floury inside. There was also an unripe orange, a packet of fruit punch mix that you can add to the funky water from the cell, and a bag of assorted pretzels.
After almost everyone else had been released, we were still waiting in our cell. It was around noon at this point. The guards had some people who looked like other prisoners in the jail bring in tons of mattresses, seemingly in preparation for the occupation of that wing once we left. We were then instructed to carry the mattresses up to our cell. Wow, great. Almost two hours later, we were asking about how long it would take for us to be released. The guard said he didn't know, but that we should be grateful that they brought us mattresses and blankets. Grateful. We didn't even have blankets, and they brought mattresses when we were about to be released. As we were led out of the cell to be released, I saw them bringing in blankets. From what I heard later, the women didn't receive mattresses upon arrival either, but they did get blankets, though apparently they were wet blankets. I also heard from somebody say that their guards asked them for a good Yelp review. What?
Finally, a small number of us were led back to the holding tank with the non-working phone because they were apparently still having trouble pulling up our information. I guess there are just thousands of other Kyle Camerons born on October 5th, 1992 that live in the United States. I later figured out their actual struggle. Over the course of the arrest and jailing process, I had given out my name and birth date no fewer than six times. When I was finally brought out to look over one of the forms they were using, it said my name was Kyle Camerzon, born October 5th 1982. And although I had on multiple occasions offered to give them my SSN because I don't know my driver's license number, they said that all they wanted was the DL number. Of course, when I corrected that form, the guy also asked if I knew my SSN. Five minutes later I was released.
The whole process might as well have been theatre of the absurd. It was an absolutely ridiculous joke. The level of incompetence displayed by every single person in that facility and during the arrest process was something I rarely witness in real life. They seemed like they were just having a fun time with us, alternately treating us like elementary students learning a lesson about why you don't do bad things, and treating us like actual inmates/animals (because really, they're not so different). It was just completely surreal, and I only spent 12 hours there. I can't imagine spending a week there, let alone spending years in a place like that. It's not rehabilitation, it's just dehumanizing punishment that we disproportionately hand out to people of color if they aren't executed in the street for jaywalking. I came out of jail angrier than I was when I went it. I'm even more determined to see that system dismantled and changed now. And that was 12 hours.
Black Lives Matter
I don't really know how to conclude all of this. I hope that if you've made it this far in life and in this piece and you somehow, beyond all reason, didn't see an issue with our justice system, you do now. I hope you understand a little better that these protesters are completely peaceful, and that you think that the police response to them was at least just slightly heavy-handed. If you believe that Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, and the thousands of other black men and women who have been executed on the street for crimes like shopping in a Wal-Mart, trying to enter their own homes, asking for directions, or just minding their own business while walking down a sidewalk, if you have so much as a shred of doubt as to whether or not any of them deserved to die, I hope that you're starting realize that not a single one did. Question why James Holmes, a white man wearing full body armor who massacred 12 people watching a movie in Colorado is still alive, while any of those people I just named aren't. Have you called any of those men thugs while calling James Holmes a troubled youth? Question that. Do your homework, do a lot of reading about these issues, and swallow your pride and admit it: you are wrong.
People will not stop marching.
I hope you'll start marching too.