More on the Houston Janitors

Here's a testimonial from one of the organizers of the protest.  Brutality against workers should not be tolerated in our country.

We sat down in the intersection and the horses came immediately. It was really violent. They arrested us, and when we got to jail, we were pretty beat up. Not all of us got the medical attention we needed. The worst was a protester named Julia, who is severely diabetic. We kept telling the guards about her condition but they only gave her a piece of candy. During roll call, she started to complain about light-headedness. Finally she just collapsed unconscious on the floor. It was like she just dropped dead. The guard saw it but just kept going through the roll. Susan ran over there and took her pulse while the other inmates were yelling for help, saying we need to call somebody. The medical team strolled over, taking their own sweet time. She was unconscious for like 4 or 5 minutes.

They really tried to break us down. The first night they put the temperature so high that a woman--one of the other inmates--had a seizure. The second night they made it freezing and took away many of our blankets. We didn't have access to the cots so we had to sleep on a concrete floor. When we would finally fall asleep the guards would come and yell `Are you Anna Denise Solís? Are you so and so?' One of the protesters had a fractured wrist from the horses. She had a cast on and when she would fall asleep the guard would kick the cast to wake her up. She was in a lot of pain.

The guards would tell us: `This is what you get for protesting.' One of them said, `Who gives a shit about janitors making 5 dollars an hour? Lots of people make that much.' The other inmates--there were a lot of prostitutes in there--said that they had never seen the jail this bad. The guards told them: `We're trying to teach the protesters a lesson.' Nobody was getting out of jail because the processing was so slow. They would tell the prostitutes that everything is the protesters' fault. They were trying to turn everybody against each other.

I felt like I was in some Third World jail, not in America. One of the guards called us `whores' and if we talked back, we didn't get any lunch. We didn't even have the basic necessities. It felt like a police state, like marshal law, nobody had rights. Some of us had been arrested in other cities, and it was never this bad before.

They tried to break us down, to dehumanize us. But we were stronger. We made friends with the other inmates and we organized them. The prostitutes felt a lot of solidarity with us. All of us together told stories, and played games like telephone and charades. We even did stand-up comedy monologues about what was happening to us and we all laughed. One woman--a woman of deep faith--gave a sermon that was both funny and deadly serious. We showed them that we weren't afraid. We did it all together. Now we're ready to fight on for basic American rights like the freedom of speech and the right to protest.  --Anna Denise Solís, Lead Organizer, SEIU Local 1877, San José, CA.

Tags: Houston, janitors, Labor, SEIU (all tags)

Comments

30 Comments

Re: More on the Houston Janitors

I hope that these protesters get a lawyer and go after these so-called police individually.  Professionals don't act this way, thugs do.  

by LionelEHutz 2006-11-18 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

That is an incredible testimonial.  The actions of law enforcement were unconscionable and one can hardly believe that this could have possibly taken place in a major U.S. city.  Shame.

So what to do.  Obviously, pressure has to be placed on the City of Houston to investigate what happened and to punish wrongdoers (and NOT just the guys on the ground; this kind of thing can't happen without, at the least, tacit approval from those higher up the food chain).

That said, what has apparently happened in Houston should galvanize people of conscience to force our elected representatives to do what is needed to eliminate impediments to the right to organize.  Perhaps a diary on what to do in this area will be forthcoming from yours truly.

In addition, I think it's time that we on the left rekindle our commitment to the organized labor movement in this country.  I think Chris Bowers has been promoting this more than others and he should be commended.  But too many of us look to unions only in terms of how well they get the vote out on Election Day.  Worse still, too many of us look with condescension on the American organized labor movement and focus on the sins of a few that taints the whole in the eyes of the MSM and the parlour pinks among us.  It's our job to promote organized labor, to appreciate the benefits of organized labor, not just for setting up phone banks, but for organizing the unorganized.

Maybe something positive will ultimately come from what America has witnessed in Houston.  One can hope.

by bslev22 2006-11-18 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

 Most (if not all) police departments look approvingly on past military service in new applicants, since it can not only show they have the physical attributes for the job but also have probably gained some amount of maturity and a sense of personal responsibility.

 With the current barrel scraping going on in military recruitment, I think we will see many more of these sort of unfortunate behaviors for many years to come, as that "pre-filter" for police recruits is degraded and more bad cops are let into the system.

by Ugluks Flea 2006-11-18 11:47AM | 0 recs
Where the fuck were the lawyers?

Quite a moving story but ... where the hell were the lawyers?

Unions always have lawyers either on staff or retained (spelling?)... where were their lawyers?

A seizure, not getting medical attention to the diabetic person? What the hell?

-- MrMacMan

by MrMacMan 2006-11-18 11:52AM | 0 recs
We're stuck down here in the belly

of the NeoFascist beast.  All of the judges in Harris County -- the third most populous in the nation -- are Republicans.  The rest of the nation has broken the iron grip of the Bush-ites, but we're still under their boot heel in Houston and Texas.

Don't slam Texas or write it off, either (because Texas always exports the worst of its criminals to Washington).

Help us fight back.  Spread this news far and wide.

by PDiddie 2006-11-18 11:58AM | 0 recs
The most disturbing thing about this

is that the police response sounds planned and organized.  This wasn't the reaction of a few police "gone wild."  From the trampling of the crowd by the horse-mounted cops to the mind-control tactics at the jail, all of that sounded organized.

We've gone back in time folks.

by workingclassanna 2006-11-18 12:11PM | 0 recs
"it appears that we do"

I almost forgot what a fight had been made to assure the rights of the working man. I know there was a time when hours were longer and wages lower, but I had forgotten just how long that fight for freedom, to bargain collectively, and to have freedom of assembly, had taken.

Sometimes, until some particular thing comes to your notice, you think something has been won for every working man, and then you come across as I did the other day a case where someone had taken the law into his own hands and beaten up a labor organizer. I didn't think we did those things any more in this country, but it appears that we do.

--Eleanor Roosevelt, Address to the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee, March 14, 1940


 

by Rob in Vermont 2006-11-18 12:17PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

What can we do to help them? Can we contribute towards getting them a lawyer, anything?

by tjekanefir 2006-11-18 12:36PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

There was a food drive in Houston today for them.  The link suggests that this might be ongoing.  Of course, a cash donation would be gratefully accepted.

The holidays are coming, and these people didn't have much to begin with.

by PDiddie 2006-11-18 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Not that I support the police actions, but lets be clear: The horses did as instructed by their riders...not of their own volition.

You have in the one photo, 4 horses being pulled off or back from the fallen person and the people trying to help him to keep from stepping on them. Really poor horsemanship on the part of the cops for that matter. Terrible choice of bits for that situation.

These cops are out of line...no question. But some of our headlines might be a little hysterical.

This written as a lifelong activist, streetfighter of cops in demonstrations back in the day and horseman.

by BigDog 2006-11-18 12:48PM | 0 recs
No One is blaming the horses

They are blaming the pigs.

by FishOutofWater 2006-11-18 04:30PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

I would really prefer to see some facts rather than rely on this story.

The YouTube video provided by Matt doesn't show people getting trampled by horses as was indicated in the title.

If anything, the police are using the horses as an intimidation tactic.  I haven't seen anywhere where a protester was actually injured as a result of the horse or police officers.

The police have a duty to prevent public disruption.  If these protesters were, as the caption above says, sitting in the intersection, they needed to be moved.  There is a difference between a picket line and public disruption.

Nobody deserves to be injured, and I hope there is an investigation into the claims made by Ms. Solis.  If the police overstepped their boundries and committed brutality such as letting a diabetic collapse on the floor and kicking another woman's broken wrist, then they need to be prosecuted.

If Ms. Solis is exaggerating the facts to make people sympathetic, she should be prosecuted for slander.

by MyDD Fan 2006-11-18 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Nice he-said, she said, especially with the little twist at the end where you plant the "she should be prosecuted" line.

Would it be irresponsible to speculate?  It would be irresponsible not to.  Good to see that someone's learned their lessons from Drudge and Noonan.  

by jsw 2006-11-18 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Not entirely sure what you mean by this post, who learned their lessons from Drudge and Noonan?  What's wrong with holding both sides accountable?  Do you honestly think this story is 100% accurate?

by MyDD Fan 2006-11-18 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Do you honestly think this story is 100% accurate?

Yes.  

by Matt Stoller 2006-11-18 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Take a look at these videos:

http://justiceforjanitors.blogspot.com/

by alivingston 2006-11-18 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Well, you are an ignorant idiot.  People can not be prosecuted for slander in the United States of America, the 1st amendment prohibits it.  Slander is a civil matter.

I would love to a see a civil by the cops for slander as it would open them up to discovery on the whole matter and they would have to testify under oath about the matter as their is no 5th amendment protection in civil suits.

by Monkey In Chief 2006-11-18 03:57PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Not having gone to law school does not make someone an ignorant idiot.  As someone in law school, I can honestly say that I'm dumber for it.  

by Reece 2006-11-18 04:14PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

I didn't go to law school.  Any educated personal should understand a basic legal concept like slander, and if they do not, they really ought to refrain from talking about it.  Blathering on about something one does not know anything about does make that person an ignorant idiot.

by Monkey In Chief 2006-11-18 04:40PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Any educated personal should understand a basic legal concept like slander, and if they do not, they really ought to refrain from talking about it.

Really?  Care to list the elements of slander or tell me in which jurisdictions you can sue for slander?  It's perfectly reasonable for a non-lawyer to not mind the distinctions.  When it comes down to it your ignorance will stand right next to his.

Blathering on about something one does not know anything about does make that person an ignorant idiot.

I certainly wouldn't call using a single word incorrectly "blathering on."  You jumped down this dude's throat because he said that someone should be "prosecuted for slander."  Your complaint was that people can't be prosecuted for slander because prosecution implies criminal law while slander is a civil matter.  It's a single word in his original sentence that makes the difference, and that is not 'blathering.'

In any case, blathering on about something does not make one either ignorant or an idiot.  It makes one a windbag.  Not knowing much makes one ignorant while being stupid makes on an idiot.  You may argue that blathering on is foolish, and thus evidence of idiocy, but of course, I could argue that misusing "blathering" and the lack of logical reasoning within your sentence is also evidence of idiocy.  

by Reece 2006-11-18 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

"My dd fan"'s argument is patently absurd, apart from the word prosecution. "Exaggeration" is not illegal, yet... Why assume she's lying? The visual evidence does a fair amount to support her.

by sb 2006-11-18 05:58PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

The difference between a civil and criminal matter is enormous.  Going around as saying people should be prosecuted for things that are not crimes is worthy of conservative jackasses.  If MyDD Fan wants to retreat to a fantasy world where you can prosecute for slander, I'm sure he can find it on LGF.  I challenge you to list all the elements of slander or all the jurisdictions one can sue for slander WITHOUT consulting any reference material.  If you want to really prove how smart you are, please post a comparative analysis of the slander laws of all 50 states.

The guy posted complete garbage: I would really prefer to see some facts rather than rely on this story.

Where does he propose to get these facts?  From the media, from the police officers?  The vast majority of  Ms. Solís' story posted is about the protesters treatment in jail.  I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money is the Houston police would not permit an objective third party observes unrestricted access to the jail to observe and record their treatment of the prisoners.  Demanding "facts" is any impossibility in this case and the MyDD Fan is either too stupid to realize this or a troll.  I really don't care which because either way he's an ignorant idiot.

And by the way, feel free to call me whatever else you like.  I really could not care if you think I'm idiot or not especially when it comes from a whiny lawyer.  I will continue to jump on anyone who posts crap.

by Monkey In Chief 2006-11-18 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Monkey In Chief,

Defendants are prosecuted in civil as well as criminal courts.

There are laws against criminal slander.  I don't know that anyone has been prosecuted for a very long time in criminal court.

Sometimes it is best not to assume one knows everything and that the object of attack is an ignorant moron.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-19 03:58AM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

So now they aren't just cops, they're torturers as well... Sad to think 'cause if someone without a badge did this then they'd be arrested, prosecuted and spend the rest of their lives behind bars where they would belong.
But they are cops...Which makes it worse doesn't it? Because their logo has always been...To protect and serve hasn't it?
Protect and serve whom??? The big businesses? I sure don't feel very safe, does anyone else when officers like these are loose and running around able to do things like this with no repercussions?

Magik (Cernig's wife, who doesn't have a MyDD account)

by Cernig 2006-11-18 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

I think this is horrible and I think we should all do everything we can to raise a stink about this and make certain it gets the recognition it deserves.  

According to the City of Houston website, you can contact the Mayor at mayor@cityofhouston.net.  Lets fill that email box to the brim with protests!

by Gertie 2006-11-18 03:59PM | 0 recs
Bail Bond: $888,888 per protester

$39.1M bond for 44 janitors

HOUSTON, Nov. 17 PRNewswire -- In an unprecedented transparent attempt to severely limit the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech of low-wage Houston janitors and their supporters, a Harris County District Attorney has set an extraordinarily high bond of $888,888 cash for each of the 44 peaceful protestors arrested last night. Houston janitors and their supporters, many of them janitors from other cities, were participating in an act of non-violent civil disobedience, protesting in the intersection of Travis at Capitol when they were arrested in downtown Houston Thursday night. They were challenging Houston's real estate industry to settle the janitors' strike and agree on a contract that provides the 5,300 janitors in Houston with higher wages and affordable health insurance.

The combined $39.1 million bond for the workers and their supporters is far and above the normal amount of bail set for people accused of even violent crimes in Harris County. While each of the non-violent protestors is being held on $888,888 bail ...

   * For a woman charged with beating her granddaughter to death with a
      sledgehammer, bail was set at $100,000;

   * For a woman accused of disconnecting her quadriplegic mother's breathing
      machine, bail was set at $30,000;

   * For a man charged with murder for stabbing another man to death in a bar
      brawl, bail was set at $30,000;

   * For janitors and protesters charged with Class B misdemeanors for past
      non-violent protests, standard bail has been set at $500 each.


H/T Digby

by RT 2006-11-18 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors
This is todays America where torture tactics are used this casual.
These assholes need to be sued.  They need to have this exposed.  the media is not reporting this and so, we must push for it to be heard.
We are at a point where Human dignity is no longer something Americans are proud of.  It's now something to be destroyed.
It's a sad testament to what we have become.
by vwcat 2006-11-18 08:32PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Thank you Matt for your continuing coverage of this story.

by Nate1212 2006-11-19 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

I felt like I was in some Third World jail, not in America. One of the guards called us `whores' and if we talked back, we didn't get any lunch. We didn't even have the basic necessities. It felt like a police state, like marshal law, nobody had rights. Some of us had been arrested in other cities, and it was never this bad before.

Comments taken at random from some Democratic "populists."

Sherrod Brown: Who you kidding?  They aren't middle class.

Jon Tester:  Send them all back to Mexico.  These are not our people.

Hillary Clinton: Ooooow.  Don't you just love horsies?

Bob Casey: One can make a case for abortion after all.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-19 04:09PM | 0 recs
Re: More on the Houston Janitors

Not really feeling real good about America sometimes.  

Sorry.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-19 04:11PM | 0 recs

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