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Pittsburgh, PA

Rachel Lange is arrested.

Last Thursday night, a friend and I decided to check out a peace march we'd seen on the news. It was totally spontaneous action--hundreds of people had somehow come together to walk through the streets and protest the war. It wasn't officially permitted-- permission is not easy to get for such things here, but the mayor had given his unofficial consent.

After a small goose-chase, my friend and I found it, 10 minutes before it ended. By this time, everyone was walking on the sidewalk except for a growing number of police, and the hundreds had dwindled to about two. We walked with them for a little while, until the procession turned down a side street. It stopped, to allow the second half of the group to cross with the light (no jaywalking!). In retrospect, we must've been led to that street--a whole block with nothing but a stone wall.

Something seemed to happen, and I got pushed against the wall, separated from my friend. Then I saw cops--cops in riot gear, cops with really big guns, cops with dogs.

There were cops in front of me on the sidewalk, cops behind me, and cops on the street, pushing me against the wall. They started beating people. They were yelling obscenities. I tried to leave, but the crowd was being pushed against the wall. I saw a boy, who yelled something like “Stop beating her!”, and was pulled out of the crowd and beaten over the head with a night stick. I met a girl later, whose nose had been broken against the pavement when the cops threw her down. The ACLU observer got her elbow sprained when they beat her.

We were all rounded up and arrested. 122 of us. I heard later that the cops had prevented anyone who looked older than 30 from continuing to march. That there were federal marshals there, who had given the order to arrest everyone, even those who weren't causing any trouble.

I spent the next 30 hours in jail, being called a coward, an asshole, a fucker, a traitor to my country, ungrateful to the troops dying for my freedom, a bitch, a lesbian, a pinko (yeah--really, a pinko!), etc., while various officials tried to get us all processed as slowly as possible. I overheard how they went out of their way, breaking even their own rules, to punish us, the 'real' criminals. No kidding. I had the misfortune to get a right-wing veteran for a magistrate. He set my bail at $1000. I later met a crack whore, whose bail was the same. My father and sister waited 7 hours to try to pay it. “You know why you're here?” the police said to them, “Because your daughter committed a crime!” When they pointed out the whole 'innocent until proven guilty' thing, they were threatened with arrest.

I am charged with two misdemeanors. Obstructing Traffic and Failure to Disperse.

I don't know what is going to happen. The charges could be dismissed. The maximum is 3 years for one, 2 for the other.

The lawyers told us to lay low. They said it would be a public relations fight as much as anything. I figured I'd tell you all, and if you had the inclination, time, and resources, you could spread the word. Write to the editor. Tell somebody. If you have any questions, just ask.

Love,

Rachel


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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