Carlo Garcia, DNC protester (interview)
This interview with Carlo Garcia, an activist who protested at the DNC, was recorded shortly after his arrest. It has been embargoed until it could be reviewed by his attorney.
Excerpt: "One of the trustees who's an inmate who gets to clean up said that there was a riot, and I was like, no, there hasn't been no riot, it turned out that the police, when everybody got there, had thought that they'd come in to riot. So they all went down there in riot gear. They shut the jail down momentarily, which is crazy. There's a picture of it too, you see all the cops lined up outside the police station-- for Alicia and I. Which is crazy."
COLORADO IMC: OK, we're starting the interview. Could you tell us your name and a little bit about yourself, where you're from and what you do for a living?
CARLO GARCIA: My name is Carlo Javier Garcia, I'm 22 years old, I live in Boulder, Colorado. I grew up in Miami, Florida.
COLORADO IMC: We're interviewing you because you took part in some demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention this year, its August 2008. The Democrats met in Denver. Could you tell us a little bit of why you took part in demonstrations, and what that means to you?
CARLO GARCIA: I decided to get involved with protesting and organizing for the DNC about eight months ago. My friend Ben and I caught wind of Recreate-68 kind of through the grapevine up here in Boulder, and we decided, you know, we need to figure out a means of getting in touch with these people. So we ended up finding out that they had meetings down in Denver every Thursday night at about 5:30 so we started going to the meetings. Since then we've been organizing with them. Before then we had organized here in Boulder. We have our own production company called the Mad Society Project, and so we'd done a little activist work here in Boulder, and got a feel for organizing, being able to put together a kind of festival type of idea, and that's kind of what we did for Recreate 68 in working for them. We helped organize the Festival of Democracy, and also whatever else they needed us to do, pretty much. Anything they asked for us, donations, fund-raisers, stuff like that, we were able to pull together and donate a decent amount. I guess now its crazy because this past week is kind of the culmination of it all, we worked the past eight months on this, and people in Recreate 68 had been working for over a year on it. So it was pretty cool to see it all come together. There was an anti-war march and rally on Sunday, human rights and torture, no more torture, prisoner rights march and rally on Monday, Tuesday was backbone of the future, which was actually the day of my arrest. Wednesday was another end the occupation march, which was a culminating day of the DNC. Yesterday (Thursday) was an immigration march.
COLORADO IMC: Lets talk about your arrest. You were arrested just a short time before Alicia Forrest was arrested, and there was a video of both arrests. Could you tell us a little bit about events leading up to the arrest? How long had you been there, and what were you doing at the time of the arrest?
CARLO GARCIA: I guess I was arrested on Tuesday at about 11:30, I had gotten there early because we were preparing for the backbone of the future march, which was a pretty big march and they have all sorts of puppets and signs that they've already made, that they actually travel around with to different protests and demonstrations, and stuff like that. And so I'd gotten there early to help them organize, and had been helping them organize, when a group, I guess it was an anti-, I don't know, it was a radical Christian group, they were pretty extreme, they were anti-homosexual, anti-abortion, anti-women's rights kind of stuff, it was pretty bad what this guy was preaching. And so we went and counter-protested them, and told the police like, look, we have a permit for this park, and if you, like, we don't want you here, like, the police have to escort you to leave. And we had them just about to leave, and I guess, I don't know what happened, exactly, because I wasn't trying to deal with them, I was dealing with a lot of other things, they ended up getting a spot in the corner of the park, it was just drawing too big of a crowd and its like, yo, we need to concentrate on other things, and let these crazies do what they do, just ignore them, they'll fade out. But everybody, I don't know, they all decided to stay back over that way and continue to counter-protest and yell back at them. And that's when I went back over with a woman, we had actually one of the signs in the backbone on the future march, it was separation of church and state, and so we went with the separation of church and state banner to counter-protest these extremists. We put the banner behind, and then above, then we finally move it in front of them, and when we move it in front of them, within just a few seconds, one of the cops that was behind them, kind of backing them, like crowd control or whatever, grabbed me, and it was like, if you don't move, i'm going to arrest you. And this is when I turn, you see it in the video, I turn and I say, Recreate 68 has the permits for this park, like, we can protest here. He-- literally it was like five second interaction, he just grabbed me up, and that's when he like proceeded to body-slam me, or attempt to body-slam me. And like, you seem him, he gets surrounded by the police, and the rest just kind of like, you know, you see it all there on video. Its really frustrating to see that in America, you think, like, where's our country come from, where are we going, like what we are right now, with how they treated me, and how they treated Alicia. After, you know afterwards, I don't know, its like really intense.
I actually have two brothers who are fighting in Iraq, one of them is back stateside for the next week and a half, and the other is still there in Iraq. This is not right, my brothers are fighting an illegal war. My father had gone to Iraq on the initial invasion, and I have another brother who's back from Iraq, who's wounded in action. My whole family has been through this war. I think a lot of these people, the counter-protesters, the people who are saying war is good, God wants war, what skin in the game do they have invested? Are their brothers fighting this war? Are their chidren fighting this war? Are they that extreme, supporting the death of their own? And for me to go counter-protest because I have all of this pent up inside of me, and have the police arrest me and treat me like this, after thinking what my family's done for this country, or what I'm trying to do for my family? Its really frustrating.
COLORADO IMC: Have you talked to your brothers about the arrest?
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah. Yeah.
COLORADO IMC: What have they said?
CARLO GARCIA: It was kind of mixed responses, I was in touch with the one who's in Iraq still, my two brothers are twins, and one of them called me up the next day, angry, like wondering, what the heck am I doing, like why am I getting arrested, how unnecessary this all is. And the other was actually a lot more understanding, the one who just was back from Iraq was a lot more understanding.
COLORADO IMC: Have they seen the video?
CARLO GARCIA: I actually sent it to them today. I had to track it down, I didn't see it until yesterday. I've had work, and school, been kind of busy, so I haven't had a chance to sit at my computer.
COLORADO IMC: So you haven't had a chance to talk about it since they will have seen the arrest?
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah. Well, I told one of them that I've sent them a video, but I just haven't talked to him since he's seen the arrest.
COLORADO IMC: In the video, you've got your right hand on the mast of the banner, and you're talking to the policeman, he's directly in front of you, and it looks like you're talking and gesturing a little bit with your left hand. Do you remember what you were telling the policeman just before he tackled you?
CARLO GARCIA: That's when I was saying that this is Recreate 68, we have the permit to protest here. You can even hear me faintly saying it in the video, you can hear me faintly saying it in the video, you hear me say like “Recreate 68”, like “permit”, like pointing, like that this is where we have our permit, and it is literally within him tapping me on the shoulder, and me saying that to him, its like, “that's it, I'm arresting you,” and just grabbed me up.
COLORADO IMC: Do you think that he showed any sort of fairness or favoritism in the way that he arrested you, and didn't seem interested in the issue of these people not having a permit?
CARLO GARCIA: He definitely arrested me without any hesitation. I remember reading in the paper, saying that I appeared to be a threat to the pastor, but in actuality I was just holding a banner that said separation of church and state. You can see it wasn't like I was touching the pastor, like, you know, harrassing, like, he, him and I had had an exchange earlier, and that's when I was like, these people don't even deserve my time or my attention. But then (we) went back with the sign, to be like, time to clear these guys out. After that point, I don't know, the cop definitely didn't show any hesitation. Whether it was fairness or not, I may never know. But (he) definitely did not hesitate to...
COLORADO IMC: When you talk about, “it was time to clear these guys out,” you were talking to the police about clearing them out, is that correct? Because you had the permit, and the permit was an important issue, because that indicated your group had a right to be there, and their group didn't.
CARLO GARCIA: Yes.
COLORADO IMC: And yet the police appeared to be protecting them from you, when your group had the permit.
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah. I mean, I really don't know what happened, and why they were allowed to remain within our park, honestly. I guess that really is some sort of fairness-- errr, favoritism, and unfairness, but at the same time, they could have done something else that allowed them to stay there, I don't know what it is.
COLORADO IMC: What happened right after you were tackled and arrested?
CARLO GARCIA: After I was tackled and arrested, I was surrounded by at least fifteen police. They-- probably more than that, I want to even say twenty police, on foot and on horseback, for crowd control, being escorted out of the park. I was yelling to the crowd that I've done nothing wrong, I was yelling to the police that I've done nothing wrong. I've done nothing wrong, I've got two brothers in Iraq, this is my right to protest, we have the permits for this park.
COLORADO IMC: Did they put plastic wraps on your wrists?
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah. Yeah, I got plastic wraps, you can tell (looking at wrists) I have a cut on my wrist from it, and I have a bruise.
COLORADO IMC: So they cinched them down tight?
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah, they cinched them down really tight.
COLORADO IMC: Were your hands behind your back?
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah.
COLORADO IMC: OK. Where did they take you?
CARLO GARCIA: They took me to, what was it, sixteenth and Cherokee? Which is right around the corner, its a police station, I guess its down like county, downtown? I don't know, whatever police station it is... its right around the corner from Civic Center.
COLORADO IMC: Possibly 13th and Cherokee?
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah, 13th and Cherokee, yeah.
COLORADO IMC: There's a police station on 13th and Cherokee, I believe.
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah, that was the place that they took me. Took me there into the basement there first, and put me in a cell, proceeded to search my person, they actually cut the straps on my backpack off, because I had my backpack on, and it was like look, you could just take these cuffs off, put some real handcuffs on me, these are too tight, it was obviously like way too tight, and instead, they cut my backpack off me, just cut the straps literally.
COLORADO IMC: So they ruined your backpack.
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah, they pretty much ruined my backpack-- cut it off me and then put me in a holding cell. You know I saw, I saw some stuff down there, I definitely saw all of the undercovers, like the agents that are infiltrating the protest and coming in and looking like protesters, but are really just police officers monitoring the crowd. (They) disorganized everything in my bag and then put it in all messed up, then proceeded to book me for like the next half hour.
COLORADO IMC: Were you in a cell by yourself?
CARLO GARCIA: I was in a cell by myself. I later saw the Code Pink girl's bag, I was like, did they arrest the Code Pink person too? I guess they took her into a different part of the jail where they keep the women...
COLORADO IMC: Were you able to see her get knocked down?
CARLO GARCIA: No, I saw it on the video. I was actually-- if you see they just got me into the car, and the camera backs up and its crazy ('cause) its like one fluid shot, of like, seeing me get into the back of the truck, and then backing up to see her get decked by the cop.
COLORADO IMC: What was your reaction when you saw that video of her getting knocked down?
CARLO GARCIA: It was bad. It was bad. I think I made some stupid noise, like Unnhhh. (Inaudible). Its disturbing! And you know I showed it to a bunch of my co-workers over here at the Apple store in town, and a lot of the people were really disgusted with the behavior, they didn't react like-- it was like something close to crying, I showed this one woman, and she was like on the verge of tears. Seeing this young woman, 23 year old girl, I don't know how old she is, but I can only assume she's in her twenties, just get DECKED, like hard, like the cop came and like, (slaps hands) cross-checked her like, hockey-sticked her, its like, in the neck with his baton. You see her just flop to the ground and lay there like, motionless for a minute, its like, I can't believe that just happened. In 2008, you know, like, a woman getting beat down by a riot cop, like...
COLORADO IMC: The Denver Post reported that, as he was striking her, he used the words, “back it up, b----, probably “bitch”.
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah. You can hear it in the video, if you listen closely, you can hear him say that. And he definitely does say it. And its just like this is-- this is it. Its really disheartening, at the same time I'm glad, like her and I are kind of martyrs for this, do you know, to show police brutality, and this police state that our country's coming to. And the night before they arrested a hundred protesters, used pepper spray, you know, pepper bullets, shooting people with the pepper bullet paint ball guns, they just mass-arrested a hundred people, which is crazy because, you know, its just so absurd, the amount of overwhelming force they were using. They'd spent fifty million dollars on the security budget, of which twenty million was allocated to police and whatnot, its like CRAZY. To think that much money. I can't even-- its just difficult dealing with it all. Lets see what happens four years from now. Hopefully our country will go in a different direction.
COLORADO IMC: How long were you in the cell.
CARLO GARCIA: The first cell I was in, about half an hour, 45 minutes. That time was spent sitting there waiting for them to finish their searching my bag and writing out my ticket, my police report. Then they took me up to the top, where, after I was done with, went to booking, they kept me in another cell which was like a holding cell for a lot of people, I was pretty much the only person in there. Then they took me to another cell when I got fingerprinted, then I went up another floor, and was finally put in my last cell. But before that we got off an elevator, it was me and two other people that had been arrested for other things, not protesting. I was waiting, we were waiting in an area, they were actually letting some other people out, I looked at them, they looked like some of the people that may have been arrested earlier in the day, or the day before, I said, motioned to them, like “protesters?” And they said yeah, and I was like, do you have the phone number? Like motioning to them, and they actually had the card and the calling card for the PLP (People's Law Project). So I got the number, you know, nobody remembers phone numbers anymore. So I'm trying to make a phone call, you can only call collect, you can only call to a landline. I don't know any phone numbers, but they actually gave me the card to the PLP and the pre-paid phone card. I got this really important aspect of planning, because it actually talked about how are we going to do this, are we going to give people tatoos, so they can have the number, or should we have them write the number on themselves, are we going to give them business cards with like a pre-paid phone card, and I'm glad that they did the business card with the pre-paid phone card because I was able to get in touch, they slipped (the cards) under the door to me... I get in there and I need to reach one of three people, (one of) the organizers from Recreate 68, my partner Ben Coughman, Glen Spagnuolo, or Mark or Barbara Cohen. I guess they were able to get in touch with somebody, all of them ended up coming. It was pretty interesting, I think (the police) shut the holding area down when everybody came because, I saw, I still had a window, I was looking down toward Civic Center Park, and I saw all of them coming, it must have been about twenty or twenty-five people, ... (inaudible) ... One of the trustees who's an inmate who gets to clean up said that there was a riot, and I was like, no, there hasn't been no riot, it turned out that the police, when everybody got there, had thought that they'd come in to riot. So they all went down there in riot gear. They shut the jail down momentarily, which is crazy. There's a picture of it too, you see all the cops lined up outside the police station-- for Alicia and I. Which is crazy.
COLORADO IMC: Did this take place shortly after you were arrested, or was this like the next morning, or...
CARLO GARCIA: No, it must have been a good hour and a half, maybe, I'd been in jail for at least that amount of time. (inaudible) I was in jail for about six hours, from 11:30 to 5:30... They came and about an hour and a half after they got there, I was released.
COLORADO IMC: Now did you make an appearance in court?
CARLO GARCIA: No, not yet. My court date isn't set until the 14th of September.
COLORADO IMC: OK. Do you know what you're charged with?
CARLO GARCIA: I'm charged with interference.
COLORADO IMC: Inteference with the police, or interference with...
CARLO GARCIA: I don't know, I don't know, 'cause we weren't touching anyone, I never touched anybody. I didn't touch the pastor, I didn't put my hands on the pastor. We weren't touching with our sign, by any means. We were at least a foot away from him while it was being held in front of him. It must I guess be with the police because when the cop grabbed me, (inaudible) I don't know if its interference with the police, or resisting arrest, or something like that, but its just interference. I feel like that's a football call, he threw a flag... (laughter)
COLORADO IMC: You live in Boulder, and I'm wondering if you're aware that there's a debate in Boulder right now over the arrest of an ABC producer?
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah.
COLORADO IMC: ...and because there was a Boulder cop that was involved with that... have you heard any of
CARLO GARCIA: Yeah... I read a story about that earlier today, it was a Boulder County Sheriff Deputy, was the one that forced him off the sidewalk, and then said now you're in the street, you're impeding traffic, there's video of it too. But I didn't know there was a debate going on. You're given a lot of power-- you give people training, you give people weapons, and you give them an opportunity to use that training and those weapons and they're going to do it. You know the cops were, you can tell they were armed to the teeth, any picture you see (of ) them this week, they were dressed, they were decked out in riot gear. You know they all had-- I had a T-shirt that had a picture of the cop just totally decked out in his uniform, with knee pads, shin pads, foot pads. You know like the protesters, like me, have an excessive amount of weapons we're going to be using on the cops. And it was ridiculous. You think to give them that kind of authority, you give them that feeling of putting all that gear on, and holding these weapons, like you empower them with that mentality, they're going to use it. You know, that's violence, those weapons represent violence. Weapons are used to perform violence. Those aren't tools for hunting. Those are tools to inflict pain on people. And they used it. And you see it when the cop batons the girl. He used his baton the way he's been taught to use his baton. I'm sure they practice that move with their gear, you know, when you're a soldier, you go through basic training, you learn how to use every weapon. They've learned how to use all the weapons before they got there. They've all sprayed those canisters before. They've all shot those pepper bullet guns before. That's what they're trained to do. Once you're trained to do something, its your job. You end up doing it.
Its like we're walking in the march past the cops, and we give them the peace sign. And they can't return it? Its like, what do you mean then, what do you offer to us, your fellow Americans, as brothers and sisters in this country?
Its a scary sight, and you think of those movies that we see about the police state, like V for Vendetta or something, like Children of Men, or Southland Tales, (with a) militarized police force policing a people, patrolling a people, just looking for a reason... Its happening. That's current-day America. They're policing us. They are trying to control us. And this is how they deal with dissent from protesters. This is how our government deals with people speaking out about injustice.
COLORADO IMC: Has this experience changed your political views in any way?
CARLO GARCIA: I would say it has. I feel now more than ever, on the brink of wanting to be an anarchist. And its not an anarchist for complete chaos, and destruction, and lawlessness, 'cause there's law in anarchy, but its agreed upon by a community of people, rather than the federal government. Its back to like, Boulder, Colorado's rights instead of the State of Colorado's rights, or the United States' rights. I feel like that would be the best way to go-- to police ourselves, have our own people watch after ourselves, and prevent wrongdoing from happening in our own community. The government hasn't been able to do that for us.
COLORADO IMC: Do you intend to stay active in protests of this sort?
CARLO GARCIA: Oh, yeah, no, definitely. What I've been feeling is that the DNC – at least I hope, you know I've been at this for two years now, I'm definitely going to continue on. But I don't think that the DNC, and what happened here, is possibly, is kind of like the spark that'll ignite the flame to get people active again, to get people motivated, to be like, “what is our country really doing, and how can we be a part of helping dictate what our country will do.” People just feel so insignificant. And like, right now, what we did this past week, I feel like there was a show of people power, at least one of those days. And the fact that we were out there all of those days, definitely shows something about at least the people who are interested in being out there protesting. It also shows the amount of people who are interested to get involved. Hopefully in the next few years, people will take a more active and concerned role in their citizenship.
You try to approach everybody with love. You try to approach everyone, even people who can be assumed to be your enemy, try to approach them with love. But (do) they approach you with love? It seems that all people have done is approach us with fear. Love is the opposite of fear. I'm not afraid of the police, but for some reason they're afraid of me. They're afraid of us. I don't know what it is that's been instilled in them, but if they're our brothers and sisters in this country, then they should love us the same way we love them.