Spending a Night in a Freezing, Cramped Cell: A Story from a Huntsville Protester


Protesters in Huntsville, AL

Editors Note: The following statement was submitted to the Red Phoenix by a protester in Huntsville, AL who was arrested after being attacked by local police there. In it, they describe their experiences in jail, with extortionate bail, and general mistreatment.

So, I won’t go too much into detail about the events of the protest, because they are nearly identical to my account of the last protest, which you can read on the Red Phoenix site.

I will say this, I am not somebody that thinks violence automatically delegitimizes protests. I think there is only so much people can be pushed by an evil and violent system before they must push back. However, in order to highlight just how wrong the HPD were, I will say, our protest on Wednesday night was entirely peaceful. There was no hint or trace of violence or rioting or looting. After and ONLY after the police started lighting us up with tear gas, and rubber bullets, did SOME people start throwing water bottles. Which, barely will hurt someone in a normal circumstance, but will definitely do nothing to an officer in full riot armour.

The police specifically targeted the people that were there solely to give medical assistance to those who needed it. This in any other context would be a horrific war crime, and likely would be used as an excuse by our imperialist government to intervene and try and gain more power on the world stage, but since it’s our police force doing it, they are praised as heroes and the protesters demeaned as nothing more than violent agents of chaos.

I would like to say more on my time in jail however. Because while these current uprisings across the country deal mainly with police brutality (which is a thing that definitely needs to be dealt with) there are other things in our system that need serious attention, and which also affect black people and other POC usually in worse ways than white people.

I was only in jail for about 16 hours or so, but in that short time I was exposed to horrible and inhumane conditions that no person should ever be put through, and my heart truly breaks for those who are locked up for months and years.

In jail, you are nothing. They treat you as an animal. You are let outside at certain times. You are fed at certain times. They don’t want to give you any information. There are hardly working clocks anywhere, so most of the time you have no idea how many hours have passed. The officers are stubborn and will give you next to no information about your situation, or what is happening in the outside world. You are given an “inmate code” to put into a phone that allows you to call people, but you only get a few minutes before you need to put in more money or you cannot talk on the phone anymore. Half the time, it doesn’t work at all. The cops offer no assistance with phone issues, they basically tell you “tough shit” if your code does not work. Some of the phones themselves are broken, and have been for years according to others who have been in that jail before. I know personally of multiple people who when we were “dressed out” from our normal clothes to the orange jumpsuits, they left the sheet of paper with their phone code in their regular clothes, and the cops had no sympathy. They would knock on the door and say “I left my code in my clothes, can I get it” and the cops would literally just walk right by, as if we were not even there. I was lucky that I remembered my code, I let some other people use my code to call out to people. But if you cannot call anybody on the outside, you are just lost in this soulless time vacuum, you have no idea if anybody on the outside even knows you’re in there, or if anyone is trying to get you out, or if they care.

There were about 9 of us crammed in to one holding cell, overnight. It was freezing cold, and there was nothing in the room but concrete benches and a disgusting floor for us to sleep on, if we could even manage to fall asleep. They gave us thin, tattered blankets, then later joked that “we shouldn’t even be giving you blankets at all after what happened tonight!” as they enjoyed a boisterous laugh.

It is absolutely soul crushing, and again I was only in there for about 16 hours.

And on bail. If you cannot make bail, you are just stuck in jail until the time of your court date. Most of the protesters had a court date set for October. Imagine being stuck in that place for 4 to 5 months, simply because you cannot come up with $135. This is a reality for a lot of people. We ended up using our group bail to help out another person in jail who was unrelated to our protests, just because we could not stand to see him stuck in this horrible place for 4 months simply because the system had forced him in to poverty.

I will in no way equate my experience to those who have suffered much worse in our system, this was my first time being arrested and in jail. But it was just a small glimpse into the horrors of our broken system of “justice”

Any calls for police reform (or abolishment) must be partnered with the same or greater calls for reform or abolishment of our jail system.

Categories: U.S. News

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