As he was being led by police into the back of a nearby van, Ghose saw dozens of people running west on Market. “I think some of them ended up joining the march and got arrested later,” he says.
On the way to PPD headquarters at 8th and Arch, Ghose and the others noticed the words “Wells Fargo 14” scrawled inside the van—ostensibly written by one of the 14 Occupiers arrested on Nov. 18 during a sit-in at a Center City Wells Fargo branch.
“We were scared, but that was the moment where we were like, ‘OK, this is the continuation of a movement,’” Ghose says.
When they arrived at police HQ, the seven were left alone in the back of the van for half an hour before being taken in for processing. The plastic ties, on for about 90 minutes, were removed. A nurse took their temperature and asked if they were on any kind of medication. They were instructed to take off their shoelaces and belts. Their wallets, keys, cell phones and other possessions were confiscated. Ghose says he was taken into the basement jail—“it’s literally like a dungeon”—and placed into a cubicle-sized cell with two other men (both non-Occupiers, being held for different offenses) who were both asleep.
One of the first things Ghose saw were cockroaches crawling out of the metal toilet. “I’ll take on armed cops any day of the week, but I hate cockroaches,” he laughs. “I am not embarrassed to admit that I was scared of the cockroaches.”
About two hours later, Ghose estimates (his watch had been confiscated), he and the six others were taken from their cells to a larger room for fingerprinting.
“MSNBC was on and the TV next to it had a local news station on,” says Ghose. “We were watching and MSNBC said the eviction had happened and Mayor Nutter was saying it had gone beautifully and there were no reported arrests at the plaza, and we’re looking at each other, like, ‘What about us?!’ And right next to it was the local TV showing video of me getting arrested. So the cops were like, ‘Hey, that’s you!’ They were laughing. At this point they were absolutely nice to us.”
More arrested Occupiers started coming into the station. Ghose says he saw one man with blood on his face—the man told him that a bicycle cop had hit him in the head with his bike, breaking his glasses. Ghose was taken back to his cell. One of his cellmates had been taken out, and another Occupier was tossed in, who gave Ghose news of the arrests of the marchers near North. Broad Street.
And then Ghose and his fellow Occupier decided to do an Occupy “mic check” there in the cell block. “When I started it, the other people there who weren’t Occupiers were saying ‘What the hell is this?’ We started explaining to the other cells what a mic check was, and so we mic checked down the line to take account of who was there and whether they were OK. Everyone relayed back—a couple of people said they needed medication; others said they had no toilet paper.”
Then, says Ghose, the mic checks turned into loud chants of “We are the 99 percent” and “Occupy the Jail!” Occupiers started banging on the metal grilles, and they could hear the female Occupiers separated in a different part of the jail screaming along. They kept it up for 25 minutes. “It was absolutely incredible,” says Ghose, who says bewildered guards quickly arrived on the scene. “They just stood around, they didn’t know what to do. They were like, ‘This has never happened.’ Then I noticed some of the non-Occupiers had started chanting, too. It was an incredible moment of solidarity.”
Ghose says that brief moment of elation disappeared when he saw a woman with a badge, but not a standard police badge, come down into the jail and stop in front of his cell.
“She says, ‘What’s your name?’ Ghose. ‘Were you born in Bombay, India?’ Yes. She said, ‘You need to come with me, I’m with immigration—I’m an ICE officer.’ So I went with her [to another room] and the first thing she says to me is, ‘Are you a green card holder?’ And I said, ‘No.’
Ghose says he’s been an American citizen since 2000, and has lived in this country since 1990.
“And she says, ‘Well, we’re not sure of that, we’ll have to check that so I’m going to have to do your fingerprints again for a federal check, because if you’re a green card holder or you’re here illegally, then you will be deported.”
“Then she looks at me and says, ‘If you’re not registered with Selective Service, then you are breaking the law. I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ She said, ‘If you became a naturalized citizen, you need to be a part of the Selective Service System.’”
“I was like, ‘No I do not,’” Ghose continues. “I know for a fact that’s not true. I remember signing [citizenship papers] where I was exempt from all of that; 99 percent of us are exempt from that kind of stuff. I was like, ‘You can’t just say that to intimidate me.’ And she said, ‘I am a federal officer—I would advise you not to joke around with me.’ I said, ‘I am a professor who knows my stuff, I would advise you to be honest with me.’”
Ghose says at that point the officer backed off.. “She said, ‘You’re a professor?’”
He says she left for a few minutes, verified who he was, then came back “very different” and “apologetic.”
“She said, ‘I’m doing this for your own good so that the next time you get locked up they’ll have your fingerprints on file and they’ll be able to tell you really are a citizen.’ “Then she said, ‘You can blame all the illegal Mexican immigrants who come here for this.’ I was furious. “I said, ‘Please do not include me in your racist commentary.’”
Ghose says he did not get the ICE officer’s name.