My Saturday night begins at 9:30 pm. A friend and I link up at his apartment with plans to bike around downtown Houston and see what the state of the protest is at. My street knowledge is not sharp but a good starting point for all this is Bagby and Westheimer.
We bike downtown towards discovery green and find no one. We then head towards city hall and encounter protestors marching on the street and join. This period is pretty hazy for me but includes us running from police at one point, in reaction to them running to “guide and control” the protestors but easily is perceived as them coming to get us or if anything is scary as fuck just because of the time of night and we’re marching against police brutality.
We cut a turn into this connecting street with a large building (I cannot remember the building name or even what it was) facing the road. All of us realize that police are at both ends of the street, no way out but to go through the building and so we do but the national guard (based on the difference in uniform and equipment that was visible in their shadow profile with those intense lights on top of police vehicles blasting in our direction behind them) were waiting for us at the other end of the shortcut across a grass lawn. With no way out some protestors go back to the connecting street where police units march to entrap us. My friend and I along with a few protestors cut through a construction site adjacent to the walkway between the connecting street and the lawn and make it out to a street without police vehicles (they definitely did not expect people to take that detour.)
From there more hazy memories of the next hours but I’ll skip to the part where shit got real. As we’re marching and running away from police (parts of the protest are split into smaller groups w/ plans to link backup; honestly a lack of leadership at this point meant we were all just running away from where the police were).
Recollecting my memories and using Apple Maps, I’m piecing together this moment as us running towards the Toyota Center on Clay street, we will position this moment at Clay street and Louisiana street. We run towards the street, I’m still on my bike, tossed that shit over a metal fence to get to the street without police presence. As we approach the stadium, some white kids get hella hype and start breaking windows, a friend I made during the process later tells me that it looked like an art store. Police cars chase after us and we start picking up the speed before a big ass firework goes off behind us. Cops put the pedal to the medal after this and everyone is running for their lives. I take a left at La Branch then take a right at Polk street and police SUV goes over the curve hops out and catches some people. Swear they were like 3-5 yards away from me when they get out of their car but I make it out and lose them. I see cop cars head to toward 59 so I turn back toward the area in front of the Toyota Center (Root Square, will be very important in all this). As I bike I’m getting anxious as fuck, cops pulling up everywhere as they conduct some pretty brutal arrests (one man in front of Toyota facing Root had been tazed and is detained; two women pull up on foot to video and I’m pretty sure were arrested).
I call my friend and decide to meet up at the corner of La Branch and Bell. Other protestors were there with my friend but as I approach police begin to form a line around us. My friend was the last to get out as a cop encloses the line around us w our backs to the building on the corner. As shit develops and chaos continues, a swarm of police come onto the scene, shit felt like the whole force was out in on this intersection and there were easily hundreds of them including hella members of the National Guard.
This is where my 35 hr experience of the mass arrest that took place in Houston on Saturday night.
12:11 am Sunday May 31st. We’re surrounded and no cop says anything to us. We plead and beg to be let go, that we were just observing the fallout of this police blitzkrieg on the protestors, and that we clearly followed their instructions to move to the sidewalk. Keep asking cops “whats going on?”, “are we being charged with anything?”. This continues for the next two hours as bus after bus comes in to place protestors that were caught around the area, in particular Roots Park where everyone has described as a crazy wave of police beating people with batons just for being in the vicinity. One story that stands out is of a man walking in the area, not even participating in the protest. A police officer strikes with his baton toward his head/upper body and he catches it and wrestles with him. After realizing its a cop, he lets up and he is beaten and five cops come up on him and put their knees on his elbows, knees, and back.
During the waiting period, we are completely in the dark about what they are going to do. We tell them they are entrapping us without pressing a charge and they do not even look in our eyes or say anything. Some officers are smirking, talking amongst themselves as we freak out over this bullshit. One of the members of this group comes to a conclusion that they are just conducting an investigation and leaving the enclosed circle of cops will result in getting obstruction of justice. One guy has had enough and approaches the line in an attempt to force his way out. They immediately arrest him. Moments throughout this include hella cops holding batons and/or riot shields while other members including the National Guard are armed standing behind them. At 2:30am some fat white cop comes out with a speaker phones stating “this is the Houston Police Department, you are all going to be under arrest for obstructing a highway/passageway. If you do not resist, this will be your only charge. We’ll be coming to get you one by one.“
We’re all in shock, some in such disbelief that this has to be some sort of joke and we all work to write down numbers on sticky notes. They start sending in five man groups into grabbing each person. Each time it is the same setup, the arresting officer comes up and puts us in zip ties (many have told me were tight as fuck, some having their hands turn purple due to the tightness of the grip) while being live coached by some white cop. After zip tying, three cops post up in front in a line w/ their batons in front. Shit looked like a fascist claw machine game but the toys are actual fucking human beings.
I would say I was the fourth or fifth person to being picked up. Officer Ramos searched my pockets, did the whole “got anything that’ll poke me” line. Unreal. We are then put on a bus to be taken to the HPD Central Station. We are walked to the Herbert Gee Municipal Courthouse, each of us escorted by our arresting officer to a gymnasium inside. The setup is as such. At one end of the basketball court (where the entrance to come in is) there are four tables, one to the right of the entrance with three computers, one behind the hoop which has cops giving instructions as to what to do with our belongings and what to write on our baggy, a table a couple feet in front of that table with an inclination toward the left side. There is a woman with her laptop and a big ass line of cops each with their own personal belongings bag. On the left side of the court outside the lines of play is a huge table with multiple laptop setups. On the opposite side of the court from this table is a makeshift pen (barricades creating a circle and having us just stand there) and another pen underneath the other basketball hoop. The men were placed in the barricade circle under the hoop and the women at the other circle. Note: a transgender woman was placed in our space, no cop took her seriously and she endured some emotional abuse from the men in the space. Felt awful for her.
Further note: there is no way we did not have more than two feet of space for us to separate. Social distancing was thrown out the window and never returned for the rest of the night. From here until 8 o’clock we are held until a bus comes to picks us up to take us to Harris County Jail.
Notable events: a man pukes on the outskirts of the barricade, takes hours for them to get a janitor to come clean it up; responses to our questions of what and when things are going to happen are either met with silence, lack of knowledge on their part, or just given arbitrary times for when the bus is coming that are quickly shown to be bullshit. As a sign of mercy, they give us the leftover Whataburger meals and Subway sandwiches that were meant to feed the force and that were about to be thrown away. That shit was beyond fucking cold and stale, only ate the fries and even that shit was tough as fuck to swallow but I did not eat before I left my friends apartment. This takes place around 6am. I manage to get my left hand loose from the zip tie and I sleep for 2 hours at around 4am. Furthermore, captives and cops constantly engage in these violent exchanges with veiled threats of further and worse punishment. We get our first bathroom break around 6:30/7am. Zip-ties would make this shit impossible but I was lucky enough to have my shit loose, others were not afforded this luxury.
At around 8 we are loaded up into a bus to be taken to county. We arrive at county and proceed to wait an hour to an hour and a half for all of us to empty out the bus into the jail. Three groups, first the women, then the first wave of men, then the final wave (I was in this wave). Driver won’t speak to us about whats going, the few times he speaks he tells us to shut up. We go into the jail, strip down to our boxers, and our temperature is taken and we are given a face mask. Then we are taken to the holding cell in the basement. Holding cell at max capacity, wanna say 18-24 people in it. Fuck the processing cop who complimented my shirt and conversed with me in Spanish as if that would alleviate the situation. Windows are one way mirrors so psychologically the surveillance aspect of all this is fucked up. Not gonna lie though, kinda funny when the door opens and you see others looking through their glasses trying to see what is going on. We are here for an hour maybe more, from there we go to processing. They gave us our first meal in holding which were pieces of white bread, pieces of processed sandwich meat (literally have no idea what that shit was) and some of the worst american cheese I have ever tasted in my entire life. Shit tasted like artificial death. I eat the pieces of bread and the cookies. Food count: four pieces of white bread, three cookies, and the Whataburger fries from earlier. We are seated in a waiting area and they call out our names one to two at a time depending on which cops are open to look at what we are getting checked. Someone reviews the items we are coming in with. Find out they lost one of my rings. No idea how to engage this issue so I just give up and tell them note there is only four rings. From there we go to a waiting room next to the area where they are reviewing the stuff we were arrested with. They call us by name, we come forward and they ask the standard COVID-19 travel and mental health questions (if you ever been to jail, you probably recognize this process). From there they send us upstairs at maybe three to four people at a time. This is the scene where we wait the absolute most in. It is a two hundred person capacity waiting area with ten kiosks with bonds people ready to receive us and give us our bond or info on extra charges some may have gotten. We get our finger prints and mug shots taken. Note: some bathrooms would not flush, especially disgusting when the setup has the sink right behind the toilet. Could barely stomach the stench or breathe while trying to wash my hands. After a while lots of us are placed into “tanks” which are basically communal living spaces for inmates. Its a huge room with eight to ten seated tables, toilets and water dispensers, and bunk beds. If y’all played matball as a kid, those mats are what we can lay on. From 1pm to 9pm we are here. Cannot make a phone call and we are never given information about what is going on (fucking bullshit since we asked if we could make phone calls there and were told yes we could). I slept for a majority of this time. Second bag of the same food minus the cheese slices are handed out. Food count: eight pieces of bread and five cookies. They come get us on groups to be sent back to the pretrial area. Cop who guides our group again threatens us with more time if we disobey or disrespect her, honestly fucking hate that bitch, I’m glad an inmate punched you in the face (her words). Other groups of protestors had been put into other tanks, some with inmates already present. One friend tells me he lays on his bunk mat and underneath finds two shanks made out of ball point pens. We are back in the pre-trial area and wait for someone to call our name so we can get our general order bond. I do not get mine until 4:20am the next day. Even with that, I needed to go up to the teller and ask if our paperwork is ready. Some workers went with it and some did not, turning into a trend of people moving close to the kiosks and just hopping in with hopes that they will process you before they read out a name. Throughout this waiting period we cannot sleep because we are threatened with losing our spots if we do not respond when our names are called. Threats of being booked and spending an extra 48 hours here are always weaponized and thrown out to maintain compliance. We get another bag of the same make your own sandwich bullshit at 3am (fucked up because they said chow time was at 11pm). Mind you, EVERY part of this process we interact with inmates in jail doing what is slave labor and the way some of the cops engages them is so degrading. “Hurry up bitch” says a cop when they are not performing to standards. From there those with their paperwork are taken to a pre-release waiting area. We spend hours here doing nothing. One man says he has been there since Sunday 7 pm and deservedly calls out the cop for this unreasonable shit. Notable parts of this moment: literal good cop bad cop type moment between two cops, Black man playing as a bad cop and old white woman as a good cop. We asked good cop when things were going to happen or how long, she proceeds to blame us for not asking night shift what was going. Highlight of this whole fucking thing: my friend asks “will you be feeding us like the other times while we wait here?”, cop replies like a lunatic “back in the day, my momma use to tell me don’t mess with that guy. I’M THAT GUY. You should be grateful to be in this part of all this.” Note my friend literally asked if we were going to be fed again and we are told to be grateful. Literally he and I could not stop laughing for how utterly ridiculous and cruel this moment was. Especially after being at Harris County Jail for a day and two nights. We are moved group by group into release. More threats come out from cops to extend our waiting time and to put us in these holding cells next to the rows of seats in the waiting area. Super fucked up seeing this especially when on our side we can see everything going on in these holding cells and seeing how people act when they cant see shit outside the glass. I’m given my stuff and I’m released at 11am Monday June 1st. I’m not allowed to protest and if I’m arrested again I will be fully charged with the obstruction of justice.
By Anonymous. Photo credit: Jazzib Akhtar.