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Student Account of Golden Gate Protest
by Sascha (saschawinter [at] mac.com)
Monday May 27th, 2002 11:03 PM
A student's account of the protest on May 25 and the police brutality that ensued. He recounts his arrest and the excessive actions of the CHP.
May 25th was a long day for me. Coming from Santa Cruz, it was quite an adventure to take a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge in order to take part in an act of civil disobedience. I expected nothing like what happened that day. I got up as the sun was rising to prepare for the day ahead—a protest on the golden gate bridge. Upon reaching the protest I saw about 50 people gathered at Chrissy Field, a number that rose and fell throughout the day. The march began at about 12PM, with drums beating, people chanting slogans though bullhorns. There were more than 100 people with us by the time we reached the bridge. We crossed the bridge with CHP following on the street with their vans, motorcycles, and cars. They slowed traffic to a crawl in both directions, as they closed off most northbound traffic. The police marched along side the protestors and were constantly trying to intimidate them. I noticed them watching me, trying to make me feel like I had done something illegal before the protest even began. I have never seen such distrust between police and citizens as I did that day. Many things the police did that day spooked me and made me feel as if I was being watched by the Gestapo. The mantra “Innocent until proven guilty” did not apply on this day, but rather I felt to be a citizen of a fascist police state. This appears to be increasingly true since September 11.

I was one of the people that got a bottle of vinegar confiscated by the police, and it seemed like something out of 1984. Big Brother was there on that bridge watching all of us. I may sound like a conspiracy theorist, but hear me out. I had a bottle of vinegar at the protest in case the police got out of hand and shot tear gas at the protestors (vinegar is supposed to cancel out the effects of tear gas). I had it in my back pocket in case I needed it quickly to soak my handkerchief. Soon after I pulled it out to put it in my backpack, half a dozen police motorcycles pulled up behind me. I remember it as if it was a movie running in slow motion—they all pulled up one after another, diagonal to the curb. A police van roared ahead of the motorcycles and stopped five or six feet in front of me, making me halt in my tracks. One officer got out of the van, wearing full riot gear and grabbed my arm forcefully with one gloved hand. With the other hand, he grabbed the bottle of vinegar from my hand. “I’ll take that” he said, just like bully would a defenseless child. Before I knew what had happened or had time to react, he had climbed back in the van as it pulled away.

At around 1:30, the police stopped the protestors from marching and ordered us to turn around. The had a few different riot squads, each with a color code of tape around their helmets and a number to correspond. Each one of the teams had about a dozen members, most outfitted with riot gear, face masks, protective plates on their arms and legs and large green cases with what appeared to be teargas bombs. There were at least two officers outfitted with tear gas launchers, which they shouldered whenever things got rowdy. At the front of the protest, where I was, the cops lined up across the pedestrian walkway and blocked the protestors from moving further. They began pushing the crowd very forcefully, yelling "Back up! Back up!" We tried to back up, but the protestors behind us were pushing foreword. The police began beating those in the front with their batons. One woman screamed, "There are kids back here, don’t push us! They're only kids!" One police officer beat a woman repeatedly with his riot stick, as she screamed "Stop hitting me, I can't go anywhere!" At this point, I stepped up to replace her, with my backpack in front of me to shield the blows. I got a few sharp strikes in my ribs with their riot clubs, enough to knock the wind out of me, but not serious enough to do any permanent damage. I was beaten in the face, ribs and chest with a riot stick by officers McKinley and Merchant of the green squad (mentioning names, however, should not discredit the violence of the other officers). I said,
"I don’t have anywhere to go. Look." I raised my hands in the air to show that I was defenseless, but no luck. They kept hitting me, mostly landing blows on my backpack I held in front of my chest. I yelled
"Stop hitting me!" to the officer after he hit me in the face (as it glanced off my backpack) with his baton held in both hands. The police tried to pull a protester out of the crowd, but he forced out of their hands with the help of a friend. (This is a tactic called de-arresting) The cops had contorted faces in the moment of chaos and their were as visibly scared as we were. I tried reasoning with them some more, but it was useless. The blows and arrests kept coming. At this point I realized it was not worth getting arrested for standing there and being on the frontlines of the protestors, so I retreated to the back of the crowd and took a break from the brutality.

I was later (2:45) arrested for flying a black flag, the symbol of anarchy. Others said they heard orders over the police radios to “take out the kid with the black flag.” Apparently I was too visible, waving my flag and expressing my opinion of the government. The easiest way for them to dispose of me was to arrest me and later release me on the bogus charge of penal code 647 (c )—obstruction of movement in a public place. A friend of mine was next to me, and was arrested as well. We were the only two people in that section of the road (next to the toll bride). We were no longer even on the bridge at the time of our arrest, so they took us to San Francisco precinct, apart from the some twenty other protestors arrested that day. The only two people on the sidewalk and a platoon of CHP officers stormed us from behind and arrested us. We were not told what we were being arrested for, nor were we read our rights. The officers in charge were obviously in a power trip. I realize that the Golden Gate bridge is a landmark under surveillance in case of terrorist activity, but I personally was no longer on the bridge when I was arrested, nor was I obstructing movement in any sense.

These police officers acted like revenged wolves, a product of the capitalist war machine they work for. They did not know what they were doing, and, after arresting me at the demands of their superiors, they showed their true ignorance of the issues. While at the police station, one of the officers asked where one of the protestors was from. He replied
"Minneapolis." The officer asked
"What city are you from?" as if Minneapolis was a state. We pay these people to carry loaded weapons?
If you have a story of any kind, I strongly encourage you to tell it in order to the injustice and brutality that took place on the Golden Gate Bridge on May 25th. If anyone saw the arrest of the 11 year old Sofia (wearing a blue shirt), or her brother, please document the story and call (510) 569-9620 (legal council for the protest). This will help keep them from being (wrongfully) charged with felony assaulting an officer and felony child endangerment, respectively. I was prepared to start my criminal record, at age 18, on that day for the cause, but I felt that the police were completely out of control. They were neither serving, nor protecting the people on the Golden Gate Bridge.
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""Property is Theft"",Alverest EverhornTuesday Jun 11th, 2002 6:35 PM
punk rowkermaryTuesday Jun 11th, 2002 6:25 PM
ActuallyTrue BelieverFriday May 31st, 2002 5:22 PM
Troll alertAn observerFriday May 31st, 2002 1:13 PM
Symbol of AnarchyReal AnarchistFriday May 31st, 2002 12:54 PM
. I got up as the sun was risingSanta Cruz,Friday May 31st, 2002 2:51 AM
We must stand up for our rightsWe must stand up for our rightsFriday May 31st, 2002 1:15 AM
Idiot HippiesGet a LifeThursday May 30th, 2002 9:03 PM
Remember your historyNightwindThursday May 30th, 2002 8:18 PM
TRUE PATRIOTTRUE PATRIOTThursday May 30th, 2002 2:02 AM
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