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Giving Compass' Take:
• Keri Blakinger and Abbie Vansickle, at The Marshall Project, explain how inhumane mass arrests at Black Lives Matter protests have drastically increased COVID-19 risks.
• Many considered mass arrests inhumane before the virus. How has coronavirus helped to expose failings in police tactics at protests? What can you do to support the safety of those protesting injustices?
• Learn about strategies for protesting safely during the pandemic.
In general, getting arrested sucks—and even more so during a mass arrest, where the sheer volume of people churning through the system drags out the handcuffed waiting game. But during coronavirus, some of the things that make mass demonstration arrests especially awful have actually become health risks.
“When you go to a protest you can come register your voice and maintain social distance when you can control your own body,” said Alec Karakatsanis, a lawyer and founder of the nonprofit law firm Civil Right Corps. “But when the police start chaining you in a van or when you’re in a bullpen with many people in close proximity, in cells that are filled with mucus and blood and feces and urine—and that’s what our jails look like—the mass arrest process is all the more dangerous.”
He said police officers sometimes deliberately make the process uncomfortable in an effort to discourage repeat protests.
Arrests can involve an hours-long booking process, an initial appearance before a judge or magistrate, a chance to pay bail, and a long release process. In between is a lot of waiting, usually in cramped communal spaces where social distancing is impossible.
“Police have no interest in creating an efficient system,” said Renate Lunn, a lawyer at New York County Defender Services. “People are being treated worse when they’re arrested because everything takes longer.”
Erikha Mason said the experience would not deter her from protesting again. She missed the 60,000-person demonstration Tuesday because she couldn’t afford to skip a day of work waitressing, and didn’t want to risk worrying her grandmother. But the next time she’s free and there’s a gathering, she would go back “100 times over,” she said.
“They want us to be scared, but we’re not scared,” she said. “We’re tired.”
Read the full article about inhumane mass arrests and COVID-19 by Keri Blakinger and Abbie Vansickle at The Marshall Project.