Courtesy of Vanessa Vigo
Vanessa Vigo, an event production manager in Atlanta, was arrested while protesting peacefully near City Hall on June 1.
She said law enforcement agencies closed in around her and a group of other people in front of a church, then arrested them for being in a roadway, though they weren't in a roadway.
Vigo is one of more than 10,000 people who have been arrested across the country within the last week amid civil unrest over police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
She described enduring chaos, disorganization, and callous treatment throughout her arrest, as well as a feeling of helplessness at the hands of authorities.
Insider has lightly edited Vigo's story for clarity.
Anybody who goes to a protest to some extent accepts that an arrest could be an inevitable occurrence. But there's not a bone in my body that thought I would be getting arrested when I went to Atlanta's City Hall on Monday to peacefully protest.
I headed over to the protests around maybe 3 or 3:30 p.m. on June 1. There were only two ways to enter the street where City Hall was: Washington Street and Central Avenue. But both were blocked off from entry by authorities. They had tanks, they had the National Guard, state police, they had the Atlanta Police Department there, as well. Anybody seeing that — it's intimidating.
We eventually ended up outside the church that's just across the street from City Hall. We were just standing there, chanting, showing solidarity. Maybe half an hour went by, and then we noticed that the police officers were now in a formation and migrating towards City Hall and closing in one of the two main entrances you can go in. When I turned to the other side, I saw that the other entrance was also being brought in closer and closer.
Courtesy of Vanessa Vigo
'It was frightening to see that the system can just do that to you'
We were asking officers, "Where can we stand? What are we doing wrong?" They were not answering any of our questions. Then, they just started arresting all of us. My friend was thrown to the ground. A member of the National Guard yelled for us to get on our knees, I put my arms behind me, and she proceeded to arrest me.
I'm definitely not the person that's out here to incite fights or riots; I don't yell at cops, because they are people, too. But how can you sit here and do this to me when I did nothing to you? And I'm doing nothing to any business, I'm not looting, I'm not saying anything negative, other than standing there in solidarity.
It's hard to put into words the emotions and thoughts that go through your head as you realize how unjust all of this is. It was extremely frightening. It was frightening to see that the system can just do that to you. And there's nothing you can do about it — you ask some questions, get no answers, and then they laugh in your face at the questions.
I started asking people why I'm being arrested, just somebody, please read me my Miranda rights if I'm being arrested. And to this day, nobody has read my Miranda rights, nobody gave me a phone call. I wasn't told why I was being arrested until my paperwork was being put through, which is where I found out my charge was "Pedestrian in Roadway." I have video footage of me being arrested, and I am nowhere near a road.
We actually overheard one of the troopers saying they were told to "grab and go." They had no idea why they were arresting people. They just know that they were supposed to grab and go.
'What is the correct way to do things if we're peaceful and still get tossed to the ground?'
We were outside in the sun in Atlanta for three hours before they gave us any kind of water, any kind of care to that extent. They were very disorganized. There was a girl who had a panic attack — she ended up fainting and she collapsed in the middle of the road as we were getting processed to get into the truck to be transported to the city jail down the street.
We were in the truck for maybe another hour, and then once we were over at the jail, the processing took maybe another hour. Then, I was actually placed inside a jail cell and told I was going to be staying the night. I asked if they could do that lawfully, since the charge was for a traffic violation, and they said they could, because I had to appear in front of a judge and the judge wouldn't be in until 8 a.m. tomorrow.
We don't know what happened, but after being inside and being processed, out of nowhere they came and opened my door and told me we will be released. We were released on self-bond and given an August court date, but we don't really know what any of it means.
Associated Press/John Bazemore
It feels crippling, honestly, to think that you can't fight this in any way or protest peacefully without getting charges, or without getting beaten up, or without getting thrown to the floor. It's so emotionally tolling to go through that process. When I was in the jail cell and there's nobody to talk to me, you're by yourself, and you start going through your head — I was like, "Wow, me as a Latin person, as a Latin female, this is the first time I felt this crippling effect of the justice system and how f---ed up it all is."
All you can think is that I'm feeling what the black community feels constantly, feeling what a portion of what the mothers who have sons that have died at the hands of police officers feel. And I can't imagine never getting that conviction, never getting justice, never getting what they deserve.
It was a reminder that this was why we're here — and still, we're not being heard. When we do things the right way we're not being heard, and then when we do things the wrong way it's the wrong way. We get pushed to the side. What is the correct way to do things if we're peaceful and still get tossed to the ground?
I want people to understand that we feel saddened that there is no "right way" right now. Because even when we are peaceful and even when we are thoughtful of the community that we're around, we are still being quieted.
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