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Black Lives Matter defund the police OPD racism

Stories of Police Violence in Omaha 7.25.20 Part 5: Anonymous

7/26/2020

I haven’t slept since Friday and have had barely anything to eat for two days and am trying to get my initial thoughts down on paper for a few reasons, so I appreciate your patience with this write up. This will be added to as I recall more details.

Yesterday I was arrested and detained for 19 hours after only about 5 minutes after arriving to the protest as it was nearing the bridge, a block away from its cessation point where folks would be dispersing. We were rushed at on either side by the police, no way to disperse, shot at with pepper spray  and rubber bullets. I later learned this rushing technique with pepper bullets and corralling people is a military technique called ‘ketteling’. I had not heard any previous calls to disperse – I had just arrived – and was shocked at seeing an *extremely* peaceful protest attacked by the police with tear gas and rubber bullets. I saw many military style dressed police officers and several attack an unarmed young man and tackle him to the ground in such a shocking and unnecessary way. 

I was toward the end of the bridge but the OPD corralled everyone and began slowly arresting people. I counted no less than 25 police officers standing idle in the street – these were officers who were not guarding us detained. One was talking about the overtime they were going to get to another – among other reasons, police overtime is a hot topic here because of the recent overtime our Mayor approved for the previous round of protests. Masks were on some but not all officers. When I simply and respectfully asked an officer (Ofc. R. Ramos, badge #2493) why he wasn’t wearing a mask, he spit down toward me and the others seated on the sidewalk of the bridge. There was a legal observer present at the protest who was also arrested, and I saw a member of the press get arrested and he was taken for booking as well. Masks were worn by every protestor I saw. I was tied with zip ties. Mine were nowhere near as tight as other people’s but I still sustained a sizable hematoma on my wrist.  See picture. I was not read my rights. I had to ask what I was being arrested for. 

I was one of the final to be arrested on the bridge and taken to the jail’s parking lot around 11 pm where I sat along with about 30-35 others for hours on the pavement, with the pepper spray residue on my mask irritating me the whole time. We asked repeatedly for water and it was finally brought. One woman could not get an officer to respond to her request to use the bathroom and we were held for so long there that she was forced to urinate on the pavement. One officer (Ofc. Gelbchek (sp?) took a picture of us and texted it to someone. Another was overheard saying stick to the plan – he was to be the good cop while the other was to play the bad cop. I was finally brought into the building at 2:30 am but was kept in a stifling hot enclosed parking garage. Water was provided if requested. A fan was there, but I several times had to go sit in front of it because I was starting to experience the effects of heat exhaustion and was feeling faint and nauseous. At this point, after having zip ties on for hours, one woman, in tears, asked an officer to loosen her zip ties, they were cutting off her circulation and you could see her fingers turning blue. The officer instead tightened them. 

Finally, at about 3:30 am, they move the ten of us in that room back outside where it is cooler. I was able to covertly snap a picture of the scene (see picture). About 4 am I am brought into the jail and my zip ties removed and my personal property taken. A little more time passes in the waiting room, and at about 4:30 am I am finally brought into the jail and placed in a holding cell with 47 other women, 48 myself included (I counted). I had just gotten into the cell when the women there had mentioned they had just come from a larger more expansive room with cots yet when asked if we could move some folks there or all of us there, we were told ‘no’ for quite some time before they finally relented, probably about 2-3 hours. Finally they relented and they periodically move groups of us between this holding cell and the lobby, where there was air conditioning and seating, and eventually the room with the cots. I was not ever held in that room for any substantial amount of time. The one time I went into that room I was called for booking immediately as I laid down and was not allowed to return to that room again after I was booked. The toilet in this small cell was indeed overflowing if flushed and you couldn’t go even if you wanted to because there were so many bodies in this small cell, probably about 7 feet by 14 feet, and I noted a max capacity of 14. There was not once in the 19 hours I was held were we not over capacity in any holding cell. 

I start to lose track of time here – I’m not booked officially into the system until about noon Sunday (despite the fact that my paperwork says I was booked at 11 pm the night before). I tell the woman who is taking my fingerprints – she got it wrong the first time and almost put my prints on a person’s file that wasn’t even being booked in that night – that I have enough cash on my personal property to make bail and she does help me by getting me to personal property processing. The personal property computer was also freezing and had to be rebooted several times. The woman who was processing my property and the sergeant on duty had a conversation in front of me about the fact that the bail system was down and that they were trying to fix it but didn’t know what was wrong with it. This was one of many purported technological failures including a broken copier that stopped bookings for an hour and the entire system network rebooting for a couple of hours which stalled the process that much more. When I asked an officer while I was waiting for my medical check how long the reboot would take, he stated it could take until 11 am. It was 5 am at that time. I said it seemed our rights were being infringed upon by being detained in the cell in the way that especially since some had and others were trying to post bond, and asked if we could be moved. He said he didn’t envy any of us being in that room and that if our rights were being infringed upon, then I needed to sue Douglas County. 

We were served breakfast and lunch. Breakfast – two slices of white bread, two packets of sugar, cornflakes, a small carton of milk and a small cold sausage patty – came late in the morning, around 9 am. Because it had been so long since we had been given a meal since we’d been booked, and I had been told we could be in there until Monday, I saved one slice of bread and the two packets of sugar in the pocket of my jacket. Breakfast was when I broke down and wept quietly while eating my bread. I got a hug for the first time in months from a friend sitting next to me. Down the bench a ways, a couple other people started to weep or have anxiety attacks, comforted by women near them.  Lunch – two peanut butter or ham sandwiches with carrots and a small brownie – was around noon. Same deal, not knowing how long before my next meal, I saved the brownie.  We were forced to eat in the cramped cells during a pandemic. Not all were given meals because they were being processed at booking or processing their personal property.

I was given water once on the bridge and once in the parking lot and once in the hot garage, poured from a bottle into my mouth that had also been used to pour water into other protestors mouths during this pandemic, despite the fact that there were enough cases of water when finally brought that we each could have our own.  I thankfully had a water bottle on me and was able to access it in spite of my zip ties a couple of times while waiting in the parking lot.  I was given water from a clean water source only twice during our detainment, after being booked. If we wanted water, we were told we had to drink from the water fountain in the holding cell, which was no doubt contaminated with fecal matter from the toilet directly below it. 

Some of the women had to change out of their street clothes into orange top and pants, sandals and socks. Some of the men too, but more of the women than men. I was never asked to change out of my clothes. Most of the police officers were dismissive, rude, and would ignore questions asked to help orient us. One police officer who was monitoring the women in the larger room with cots once they allowed some of us to move in there was kind enough to hold open the door to the cooler room and fan in some fresh air while we were being handed cups of cold, clean water. 

I am never once told that my bail was posted. At around 1 pm a sergeant came in to say they were going to start releasing us. I didn’t know if my bail had been posted so I had to ask the sergeant around 1:30 pm to see if I was okay to go when they started releasing people. Around 2 pm I signed my paperwork and was told to sit in the lobby as I’d be leaving shortly. About 3-5 of us were to be released then. Then they told all of us to get back into our holding cell – 22 of us this time – the others were in the room with the cots. They had to shut down for shift change and count, which had taken an hour to an hour and half the previous two times this had been done while we were there. I was finally released at around 4 pm.  I still do not know if the Nebraska Left Coalition, ACLU, or my own cash made my bail because once again, their system that cut checks for the cash in personal property wasn’t working. I had called Nebraska Left Coalition and texted so they may have made my bail…in any case, I now have to call a number at the Correctional Facility in future to get whatever personal property cash I have in my belongings. 

I saw that trans and gender non conforming folks arrested in the protest were kept in solitary confinement cells. I saw a young woman (I believe she was actually a minor?) get pulled out of our cell by four or five women guards and thrown forcefully into solitary – she was treated this way because she kept asking for a phone call. When she got more upset by her treatment, they pepper sprayed her and I saw her getting carted away in handcuffs in a way by a male police officer that looked like it was going to rip her shoulder out of her socket. She was crying out in pain and obviously distressed. I personally did not witness but heard many reports of a man with perceived mental disabilities who was attacked by multiple cops. There were many folks who saw that incident too.

To be clear, I am a white woman with privilege. What we experienced is nothing new, happens every day, disproportionately to BIPOC and people have been actively engaged in this work for years. Black lives matter. Justice for James Scurlock. 

Pictures below. Some video of mass arrest: https://www.icloud.com/iclouddrive/0IndmC6-aKdUq7Vc4px8Ethjw#IMG%5F1807