“It was important to be a part of this and to disrupt this because this is such a remarkable event. The man loses by 3 million votes and he gets to recreate our government. This confirms for me that we don’t have a democratic system. It’s maybe semi-democratic, but is semi-democratic democratic enough?”

Protester's cuff-marks visible days later

On Tuesday, I sat down for a beer with one of the over 200 people who’d been arrested in Washington DC. He was nervous and said that discussing it was therapeutic. He agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity. We’ll call him “Charlie.”

Friday was his first experience with street activism. A left-leaning individual who believes Trump may be a fascist, he was inspired to take part in the inauguration day “Disrupt J20” events.

The day was extremely chaotic. Over 100 distinct protest groups, often mixing and trading people, descended on the city at once.

“I was looking for the anti-fascist block, explained Charlie, who clung onto the first anti-Trump march he saw when he arrived around 10am.

He had not been involved in any violence, but earlier in the day protesters had destroyed the windows of a Bank of America and Starbucks storefront.

“I saw someone take a hammer to a Starbucks on 14th between K and L. And that’s when I wanted out.”

“Most of the people in the crowd were holding signs with anti-capitalist ideals,” he explained. A few agitators were present, however. “Some of these guys, I can describe them perfectly, were wearing all black and a fucking mask, and they were knocking over trash cans and smashing windows.”

Less than an hour after arriving and joining a group with whom he knew nobody, police arrived and boxed the entire group in. Around 100 people, he estimates, were “kettled” at the intersection of 12th and L street. Nobody could leave.

Knowing they had done nothing wrong, the protesters didn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to go. “The protesters in my block thought they might be arrested simply because [the march] was unpermitted,” he explained. “Most of us were walking around chanting. Say what you will about people wearing black, but most of us weren’t engaged in violence or property destruction or whatever.”

“People were pissing in bottles or just on the ground to skip the middle man,” he explained. “People were ditching clothing they didn’t want, so it was like standing in piss-soaked laundry.”

His group was forced to stand in the one intersection for nearly eight hours. While told they were under arrest, it wasn’t until nightfall that they were handcuffed, transported, or provided access to a bathroom.

“People were pissing in bottles or just on the ground to skip the middle man,” he explained. “People were ditching clothing they didn’t want, so it was like standing in piss-soaked laundry.”

I asked him whether anyone defecated on the street.

“One person shat,” he confirmed.

While kettled, flash grenades and pepper were also used against people stuck inside, who had nowhere to disperse to.

During the eight hours confined on the street, police refused to communicate with protesters. Most officers stood silently, their shields preventing movement. When a sergeant was asked what they were being arrested for, he simply replied, “I don’t know.”

Not everyone in the group was a protester. It was later confirmed that a total of six journalists were arrested that day. Charlie says there were at least two credentialed journalists in the group, as well as four legal observes from the National Lawyer’s Guild. He also says at least two elderly people were among the crowd.

Finally, as sun set, police arrested every single person trapped in the intersection one by one. Charlie says he was transported in a van and later brought to a court house the following day at 6am. By this time, all his property had been taken and put into a bag. “When they gave us a property receipt, mine didn’t include my phone. I never got it back. My new phone arrived today.”

This has been confirmed. According to several sources, police took protesters’ phones without any explanation.

“Luckily my phone is dead,” Charlie said. His phone also has a passcode, so he feels confident that police won’t be able to access his files. He believes he’ll never get it back. His attorney advised him to use a Google feature that causes his phone to wipe itself if it’s turned on.

“When I reported to my insurance company, I reported it stolen. I should be clear, at no point did anyone tell me my phone was confiscated.”

“I saw one guy have a real breakdown, and it was caused by the US marshals refusing to get him his medication… They offered to send him to the hospital, but he’d get arraigned Monday. Basically he had to choose between his freedom and his mental health.”

At the courthouse, he was under the watch of the U.S. Marshals. He says they were among the most agitating. He had to sit for hours wearing a belly chain and metal handcuffs in addition to chains on his feet. As I spoke to Charlie, I could see the imprints still on his wrists days later.

“I saw one guy have a real breakdown, and it was caused by the US marshals refusing to get him his medication,” he explained. “They offered to send him to the hospital, but he’d get arraigned Monday. Basically he had to choose between his freedom and his mental health.”

Nearly 36 hours after being arrested, Charlie and his group were finally arraigned. They were told by judge that they were all charged with felony rioting, which carries a potential ten years in prison. He was then released, pending a hearing on February 9th.

“There’s a part of me that thinks I did something stupid, but I know I walked, I sang, I chanted, and the songs were over and I was in the kettle… at the end of the day it was a protest. That’s my constitutional right. It was our intention to disrupt, but it wasn’t my intention to destroy.”

“I’ve never been arrested before, so seeing a felony hanging over me. That’s pretty scary.”

This being his first protest, I asked him whether he will continue in activism. He explained that he’s intimidated. “Mission accomplished. I don’t wanna risk it. Not just because of the felony over my head. Standing for seven hours. Shoes covered in piss. Hands cuffed in the back of a van… There were times I thought I was gonna have a panic attack.”

Charlie’s case is not unique. More than 200 protesters currently face felony rioting charges.

Do you have a story like this one? Email fordfischer@news2share.com to tell your account of events that occurred on Inauguration Day.