New York, May 15, 2012 -- Stop Mass Incarceration Network --Occupy Wall Street/Stop Stop and Frisk activist Christina Gonzalez was arrested in court and sentenced to ten days in jail on Friday by Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge John H. Wilson, who charged her with "contempt of court."
The confrontation with Judge Wilson began when Ms. Gonzalez, charged with obstruction of government administration and disorderly conduct for her participation in a Brownsville Stop Stop-and-Frisk action last November, stood in the aisle to ask court clerks if a fax memo had been received indicating her attorney’s inability to be in court that day. The judge yelled at her to sit down, and then asked the court officers to remove her to the area outside the courtroom.
When her case was called about an hour later, Ms. Gonzalez attempted to reenter the courtroom, not knowing that the Judge had not intended for her to return at all. Without warning, the Judge immediately ordered for her to be handcuffed. She became indignant at what appeared to be an arbitrary abuse of power in the courtroom and asked another defendant to call her employer since she "was being arrested by a white racist pig." With court still in session, Judge Wilson demanded that she apologize. Ms. Gonzalez refused, stating that in good conscience she could not. The Judge abruptly found her in contempt, and immediately had her taken into custody. A bystander in the courthouse who filmed the incident was also arrested. Ms. Gonzalez is currently serving her sentence on Rikers Island.
Fellow activists were appalled at the Judge's actions and impressed by the courage Ms. Gonzalez displayed in the courtroom. "Too often in court, in front of the police, we do not speak up because as hard as we try, the submissiveness is ingrained into us," said fellow defendant Nick Malinowski. "So few people are willing to act on their beliefs before systems of authority. We all should behave this way." Another defendant, Matthew Swaye, called her a "prisoner of conscience."
Judge Wilson stirred up controversy in 2006 with the publication of Hot House Flowers, a children's book about illegal immigration. In the story, the illegal immigrants, represented by dandelions, use up water, soil, and sunlight to the detriment of the native flowers in the hot house. Critics have called the book an "ugly allegory" and say it teaches intolerance and xenophobia.
Twenty Stop Stop-and-Frisk protestors, including Mr. Swaye, were convicted earlier this month on charges of disorderly conduct in Manhattan Criminal Court, following their participation in an October 21st rally in front of Harlem's 28th Police Precinct. On the witness stand, the activists continued to publicly deliver the message, voiced in the streets, that the NYPD stop-and-frisk policy is racist, illegal, and unconstitutional. The Friday court date related to a civil disobedience action the same group had taken on November 1st in Brooklyn.