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November 18, 2006

Houston janitors brutalized in custody

Union organizer Anna Denise Solis was arrested along with 16 other people during a non-violent protest by the striking Houston janitors. She has posted this first-hand account of her captivity on houstonjanitors.org:

We sat down in the intersection and the horses came immediately. It was really violent. They arrested us, and when we got to jail, we were pretty beat up. Not all of us got the medical attention we needed. The worst was a protester named Julia, who is severely diabetic. We kept telling the guards about her condition but they only gave her a piece of candy. During roll call, she started to complain about light-headedness. Finally she just collapsed unconscious on the floor. It was like she just dropped dead. The guard saw it but just kept going through the roll. Susan ran over there and took her pulse while the other inmates were yelling for help, saying we need to call somebody. The medical team strolled over, taking their own sweet time. She was unconscious for like 4 or 5 minutes.

They really tried to break us down. The first night they put the temperature so high that a woman--one of the other inmates--had a seizure. The second night they made it freezing and took away many of our blankets. We didn't have access to the cots so we had to sleep on a concrete floor. When we would finally fall asleep the guards would come and yell 'Are you Anna Denise Solís? Are you so and so?' One of the protesters had a fractured wrist from the horses. She had a cast on and when she would fall asleep the guard would kick the cast to wake her up. She was in a lot of pain.

The guards would tell us: 'This is what you get for protesting.' One of them said, 'Who gives a shit about janitors making 5 dollars an hour? Lots of people make that much.' The other inmates--there were a lot of prostitutes in there--said that they had never seen the jail this bad. The guards told them: 'We're trying to teach the protesters a lesson.' Nobody was getting out of jail because the processing was so slow. They would tell the prostitutes that everything is the protesters' fault. They were trying to turn everybody against each other.

I felt like I was in some Third World jail, not in America. One of the guards called us 'whores' and if we talked back, we didn't get any lunch. We didn't even have the basic necessities. It felt like a police state, like martial law, nobody had rights. Some of us had been arrested in other cities, and it was never this bad before.

They tried to break us down, to dehumanize us. But we were stronger....We showed them that we weren't afraid. We did it all together. Now we're ready to fight on for basic American rights like the freedom of speech and the right to protest.

Here's an excellent reaction from Mike the Mad Biologist.

The janitors, who make $5/hr, are striking for a raise to $8.50/hr plus health insurance.

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Comments

So the cops want to keep these folks at sub-minimum wage. I worked for minimum wage a while back and the only way I could pay the rent was to break the law. I moved “tax free” liquor and cigarettes. I actually made a lot more money illegally than I did with my real job, but I didn’t have to make much to do that. There basically is no way to live on minimum wage without pulling some sort theft or grift. Perhaps the cops just want a healthy criminal base for their own job security.

Just had a horrible thought.

I think the cops know that there is no way the protesters are going to be convicted of any wrongdoing, because of their first amendment rights. So instead, regardless of what happens in court, they know they can expect this sort of abuse during the initial arrest if they "dare" protest again.

WHat makes that thought particularly horrible is that I don't think the cops dare to do it if they didn't think they could get away with it. The other aspect is that this is absolutely another example of the sort of outright fascist activity that has been explicitly approved during the Bush administration (Exclusion of citizens from official presidential speeches, "Free speech zones", Gitmo on the Hudson at the RNC, the crackdown against protesters at the Free Trade summit in Miami with DHS funds). That culture of authoritarian power is going to take along time to go away, and may only get worse as soldiers involved in the sheltered, excuse ridden area of "interrogation techniques" in the War on Terror enter the civilian field of law enforcement.

Have you folks not noticed that these day, America IS a third world country and a police state?

Something many of us may not have realized is that this attitude from the police establishment is utterly typical of how they feel about protesters. It's really something I don't fathom at all, but cops (and more generally, people in authority) simply hate protesters. They even have their own urban myths about how protesters which lead to complete paranoia when dealing with them. The systematic dehumanification of protesters is a bizarre phenomenon. When I was young, I was told that protesting was a right of all Americans, and that it was indeed a civic duty in many situations. But cops treat protesters like scum. It's despicable.

There needs to be a multi-billion dollar lawsuit that bankrupts this town. And there needs to be an investigation into why these cops are in the pocket of the corporations. (Unless they're just scum who enjoy beating up people.)

Digby relates that the bond for these protesters is being set by the D.A. at $888,888.00 apiece. The article he links to notes, in comparison, that a man charged with murder was recently given a $30,000 bond.

That's government by the ruling class, and for the ruling class. Its like 1886 all over again.

One of the more shameful aspects of the police officers' abuse of the protestors is that the House police are unionized">http://www.hpou.org/">unionized themselves, but they don't hesitate to attack people for organizing. Here is their union's contact list. You Know What To Do.

Note that several of the techniques used by the Houston jailers are also 'interrogation' -- reader torture -- techniques used on al-Quaeda prisoners.

Extreme heat, extreme cold, sleep deprivation, withholding of food -- these are all torture techniques. And that's been documented in the the work done on how al-Queda prisoners are tortured and on how our government had formally directed the be tortured.

I really wish someone would fix the embarrassing usage of 'marshal law.'

Fuck da Police comming straight from da underground

just wait till the police have to strike and protest.I hope all their kids get cancer and die!

You're over the line. Get a goddamned grip on yourself, and step BACK.

I was reading around at the Janitors for Justice website and there's a blurb about Chevron receiving incentives in the form of tax breaks totalling $3.5 million dollars.

So I'm thinking here, I wonder if in each large city (maybe even smaller ones), Chevron receives such welfare payments/subsidies. Oh, I'm sorry - incentives.

How to find out shit like that? Any ideas where to start?

back in the day we would have shot back and fought back and fucking died for our rights.... ill step back from nothing you fuck.

Oh yeah, there ya go. Back in what day? You did nothing. You don't talk like this to other people who are empathetic to the nature of your 'movement.'

RickD sez:

Something many of us may not have realized is that this attitude from the police establishment is utterly typical of how they feel about protesters. It's really something I don't fathom at all, but cops (and more generally, people in authority) simply hate protesters.

1984 sez:

There was a quote from PJ O'Rourke once, to this effect: that the students' movements of the 1960s were predicated on a Marxist-Leninist revolution of the working class against the sons and daughters of privilege. What the students didn't realize was that this had already happened: the working class had all gotten jobs as policemen, and were beating the shit out of the sons and daughters of privilege, that is, the students.

Comedians don't care about people feelings, authors, revolutionaries, none care about how some words will make someone feel. Its not as though their kids will actually get cancer and die. GEEEEEZzzzzeeee

There are lines you don't cross and you crossed it. It's about being respectful & humane. You don't wish shit like that on other people's kids regardless of who they. And, it doesn't matter whether they will or not. What it demonstrates is your mindset and I'm not interested.

A reader who was at the protest emailed me about her arrest story.

I was waiting to be frisked on entering the jail, and I was behind some strippers who were part of a vice sting. While they were getting frisked (legs spread, bending over, hands against the wall) there were pairs of male cops standing around watching in the most digusting way you can imagine (and I’m sure you can imagine). Nudging each other, making comments, standing with their legs spread and their arms crossed. When I got frisked, the officer pulled my shirt up high, yanked my breasts out of my bra, and then left the shirt up while she did my bottom half. Humiliating. Horrible. A nice little show for the disgusting pigs who were watching like they were still at the strip club.

Thanks, Amanda!

Knock it off, "cops"--you're being disruptive and offensive. Not all cops aren't all bad. In fact, there are a lot of life-long union men and women who also happen to be police officers. Earlier this fall, the policemen's union backed their members when the officers refused to follow an illegal order to racially profile young men in the 7th Avenue subway station. And they won!

Unfortunately, professionals like that weren't guarding the Houston protesters or pulling library duty at UCLA. Let's stick to being mad at the cops who actually abuse people and violate rights, not at the entire profession.

I'm assuming that most of the janitors in the strike were Latino / a or black -- this was a race war as well as class war.

As was seen during Katrina (the crowding at the Superdome, the behavior of the Gretna officials, etc.)

The South is a third world country; many Latin American nations have a white European-derived elite.

For those who think I am a Yankee ragging on the South, I live in the Washington, D.C. area and the pattern is observable here too.

The pattern's observable here in Connecticut, too, sara, so why are you targeting the South?

And why not “target the South”? Look at who they vote for. No, they’re not all crazy down there, and brutal fascist and racist attitudes are hardly rare north of the Mason-Dixon line. However, a substantial majority have been pathological reactionaries ever since the first slave stepped ashore in Charleston Bay. They’ve been nothing but dead weight from the three-fifths compromise on. Civil war (sorry, “War of Northern Aggression”) couldn’t change them, reconstruction couldn’t change them, Jim Crow couldn’t change them, The depression and New Deal couldn’t change them, WW II couldn’t change them, the voting rights act couldn’t change them, Vietnam couldn’t change them, the post industrial economy couldn’t change them, Iraq won’t change them either. They’ll keep electing mossback christopath ignoramuses forever. Its sad, insofar as the white victims of their own self-inflicted insanity willingly follow their Baptist witch doctors right off a cliff, but my sympathy and patience are limited. Jesus, read Huckleberry Finn then try to claim with a straight face that Twain wouldn’t recognize his familiar South today.

The rest of the U.S. is anything but innocent, the South being just a steroid/meth injected, hypertrophied subset of an ugly greater whole. Ask yourself: does a story of police thugs in Texas surprise you? No, and a story about cop thugs in L.A. or Philadelphia or Seattle doesn’t really either. Wouldn’t it be nice however to be surprised though. Wouldn’t it be nice not to be reminded of Bull Conner and Parchman Farm every time you do hear these stories? Wouldn’t it be nice to think someday things might change? Wouldn’t it be nice not to know it’s not worth holding your breath?

cfrost,

I'm not really sure how a good deal of your self-righteous, rambling reply pertains to the subject you claim to be discussing, but I'll reply to what I can.

What exactly do you accomplish by insulting an entire region, other than finding a cheap way to feel good about yourself? Badmouthing based on region has the same appeal as badmouthing based on nationality, religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation - it's a way to feel above other people without, you know, actually demonstrating that you're smarter, wiser, a better person, or more talented. It's a cheap refuge for little people who can't compete with their peers in any kind of merit-based way.

And what does it accomplish? It alienates people who might otherwise be willing to listen to progressive ideas, and it plays right into the mindset of David Brooks-style culture warriors. It encourages progressives to be ignorant of and insulting toward significant portions of the country. It sends a message to southern progressives that you won't support them. Is there a single positive ramification to offset these?

Aeroman
You’re correct, it isn’t fair or right to tar a whole region with the Lester Maddox brush. I shouldn’t rant when pissed off. I had just gotten off the phone with a friend who has recently moved to Alabama and has had a series of experiences of a nature that one would think had been left behind circa 1960.

It’s more like despair that my bellyaching is about. We can’t just abandon the South and we do have to support the progressive faction that does exist there. But where to start?

The South (and the rest of the country) has changed for the better over the last couple generations to a degree that would not have been thought possible a half century ago. And yet. The last midterm elections reflect a division that persists in spite of migration to the South, the homogenization of American culture, globalization, and all the rest. The center-left tide that washed Republican candidates away in the rest of the country got nowhere in the South. Why? Appeals to the populist sentiments that could get a Huey Long elected no longer work. Race is no longer the bright political line it once was, but it’s place has been seamlessly taken over by the Christian right agenda that amazingly hews to the gospel according to the Wall Street Journal’s editors in addition to homophobia. How did that happen? Progressives are missing something here. That Southern white voters after all this time can still be hoodwinked into ignoring their own interests as easily as they have been seems hardly possible, but there it is. Of course it’s not all voters, but a radical, refractory, conservatism lingers on, skewing one election after another. Will we ever see a day when both parties don’t have to make special concessions to the Southern Right?

Aeroman
You’re correct, it isn’t fair or right to tar a whole region with the Lester Maddox brush. I shouldn’t rant when pissed off. I had just gotten off the phone with a friend who has recently moved to Alabama and has had a series of experiences of a nature that one would think had been left behind circa 1960.

It’s more like despair that my bellyaching is about. We can’t just abandon the South and we do have to support the progressive faction that does exist there. But where to start?

The South (and the rest of the country) has changed for the better over the last couple generations to a degree that would not have been thought possible a half century ago. And yet. The last midterm elections reflect a division that persists in spite of migration to the South, the homogenization of American culture, globalization, and all the rest. The center-left tide that washed Republican candidates away in the rest of the country got nowhere in the South. Why? Appeals to the populist sentiments that could get a Huey Long elected no longer work. Race is no longer the bright political line it once was, but it’s place has been seamlessly taken over by the Christian right agenda that amazingly hews to the gospel according to the Wall Street Journal’s editors in addition to homophobia. How did that happen? Progressives are missing something here. That Southern white voters after all this time can still be hoodwinked into ignoring their own interests as easily as they have been seems hardly possible, but there it is. Of course it’s not all voters, but a radical, refractory, conservatism lingers on, skewing one election after another. Will we ever see a day when both parties don’t have to make special concessions to the Southern Right?

The police are under no legal obligation to protect ANYONE...you're on your own.

Fuck the police...dial 911 and die.

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