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ACA Bid Farewell

A personal account of the closing events of the American Correctional Association week long meeting in Philly. Protesters tried to have their demands heard but were treated to an escort to the local jail.
Well, I managed not to get arrested this afternoon at the Philadelphia Convention Center Marriott. A dozen others however, didn't leave via the front entrance of the hotel, but via two paddy wagons that left the Marriott’s delivery entrance a little before noon.
I arrived at the Marriott a little before 10am, and proceeded to the fifth floor, where the ACA's Closing Plenary Session was to take place at 10:30. Just a few folks milling around, no real activity.

A group was forming outside the main (Market Street) entrance to the Marriott. Banners and a loudspeaker were set up facing the lobby.

I headed back up to the fifth floor where the Plenary had yet to begin. From the comments of those entering the room, it seems as this was due to oversleeping, hungover delegates.

A minute or so into the introductory speech, a protestor stood up and started reading a list of demands. The ACA speaker tried to speak over her, but was not successful; he switched to applause getting tactics in the vein of, "Wasn't that a great party we had last night."

Other protesters joined the reading of demands, also engaging ACA delegates in one-on-one discussions and passing out the list of demands.

In what would be the most surreal moment of the day, two ACA members started singing loudly over the microphone in an attempt to drown out the protesters. First in the repertoire, "America," then "The Star Spangled Banner," then that Kenny Rogers gambler song -- noticeable disappointment visible in the singer when the audience didn't respond to the "Know when to hold" call-and-response. Interesting that at several points during the national anthem, the audience collectively forgot the words … though they didn’t forget to stand up, of course.

Standing by the meeting room's entrance, I saw a hotel employee call security three times before at least a half dozen arrived dark-suited Marriott goons arrived. During this time and after, ACA delegates pestered Marriott employees, asking them why they didn't call police. Police were finally called, though some of the delegates were very upset with their response time.

By the time the police arrived, three protesters who had placed chairs on the stage were sitting there, waiting for their voices to be heard, speaking for those who were not invited to the podium at this conference.

Two Philly bike cops and three other Philly cops met hotel security in the hallway outside the room, where they had a brief discussion, then cleared the meeting room, asking the ACA members to go out to the hall, and arresting protesters who were still in the room, barring them from leaving and detaining them. Among the arrestees were two Indymedia journalists and another man who had not caused any disturbances, but was trying to walk away peacefully. He said, “I can walk by myself,” then was grabbed, slammed against the wall and detained. At no point did I hear any of the arresting officers issue a warning before beginning the arrests.

The ACA members were moved to the adjoining meeting space, evidently to restart the Plenary session. Everyone who was not "ACA" was told to leave under threat of arrest. I was told by a Marriott security guard that, “He never wanted to see me again.” And I thought the relationship was just getting started.

Those of us who were not being detained assembled outside, casing the perimeter of the hotel and trying to put together what was happening. Two paddy wagons were spotted going down the ramp to the service entrance, leaving 20 or so minutes later – bound for the detention center at 39th and Lancaster, we were told.

Several folks left to take care of legal matters, a contingent went to 39th and Lancaster to show solidarity, and I found the nearest accessible computer to type this up. Keep posted for the latest on this.



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