Black Lives Matter Civic Engagement defund the police OPD racism

Stories of Police Violence in Omaha 7.25.20 Pt. 1: Anonymous

Seeing Red Staff note: The author of this firsthand account has requested to remain anonymous.

I was arrested Saturday night after marching peacefully in solidarity with Portland and in memory of James Scurlock. The march was entirely nonviolent and no property was damaged. OPD cars followed the march the entire time, both directly behind us and a block away on either side of the march. We were less than three blocks away from our stopping point and peacefully dispersing when we had to cross the bridge at 29th and Farnam. Police waited until we were all on the bridge until blocking both ends of the bridge and corralling us. They arrested every marcher, most of us with the charge of failure to disperse and obstructing traffic, though some people received different charges at random. One of the people I went with was charged with activity likely to incite violence, even though he acted the same as everyone else and complied with officers’ every command. I was arrested around 9:45 pm, ziptied, and the officers took my info but refused to identify themselves or what department/organization they were with. Their badges were covered or on their backs. 

None of us were read our rights, and they arrested members of the media and the legal observer, all of whom were clearly marked as such. Later, when we asked to speak with an attorney, the corrections officers said no.

They took us all to Douglas County Correctional Facility, and intake was already at capacity by the time I arrived. I started the intake process at about 11pm and it was clear that the officers working were in no hurry to process all of the people waiting: most of them were gossipping or on their phones, and given how many officers were there, I presume at least some of them were being paid overtime to do so. The sheet which says my charges states that I arrived at 11:30pm and was processed at 11:40pm, and though I did go through property and called for bail around midnight, I was not actually fingerprinted until about 3am. 

In the mean time, I was held in room 6, which is about 25’x15′ and is marked “max capacity 14”. As more people were brought in and the room gradually filled, we did headcounts, and at its most crowded, there were 50 women in room 6. There was one toilet which backed up when flushed, and when the drain overflowed the guards took us all to a larger room where we all had space to social distance and had access to cold water. However, once the water had drained, we were put back into room 6, supposedly so the men could get some air in the larger room, but the men were not put in there until about 6 hours later. We occasionally rotated into the larger room and the main intake lobby, but most of the time we spent in room 6.
We overheard one of the corrections officers who had a cough say that he had a fever, but his covid test had not come back with results yet. I remember an OWH article last week that stated 18 guards had tested positive for covid. I am worried that we all will get sick from the conditions we were held in.

Trans people, nonbinary people, and people who talked back were put into solitary. At least one of the women who was in solitary was assaulted.

The bail, booking and property systems seemed random and nonsensical. Obviously there is a record of what order we came into the jail, but people were thrown into room 6 and then later taken for processing in completely random order. They dressed people who talked back, seemingly to force those people through another hoop; eventually they started calling names at random to dress us. A girl who called her mom for bail at 11pm called again at about 4am, and heard from her mom that they had taken the teller away from the bail desk. Her mom was there with cash and when she asked a guard when the teller would be back, the guard said they wouldn’t start posting bail until 9am to “teach [us] a lesson”. These inefficiencies were deliberate mistreatment.

As Sunday progressed those of us who needed scheduled medications were not given access to them. With every shift change they did a roll call, which mostly consisted of a guard showing up at the door, shouting a few names, coming back 15 minutes later, shouting a few more names; this would repeat several times until most of us were called. Some women weren’t on the roll call list at all until Sunday late morning. At one point a guard said he didn’t know where each person was. The entire process seemed like an exercise in passing the buck and we kept getting conflicting information. Allegedly the computer systems have scheduled maintenance every Sunday from 5am-7am, but about 8am when no one had been processed since 3am, the story became that the scheduled maintenance was 7am-11am. Then they said the delay was caused by the intake system, then the copier, then the cash system. Several people who had already been processed and dressed got fingerprinted again because the “prints didn’t save”. We kept getting told “we want you out as much as you want to get out” but we could see guards standing around chatting and we even overheard them having personal conversations and griping about how much work this protest was. 

We were told at 1pm Sunday that we all had been bailed and we all would be out by 2, at which point some people did start to get released, but then at 2:45 they said they were stopping at 3pm for another count. Then they said the system was down again and bails were being processed manually so we would be there another 10-12 hours. They started releasing people again at 4:30pm. I got out at around 6pm and learned I had been bailed at 11am, as had the friends I had gotten arrested with. They were released around 9:30pm Sunday. I feel especially bad for the two women who were there on unrelated charges while we were there, because they got caught up in the inefficiency simply by being there.

The situation from beginning to end seems to have been deliberately designed to retaliate against activists. It was a great deal of work for everyone involved. But it all could have been avoided if the police had not corralled protesters, if they had issued citations instead of arrests, or if they had processed us normally instead of trumping up bureaucratic hoops to make a political point. The conditions at the jail seem designed to infect guards and detainees alike.

I’ve written my state senator to request oversight of these behaviors and make OPD and the correctional facility face consequences for this deliberate abuse of power. Refusing us legal counsel and not mirandizing anyone is something that should be investigated. Disallowing overtime and cutting OPD’s overinflated budget would also save the city a great deal of money and hopefully prevent this kind of nonsense in the future.