By Des Griffin
The story you are about to read is not fiction -- it is "stranger than fiction." It is true!
It happened in Amerika, 1988.
During August 1988 I wrote an article for the September/October issue of Midnight Messenger. That article ("Crucify Him!" "Crucify Him!") dealt with the recently released movie, The Last Temptation of Christ.
The Last Temptation opened at the Cineplex Odeon Theater (a multi-cinema complex) on 82nd Avenue in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, August 26. "Cineplex Odeon, the second largest North American theater chain, is owned by MCA, which also owns Universal, the film's distributor" (The Oregonian, August 27, 1988."
To check the total accuracy of what I had written, I decided to see the movie. That afternoon, just before 1 p.m., I drove past a handful of picketers and into the parking lot located in front of the theater.
Parking my car, I strolled over to the ticket booth located in front of the theater. I asked one of the young ladies what the admission charge was. She said: "Three dollars." Handing her three dollars, I received a small computerized ticket.
Entering the building, I walked across the expansive foyer and asked the way to the cinema in which The Last Temptation was playing, I was directed to the cinema on the extreme left. Interesting!
As I was about to enter the cinema, one of the ushers approached me with a question: "What do you have in your pocket?" he enquired.
Taken aback by what appeared to be a ridiculous question, I pointed out that over the years I had visited many theaters in major cities around the world and had never been asked a question of that nature. I told him that what I had in my pockets was "none of [his] business."
Entering the cinema, I took a seat near the back. The first public showing of the movie in the Portland area had just commenced. The opening scene depicted a long-haired hippie type in a workshop. This individual (presumably "Christ"!) was busily at work on the creation of a cross. As the scene was enlarged, a number of other crosses came into view. Apparently the impression the movie-makers wished to make on the audience in the opening scene was that "Christ" was obsessed by the subject of the cross.
"Please Step Outside"
As I began to settle down to watch this cinematic abomination, my attention was suddenly shifted from the total fantasy being portrayed on the screen to the hard, cold reality of Amerika 1988. A theater official was hovering over me: "Excuse me, please step outside. We wish to speak with you."
Surprised, I asked him what the problem was. He replied that he had a police officer with him and that they wished to speak to me outside the cinema. I immediately headed towards the entrance.
As we reached the top of the aisle (I had been seated above 6-8 rows down!), I stopped and asked the two individuals involved: "Am I under arrest?" Their answer was, yes.
Moving out into the area bordering the foyer, I asked to speak with someone who had a little authority. There was clearly a
misunderstanding of some kind that could be quickly cleared up. After all, I had been publicly invited to the theater (through ads in The Oregonian). They had accepted the required three dollars and had given me a ticket or pass to enter the theater. I stressed the fact that I had done or said nothing wrong. I was only interested in seeing the movie.
Within a few minutes, three or four individuals who at least had the appearance of having "a little authority" arrived on the scene. Although requested to do so, everyone on the scene (including the theater officials) refused to identify themselves. As a result, I had no idea to whom I was addressing myself. A "security guard" had a name tag. It read, "R. Steele. Special Patrol. Pistol Master."
With those who appeared to be theater "officials" on the scene, I again asked what the problem was. My request went unanswered. An unidentified man, who created the impression that he was one of these in charge of the theater, ordered one of his companions to "refund him his money." As this man left the immediate scene to apparently honor his boss's orders, I again asked what the problem was. I again calmly but emphatically stated that I had done nothing wrong and was only interested in viewing the movie to which the theater had invited me. I had paid the required admission charge and was entitled to see the movie.
"I Don't Want You Get Involved"
I requested that a lady who was walking by please come to my assistance and be a witness of what was happening to me. She said "I don't want to get involved," and hurried away with a companion. I never cease to be amazed at the number of Americans who "don't want to get involved."
At that point, and before the man who had gone to get my "refund" had returned to the scene, one of the police officers stated: "We're going to search you!" I protested but, without further explanation, two or three of the police officers and/or security personnel rushed me, totally immobilized me, manhandled me and frisked me. They found nothing expect my wallet, some cash, keys, a handkerchief and some flyers that I had in my back pocket.
At no time was a ever told anything about "probable cause." At no time was I ever advised of my rights!
At that point they should have realized the irrationality of their actions. But no! They persisted in their wild course of action. In spite of my vociferous protestations, they dragged me across the foyer towards the entrance. As this was happening, I glanced over to my right, towards the concession stand. It was staffed by at least six young ladies. I shouted over to them that I was being arrested and that I would be calling upon them as witnesses in the future.
Continuing their blatant and totally unjustified assault upon me, the police officers "frog-marched" me out of the theater and into the parking lot. Heading to the left), they dragged me towards a police car that was standing stationary some thirty yards away. Reaching the patrol car, they threw me across the hood of the car, slamming my face unto its surface.
Excruciating pain ripped across my right shoulder, as the police officers violently wrenched my arms which were already behind my back. I screamed with agony as the police officer on my right (I later identified him as J. Dorie) put ever more -- totally unnecessary -- pressure on my left arm and shoulder. Dorie appeared to take a delight in making me suffer. "Christian bashing" seemed to turn him on!
After handcuffs were placed on me, I was pushed into the back of the police car.
The inside of the closed and sealed police patrol car was like an oven. I remember having seen an electronic sign that indicated that the temperature was 84 degrees. Approximately thirty minutes after the assault on me began, parched and in great need of a drink, I politely asked Officer Dorie if I could please have a drink of water. He refused my request. He made some remark about it being "obvious" that I had come to the theater "to cause trouble," and that the whole thing was my fault. Although repeatedly asked to do so, officer Dorie refused to elaborate on his declaration that my intentions were "obvious." His mind was made up. He "obviously" didn't wish to be confused with the facts.
At no time did I ever picket the theater, hurl epithets at anyone, pass out flyers on theater property, or cause any type of disturbance.
Some time later, Officer Dorie and his partner (name unknown at this time) got into the car. They started to drive around the parking lot in the general direction of the entrance I had used. They rendezvoused with one or more of their superior officers.
After a very short time (maybe as little as two or three minutes) the huddle broke up. Dorie and his partner got into their patrol car and we headed towards what later turned out to be Clackamas County Jail.
During the trip to the jail facility, Dorie, who appeared to be totally enamored with what he perceived to be a sense of humor, rode in the passenger's seat. As the car headed towards the freeway, Dorie advised his companion (the driver) that he should "watch (his) dirty mouth. Remember we have Mr. Griffin in the back. We don't want to offend him."
Dorie continued to exercise his outsize mouth. "You need to repent of your sins and start going to church," he told his companion.
His fellow police officer joined in the psychological warfare: "I'll repent right away. I'll go to church in the morning." There was a pause, then the driver said: "No, I can't do that. Tomorrow is Saturday. I'll have to make it Sunday. Yes, that's what I'll do. I'll go to 9 o'clock Mass on Sunday morning!"
I recognized this somewhat sophomoric behavior to be an effort to harass me, and mock my confession of God as Sovereign and Jesus Christ as Lord. I ignored them! I just sat back on my left shoulder (my right shoulder was still aching as a result of my recent brutalization at the hands of Officer Dorie and his companion), and waited for our arrival the Clackamas County Jail.
Arriving at the jail, I was ushered into the "booking" area through a side entrance. There, still in handcuffs (as a Christian, I was "obviously" considered a violent criminal), I was searched once again. Everything I had "on" me (a wallet, keys, handkerchief, some papers, notes and cash) was placed on a counter and inventoried.
At this time I explained that I had a very sore shoulder as a result of being mistreated by the police officers. I wanted to see a doctor. I was told, "Later."
When asked to sign a slip of paper stating that all my worldly possessions had been "inventoried" correctly, I refused to do so. The sergeant in charge ordered that the officers who had listed the various items on the slip write "Refused" on it, and sign their name to it. Their initials are PHR and JLL.
At that point I was told that the officers at the prison were going to take my photo and my fingerprints. I would be released "in a few minutes." I said "No." They were not going to take my photo and my fingerprints. Again, I stated emphatically that I had done nothing wrong, that my Rights and individual freedoms had been violated by (1) The management of the Cineplex-Odeon, and (2) The Police. Although I was totally innocent of any charge that might be levelled against me, I was being treated like a common criminal. As a "belligerent claimant in person," I demanded to be released from custody immediately!
My shoes were then taken from me and I was placed in a "holding tank." This was a small, windowless room approximately twelve feet wide and twenty feet in length. On the left hand side, immediately inside the door, in the open, was a latrine. Immediately to its right was a wash basin cum drinking fountain.
Also in the cell, a bench, consisting of three boards, extended around the walls. The door, apparently made of metal, had a barred "window" at eye level. Most of the contact between the occupants of the cell and the prison officers took place through this grilled opening in the door.
At the time of my arrival, there were three other males in the "tank." Shortly thereafter, Officer Dorie put his face to the bars of the cell window and called out: "How are you doing now, Mr. Griffin, buddy?" Recognizing his tactics as being a continuation of his previously sophmoric behavior (behavior totally unbecoming a police officer), I refused to acknowledge his existence.
Within forty five minutes, a prison officer came to the barred window. "Mr. Griffin," he called, "Please step outside. We would like to speak with you."
Immediately complying with this thoroughly reasonable request, I was again asked to have my photo and fingerprints taken. "We can have you out of here in a few minutes on your own recognizance," I was told. It would cost me $50. Again, I refused to comply with their requests. Again, I declared my total innocence. Again, I demanded to be immediately released from custody.
BACK INTO THE "TANK"!
Within a few minutes Officer Dorie was back at the window of the cell. Again he called out: "How are you doing now, Mr. Griffin, buddy?" The poor guy "obviously" had a serious problem! I again refused to acknowledge his existence. That was the last time I saw Officer Dorie while in prison. What a relief!
For the rest of that Friday afternoon and evening (August 26) I was regularly requested (probably once an hour) to "step outside" the cell to have a "talk" with one or two of the officers on duty. Each time I eagerly complied with their requests. On each occasion I was asked to allow my photo and fingerprints to be taken. Each time I refused! My imminent "release" was always held out as bait to entice, seduce, or harass me into complying with their requests. "There is no need for you to be in here, you don't belong here," I was told repeatedly. I wholeheartedly agreed, and (as a "belligerent claimant in person") again demanded to be released immediately!
BACK INTO THE "TANK"!
Late Friday evening I was asked if I would like to take a shower and be given a bed for the night. I stated that this sounded like a good idea, but when I found out that it would mean changing into prison garb and joining the general prison population, I politely turned down the offer! As I was not a criminal, I said, and had done nothing wrong in any way there was no point in my complying! I again demanded to be immediately released! BACK INTO THE TANK!
That night I slept on the wooden bench in the tank!
It should be noted that on each of the occasions on which I was asked to "step outside" and "talk," I availed myself fully of the opportunity to proclaim my total innocence and to explain in precise detail to each of the officers involved what had transpired at the theater. Every one of my rights had been violated and trampled underfoot. I had been arrested on false charges, and had no intention of being used as a scapegoat. If necessary, I was prepared to stay in prison for a month or two! On each occasion I demanded to be released immediately.
BACK INTO THE "TANK"!
Saturday (August 27, 1988) came and went. Late in the day I was informed that I was being held over for arraignment before a judge on Monday (August 29, 1988).
On the same day (Saturday, August 27) The Oregonian carried the story of my arrest. The paper informed its readers that I had been "arrested on an accusation of second-degree criminal trespass" (a Class C misdemeanor). The paper went on to tell its readership that this charge carried a penalty of "30 days in prison and a fine of $500."
Noticing that conditions in the "tank" were fast degenerating from a sanitary point of view (the concrete floor was littered with cigarette butts and candy wrappers, not to mention numerous particles of food and patches of marmalade and jelly that had fallen from food trays used by many occupants, plus urine on the floor in the proximity of the toilet), I requested that I be allowed to clean up the mess.
Remember, I had only socks on my feet! These were fast becoming caked with this obnoxious goo and grime. It clearly represented a health hazard. My request was denied!
In the early evening, I was allowed to see the prison nurse about the injury I had suffered to my shoulder during my arrest. She exhibited only passing interest in my physical discomfort!
Late Saturday evening, after having been detained for approximately thirty two hours, one of the prison officers came to the barred window of the cell and announced that I was being given an individual cell and bed for the night.
I immediately moved across the corridor to this new cell. It contained a comfortable bed. Some thirty minutes later, just as I was about to fall into a much needed deep sleep, the same officer came to the cell and announced that I was being put back in the "tank." He threw the mattress on the floor.
On the wooden bench in the "tank," without a blanket or pillow, I got little sleep.
The following morning (Sunday, August 28) I was rudely awakened at 4:20 a.m. and asked to "step outside." During a conversation with one of the officers, I was told that, as a Christian, I was commanded to "be subject to the higher powers (as they are) ordained of God." Romans 13 was quoted as evidence. I explained to the officer that, if he would only read this chapter in context with chapter 12, he would see clearly that it was not referring to civil "powers" who were grossly overstepping the bounds of their God-given authority. There are many Biblical examples of men of God who refused to comply with the demands of rulers who exceeded their God-given authority.
Was I now ready to have my fingerprints and photo taken? I wasn't!
BACK INTO THE "TANK"!
Sunday (August 28, 1988) was a somewhat quiet and uneventful day. Having been refused access to paper and pencil, I was unable to chronicle events of my sojourn in any greater detail. Having requested and received a copy of the Bible the previous day, I read and reread many chapters in both the old and new testaments.
Whatever sleep I had that night was short and sweet. In the small hours of the morning (Monday, August 29, 1988) the outward tranquility of the prison erupted into virtual "bedlam" as about a dozen young men in their teens and twenties were brought to the facility and "booked" on a variety of charges. They shouted, joked and pounded on the door till the break of dawn. Then they all fell asleep on the benches or on the floor. Peace was briefly restored!
All Charges Dropped
After breakfast, the morning hours passed rapidly. I was eagerly awaiting my court appearance scheduled for 1.30 p.m. I wanted to have my name cleared of the ridiculous charges levelled against me by both the theater and the police.
Again, I requested that I be allowed to clean up the mess in the cell. Again, my request was denied!
Just before 11.00 a.m., a prison official came to the barred window of "my" cell, and, for about the fifteenth time, called my name. They wished to speak with me again!
Upon leaving the cell I was informed that I was to be released. "All charges against you have been dropped," I was told.
I was also told at this juncture, by the releasing officer: "We can arrest you again at any time."
THANK GOD WE'RE LIVING IN "THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE
BRAVE!" WHAT WOULD WE EVER DO IF WE WERE LIVING IN SOVIET RUSSIA?