June 03, 2007
CRIME OF THE CENTURY: "Columnist and author Eric Alterman was arrested Sunday night inside the debate spin room and charged with criminal trespass after police say he refused repeated orders to leave."
UPDATE: Eric Alterman tells his side of the story. Click "read more" to read it.
From Eric Alterman:
Ok, here's what happened.
I came to New Hampshire with the Creative Coalition for a panel tomorrow morning and was supposed to be in the auditorium for the debate but because I am a journalist, they were told I would have to wait in the spin room. When I got to the spin room, which was an empty gymnasium, I noticed that there were chairs located on a balcony above us. So I went up there--no one asked me for my ID or anything--and went over to the bar and asked if it was a cash bar, because I had no idea what kind of event it was. I was told it was an open bar so I asked for a glass of wine and a glass of water and went to sit down and wait for the event to begin.
A guy came over and asked me who I was and I told him I was a colmunist for The Nation and he told me I had to leave. I thought he was kind of rude, so I asked him his name, thinking it might go into Altercation the next day. He refused to answer me I asked again. He refused again. But I was following him out when he went to get a cop. The cop told me to leave the room and I did. We left the room, past where the people were handing out badges to go into the reception and I figured the entire drama was over. But the cop kept yelling at me to leave. I didn't understand. I thought I had left. I asked him to stop yelling, I had left. He kept telling me to leave. In retrospect, I guess he was kicking me out of the building and I didn't understand, but it was really mystifying and annoying and I told him I wanted to speak to his commanding officer.
We went over to the commanding officer and I, calmly and politely, sought to explain that I didn't know why this cop was continuing to hassle me. The first cop kept interrupting me as I tried to explain myself and finally I turned around and said, "Can I please finish a sentence here?" That's when the first cop decided to arrest me. He handcuffed me behind my back and took me outside.
(A funny aside, Congressman Ed Markey happen to walk by then and came over to say hello to me and stuck out his hand for a shake. I had to say, "Sorry, Ed, I'm being handcuffed." He laughed, and told the officers that he would vouch for my character and walked away.)
Anyway, I never refused to leave and the only time I raised my voice was when the first cop would not let me explain what I had thought was a massive misunderstanding to his commanding officer. Once I was arrested and brought to the Goffstown station, I actually had a pretty nice time with the cops there, who were very friendly and understanding of my situation. When they learned I was a writer and planned to write about this incident, they wanted to make sure that I knew that the cop who had arrested me was not one of theirs, but was from another town and had been working on an "reciprocity" arrangement.
I paid a $30 to be released and the whole thing took about 45 minutes. I filed a written report with the police explaining that I thought the arresting officer had treated me unfairly, and I do think this was the case, but I now think it was based on a misunderstanding on just where he wanted me to stay and where he wanted me to leave.
In any case, I spoke to CNN and I believe they will correct some of the misimpressions created by their first story. Just to be clear, I did not refuse to leave seven times and I did not, as far as I know, raise my voice, except for that last time.
For the record, I also don't remember anyone reading me my Miranda rights, though I don't know if that is ultimately going to matter. I have a court date in July but I am hoping to be able to clear it up before I leave tomorrow because it strikes me as mosty, a misunderstanding.