Collateral Damage in the War on Protesters: Neighbors of the NATO3 Cuffed, Held at Gunpoint
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“It was an hour and a half cuffed and they kind of hung out with us for another half hour,” Olli said. “I kind of got the sense of ‘We got the wrong guys, we gotta make nice for a little bit.’
“Near the end, the white shirt came in and said, ‘Sorry boys, you all were collateral damage.’ Those were his exact words.” Ben reported being told the same.
“In the other apartment [where the nine were arrested] I thought they’re probably being taken in,” Olli said, “even on flimsy evidence that’s probably political. That’s enough for people who don’t need warrants.”
The police returned a few hours later, around 3 a.m. They had “the most phony looking piece of paper that they claimed was a warrant,” Olli said. “It had a big blank space in the middle that should have been a list of what they were looking for, and they said, ‘Yeah we write that in after we find it.’” Ben said they had written the area to be searched as the entire second floor, and saw no signature on the warrant.
“We’re gonna get in here either way,” they told Ben. “We figured they were going to finish off our door,” he said, “so we let them in and watched what they were doing.”
On their return trip one of the cops made a comment about a smell of gasoline, which they claimed was their reason for entering the activists’ apartment. But all three neighbors interviewed for this story, whose apartments are across the hall and above the one in question, said they absolutely did not smell gasoline that night.
“It seems like the cops are fabricating some of the story,” Olli said. “I can’t say whether [the activists] were guilty or innocent, but I can say to me personally there’s a smell of something that’s not quite right with how the police went about everything. Something seems off.”
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Jimmy said of the charges. “You don’t brew a Molotov cocktail.”
The experience seemed to have a strong impact on all three neighbors.
A week later Olli still has a mark on his wrists from the handcuffs, and finds it hard to talk about that night.
Jimmy said, “My takeaway is if it can happen to us, it can happen to anybody. It was just very, very unsettling. I’ve definitely been looking over my shoulder a bit; it’s hard not to. And when I get home, peeking my head around the gate, checking the lock. Going through and checking every room in my house before I go to bed.”
Ben, who claims no interest in politics whatsoever, said, “It’s a really basic civil liberties issue. To me the bottom line is that you don’t have to be political at all to be affected and see that this was obviously wrong.” He declined to give his real name for fear of police retaliation, and said he’s considering leaving the city or even the country. He’s been having dreams about the raid since it happened.
“Originally my plans for NATO were to come home from work, drink some beer and watch Star Trek,” Jimmy said. “At the time I had no plans, but after that I decided that I would go to the protest. I had to voice my opinion somehow, so I went and joined the march on Sunday.”
“In my view it’s not that there were terrorists next door,” Olli said. “It’s that the cops were terrorizing us.”