To know a cop's lying in court is painful, but nowhere near as bad as knowing that he's wrong. Watching an entire case of prosecution made with it for over a dozen people is almost unbearable.
It's also how Friday was spent at the Pittsburgh Magistrate Court, with a Detective William Friburger of the Pittsburgh NARCO describing the LRAD and police tactics on Sept. 25th in a mix of sports and football metaphors. Friburger is built like a football player, a center or somebody who eats the living. Among his greatest hits:
"The LRAD is like a big bullhorn. It's like when you're at a football game..."
It was the machine that "Hundreds of people walked past and left", of the 400-500 that Detective Friburger testified were observed in Schenley Plaza. Only a few remained, and they were the ones who were arrested, the rest having walked past a controversial piece of sonic weaponry mounted on top of a BEAR surrounded by armed riot cops.
Friburger slipped at one point, referring to all those arrested as protesters. Upon the D.A.'s insistence, he clarified thusly:
"They're not leaving. They're protesters"
When he talked with his hands, he nearly took one of the lawyers in the neck.
Detective Trapp began the actual description of events, as with Wednesday. Ultimately it was Friburger's version (and especially his head count) that was tapped by the DA to cover Operation Hammer & Anvil (heard on police dispatch but never in court) as a plan leaving feasible avenues of flight for those wishing to comply with police orders.
The problem is, of course, that it's not even remotely true.
Witnesses attest to approximately 200 people in Schenley Plaza prior to the dispersal order. This is fact, and is supported by even a cursory examination of any photographic evidence from the plaza. Be that as it may, this massive number of mythic, fleeing persons was used as the condemnation of those actually arrested. All so the Pittsburgh Police could validate their fairness through a flight path that exists only as a redact edit to their version of reality.
It went downhill from there. The prosecution's second lie was that that there was accessible egress eastward on Forbes.
"They were not letting people get to CMU," said a local business owner about the police presence on that corner at precisely that time and date. So there's that. Further, nearly every arrestee asked about leaving via Forbes pointed this out. Forbes was blocked.
The police stated otherwise. The police were uniformly believed by the prosecution and the magistrate.
Built on two lies, the defense attorneys of the arrestees, most working for reduced wage and harried to the point of screaming, could do little. It was Dada justice, and so flagrant that even the accused laughed at the utter enormity of it.
"When asked how many did you arrest," Detective Friburger laughed.
Police conduct revolved by their own version around removing parties from Schenley Plaza, and then later from other groups congregating in such a way that they were blocking traffic. This is the version that Lieutenant Ed Trapp gave of events, which portrays the police as dispelling obstructions in the street.
Including of course those in the Cathedral of Learning lawn, who were just not supposed to be there. When this came up, the police fell back on the "open" path up Forbes, and thus that lie became the damning persecution of some found on the lawn.
The burden of proof shifted abruptly from the prosecution to the defense. The defense had to prove that they adequately acted to flee the police, or at least were brought nearly to tears as one woman was, recalling her own ordeal "surrounded by people crying from the pepper spray, unable to get out". She was found not guilty.
The stories unfolded from there. Charges were dismissed against Pete Shell of the Thomas Merton Center, largely because of his arresting officer having no idea who he was without the photograph. This, and a competent attorney was what helped Shell slip the charge.
Peter Vankougnett, 19, of Minnesota was not so lucky. A visiting Street Medic, Vankougnett was found summarily guilty by the magistrate and fined $300 for delaying on the lawn in his flight to help others consumed by the pepper spray or otherwise injured in flight. A nervous young man, his every "um" was mocked by a repeated "um" by Detective Friburger.
Maureen Smith was told to flee over the bushes (and fence) on the Forbes Ave. side of the Cathedral Lawn. She was found not guilty, as was Danielle Hauser and Emily Harper, also arrested in the Cathedral Lawn.
Arthur Kauffman, 19, was also arrested on the Cathedral lawn. For the crime of taking photographs when he should have been running for his life (though he claims this no more possible for him than for anyone else), he was found summarily guilty of Disorderly Conduct.
Pitt student Kiley Oblisk didn't know her way around. Asking police got her silence and eventually threats with a baton, an accusation the D.A. derided. This was the D.A.'s standard response to any of the many claims defying the official version of the helpful yet firm riot police.
And it goes, on and on, the nearly-arbitrary vetting of irrelevant details to avoid the glaring inconsistencies. The prettiness of one girl. The amnesia of disinterested VICE cop Robert Shaw. So much easier than the implausible change between two days. The fleeing validating herd, Friburger's 400-500 people, which a day before was Trapp's 200-300, and on the night in question was somewhere not exceeding 200.
It should be noted that there were that night 110 people arrested, with some but (based off of stories many and various) not a complete overlap of the arrestees and those chased from Schenley Plaza. This assessment would seem to contradict the police version strongly, which places an open avenue and a lingering mass of criminally torpid "protesters" blocking traffic and needing to be beaten into submission with gas and batons.
Towards the evening's end, those arrestees remaining showed a marked loss of patience with the police. Having seen the butchery of justice perpetrated on their fellow arrestees, some defendants decided to outright tell the whole story, including a direct confrontation with the question
"Are you saying that the police officer's testimony is inaccurate"
Pitt student Jordan Romanus, 22, directly contradicted the myth of egress from the cathedral lawn. He claimed that he tried to leave the lawn and continue fleeing, only to have a smoke bomb shot at him by police. He was promptly mocked by the D.A. and found summarily guilty of Disorderly Conduct.
No person arguing police deception saw less than a guilty verdict, including Jason Munley of Shadyside, who was brought to a flushed mask by his summary guilty verdict for Disorderly Conduct. Mr. Munley, though not named initially, was the young man mentioned here. He was unnamed because upon our first meeting, he was lying on his face having been shot ten times with a pepper ball gun.
His arresting officer, Officer Ronald Biskova, claimed that he was put down after trying to rush police lines on a foot-drive scooter. The one tangible piece of evidence in Munley's case is that of the ten shots that hit him, nine were on his back.