I didn’t have much information about the video I posted on Saturday until now after having communicated with the woman who was arrested in the video last April.
Her name is Lindsey Wainwright and she now lives in France. She explained that she was part of an Occupy Hartford protest that involved theatrical skits in banks where she dressed up as a French maid to depict how the banks need cleaning. More details on that here.
She was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing and jailed for nine hours. And ended up getting her charges dismissed after five court appearances.
Regardless if the cop had probable cause to arrest her on those charges, he still didn’t have the right to assault her for recording her interaction.
This is the way she explained it in an email:
I was arrested following a street theater action called Clean the Banks. We went into Bank of America and Wells Fargo in downtown Hartford with cleaning supplies to protest their having taken dirty bailout money. We did it to raise awareness about the nature of the financial crisis. Those of us who weren’t dressed up were distributing flyers. I happened to be dressed up as a French Maid, wielding a featherduster.
Once we got non-violently kicked out of both banks by security we decided to head back to our meeting point outside Hartford Public Library. Note: the performance was over, we were going to regroup and go home. As we were walking down Main Street the security guards from the bank were tailing us, and a police cruiser pulled up. I thought this was odd, as we were just walking down the sidewalk, so I asked a friend who had been using my camera during the protest to please start filming. She was too nervous, so I took it and filmed instead. Then, well… the video shows what happened once I started filming.
There was actually about 16 minutes of video. The police officer left the camera on after he put it in his pocket, and then it must have run out of battery. You don’t see anything in the 14 minutes or so when it’s in his pocket, and it’s hard to hear. When I got my camera back after 9 hours of holding, I was surprised to find that the police hadn’t wiped the SD card.
I was charged with disorderly conduct (for filming a police officer) and retroactively with trespassing (for being in the bank during opening hours equipped with a featherduster?)
I had 5 court dates following the arrest. Two were at community court. When I wouldn’t accept to do community service I got moved to criminal court, meaning my maximum charge could have been 18 months in prison. I submitted a dvd of the video as evidence. The case ended up being discussed behind closed doors (my lawyer and the judge did all the talking, I basically just sat there and waited). It was dismissed (I didn’t have to stand up and make a plea or anything like that), and my record wiped. It never even went to trial by jury. I think they wanted to sweep it under the rug and move on. The court proceedings lasted from April through the end of September. By the last date I was pressed for time because I had taken a job abroad starting in October of 2012. So much for the right to a speedy trial.
My lawyer also wasn’t very enthusiastic about the case, as he wasn’t being paid. He didn’t seem interested in pursuing legal action against the city of Hartford on my behalf. I learned through a friend that the Hartford Police Union was scared I would sue, but it’s just hearsay. In the end, the case was dragged out, and I didn’t have enough legal support, resources or time to continue. I did have lots of support from friends, family and activists. We filled up an entire bench row in the courtroom at almost every date. We definitely made an impression. I tried contacting the ACLU twice, but never got a response.
The guy with the flashlight was a security guard from the bank. He and one of his goons tailed us after we left the site of the performance to go back to our meeting point. I think he just wanted to play cop, some kind of strange authority complex. I don’t know his story other than that he said he was an ex-marine, so something awful might have happened to him in the service to make him that way. Another fun fact: as he was tailing us on the sidewalk, on Main Street, in broad daylight, he kept yelling that he could see my vagina (false, boy shorts).