Sidewalk Chaulking: Arrested for "grafitti" @ Circle Park during FOOD NOT BOMBS
by Joe Sacco Friday May 26, 2006 at 05:53 PM
On Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at around 2:30pm I was approached by a Las Vegas city Marshal while writing "We Ain't Gonna Stop Eating" and "Food Not Bombs!" on the sidewalk at the daily gathering of Las Vegas FNB (Food Not Bombs) at Circle Park.
Officer R. McMenamy informed me that using chaulk on public property is considered grafitti even though it is temporary, not permanent.
Upon confrontation by the officer I immediately said "I have the right to remain silent. I want to speak to my attorney". After making these two statements, I refused to say another word-including identifying myself. With no ID on my person, I couldn't be identified whatsoever. He proceeded to handcuff me and I went limp demonstrating PASSIVE RESISTANCE. At least three marshals were need to carry my body to the police vehicle.
I sat shirt-less in the marshal's vehicle for about an hour and was then taken to the Las Vegas City Detention Center on Stewart and Mojave for booking. I arrived at the jail at approximately 4pm and continued to refuse to identify myself until after about 3 hours in a holding tank (temporary cell used during the intake process).
Even after giving my name, address, and social security number, I spent about 5 more hours in the holding tank. I was then taken into the "general population" at about midnight.
I spent the next day, Wednesday, in "Unit 6" with mostly traffic offenders. Some inmates were being held for domestic violence, drugs, or outstanding warrants. I shared a cell with 5 other men. The majority of the inmates were people of color- specifically Mexicans and black folks.
The food was the worst part of the "punishment" at the city jail. The first meal I endured was called bisquits and gravy- two pieces of bread with brown meat gravy. It was honestly disgusting. Almost every meal included milk too. Even though I am lactose intolerant, I drank the milk just to help fill my belly. I actually lost 5 pounds in my two day jail time. We got "three hots and a cot" each day as they say. It was a little hard to sleep on an empty stomach too.
Other than the low-calorie diet, the experience wasn't too uncomfortable. My "cellies" (cell mates) were all very nice. We spent our days talking, reading books, watching movies like "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" in the "day room" during our "free time", and sleeping. There are also phones you can use. But, you cannot call people with cell phones. That fact made it impossible for me to reach any of my friends or family.
On Thursday morning I got to speak to the judge, Abby Silver, via video court. I sat in a "courtroom" located at the jail with about 50 or more inmates. We were given a long lecture filled with legal advice and LIES about our rights (or lack thereof) by one of the correctional officers. We were told that any pleas of "not guilty" would result in a minimum of 30 days in jail, waiting for a court date. We were instructed that pleas of "no contest" by which you agree to be sentenced without actually saying "guilty" would be the best option for everybody. And that is just what I did.
I agreed to plea "no contest" in order for a sentence of "time served". The city attorney suggested a fine in addition, but I told the judge I wouldn't pay a fine. I explained that the "grafitti" was done with CHILDREN'S CHAULK! She seemed a little disturbed by that fact and agreed to drop any fines. I was told I would be released the same day. And at about 11pm myself and 11 others were dropped off at 1st St. and Lewis. I then walked home, contemplating the whole concept of "FREEDOM".
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