Friday, November 04, 2005

The Time I Got Arrested For Holding A DVD (Part 3)

The Unlawful Arrest and Imprisonment of TAN Trilogy continues...

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3/Denouement:

“The Tombs” are what they call the holding area downtown. And that’s where I was headed after leaving the precinct.

We drove down and basically spent the next 3-5 hours going through the criminal bureaucracy. Getting processed is essentially like going to the DMV, except there are few, if any, Caucasians in line, and instead of a license or ID card you get a ticket to jail.

After getting processed I was taken down to “the tombs.” And if I had any ambiguity or ambivalence about the racial reality of the situation, entering the tombs put the cold hard truth right smack in front of my face. There were four or five cells lined up next to each other, on both sides of the room. And each cell was filled with at least twenty young black males. I’d guess that just about all of them fit in that 18-25 age range.

Even writing about it now, a couple years later, my eyes well up a bit. It’s one thing to want to Kill Bill (Bennett) for questionable remarks. It’s another thing to see reports on racial discrimination in applying the death penalty. And of course it's something else entirely to read about the genocide still going on in Africa. But the fact of the matter is it's difficult for anyone, no matter the race, to give these events proper weight if they don't enter the day-to-day reality of your life. But that's exactly what happened for me when I entered the tombs and saw my people, saw myself, filling the cages that lie in the basement of the main courthouse building in downtown NYC. For me that's when this whole event became a palpable life-changing experience.

My actual stay in the tombs proved relatively uneventful. Most of the stories I heard were about someone holding a joint, or blunt, or little bag of buddha and getting caught. Maybe some of them had done more, and were just lying about it. I don’t know. As we learned in Shawshank Redemption, everyone in jail is innocent. But I'm pretty sure some of them had to be telling the truth, and if so it’s clearly a poor reflection on NYC police priorities, to have your quota filled with marijuana possession charges.

One note on the lighter side of things. It was amusing to watch an economy and marketplace form almost immediately after people were put in the cells. People snuck in cigarettes and matches, and they immediately were auctioned off at prices that reached upwards of $5 per cigarette at the height of the "cigarette bubble." Incorporated into the marketplace were corrupt guards who were willing to look the other way at people smoking or trading cigarettes, if they were properly compensated with cash or cigs of their own. Gotta love America.

After a number of hours in the tombs I eventually was taken to another cell to wait to go in front of the judge. It was at this time I got to consult with an attorney provided by the city.

As luck would have it this attorney did not speak English well, and really had no understanding of my particular situation. Luckily I was steadfast about my rights and not being in the wrong, but others in a similar scenario may have been coerced into accepting a deal that wasn't in their best interests.

At some time in the wee hours of the morning, I got in front of the judge. The attorney again tried to explain my options, but I couldn’t understand him. The judge ended up explaining to me that I would have the case expunged from my record if I did nothing over the next six months. There was an official name for it, but I forget it now. If I didn’t choose that option I would have to continue waiting in the cell. So I accepted that and was allowed to return home.

I would eventually file my complaints with the police. Though I don’t think they mattered. I would also eventually get a lawyer and file suit against the city. They would eventually settle, and I cleared 2K after lawyer fees.

To be honest, at 2K per night, I’d probably go through it all again. I could still use the money more than my pride and/or dignity. But regardless it was an eye-opening experience, one that altered my worldview forever.


Q&A session:

what was the DVD? - I'm amused that so many people have mentioned this. I run through a lot of DVD's so unfortunately I no longer remember.

do you use netflix now? - yes I do. Although it wasn't until much later when I got on board the netflix train. I reference my use of netflix in my review of "crash" and my post about The Negro Sir Anthony Hopkins.

were your raped/molested/sodomized? - No. Yes. No, well not during this incident...


TAN - innocent beacon of light, truth, and the American way.

Officer Rivera - asshole wannabe clint eastwood police dick asshole.

hundreds of young black males - the apparent scourge of society.

clueless attorney - clueless attorney #1

this has been a The Assimilated Negro production. All accounts and video footage courtesy of The Assimilated Negro

holla at ya boy


  1. I come here everyday for the ha ha, but I appreciate the sobering stuff as well. I guess what makes this worse is that your story probably isn't that unique. Too many of my friends have Driving While Black stories for my comfort.

  2. I just read the whole thing and that is un-friggin-believable. I would have incited a riot in the street if it were me. (That's an absolute lie, I would have sobbed and peed myself at every turn.)

  3. We've(brothers) all got a fucked up cop story, but yours is one of the more ridiculous ones I've heard. It just makes you realize that if a college educated brother like yourself can get bagged for walking out of a store with a rented DVD in Manhattan, imagine the shit a dude in South Central LA or Brownsville has to deal with. I haven't had a serious run in with the cops in a few years, the last minor one occuring when they pulled me over for a carpool lane violation that never happened and which I was cleared of, but I always expect one to occur. I'll never be a fan of the cops.

  4. I don't like that you had to go through that crap. But I do find value in the experience and in the fact that you see value in it (other than the 2K). I am learning (SLOOOOWLY and painfully) that you have to go through shit to really understand it and make any kind of growth in your life. As you said, it has to enter your day-to-day life to really change you. So, if the world was a utopia of equality and love, would we all be shallow, silly little people who didn't really care about anything? Would it be better?

  5. I've been away for a few days, but I'm so glad I didn't miss this saga. 2K doesn't seem like enough. Not enough the convince the force to reconsider their racists policies, I'll bet.

    This is a super-fantastic hot button with me. I can't think of anything I detest more than racism. There are so many logical reasons to dislike people, why dumb it down and be aritrary about it?!

    If only liars could be bright purple, and molestors bright greens? Thieves could be goldenrod, and murderers could be puce. Then, the hue of skin might makes some sense.

    I take that back! Murderers don't get to be green. That's my favorite color! Green shall be reserved for the good guys... well, us and aliens!

  6. I meant to type "molestors" when I said murderers. ... *molestors* don't get to be green.

    Green is for the good guys. Stay green.

  7. Hey, love the site. On your homepage, the first small letters under your heading are too small and not enough contrast, hence, too hard to read.
    the herb

  8. Anonymous11/06/2005

    Don't for one moment, no matter how long you may live, think that your resistence and outspokeness had anything whatsoever to do with you being stopped and literally being kidnapped. Once those cops chose to swoop on you they would have handcuffed and placed you in their van even if you had fallen to the ground and literally begged for your release.

    The way that city cops, as a general rule, treat black people in this country reminds me of a wonderful and telling scene that occurs toward the end of Joseph Heller's great novel "Catch-22". The first time I read this novel was 1965. I was sixteen years old. I thought then and now that Heller accurately captured some of the madness that is so prevalent in the modern world.

    The scene takes place in the men's urinal the night before Lieutenant Clevinger was scheduled to be court martialed. The only characters present are Clevinger and Yossarian, the novel's protagonist.

    Yossarian tells Clevinger, "You haven't got a chance, kid. They hate Jews."

    Clevinger says, "But I'm not Jewish."

    Yossarian tells him, "It doesn't make any difference. They're out to get everybody."

  9. One more thing. I finally figured out what's been eating me about your pic. It's your Jack Nicholson pose. This "leave your comment" box won't let me paste his pic here, so I put it here Now tell me that's not the same pose.

  10. Found your blog through Prometheus6. That's quite a story there. I can commisserate - I was arrested during the RNC and spent 46 hours in the custody of the NYPD, much of which was in the Tombs - a very different experience from yours, cause my arrest was based on political profiling, not racial profiling, and there were a whole lot of self-righteous white folks with me who insisted on comparing their plight to Mumia's and singing "Day-o" in our group cell. Anyhow, I digress. It's fucked what the police did to you and do to any number of young people of color every minute in this city. I'm glad you managed to get that $2K - some slight compensation for the racist hassle they put you through. Thanks for writing up your story.

    (btw - the 6-month-no-trouble deal you got is called an ACD - adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. I know because they offered it to me over and over again. I declined, went to court a bunch of times, and finally got all charges thrown out because they didn't have a whit of evidence other than that a protest had happened and I was nearby.)

  11. 2k for one night? Not bad TAN, are you sure you gave us all the details?

  12. This happens every single day in America and yet nothing ever changes. There's a whole lot of Officer Riveras out there.

    I just wonder society is ever going to get off their ass and change this way of thinking, and if i'll live to see it happen long before before I die. Here's to the next generation, get moving on this one. My own generation is doing a piss poor job of it.

  13. your story was riveting - its a damn shame but I've heard similar stories before - white people will never understand what a black mand deals with on a daily basis. If it means anything - you're my hero

  14. You get locked up for being Black, I get beat down for being "down" with Blacks. Here's the shit I had to deal with.

    Be thankful that all you had to deal with was the Tombs. The Goon Squad is a nasty piece of business.

    Glad you got paid. I wish I could have.

  15. I love you, assimilated Negro.

  16. Anonymous3/20/2008

    Same thing happened to my sister (white woman about 50 years old) in Louisiana. She was just driving down the street, and apparently she didn't move over quickly enough when a cop car was trying to pass her. Both of the arresting cops were black, and she was also strip searched and the whole 9 yards. It was really terrifying. We got a lawyer and sued and won, but damn. Cops have too much power. And the asshole ones can just get away with torturing people. It's amazing. You can't believe it until you've seen it in action.

  17. Anonymous5/10/2008

    Odd. My brother had something similar happen to him while driving in Queens a few years back. He sued the state, accused them of racial profiling, and walked away with some $15,000 after legal fees. You should have pushed for more.

  18. Anonymous12/25/2008

    And they get all up-in-arms when some rap contains lyrics about cop-killing!
    When I hear about some cop getting gunned down in the line of duty I have to think to myself "what kind of crimes against humanity has he been guilty of" and "did he have it coming"? They always portray the dead copy as a hero when he actually is more than likely a criminal himself -one who committed crimes (like this story of kidnapping an innocent man returning a dvd) on a daily basis.
    I'm sorry, but I can never feel bad about a dead cop!

  19. Anonymous8/24/2010

    good grammar never saved anyone from jail homey... but we understand you were desperate. and it shows.


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