MARY KAY RICKS– On the evening of April 15, 1848, 77 slaves quietly slipped away from their quarters in Washington City, Georgetown and Alexandria. In a light rain, they walked through the unpaved and mostly unlit streets of Washington to the Pearl, a 54-ton, bay-craft schooner waiting in the Potomac River. The runaways had worked in homes, boardinghouses and hotels. Most were enslaved descendants of Africans brought to the Tidewater area on Liverpool slave ships to be sold to tobacco planters in Maryland and Virginia.
Two days before departure, three white men brought the Pearl to a secluded spot near the Seventh Street wharf. Daniel Drayton (shown to the left), who chartered the small schooner for $100, later wrote in his memoirs that he always believed in the nobility of the cause although he was paid for his services. Drayton was in charge of arranging for the “cargo.” Capt. Edward Sayres, owner of the Pearl, was in charge of the ship and its one-man crew, a young sailor and cook named Chester English.
To reach freedom, the Pearl would have to travel undetected more than 100 miles down the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, then another 120 miles up the bay, across the Delaware Canal and along the Delaware River to New Jersey, a free state.
Close to midnight, the Pearl embarked in a light fog and moved little more than half a mile before the wind died. With the ship unable to go forward, the terrified passengers knew that they could not turn back. At daybreak on Sunday, with the Pearl just past Alexandria, the wind picked up. The ship was uncomfortably close to homes in which families abandoned by the 77 slaves were waking, startled to find no fires, no breakfast and no servants. Capt. Sayres opened his sails to speed south toward Point Lookout near the mouth of the Potomac. As the ship began to make good time, the passengers sang religious songs and listened to the young people read from Scripture. The older slaves probably could not read.
Not long after the Pearl reached Point Lookout, a powerful northwesterly squall arose, cutting off access to the bay. Drayton argued fiercely to take the ship south into the nearby Atlantic, but Sayres refused, saying his small craft could not handle rough seas. Instead, Sayres dropped anchor in a small cove called Cornfield Harbor, and Drayton suggested that everyone sleep.
Back in Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria that morning — as church bells heralded services and fire bells rang an alarm at the slave escape — authorities assembled a posse that headed for the usual country roads. Runaways were hardly uncommon; newspaper ads featuring an icon of a black man with a pole over his shoulder were routine. However, the scope of this escape was beyond anyone’s imagination. According to Washingtonian Vincent DeForest of the National Park Service, it was the single largest known escape attempt by enslaved Americans.
Meanwhile, a pursuing posse encountered a cab driver named Judson Diggs, who traded in information and goods. He knew about the escape and directed pursuers toward the river. Constables and civilians jumped aboard the Salem, a steamboat owned by the prosperous Dodge family of Georgetown, who reportedly owned slaves on the Pearl. The Dodges owned the only tobacco warehouses that remain today at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue.
The Salem steamed south and almost abandoned pursuit before discovering the Pearl in Cornfield Harbor. Several of the unarmed slaves rose to fight the boarding party, but Drayton persuaded them to surrender. The crew members were taken from the ship and interrogated. English, the young mate and cook, wept in fear. He argued persuasively that he believed that the 77 runaways were on a pleasure cruise, perhaps a picnic. He was later released.
On Tuesday, the Pearl was towed back to Washington. When it passed the wharves at Alexandria, the slaves were displayed in chains to angry whites. More crowds awaited them in Washington.
[Pennsylvania Avenue doesn’t look the way it was planned to look. The older buildings between the Capitol and the White House were saved not because of politicians, planners, or the major media — all of whom wanted to level the historic street. Rather they were saved by the efforts of citizens such as architect (and DC Gazette cartoonist) John Wiebenson and those in Don’t Tear It Down. In 1970, the Gazette described the situation.]
There are worse things happening to the city than in the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan, but few of them involve affronts to so many varieties of good sense as does the scheme to create a monumental connecting link between Capitol Hill and the White House. The Pennsylvania Avenue Plan is an outage against the District’s poor, a hoax on scores of small businessmen, a raid on the city’s tax base, a blow against governmental economy and an aesthetic abortion. Any one of these should be enough to condemn the project; together they raise the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan to the level of great symbolism, an image reflecting the gargantuan folly of a nation that has turned its back on its intrinsic needs in order to build hollow, futile monuments to a decaying culture . . .
[The National Capitol Planning Commission has voted to approve the razing of the old Post Office building] with the exception of the clock tower, which shall be encased in some suitably inappropriate structure. Stand and gaze at the building for a few minutes and then look at what is around it. What other city in the world with pretensions of greatness would destroy such a building?
The Willard Hotel will have to go also. And that, perhaps, is even worse than the destruction of the Post Office building . . . Carl Sandburg once remarked that “the Willard Hotel more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department.” It is doomed by the presumptuous, pretentious architects of the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan . . . The Franklin School at 13th & K is scheduled to be sold by the District government . . . The magnificent old Evening Star Building at 11th & Penna. Ave. NW is scheduled to be torn down to make complete the plan. The National Bank of Washington, the Occidental Building and the National Theater are also marked for destruction. . . .
Since Pennsylvania is suppose to become a “monumental” boulevard, the plan is to make E Street a submerged expressway, drawing traffic off the avenue and carrying six lanes of traffic towards 14th St., where a crossing would occur in a tunnel under the proposed National Square, thus, perhaps, providing Washington with its first monumental underground traffic jam.
Walk up 14th Street and take look at the National Press Building. In testimony before the Senate on the Pennsylvania Ave. Plan there occurred this exchange between a Mr. Childs of the General Services Administration and Senator Bible:
CHILDS: [The National Press Building] was built prior to the advent and air-conditioning and the installation of air-conditioning.
BIBLE: Would you have to tear it down to modernize it, to bring air-conditioning in, to bring it into the 20th century?
CHILDS: It is usually more economical to do it.
BIBLE: Tear it down. Okay.
. . . These are dismal times, a period of our history that we shall hopefully pass safely through. There may not be much that we can do to hasten the process, but we can at least do ourselves and our country the simple favor of not memorializing our contemporary idiocies in marble and concrete along Pennsylvania Avenue.
THE PENSION FUND RIP-OFF
1998: While major local media shrug it off, Clinton’s raid on the DC pension fund attracted the attention of the major Wall Street newspaper, Investor’s Business Daily. IBD notes that the pension fund was raided so Clinton could come up with $1.1 billion for his teacher-hiring plan. That way he didn’t have to offset the new spending with cuts elsewhere.
IBD gives this summary:
— The fund contained $4.2 billion in assets, but its unfunded liabilities topped $4.8 billion. The problems started in 1980, when Washington was given home rule.
— President Carter deferred refunding the pension plan’s $2.06 billion unfunded liability until his second term, which never came.
— Congress never made good on Carter’s IOU, leaving the plan permanently underfunded.
— If the $2.06 billion had remained in the fund and been invested in the stock market, it would have grown to $5.5 billion, assuming a six percent rate of return — more than covering the current unfunded liability.
— Despite being hobbled, the district board ran the plan well enough that if it had been fully funded in 1980, the plan would now be overfunded by at least $1.35 billion.
Concludes IBD, “Thus, critics charge, the president and Congress did in one fell swoop what city officials couldn’t do in 17 years: turn the pension system into a financial wreck. And while borrowing from the fund may help the White House with its short-term spending plans, it could harm thousands of teachers and cost taxpayers as much as $25 billion because of the fund’s lost potential earnings.”
YVONNE SHINHOSTER LAMB, WASHINGTON POST – Norval E. Perkins, a jazz aficionado whose earlier career in the D.C. government sounded several chaotic notes when he was chief officer of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, died July 21  of cancer at his home in Washington. He was 84. Mr. Perkins had a career as a geodetic researcher with the U.S. Army Map Service and was a jazz columnist before overseeing the District’s elections process from 1970 to 1976. . . He helped develop the first mail-in registration for the District. During his tenure, however, it seemed the city’s elections were constantly mired in problems. One year, it took 12 days to count ballots; another year, ballots toppled off trucks; in other years, computers went missing. In 1976, elections board members decided to reorganize and eliminate Mr. Perkins’s job rather than fire him. He appealed to the U.S. Civil Service Commission and was reinstated with back pay. . . Mr. Perkins was born in Chicago and grew up in Philadelphia with an early love of music. As a young boy, he collected jazz and classical music albums. He would sometimes sneak out of the house to frequent clubs with his stepsister, Carmen McRae, who became a well-known jazz singer.
SAM SMITH, MULTITUDES – My career as an ANC commissioner got off to a rocky start. It was reported in the Washington Post that I had won my race for advisory neighborhood commisioner by 179 to 112, for a total of 291 votes, the highest turnout in the city. In fact, I won by 168 to 37, meaning a total turnout of 205, one of the highest but not the highest. And I almost won by only 103 to 100.
On election night, after spending most of the day at the polls, I decided to go down to the Sheraton Park Hotel and watch the count. Kathy said to me, “Don’t you think you’re taking this a little too seriously?” But she was holding a Sunday school teachers’ meeting and I figured that if she was going to be tied up with the spiritual, I could attend to the temporal a while longer.
So I drove down to the Sheraton Park, took a couple of escalators to the catacombs where the count was underway and chatted distractedly with some of the other candidates who were also waiting for word of victory or defeat. Finally the sheet with the morning results for my district — familiarly known in those parts as 3CO7 — turned up. My opponent had slaughtered me 75 to 11 in the morning count.
Since I had counted some 35 people coming to the polls before two PM whom I had personally encouraged to vote, I was apparently on the way to one of the most humiliating defeats imaginable. At least two dozen people had smiled pleasantly at me, murmured encouragement and then gone in and voted for my opponent. I had — with flyers, coffees and telephone calls — organized the neighborhood against me. My opponent had barely campaigned. Harold Stassen never had it so bad.
I found Norval Perkins, the affable head of the Board of Elections. and tried to explain why a candidate with only 13% of the vote wanted a recount. He was noncommittal but added my district to his growing list of requested recounts.
Meanwhile I found the table where the evening ballots were being counted. Something was wrong. I had won the evening count 93 to 26. I checked each ballot. It was true.
I found Norval again. He tried to soothe me: “Maybe, Sam, you just have more evening friends than morning friends.”
Gordon Peterson has 37 years of experience covering news in the nation’s capital..He is a news anchor, reporter, writer, and producer whose documentary work has taken him to Northern Ireland, Israel, South Africa, Nicaragua, El Salvador, France, Rome, Cambodia, and Kuwait. He has several Emmy Awards for writing and producing documentaries and series. He is currently an anchor for Channel 7
“Doc” Eisenberg was a pharmacist. He bought Pearson’s Pharmacy from “old man” Paul Pearson on December 3, 1933, the same day he married Sarah. Doc told his new wife that they were going to Wisconsin for their honeymoon. They did . . . to Wisconsin Avenue. . .
Prohibition had just ended and he wanted to sell liquor in the pharmacy. To get a liquor license he had to borrow $50.00 from his friend, liquor dealer Milton Kronheim, another man who was also to become an institution in the Washington DC liquor business.
Doc was a unique liquor dealer. The Times Herald and the Evening Star. A full page ad asked “IS THIS MY CITY?” which editorialized about crime in Washington after an employee was mugged. “OLD AGE” featured a full page picture of his mother crocheting an afghan “THE FUTURE” pondered the cost of living and taxes in the year 2000 . . . not one of these social issue ads included a single liquor brand or a single price . . . just a signature at the bottom . . . Plain Old Pearson’s.
Doc loved the excitement he created. Everyone in Washington waited for Plain Old Pearson’s “One Hour One Cent Sales” and they lined up on Wisconsin and around Calvert Street to get a quart of Old Crow for a penny. One of Doc’s greatest coups was a feature in Time Magazine that reported on Pearson’s New York Stock Exchange Liquor Board which posted EVERY price of EVERY liquor brand in EVERY major store in the city.
And one of his greatest accomplishments involved a legal battle with Schenley Industries, a liquor titan at the time, which refused to sell Dubonnet to him because he sold it at a discount. Doc became one of the first clients of the law firm, Arnold and Porter (when it was Arnold, Porter and Fortas), which took the case and won . . . the beginning of the end of “so called” fair trade pricing.
What it Means
Any scout car, scooter, motorcycle, paddy wagon or footman available to take radio assignments, which are also known as “radio runs” or “runs”.
A request by a patrol officer to be held out-of-service, i.e., “Scout 66, Dispatcher, hold me out at 300 Indiana Avenue for a 10-7 Edward.) This means the officer wants to have lunch at that location, as the E-Edward means “eat,” ergo, out-of-service to eat. Or “Scout 66, Dispatcher, hold me out at 300 Indiana Avenue for a 10-7 R-Robert.” This means the patrol officer has to use the rest-room.
“Any Unit About Clear”
If all units are out-of-service on assignments, the dispatcher will ask this question to determine if a unit or units are finished with an assignment so they can take another assignment.
“No Report, 10-8”
“10-8” is the code for “back-in-service” (as in “Clear” of an assignment and ready to take another one.) “No Report” means that the situation that the unit handled does not require that a report be taken.
Designates a one-man unit.
Designates a two-man unit.
“On the Scene”
Assigned Units are required to inform the dispatcher when they arrive on the scene. The dispatcher then encodes this information into the computer system and starts the time check clock for that particular unit.
When an officer is given an assignment, he/she has 30 minutes to handle that assignment. The dispatcher’s computer times each assignment. If the officer does not return to service in that time, the dispatcher will ask the officer if he/she needs a “time check.” This will allow the officer an additional 30 minutes. Depending on the assignment, this can be done for several hours.
“Both Units are Held”
As in “Both Units are held out-of-service.”
“KLG 610 Testing to Scout 67”
FCC requires that each dispatcher give this test to an out-of-service unit every hour on the hour. Each radio zone has its own coding, i.e., KLG 611, KLG 612, etc. The police unit which is the recipient of this “test” responds by saying: “Scout 67 10-99 (or 10-4) to KLG 610 (etc.), Dispatcher.”
As in, “I copy (understand) your transmission.
This means that an officer is in trouble and needs immediate back-up at his location. The officer gives his location, followed by “10-33”.
This is the code for a traffic accident. If it is with injuries, it is a 10-50 I-IDA.
This is the code for a bomb-threat.
The Capital Underworld, 1932 – “Compared with New York and Chicago, Washington is not a wicked city. It experiences brief flashes of gang warfare which the local press tries to play up as important. It revels in the murder mysteries of Mary Baker, Navy Department clerk, and of Virginia McPherson, daughter-in-law of the assistant to the Secretary of War. It is baffled by the robbery of the Salvadorian Legation, accomplished as a larger consignment of Scotch whisky had arrived and was piled up in the rear garden. And it is horrified at the nocturnal operations of more than a hundred Negro degenerates who swooped down regularly upon the encamped Bonus Army as soon as it became dark. Compared with the big-time racketeering of New York and Chicago all of this probably is puerile and petty, but it plays an important and influential part in the life of the nation’s capital. Furthermore, Washington’s underworld has two or three distinctions of which in a modest sort of way it can really boast. One of these is the ease of securing immunity. The capital may witness few crimes, but in few cases is the culprit ever brought to justice. Another distinction is the complete and unrestrained freedom of the neighboring counties of Maryland, where an amazing White Slave traffic, operating through a chain of tea houses, furnishes recreation to capital residents. Finally, Washington probably boasts more small, independent bootleggers per capita than any other city in the country and has established a unique and universal system of liquor distribution. . . . Police occasionally interrupt these too-obvious law-breakers, but the great rank and file of bootleggers and petty criminals who ply their trade in the nation’s capital enjoy an immunity almost unsurpassed even in New York and Chicago. This is due to three factors. The first is the influence of Henry Mencken’s Free State of Maryland, which surrounds the District of Columbia on three sides. The second is the natural laziness of the capital police. The third is the prestige and pull exercised by so large a number of those enjoying official status, a factor which makes convictions difficult and disrupts police morale.”
Izzy Einstein, the famous prohibition agent, keeps a record of how long it takes to get a drink in various cities. DC comes out badly. Not only does it take an hour (as opposed to 11 minutes in Pittsburgh and 17 in Atlanta) but he has to ask directions from a cop.
Emmitt “Little Man” Warring and his brothers Leo Paul and Charles “Rags” run the numbers in the late 1930s. According to a Washington Post article by Nancy Lewis [3/1/87], “Emmitt, the ninth of 10 children born to a Foggy Bottom barrel maker and his Irish immigrant wife, was the leader of the brothers’ numbers business. Before then, in Prohibition, Warring had run the Washington area’s version of “Thunder Road,” bringing rye and corn whiskey from Prince George’s County and southern Maryland stills to the city’s “liquor drops,” using Georgetown teen-agers who drove “high-powered touring cars” for $50 to $100 a trip. The Warrings’ shift from illegal booze to illegal numbers — which they preferred to call the “commission brokerage business” — was soon bringing in $2 million a year, and Emmitt’s “Little Man” moniker described only his 5-foot 4 1/2 inch stature . . . The brothers operated out of a third-floor room at 2423 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, but their domain was all of Georgetown and Foggy Bottom, and by 1936 they had at least 56 employees – the number listed on their income tax returns.” The brothers are indicted on tax evasion charges in 1938, but the trial ends in a hung jury. The second trial ends in a mistrial after the judge reports that Emmitt Warring has offered a juror $600 and given whiskey to a US Marshal to pass to the jury. The third trial ends after two months, when all three brothers pleaded guilty. The business keeps on and is earning at least $7.5 million a year by the late 1940s.
Progressive Review – There was a club on the edge of town owned by Jimmy LaFontaine. It was a club with standards, as Gaillard Hunt described in a Prohibition era novel:
Couldn’t sit here all night, tho. Have to do something, Do the usual thing — the best thing. Whatever happens eleven and ten is still twenty-one and aces still beat kings.
He slipped the bottle into his coat pocket and stood out in the street. Far down the street a taxi was coming. It slowed down as it got closer, then stopped. He got in and said, “Jimmy Lafontaine’s.”
About the time the taxi turned into Bladensburg road the whisky began to hit him. It made him less mad and the knot in his belly began to loosen, By the time they got to the place he was feeling almost good.
The doorman looked at him sharply, then shook his head. Peter tried to argue with him, but he only said, “You know the house rules. No one been drinking can get in.” He whistled to the taxi which was loitering in the drive and shut the door.
Peter got back in the taxi and. said, “Son of a. bitch. That guy’s idea of a drunk is same as Volstead’s. Let’s go back to town.”
The doorman was as famous as LaFontaine, as Shirley Povich described in a 1989 Washington Post article:
In the 1920s and ’30s there were also in Washington indoor sports such as dice-throwing, poker games, blackjack and track odds on the races everywhere. One temple of chance, located in Bladensburg, just across the District line, was known as “Jimmy’s;” it was impeccably conducted by the legendary Jimmy LaFontaine, who stood for no nonsense by anybody and was proud of a clientele that included many stylish Washington names.
At Jimmy’s a huge fellow named Josh Licarione frisked everybody at the door to help keep the peace. Licarione, it seems, had played football for a time at George Washington University. The story goes that after an especially heroic victory at Griffith Stadium, the president of GW was overjoyed enough to visit the team in the locker room and not only praised the gladiators but continued told them, “Any of you boys who are in the vicinity of my office, come in and pass the time of day with me.” That was when Licarione said, “By the way, where is that school of yours?”
Povich was wrong about one thing: the club wasn’t over the city line; it was on it. We had sometimes heard that one advantage of this was that if, for example, a raid were pending from the Maryland side, LaFontaine would simply lock the Maryland gates, giving his customers time to evacuate through the DC entrance. But Tom Kelly, who covered the beat, tells us it wasn’t as complicated: if there were reports of illegal activities, the called police department would simply say (with at least 50% certainty) that it wasn’t in their jurisdiction.
A Washingtonian who grew up in Brookland remembers hearing about the club and its ten to twelve foot wooden walls. He says a relative who once won a lot of money at the club was driven home by Fontaine’s security people to make sure he made it safely.
Adam Bernstein Washington Post – Starting in 1958, [Robert] Prosky began an affiliation with Washington’s Arena Stage that transformed him over 23 seasons and 130 roles from a struggling actor to one of the most versatile and prolific performers in a top regional theater.
He jokingly attributed his success to his paunch and prematurely gray hair, telling The Washington Post, “This hair and this gut are the two reasons I got started as an actor. I could play men 50 when I was 30, maybe 25. I could always play the funny fat man.”
He also excelled in drama and at one point called on memories of his father, a Philadelphia butcher with a seventh-grade education, for his interpretation of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”. . .
He once told The Post he turned down the role of a bartender on “Cheers” and was grateful not to have been a part of the hit comedy because “doing the same role for 6 1/2 years” sent a chill down his spine. . .
Looking back on his career, Mr. Prosky told The Post: “Survival is of utmost importance for an actor in this society. I remember doing a commercial with Arena actors Terrence Currier and Mark Hammer. We played bugs in tights and leotards, with wings pinned on our backs and a sequined number on our fronts. We were the price of the television set and we did a tap dance. When my eldest son saw it, he said, ‘Dad, do we need the money that badly?’. . . “At the time, I recall, I was performing Willy Loman in the evenings.”
In 1863 General Meade replaced General Hooker three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Meade will only have a fort named after him, while Hooker lends his name to a whole synonym. The following is from a report by the Smithsonian Institution on archeological work done near the site of the National Museum of the American Indian:
“With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the sleepy town of Washington was dramatically transformed as its population swelled with newcomers. The new arrivals included many men who had signed up to fight for the Union. Throughout the war, thousands of soldiers were encamped throughout the city, either awaiting orders to fight, manning forts to protect the Union capital from Rebel attack, or languishing from disease or wounds in hospitals throughout the city. Along with the soldiers came government bureaucrats, freed and escaped slaves, businessmen, salesmen, and con men, as well as the camp followers and prostitutes who sought to profit from the increased demand for their services. The Army’s provost marshal, who kept a list of the city’s bawdy houses during the war ostensibly to keep them under surveillance, concluded that there were 450 registered houses in Washington in 1862. While some prostitutes worked in brothels, the majority probably plied their trade as streetwalkers. By 1863, the Evening Star newspaper estimated that Washington had about 5,000 prostitutes . . . When the war came to a close, Washington remained overcrowded, and its roads, parks, and the canal were in shambles as a result of four years of overuse and neglect. The area between Pennsylvania Avenue and the Mall, which is presently occupied by the Federal Triangle complex, had become an infamous crime-ridden neighborhood rife with the stench of the nearby canal, which had become little more than an open sewer. Known for its rampant prostitution, the area was widely referred to as Hooker’s Division, a wry double entendre. Indeed many of its occupants were “hookers,” a term for prostitutes used since the early nineteenth century. Furthermore, the region was reported to have been visited frequently by the troops in Union General Joseph Hooker’s division, which was encamped nearby.” MORE
PROTESTERS’ GUIDE TO THE NATION’S CAPITOL
Where your laws are made — and broken
Spare a moment from the grim phalanxes of local cops to notice something important about Washington in April: it is quite beautiful. This month and the one that follows are, in fact, those in which the natural and the made city are most at odds with one another. Spare a moment also for a walk by the Potomac River or in Rock Creek Park. It will remind you of what a world without phalanxes of international bankers and local cops might be like.
Spare a moment from macro politics to observe an oft-ignored fact. The oppressed lands are not only on other continents, but under your feet. DC is a colony in the precise meaning of the term, all the more so because so few seem to notice. It is especially nice, albeit rare, when those who come here to cure the sins of the world include our menial status among them.
This town is filled with pompous and silly people who believe being somber is the same as being serious. Not taking them as seriously as they take themselves throws them, as they would say, off their game. People who attend World Bank and IMF conferences are even sillier, because they sit in limousine-created traffic jams for forty minutes in order to travel a distance they could have walked in twenty. In fact, in recent years DC has been disrupted been far more by IMF limousines than by any other form of demonstration. No one in the limousines has ever been arrested for disrupting traffic.
Otherwise, DC has handled demonstrations pretty well with the glaring exception of a May Day protest in the early 1970s when 12,000 people were locked up in what was the greatest abuse of police power in a single day in American history. Mayor Walter Washington refused federal demands that he shoot looters during the 1968 riots and Marion Barry’s administration had few gripes with many of the demonstrations and the official response reflected that. Barry also had an emergency management team that kept its cool and helped the feds keep theirs. Now it’s different. The federal government has resumed control of the city and the mayor and city council are little more than colonial aparatchiks with about as much power over city’s direction as an Amtrak engineer has over the direction a train. Further, not the mayor, not the police chief, nor the emergency planning director has ever faced a major protest demonstration in this city. And, despite incessant talk about good management, competence is in short supply these days. During the Barry years, things the mayor wanted to get done got done right; those he didn’t care about didn’t. These days what the mayor wants doesn’t seem to matter all that much.
Not everyone who acts like a young Republican is one. A lot of them are young Democrats. A lot of the others are young journalists.
Don’t expect the oppressed peoples of DC to rise up in the name of global justice. The last time any sizable number of locals took part in a demonstration was in the 1960s — over a rise in the bus fare. This town filled with people — black and white — who have done better than their friends and relatives back home, have spent a lifetime gaining some respect and aren’t about to risk it for something as nebulous as global justice.
Older Washingtonians also remember the 1968 riots, which isn’t that hard to do since there are still plenty of scars. Trashing property in DC can bring back some bad memories.
This is a 60% black city undergoing socio-economic cleansing. One suburban county has so many black former DC residents that it is known here as Ward 9. But it’s no joke. Here are just a few of things that have happened since the federal government took over in the mid-nineties: huge budget cuts of which 60% of the burden fell on the poor; closing of four of the city’s ten health clinics; slashing the number of public health workers; cutting the budget for libraries, city funded day care centers, welfare benefits, and homeless shelters; creation of a tax-subsidized private “charter” school system; dismantling the city’s public university including a massive cut in faculty, destruction of the athletic program and elimination of normal university services; selling the city’s public radio station to C-SPAN; transferring prisoners to private gulags hundreds of miles away; a presidential rip-off of the city’s pension funds to help balance the federal budget; loss of a regular federal payment for the first time in a century; a dramatic increase in the number of lock-ups including for traffic stops; and the subjugating of the elected school board to an appointed board of trustees.
This is a black city whose roots go back many generations; ten percent of its black population was free even in the early 19th century. During the early years of this century, DC was the intellectual and cultural hub of black America, including influential Howard University; the city was what the Harlem renaissance was before there was Harlem. You can get a feel for this story by visiting the U Street strip of bars and restaurants, once Washington’s “black Broadway,” and now (along with omni-ethnic Adams Morgan) a favored evening destination.
This is a bi-racial city — actually the first city of the new south although it never got the credit — which has handled its ethnic problems better than many places. Part of the reason is that it is too small a city to deal for long with abstractions like race and class. Within five minutes the discussion gets down to personalities. We all know the SOBs and that they come in all colors.
There is a progressive media in Washington but if you hold more than two events at the same time they may not all be covered. If we were spotted owls instead of progressive journalists you wouldn’t be allowed to build within ten miles of our favorite bars.
There is a mainstream media in Washington but if you hold even one event it probably won’t show up because it has already written the story, and you’re not in it. The only investigative reporting in town is done by actors in bad TV shows. When mainstream reporters say that they “cover” a beat, they really mean it.
The publisher of the Washington Post, Donald Graham, is pround that he was once a DC cop. Which may why his paper sometimes reads like an FOP newsletter when discussing the police. It spends much of the rest of the time quoting the aforementioned pompous and silly people or having its own writers say things these people will like, such as words like “gravitas” and “appropriate.”
DC is a good place for blacks, women, and gays but a terrible place for progressive ideas. Which illustrates the limits of identity politics.
The city does have a progressive tradition but it is being socio-economically cleansed along with everything else. It lives on in such places as the newly merged DC Statehood and DC Green parties as well as in the young and black Umoja Party (which got ballot status the first it tried). The bi-racial DC Statehood Party held public office for much of its 30 years and back in the early 1970s not only supported statehood but neighborhood housing banks, public ownership of key commercial strips, proportional representation, low-rent facilities in new for small businesses, stalls for artisans, craftsmen and other small operators, the construction of public markets, a national guaranteed income, ownership of liquor stores by neighborhood cooperatives, legalization of gambling, prostitution, marijuana use and drug addiction; free abortions on demand; cooperative control of cable television; youth representation on legislative and other governing councils; creation of an equal service commission to ensure equal distribution of public services; neighborhood participation in the selection of police officials; and an ecological commission with the power to halt or alter projects and practices detrimental to the environment. This was during a time when some folks also tried to grow trout in Adams-Morgan basements. During a brownout, however, all the trout died.
As for weather, the advice of Mark Twain remains the best, “When you arrived it was snowing. When you reached the hotel it was sleeting. When you went to bed it was raining. During the night it froze hard, and the wind blew some chimneys down. When you got up in the morning it was foggy. When you finished your breakfast at ten o’clock and went out, the sunshine was brilliant, the weather balmy and delicious, and the mud and slush deep and all pervading. You will like the climate — when you get used to it. . . . Take an umbrella, an overcoat, and a fan, and so forth.”
Finally, two things to remember. The first is from the late blues singer Leadbelly, “It’s a bourgeois town.” The second is from the late blues DJ, ‘Bama Washington: “Ninety percent of the people in DC spend ninety percent of their time bragging about how great they are, but they can’t brag and move at the same time, so while they’re standing there talking, you just slip on by.” — April, 2000
Exercising Your Rights Of Political Protest In Washington, DC
Prepared by the Washington, DC Chapter
of the National Lawyers Guild
for the 2000 World Bank/IMF Demonstrations
The Washington, DC Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has prepared this document to give general legal information to people seeking to press progressive political issues in Washington, DC. The information is intended to assist people who have already independently decided to engage in civil disobedience.
WORKING DRAFT as of 3/31/00 — subject to later changes and additions.
Washington, DC has a long and full history of political protest. Police and other authorities here are probably more accustomed to demonstrations than in any other city. Still, overreactions are not unknown. We have had a great deal of success in securing permits for demonstrators who want a legal event and in negotiating with police and prosecutors in a reasonable way when demonstrators decide to engage in civil disobedience. The police often try to intimidate protestors into not exercising their First Amendment rights, and arrests are sometimes rougher than necessary.
These materials are offered as a way of disseminating information to anyone considering a demonstration in Washington, DC. They are prepared in preparation for the IMF and World Bank meeting in April, 2000, but we have tried to provide a range of materials that will be useful for most any protest. We try to mention political concerns and choices as they arise, but please keep in mind that often there is a big difference between politics and law. We try to help you understand the legal process to some degree so you can make informed choices, but the most important thing is for you to think through everything ahead of time and decide what you want to do in any given situation before it happens.
2. Important disclaimer — do not skim!
The following overview is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it intended to substitute for personal legal advice. Each person contemplating exercising his/her political rights in a public forum needs to understand that he/she may have special legal problems. For instance, someone who is on probation or parole for some other offense (perhaps, but not necessarily, political) may have particular legal problems that cannot be covered in this hand-out. Additionally, people who are not U.S. citizens may encounter special legal problems; we do have a section that discusses this topic, but it is by no means exhaustive. Similarly, if there are warrants out for your arrest, you need to be very careful about your contacts with the police — an arrest here will likely lead to your extradition to whatever jurisdiction wants you. Finally, juveniles under the age of eighteen are dealt with differently than adults. The advice in this manual is geared towards adults.
If you need personal legal advice, you should consult with a lawyer on an individual basis. If you have any doubts about whether you have special circumstances, seek legal assistance.
Additionally, there is a difference between what you are legally entitled to do in a theoretical sense, and what the police on a particular occasion are going to let you do. The police act under the orders of their commanders, who in turn get their orders from others higher up in the government. Accordingly, whether or not a particular police action violates your constitutional rights in an abstract sense (e.g. an order to clear the area), the order may be enforced because someone in control (e.g. a Secret Service officer for the President) orders it.
In such circumstances, remember that the police carry automatic weapons, clubs, tear gas, pepper spray, and other lethal weapons. They are trained in crowd control, are often in good physical shape, may have beat people up in the past, and regularly arrest people and book them into the jail. Personal safety is therefore paramount. Think about it before you insist on vindicating your rights.
3. Special considerations for non-citizens
All applicants for admission to the United States have to satisfy the immigration officer who inspects them at the border to see that they are admissible to the United States “beyond a doubt.” This requires satisfying both the documentary and substantive requirements. Except for Canadians, most people need a passport and a visa. It is generally permissible to travel to the U.S. as a “visitor for pleasure,” for “legitimate activities of a recreational character, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment and activities of a fraternal, social or service nature.” Employment is not permitted even where the only remuneration is room, board and pocket change.
All applicants for admission, including those with visas, can be interrogated at the border about their admissibility. A friendly attitude will improve your chances for admission. The most common reason for refusal is vagueness about the purpose and duration of your itinerary, or a lack of firm ties to your home country (like residence, job, family, property) that would convince the officer you will return home within the time allowed.
Confessions of prior illegal activity, like drug use, or past criminal record will also lead to refusal of admission, as would announcing plans to violate the law in the U.S. Even evidence that raises a suspicion in the mind of the officer may be enough, as the burden of proof is on the applicant. Thus a van full of picket signs, banners, and leaflets will likely lead to refusal of admission — perhaps without a legal basis, but a remedy might come too late to accomplish the visitors’ purpose to participate in legal expressions of opinion at a specific event in the U.S. In this regard, it is important not to lie to an immigration officer about your purposes in the United States. Lying to gain admission to the U.S. may lead to very serious sanctions.
The Supreme Court has recently held that the government may target non-citizens because of their lawful First Amendment activities. A conviction in the United States for protest activities can have serious consequences for non-citizens, including deportation or exclusion the next time the person wants to enter the United States. It can also harm your chances of obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident status or citizenship. In short, we believe that all activists need to recognize that the US government is very hostile to non-citizens, who are particularly vulnerable and should be extremely cautious.
If you have further questions or specific concerns in regards to immigration, you should speak with an immigration lawyer. There is also a great deal of information compiled by the National Immigration Law Center, http://www.nilc.org, and especially http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/removcrim /removcrimindex.htm
People under the age of 18 years are treated differently than adults. Those who are obviously under the age of 18 are usually separated from the adults upon arrest. Juveniles are often released at the arrest site or processing facility. Police may be gentler with juveniles but there are no guarantees.
If the youth is not going to be picked up by a parent or legal guardian, he or she may be able to use a permission slip stating that he or she is not a runaway, that he or she has parental permission to be at the demonstration and providing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of one or two people who can pick up the youth. Obviously, this will take some advance planning and is not a legally binding guarantee of the youth’s release. The officer may still require a legal guardian to be present. Make sure that a parent or guardian may be reached by telephone for contact by the officer or the legal support person.
Juveniles who are charged with crimes usually (with the exception of serious offenses) are charged in juvenile court. Juvenile court differs from adult court because juveniles do not have the right to a jury trial. In many (but not all) cases, the sentences are not as severe as in adult court. All juveniles have the right to a lawyer just as any adult has that right.
5. DC Is Different
For some reason, many activists coming to Washington for the first time have heard about the many different police forces we have here and are concerned about that factor. There is no reason to be. You will see a broader variety of uniforms here than in other cities, but that¹s about all there is to it. Here is what to expect.
The Metropolitan Police Department is the primary city police force, responsible for the public streets and non-federal buildings. Most of the parks, monuments, and the grounds surrounding some federal buildings are protected by the United States Park Police. Federal Protective Services, through the General Services Administration, protects federal buildings for agencies that do not have their own police forces, although many do. A Washington protestor is likely to encounter Metro Police, US Park Police, US Capitol Police, Uniformed Secret Service, Defense Protective Services, and the FBI. There are many more, too numerous to list. Although they all have defined jurisdictions, during a protest the lines will blur. Officers can and will make arrests even outside their primary area of responsibility. Processing can be done at any number of local or federal facilities. Charges are usually possible under the DC Code or under federal laws. Trials for charges under the DC Code and even for many minor federal charges are conducted in the DC courts, although serious federal crimes can be tried in the US District Court. In other words, it is entirely possible to be arrested by a Park Police officer, taken to a Metro district to be processed, charged with a federal crime, and tried in the DC courts.
Strange as this may seem at first, it really is nothing to be concerned about. Attorneys and legal observers trained by the National Lawyers Guild and the National Conference of Black Lawyers will be on site, documenting what jurisdictions are making the arrests and trying to find out where protestors are being taken. Additionally, the designated support person in your affinity group should make contact with the legal team after the others are arrested. And you should have an outside support telephone number written on your arm so you can let someone know where you are. With an action the size of A16, we can expect lots of jurisdictions and processing facilities to be involved. The bottom line is that arrests will be conducted by people with the physical ability to do so, regardless of jurisdictional niceities, and prosecutors will decide how to charge you. We will work with whatever specifics work themselves out in the end.
6. A Few Common Charges Resulting From Protest Activities
The promise of capitalism is choice, and the police and prosecutors have the resources to select from a vast menu of criminal charges. The same action often can result in very mild or severe charges, at the discretion of the prosecutor. We cannot know in advance what route they will take. However, here are some of the most common charges arising from protest activities that we expect to see again. Remember that the fines and jail time listed are the maximum possible penalty for each offense. The judge has the discretion to give any sentence up to the maximum — and we can never predict what each judge will do.
A. DC Charges
Incommoding. This is blocking vehicle or pedestrian traffic on the streets, sidewalks, and other walkways. This is by far the most common charge we see when protestors sit down in the street. Sidewalks are trickier because you generally have a right to engage in free speech activities on the public sidewalks; but if you so clog them that no one else can use the sidewalks, you might be charged with incommoding. Maximum penalty is a $250 fine and/or 90 days in jail. DC Code § 22-1107. The charge of disorderly conduct is essentially the same. DC Code § 22-1121.
Failure to obey a Police Officer. Often called “failure to disperse,” this charge is possible when the police decide to close a street or clear a path and you refuse to move. The order they give you must be “lawful,” which means that if the police issue an unconstitutional order, there is no offense in ignoring it. But police authority is very broad and we won¹t know if the order was unconstitutional until trial. If the order turns out to have been lawful and you failed to obey it, you can be fined $100-$1,000. DC Muni. Reg. §§ 18-2000.2 & 2000.10.
Unlawful entry on property (trespassing). Remaining on private property after being told to leave is punishable by a fine up to $100 and/or up to 6 months in jail. For government buildings and the surrounding land, there must be some reason that you have been asked to leave, such as to prevent disruption or to maintain security. DC Code § 22-3102.
Resisting or interfering with a police officer is a violation of the same law as assault on a police officer (below). You may not stand in the path of an officer (especially if they are trying to make an arrest) or pull away from them or help another person to pull away from an officer trying to make an arrest. In addition to violating this law (which is quite serious in itself — up to 5 years), you may be charged with aiding and abetting (below). Resisting arrest is unlawful even if the officer has no rightful basis for arresting you.
Failure to appear. If you have ever been arrested before and did not come to court when instructed to do so, there is a possibility that a warrant will have been issued for your arrest for “failure to appear.” Outstanding warrants of this kind from other parts of the country may or may not show up during processing, depending on how thoroughly the jurisdiction where you were arrested has sought the assistance of other jurisdictions. It is best, and probably likeliest, to assume that the authorities here will know if you skipped a court date anywhere else in the country. Failure to appear for a DC court date is a separate offense, so beyond the penalties for whatever you were first arrested for, you can be fined up to the maximum for that offense, and/or an additional 180 days in jail. DC Code § 22-1110(3)-(4).
False statement. This can come up with forms you are asked to complete before being released. If you put something untrue on a form that says making a false statement is punishable by criminal penalties, you can be fined $1,000 and/or be sentenced to 180 days in jail. DC Code § 22-2514.
The following charges are inconsistent with compliance with the Nonviolence Code of Conduct that everyone involved in the A16 action has agreed to follow. We therefore do not expect to see these, but mention them in case of overcharging by the police.
All participants in this particular action are asked to agree to these action guidelines. Having this basic agreement allows people from many backgrounds, movements, and beliefs to work together. They are not philosophical or political requirements or judgments about the validity of some tactics over others. These guidelines are basic agreements that create a basis for trust so that we can work together for this action and know what to expect from each other. 1) We will use no violence, physical or verbal, towards any person 2) We will carry no weapons 3) We will not bring or use any alcohol or illegal drugs 4) We will not destroy property
Assault on a Police Officer. Any unwanted touching of a police officer is an assault. Touching anything they are holding (nightstick, bullhorn, etc.) is the same as touching the officer. Same for throwing anything at an officer, even if you only accidentally hit them. This is a serious offense, a felony, with a possible $5,000 fine and/or 5 years in prison. DC Code § 22-505.
Destruction of property. Less than $250 in damage is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail. More than $250 in damage is a felony, with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison. DC Code § 22-403. Even if there is no “destruction,” there is a separate crime of defacing public or private property. DC Code § 22-3112.1.
Also, you should know that these charges exist, although it would be very unusual to see them brought against protestors:
Kidnapping. It is possible to be convicted of kidnapping for confining someone against their will, even without transporting them anywhere. Be very careful about blocking all the exits of hotels and offices. It is an extremely serious offense — you can be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Aiding and Abetting. We have not seen this charge used much, but it is possible that if you help someone commit a crime, you can be charged even if you do not take any actions personally. If you assist them before the crime is committed, you can be charged with the same offense. DC Code § 22-105. If you assist the person after they have committed the crime, you can receive a penalty up to half of the maximum they are subject to. DC Code § 22-106.
Conspiracy. Similar to aiding and abetting, when two or more people work together to do something illegal, they can both be charged with the additional offense of conspiracy. Maximum punishment is a $10,000 fine and/or 5 years in prison. DC Code § 22-105a.
Unlawful assembly; profane and indecent language. Most jurisdictions have laws like this on the books. As applied to political protest and speech, they are generally unconstitutional and unenforceable. Only individuals in the crowd who become violent or threatening can be convicted under this law. Maximum punishment is $250 fine or 90 days in jail. DC Code § 22-1107.
Obstruction of justice. Interfering with a police officer is illegal. Please see resisting or interfering with a police officer above, as the conduct described there is a serious crime. However, bad television has confused some people as to what “obstruction of justice” means. It is not illegal to tell someone being arrested to keep quiet, to ask for a lawyer, etc. It only becomes obstruction of justice if you threaten a witness, intending to intimidate them into refusing to testify truthfully, or if you destroy evidence. DC Code § 22-722(a) & 723. You never have to talk to the police. Sometimes a prosecutor might be able to subpoena you, but then you will have an official document ordering you to answer questions, and you will have time to get legal assistance before doing so. Absent an arrest, you do not even have to identify yourself to the police.
B. Possible federal charges
Finally, there are various federal laws that might come into play in a city like Washington. Demonstrations in most parks in this city are regulated by 36 C.F.R. § 7.96(g), which specifies when permits are required and what types of activity are prohibited. Violating any of those rules is punishable by fines and up to six months in jail, under 36 C.F.R. § 1.3.
Destruction of federal property is a serious crime. If you do anything less than $1,000 in damage it is punishable by a fine and/or up to 1 year in prison; more serious damage can lead to up to 10 years in prison.
Assault on a foreign official (maximum 3 years for simple assault and up to 10 years if a weapon is used; 18 U.S.C. § 112(a)) and intimidation or harassment of a foreign official (up to 6 months in jail; 18 U.S.C. § 112(b)) protect the person, accommodation, and car of any “official guest.”
Assaulting, resisting or impeding a federal official is similar to the DC laws discussed above, except there are maximum punishments of 1 to 10 years, depending on whether a weapon was used. 18 U.S.C. § 111.
Finally, the constitutional limitations and exceptions for violating the rules or regulations of a federal building (maximum 30 days and/or a $50 fine) are the same as the similar charges under DC laws listed above.
7. Know ahead of time what your rights are and how you plan to react to the threat of arrest
This is one of those personal political decisions we mentioned. You have to make a decision about whether you are prepared to be arrested. Do you see being arrested as part of a political statement that you are committed to making? Would you prefer not to be arrested but are willing if the police try to prevent you from expressing your political views? What are you going to do when the police start arresting protestors?
Read the other materials, talk with other activists, attend trainings, and decide what you believe now. On the street in the thick of a demonstration is not the time to consider these sorts of major personal political choices for the first time. Here are a few legal tips to keep in mind as well.
When a police officer states that you are under arrest, it is serious. Do not run away — this is a separate crime. Resistance (even of the passive variety) could lead to other charges.
DEMAND TO SPEAK TO A LAWYER! Ask to talk to one immediately if you are being questioned by the police or if you are at all confused by what the authorities are doing. In any case, you may not be given access to a lawyer, but demanding one will often make the cops stop bothering you.
Upon arrest, do not say anything to the police except “I want to remain silent. I want to speak to an attorney.” Anything else that is said to the police may be recorded, turned, twisted and manipulated to make you look guilty. Do not say anything to the police. You have a constitutional right to remain silent and to have a lawyer –exercise this right.
If you decide not to give your name and address to the police, as a practical matter you will likely be held in jail pending trial, booked as a “John/Jane Doe.” Giving your name may allow you to either be released on your own recognizance or post bail, but doing either of these will be difficult if you refuse to give your name. CAUTION: It may be the crime of false statement to give a phony name to the police.
Similarly, if you are asked to waive any rights — i.e. consent to a search of your person or car — do not agree to anything without consulting with a lawyer first. Tell the officer that you are not consenting to anything and want to speak to a lawyer immediately. Do not sign anything until you talk to a lawyer.
On the other hand, if you feel you are being physically mistreated (i.e. handcuffs on too tight), you should inform the arresting officer of that fact and ask him or her to note your complaint in his/her report. Request that the arresting officer identify him or herself to you, and ask to speak to a commanding officer if the situation is not rectified.
Resist the temptation to try to argue with the police or convince the officer of the error of his or her ways. This will likely only annoy the officer, and can also be used against you at trial.
Two other bits of information:
— The police do not have to say anything to you upon arrest, including telling you your “rights” or what you are being arrested for.
— Absent an arrest situation, if a police officer approaches you (on the street, for instance) and asks you to identify yourself, you do not have to do so. There is no requirement generally that individuals identify themselves to police officers or carry identification cards (except while driving). If this happens to you, politely decline to identify yourself and ask the officer if you are under arrest or if you are free to leave. If he/she responds that you are free to leave, do so.
8. What happens when you are arrested
As we mentioned above, in DC you might be arrested by any number of police forces, federal and local. There are also many processing facilities, again both federal and local, and who arrests you does not necessarily indicate where you will be processed.
During processing, you will be asked for identification. If you provide it, the police will check for any outstanding warrants for your arrest. At some point, the police and prosecutors will decide which of the following options to exercise. If you refuse to give your name, their options are limited to releasing you without charge or booking you into jail (as Jane/John Doe).
Release without charge
In some cases, the police will arrest demonstrators, transport them away from the scene of the protest (sometimes many miles away), get personal information, and then release them onto the street without charge. This might occur if the police are unsure if any crime was really committed and just wanted to clear the area. Prosecutors may then be consulted to see what, if any, charges will be filed. The prosecutors can then take anywhere from a few days to a few months to decide to file charges against you.
If this happens to you, you will be asked to give an address — giving a false address is a separate crime. If the prosecutors decide to charge you later, they will likely mail notice of your court date to the address you give the police. If notice is mailed to a bad address, it will be returned and you won’t get notice of the court date. A warrant for your arrest will then issue.
Citation release (“cite out”)
Sometimes, the police will write you a citation to return to court and release you from custody. This option will not be used if you do not give the police your name and address. Also, you are obliged by law to sign the citation, acknowledging only that you received it and promise to appear in court in the future. You are not waiving any rights or admitting guilt by signing the ticket. If you do not sign the citation, you will be booked into jail.
Again, giving a false address can lead to further charges. The ticket should have information on the back about how to find out when the court date is. While officers are required to file citations within 48 hours, they don’t always do so and it may require several phone calls to find out when court will be.
Post and forfeit
DC has the option of “post and forfeit,” where you pay (“post”) a set amount of money (a small amount) and forfeit the right to ever get the money back. You are then released, and you never have to return to court. It is not the same as a guilty plea, and does not become part of your record. It is not a criminal conviction. It is considered an administrative adjudication of your arrest, and is akin to receiving and paying a traffic ticket. If this option appeals to you, you may want to have at least $50 in cash. (In certain circumstances, you can post a small amount of money and request a court hearing to determine the outcome of the arrest. We do not expect this option to be available however on April 16.)
Booked into jail
Finally, the police can decide to hold you. Jails in DC are crowded, and you can be held at Central Holding, any of the six Metro Police District Headquarters, various federal facilities, or an ad hoc facility such as Andrews Air Force Base if the number arrested and held is very large.
If held in jail, you must be brought before a judge within 48 hours, at which time the prosecutor must state why you are being held and provide a very small amount of evidence to show that there is a sound basis for thinking you may have violated the law.
What to expect at arraignment
Prepared October 20002 by Justice & Solidarity Collective
An arraignment is a very simple and short process. It is where you are formally charged with a criminal offense, enter a plea, may get assigned a lawyer, and set a trial date. The prosecutor (in DC this person is called the corporation counsel, although a US Attorney may also prosecute your case) is the person who decides what will you be charged with, not the police. The prosecutor considers the recommendation of the police but may decide to change the charge(s) the police recommended or add or reduce the number of charges. So, what the police told you your charges were may or may not be what you are actually charged with at your arraignment. The arraignment charges are the charges which you will be tried on . Or, the prosecution may decide not to charge you at all or (no paper you) before your arraignment.
Most criminal defendants plead not guilty. There are a number of reasons for you to plead not guilty, too.
1) Many people are arrested unlawfully (without having broken the law). Even if you broke a law, it may have been an unjust law that is worth challenging. Just because someone passes a law or gives an order doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have the right to do something. Think about those who challenged segregation laws and the women who had abortions when it was outlawed!
2) Even if you did “break the law” the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the fact finder (judge or jury) that you did – you don’t have to prove that you didn’t commit the crime. Even if you are found guilty there is no penalty for entering a not guilty plea.
3) Usually you negotiate with the prosecution to get something, such as reduced charges or a lesser sentence, in exchange for entering a guilty plea – there will be plenty of opportunities to do this during the course of your case. If you choose not to enter a plea and remain silent (for example, to protest that you were silenced during the demonstration) or enter a creative plea (such as, “I plea for the right to expresses dissent!”) the Judge will enter a not guilty plea for you.
4) The DC Superior Court is not ordinarily set up to take guilty pleas at the arraignment stage. So, if you are interested in entering a guilty plea, you must let the Collective or your lawyer know as soon as possible so that they can make the necessary arrangements to try to make that happen.
You may or may not have a court-appointed lawyer at your arraignment. In DC, you are entitled to a lawyer only if your charge(s) carry a jail sentence of more than six months – the charges of failure to obey and parading without permit do not carry any jail time. So, you do not have the right to a lawyer paid for by the State. You, however, are free to hire a lawyer, or try to get a lawyer to represent you pro-bono (free) or lo-bono (at a reduced rate). The collective has extremely limited resources and cannot provide a criminal lawyer for anyone. If you are interested in hiring a lawyer we can put you in touch with one, however, you probably don’t need one at the arraignment stage.
Because it is such a simple process you can do it yourself (DIY!). The Judge will call the case, and the Clerk will read off the charges: The person responding (again, either the Lawyer or the pro-se defendant) – you, will say, “Laura Lawyer, representing Donna Defendant, who is present. We will waive a further formal reading of the Information, enter a plea of not guilty, would request a trial date of _______, and would ask that Donna Defendant remain on her personal recognizance.”
If you do have a lawyer you will be asked to stand behind her and she will do most of the talking. However, if she says something you don’t like be sure to tell her before the arraignment is over. One unobstructive way of doing this is asking the Judge for a moment to confer with counsel.
The prosecution may try to convince the Judge to take other actions at your arraignment – such as banning you from going within five blocks of the World Bank. You should feel free to object to anything the prosecution suggests and offer your reasons for doing so (ex: “I was no where near the World Bank at the time of my arrest, I go to school in that area, need to drive by it to get to work, have a constitutional right to free speech, etc.”)
Because you were all released pending your arraignment and are going to show up for the arraignment there is little to no chance the Judge will require you to pay bail or hold you until your trial.
For the specific charges and the penalties they carry see the protest manual – parading without a permit, which is not in the manual, carries a maximum fine of $50. When looking at the charges and penalties remember that the maximum penalty that is listed – you may very well get a lesser penalty if found guilty.
Please keep in touch with each other and with us. Let us know what happened, who is your lawyer, and what happened at your arraignment and if you have another court date! We recognize that the demo’s not over to you’re all out of the judicial system.
DC INDY MEDIA – Here are a few pieces of info that may help some people be safer. Many of you know this stuff, but some do not, and some can use a reminder. I don’t wish to dissuade anyone from doing anything (e.g. using a megaphone), I’d just like to give people a heads up as to some of the patterns we have witnessed at previous events. Police tend to videotape and photograph the crowd as well as individuals, randomly as well as targeting those who look ‘radical’, people who are vocal, hold a megaphone, flags, hand out literature, wear black, etc. Filming is done by officers in uniform, plainclothes, hidden cameras, mounted cameras (signposts etc.), cameras on rooftops and in windows of buildings (great to view large crowds from above).
Mass demos are generally infiltrated by a large number of plainclothes officers. Some plainclothes agents film, but most probably just watch and relay info. You may notice some people wearing what looks like walkman earphones. (These may not be walkman earphones). The best undercovers are the ones who fit in totally, so don’t make the mistake of thinking you know where all the undercovers are. Some people enjoy exposing undercovers, but this is unwise if you are not totally certain.
Having undercovers and filming of protesters serves a number of purposes for the police, including:
1) info gathering and database building – profiling of activists (regardless of criminality or legality) 2) intimidation and criminalization of dissent 3) identification of people targeted for arrest
If police target someone for arrest, they will usually wait until they can “safely” make the arrest. This usually means when the person is apart from the bulk of the crowd, on the periphery, maybe sitting down or having a drink. Until this time, they may assign an officer(s) to tail the target. Then when it is “safe” comes the “snatch squad” – often plainclothes officers who grab and arrest the person(s). There is usually backup nearby, be it vans pulling up, or riot cops coming from around the building, etc. Sometimes the “snatch” is done by officers in riot gear (e.g. the police line opens up and the snatch squad busts through. They encircle and arrest the target who was at the front of the crowd near the police lines.
Some main things used by police in identification
1) shirt/jacket 2) mask/bandana 3) shoes 4) bags/backpack
People have, when targeted in the past, changed clothes and masks only to be identified by their shoes or backpack. To avoid “snatch squad” arrests and others being picked off at the fringes, a useful tactic is to link arms with the people on either side of you (in lines/rows). This isn’t particularly effective if it is just 2 people linked together, but if most, or all people are linked together, it will make it next to impossible for snatch squads.
Linking arms is probably not a bad habit to get into, especially when the situation is tense or the cops are nearby. If everyone is linked up it is more difficult for the cops to make arrests. Linking arms also sets an example for others.
By extension, the less spread out a crowd is, the safer it is. People at the front can slow down a little, and those at the back can hurry up. When the crowd spreads out the police can bust through and divide the group into two parts
Banners are also useful to protect the edges, the back, and the front of a march. If you are arrested, however, do not despair. You are taking one for the team. . . Though they may threaten you with all sorts of horrendous charges, the vast majority of protest-related charges are dropped, dismissed, or found not guilty. The main reason for this is that police tend to arrest people just to clear the streets, not because they committed a crime. 9/02
Washington D.C. is known worldwide as the home of the beloved US President, miles of national monuments, and throngs of politicians. But perhaps lesser known is D.C.’s status as an epicenter of essential American musical movements, including the hardcore scene that emerged in the late 70s. View 10 documentary videos online or as a video podcast. Experience 10 text message tours
INDIANA STORY – In 1919 Pyle enrolled at Indiana University in Bloomington. He left the university in 1923, just short of finishing a degree in journalism, to accept a reporter’s job at the LaPorte Herald. A few months later, lured by an offer of an extra $2.50 per week, Pyle joined the staff of the Washington (D.C.) Daily News, part of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain. On July 25, 1925, Pyle married Minnesota native Geraldine Siebolds. By 1926 the Pyles had quit their jobs to barnstorm around the country, traveling 9,000 miles in just 10 weeks. Pyle returned to the Washington Daily News in 1927 and began the country’s first-ever daily aviation column. He was the newspaper’s managing editor for three years before becoming a roving columnist for Scripps-Howard. In the next six years, he crossed the continent some 35 times.
Pyle journeyed to England in 1940 to report on the Battle of Britain. Witnessing a German fire-bombing raid on London, he wrote that it was “the most hateful, most beautiful single scene I have ever known.” A book of his experiences during this time, Ernie Pyle in England, was published in 1941. A year later he began covering America’s involvement in the war, reporting on Allied operations in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France. The columns he wrote based on his experiences during these campaigns are contained in the books Here is Your War and Brave Men. Although Pyle’s columns covered almost every branch of the service–from quartermaster troops to pilots–he saved his highest praise and devotion for the common foot soldier. “I love the infantry because they are the underdogs,” he wrote. “They are the mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities. And in the end they are the guys that wars can’t be won without.” . . .
Weary from his work in Europe, Pyle grudgingly accepted what was to be his last assignment, covering the action in the Pacific with the Navy and Marines. He rationalized his acceptance, noting, “What can a guy do? I know millions of others who are reluctant too, and they can’t even get home.” The infantrymen who received Pyle’s body after his death found in his pockets a draft of a column he intended to release when the war in Europe ended. In that column Pyle wrote that he would not soon forget “the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world. “Dead men by mass production–in one country after another–month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer. Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous. Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them.”