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Commentary Last Updated: Apr 17th, 2007 - 01:38:14

By Dr. June Scorza Terpstra
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 17, 2007, 01:34

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On Thursday evening, March 8, International Women�s Day, I was arrested by Evanston police. This occurrence came on the heels of a controversial article I wrote for which I received hate mail and death threats.

I was made to step out of my car; my hands were cuffed behind my back as I stood in the dark street with three young, piggish male officers. I was asked if I had 100 dollars cash. Cars with people stopped at the nearest cross light were staring at me. My person, my car and my purse were searched. I was asked if I had anything up my crotch. I was placed in the suffocating back seat of a squad car and taken to the Evanston police station.

As I was commandeered into a holding area, my hands cuffed behind my back, I remembered this police station. Twenty years ago I was the founder of a women�s shelter and a women�s university program in Evanston and had occasion to work with police in that building who knew little to nothing and cared less about victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

I was questioned as to whether I take drugs. I consciously kept my dignity and said, no, do you? I was told I thought I was �above the law� by a boy given deadly toys to protect his master�s money and rules playing king of the traffic violations hill. For further intimidation I was threatened with a strip search and a jail cell. My husband bailed me out.

What was my crime? I had failed to pay a speeding ticket in Kansas about a year ago and unknown to me my license was suspended. There I was, a woman who had founded programs for women and children in Evanston and has been teaching social justice at universities and colleges for over 20 years in the USA, with three uniformed robo-boys bereft of minds and hearts as they rummaged through my car stocked with baby seats for grandkids and kid�s toys for my weekend birthday party with my grandchildren. They put me in the back of the police car, my wrists burning from the handcuffs, with my blood pressure soaring, unable to breathe for the first minutes, struck down powerless against boys with guns and handcuffs who said that they were only �following procedure.� I was instantly criminalized because I had lost a ticket a year ago and had never received notice in my move from one state to another.

If I had been arrested for practicing my constitutional right to dissolve this present government, I could have understood the situation, but this arrest was for the capitalist crime of not paying $150 for driving my car too fast across this infernal country. Debtor�s prisons are now one of the features of a police state in which 2.5 million people are presently in the prison system of the USA with over 60 percent of the people imprisoned for nonviolent offenses.

In that instant, what I teach became very real. My understanding of how each and every one of us is criminalized in the USA increased tenfold. I hear my Black, Arab, Muslim, Red and Brown students tell me they are stopped, harassed, shoved up and searched against cars by the police on a routine basis in their neighborhoods. I remember the battered woman and rape victim victimized by the police. I see the political prisoners such as Dr. Sami al-Arian, Leonard Peltier and Jose Padilla, tortured and tormented by their captors. I see the Arab men with brown bags over their heads who are forced out of their homes, disappeared and sexually humiliated as I remember the boy cop looking me in the eyes and sneeringly say, �Do you have anything up your crotch?�

The image of the Mexican woman struggling across the border violently caught and marched off and then raped in holding pens is in my mind as this arresting �officer of the law� threatens to have me strip-searched and put in a cell. I recall the three Arab women sitting in an Iraqi cell waiting to be killed by men trained by US mercenaries and militaries, the people from New Orleans still held captive in FEMA camps for the crime of being homeless after a flood, the Canadian student arrested and strip-searched and held in a US prison just this week for the crime of failing to stop at a stop sign, the Palestinian teen waiting to cross an Israeli checkpoint and winds up rotting in an Israeli jail.

I recall all of these and more as I recall the empty eyes of the police as they tell me I am under arrest. I realize yet again that I am the arrested and the imprisoned and that they are me. I always have been them and they have always been me.

In solidarity for the liberation of the oppressed.

June Scorza Terpstra, Ph.D. is an activist educator and university lecturer in Justice Studies and Criminal Justice. She is presently teaching courses on Law and Terrorism, Social Justice and Resistance. She was the founding director of the Evanston Northshore YWCA Shelter for Battered Women and the Northwestern University Women�s Center. She is a former Community Research Fellow and graduate of Loyola University Chicago.

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