The Republicans' Temporary Gulag?

If this story is That's all I can say. Wow.

My 21-year old daughter disappeared from NYC last Tuesday afternoon when walking with friends through a park where no protest was being held -- and was held prisoner -- without being charged -- by the NYPD for three days. The first day and night she spent in an unsafe and inhumane facility at Pier 57 ("Little Guantanamo") provided by the Republican Party.

Yes, it was managed by the Republican National Committee. It was leased by the RNC to hold political dissenters who disagreed with the Bush administration. The second two days, my daughter was in a city jail in Manhattan, where her treatment improved. She practices Buddhist precepts of compassion (she told the NYPD officers that she knew they must be tired and overworked also, and she did not resist arrest). She is a graduate student in Poli Sci at the University of Hawaii and is a MortarBoard honor society/service club member...

My husband called the NYPD to ask who had issued a Certificate of Occupancy or Fire Safety Inspection Certificate and who was managing Pier 57. He was given the number for the Republican National Committee.

Yes, My husband and I looked at each other in silent, cold horror.

In America? The Republicans have set up a private detention camp for their political prisoners that can hold 1000 under inhumane and unsafe conditions! My husband slowly dialed that number, got the RNC, and the Republican rep who answered the phone said, in answer to my husband's inquiries about safety: "those protesters don't deserve a Holiday Inn, and they're all criminals anyway!" ....Say what?! My daughter, who doesn't smoke or drink or do drugs and is a practicing Buddhist Vegan? A criminal?

Warning signs that reporters saw posted around Pier 57 said not to enter without protective clothing and mask. My exhausted daughter, with hundreds of others, tried to sleep that first night ...on the chemical-covered oily, cold cement floor of these pens, without food or water, without being read her rights, without being offered a chance to post bail, without seeing a judge although the National Lawyers Guild offered to represent them pro bono, without being charged or told why she was arrested and handcuffed and taken there, without being allowed to make a call to a lawyer or friend or parent or anyone -- all cell phones were confiscated as "terrorist weapons." Her purse was taken. She had nothing but the clothes on her back.

Meanwhile...ordinary criminals arrested that same day in NYC for burglary, rape and heinous crimes were processed by the courts in less than 10 hours. My daughter, who had committed no crime, was incarcerated for three days incommunicado.

People suffered chemical burns, bug bites, overcrowding and medical problems because their medicine was confiscated. A pregnant woman sat crying on the floor in the oil. It wasn't until my daughter was taken out of the Republican-managed "Little Guantanamo" and placed in a cell in a Manhattan city jail that a guard kindly brought her Vegan food and gave her a blanket to lay her grime-smeared body on at night in her crowded cell.

If this story is true - and there should be a whole lot of people, including reporters, who can corroborate most of the details - it says something truly frightening about our nation.

Update: Daily Kos has some more information here. He's trying to get the occupancy permit, but no luck yet. One of the commenters here has printed the response from the chief of police, who claims that it was all the result of delays in processing because there were so many arrests in a short period of time. That still begs the question of WHY they were arrested.


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By Chris Berez (not verified) on 18 Sep 2004 #permalink

Like you, Ed, I'm waiting for confirmation on this one. But at this point, I find it hard to believe that if the RNC was stupid enough to get involved in this, it would allow any sort of paper trail back to the RNC to exist. Either: (i) the paper trail will have disappeared; or (ii) it will end with a sublessee for Pier 57 that is some individual or organization with no provable ties to the RNC. Or it could just be that NYC is solely responsible. In any case, there should be further inquiry as to why: (i) these people were arrested; and (ii) they were confined in those conditions. Whoever is responsible should be held to account. Interesting stuff, and I'll await follow-up posts.

Here's what I've learned in the meantime. Apparently the permits were taken out by the NYPD themselves, not the RNC, but IndyMedia reports that the money to do so may well have come out of the money that the RNC paid to the city for security. The question of whether it was actually paid for by the RNC is entirely tangential to the real issue, which is the NYPD.
The basic story IS true - the NYPD did set up what was essentially a big holding tank at Pier 57 and warehoused people there before they got an arraignment. There have been innumerable reports about that, including reporters who got caught up in sweeps, and the police chief has admitted to that much. He says it was necessary in order to hold people until they could be processed since they anticipated making mass arrests, and did in fact make so many arrests in such a short period of time that they could not have held them in jails. All of that is reasonable except for one question - why were they arresting so many people in the first place? Was there a single report of a violent protest at any time during the convention? If so, I didn't see it. The constitution guarantees the right to peaceably assemble. I think there should be a huge class action suit on this one, regardless of who registered the Pier 57 space and regardless of the conditions there. It looks like a hell of a lot of people were arrested without justification, and at least one judge already ruled on it and ordered the NYPD to release about 550 people that were held there.

Not condoning this in any way, but just want to point out that the Democratic convention had a containment cage for demonstrators as well (not quite the same thing obviously). It didn't get much attention but it was just as ridiculous. The only place you were allowed to protest was inside of a cage that had a dual chain link fence setup that looked just like a prison. Also, you were not allowed to have chairs, refreshments, or anything else in the cage.

The only thing I noticed was given the huge number of protestors, and the strong desire by the media to find any indiscrepancy to nail the Republicans with, there were still very few problems reported. I had expected a lot more personally.

Not condoning this in any way, but just want to point out that the Democratic convention had a containment cage for demonstrators as well (not quite the same thing obviously).

Not the same thing by a long shot, I'd say.

While the DNC "protest cage" was disgraceful, it would probably be upheld as a lawful time, place, and manner First Amendment restriction. The state essentially said "If you want to protest close to the Democratic National Convention, you must do so here." Its another thing altogether for the state to say "If you're here, you're going to be arrested, whether you're protesting or not, and if you are protesting, even if you're not doing so illegally." That is, at best, an unconstitutional suppression of political speech.

The leaders of both parties, to the extent they were directly or indirectly involved (or acquiesced) should be ashamed of themselves. But the latter is in an altogether different league from the former.