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How I was handcuffed and arrested at Yale Law School

claudiatrevisan

28 setembro 2013 | 11:15

My Yale saga started in the morning of Thursday, September 26, when the newspaper I work for (O Estado de S.Paulo) decided that I had to try to interview the president of Brazil’s Supreme Court, minister Joaquim Barbosa. He would be at Yale Law School taking part in a seminar called “Global Constitutionalism”. It was clear they did not want to reveal his presence there: his name did note appear in the program. I called the Communications Director of YLS, Janet Conroy, and asked if I could attend the seminar. She said no. She also said it would happen in a private building. I told I had to go anyway and would wait for him on the sidewalk.

I arrived in New Haven around 3:30pm and went to Yale Law School. When I entered the building, I asked to the security lady if she knew where the seminar was being held. She said there was no information about it on the system and told me I could look on the rooms to see if I could find it. She did not ask for an identification. I walked through the Law School corridors, went to the cafeteria, sat at the courtyard and realized the seminar was not in that building.

I got out and went to the Wooley Hall, the concert hall of Yale Law School, about two blocks away. Its doors were wide open and a lot of people crossed the hall to go from a square to the street at the other side. There were tourists, people chating, a musical group rehearsing. Nobody to ask for information. No security. I went the upper floor and saw a policeman. I went straight to him and asked if the seminar was being help there. My intention was to make sure and wait to the minister outside. I did not attempt to enter the room where the event was happening. The policeman did not answer my question and asked me to follow him, which I did.

Back to the ground floor he began to interrogate me. What is your address, phone number, date of birth. I gave him my passport. I did not identify myself as a journalist, but said I was looking for minister Barbosa and had the intention to wait for him outside the building. We walked to one of the doors and when we were out and asked for my passport back. He refused to give it to me. That was the only moment in which I lost my temper. “You cannot to that”, I said. And he replied: “Yes, I can. We know who you are, you are a reporter (what a crime!!!), we have your picture and you were told several times that you could not be here”. Yes, I am a reporter, but this is not a crime. And I said that I had only talked once with somebody from Yale, at that morning. In reply, he informed me I was going to be arrested under the accusation of criminal trespassing.

Two policewoman arrived and stayed by my side, while the guy, called DeJesus, disappeared for a while. He came back about 20 minutes later, told me to stand with my back to him and put my hands back. I was handcuffed while he screamed: “You know why you are being arrested, no?”, and I replied: “No, I don’t know”. He: “You were told several times not to be here”. Me: “No, I was not”. He: “That is what happens when there is high profile people involved”.

Handcuffed, I was put inside a police car and waited for about one hour. They told me I could not make nor receive phone calls. In this whole process, no civil person from Yale Law School talked with me. The only one that showed up was apparently from the Dean’s Office. He looked at me handcuffed inside the police car and said something to DeJesus. Minutes later, a police wagon car (those used to transport criminals) arrived. A new policeman showed up and put on my wrist another handcuff, so the previous on, form Yale, could be removed. Handcuffed, I was put on the wagon and had a hard time preventing from falling while the car was in movement. I had to grab some handlers on the back of the seat, but it was not easy.

At the Police District I was searched and put on a cell, with a metal bed and a toilet, visible from the outside. At the other cells, women screamed and banged the walls. When I had to pee, I had to do so with male guards walking on
the corridor. Although it was a female section, the security is made by men.

I was kept in the cell for about 3h30. I was only able to make a phone call at 9h20pm, almost five hours after I was handcuffed. Before that, they took my digital prints and my picture. Now I am being prosecuted under the accusation of “criminal trespassing”. My first hearing in court will be next Friday, October 4.

My main doubt is why I was arrested, if I followed the policeman, did not offer any resistence and was willing to leave the building. As far as I know, being a journalist is not a crime under America law.