Oh this weekend! I ran to Joe's house in Santa Cruz for a party where I drank beer and listened to bands jamming, Optic Nerve comic books in my lap. Kids karaoked and bbq'ed and snapped pictures. I could hear Mel laughing and Joe being Joe. Yes, Saturdays in May are about kids being kids.
Only later that night, the police appeared three times, summoned by a neighbor complaining zealously of excessive noise.
During the third occasion, the police entered the house through the backdoor, without permission. When Rhys told them, Get out of my house, the officers promptly arrested him. Then they justified their entry without permission as a lawful action because Rhys was 'resisting arrest'. When Joe tried to intervene, he was placed in handcuffs as well and ushered to the backseat of a police car.
Where is Joe going? Is he going to jail?
No, he's not going anywhere, the officer replied, We'll release him in two minutes.
After much verbal confrontation between cop and civilian, we left, figuring that the cops would release Joe after they made sure we were not going to return. I was scared, of course, seeing Joe alone in the backseat of that cop car, while four or five uniformed white men huddled together in deep discussion.
(Later, Matt told a story about his friend who pays a harsher penalty for being black while jaywalking. Handcuffed, thrown against the police car, and beaten. In front of thirty witnesses. During daylight. Of course, this is not a new story.)
I didn't want to leave him behind. I didn't know if they'd release him like they said they would, while I also realized they wouldn't release him if we didn't leave. I felt helpless because there was no other mediating force. Where was the neighbor who had called? Why wasn't s/he present so that we could discuss what had really occurred? Why was the presence of four or five cops necessary? Why can a cop insinuate that we were obviously too young to be mature about this matter and maybe we would like to get arrested too? Why can an officer respond to our questions by yelling at us to leave? ...
And the image of a policeman pulling out his billy club still haunts me.
Why do I still feel the anger and terror that I felt then?
At that moment, he seemed to test its weight, power rendered suddenly animate by a simple gesture, the light slap of wood on palm meat. I can still see him, in the darkness, stroking the surety of a lethal length.