they've suspended habeas corpus . . .

prisonbus.jpg
protesters raise hands and shout cheers as police bus believed to be carrying arrested protesters leaves a temporary detention center yesterday, heading for another holding tank downtown




They've suspended habeas corpus, so this must be war.

I'm not just talking about the familiar smokescreen created by the "class war!" accusations Republicans lay on Democrats when they try to point out that the GOP is already fast at work at the singleminded task of piling up more and more power and plunder for themselves at the expense of the poor and the middle class. This is more like full civil war, brought to us by an immensely greedy protofascist hierarchy manipulating the stupidity of the pawns they so easily frighten, and demonizing those with the intelligence and the courage to resist. (actually, we're going to need more of both those things, especially to avoid serious violence; we're barely holding on right now)

War will always invite the suspension of liberty, and in the U.S. the assault usually begins with the elimination of the protections of habeas corpus.

This week in New York peaceful protesters, their legal observers, outside reporters, photographers, along with food delivery people, tourists and innocent bystanders were caught up by the web (we call it "freedom fencing," and it's bright orange) laid by an increasingly autocratic regime's 50,000-strong augmented force of uniformed guards.

Many of the brave or merely unluckly people who were trapped, and immediately and effectively branded "enemies of the state," languished, some of them still languishing, within filthy chain-link cages that were topped with razor wire, the "cells" improvised inside an abandoned bus garage on a Hudson River pier. (with hyperbole which may be counterproductive, many have been referring to it as "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson") Even their names go unreported to anyone outside, and while they are held they are without access to legal cousel, family, friends, even essential medications.

What's it like inside? In fact, what's it like in Manhattan this week? Here's one of the best accounts I've read, by theoria posted on Daily Kos. I would add: If you haven't gone through it yourself or at least been a witness to what's going on here this week, you'll find it hard to believe what you'll read, but it should make your skin crawl nevertheless.

Apparently some or all of these detainees may now have been moved to the prison known during two centuries as "The Tombs," a notorious criminal detention center located Downtown, closer to the courts. Not surprisingly, it's almost impossible to get information anywhere. Did I say it's like war? Some 1800 people have been arrested since last weekend and Newsday reports that from 500 to 700 remain in custody at this time, but the facts are hard to pin down.

Their mothers and families have been gathering at the downtown site, 100 Centre Street. We're very lucky we still have independent judges not appointed for their subserviance to authoritarianism who can still make it hard for self-appointed guardians of [their own idea of] political and moral decency to throw away the keys altogether.

Many of those swept up by the police in the last week were taken in actions even the NYPD describes as "pre-emptive arrest," (sound vaguely familiar?) a plan they hoped would ensure a protest-free environment for our Republican Mayor's guests.

The liberties being defended by the protesters are now being further destroyed by the office of the Manhattan District Attorney's outrageous violation of guidelines which require that no one be held beyond 24 hours before they are arraigned for a serious crime and that the rest must be released with desk appearance tickets. In fact there is every indication at this time that the police will not be releasing many of the people they have rounded up until the Convention is over and its celebrants have been spirited away to wherever it is they came from. Pre-emptive arrest followed by pre-emptive detainment.

Habeas corpus has been suspended indefinitely, and once again it's in the name of security. Too many Americans have absolutely no problem with that. Any moment I expect to hear it officially justified in the name of the War on Terrorism.

But this city has received absolutely no credible warnings about terrorist plans that we have been told about, although it has had at least a year and a half worth of public announements that ordinary people were planning to come to New York for peaceful protest directed against, among other things, the monstrous and moronic policy that makes violence our only defense against violence. The terrorists stayed at home; we got busted, and our liberties were confiscated as well. If the police are massed in Herald Square, Harlem, Chelsea, the East Village and elsewhere this week, it's not to tangle with Al Queda. The enemy is obviously us.

What cowardice has let it go this far?


Democracy Now! put this excerpt of its radio report on its site this morning:

Hundreds of people yesterday protested the conditions under which those arrested are being held before going to court saying the site was contaminated with oil and asbestos. Pier 57 is a three-story, block-long pier that has been converted to a holding pen.

Yesterday morning we received a call from one of the protesters being held at Pier 57 who had smuggled a phone inside. Detainees passed the phone to each other and described the conditions of the holding facility. Democracy Now! producer Mike Burke took the call and spoke with the detained protesters.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has denied the city was operating what some called "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson." And defended the use of the of the pier garage saying "It's not supposed to be Club Med."

Last night, a judge ordered protesters who had been held for 24-hours released with desk appearance tickets if they were not charged with serious crimes. Before midnight, some protesters started emerging from 100 Centre St. around the block from our firehouse studio. Some 200 supporters greeted them with cheers and offered food and medical treatment. Despite the judge's orders, a large number of protesters remain imprisoned.

for NUMBERS TO CALL, to help the prisoners, see this link

Barry just added a comment below, directing us to a short account from 100 Centre Street accompanied by some awesome pictures, again via Daily Kos. Don't miss it.

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outside 100 Central Booking this afternoon


[image at the top is from Yahoo! News, AP photo of Bebete Matthews; second image from theoria, via Daily Kos]

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So you're saying, if you suspend habeas corpus and pre-emptively arrest hundreds of pedestrians, I'll be able to drive my Mercedes [sic] to the Upper East Side from the Holland Tunnel in 10 minutes every day? I have to confess, it's a seductive proposi... Read More

As a chelsea resident (23rd & 10th), my wife and I have been following your blog.
It is similar to living in a demilitarized zone right now. Every five feet there is a police "presence" and barricades and roadblocks and police stopping traffic to allow busloads and busloads of republicans though. Helicopters flying low overhead ALL DAY LONG, hearing sirens and police "buzzers" (the horns they use when crossing streets in an "emergency") all night.
We went out, we protested on sunday in the huge march and for A31.
The mainstream media is ignoring the fact that this is going on at all. People I know on the west coast and in the south were not even aware (or heard just snippets) there were any protests at all.
I think that if (when) the people in the midwest had to live through this, they would probably be out there chanting and protesting as well.
It is a police state here and is basically a fortified city.. And for what?
Why do the delegates "need" this? I am not convinced they did, I think this is more spin control and media control than anything.
The media is kept far away from anyplace that the sounds of protest might reach the camera's (yes, even outside)
Anyway, sites like http://nyc.indymedia.org/ are doing a great job of getting the word out (while also being organizational and informational tools for the organizers) and as long as the bloggers and people with cameras post the pictures, then people will know.
It is unfourtunate however that the average midwest voter however will never know.

Good post and photos from down at 100 Centre Street from a Daily Kos diary:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/9/2/17920/12073