Bork Torque

Well-traveled activist says Miami cops tormented her

Jamie Loughner was arrested near the Inter-Continental Hotel on the afternoon of November 20 and hers is a twisted tale indeed. Police nabbed her at a spot along the fence erected to keep protesters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas talks away from the hotel, where trade ministers from across the Americas had gathered. Loughner alleges that while she was face down on the trunk of a police car with hands cuffed behind her back, at least one Miami Police Department officer severely rotated one of her thumbs, repeatedly, to get her to state her name. She went to jail as Jane Doe but not before being forced to sing the theme song of a popular television cartoon show and, she says, having her very sore digit bent again.

Loughner, known in some anti-globalization circles by her nickname, Bork, was the first anti-FTAA protester to file a complaint with Miami's incipient Civilian Investigative Panel. The CIP is charged with investigating allegations of police misconduct and has subpoena power to do so. Voters approved the body in a November 2001 referendum, after concerns about fatal police shootings of black suspects converged with Cuban-American outrage over the MPD's aggressive response to the Elian riots in April 2000.

Loughner delayed her return home to Washington, D.C. in order to attend a December 2 appearance by Miami police Chief John Timoney in the CIP's small conference room downtown. She has a special bond with him. He was Philadelphia police commissioner when cops arrested approximately 400 protesters during the 2000 Republican National Convention. Among them was Loughner, who sustained bruises allegedly from police boots and torn fingernails from clinging fiercely to her anti-death penalty banner ("Stop the Texas Killing Machine").

Jamie Loughner, a.k.a. Bork, demonstrates at a 
protest in Washington, D.C.
Photo Courtesy of Jamie Loughner
Jamie Loughner, a.k.a. Bork, demonstrates at a protest in Washington, D.C.

She sat in a corner and filled out a complaint form while the thirteen-member panel listened to Timoney deliver an hour-long "overview" of the "policing" of the FTAA demonstrations. Protesters had thrown "a whole host of objects" at police for ten minutes before units of helmeted cops began to fire back with rubber bullets and beanbag projectiles, he noted. "A lot of tear gas had been thrown at this point. Not by police, by protesters," the chief asserted. "Liar," Loughner muttered as he spoke. As Timoney concluded his speech and left the room, Loughner followed him and said, "I was tortured by your officers," before an officer lightly bumped her away from the exiting chief.

The 39-year-old Loughner is a member of Mayday DC and Homes Not Jails, two groups that decry the lack of affordable housing. She had relocated from rural West Virginia in 1998, fleeing a sordid past in which her husband was sent to prison for 50 years in 1996 for raping their then five-year-old daughter. She lost custody of all three of her children after insisting upon her husband's innocence. In D.C., though, Loughner is more media darling than tragic tabloid character. She has turned up in reports by such radical dailies as the Washington Post and Washington Times and even the anarchical news service UPI. For example, in February 2001 she was among a group of activists arrested for illegally entering an abandoned row house in the nation's capital and refurbishing it for homeless people. (She represented herself at the trial and a jury acquitted her.) During a cold snap in January 2002, she was among twelve protesters arrested for unauthorized entry into D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams's office. They demanded the city open a shelter in an abandoned school building to keep people from freezing to death. (Two people later died of hypothermia on the D.C. streets that winter, UPI reported. Loughner and three others were arrested again several months later after they barricaded themselves inside a boarded-up school.) In June 2002 Loughner was quoted in a Washington Times article about a federal court ruling that scuttled a law banning protests at the front steps of the U.S. Capitol. "This ruling allows for a freer voice at a time when it's definitely needed," Loughner was quoted as saying.

Loughner is a certain type of protester who came to Miami to express opposition to the FTAA. She and her people-over-profits ilk follow the "creative nonviolence" tradition, which emerged during the anti-Vietnam War movement and whose contemporary followers engage in civil disobedience for sundry anti-corporate causes. In other words, she wasn't about to let police or a police barrier stand in her way, if she could peacefully get by.

In fact officers did peacefully allow her past, as Loughner, with picket sign in hand, walked south toward the fence surrounding the Inter-Continental Hotel at about 1:00 p.m. on November 20. "They let me through. They said I should look for somebody in charge," Loughner recounts, then confesses: "I never really cared if I found somebody in charge. I just wanted to get to where I had a legal right to protest, which was the fence." She would have gone farther if possible. "If I could peacefully persuade my way past, of course I would have. Why wouldn't I? I should have had the opportunity to protest right in front of the building."

Loughner says that before her arrest she had spent several hours at the fence holding a sign that read: "Stop privatizing housing. No FTAA. More public housing. Stop Hope 6, which is a really bad HUD program." The incident report states she was "observed using her cellular phone and providing vital information to individuals that were participating in this breach of peace. In addition this defendant was heard relaying information such as when officers were wearing their protective equipment and other strategic data that would possibly interfere with the safety of the operation."

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