Civil Rights


Dear Beachhead

-as told to Chee Wah Wah seagull-
written anonymously out of fear.

I was hanging out one evening by the pagoda on Dudley Avenue in Venice. The memorial photo of Shakespeare watched over us. He was gunned down there a week earlier by order of the millionaire owner of the Cadillac Hotel because he didn’t like homeless people in front of his properties.
Some young cops were walking along and someone cursed at them in Spanish. Maybe it was the ghost of dead Shakespeare. I was tackled and handcuffed. Our militarized Venice police came in force and began questioning and arresting everyone around the pagoda. They searched me and found a tiny bit of pot. I complained about my rights but this only infuriated the men in black. They said I’m a Mexican gang member. I tried to tell them I’m not a gang member and that I have a marijuana letter from a doctor. I was arrested along with several others who just had the bad luck to be around the pagoda.
I was taken to Abu Ghraib prison, also known as L.A. jail or hell on earth. The sewer is cleaner than our jails. Dogs are cared for better in the dog pound. Overflowing toilets without any toilet paper. Uneatable peanut butter sandwiches if you are lucky to get one. When you are in a group, there’s one broken, smelly toilet to do your business in front of a bunch of crazy inmates. If you ask for toilet paper or food you are ignored. If you are on meds they usually won’t give them to you. Anywhere you go you are shackled and handcuffed. Now you are sick, scared, belittled and dehumanized. My only thought was, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
They take away your cell phone that has all your phone numbers. If you are lucky to remember a phone number, you are forced to use their phones and make very expensive collect calls. I was told by everyone I had tried to call that the phone service didn’t even work. The collect calls say push 0 and they kept pushing 0 and the phone went dead. The phones when they do work are recorded as evidence against you.
I felt I was lost in the belly of the beast, lost and forgotten. Brutalized by the police, guards and prisoners. Tortured and ill yet convicted of nothing. Cruel, but unfortunately NOT uncommon punishment. A real horrible nightmare. I was guilty of just being there when the police decided to roust the homeless and they decided I fit their profile of a Mexican gang member. Even if someone had cursed at the cops isn’t there freedom of speech? I guess we have the freedom of speech and the police have the freedom to do whatever they want to you.
I had no money for my ridiculously high bail and had to rot in a stinky cell for a week until I finally got to see a judge and got out. That millionaire murderer of Shakespeare was out on bail before me.

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