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Friday, September 10, 2004

The Story of Summer Starr's Detention

Summer Starr, a 21-year old graduate student from Olinda, Hawaii was detained during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.

I think the story's most interesting allegation is that Pier 57, the temporary detention site reserved for protesters, was leased by the Republican Party. Here is how Erin Starr, Summer's mother, claims to have discovered that.
The notorious Pier 57 (owned by the HudsonRiver Trust--a city/state consortium) was dubbed "Little Guantanamo" by reporters who also got caught up in police sweeps and who said it looked like the Guantanamo Bay prison built by the USA to hold the Al Qaeda terrorist political prisoners in Cuba. Pier 57 was leased by the RNC before their convention. They arranged for the NYPD to put up the chain link holding pens with razor wire on top in the old Pier 57 warehouse that had oil, gas and asbestos dust on the floor from a previous fire. My heart was in my throat when I got a call from one of my daughter's friends on Oahu who told me she had been arrested and taken to Little Guantanamo. I looked it up on the internet and fear crept into me.

I called my daughter's cell phone over and over ("it's mom, where ARE you, call me"). She didn't answer. Only hours before, she had been calling us with joy, telling us of the peaceful protests and beautiful march. But now, nothing. I had nightmarish visions of a fire sweeping over the combustible floor with hundreds -- nearly a thousand -- trapped in the chainlink pens, razor wire on the top of the pens making escape impossible. My husband called the NYPD to ask who had issued a Certificate of Occupancy or Fire Safety Inspection Certificate and who was managing Pier 57. He was given the number for the Republican National Committee. Yes. My husband and I looked at each other in silent, cold horror. In America? The Republicans have set up a private detention camp for their political prisoners that can hold 1000 under inhumane and unsafe conditions!? My husband slowly dialed that number, got the RNC, and the Republican rep who answered the phone said, in answer to my husbands' inquiries about safety: "those protesters don't deserve a Holiday Inn, and they're all criminals anyway!"
I used to think that in the US you are innocent until proven guilty. That Republican rep seems to think differently. And this Republican Administration's overall disposition does little to prove his opinion an exception rather than an expression of the Administration's party line.

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