Arrest 72, my house, warrant for breaching bail
With lyrics from Mika, T-Pain, Paloma Faith, Sarah Blasko, and Allison Moorer
The music used in this piece is based on the random tracks I was listening to at the time. They were not chosen deliberately, but in dealing with what happened, I interpreted them to echo my experiences.
This is the hardest story that I’ve ever told
No hope, no love or glory
Happy endings gone forevermore
I don’t want to tell this story – it’s taken me months to attempt to contain stream of consciousness ramblings into any form of narrative. Not only is it a hard story, but it’s one I’m sick of telling. I’m sick of writing about what the nasty police have done to me, sick of the trauma, sick of guilt for feeling traumatised.
And I wish I could vomit away this pain, expunge my system, use this narrative as my projectile vomit splattered across the room for all to see. This is an assertion, an exertion, a real fucking effort but I refuse to be ashamed.
Three months ago I was due to appear at Bradford Magistrates’ Court for a plea hearing for obstructing police (see post below). The case was listed for the Monday morning and I was due to see the doctor in the afternoon to get a letter excusing my attendance. However, the court were not prepared to wait, and issued a warrant regardless.
I emailed the letter from the doctor to my solicitor the following morning, she arranged for the case to be listed on Wednesday, and I presumed it would go no further. However, Helston police, probably grateful for something to do, came and arrested me around 7pm just as I was sitting down to watch Scooby Doo with my son. The only decent thing they did was allow me to find someone to collect him.
At Camborne police station I refused to get out of the car. Nothing violent, nothing dramatic, just a quiet refusal to accept their authority, a refusal to co-operate with what was happening. Several officers dragged me into a cell where male officers held me down while I was stripped of my clothes. No explanation was given – the first I knew about it was when they started pulling down my trousers. They left me, naked on the floor, with a grey paper suit to wear.
No attempt was made to assess my fitness to travel despite being in possession of a doctor’s letter stating I wasn’t. I saw a nurse briefly. She entered my cell accompanied by a male cop who refused to leave, giving me no privacy to discuss my health. I told her why I was on medication, but she didn’t listen, wanting only to work through her checklist of possible illnesses. Later I saw she had marked me down as epileptic despite having told her my tablets were mood stabilisers. Either way, I was not given my medication.
During this ‘examination’, the custody sergeant entered yelling at me, telling me I didn’t have any rights. When I argued back, he threatened to cause me pain before forcing me to the floor in a wrist lock. I wasn’t allowed to speak to my solicitor until the following morning.
This industry is my circus
I know that it hurts, just sit back
And take pain like I used to
But I can’t take the pain and it hurts more than it used to. Each arm lock building on the echo of pain from the one that came before, leaving custody suites exhausted from violence and hatred.
And it hurts in other places, hurts now, deep pain in my belly, in the tightness in my head, in the jumpiness of these words.
They gave me my clothes back in the morning, and after 11 hours in a prison van, we arrived at Bradford too late for court, so I was taken to the police station for the night. I nearly got through the booking in process, but an argument over plastic buttons on my cardigan and refusing to show my tongue to check for piercings led to being dragged violently to a cell. They left me on the floor, crying, my trousers and knickers around my ankles where they had fallen down, with a black eye and a damaged elbow.
They sent four cops to escort me to the doctor, telling me I had to be handcuffed because of my violent behaviour. I didn’t object, I wanted to see the doctor. The doctor apologised and told me it wasn’t his idea, eventually asking for them to be removed so he could take my blood pressure. I asked for a sleeping pill which he refused on the grounds of a head injury. Objectively, I understand his reasoning, but at the time I wanted something to block everything out, and I started crying, begging him to give me a pill.
Instead of giving me five minutes to calm down, several cops entered, grabbed me and threw me on the floor, slamming my head hard into in the concrete floor, and ramming my arms up my back before applying cuffs. Ignoring, or more likely because of my screams of pain, they walked me back to the cell, pulling my arms up to such an extent my feet barely touched the floor, forcing weight and pressure onto my injured elbow.
In the cell they forced me back onto the floor, and held me there, pressure pointing my neck, increasing the pressure in my arms, yelling in my ear “have you got the message yet?” They left me sobbing and hysterical on the floor, a floppy mess with no dignity, no shame.
Goodbye sweet angel
Sail away on teary seas
Tattooed the time we had
On my memory
My legs are weak
Yet despite being hysterical, there was also clarity. Things couldn’t be the same again, something had to change. A part of me, a strong stable part of me I liked was drifting away, the tide sucking it far out into the horizon. A different reality forced into my existence.
I used to be so strong, a pretence at being hard, never showing weakness. Of course it was bravado but I valued not crying in front of cops. There were occasions when I shed a tear in a cell, but it was always under a blanket, out of sight and controlled. Out of 72 arrests and hundreds of assaults, I can count on one hand the number of times I have cried in front of them, but never to the point of desperate hysteria they achieved in that cell.
But these turning points, these experiences from which things can never be the same again, there’s been a few of those, a reoccurring theme. I forget, and it takes old diaries to remind me – ten years of documented harassment – of writing “that was a fucked up one” and “where do I go from here?” And it’s this accumulation. Incident piled upon incident creating a heavy weight, and I’m worried I’m running out of boxes to compartmentalise these experiences. They’re seeping out, and blending into each other, making it hard to concentrate as images flash into my head without warning.
Maybe I’m soft, too sensitive, too weak. It’s highly possible, but what happened was wrong and I still want to expose it. And in some fucked up way, exposing the weakness makes me stronger. It’s something I learned from all those years of being tough and implacable.
I’m finally mad
Like a rush of blood to my weary head
No longer sad
The emotional tide has turned and I see red
After a night in the cells where I was denied the right to speak to my solicitor and hot drinks on the grounds I was too violent, I was finally taken to court. The breach of bail was not put to me as there was medical evidence before the court. I wasn’t even asked to enter a plea.
There was no apology, no recognition of the consequences of the power hungry lay bench who couldn’t wait until an afternoon session before issuing a warrant. No mention of the fact my doctor had said I wasn’t fit to travel and yet I’d been dragged hundreds of miles for nothing.
Just a travel warrant, and a long weary journey back to my distressed son in Cornwall, pretending to be normal to the chatty woman sitting next to me on the packed train, trying to ignore the equal measures of anger and despair coursing through my body.
You can’t understand the shit that comes out of my head…
And I’m trying to stop cursing but I don’t give a fuck
I’m going to curse you with lyrical voodoo
I think my PNC entry reads along the lines of violent psychopathic bitch who hates cops. I certainly have numerous markers for violence in custody. Yet I have no convictions for any of this behaviour; have never even been charged for any of the incidents.
I’m not co-operative in custody. I may struggle, but I am not violent. Not out of any pacifist paradigm but out of pure pragmatism. Whilst many alleged assaults on cops are justifiable, even within legal parameters of self defence, I don’t want to either spend months on bail for assault, or give them the excuse to deny bail. Besides, when there’s just you and lots of cops who want to cause you pain, there’s not a lot you can do to change the situation.
But my pragmatism only goes so far, and even on occasions when I’ve tried to co-operate, my fuck you impulse has been stronger. Yet maybe this is also pragmatic. My survival depends on that ability to say no. The moment I start bowing my head and subjugating myself to their procedures is the moment I lose.
And they don’t understand why I don’t calm down, and I don’t understand why locking anyone in a box makes them calm down. I’m not drunk, I’m not on drugs – there’s nothing to sober up from.
So maybe I give them a hard time and they give me a hard time and all’s fair in love and war? And given I’m actively challenging their authority, don’t I just deserve what I get?
I have sympathy with this argument, but I know they are the words of the victim. Knowing what to expect doesn’t mean I deserve what happens, doesn’t make it right. If I refuse to give my fingerprints, for example, I know the cops are going to do it by ‘reasonable force’, and there are occasions when this has been done where I have no complaint, sometimes simply efficient, sometimes bordering on farcical. However, when ‘reasonable force’ is interpreted as license to punish, and used, in the words of a Cardiff cop to “cause you immeasurable amounts of pain”, then it is not deserved and has to be challenged.
I do hate cops. I know this is a simplistic and childish statement. I know there are some good apples struggling to survive in a big rotten barrel, but I hate what they represent. I hate their attitude. I hate what they have done to me and my friends. I hate what they have done to countless strangers. I hate what they think they can, and do, get away with.
But out of hatred comes hope. I know through my experiences, through friends and neighbours, how endemic these abuses are, and I want to start challenging and monitoring them. I am working on a proposal to start a police custody watch project to start exposing these regular abuses taking place in custody suites across the country.
If the blues have you convinced the end is certain
Well be strong ‘cause it’s gonna feel good when it stops hurting
There have been some dark moments in the last few months, darker than I really like to think about. It was the Israeli storming of the Freedom Flotilla taking aid to Gaza and killing nine people which first snapped me out of my traumatised stupor. I knew beautiful brave people onboard the ships, people who were in Gaza during the bombing, and there is no comparison. My experiences are trivial, inconsequential blips which should be nothing more than inconvenience.
Unfortunately this revelation doesn’t take away the pain. I was well versed in this line of thinking long before I woke to the news of the deaths on the MV Mavi Marmara, but it was a sharp reminder, and it is important to keep things in perspective.
I know if I was advising any other person on trauma, I would tell them it doesn’t matter what others have been through, and to anyone who I’ve spoken to about trauma, I really mean this. I just can’t apply it to myself, because it does matter to me, although it’s not a particularly effective strategy and simply adds guilt to the pain.
But maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong perspective. Maybe I should see survivors, people who have experienced unspeakable things, but have come out strong, still fighting. And if they can do it, it gives me strength and hope that I can. I want to fight this feeling, not succumb to despair and darkness.
My legs are weak