Interview with Tiffany Huan, of the five protesters held by NYPD overnight after the Baruch Lobby IncidentBy: Jenady Garshofsky, Editor In Chief
JG: Can you explain what happened during the arrest?
TH: An officer told me to get out of the building, but I stood there and did nothing but look back at him. Immediately, one of the officers grabbed me by my hair and threw me down to the floor, completely disabling me. They then dragged me across the floor and proceeded to arrest me. I was in such pain at this point that I was barely able to stand up. A student from Bronx Community College, tried to protect me by wrapping his arms around me so that he would break my fall when they were throwing me down. They arrested him too. He said,“you know why I do this, I do this because I love you and I love everyone here.”
JG: What were you arrested with?
TH: I was arrested with flexi-cuffs that were way too tight, to the point where I lost feeling in my fingers after a few minutes. A couple of other students were also telling the officers that their cuffs were too tight. They shook off our requests to loosen our cuffs, and said that we were sitting the wrong way, or moving too much, or that we had to shift the weight from our backpacks off of the cuffs. I mean, they actually kept us in handcuffs with our backpacks on. It wasn’t until one student told the officers that a journalist had gotten nerve damage from flexi-cuffs that they actually loosened them. I still have bruises on my wrists.
JG: Why did you get arrested?
TH: I was charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. I did not want to leave. I did not think I was trespassing or violating any laws. I am a CUNY student who pays to attend school at CUNY. The bit about resisting arrest, its natural to have your arms in front of you to break your fall when you are shoved onto the ground. Because I didn't have my hands behind my back when I fell, I was considered resisting.
JG: When the Envoy called to inquire about your charges and release time, we were told that there were three charges...
TH: They dropped disorderly conduct for the five remaining, probably because it is not a big enough offense. Originally they wanted to charge one of the guys, Kevin, with grand larceny because a police officer lost his badge. All 15 of us were searched, and they still couldn't find it, but for some reason they were trying hard to pin it on Kevin. Two police officers went to the hospital for “chest pains” and they wanted to charge us with assault, but they dropped it because they knew they had no grounds to convict us for that.
JG: There were Public Safety officers, but also a few NYPD officers in the lobby. Who arrested you?
TH: CUNY Public Safety.
JG: Where did they take you after you were arrested in the lobby?
TH: First, all 15 students were in a holding room at Baruch for at least two hours or more. Ten of those students were given summons and to my knowledge they were just able to go home. They chose five of us to spend the night in jail.
JG: Do you think the arrests were random?
TH: I don't know. Four of us had previous summons. Kevin, who had no previous summons, was rapping for us at one point. Officer Laperuta started to talk over him and told him to shut up, but he didn't stop rapping. I think that's why he ended up spending the night with us.
JG: Connor Reed, a Baruch Adjunct from the "Baruch 5," released a statement online that said, "The decision for who to ultimately arrest and “put under” was based on racial profiling and confidence in the face of authority." What do you think about this?
TH: To be honest, I didn't think of it at first because CUNY is a diverse campus. But at the same time, 4 out of the 5 people arrested were minorities and each from a different ethnic background.
JG: Who else got arrested that you remember?
TH: Reed, Conor; Lopez, Christopher; Brown, Tashawn; Cortez, Kevin
JG: Where did you go after Baruch?
TH: They transferred us to the 7th precinct, right by the Williamsburg Bridge. NYPD did not arrive until we were escorted off campus into an NYPD van.
In nail scratches on the back of the “Property Clerk Invoice”, arrestee Tiffany Huan etched “Laperuta 119,”with her thumb nail.
JG: Why did you write down his name?
TH: This officer grabbed me by the arm to walk me down the hallway. He had a serious case of the machismo-power-trip bug, and it was absolutely revolting.
JG: After he grabbed your arm, how did you respond?
TH: I knew it was totally unnecessary that he was touching me because I was handcuffed, and we were completely surrounded by officers. I asked him not to touch me and he told me that because I was arrested, he could touch me wherever he wanted.
JG: When did the police officer say that to you?
TH: It was at Baruch, right before we were about to walk to the police van.
JG: What happened when you got to the 7th precinct?
TH: We were ridiculed for wanting “handouts” and being unemployed and for not being in school. Apparently, one of the officers believed we were arrested at Zucotti Park. Another officer corrected him, and he said, “I don't fucking care, they're all god damn fucking hippies anyway.” That's the kind of language they use there, and those are our law enforcers.
We were held there from about 8pm until 6am. We were all imprisoned in separate jail cells for a couple of hours before they scanned our finger-prints, retinas, and then they separated us by gender. I was the only female, so I was kept in isolation the entire night. It took about two and a half hours just to process the fingerprints. The paperwork should not have taken that long. I think it was because they were lollygagging and they thought it was a huge joke.
JG: Do you think the police had any sympathy towards you and the other four students?
TH: I don't think they had any guilty conscience about arresting students. They were vouchering our belongings, and I just kept thinking, “How do you feel about pulling those textbooks out of our backpacks?”
We had to leave all of our belongings at the precinct before going to central bookings. I was completely misinformed that I would have to even go to central bookings. When we got there I was separated from the group again and placed into an all women's holding cell. I was there from 6am-4:30pm without hearing anything about when we were going to be released, or when I was going to be able to speak to an attorney. I repeatedly attempted to call the National Lawyers Guild, but to no avail. I tried calling a few numbers, but the payphone just wouldn’t allow my calls to go through.
JG: That sounds hectic and exhausting. Were you given something to eat at some point?
TH: We were arrested at 5:30pm and I was not able to get anything to eat until 12:00pm the next day where I was handed a spoiled carton of milk and a stale peanut butter sandwich. It [the sandwich] was delicious.
JG: What do you think this means now that you got arrested, for CUNY students and faculty, student protesters, and the CUNY administration? What do you want them to know?
TH: The entire reaction to the protest, I think, was a great display of how CUNY treats their students. At least 100 protestors were in the building, but CUNY officials felt so threatened that they ordered officers to stand before us, billy clubs in hand. Those Public Safety officers were the only ones inciting violence. They threatened to strike us if we did not get up off the floor. I think this speaks volumes about the visibility of CUNY students to their administration. Chancellor Goldstein commends the actions of public safety and believes that they did not hurt any CUNY students during the protest. It's a blatant lie, even the New York Times and ABC 7 knows that.
I want the Board of Trustees to stop seeing their students in dollar signs and start listening to their voices.
JG: What does this mean for future protests?
TH: Huge intimidation, but in a way, I think that also adds a lot of fuel to the student up-rise. I saw my isolation as their way of saying that I need to reflect on my so-called criminal activities. But what I did was far from criminal. They want us to be afraid of speaking out against them. I hope that my account will only inspire more students to see what’s going on around them. This movement is more than just a weekly mic-check on the 3rd floor of Hunter North. Thousands of New York City students stand in solidarity with us, that was apparent on the November 17th day of action.
TH: Please, listen to the words we say, don't be afraid of getting involved, or asking protestors questions. Why not start here?