Philly update - Aug. 9, 2000 - Urgent Action Needed - 309 still in jail

JSchaffner jschaffner at
Wed Aug 9 22:21:05 MDT 2000

Apologies for cross-posting. Your help is needed for those still in jail
in Philadelphia.
Jay Schaffner

Subject:  Philly update - 8/9/00
Date:       Wed, 09 Aug 2000 14:22:27 -0400
From:      Leslie Cagan <lesliecagan at>

Please pass this along to others who might be interested.

from Leslie Cagan

This morning I spoke to the legal team working on the situation in
Philadelphia. Here is the most up-to-date information, followed by some
background and then ideas on how you can be helpful.

Total Arrests: 480
Still in Jail - as of last night (8/8): 309
Felony cases: 36
Now on Hunger Strike: almost 150
Most of those still in custody are practicing jail solidarity - see
fuller explanation below.

The medical team in Philadelphia has been meeting with people as they
are released from jail, and there have been reports from people still in
jail. For several days people were held in the Roundhouse, the city
jail, but they have been moved to the county jail where conditions,
while still not great, are not nearly as severe or cruel as previously.

Here are some of the difficulties folks have had:
- At least 32 people experienced excessive force. Of those, there are 7
are accounts of severe hog ties with plastic handcuffs. "Severe hog
ties" means that  in less than 30 minutes prisoners' hands were blue,
swollen and persons were on the verge of loss of consciousness. In two
of those cases, people were bleeding from the wrist.

-2 officer's names and badge numbers come up repeatedly. One is
responsible for dragging a man in the nude, grabbing a protester's
penis, stepping on necks, jumping on a man's back with the help of 2
other officers,  and slamming a face into a cell door. The other
officer's activities include saying "I'll fuck you up the ass and make
you my bitch," slamming a man against wall repeatedly, punching a
prisoner in the stomach, holding a prisoner's face in the trash with his
knee in the prisoner's neck, throwing a prisoner against the wall.

- 4 cases of denial of access to medication: 1 person with HIV denied
for 2 days, received on third day. 1 person with migraine and vomiting,
denied all medicine including over the counter pain meds.
1 hypoglycemic person denied access to adequate food.

-  4 counts of sexual abuse: dragging a man naked, wrenching a man's
penis, twisting a person's nipples, man subjected to random search of

- 2 threats of rape from Commanding Officers.

Bail reduction hearings started on Monday and while a number of people
had their bail reduced, there have also been new problems:  the city is
levying new charges against some activists after their intitial
arraignment; the bail judge refuses to give a hearing to prisoners
participating in jail solidarity (those who are not giving their names);
outrageous bail amounts are not being reduced in some cases. Average
bail was set at $10,000 to $15,000, with several people having bails set
in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Two people have faced $1,000,000 bails.
1) Kate Sorensen [of ACT-UP Philadelphia, the lead oprganizer of the
health care demonstration on 7/29, and active with the Philadelphia
Direct Action Group] is in quarantine until Thursday, when she has a
hearing, and is not allowed visitors. She's being charged with 10
felonies including arson, conspiracy, riot, and causing a catastrophe in
connection with criminal mischief.

2) John Sellers of the Ruckus Society had his bail reduced on Monday
from $1,000,000 to $100,000. (The Ruckus Society trains activists in
creative tactics for non-violent protests.)

Neither of these people were arrested doing any acts of civil
disobedience, they were on the sidewalks of Philly!

1) Jail Solidarity - what is it?
Many of those arrested during the protests have been practicing Jail
Solidarity. When deciding to use this tactic, something that has been
done throughout history, people agreee to  stick together and not
attempt to be released until basic human rights demands have been met
and all arrestees are safely released together. Some of the demands
sought by those doing solidarity here include: an end to solitary
confinement; access to telephones, toilets and essential medication;
equal treatment for all arrestees, including dropping bogus felony
charges;  and access to their lawyers.

2) What They Were Demonstrating About?
During the Republican Convention, thousands of people came together for
several days of demonstrations about issues being ignored this
election-year  -- such as the death penalty, poverty and health care.
Tuesday, Aug. 1st was a day of action to expose problems with the
criminal justice system, including the death penalty, police brutality,
and political prisoners. The plan for the day included a permitted rally

near City Hall, and several publicly announced, non-violent civil
disobedience actions. Protesters aimed to make sure Republican delegates
could not travel from Center City to the convention without getting the
message that thousands of people oppose their criminal  justice
policies. Naturally, it was hard for onlookers to understand what
Tuesday’s protests were about, since police arrested 88 people who were
making puppets for the protests before the day even started, and
confiscated the signs designed to get the message across.

3) What about the tactics of the protestors?
The mainstream media has painted a picture of the August 1st protests as
dominated by vandalism and violence against police officers. However,
almost all of the protesters being held were arrested because they
participated in completely non-violent civil disobedience, or because
police suspected that they might take part in it. Still others were
arrested who were not even taking part in demonstrations, including
legal observers, peacekeepers, and bystanders. Only a few of the
hundreds of jailed protesters have been accused of violence or

1) Call the mayor and district attorney in Philadelphia:
Mayor John Street
phone: 215-686-2181   fax: 215-686-2180

District Attorney Lynn Abraham
phone: 215-686-8701

Tell them you oppose the outrageous bail and conditions these activists
are facing. Demand that the protesters be released, together, to receive
medical treatment and due process of law. Let them know that people
around the country are following this.

Ask everyone you can to do the same.

2) Send a donation to the bail fund:
Make your tax-deductible check out to"ISMCH" (they're the Fiscal
Sponsor, The Institute of Social Medicine and Community Health), and
mail it to:
Philadelphia Direct Action Group (P-DAG).
P.O. Box 40683
Philadelphia, PA 19107-0683

You can also wire transfer money to ACT UP Philadelphia. This will not
be tax-deductible, but you can use your credit card. Here are the
Account number: 31 00 20 557
Routing number: 036 001 808
Commerce Bank
1900 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA
Commerce Bank phone 215-568-0900

Please be sure to send an e-mail to rbecca at to alert her of
the donation . For more information on making donations or helping with
fundraising: call: 215-748-1887 BOX 7,  Visit site: , or email: salynch at

3) Help get the word out!
Contact your local media and ask them to cover the story; write letters
to the editor; call radio talk shows.

Ask your organization, labor union, religious group, local elected
officials, etc. to pass a resolution or issue a statement calling on the
city of Philadelphia to release the prisoners. In addition to sending
such statements to the mayor of Philadelphia, be sure to release them to
the press.

To stay informed, check out the following web sites:

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