X15 Pre-Trial Conference, Police Harassment

April 13, 2015
Hello folks,

Just went to the third day of court for the X15 and what should have been a routine day as the legal strategy had already been worked out turned into an intense situation. (Let’s see, routine action followed by police escalation, what does that remind me of?)

Just to say, Elliott noted that on the front of the Hamden County Courthouse building it says: “Obedience to the law is freedom.” We’d like to see it say, “it is our duty to fight for our freedom…”

First to give some information about the charges. The 15 were broken up into 3 groups (our lawyers & our group decided to do that.  Our representation is Attorney Luke Ryan, Attorney Linda Thompson and I believe a third lawyer. Yeah great legal team!

On Monday, Atty. Ryan outlined the strategy as follows (in agreement with the defendants):

The defendants were charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

[paragraph containing legal strategy has been removed so as to avoid giving the prosecution any extra support]

So, Monday was routine in that Atty. Ryan filed the petition for lawyers conference and Atty. Thompson met with everyone and answered questions. She asked us to introduce ourselves, and it was funny to hear, my legal name is __ but I go by __ for so many of us. 🙂

I was not there on Tuesday, but it sounds like the same thing basically.

However I was there today, so I will report on my impressions.

There was definitely increased security and tension when we entered the courthouse. I heard people not with us whispering “what is going on?”  We filled the first row on the right & then a bunch of us were sitting behind on both sides.

Of course, the first order of business is seeing 5 or 6 black and brown youth being in front of the court. All but one had their court date postponed, and the look of anxiety and fear on their faces as they filed out was painful. The other black Latino man stood there with his white lawyer in front as the judge mumbled something. The court officer behind him took out his handcuffs in preparation, and the man who did not see this coming at all was handcuffed and led away.

I don’t know anything about the charges, I am just talking about what is just seen as everyday and commonplace and it breaks your heart to see the mass incarceration of our youth of color in progress, all systems go.

So, on to us! We had already been told repeatedly that no cell phones could even be in our hands, they had to be in our pockets. Also, the court officers, who were virtually all in front of us, repeatedly shushed us, said, “no talking”, etc. which I have never seen in court. Then the petition was filed, they each got their slip of paper with the new court date (this will be a lawyers only conference) on July 9th, and we left the courtroom. Atty. Ryan spoke with us briefly and then introduced us to Jose Rubero, who is with the Latino Chamber of Commerce, Share the Road (with horses!), and a bill before the MA Senate they believe will improve the role of school police officers Bill S297… and many other things. He is eager to work with us and will contact blm413.

However, after he finished and we were trying to regroup, the court officers got very hostile and started telling us to leave, and herding us towards the door (which was blocked by people anyway.) What I remember is many of us asking why we had to leave, and being given bullshit answers about our business being done, etc. (No one else in the building was asked to leave.) Some of us started taking out our cell phones & that really freaked them out. They confiscated Frank’s cell phone, which created an immediate escalation of the situation. It was demanded by four court officers who kept telling us to leave, we had no right to be there, etc. and refused to answer who’s order it was, etc. We kept asking questions, saying we were waiting for our friend who’s phone was confiscated, etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiCRbpo5zzA&feature=youtu.be

We eventually went outside where they followed us and again insisted we leave, demanding that we go to the black pavement across the street, not even be allowed to be on the front of the building. We said we were going to have our lawyer back here and would stay until he got there.

Then a very soft spoken, polite officer who identified himself as Chief Santos asked us to leave until he could resolve the situation. When we pointed out that other folks were also standing around and had not been asked to leave, he agreed to “go find out” and come back, at which time he said we could actually stand there, thank you so much.

He gave us his number, reassured us that we were peaceful and that they just plumb weren’t experienced with us, they were nervous because of “gangs”. (Hey, aren’t we a gang, a gang of people against the murder of black people?). I have a feeling he was simply doing the good cop/bad cop thing.

I am going to stop here as we basically disbanded as a large group at this point. I don’t think we can doubt that blm413 is taken very seriously as a threat and as a group to be “handled”… which is why it is really important for white allies to step up and be counted.

Each of us is doing important work, slightly different from the other, but all meaningful.

To give money to blm413, go to Vanessa’s site, Orange Ink : http://orangeink.tumblr.com/  which has a paypal button to contribute. Please give freely & excessively. 🙂

In solidarity & for freedom,
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