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Loughner admits she had been talking on her cell phone to FTAA Resistance Radio (www.ftaaimc.org/en/static/ radio_en.shtml) and to a friend from Indymedia a few blocks away. "I was giving a live report of what I was seeing. I had Herald reporters behind me doing the same thing," she explains. "When the police marched out I'm like, 'Oh my God, they're sending another hundred cops your way!' When they moved the armored cars out I was on the radio at the time. I'm like, 'Oh my God, two armored cars just went by.'" When chants turned to screams and police moved toward demonstrators, she phoned to update. "I said, 'Well, now they're tear-gassing you, in the crowd. People need to go help the people that are getting tear-gassed.' I talked about what I saw."
This is Loughner's account of what happened next: Two Miami cops, one of whom had been "nice" to her earlier, approached her and took her sign. "The sign was in the shape of a house," she notes. "The stick was the same stick that everybody had, which was just a little wooden stick. I'd passed through three police lines and had it checked every time.... But suddenly it's illegal, and I'm like, 'I don't think it is.' So we're in this little minor argument about is-it-illegal-I-want-my-property-back-that's-mine-you-can't-steal-it. And they're like, 'You're leaving now or getting arrested.' And I'm like, 'OKAY, but can I have my sign back?' And they said, 'Oops, you didn't leave.'"
Realizing her moment to avoid arrest was gone, she sat down. The police cuffed her, lifted her up, and took her to a squad car. She was forced to lean face down on the trunk of the vehicle. She refused to identify herself. "They asked me my name. I said I have the right to remain silent until I speak to an attorney. I will only answer questions in the presence of my attorney. I kept saying that." They searched her bag. They waited about 45 minutes for another officer to arrive.
It was during that time that the alleged thumb-twisting took place. The third officer had arrived, whom Loughner refers to as "the big guy."
"My hands are behind my back," she recounts during a sit-down interview at New Times, then stands and asks a reporter to put his hands behind his back. "I'm just going to sort of illustrate with you. Your hands are cuffed, pretty tight, and this somebody is like doin' this, and goin' as hard as they can in that direction. 'Tell us your name, tell us your name!' And I mean hard. I thought they were going to break it, the joint, something. It was excruciating ...."
"He says, 'Okay, if she sings a song, we won't have to go into all this.' And he starts beating [a rhythm] on the car, and I'm like, 'I don't even know what you're doing.' He's like, 'C'mon, you know the song,' and he starts beating on the car again." It was the theme song of the Nickelodeon cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.
Loughner says she didn't know it before that day but does now, after singing it numerous times while slumped over the police car. "Finally he teaches it to me. Because I have to then answer it or be threatened with physical violence again," she continues, then sings: "Who is yellow and lives in the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants.
"They had their hands on my hand, which was what was hurting. That was the choice. Sing the song or ... " Her voice trails off. "And I did it. Repeatedly. It wasn't just once they made me sing the song. It was a lot of times," she says, her eyes tearing up. "I've been through protest hell. I've been beaten, I've been wrapped in my banner, stomped on by cops. I've never been as scared. I never felt [before] that the cops had no bottom limit to what they'd do. But I felt these did. I felt that the next thing was the batons and whatever."
It reminded her of stories from the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy two years ago, when police allegedly forced detainees to sing the national anthem of Italy from the Mussolini dictatorship era. "This has happened before," Loughner assures. "It's just that SpongeBob's a lot sillier. American fascism's a lot sillier than Italian fascism."
"There is no reason we would do anything like that to extract a name from a person," Miami police spokeswoman Herminia Salas-Jacobson insists. "You see that in the movies but we don't do that on the street." If necessary, police are allowed to use a thumb hold when making an arrest, she adds. "If I need to control you, I can use your thumb to control you."
Loughner was charged with two misdemcounts of resisting arrest without violence and one of obstruction by a disguised person, apparently for concealing her name. With attorney by her side, she finally stated her name at a November 25 court appearance. She was released without bond after five nights in jail. Her public defender, Manuel Alvarez, says the disguised person charge was dropped because it doesn't apply to refusal to tell an officer one's name. The case is set for trial. Loughner remains charged with one count of resisting arrest and one of failure to obey a lawful order. "We felt that the arrest was completely unfounded," Alvarez concluded.