On November 28, 2017 I was arrested.
In response to the incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia this weekend: while I am a white woman and not a black man (and I understand clearly that I experienced some degree of white privilege in this situation), I think the story of my arrest last November is an emblematic vignette, that speaks to the ignorance, arrogance and knee-jerk overreach of law enforcement in our country today, exacerbated by the current inhumane political climate that has catalyzed an overall societal decline. We have ceased to have a civil society. The touted American principle/pretense of “Innocent until proven guilty” is, in the current national climate, a fairy tale – woven into our cultural mythology, not a reality nor a right to be expected. In the end, it will be shown that I was arrested not for any crime — but for being a spirited, outspoken low-income mother of disabled children, and advocate for children’s rights – and thus, de facto, “suspect”. My arrest was made possible as a result of institutionalized prejudice/systemic confirmation bias against those – like our family – currently in circumstantial poverty yet daring to not merely keep their heads to the ground cowering in docile resignation.
Chapter One: A Knock on the Door
I was sitting in my kitchen homeschooling my 9 year old son, Charlie. We were at the kitchen table doing workbook exercises and drawing and talking about what we were learning and the plan for the day. It was around 11:00 a.m.
Then, there was a knock at the kitchen door.
I got up from the table and answered the door. There were two armed Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputies there. They said: “We need to talk to you, can you come outside?” I said “No, my son has a mental illness diagnosis and I cannot leave him alone for a minute, can you come in?”
They came into my kitchen and said that they were there to inform me that I was being arrested for theft.
I was like, “Wait, what?!” “I haven’t stolen anything, what is this about? Who is alleging that I stole something? What are they alleging that I stole? I haven’t ever stolen anything in my life. I have no idea what this about.”
They said (multiple times, in response to me asking the same questions over and over again): “We don’t know what you are being accused of stealing. We don’t know who is accusing you. We only know that it is a “Felony Theft“, which means that the value of what you are being accused of stealing is greater than $1,000.”
And I was again like: “Wait, what?!” (and I’m paraphrasing, I’d love to see their body cam footage of the incident – if there is such a thing – and would transcribe it all word-for-word!!) “I have no idea what this is about, I haven’t stolen anything. How can you arrest me for an accusation of stealing something, yet you don’t know what I am being accused of stealing or who is accusing me?”
(Same answer from the Sheriff.)
At some point I told my son Charlie: “Go run and get Dad!” and Charlie ran out to the garage (my husband’s workshop) and told Dad (Len) to come in to the house right away.
I asked the sheriff if I could call my attorney and they said yes. I called my attorney, Phil. [ I had 5 attorneys helping to defend and support my advocacy at the time, and called the one who seemed most appropriate and told him this latest absurd twist]. In this conversation I explained that I was not being told what I was being arrested for – and the sheriff interjected that “we DID tell her”; he repeated that I was being arrested for” Felony Theft” (but again reiterated that they did not know what I was being accused of stealing, nor who was responsible for making this accusation.)
Things are a bit blurry from around that moment; I think my attorney may have spoken to the sheriff (on my cell phone), I don’t recall exactly; I know my heart was racing — as I couldn’t believe what was happening [it was like a scene from some sort of surrealist movie (Twin Peaks? Blue Velvet? Something Cohen Brothers-esque?)]!
I had never been arrested before in my life. No one I know has ever been arrested either (at least not during a time when I knew them). For most intents and purposes, I am a typical American housewife and mother of four children; a stay-at-home mom-blogger, with the work I do and the way I conduct myself in my daily life not warranting anything that could result in an arrest.
People who have known me a very long time know how very “straight-arrow” I have been my whole life. As a young recent college grad, I refused to let friends drink beer in my car during a camping trip (despite their protestations that they were “just passengers!“) I even refused to drink alcohol myself when offered it by friends at parties until after I was 21 years old! I have never been at-fault in a car accident — in 32+ years of driving. Hell, I rarely even stray so much from the straight and narrow as to jaywalk! Throughout my years of “adulting” I have been audited by the IRS for five separate years of my taxes — and each time the IRS has 100% agreed with my math on my returns, and neither increased my tax, nor fined, nor penalized me nor made me make any other changes in response to those audits! Straight arrow. Despite having gotten used to being under attack for my lead-poisoing prevention advocacy, the fact that I was now being arrested certainly seemed completely surreal and out of the blue!
Because I am me – a documentary filmmaker who tries to document everything related to my advocacy online – with trembling hands and a shaking voice and tears in my eyes (tears being shed for the ambiguity, disbelief and injustice of the situation), I asked the sheriff if I could “take a selfie”! [I knew I needed to post on Facebook that I was being arrested if I was going to get the support to get through whatever bizarre chapter was about to unfold.] I didn’t actually expect the sheriff would likely agree to my request…. but he did!.
The sheriff deputies then told me that I would need to come out on the porch so they could handcuff me and take me away to jail.
(No — really!) I was shocked.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. [Looking back, 5 months later I still cannot believe it happened!]
He had no idea that I was posting on Facebook (he didn’t ask), and I am sure he had no idea that I had 16,000+ followers on Facebook at the time (18,000+ now), but he let me finish what I was typing. I was so upset that I made a bunch of typos and my autofill accidentally typed that I was being arrested by the “Marin County Sheriff” and not the “”Multnomah County Sheriff”! [My friend Carissa later logged into Facebook for me and corrected that!] Lol.
I went outside, my focus at that time was not on me, but was on making sure that Charlie (my 9 year old) was with my husband, Len (which he was), and on making sure Len knew that Avi (my then 12 year old) would be coming home from school soon and he would need to be on the lookout, and take care of him as well.
I was kicking myself later that I did not think of using my phone to film what was happening to me as it was happening… It literally didn’t occur to me; I was just too outraged, upset, shaken and bewildered and was not thinking straight at all at this point!
Chapter Two: The Ride To Jail
… (to be continued on next post)…
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