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#OccupyPittsburgh

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m going to Occupy Pittsburgh this Saturday.

For those of you (that is: none of you) who haven’t heard the story of my arrest during the G-20 during my freshman year, suffice to say that attending Occupy Pittsburgh either makes me a total badass (“she doesn’t afraid of anything!”) or an idiot who deserves whatever happens to her.

I won’t be occupying full-time, because, you know, I’m paying to go to school and all. I also won’t be attending any events that don’t have permits, because my dad will stone me to death if I get arrested again and I wouldn’t even blame him.

I’m not going to make any bones about it. I’m kind of excited but I’m mostly scared as hell. Two years after my arrest, I still get antsy sometimes when I see police on the sidewalk, and photos and videos of police violence are still triggering for me. Shit, scenes in V for Vendetta are triggering for me. I don’t know how I’m going to react if I see riot gear in person again. I’ll have people around that I trust to take care of me if I have a panic attack. But really… I would just so rather not.

I could reduce my risk by being a legal observer, but at least for the time being, I don’t want to be a neutral observer. I want to carry a sign and yell. Of course, if shit starts to get real and they have an observer shortage, I’ll put my orange hat on, because I care. But Saturday, I’m just a protester.

Some people reading this (if anybody’s reading this) might be planning on going out and protesting too. I don’t know what the police response is going to be like, but because I believe in preparing for the worst, here’s my veteran’s advice to you (note – these are tips for people who are not willing to take arrest. If you want to go the civil disobedience route and knowingly risk arrest, more power to you, but I’m not in that camp. Some of these things will still apply to you but some of them won’t.)

1. Wear comfy clothes. Running shoes are a must. Wear something durable that covers your knees in case you get thrown to the ground. Nothing constricting, flimsy, or likely to fall askance if you get roughed up.

2. Don’t carry valuables or anything heavy.

3. Have IDs in your pockets.

4. Folks in orange baseball caps are ACLU legal observers. They’re your friends. Stay where they can see you if possible. If you can memorize at least one phone number that you could shout to a legal observer if you needed to, even better.

5. If you want to take pictures, buy a disposable camera. Police are notorious for breaking photographers’ equipment.

6. If the police order you to disperse, walk don’t run. A lot of people think running makes you “look suspicious,” but at that point, police usually don’t care. The difference they perceive between walkers and runners is that walkers are slow targets.

7. A vinegar-soaked bandanna will keep block out tear gas, but wearing one over your face the whole time could make you a target. Wear one around your neck, put it over your face if you see tear gas.

8. If you have asthma or another serious lung condition, stay away unless you have and are willing to wear a gas mask. Tear gas will fuck your shit up, and your shit will continue to be fucked up for MONTHS. If you’re going the gas mask route, I’d recommend a sandwich board explaining your lung condition, because a gas mask can make you a target.

9. If you’re black, brown or visibly queer, you’re already a target. Be careful. Just be careful.

10. If you’re trans, also be careful, but for different reasons. If you “pass” well, you might not be at higher risk for arrest, but if you DO get arrested you will probably be mistreated in custody. Be careful.

11. If you’re female-bodied and on your period, wear a pad instead of a tampon. You may not be able to use the bathroom in custody. Some riot cops don’t know about Toxic Shock Syndrome and the rest don’t care.

12. Defending yourself from assault by a cop (even blocking your face when they hit you) can get you charged with resisting arrest. Any contact with an officer that you initiate (i.e. grabbing an officer to stop him from beating up an old woman) can be assaulting an officer, which is an aggravated assault. Don’t be a hero.

13. If you have thick gloves or wristbands, they might be a really good idea. Plastic zip ties are a motherfucker and they dig into your wrists. They can bruise you or cause nerve damage.

14. If you’re arrested, get badge numbers if you can. Try to pick up, either by asking or listening closely, as much information about your arresting officer as possible.

15. Water poured on tear gas makes the burning worse. If you’re in custody and covered in tear gas and police ask if you’d like them to pour some water on you to relieve it, say no. They know perfectly well that it makes it worse. (This was a thing that happened during the G-20.)

16. Use the buddy system. Know your friends’ risk factors and look out for them. Exchange numbers to call in case of an emergency. Have at least one person with you who, if you are arrested, can call your emergency contact, and will also call the ACLU with your name, situation, and any health conditions you may have (asthma, anxiety disorders, etc.)

I’ll post more when I think of them later.

None of this should have to be said.

I’m terrified and that’s BULLSHIT.