This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
TeleSur journalist Abby Martin made headlines this week at the Democratic National Convention after what she says was an arbitrary arrest that resulted in her detention by Philadelphia police in the back of a police van. Later, she was issued a citation in the parking lot of what she described as an elementary school.
Apparently, that school was Edwin M. Stanton Elementary at 17th and Christian Streets.
District spokesperson Fernando Gallard confirmed that the police are using the school as a “base,” and a medic on site described the school as being used to process protesters being given citations. Both insisted that no one was being detained at the site.
Martin was taken into custody under the justification that she was being arrested for disorderly conduct, but after she sat in the police van for hours, the charges were dropped and she was just given a citation for lacking the appropriate credentials required to be in the parking lot where she was arrested.
Ali, a construction worker in an adjacent building, said that he had seen police vans in the school’s parking lot all day, but he didn’t know what they were doing there.
In a video explaining her arrest, Martin said she and her producer were trying to reach a civil disobedience action at FDR Park, near the Wells Fargo Center, where they heard arrests were being made. They were trying to find a way around police roadblocks, “and the train stations were closed – I mean police were making it as difficult as possible to get to the action or even cover it.”
Martin said they took a taxi that dropped them off at a parking lot – about 300 feet from the Wells Fargo Center. They then realized it was fenced off from the park, and they asked a nearby police officer for directions. He informed them they needed convention credentials to be in the parking lot and asked them to leave by a nearby exit. About 10 feet from the exit, Martin says, they were approached by another officer.
“We’re credentialed journalists, but we weren’t credentialed to be in the [convention],” Martin explained. “So as my partner was telling her this, she grabbed my shirt – very aggressively – my dress, ripped it, and said ‘arrest her’ to these other two officers who were standing at the entrance. And she said ‘arrest her for disorderly conduct.’ I was just shocked.”
As Martin brandishes a braced and bandaged wrist, she goes on to describe having her arms zip-tied as tightly as possible behind her back as three police officers shove her into the metal fence. “I kept saying ‘we’re credentialed journalists.’ My producer was saying ‘look we were told to come here by another police officer.’”
Right before they put her in the police van, she said, "they basically searched me extremely aggressively, and bared my butt to onlookers,” Martin said in an interview on Ring of Fire Radio. “It was the most humiliating, horrible experience.”
Martin reports sitting in the back of the police van for at least two hours, “but to me it seemed like an eternity. I had zero concept of time. I was in there thinking ‘Wow, some people have it so much worse.”
Eventually, she was taken to the parking lot of the Stanton School, where police were issuing citations.
Jon Erickson, a videographer working on a profile of Democracy Spring activists who were also processed at Stanton, explained that the police left the vans in the parking lot and took zip-tied protesters out one by one to be processed.
Martin said that police “completely ignored” her while she sat in the back of the van. “I kept telling them, ‘I need to go to the bathroom.’” It wasn’t until after dark that Martin was processed. “I just thought, ‘Great. At least I’m going to actually go to jail now, and use the restroom, and not just be here like a dog.”
Martin was surprised to be brought to an elementary school. She said she was given the last citation of the night, despite being detained hours before. She said the officers processing the arrest asked the officers who brought her in “Who is this girl? What is happening? Why is she coming in so late?”
“I think I was just trying to talk to them too much and find out what was going on,” Martin said, “and so they just punished me,” referring to being restrained and left in the back of the van.
The processing officers took her mugshot, but did not take fingerprints because she was not technically being arrested, just given a citation, “so that they could say there were no official arrests. … All of a sudden, I wasn’t getting cited for disorderly conduct. I was getting cited for not having credentials in a credentialed area.”
“The police here are saying that no arrests happen at the DNC. That’s because they use this tactic,” Martin said. “But at the same time, it’s so abusive what’s happening.”
The legal team that tracked Martin down was able to confirm that at least 28 people were taken into police custody that day.
“It’s just insane that, really, the story here is that mass arrests were made,” but most major media outlets were ignoring it. “CNN cut away to cover the Boyz II Men concert as soon as this was happening. It’s just an unbelievable story being covered up as we speak.”