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Earlier today we reported that artist Man Bartlett had been arrested early Thursday morning during the #N17 Day of Action. We also reported that the artist was released from jail after being detained for roughly 27 hours.
We gave him some time to rest and then caught up with him to hear about his experience at the protest, the arrest and the how he got the word out to his dad about his arrest despite the fact that he had no cell phone.
* * *
Liza Eliano: What were you doing at the point when you got arrested?
Man Bartlett: That’s kind of tricky. I will not discuss what I was actually doing because there are still cases open and it could be a liability. I also want to stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who were arrested. I can tell you that something funny and creative will be coming out of this experience. I did plead guilty to being charged with disorderly conduct, I didn’t have the money to pay the fees.
Disorderly conduct is a violation, not a crime and not a misdemeanor. I was charged with these but did not plead guilty to them. I only pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Also, I owe $120, which is technically a court surcharge, not a fine. It’s a technicality, but one that is worth mentioning.
LE: How were you treated once you were arrested? Were you scared?
MB: I wasn’t really scared, but the purgatory that you feel that you’re in is scary. There was an entire bus full of us that got arrested, and no logic to when people were getting called up to go through different stages of the process. First, they put you in a tiny holding cell where you wait and then get searched. Then you go to a larger holding tank, then to central booking and then moved to court.
Last night, there were some people who got taken out of the cell pretty early. But we were all kept together, in my group there were maybe about 30 people by nighttime. There was a pretty jovial atmosphere, like we were all in it together. There were also very different types of people. Some of the people were a lot older, some were younger. Some were about 50 and 60 and seemed to be seasoned protesters. There were a few anarchist types, others were run of the mill working class people. There was also a folk singer who was reciting poetry.
LE: Can you tell me a little bit about what was happening at the protest itself?
MB: We were walking to many different points and eventually ended up on Beaver and Broad Streets. It was at that point that I decided to stay at that location. I want to emphasize that this was very much a decision. I was aware of the possibility of being arrested. I could have avoided it by walking away.
LE: Since you’ve gotten involved with Occupy Wall Street did you sense that at some point you might eventually get arrested or even view it as a goal?
MB: I wouldn’t have viewed it as a goal. I view it as making a point about where my interests with this movement lie, in particular with Wall Street and the symbol of Wall Street. Where this movement was made is very important and I chose to be arrested as close to Wall Street as I could get.
LE: Sort of going off that idea of Wall Street as symbolic for the movement and the possibility that maybe Zuccotti Park won’t be at its center anymore, what do you think of the post-November 17 Occupy Wall Street or even a post-Tuesday morning raid OWS?
MB: I think it’s too early to say. Speaking for myself, I made the decision to show up yesterday morning. I want my personal actions to reflect my dedication to the movement and to my own beliefs.
I know this doesn’t really answer your question, but it is really hard for me to pin point where this will goes. I’m not really the best person to answer since I am an autonomous human being making individual decisions within the movement. I think the best people to ask would be the Occupy Wall Street media team, they probably have a better understanding of how this will play out. Or at least better talking points.
LE: Why didn’t you bring your cell phone with you to the protest?
MB: Honestly, I was preparing for the possibility of an arrest. It can be difficult to get your things back and I didn’t want any of my data compromised, even though I am all about transparency, but that’s the practical reason. It was also part of a very conscience decision to be present and fully in the moment.
In the past, I have been attending or participating in the movement as a biased reporter, meaning I reported on it but of course also shared my opinions. For #N17 I wanted to leave that decision at home.
LE: You were tweeting and reporting from the raid, right?
MB: Yes, but this time I wanted to become more of a protester and be responsible to my immediate surroundings instead of being responsible to a virtual audience.
LE: Have you seen a change in NYPD behavior towards Occupy Wall Street?
MB: They have been consistently aggressive when they’ve decided to get aggressive. I will say there was more of a tense atmosphere yesterday for the action on Wall Street partly because it was an unsanctioned or unapproved march.
The police were more on edge than they have been at other protests. This is just my personal opinion, but it seemed that the police felt more threatened and that there was more at stake, which made it that much more important for me to be there. It’s hard to quantify that journalistically, but they were more tense, despite the fact that we remained non-violent.
LE: Were protesters able to get right up to the New York Stock Exchange this time? I know that area has been heavily blocked off by barricades.
MB: That I am not sure about.
LE: Can you tell me about how the Scottish photographer Scott Houston knew you, and how he contacted your dad to tell him you were in jail?
MB: That’s a really funny story. First, I want to mention that the second photo that he took that my father posted was previous to when I got arrested. So the photographer took my photo and gave me his card. I totally forgot about it until I got to jail and couldn’t contact anyone.
Then I realized that the phone where I was could only make local calls, so I called the photographer and was like, “Uh … hi, you took my photo today. I’m in jail now. Can you email my dad and tell him that I’m OK?”
He was pretty shocked, amazed, a little confused, but then he said “Yeah, yeah.”
I wasn’t sure if and when he emailed my dad. I had been trying to remember my dad’s cell phone number by scratching numbers onto a Styrofoam cup. I thought if I could see it visually I would remember it. I tried so many different combinations, but never got it.
LE: That’s amazing. I never would have been able to remember any numbers either. So when exactly were you arrested and when did you get out?
MB: I was arrested around 9 am on Thursday and I got out today about 30 minutes before I sent out the tweet that I was out. I’m not sure when that was [Editor’s note: We’ve calculated that was approximate 12 pm]. I want to make a point about the Comfort Station[, which is a working group of Occupy Wall Street]. They were there waiting for me when I got out with hot beverages, socks, food. I can’t even tell you how amazing of a blessing that was to have them there. Remembering that is really emotional. Regardless of my larger opinions and beliefs, to have comfort there after such an emotional experience was really fucking special.
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