Friday, September 18, 2009

Prosecution chastised for bringing the case to court in the first place

On Mothers Day, May 10, 2009 I was arrested and charged with misdemeanor "assault on a police officer". This is an extremely serious charge with penalties of 6 months in jail and $1,000 fine. With an assault charge I would not have been able to volunteer in/near a school and might have been prohibited from entering some countries.
About 40-50 women had come over from the last of our amazing Mother's Day action in front of the White House. Thousands of knitted cozies were sewn together to make our banner which read "We Will Not Raise Our Children To Kill Another Mother's Child". The action was simply beautiful and peaceful and full of commitment to bring our children up in peace. From that event we went to The Mall, as we have many Mothers Days, to protest the Arms Fair held by the military every year. It is a travesty that they are allowed to hold this Fair considering the day itself was proclaimed by Julia Ward Howe as a day to disarm and clean up the carnage of the Civil War.
After over 2 hours of peaceful action, singing and bannering our group was proceeding to break camp and go home for our own CODEPINK House Mother's Day Celebration. We were all tired and looking forward to a short rest.
As I was leaving, a plain clothed officer stepped in front of me and said "you can't go that way". I thought he was some kind of crazy "freeper/Blackwater type" and told him "Yes, I can" then proceeded to move around him. Within 2 seconds he grabbed my arm, twisted it up into the air and pulled it painfully behind my back - all the while dragging me away from the other women who were also leaving. He never identified himself and would later try to convince the judge that I should have known he was the police because he had a badge hanging around his neck.
The badge he wore was one that I've always thought would allow an officer to go into a crime scene, or something like that. It's just ridiculous to think the public would think that person was on duty for anything else. In any case, he stepped so close to me that my breasts were practically touching his chest. He was over 6' tall and I looked UP into his dark sunglasses when he stepped in front of me. It's just not my nature to look DOWN when a man blocks my way.
Medea, Gael, Lori P. and many others were outraged and tried for a long time to get them to let me go. It was obvious, even to some of the officers there, that this was not a good arrest. The fact that not one other officer came to testify on behalf of the government spoke volumes.
I was, from that moment on, humiliated and embarrassed and scared. It's never fun to go to jail and going alone is the absolute worst. I was moved around from place to place and jail to jail. Had to pee in open cells with cameras watching me. All of my personal items were taken away and I was left in sandals, thin white knickers and a sleeveless t-shirt.
When I finally ended up in the downtown jail I was fingerprinted, photographed and put in cell #44. "44" became my new name during the rest of my stay - the women seem to give everyone a nick name of sorts so that part felt kind of good.
I was told I would get a blanket in jail. The reality is no blanket, no pillow, no privacy. Two sheets of toilet paper at a time. Awful white bread and cheese sandwiches were simply disgusting, but it was all they offered for food. The bunks and toilet are stainless steel. The jail cells are freezing and the lights are on 24hours a day. Just a miserable situation.
Late the next day Ann Wilcox came in with Gael, Lori and Francesca to get me out and I was released 26 hours after I was arrested. That's one thing we can all count on. CODEPINK will never, ever leave one of our own in jail.
To make a long story shorter I refused to take a plea and hired Rick Iverson (who also represented Tighe Berry and Laurie Arbiter) to take my case. He was simply amazing.
Although there were a number of witnesses and even video from Andy and Dina, there was only one person who saw everything. Maggie (Rose) Davis and her daughter Sunny were right behind me, leaving also. Maggie and I have been with CODEPINK for years (Maggie was at the White House before the War in Iraq even started). But we had never actually met. I believe we will be friends forever after this court case.
Rick decided Maggie would be the only witness we would need.
The trial was set for September 16th so Maggie, my husband Dave and I met in DC on the 15th. None of us met Rick until we got to the courthouse - but we were all very confident that if we could win he was the man to do it.
I was terrified but used all of the tools I could summon to stay calm. It's so frightening to know that one rouge cop can change your life completely. Four months had gone by since the arrest - would we remember everything that happened? Very scary stuff.
The officer testified and what it came down to was he "thought" CODEPINK was going to do something violent and was shutting us down before we got started. Rick pressed him on whether anything illegal had transpired? Was anyone trying to get back into the Arms Fair? Was anyone acting in a threatening way? The answer was no, no and no. Then Rick challenge his authority to close off an area to the public when no laws had been broken. Finally Rick asked him how hard I "pushed" him. "Well, not hard enough to move me back or anything" was his answer. He seemed to be winning our case for us. But the main problem still was whether or not I knew, or should have known, that he was a cop.
We broke for lunch. By this time Ann Wilcox was in courthouse with us. Then Larry Maxwell showed up with a dozen beautiful white roses. He had been wearing a white rose all day in solidarity with my trial. We had lunch, shook of some of the morning and returned to courtroom.
The officer had not made a good case yet and Rick decided to finish up and not give him a chance to testify any more after lunch.
About this time Col. Ann came into the courtroom - we all know how wonderful that kind of support feels.
Then, Rick brought Maggie to the stand. With clarity and purpose Maggie explained that she, also, had not seen a badge or any yellow tape. That many of us were leaving the same way, with other civilians in the crowd moving in the same direction. And she quietly shared how shocked and dismayed she was to see me grabbed and manhandled for no apparent reason.
You could feel the energy change in the room immediately. The judge had been giving the police the benefit of the doubt at this time and seemed convinced that I probably knew this guy was a cop, or that I certainly should have known. I could see Judge Pan's face changing while Maggie answered questions from both sides. My shoulders relaxed and by the time Maggie was finished I was ready to go on the stand.
Rick asked all of the right questions. He challenged the purpose of a 6 foot tall police officer grabbing a little woman in pink who had apparently not broken any laws. He asked me to explain what happened during those 2 seconds and I did. I started to tear up and the judge was appalled to hear that my arm had been twisted behind my back. She ask me "what is CODEPINK" and I was able to tell her we were women for peace, from around the world and in every state and that we were protesting an Arms Fair on Mother's Day. I think that is when it hit her that I was jailed on Mother's Day - unlawfully.
After closing statements the judge said "not guilty". I wanted to jump up and cheer out loud. Then, to our delight, she chastised the prosecution for even bringing such a ridiculous case to her court. She admonished him for the waste of time and resources. When we were leaving we saw her ask the officer and the prosecutor to approach the bench - boy would I have loved to be a fly on her desk that minute.
After hugs and congrats in the hallway we rushed Maggie out to the airport, went back to the hotel to let our dogs out for a minute and headed to the CODEPINK House to celebrate and party. There was cake and food and drink. Medea, Gael, Col. Ann, Desiree, Jim, Andy, Dina, Allison (and her whole family), Blaine, Aira and many others were there to enjoy this beautiful victory. I was presented with the most amazing necklace and we all talked and shared and were totally and completely relieved that we really, really won. We ALL felt like we won together.
I have been wondering for months what my lesson in all of this is. I think I finally know. The most important thing in this commitment for peace is to push forward for truth, no matter what the costs. It was a little hard not to take the plea, do the community hours and let it all blow over in 6 months. But I could not, I just could not. I was innocent and only one of many women who have been pushed around, knocked down, handcuffed and humiliated for standing up for peace. I've watched my s-heros in CODEPINK do this for years and now I can say, I did it too. I stood up, fought the good fight, and won. I could not have done it without the support of many, many others who have sent e-mails, notes, phone calls and lots of love.
Tomorrow is another day and the push for peace is more important than ever. For this day there is justice.
Lydia Giordano

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