Posted by CODEPINK Staff
The permits are in, the people are coming, and we’re soon to find ourselves in the midst of what is being promoted as the largest climate march in history. The climate march, however won’t be the only event happening in response to a call for folks to organize in protest of corporate and governmental powers which continue to trade our collective futures in exchange for power and profit.
A look at beyondthemarch.org brings one to a list of associated events ranging from the Climate Ribbon, a massive public art installation and ritual space, to Flood Wall Street, a call to flood, blockade, sit-in, and shut down the institutions that are profiting from the climate crisis. Where the march organizers worked for months negotiating with the NYPD and state authorities to minimize the potential risk to participants, Flood Wall Street is an action intended to directly confront the system that causes and profits from the crisis that is threatening humanity. Through Flood Wall Street, the power of the people will be demonstrated not only in their numbers but in their choice to not wait and hope that their voices will be heard by those who are in positions of power, but rather to join together to say that there is no time to waste. Harmfully wielded power must be confronted.
Whether we choose to confront the system directly, or comply with the complex system of permits and negotiations - we must remain aware that our simple being, as people who refuse to silently accept a position of powerlessness in the face of state and capitalist power, is a challenge to the system - a challenge that is often met with heavy repression. We can’t control the way state forces will respond to our unity, but we can take action, create systems of radical care and share wisdom, experience, and knowledge to help mitigate the potential risks of these confrontations when they occur.
One should not be ashamed to acknowledge the fear that can rise in these confrontations. We can not and will not be neutralized by our fear. We have a tool in our box that is stronger than their intimidation and violence: our solidarity. As Mutant Legal cites in their Dissident Survival Guide, ‘Solidarity kills fear’. Solidarity and the knowledge of how to protect ourselves and each other in confrontation with violent agents of the state is our not-so-secret weapon. In what follows, you will find information that will help you to understand how the police operate, and how to respond in ways that keep everyone safe. A big part of this process is community solidarity.
If you are approached by an officer, it may help you to give extremely basic answers to extremely basic questions (first name, your neighborhood, what you are doing). Keep your answers under five words.
- If they continue to question you, ask “Am I free to go?”
- If they say yes, then walk away.
- If they say no, ask “Am I being detained?” If they say that you are not being detained, then walk away.
- If they say you are being detained, you can ask why; they may or may not give you a valid reason.
If you are in a group that is surrounded by officers, you can mic-check “Are we being detained?” This seems to be an effective way to get them to release you if they are penning you in without cause.
Do Not Consent to a Search.
You can be detained without being “under arrest.” In that situation, police are legally permitted only to pat you down, ostensibly to check for weapons. However, they may also try to search you, your pockets, or your bags. Physical resistance can lead to retaliatory violence or incarceration.
Instead of resisting, say “I DO NOT CONSENT TO THIS SEARCH,” so that people around can testify that the search was performed without consent or a warrant. This will probably not prevent or stop a search. But it may mean that anything the search yields cannot be used against you at trial. If you say nothing, then anything found during the search can be evidence admissible at trial.
Say, “I do not consent to this search!” Even if you believe you have made your non-consent apparent, you should make a point of reciting this formula in a clear, loud voice.
In New York State US Citizens are not required to carry ID unless operating a motor vehicle (in which case you must carry your driver’s license). If you are being detained, an officer can ask for your ID, and may detain you until your identity has been verified. It may be helpful to carry a picture ID that does not have a lot of information on it. If you are a non-citizen, you are required to have ID on you at all times.
Invoke your right to an attorney
Unlike on TV, the police will not read you your Miranda Rights upon arrest. They are only required to read you these rights before a formal interrogation. Keep in mind, however, that an officer who has just arrested you is not chit-chatting with you because they want to be buddies; police are trained to ask seemingly benign questions in order to gather information that can be used against you or your comrades.
- You must say “I am going to remain silent, and I want to talk to my lawyer.”
- You must say you are going to remain silent, and then you must actually remain silent.
- Anything you say to the police, to someone in your cell, and even on the phone can and will be used against you.
- If you say anything, you must re-invoke your right to remain silent. Once you request a lawyer, the officers are supposed to stop questioning you. This doesn't mean they will.
Never, EVER waive your right to counsel. Attorneys protect you and the people around you, by making sure you aren’t questioned against your will. An attorney can help ensure the police don’t coerce you into saying or signing anything that incriminates you or your friends, or results in you waiving your rights. If your lawyer suggests you cooperate with the police in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you have an absolute right to request new counsel.
You can get answers to question about the legal system in New York City by calling Just Info at 1-855-878-4630, and you can reach radical legal help by calling the National Lawyers Guild at 212-679-6018. If you witness an arrest during protest you should try to get the arrestee’s full name and date of birth and contact the National Lawyers Guild so they can help with tracking the arrestee through the arrest process, and assist with arraignment and defense. You should also call this number as soon as you have access to a phone if you yourself are arrested.
Filming the Police
Filming police activity can help de-escalate potentially violent and abusive police interactions.
- You have the right to observe and document police activity in the State of New York as long as you are standing a “reasonable distance” from the cops and are not obstructing them in any way.
- If a police officer asks you to move back, you may continue to film. Respond calmly and clearly “I'm moving back” but loudly enough that those around you can hear your confirmation and consent to the officers order.
Most legal activist, advocates and COPWATCH trainers advise moving back no more than a few steps. Officers may repeat the order. If they do repeat the process again. Move back a few steps while repeating “I am moving back” calmly and clearly.
In the event that you are arrested, you will likely be taken to a police precinct for processing. In the event of mass arrests, they may set up an arrest-processing center. In Manhattan this is likely to take place at 1 Police Plaza but has taken place in other makeshift venues. At the precinct, a few things can happen.
- You may simply be released.
More likely one of three things will take place.
- You may be issued a summons. A summons is similar to a speeding ticket. You will be required to answer the ticket as directed.
- The second likely scenario is a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT). If you are given a DAT you will be required to return for court at the date and place written on the ticket,
- The third and worse case scenario is that you will be 'held over' or 'put through the system'. What this means is that you will be processed and then transferred to Central Booking.
In Manhattan, Central Booking and the arraignment part (court room) are located at 100 Centre Street. You will be held in Central Booking until you are docketed and called for arraignment. During your time in Central Booking (likely between 24 and 36 hours but can be significantly longer in cases of mass arrest.) a court employee will interview you about your place of residence, ties to the community, employment, family etc., It is okay to talk to this person, but don’t talk about the conditions of your arrest. This information will be shared with the judge and the prosecutor for use in determining whether or not to set bail or release you on your own recognizance (ROR). Do not talk to anyone but your lawyer about the conditions of your arrest.
Prior to your arraignment, you will meet with a lawyer. This may be an NLG lawyer in the case of mass arrest, but unless a private attorney has been contacted for you, it will more likely be a Legal Aid attorney. Get the attorney’s name and phone number.
- You will be arraigned on the charges before you in front of a judge.
- Your lawyer will enter your plea. When in doubt plead not guilty.
- Conditions of release will be set. (Bail or ROR)
- The next court date will be scheduled and provided to you on a court slip.
- You may be offered an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD). If you agree to an ACD, your case will be adjourned for 6 months. If you are not arrested during the 6-month period, the charge is dismissed and the case is sealed.
Activist Security Strategies
- Work with people you know and trust. Make sure that everyone you work with is taken care of. If anyone feels marginalized or threatened, it will be much easier for law enforcement to convince them to cooperate.
- Ensure that people feel supported socially and materially, so that they have less reason to cooperate with authorities. Law enforcement can play on people’s poverty, immigration status, mental health, and sexuality, or even threaten people’s families to pressure them.
- Solidarity means taking anti-oppression work seriously. Marginalized or vulnerable people cannot stand in solidarity with groups that do not take seriously the obligation to stand in solidarity with them.
- Work in your own community, or work in solidarity with existing community groups who have accepted your offer of assistance.
- Don’t talk about actions that you are planning with people who don’t need to know about them, and don’t talk about details with anyone, even after an action is over.
- Do not create an atmosphere of distrust, and do help kill rumors before they spread.
In the end, the best protection you have is knowing your rights and taking care of the people around you. Our strength is in our solidarity.
See you in the streets!
Includes excerpts from the Dissident Survival Guide used with permission.