Your DGB for today is to learn how to get arrested. Let’s be clear: we don’t want you to get arrested, especially if you are non-white. We will not be covering tips on how to go to a demonstration where you plan to be arrested. What we want to do is tell you how to proceed if you find yourself in this situation.
We are all probably attending way more protests than we used to, especially if you’re using DGB’s list of upcoming protests, rallies and vigils. Most demonstrations are peaceful and family-friendly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things can’t go wrong. The usual reasons police give for arrests at protests are interfering with traffic, damaging public or private property, and blocking walkways, buildings, and doorways. A lot of this advice will not be new to People of Color, and is meant mostly for those new to the protest scene.
During the initial interaction:
If a law enforcement officer begins to confront you in a negative or threatening way, clearly state your compliance with their demands before acting: “I understand you want me to place my bag on the ground. I’m going to place my bag on the ground, but I do not consent to a search.” or “I am turning around and putting my hands up. I am not resisting.”
Once you are placed under arrest, do not speak again until you are at a precinct, and then, only ask to make a phone call. Calls will be very expensive, collect, and you will only get one, if you’re lucky. In the age of personal phones, you may be limited in whose phone number you have memorized. It’s also best to call a landline, if possible. This call will be recorded and should only convey where you are. You will be searched. It’s not optional, and will probably be humiliating. The police will take all your belongings from you.
Most people arrested at a protest are released without being charged, but it’s possible you will be brought to court and arraigned. Say nothing except “not guilty.” It’s unlikely that you’ll be interrogated. You will probably sit in jail all day, though, and maybe overnight. If you get arrested on the weekend, it’s possible you’ll be there until Monday morning. Jail is almost always very cold and drafty. Keep this in mind when you dress for a protest.
The fact is, there’s a huge disparity between the way white people and non-white people are treated by law enforcement. This information is meant as a general guideline for everyone, but does not delve into the many facets of the relationship between police and People of Color. DGB does not intend to oversimplify or downplay the danger posed to non-white people in police interactions.