Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Time I Got Arrested For Holding A DVD (Part 2)

If you are joining us midstream, click here for the first part of the story.

So your friendly neighborhood TAN-Man is being taken to the van in handcuffs. And I can’t believe it’s happening, but I’m also thinking, “ok, well this sucks. But it can’t go too far. I mean I didn’t do anything, and everyone knows it. So they’ll probably let me go soon.”

Well not only was I not released, for the next couple hours I drove around in their unmarked van with tinted windows as they played Negro Roundup. These guys seriously just drove around looking for suspicious minorities, and by suspicious I mean, coming out of a store, or in my case coming out of your house carrying a DVD. They ended up with about seven or eight people in the van after stopping a good twenty people.

Adding danger to insult to injury (my wrists were hurting since the cuffs were so tight), the driver is incredibly reckless. He darts in and out of traffic at high speeds to get in position for swooping in on another unsuspecting victim. There are at least two occasions where I seriously fear we’re going to get hit by a car.

Throughout the roundup I initially tried to get out the situation by simply pleading my case. After all, I continued to remind the officers, “I haven’t done anything. Just let me out wherever and this whole misunderstanding could be over. There’s no reason for me to be here.” Time and time again the officers had to reconfirm the truth of my situation with each other. And time and time again they shrugged their shoulders unwilling to correct their mistake. The captain/lead officer who ordered my imprisonment was riding in another car, so I was stuck, at least until the roundup was finished and we went back to the precinct.

After it became apparent that I wasn’t going anywhere, I decided to make my point by needling the officers and basically cracking wise about their jobs, lack of character, and cliché racist assholeness. The highlight here was when the driver, a Puerto Rican male who was shockingly unsympathetic to the blatant racial profiling, was discussing his daughter going away to a private school. Since I knew he didn’t think anyone in the van would know about private school, I was very quick to inform him, “I went to private boarding school, one of the best in the country, and while I would classify it as a positive experience overall, it clearly did not help in preventing me from being plucked off the street by racist pigs for no reason. You should make sure your daughter knows that for those of us who are ethnically challenged, assholes like you don’t take into account the pedigree of one’s education.”

This is when Officer Rivera started to dislike me in a more personal and proactive fashion. I would have thought officers are trained to handle verbal abuse, and they just ignore everyone who talks to them, but I clearly had gotten under this guy’s skin (pardon). He starts asking me about my job, and when I tell him, “freelance writer” he laughs heartily and informs me that really means “unemployed.” I tell him, "I’ve heard that line before, but if all of this is about you being upset about your job, I know a lot of white people who would love to hire an asshole of your caliber, and probably pay you more than the city does."

All of this, as expected, got me nowhere in terms of my quest for freedom. But all my talking made it more and more apparent that I wasn’t supposed to be in this situation. Whenever I used a word with more than two syllables a palpable silence would fall over the van. My use of the word “accosted” became particularly noteworthy as the officers even asked me what “accosted” meant. Apparently the typical negro they pick up doesn’t complain about being “accosted.”

This in addition to my outfit, strap on flip-flops, black Capri pants (no wisecracks CopyRanter), and a shirt that says “I spent $200,000 on my education and all I got was this stinkin’ t-shirt,” all made me stand out from the minority mass. Soon they were telling me in hushed tones, “look, it’s clear you don’t belong here, just be quiet and you’ll probably be let go soon.”


So after being told that upon getting out the van and getting ready to enter the precinct I decide to play ball and be quiet. I get lined up, have my picture taken, and get my fingerprints taken digitally without a peep. Eventually the head officer in charge of my arrest arrives. I think surely I’m going to be let go now. Clearly I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m being a good negro, it’s time to release the innocent.

But the head officer never looked in my direction once. He informed the people who handle the administrative paperwork of all the charges for the various criminals they rounded up, and he left. Never to be seen again. I guess a long hard day's work had come to an end.

After he left we were informed we would be placed in a holding cell, we would be strip-searched to verify we weren’t carrying any concealed weapons, and then we would be taken downtown to central bookings for processing. Well upon hearing this announcement, my Recalcitrant Negro personality felt obligated to return (and no I didn’t use the word recalcitrant with any of the officers).

I once again began declaring my innocence and telling any person in a uniform that I shouldn’t be there. Apparently, however, they hear this song a million times a day on the radio and basically tuned me out. When they escort me to my holding cell I tell them I refuse to enter because I'm innocent. They tell me that, “unless you want to be hogtied on the ground and physically forced into the cell, I should just go in.” I think about it, pausing to let them know I would actually consider being hogtied as a symbol of this injustice, and then eventually enter the cell. We go through the same thing with the strip search. Eventually we’re taken outside to wait for the new van that’s taking us downtown.

While outside Officer Rivera resurfaces and he still doesn’t like me. And funny enough, I still don’t like him. At this stage I feel there’s no point in holding back, they are clearly putting me through the system regardless, so I ask Rivera about his daughter again and he snaps.

He pushes me out of the line and spins me around so he’s positioned behind me. He grabs the cuffs and tightens them even more, and they were already on tight enough to be painful. He grabs my wrists and forces me to bend forward and in my ear he says, “say something more smart ass, talk some more shit and I’ll break your fucking wrists.”

And even though wanted to ask if I could get Clint Eastwood's autograph, I immediately complied to his violent demands and said nothing more other than apologizing for getting out of line. The other guys in the roundup started asking him to chill out and say clearly there was no reason for this. Another officer eventually came out and got him away from me. I, of course, had nothing to say.

The van arrived to take us downtown and we all piled in. Officer Rivera didn’t come. But this experience was not over, I still had more to learn …

To Be Continued

Part 1

Part 3



  1. Holy shit man, I'm hoping this has a happy ending...

  2. this story becomes increasingly unbelievable!

    if it ends in prison rape, you need to put a disclaimer at the top of pt. iii...

  3. Aw, man. This sucks. (I wonder how many of your van-mates were just as unculpable as you?) Was the DVD even any good?

  4. just saw your post on gawker regarding the michelin guide...check out miss mamie's spoonbread for some GOOODASSS chicken and cornbread :)

  5. I hope you sued the city or something, or at least complained to someone with power. That's ridiculous.

  6. Damn. This is some hell of a story, man. Looking forward to part III; glad it's all in the past (assuming you don't have a lawsuit pending).

  7. Fucking Blockbuster charged you the late fee, too - didn't they? Did you send the bill to officer Rivera?

  8. Thank you for reminding me how useful it is to be light skinded.

    I had almost forgotten.

    and I really hope that in part iii, someone gets anally raped. Hopefully Rivera.

  9. That you (and many minorities) have to experience this shit sucks, but that you can share with others is a good thing, a reminder of the discrimination that unfortunately still exists...

  10. Wow, I just read part one and part two. Being a southern kid, I would be terrified if that happened in my "great" state.
    Besides the obvious sympathy expressed, (Sorry that happened man). What DVD was it? That movie would live in infamy for the damn trouble it caused.

  11. This is becomming a riveting story. And I have one similar, except not only am I 'tan' but I'm also gay, which added to my 'arrest story'. Can't wait for part III.

  12. how can you make such an upsetting experience so funny?
    or maybe it isn't funny...

  13. Anonymous11/06/2005

    I really would look into Netflix. If that hasn't been mentioned already.

    Not asking for treatment because you have a fancy education and not acting like a bipolar psycho, spinning between between calm and aggressive helps too. From your description of your strange response patterns, they likely thought you were high.

  14. How do you do a story that includes a strip-search, but doesn't include the infamous phrase "Squat like a catcher?" The first time I got picked up for weed, I came back to the holding cell and that's the first thing my more experienced fellow detainees said to me...

  15. Fucking hell, TAN... You're making me want to punch someone again...

  16. Johnny Law at work.

  17. Anonymous9/16/2006

    Ah, the price of being uppity...Perhaps your new name should be TUN. Your education and vocabulary don't make you any better or innocent than any other wrongfully arrested person of color.

    And I find it hard to sympathize with you because your insistence on proving how much better than everyone you are only escalated the situation.

    Even after you got yourself thrown in the paddywagon, you still wouldn't cease with the condescension and posturing.

    From one Assimilated Negro to another, get a fucking grip. Your academic intelligence greatly outweighs your common sense.

    What happened to you really sucks, but the whole thing could have gone in a completely different direction if you had been more rational.

  18. I'm going to work on it...I'll see if I can come up with something... This is really fun.

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  19. Really amazing story, must watch the movie.

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