by Johannes Goransson on Oct.11, 2011
[The Croatoans wrote this in response to recent legal wranglings and the recent discussion here on the blog. As before, I can’t vouch for any of these claims, and I would like to hear from people with different views of the events to write in. If you want to see the discussion this post refers to, you can just skip down a few posts.]
We have been trying to refrain from the conversation here as much as possible—especially the more petty back-biting shit—but there are some points that really must be clarified. Most importantly, we want to bring everyone up to date on the outcome of Stephanie Dunn’s trial—though it really wasn’t much of a trial to be sure. Despite our efforts and those of anyone who wrote to the Poetry Foundation to ask that they drop the charges, two representatives from the Foundation showed up in court. Steph was late, due to a series of (sort of comical) mishaps. When she arrived, she was informed that there was a warrant out for her arrest (issued in the short time that she was late for the court date) and was brought before the judge. The judge informed Steph that she was accused of “running around yelling and screaming and groping patrons against their will.”
Having been a witness of and participant in our spontaneous protest that night, I can assure everyone that I was the only patron that Stephanie ‘groped’ that night, and it certainly was not against my will. There was attempted disrobing, and behavior that might be considered. Gulp. …lude or even… sexual (if mostly slapstick). It didn’t seem like there was much of a choice when one of the security guards informed us that “pda’s” are not allowed in the poetry foundation. As far as the yelling and screaming is concerned, this only began when the security guards started being physically intimidating and preventing us from leaving peacefully, which we tried to do. One of the security guards basically tackled Steph (pretty extreme behavior for an ‘usher’) and, as I imagine a lot of us would do in this sort of situation, she took a swing at the bully in self-defense. The judge made clear to Steph that the Poetry Foundation was ‘very serious’ about the charges—which, to correct information in an earlier post, was ‘public disturbance’ rather than ‘disturbing the peace’—and had insisted that the judge prosecute to the full extent of the law. Taking the Po Foundation’s request to heart, the Judge set the trial date for eight days later and told Steph that in the mean time she could ‘think about it in jail’.
Let’s be clear about this: The Poetry Foundation went out of its way to put a poet in jail. Trying to refrain from editorializing too much here, but everyone reading this should think about this point. Anyone that has any understanding of poetry ought to understand that jailing/imprisonment is one of the most fucked-up things that people do to one another. It is an assault on one’s soul. In fairness, I’m sure that these representatives of the Po Foundation have stayed on Johnny Law’s good side their whole lives and have no clue what jail is like so perhaps they knew not what they did.
She was promptly handcuffed and carted away for processing. Strangely, nearly every cop in the station expressed how unbelievable it was that she was being sent to jail for this and that they had only ever heard of other cops pursuing a public disturbance charge. As she was being handcuffed and fingerprinted, a public defender came into the police station and tried to get Steph out of this ridiculous bind. Miraculously, the public defender was able to work out a plea bargain for three months court supervision on the condition that she plea guilty. Quite understandably, Steph sacrificed her ability to defend her actions (at least in the legal realm) in order to avoid jail time. It was made pretty clear that the judge would find her guilty no matter what. It has always been perplexing to me as to why this sort of pressuring by the courts isn’t seen as coercion. So, that’s how that wound up. Steph no longer has any legal recourse so, we feel that the only thing we have left is spreading the word about this whole thing.
If anyone is still curious about what went down the night that all of this began, there will be a more detailed account in the next issue of Sous les Paves ( http://souslespavesonline.wordpress.com/subscribe/ ), which will be coming out soon. To briefly summarize, the whole thing started when Stephanie broke a plastic cup on the floor. A woman approached us and told us, in this patronizing tone, that we should be more careful because the floors cost 300,000 dollars. From that point, until the cops carted her away, Stephanie and I engaged in a spontaneous protest in which we were attempting to highlight and satire some of the things that we found disgusting about the Poetry Foundation, its 20 million dollar building, and the strict rules of decorum there. Mostly, though, we were only having fun and being lively. The Po Foundation, apparently, didn’t get the joke. When they attempted to use force (violence, both real and implied) in reaction to our harmless lampooning, protest, whatever, Stephanie refused to be silenced and bullied. When they went so far out of their way to try to send Steph to jail, the whole tone of this situation changed. We had no idea that this cultural institution would be so eager to involve the police and the courts in such a vindictive and reactionary manner. Croatoan