12.11.2009

canadian writer arrested and beaten at u.s. border

Apparently we were pretty lucky. From Cory Doctorow:
My friend, the wonderful sf writer Peter Watts was beaten without provocation and arrested by US border guards on Tuesday. I heard about it early Wednesday morning in London and called Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She worked her contacts to get in touch with civil rights lawyers in Michigan, and we mobilized with Caitlin Sweet (Peter's partner) and David Nickle (Peter's friend) and Peter was arraigned and bailed out later that day.

But now Peter faces a felony rap for "assaulting a federal officer" (Peter and the witness in the car say he didn't do a thing, and I believe them). Defending this charge will cost a fortune, and an inadequate defense could cost Peter his home, his livelihood and his liberty.

Peter's friends are raising money for his legal defense. I just sent him CAD$1,000, because this is absolutely my biggest nightmare: imprisoned in a foreign country for a trumped-up offense against untouchable border cops. I would want my friends to help me out if it ever happened to me.

Update: Here's more from Peter, in his own words: "Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario's first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

"In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face."

Thanks to James and everyone else who sent this. More here.

11 comments:

redsock said...

That's some scary shit. Especially the part about him possibly going to jail for two years and/or being bankrupt fighting a bullshit case.

Kim_in_TO said...

I just saw this on Facebook and came to see if you had posted it here. This is one of those things that makes me feel so discouraged.

The Facebook post had a couple of interesting responses from Americans, verifying that US border guards are goons. Here is one interesting comment about how to deal with crossing into the US:

"I find it helpful to have something really off the wall in plain sight. They seem to fixate on that and it short circuits the nastieness. Especially if you are super friendly and appear to have all the time in the world."

Jennifer Smith said...

Holy shit, that's terrifying! My husband's a big fan and has met Peter a few times at cons. He's going to hit the roof when he hears about this.

geek guy said...

why not call the ACLU???
They may be of help too!??

L-girl said...

I believe the ACLU is already involved. Follow the links to read more.

impudent strumpet said...

The story made the Star, which is good for general awareness.

L-girl said...

Yes, definitely good.

geek guy said...

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is But i don't see the ACLU!.

Nitangae said...

This is a pretty ordinary though, but what frightens me about all of this is: what happens to those many people who are not famous? Presumably they didn't chose him because he is a well known science fiction writer. How many people right now are sitting in jail in Michigan for being punched in the face.

L-girl said...

The story seems to have legs - people are sending it to me from many different sources.

Nitangae, it's a good thought, an important one. Scary.

ErinOrtlund said...

Shocking!