Thursday, August 2 - Report from Philadelphia from Leslie Cagan
Well, actually, Im no longer in Philadelphia. Even though I left early yesterday I have been following developments and can report on some of whats been happening. I also want to tell you about some of the other activities I attended over the four days I was there.
The latest news I have (as of 8 am this morning) is that aside from a few who have been released, the overwhelming majority of folks arrested during the last few days of protests are still in jail. It was earlier reported that many had been taken to Holmesberg Prison: in fact, only 25 people are being held there. Another 22 are at the 23th District jail of the Philadelphia police and the rest are at the central Philadelphia jail called the Roundhouse.
There are still very different reports on the number of people arrested. The police put the figure at 282, but the legal team for the R2K network (the umbrella structure for all of the protests during the Republican Convention) have counted 465. While I cant confirm this, I think the police are counting just those people arrested on the streets during the direct action on Tuesday. In other words, they are probably not including the 75 people arrested at the puppet space (see my report from August 1st - part 2) or the scores of people arrested throughout the last few days, including at least 50 during protest activities on Wednesday.
But whatever the number is, the reports from the inside are not good. For at least ten hours there was no food, at one point the guards had suspended bathroom privileges, the legal team representing those arrested had very little access to their clients, and many of those held were told that their lawyers were not coming to see them when in fact the real story was that the authorities were not telling the legal team who was being held where. On top of this, there are reports of police and guard violence against people in custody, and at least one woman was seen being dragged naked and bleeding. Several people have been held in isolation, including those identified as organizers, and are being given more serious charges. The medical needs of some of the arrestees are not being met, including the withholding of asthma inhalers and medication for hypoglycemia.
A very slow arraignment process - with judges in many instances not allowing the R2K lawyers to be present - has resulted in bail being set anywhere from $100 to $15,000 to $100,000 and as high as $400,000! Some people have gotten out, but most are participating in jail solidarity, demanding that charges be dropped and everyone be released together. People have been gathered outside the jail since the arrests started and a call has gone out for people around the country to contact the following people:
Mayor John Street 215-686-2181 Deputy Commissioner Mitchell (in charge of Demonstrations) 215-686-3364 Captain Fisher (Head of Civil Affairs) 215-685-3684 Chief Maxwell (Head of Detectives & Criminal Investigations) 215-686-3362.
If you do place a call, you are asked to encourage or demand the following: 1) All charges be dropped, including those who are charged with felonies and those that have already been released. 2) No separation or isolation of any individual. 3) Equal treatment for all individuals. 4) Full access to health care including medicines, food and bathroom. 5) An end to the harassment of legal observers.
According to reports in the mainstream media, the police have said they will hold people until Friday, the day after the Republican Convention ends, so placing calls to the Philadelphia city officials as soon as possible is very important.
I had planned to include here some reporting on other activites over the past few days, but because action is required right away in support of those still in jail I will send along the rest in a few hours. In the meantime, I hope you will take a moment right now to call the city officials in Philadelphia.
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