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What a difference 90 minutes makes……

March 19, 2012

Posted by vicki.smart

So I am pretty sure we can all think of something we have been late for. That dinner, that party, that appointment that may have been totally forgotten due to lost diary / IPhone / insert own way of managing calendar here.

It however becomes a totally different situation when that 90 minutes costs you a night of your freedom and exposes you to a whole new level of degradation.

This post is long. Its just my personal account of my Friday night because I think its important for people to know how our police force, thos who many people choose to put blind faith in, act.

To explain the back story: I am currently subject to draconian bail conditions based on an Occupy Sydney action related to Greece. We protested, art was mistaken for something dangerous, NSW Police overreacted in glorious Technicolor. Part of said bail conditions are me reporting to the police twice a week.

On Friday, after spending pretty much the whole day between bed and sofa, with one outing to purchase a DVD to entertain my addled brain (True Blood is good for that) I was about to pass out for the 1000th time at 11pm when I suddenly had a realisation of ‘oh crap’. my reporting time ends at 10pm, I had missed it. After chucking on a pair of jeans, my glasses and literally speeding down King Street to Newtown police station I arrived around 11.30pm. Out of breath I tried my best to explain the situation of why I was late to a highly unsympathetic officer who I could pretty much tell didn’t care right from the get go. After 15 minutes or so of ominous waiting, I was placed under arrest for breaching my bail.

So at midnight I am taken downstairs into the docks, where processing begins. It’s clearly a slow night, as my only company is an older man who doesn’t seem to mind the fact he’s been arrested. he is being let out as I am being brought in and it becomes clear that maybe someone needed to bump up their arrest quota. so after an hour or so sitting on a freezing cold metal bench I am packed off to a holding cell for the night. Oh and the light doesn’t turn off. Joy. Did I mention I had been in bed sick all day? Just checking…..

So after about an hour of drifting in and out of consciousness I am awoken by the screams of someone being brought into the docks. I couldn’t see him at this stage but I could certainly hear him. His abuse of the arresting police was artistic but under my current conditions I wasn’t in a state to fully appreciate it and I spent the next half an hour hoping he shuts the hell up because buddy, some of us are trying to sleep here. This is where it starts to get interesting by the way, so thanks for staying with me so far.

Angry Drunk Guy (or ADG as I will refer to him from now on) is now brought back to the holding cell next to mine. Yup. he’s hammered, screaming at the tops of his lungs, kicking the door, the walls, the cops are screaming, and something inside me snaps. Its now that I turn into a total girl and start crying. Yes I know, not particularly hardcore but by now (guessing 2am) I was exhausted, sick, tired etc. the crying gives way to mild hyperventilation which after about five minutes turns into full blown panic attack. I have luckily avoided these since I was a kid but right now, it’s all coming back to me at alarming speed. everything goes white, and I have to sit on the floor with my head between my knees to even attempt to breath.

Its worth noting that this feels like it goes on for about 14 days. At one stage I hear pone of the cops telling ADG to please be quiet because its upsetting the girl in the next cell. thanks for the concern boys but maybe checking on me could have been an option here. Now correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure that the cells have cameras in them. I have to ask why they allowed me to continue like this unchecked for at least 10 minutes. But this is just the first utter fuck up by the NSW Police that I will be talking about. Brace yourself, it gets worse.

So just as I manage to get myself breathing, and try to go back to sleep (AGD has passed out by this point thankfully) Newtown’s finest decide that now is the time to move me to Surry Hills. so half asleep and pretty wiped out I am taken back into the fluorescent box of the dock to wait for transport. Its freezing so I ask for a blanket to be told no because I am going in five minutes., Forty minutes later I am taken to a van and driven to Surry Hills. Its around 4am.

Arriving to Surry Hills I am taken inside to be processed where I encounter the hero of this story. The one cop who is actually pleasant and sympathetic. Upon being asked what I did to get arrested, I tell him I reported an hour and half late. He replies with a ‘you’re joking’ so heavily tainted with annoyance that I am quick to understand that finally, someone with some humanity. He proceeds to get me into my cell as quickly as possible so I can get some sleep (its 4.30am by now approx) he also tells me that I could have been asked to produce a medical certificate rather than being arrested. Apparently its discretion of the officer. Interesting.

Finally, I think, I manage to pass out in a freezing cold, over air-conditioned, noisy box hiding under a pile of utterly rubbish ‘blankets’ which are covered in holes, using my jumper as a pillow.

I am rudely awoken after probably an hour by fluorescent lights going on (what is it with cops and their obsession with flouro? Did they not get the memo about mood lighting!?) and I again silently thank the cop from the night before for grabbing me a shit load of fruit (as a vegan I am unable to eat anything I am offered in the way of ‘food’ and I use inverted commas seriously. I am pretty sure that dogs would turn their noses up at this crap let alone those of us who choose an ethical diet which harms no living being. The wait begins for my legal aid call to discuss my bail hearing later this morning. I think its about 7am by this point.

Now male readers apologies for the next bit, because a) you won’t be able to identity with the truest nature of the wrongness and b) its eugh. To make matters worse it’s that special time of the month where as well as wanting to kill people you require certain items to enable yourself to be comfortable. I had made sure that I was able to bring a box of tampons from my stuff (they kept my bag at Newtown) but now this morning, the charming (female I may add) officer tells me they are unable to open property. Now this causes a problem. The items they are able to give me are no use for varying reasons too personal to go into here which basically leaves me utterly fucked. I am told by the female officer they aren’t a hotel (really? there was me thinking I had checked into the Hilton in my sleep, I HATE it when I do that) I am told that I can’t have a shower because as a male prison they don’t have the facility for women (here’s a suggestion for that one: don’t hold women there. problem solved, next) so it’s safe to say that by the time I am called to speak to Legal Aid I am feeling decidedly subpar.

Legal Aid and actually appearing via videolink to Parramatta bail court takes all of an hour from start to finish, and is probably the bit of the day I feel normal the most as I am out of solitary confinement and able to walk about a bit. Speaking to the other 7 people (all male) who are up for bail breaches I am heartbroken to hear the story of the guy in after me. His failing? calling his son to wish him happy birthday. Ladies and gentlemen, our police force. clap clap etc.

I am refused a phone call. I overhear two officers talking about how the Australian prison system would be better if, and I quote. ‘they didn’t have to adhere to the UN and shit’. I am again put back in my box and held for a further four hours or so (after my bail has been continued, no changes, this took the magistrate all of 45 seconds to approve FYI)

at around 1pm I am roused (having passed out finally for an hour or so) and let go. papers are signed, personal property is returned and with one last dig about me not being late again I all out. I nearly cry again when I see the four people waiting outside for me, Occupy Sydney does arrest solidarity so well we should bottle it and seel it to other Occupy sites. I can’t begin to express how amazing it is to come out after 14 hours or whatever and see friendly faces, read your twitter and FB feed and just read pure love from those who have been there themselves, those who understand, those who also see the system for what it is: a time wasting, bullying, prisoner grooming hamster wheel which once you fall into won’t let you out without a damn hard fight.

So, next time you are running late for something and it feels like the end of the world, ask yourself what will the consequence be? the cold shoulder from a loved one, the anger of a friend, or the wrath of a police officer which through their poor judgment ends up robbing you of your liberty for just over half a day. Ask yourself why we give these people this kind of power over anyone, what happened to innocent until proven guilty? Because right now Australia , we live in what’s fast becoming a police state. And this my friends is why we #occupy.

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