Thursday, August 3, 2000 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Healthcare, Seniors and the Pharmaceutical Industry
2000-08-03

Police Step Up Crackdown on Activists

DONATE →
This is viewer supported news

Over the last couple of days here in Philadelphia, more than 380 people have been arrested in Philadelphia. Many activists reported being pulled over or detained. Scores remain in prison as stories of brutality against demonstrators continue to surface. [includes rush transcript]

Guests:

  • Bork, a young anarchist who was arrested this week and beaten up by police.
  • Brian Petruska, a paralegal with the R2K legal collective.
  • Scott Kellogg, a protester detained yesterday who had his truck and possessions confiscated by police.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, as we move in now to what has been happening in the streets over the last few days with more than 380 people arrested. Juan, we’ve been out there, and you’ve been talking with a lot of people.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Yes, Amy. And I think the amazing thing is that, once again, as happened in Seattle, was there’s a sharp difference between the coverage of the national corporate media and the local media. I think those who look through the Inquirer and the Daily News, the two local newspapers, a lot of local TV stations, realize that they’re paying much more attention to what is going on in the streets than the national media, which are basically giving it, as they did in Seattle, the minimum coverage of the opposition movements in the streets, whereas those — the press that are here, even though they may be distorting a lot of the events, at least they understand that there’s more significance to these events going on in the street, because the disruption that’s being created within their own city is of more concern to them. So I think that that’s one of the things I’ve noticed.

The other is that there is, from what I’ve been able to see, significantly more support among ordinary Philadelphians to some of the protests that are going on. Part of it is because Philadelphia is overwhelmingly a Democratic city. I interviewed many people in the African American community out at 41st and Haverford with the seventy-five people who were arrested in the building, before they even had moved out, by police, before they had done anything that could be called a reason for arrest, and found quite a bit of support. I talked to one man, Gene O’Neal, who — interestingly enough, the place where they were in was being characterized as an abandoned warehouse. It was not. Actually, Mr. O’Neal, who’s in his sixties, explained to me that that was a former trolley and bus barn of the predecessor company to the SEPTA, which was the regional transportation authority. And in the ‘50s African Americans protested and picketed that place because they were being excluded from jobs. And so that — that building has a historical significance within the black community there. And he said basically he supported the protesters, and he thought that the Republicans needed to wake up to some of the issues that they were ignoring at the convention.

AMY GOODMAN:

That building, having been broken into by the police — and it was where many protesters were making puppets and had other material, it was, what, their ministry of propaganda. So you’ve been talking to people in the streets, but you’ve also been observing the police behavior and also put in the context of local and national politics, where, for example, John Timony comes from, what’s happening with him, the police commissioner of Philadelphia, who himself got involved with a brawl.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Yes. Well, Timoney has played a very high-profile role here, unusual among police officials in that he is personally involved directly on the streets in almost all of the activities, riding his bicycle into most scenes. I think most of the protesters aren’t even aware it’s the police commissioner riding around on his bike. And, of course, he’s doing that because not only is he a hands-on cop, but he’s being followed by some national media and has aspirations of eventually moving on to police commissioner in New York, so he’s —

AMY GOODMAN:

Where he came from.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Right. So he’s almost sort of building his own public relations campaign as he’s going along. And I think that — but realistically — I’m sure we’re going to get into this with some of the guests — I think, as someone who was there in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic Convention, covered the Seattle situation, and I’ve covered several protests at other conventions, Democratic and Republican in the past, I think that we’ve got to put the events here in some kind of a historical framework, as well, and the degree to which the police abuse here compares to some of what’s happened in the past.

I know I spent many years here under Frank Rizzo, the former mayor and police commissioner, and if Rizzo was the police commissioner today, there would be a much different scene in Philadelphia right now. Rizzo was the guy who, as mayor, when he was running for reelection the second time, said on the 6:00 news press conference in City Hall, “If I get reelected, I’m going to make Attila the Hun look like a faggot.” This was the mayor of the City of Philadelphia.

Another time, when his police had beaten a black man senseless and broken their billy clubs over his head in front of hundreds of people in Center City, Philadelphia, Rizzo was asked at a press conference, “What do you think about what your police did when they broke their billy clubs over this man’s head?” And Rizzo responded in a press conference, “They don’t make billy clubs the way they used to.” That was the kind of leadership.

This is a somewhat different leadership. It still has a lot of brutality, but it seems to me it has not been as massive as it was in Seattle, or as it was certainly when Richard Daley in Chicago ordered police to shoot at demonstrators. And I remember bullets flying in Chicago at demonstrators, in addition to tear gas and everything else.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, there may not be bullets here, but there are fists flying, and there are batons that are beating protesters. One example of that is that brutality that we can see right before us with our next guest, who prefers to be called “Bork.”

Bork, I saw you yesterday come into the Independent Media Center. You have a serious shiner on your right eye. Your arm is bruised, and, well, we can’t see what’s under your pants. But can you tell us what happened to you?

BORK:

Yes. I was peaceably demonstrating two days ago, and I was taking a banner into the street, admittedly to commit civil disobedience in a peaceful way. I had a rather large banner. I had reinforced it with wire, because it makes it less liable to tear when you have a cloth banner. And the police got very upset when they attempted to cut my banner up.

AMY GOODMAN:

What did it say?

BORK:

It said, “Stop the Texas killing machine!” They apparently didn’t like the message being outside of a Free Mumia Abu-Jamal rally. And when they attempted to cut it up, and they could not get it to cut, the police officer became very angry. He started pulling on it. I had tucked it into the pocket of my pants to support it, because it was a very heavy banner, and so when he pulled on it, he was pulling me off my feet. I said, “I can’t get it out! I can’t get it out!” And he just pulled me off my feet. Two or three other cops ran up to help him.

The next thing I know, they had pulled me completely down. They started dragging me, wrapping me in the banner and dragging me and kicking me. I don’t know if you can see it, but we actually have a boot print from — if you see, I had tucked, which is one of the — demonstrators are trained to tuck if people are attacking your face. And you can — at one point, you could actually see the boot print between my arm and my face, of where the foot was. There’s a boot print on my thigh also and several bruises in other places on my body I can’t show you. It was very bad.

And it was so bad, that when they got me to the jail after they’d arrested me, while referring to me as an “it.” “Get its arms. Take” — you know — “put cuffs on it,” which was sort of a Nazi thing to do. They had gotten me to the jail, and the person who had been driving the vehicle was so appalled at the way I looked, at the bleeding of my hands where my fingernails had been torn out while I was trying to stop them from dragging me so far, that he just said, “I’m going to take you to the hospital or back to the protest. Your arresting officer isn’t here yet. You need to go to the hospital. Let me take you.” And he took me. I thanked that officer. Compared to the other officers, he was quite nice.

AMY GOODMAN:

You said yesterday that he said, “I’m just too old for this.”

BORK:

Yeah. He said, “I’m just to old to deal with these young sh—s,” referring to the other officers. Sorry.

AMY GOODMAN:

So you went to the hospital, and you were not arrested, because he brought you there?

BORK:

Yes, I had been arrested. I was in cuffs. There was an arresting officer. But the officer who took me in the van was so appalled at the condition I was in, bleeding and whatnot, that he decided on the spot to take me to the hospital instead.

AMY GOODMAN:

Brian Petruska, you’re a paralegal with the R2K Legal Collective. Is Bork’s story a typical one this week? 380 people arrested?

BRIAN PETRUSKA:

I wouldn’t say it’s typical, but it’s very common. We’ve had reports of a lot of very excessive police beating both on Tuesday and then especially on Wednesday. Wednesday, in particular, was characterized, by — that the police violence was largely — well, almost entirely unprovoked. We have reports of, by almost all regards, very peaceful demonstrations in which the police took it upon themselves to enter into crowds and pick out certain individuals to enact violence on, and in many cases serious violence. We actually had a legal observer, who are identifiable by hats, demonstrating that they are objective observers for legal purposes, and he was beaten so badly that he was sent to the hospital. We also actually had a report from Tuesday of a man who was beaten so badly that he had to have his ear stitched back to his head. And as a result, actually, at arraignment, the judge was so appalled at how beaten he was that he gave him reduced bail, because he didn’t want him to go back to jail.

AMY GOODMAN:

I’ve also heard about this strategy of just picking up people in the street who are walking along the street, not doing anything at the time. John Sellers, who is the head of Ruckus Society, well known for its training of people around the country and direct action, was just picked up on the street yesterday. What was he charged with?

BRIAN PETRUSKA:

At this point, R2K has no information on John Sellers. We only find out information when people call our legal hotline. And basically, we take care of all the observers as a whole, and if we do find out any information on him, we will treat him as with all the other observers, because we are taking care everyone, so we wouldn’t go about singling people out for any particular role or position that they might have.

AMY GOODMAN:

I had heard something about inciting to riot.

BRIAN PETRUSKA:

We actually anticipate that that trumped-up charge will be leveled against many people. The police are actively looking for a leader in a leaderless movement, and they’re going to keep projecting on their own presumptions of leadership onto people just to find it, because probably it’s the only model they can understand.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

I noticed in several instances downtown yesterday police stopping people on bicycles and just searching them completely and demanding identification, something that is clearly a violation of people’s rights. Have you gotten many reports of those also?

BRIAN PETRUSKA:

We’ve had numerous reports of people who have been — who have been stopped either on the sidewalk, but also in vehicles they’ve been stopped, with no traffic violations. In one case, someone was stopped at a red light, and the police surrounded the car, removed the individual from the car and then proceeded to arrest him and impound his vehicle. And by witnesses who saw the account, there was utterly no illegal activity going on before that. The only identifying — the only indication of why this occurred was because in the back of the truck there were protest signs.

AMY GOODMAN:

Brian Petruska is a legal paralegal with R2K Legal Collective. Scott Kellogg is also with us. You were detained yesterday?

SCOTT KELLOGG:

On Tuesday.

AMY GOODMAN:

What happened?

SCOTT KELLOGG:

We were preparing to leave the 41st and Haverford space, where the — which had been raided that day. And just as we were leaving our truck, which had been filled with puppets and signs and no lethal or dangerous materials, we were leaving the space and were blocked off by a police car and probably surrounded by about seven police cars. A second van was pulled over, as well. We were not told why we were being pulled over, just told to make our hands visible, and — at which point we were each removed from the truck and placed in a police van, not ever arrested at any point and not being told why we were being detained, other than that we were being subject to an investigation.

And so, we were placed in the van and held there for a number of hours, eventually being driven around for a total of five hours and then released without ever being arrested. And they were attempting to — they were trying to take us into the space to process us. But we refused, and then we went back to the truck to reclaim it. They had detectives there who told us we would receive a warrant or a receipt of some sort, which we never did. They came two hours later and towed the truck away, and I have not received any information about where the truck is. I haven’t been — never was shown a warrant, don’t believe they even managed to acquire one, and no receipt for the truck or any of its contents. I’ve been told it will be searched and inventoried, and I don’t know when or how — or be given it back or anything inside of it.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Have you tried to go to the police headquarters to find out what happened with the truck?

SCOTT KELLOGG:

Yeah, I went to the police headquarters, and they gave me the typical runaround. I went to the ACLU yesterday and have somebody there hopefully working on the case, but I’ll be here until we get it back.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, I want to thank you all for being with us and end with Bork yesterday, you coming out of the hospital with your shiner and your bruises, confronted delegates again, is that right?

BORK:

Absolutely. They’re not going to intimidate me. I intend to get my message across that the Republican Party has not been accountable to the people. They have spent $50 million on a party for themselves that could have been used to feed and house people. They advocate the death penalty. They’ve obviously lost their humanity. Just look at my face; you can tell.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well. On that note, I want to thank you very much. But also point out that you’re talking about a Democratic administration that the police are operating under here in Philadelphia.

BORK:

The Democrats and the Republicans are all one party.

AMY GOODMAN:

Will you be in Los Angeles?

BORK:

I’d like to be.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, we will be there, certainly, and we’ll be broadcasting live from the Independent Media Center there at Patriotic Hall, which is right near the Staples Center, where the Democrats will be nominating their presidential and vice-presidential candidates. I want to thank Brian Petruska of R2K Legal, Scott Kellogg, protester, and Bork.

Show Full Transcript ›
‹ Hide Full Transcript

Recent Shows More

Full News Hour

Stories


Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.