Free Country Datum VII: Routine, or Routine Meanness?

via Informed Comment:

September 27, 2005

Office of the Chief
United States Park Police
Dwight E. Pettiford
1100 Ohio Drive S.W.
Washington, D. C. 20242

Dear Chief Pettiford:

I am writing to request information regarding the treatment of individuals arrested on September 26, 2005 in front of the White House and processed at the United States Park Police Anacostia Station.

Yesterday 384 protestors, including peace activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested outside the White House and were brought to United States Park Police Anacostia Station. I was very surprised to learn that many of those arrested were kept handcuffed in vans and buses for up to 12 hours before they were charged and released. Some of those were released at 4:30 in the morning after being arrested at 4:00 the previous afternoon. Many of those held captive the longest were grandmothers and senior citizens. Those released after midnight were unfamiliar with Washington, DC and had no means to travel back to their hotels once the metro had closed. Anacostia is not frequented by taxicabs after midnight.

I have the following questions regarding the treatment of those arrested yesterday:

1. Why was the Anacostia Station chosen as the sole location to process all 384 arrestees when there were several other Park Police stations in the greater Washington, DC area?

2. In what other circumstances have arrestees been detained by U.S. Park Police for periods exceeding twelve hours before being charged with a crime?

3. In what other circumstances have arrestees been detained by U.S. Park Police, and kept handcuffed on buses for periods exceeding ten hours?

4. What is the established U.S. Park Police procedure for processing large numbers of arrestees in the Washington, DC area?

Please respond to the Judiciary Committee Minority Office at 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, telephone number 202-225-6504, fax number 202-225-4423.


John Conyers, Jr.

Ranking Member

House Committee on the Judiciary

In despotic countries protesters get a one-way trip to the cells. Even in most democracies, you don’t expect cops arresting protesters to treat you with kid gloves. In our country, even though there’s not a shadow of a reason to think you are dangerous, we handcuff you for hours then release you after midnight in a ghetto with no transport.

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3 Responses to Free Country Datum VII: Routine, or Routine Meanness?

  1. Patrick (G) says:

    I’m confused as to what your point is:
    Is being released late at night in a ghetto, with no transportation available, something you consider being treated with kid gloves ?

    I thought SOP was to release people in the morning rather than the dead of night.
    The latter seems kind of irresponsible to me…

    If someone were to “disappear” after being “released”, it must be the criminal elements in the “ghetto”, right ? Or would it be the White House making use of their self-abrogated despotic presidential right to make disappear people they declare to be “terrorists” and “holding them” incommunicado for however long they want ?

  2. michael says:

    My point is that it is neither as bad as it might be nor as good as it should be, but also that it’s never as good as it could be.

  3. murky says:

    Wow. Way to go Conyers! I’d like to read some follow-up on this, if there’s any to speak of.

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