On Friday night I was arrested by the Shawnee, KS police for a “felony warrant” out of Indiana – though they first claimed it was Montana (which I haven’t been to in over 5 years). I figured that the warrant was from Noblesville (IN) and directly related to our chalking of the police department our first night on tour (video we recorded of our police encounter afterwards posted below). Yet, I was shocked to hear that it was a felony because the reason I use chalk is because it doesn’t cause damage. Sure, I’ve been ticketed and even jailed for using children’s chalk in the past (a resisting arrest, for going limp, was part of my sentence, too) but those still aren’t felonies and not extraditable.
Having never faced an extradition before, and being dumbfounded by the felony charge, I requested to be bailed out in order to handle this head on. I also knew that Brian had the same charge but wasn’t arrested with me, so being out of jail wouldn’t leave him with the heavy workload. It’s hard enough to fight your own case but to do both – as fighting any case from in jail is tough – would be a daunting task. I wasn’t aware that the charge was actually a misdemeanor until shortly before being released; that’s also when I was told I would “most likely” see a judge tomorrow. Right after that we were required to lock down because our 45 minute recreational period was up. I went to my cell thinking I guess I’ll be here until I see a judge sometime tomorrow and that I’d call Brian at my next recreational period (4 hours from then) to say such.
VIDEO THAT LED TO MY CAGING:
Then while eating my lunch in my cell the CO came on the speaker and said pack up your stuff. Had I been thinking clearly, which is hard to do when someone opens the door to your cage and says you’re free to go, I would have asked the Sergeant that processed my bond what the charges were exactly and when I’d see a judge next. Knowing the answers now – misdemeanor and the following day – I would have stayed in jail. I now regret the decision I made but will accept it as a lesson learned, so it’s not lost. I hope that others who are reading this don’t find themselves in a similar situation, but if you do here are three things I’ve learned – not only from this case – from being locked up awaiting charges.
- DO NOT LISTEN TO ANYONE IN JAIL: Most importantly the guards! For a group of people who are “working” the system – day in and day out – not a single one of them knows what’s really going to happen to you. This isn’t a knock at the guards as much as it is the variance in within the justice system and that there is no consistency in it. They’ll tell you bail will be low, then it’s high because the judge is moody or going by the book that day. They say you’ll be here a day and you get out five months later. Though I’ll be honest, this isn’t just the cops/guards, it also goes for the inmates–though I would say the information provided by those who’ve been inside before is far more accurate, yet still subject to that “inconsistent” form of justice handed out.
- TRUST THOSE OUTSIDE WORKING ON YOUR BEHALF: While in jail you have to trust that those outside of it are doing what’s in your best interest. Even if that means staying an extra night in a cage for you. I fully trusted all of those who were working tirelessly to free me, yet when I was able to make contact I only wanted to relay my thoughts. In the two phone calls I made that were each 60 seconds long I never once said, “What should I do?” Having all the time in the world to think while in jail made me feel that I had to say X, Y and Z when I connected with someone on the outside. In the future I will not do this, I will only ask, “What should I do?” or “What’s going on?”
- WAIT TO SEE A JUDGE or MOTION TO SEE ONE: At the end of the day once you’re in a jail cell there are only a few ways out. The charges get dropped, you’re bailed out, or a judge “orders” your release. Another factor in this is that none of the charges are “official” until you’ve been arraigned. That has to take place before a judge (unless you find yourself in a secret court/jail) and that’s when you’ll get the most accurate information about your charges, bond, and possible jail time. Those men (and women) in robes have magical powers and many actors of the state will jump at their commands, so don’t put too much weight on what the “daily actors” say.
I’ve been in a cage far too many times to have let this get to me but I did – plain and simple – and I let the state pull a(nother) fast one on me. Yet, I hope that it can be a lesson for us all here. Know that if you’re going out CopBlocking – or any sort of activism – then you should prepare yourself with these next three tips:
- BE PREPARED TO SIT IN JAIL: Sadly, you have to do this because no matter how well planned, how “right” you are, or legal it “seems” to be, the fact of the matter is you can be arrested for ANYTHING. Once that process is started it has certain steps – booking, classification, court, bond, release, hearings, trial – that must unfold (in their world) regardless. If you’re trying to make a point, especially against the police/government, it might require you spend time in a cage.
- HAVE A PLAN: Since it’s more likely that you will be arrested prepare a friend, or a few friends, with some guidelines, personal information (legal name, medical conditions, request while caged, bail limitations and such) and things folks can do in the first few weeks (getting kids to school, rent paid, and more) because it can take that long to get proper access to calls, mail, and materials to communicate to those outside.
- DON’T RUSH TO A DECISION: Worrying about paying the bills, getting word to your employer, or other things can lead to making a rash decision. It’s easy to say, it’s easy to type, but it’s something you actually have to stop and think about while behind bars. “Do NOT rush to make any decision” – say it to yourself. The worst part of jail is waiting to be booked, answering the same questions, and going through classification, but after that it turns into something that resembles a college dorm life – without any of the booze, women, or classes. It’s by no means preferred and the double standards in jail are at times worse than those on the outside, but for the most part you hang out watching TV, playing cards, reading or in your cell. After the first day there’s no reason to not wait out at least 12 hours before acting on some sort of option.
Being jailed can be an overwhelming experience no matter the circumstances, but know your role. Your role was played and ended when you got to jail. At that time you’re going to have to accept that you’ll be there for 3 – 5 days, that people on the outside will do what’s best for you (spreading the word, seeking accountability and your release) and that you should focus on adjusting to (and at times, surviving) jail life. I know from experience that it will be difficult, but trust me, from one activist to another, it’s best this way. The people on the outside can get information from several different people – though it might take days – and they can have many plans formulated and get you many options.
With that being said, yes, I’m free(r) at the moment. I have a court date in Kansas on October 27th but that’s just a hearing to see if Indiana has stopped pouting about chalk (legally, we’ll find out if they have a Governor’s warrant to extradite me). If they haven’t then another hearing will be set and the circus will go on. Brian and I have no intention of ‘running’ from these charges; in fact, we’ll bring them (and our chalk) right back to the police station steps where it all started. “Indiana” (those wearing badges who think they have the right to) just has to come give us a “Bernie Sanders Free” ride back. Until then, remember “Badges Don’t Grant Extra Rights.”
Below are the videos that show our chalking of the Noblesville police department. Was their reaction justified?