(Updated with new video.) The punk band The Lost Riots wailed away on Pitkin Plaza Saturday night—until the cops showed up and put the event’s organizer in handcuffs on charges of inciting a riot.
Two cops ended up in the hospital for minor injuries suffered in the incident.
Before they left, the crowd hurled taunts at the cops. They received pepper-spray blasts in return, according to witnesses.
The arrest took place at Ideat Village, an underground alternative to the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, which at the same time as the Ideat theatrics Saturday night had a mellow crowd on the Green one block away listening to Roseanne Cash.
The incident grew out of an ongoing feud between Ideat Village and the management of 360 State Street, the apartment tower right on the edge of Orange Street’s Pitkin Plaza.
Spurred by an email message sent by their building’s manager earlier that day, 360 State tenants called police to complain about the noise from the Lost Riots show. Several tenants called, according to Lt. Jeff Hoffman, the police department’s supervisor of patrol.
“The music was extremely loud,” Hoffman said.
The cops showed up around 8:30 p.m. They found the Lost Riots playing and some 50 people listening.
The police asked festival organizer Bill Saunders for a permit for the event. The festival had a permit from the city to play music until 10 p.m., the result of well-publicized negotiations over the years.
But Saunders was unable to produce the document. He told the officers that his partner and co-organizer, Nancy Shea, had the permit. Saunders went looking for Shea, but couldn’t find her. She later said that she was taking care of another festival event around the corner at the Orbit Gallery on Court Street.
Saunders took the microphone to alert people to the police presence. He suggested the cops might have to arrest other people if he got arrested.
The cops moved to put him in custody. He walked away.
“Next thing I know, Bill was on the ground,” said eyewitness Curtis Packer, who owns the nearby Bru Café.
People present at the scene claimed they then saw the officers tackle Saunders. They said the organizer began bleeding from the head.
The officers then took Saunders to a van. A crowd followed them, yelling taunts. (Click on the play arrow to watch a video by one crowd member; and below another one, shot by Kriss Santala Crowder.)
Several witnesses, including Packer and fellow Bru employee Ty Mac, said the police then pepper-sprayed them.
“I’m still trying to get it off my eyes,” a woman who declined to give her name said at the scene afterwards.
Earlier that day, festival organizers had posted on Facebook an alleged email from Lauren Lenox, the general manager of the 360 State Street apartment tower that borders Pitkin Plaza. The email encouraged the building’s residents to file noise complaints against the festival.
Saunders was released on bail shortly before midnight. He was charged with interfering with police and inciting a riot.
The officers, Segui and Matt Marcinczyk, ended up in the hospital.
Police Chief Dean Esserman said he called the officers at home Sunday morning. He said they’ve been released from the hospital and are OK.
He praised their conduct Saturday night.
“I told them they handled themselves with remarkable discipline. I’m glad they were all right,” Esserman said. “They were clearly taunted. They did not let this guy or the crowd get the better of them. I can’t imagine a police officer handling the situation better.”
Inciting The Lost Riots
Interviewed soon after his release, Saunders gave his version of the story. He had a small bruise on his forehead and a number of larger ones on his arms and legs. Several people who said they were present at the scene, including artists Robert Zott and Katro Storm, backed up his story.
According to Saunders, the officers told him when they arrived that they were going to “shut the event down, because [they] didn’t have a permit and were being too noisy.”
Saunders then took the show’s microphone.
“We’ll wait for Nancy, the music is going to continue, and the police are going to have to be patient and enjoy the punk rock music with everybody else,” Saunders recalled saying.
Zott, who was present at the time, added that Saunders also said: “If the police officers have a problem with that, they are going to have to arrest a lot of people.”
After that, Saunders asserted, a female officer—identified later as Officer Betsy Segui— repeated that the festival was going to be shut down. Saunders began to walk away.
“If you walk away, I’ll arrest you,’” Saunders said that the Segui told him.
Saunders asked on what charges would he be arrested.
“We are arresting you for public disturbance, for inciting a riot,” Saunders claimed that Segui (pictured) said.
“So I continued to walk away,” Saunders went on. “At which case both police officers jumped me and threw me to the ground, and I began yelling out, ‘I’m being arrested!’ ‘I’m being arrested!’
“Then everyone started massing on the situation,” he went on. “They put me in cuffs, they put me away—and the masses followed.”
Saunders said that the officers then took him to police headquarters on Union Avenue. He did not see the alleged pepper-spraying.
The festival organizer had kind words for the people who processed him at the police station, but not so about the officers who arrested him.
“They were all belligerent. They were all young. There were no senior officers,” he said. “The woman cop . . . was just a nasty fucking, pardon my French, twat, which I did call her.”
When asked to confirm whether he had used that kind of language when he spoke to the officers, Saunders said that he had.
“Yeah, absolutely!” he said. “After I was handcuffed, and the circulation is running from my hands, you better believe it.”
Sgt. Anthony Zona, the supervisor on the Saturday night patrol shift, called the incident “much ado about nothing.”
Zona, who arrived after Saunders’ arrest, said someone called the police to complain about a noise complaint. “They said it was off-the-charts loud,” he said.
When officers arrived, they asked Saunders to see the permit for the event. “He didn’t have it readily available,” Zona said.
Saunders then went to the microphone and told the crowd words to the effect of: “If they arrest me, you should get arrested,” according to Zona.
He confirmed that Officer Segui arrested Saunders for interfering with police and inciting a riot.
“An hour later,” Zona added, “someone showed up with the permit.”
“Everybody was videotaping. Some guy started screaming obscenities” at police, said Zona, who whipped out his cell phone and video-recorded the crowd, as well.
The cops had the situation under control, he said. He said he was unaware of any pepper-spraying.
Ongoing Beef Over Noise
This year marks the 12th anniversary of Ideat Village. Ideat Village brings together visual and performing artists with emerging rock bands in a freewheeling celebration of underground art and music. It’s the scrappy DIY counterpart to the more polished and sprawling International Festival of Arts and Ideas.
Over the years, the city has received noise complaints from neighbors, who say that the music at Pitkin Plaza gets too loud late at night. Ideat organizers reply that Pitkin Plaza is a public square in the downtown of a culturally active city, and that people who move there should be aware that they are in for some lively nights.
The disagreement came into public veiw last year last year, after people began moving to the then-new 360 State Street apartment tower. The tower’s management wanted the festival shut down, or at least moved to a different location. The incident spawned a debate about the nature of public space. Many argued that cancelling the festival would give preference to the interests of a developer over a grassroots attempt to bring culture to a formerly blighted part of downtown. Others argued that the festival was intruding on people’s right to rest.
In the end, 360 State backed down—and agreed to support the festival having amplified music until 10 p.m. at night.
But not this year. Lauren Lenox, the building’s general manager sent tenants an email in advance of the event asking them to file noise complaints.
“Please call the Police . . . and lodge a noise complaint to the dispatcher,” the message reads.
The message reveals a strategy for getting festival booted from Pitkin Plaza in the future —the tower management’s original goal.
“Please be aware,” the message goes on, “that I have been advised that if calls are not made and logged into the New Haven Police Department computer system, it is hard for the city to review the permit for next year to determine if the Pitkin Plaza is the best city space available for the IDEAT Village festival.”
“If you attempt to call the police,” the message states, “and there are any issues with dispatchers being rude or unhelpful, the police chief has asked that the caller ask for the dispatcher’s identification number and name, not the time of the call and provide me with that information so I can notify the police-department.”
The festival’s organizers posted the full message on Facebook. You can read it here.
Reached by cell phone Sunday, Lenox, who works for the building owner MEPT, a union pension fund, said she hadn’t known about the incident Saturday night. She was out of town at the time, she said.
She said she has “absolutely no comment. I don’t want to get caught up with this.”
Told her email message would be quoted in this article, she responded, “Why would you do that. It was a private email.”
How exactly did those cops end up at the hospital when they were BACK at Pitkin Plaza less than an hour after the incident happened? The 2 officers arrested Bill, a second wave of officers arrived and then when Nancy got back with the permit the two officers who arrested Bill were there…
posted by: robertzott on July 1, 2012 10:42am
Was this “off-the-charts” volume level alleged by Sgt. Zona measured by police using the devices requested by Ms. Lenox of 360 State Street? If so, what was the measurement? I was sitting right next to the band and I could hold a conversation with the person next to me. Also, Sgt. Zona, if this was “much ado about nothing,” why was there blood?
This so-called riot involved a group of spectators, lounging in chairs or sitting cross-legged on the bricks of Pitkin Plaza, drinking coffee or beer at O’Toole’s, listening to music, chatting, and checking their iPhones. However, it was clear from the moment Officer Segui arrived that she was going to arrest SOMEBODY. She would threaten anyone near her with arrest. Citizens beware: that is ONE JUMPY POLICE OFFICER, who is destined for future headlines.
It is sad that police brutality in New Haven has become so common. I avoid the police whenever I can. I seriously fear the cops in this town. I have no desire to be the next victim of somebody’s bad day, or because I look different. I think everybody in New Haven should fear the cops. You could be next.
posted by: eastshore on July 1, 2012 11:04am
The real idiots are the people who moved into a vibrant downtown area and were upset enough to call the police because of a punk show at 8:30… 8:30’s not even nighttime in the summer. Is 360 State a senior housing development? Otherwise I don’t understand. Or maybe it has to do with the growing segment of our population who feel that the rest of the world needs to act like doting parents for each of them. Do me a favor you big babies, buy some ear plugs and leave whoever’s left on the police force to deal with real criminal-types. Better yet, why don’t you relax and try and enjoy what’s left of life before other coddled, frail children like yourself make it all illegal. If you live in 360 State you should reflect now and again about what really constitutes a hardship.
If Lauren Lenox, the general manager of the 360 State Street apartment tower, did, in fact, conspire to create negative publicity for the apartment tower, as this article alleges, it seems incumbent on the board to fully investigate, and if the allegations are true take disciplinary actions against their general manager, up to and including dismissal.
posted by: JohnTulin on July 1, 2012 11:43am
So….had Mr Saunders simply possessed the required permit, nor walked away, none of this would have happened? (Just clarifying)
posted by: SXTDC on July 1, 2012 11:56am
There is a serious noise problem in New Haven and all over the state with car stereo’s & so on why should people in the surrounding area be subject to have to listen to other people’s noise for any reason if it was in your own backyard you wouldn’t like it either.If the concert organizer had the proper paperwork permit on him like he should have then this issue would never have happened.Don’T blame NHPD, there are laws to be followed like it or not, yes sometimes police are over excessive & yet so are citizens thinking free speach means they can say or do whatever they please & thats not the case.
posted by: Uncle Egg on July 1, 2012 12:15pm
Normally, I give police accounts a little bit of latitude. They have a difficult job and there’s always a fog of war in these situations.
In this case, though, their account is bull, the most shameless sort of butt-covering imaginable. My wife was on the scene and caught most of it on video (along with an eyeful of pepper spray. She just sent the video to NHI, so maybe it’ll appear here shortly.
It’s clear from the video and her eyewitness account that police were not threatened and the crowd was not violent. Yes, the officers had to endure some taunting and some foul language. Last I checked, that’s pretty much covered by the First Amendment.
The article does not say how the two offers ended up in the hospital, but unless it’s trauma from being called bad names, my guess is that they caught a blast of their own pepper spray. They certainly were not attacked by the crowd on scene.
Incidentally, the video already posted here shows quite clearly how out of line the female cop was when she deployed the pepper spray. She wasn’t being threatened, she was just pissed at being questioned. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
posted by: Curious on July 1, 2012 12:30pm
The cops HAVE noise meters.
That they did not use them implies that they had no interest in the level of the noise, and just wanted to shit this down.
Someone needs to have this investigated. Can the emails between the police and 360 state be obtained? Or the internal police communications about this?
posted by: Nails on July 1, 2012 12:43pm
If the band was playing in Fair Haven, not only wouldn’t there have been any arrests, the cops wouldn’t have shown up at all. But, 360 State…with their $3000+ rents…NHPD prob set a land speed record getting there.
posted by: David S Baker on July 1, 2012 12:52pm
NHPD - The mopeds, dirt-bikes, four wheelers, scooters, a motorcycles this summer on average land somewhere between ‘chainsaw without muffler’ and ‘small jet engine’ on an SPL meter. (Yup, I meter them.) THEY irritate the entire city. Perhaps you could grind some of them into the pavement and leave the arts organizations alone? Even your biggest critics would back a stunt like that.
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 1, 2012 1:15pm
Chalk Drawings in this political performance piece are by local street artist, Tom Grimm.
I am currently out on bond. Bail was set $35,000. That is more money than it has taken to produce Ideat Village over the lifetime of the event….
Keep Thinkin’, New Haven Thanks for the wild show of support!!!!
posted by: Ladybug on July 1, 2012 1:29pm
First off, if it was much ado @ nothing then why did all of this happen ..Secondly, email is not private..Once it is out, it is out…Convenient how this Lenox person was out of town ..it would appear that the wrong person was the one to incite a riot.I think her premeditated actions were far more volatile and intended to create havoc, than the individuals who were playing music..
posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on July 1, 2012 1:35pm
I have a low threshold of tolerance for highly amplified music, and if I lived at 360 State Street I might not be thrilled with the goings-on at Pitkin Plaza during Arts and Ideas ... but this is absurd. 8:30 pm, and whatever else Saunders may have been doing, how the hell could you describe playing loud music to an audience of 50 as “inciting a riot”? Why is the management of 360 State so dead set against this guy? Why does there have to be this bad blood and this whole business of spoiling for a fight? To quote Rodney King, why can’t we all just get along?
posted by: Nathan on July 1, 2012 1:44pm
Questions regarding the permit and noise complaints aside, it’s no shock that Saunders mouth and attitude got him arrested - but does NHI have to publish the verbal trash he spewed verbatim?
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 1, 2012 3:09pm
I was completely civil in all of my dealings with the NHPD prior to my being physically restrained.
In my speech at the microphone, my tone of voice was even and informative, not revolutionary.
As for the “verbal Trash”, all I can say is this—don’t let political correctness ruin FREE SPEECH.
posted by: TheMadcap on July 1, 2012 3:18pm
Dear secluded upper class people probably originally from the suburbs, here’s some advice. I’m not sure why you moved to the downtown of a city if you don’t like some noise on a Saturday night, perhaps you just enjoys the lights, but, despite what you think because of your financial status and living at 360 State, you don’t own the city. If you don’t want to be part of city life and be part of trying to rejuvenate the actual connections between people in a city to further grow culture, I’ll be succinct in my advice, get the heck out. Go move to The Cove or something, or better yet, just move straight back to the suburbs where you can have your little quiet chiefdom of seclusion. Christ, you get people pepper sprayed and the leader of a band arrested on $35,000 bond(because they in fact had a legal permit to perform from the city, as they’ve had for years, another thing 360 State is trying to get taken away, but the person who had the physical permit wasn’t present at the time) because you got mad…..at noise….in the downtown of a city…..on a Saturday night
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 1, 2012 4:37pm
Wow after the last thing with the village, you would think they all would of known it is a sanctioned event by now. I am with uncle on this. I support the PD and I am aware that sometimes things happen. But it is not like bill is your average joe, he stands out quit a bit in fact. How could a cop not know him by now?? At least downtown cops should of known him? 35,000 bond? Really? I am sure it will all get straightened out on monday. Bill I have to say, it is never a dull one is it.
posted by: Jim VC on July 1, 2012 5:29pm
You can’t get arrested for speech, and we all have the right to know everything that was said and what happened. that’s fair reporting!
“Robert Zott, who was present at the time, added that Saunders also said: ‘If the police officers have a problem with that, they are going to have to arrest a lot of people.’
After that, Saunders asserted, a female officer—identified later as Officer Betsy Segui— repeated that the festival was going to be shut down. Saunders began to walk away.
‘If you walk away, I’ll arrest you,’ Saunders said that Segui told him.
Saunders asked on what charges would he be arrested.
‘We are arresting you for public disturbance, for inciting a riot,’ Saunders claimed that Segui said.
‘So I continued to walk away,’ Saunders went on. ‘At which case both police officers jumped me and threw me to the ground, and I began yelling out, “I’m being arrested!”“
If Bill’s account is accurate, it sounds like he was arrested for walking away from a police officer, but charged with inciting a riot. If he was inciting a riot then the police should have arrested him immediately for doing so. It sounds like the police felt disrespected that Bill walked away from them so they came up with some bull plop excuse to arrest him. Said another way, if he had remained where he was standing and not walked away, would he still have been arrested for inciting a riot? Based on Bill’s account, it sounds like the answer to that is no; ‘If you walk away, I’ll arrest you,’ implies that he wouldn’t be arrested if he didn’t walk away.
If someone used the kind of language that Bill did to me or to a loved one, I wouldn’t take it well, nor would I expect the average person to. However, I do expect police officers to have thicker skin, and I expect them to react differently from the average person. I expect them to act in accordance with the law and with their training, not with emotions. As soon as Bill was given an ultimatum (stay where you are like a good doggy, or walk away and get arrested), it became clear that he was not considered a threat to the officers, if he had been, they would have arrested him immediately after he said something that they felt was inciting a riot. Instead, it appears that the arresting officers reacted with emotion to Bill walking away from them, which they saw as a sign of disrespect.
posted by: NYC Croc on July 1, 2012 6:18pm
Again, New Haven History repeats itself.. “Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven”...
posted by: beyonddiscussion on July 1, 2012 6:41pm
This thoroughly smells like a set-up. The city and 360 wanted them out. The trap was set. Admittedly Saunders played into it by losing his cool and messing with the Police. You just don’t do that. But, the city knew they had the permit till 10 - that’s what had been negotiated. Lenox produced the calls of noise complaints and the police provided the muscle. Voila - now the city has a pretext for denying the permit for next year.
Ideat Village is an important event in New Haven because it gives local performers a voice during the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, which tends to favor bigger acts with a more family feel.
Not all art is warm and fuzzy. But at the core of Ideat Village are creative, thinking folks who naturally would stand up for their rights. These are people who provide a service to their community out of pocket and with the support of local businesses, artists, and just plain folks.
So, New Haven, this is how it’s going to be? The rights of the folks with the fancy condos are worth more than the rights of folks peacefully enjoying a legal concert? Who wouldn’t flip out a little bit when getting arrested for something like this?
One question the story left me with: how, exactly did the officers get injured?
posted by: Charl on July 1, 2012 8:00pm
The comments for this article were good for a good chuckle, the majority of them! The following are the main points I would like to make: 1. The police went to the hospital, as to have a future potential disability claim. Anyone believing otherwise is either not being honest, or naive. 2. Bill Saunders should have had the permit on his person, as the “Lead Organizer.” Claiming to be an important venue for the local artist, with over ten years of Ideat Village, you can not continue to be completely amateur and expect to get any recognition or respect, even. 3. Bill Saunders, as 100% of people who are defiant in the face of authority, reacted woefully impotent. Obnoxious, grandiose boasting, ‘tough-guy’ mentality, and then the second the handcuffs go on…‘I can’t feel my hands, the circulation has been cut off.’
Treat others as you would like to be treated. Do not revert to childish name-calling: “Are you a rookie?” and the vulgar female genitalia vernacular are prominent examples in this article. Also, the ‘raspberry’ on Bill Saunders arm is no worse than what I received the first time I fell off my bicycle sans-training wheels. It is not a “scar” if it has not healed yet.
I think Ideat Village is a great idea. I think Bill Saunders was looking for a fight, and when any one does that…well, they find it.
If the police did actually use pepper spray, where is the video? I counted at least six people holding cameraphones in the pictures and videos on this website. If there truly was pepper spraying of human beings in New Haven, I demand a full, honest investigation into police brutality. Where is the video of such behavior?
Final note: $35,000 is an outrageously high bail; there is more to the story there as well…
The people that really got set up are the police. They had numerous complaints and responded with force to stop this “riot”. I was there, the police were not needed for riot control or a permit check. I wish the police knew they were getting set up by 360 state.
posted by: Renee Sheckfee on July 1, 2012 10:32pm
Brutality? Um I don’t think so. He knew the deal about the earlier email and used it to bait the police or anyone else who complained. Why didn’t HE have the permit on him? He was able to foresee what would happen during the course of the night. And he FULLY intended on inciting a riot, based on his statement to the crowd. You’re lucky I retired last year because you would have been arrested sooner than you were. And scar? No, that’s an abrasion for not complying with the arrest you knew was coming. I see an immature, self-centered and disrespectful antagonist, who only cared about a social event. Where does he live and how does he deal with noise in HIS neighborhood. Keep calling people twats and they’re going to have to prove to you that they are. Unreal. And by the way, I saw the Facebook photos. He had a slight scratch on his face (face/head wounds bleed profusely, but this was barely trickling, as the head is very vascular) and they DID NOT need to mirandize yourhim. You clearly watch way too much television. Who the heck would want to or care to interview this lawsuit seeking individual??
posted by: Newhavenguy on July 1, 2012 10:35pm
The most striking thing to me about the video and pictures is that it’s not even dark outside.
Downtown New Haven is supposed to be a bedroom community now?
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 1, 2012 11:09pm
I would also like to add that I was never read my rights.
In fact, I asked to be read them and I refused to get into the squad car without them being read to me. I was told by the officer that they didn’t need to read them to me, because I wasn’t being questioned.
The officers also were anxious to clean up my wounds, which I also refused. Why would I let them touch me again, to alter the ‘crime scene’?
I told them I would only let a medical professional look at them. A paramedic ultimately did arrive.
I have never made any claims of brutality and I was not looking for a fight. If you ask the couple of hundred artists and musicians who have had direct contact with me over the last two weeks, I think you will find that they were all treated with kindness and respect.
Maybe I was just doing my job as a community organizer.
What’s unfortunate about the way this law is written is that the decibel level restrictions are basically unachievable (for instance the maximum allowed industrial noise is 62 Db, about the same as a normal conversation) and also the procedure for variances (what i assume one must get for a festival) is ambiguous and unclear.
Not judging anyone’s right or wrong; just sayin… ambiguous law can lead to conflict between police and citizens.
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 2, 2012 8:03am
The interesting thing is that while standing in any of the ground floor businesses (BRU, O’Tooles, The Devil’s Gear), the outside ‘noise’ is negligible. Besides, that building was supposed to have sound-proof windows. Plus, the police has no decibel meters to assess the situation, had that been there true intention.
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 2, 2012 8:41am
I would like to mention out one last interesting point ...
Thursday Night we invited a long list of local ‘dignataries’ to our closing party, which was to happen at 9:00pm on the day of my arrest. Some of the people on this invitation list were John Destefano, Rob Smuts, Kelly Murphy, and Bruce Becker. I attach the letter. Of course, they were no shows.
Dear artist, art connoisseur, administrator, reviewer, etc…
You are cordially invited to the Ideat Village/ORBIT closing reception, beginning at 9:00pm, at ORBIT Gallery, 118 Court Street on Saturday June 30th.
Ideat Village has presented a free and independent series of art events for the last twelve years; this year, the art is better than ever, so we really want to showcase the passion of New Haven’s creative community in 2012.
The Gallery (ORBIT) began filling up with art on June 16th. There are currently more than 80 artists displaying their work at ORBIT, ranging from accomplished fine art to outsider art… street culture to high culture. It’s a truly magnificent display of local talent, completely self-curated, and run by artists, for artists and the community. Every day complete strangers from all walks of life drop into ORBIT; they are engaged by both art and artist in real time and space.
Our festival is completely volunteer, and our funding come directly from the goodwill of the community. Our total budget each year averages less than $3000. Over the course of twelve years, Ideat Village has provided free opportunities to thousands of artists, musicians, performers, film makers and poets to showcase their work in a public forum that is truly open to all.
We would like to have you attend our upcoming closing event and experience a slice of what community art can be in New Haven.
If the instigating officer had been male, rather than female, and Bill had called him a “dick” after being thrown on and the ground and restrained, would the same people who are calling him sexist and misogynist still do so with the same vehemence? If your answer to that question is no, then you, my friend, are the sexist. It’s quite possible that Bill is misogynist - I don’t know him - but this incident alone is not sufficient evidence to come to a conclusion on that matter.
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 2, 2012 11:58am
Thanks for your take. “Dick” is the absolute word I would have used. Ask the women that know and love me if I am a misogynist….while I may be anti-unrestrained authority, I am certainly not anti-human.
posted by: Anderson Scooper on July 2, 2012 12:04pm
Riddle me this, what do you call a police officer who is arresting you for no good reason? Then what do you call them after they use excessive force and slam you to the ground, when you’re not resisting anyway?
My guess is that unless you’ve been violated and cuffed in such a fashion, it’s not really fair to criticize Mr. Saunders for his cussing….
I have had many requests to clarify the pepper-spray incident. In a nutshell, as the video shows, the officer turned and without warning, sprayed several people with pepper-spray.
Regarding Officer Sequi’s unprovoked attack against me personally I can state that at no time did I make made any derogatory comments whatsoever. I was not in her “personal” space as I was approximately 15 feet from her when she attacked me. I was simply documenting New Haven’s finest abuse of our civil liberties as well as the excessive force utilized during the arrest of Mr. Saunders with my camera.
I witnessed Officer Sequi turn and first spray a female event attendee who was about 4 feet in front of me and then I saw Officer Sequi look towards me… our eyes locked as she aimed her spray at my face. She then fired. As I was many feet from her, I had time to duck. The spray hit me on the side of my face. Like the Kennedy magic bullet this shot ricocheted and hit a person standing behind me. Of course the dispersal cloud got us both.
There is no question in my mind that Officer Sequi’s attack was intentional and with malice. Her attack was a clear abuse of her police powers and evidences a wanton disregard for the safety of the general public.
To me it is clear that Officer Sequi attacked simply because I (we)were filming the police’s improper actions. (The video clearly establishes that no one was close to the officer when she attacked us).
As a final thought, I unequivocally respect the police. My brother in law is a cop, as are some of my friends. I know first hand how difficult their job can be. This was not one of those difficult situations. This incident was from the start overreacted to by the police. Although there is now the usual lip-service from the chief saying how he is going to investigate, as of now, NO ONE from the chief’s office or the department in general has contacted me or interviewed me, despite their knowledge as to who I am and where I am.
Curtis Packer (aka Red Eyes) Bru Cafe, Inc.
posted by: robn on July 2, 2012 12:25pm
Upon reexamination of the ordinances, there appears to be two very clear rules pertaining to this subject.
Sec. 18-78. - Exemptions and special conditions (7) Noise created by any lawful recreational activities, and for which the city has granted a license or permit, including but not limited to parades, sporting events, outdoor concerts, firework displays and non-amplified religious activities;
Sec. 18-74. - Noise level measurement procedures. For the purpose of determining noise levels as set forth in this article, the following guidelines shall apply: (1) All personnel conducting sound measurements shall be trained in the current techniques and principles of sound-measuring equipment and instrumentation;
Oops. Bad collar.
posted by: LorcaNotOrca on July 2, 2012 1:14pm
It’s summer. There are festivals throughout the city. It was 8:30 p.m., not dark yet. They had a permit, as they have every single year for 12 years, and Ideat Village had been going on for 2 weeks already, and has had live music sporadically the whole time. I couldn’t be there that night, and from what I’ve been reading Bill could have been a little more careful with his words, but the whole things reeks. I think the 360 State people had it out from the get-go, as evidenced by the e-mail that was sent out.
Plain and simple, if you don’t like noise, don’t live downtown in a city. I also find it hard to believe it was all that bad for those folks up in their tower with the windows closed.
Ideat Village is one of those quirky things that any city needs. Young people are vital to a community and if things like this are squashed, you ruin it for all - give young people less to enjoy, they’ll leave. If they leave, you’re not left with a very vibrant city.
This doesn’t pertain to Yale, so maybe the city doesn’t care. But some of us live here, ya know…
posted by: Renee Sheckfee on July 2, 2012 1:42pm
CGS 53a-182 Disorderly Conduct: a person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause inconvenience, ANNOYANCE, or alarm, such person: (3) makes unreasonable noise (nothing about decibel levels in the Ct statute). The law seems to be subjective and at the discretion of the officer/supervisor present. Bill: EastRocker said it was brutality, I was referring to them. JohnTulin: great point! That video contained deplorable language, none by the police. I also observed Officer Segui spray behind her, not directly at anyone. Don’t like it? Don’t follow an officer effecting an arrest! By the way: walking away=uncooperative=end of discussion and arrest. Especially when a crowd is “encouraged” to be arrested. A crowd that is much larger than the responding officers. This all could’ve been avoided if some courtesy and respect was given to the officers who were dispatched. And, t’s very mind boggling to me why he wouldn’t have the permit on his person, knowing full well that the police would be sent there.
posted by: LorcaNotOrca on July 2, 2012 2:22pm
Also, this was posted to the Ideat Village Facebook page:
“I reside at 360 State, on the eighth floor, pretty much right above the plaza where you guys were putting on the festival. Although I could hear the music with my windows closed, it was in no way interrupting my ability to rest nor was it distracting or offensively loud. I was not in attendance Saturday night for the music genre was not my cup of tea but I really enjoyed the circus performance a few days prior to that. I hope this incident doesn’t make obtaining a permit for next year difficult for you. The artsy vibe of New Haven, including The Arts & Ideas Festival as well as yours, are some of the reasons I love living where I do. It’s a part of city living. If you want peace and quiet, move to the suburbs. You have my support.”
posted by: robn on July 2, 2012 2:44pm
Try this one one for size. New Haven has a specifically designed noise ordinance (in this case maybe violated, but not properly measured and therefore non-existent) because the CT General Statutes grants municipalities that right.
CHAPTER 98* MUNICIPAL POWERS Sec. 7-148. Scope of municipal powers. (b) Ordinances. Powers granted to any municipality under the general statutes or by any charter or special act, unless the charter or special act provides to the contrary, shall be exercised by ordinance when the exercise of such powers has the effect of: (7) Regulatory and police powers. (H) Public health and safety. (i) Secure the safety of persons in or passing through the municipality by regulation of shows, processions, parades and music; (viii) Preserve the public peace and good order, prevent and quell riots and disorderly assemblages and prevent disturbing noises;
Before you focus on the “quell riots” portion, please recognize that there was no riot prior to the police arriving at what looks to be a legal gathering (unless there is some fine print in the IV agreement with the city regarding noise to which we are not privy.)
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 2, 2012 3:46pm
I would like to make one correction to a previous post.
I ran into Mike Piscatelli on the street today, and according to him both Kelly Murphy and Matt Smith were in attendance at our Closing Party.
If Nancy and I could have made it, we would have loved to engage them both in a lively conversation about art.
Unfortunately, that conversation has now changed….
posted by: Will Iannuzzi on July 2, 2012 3:53pm
I was enjoying myself at Pitkin Plaza when the arrest happened, and the NHPD version of events is not believable. This is from a “New Haven Register” article: “According to the Police Department, police responded to 360 State St. ‘on a report of excessive noise coming from the rear. Upon arrival, officers discovered a loud block party with open fires and drums.’ ” There were no fires. I call b.s. As far as Bill being charged for inciting a riot, this is a false charge. The attendees were enjoying music when Bill was tackled, and nobody touched an officer (some did curse at them… Sticks and stones…). Many people were videotaping the police as Bill was led away, and this is when the pepper spray came out. Even I got some in my eye, and I was approximately 25 feet away. The police “injuries” reek of disinformation to make Ideat Village look bad and to bring attention away from the real aggressors.
posted by: REM on July 2, 2012 4:25pm
The first thing I want to say is, calling Bill Saunders a sexist is absolutely not going to fly! As a female artist, a feminist, and a friend of Bill’s for the past 8 years, I’m shooting that down right now. Ideat Village is massively inclusive to all artists and has always been an event that I never found myself wondering where the female artists/performers were. (Refreshing in the art world, where often a token female is included in an exhibit, or none at all.) AND, if I were being attacked the way he was, I’m sure the same word have came out of my mouth.
As far as 360 State goes, I’d like to remind them that Bru Cafe, where I worked during the construction of the tower, suffered greatly due to the noise of construction (much louder and less pleasant than a band) and the near complete blocking of our entry way facing Pitkin. Not to mention the construction went on for years- I think they can tolerate one night of music during a Summer festival that happens once a year. Unless complete and utter gentrification is their goal, I suggest they be more supportive of the community they are very newly a part of.
I remember when the area behind Pitkin Plaza (where the tower now stands) was a grassy hill and the plaza itself was dark and abandoned. (No O’Tooles or Devils Gear at that time- very empty) Bill Saunders and Nancy Shea organized Ideat Village in that space for years, bringing light and music to a desolate space. And the artists and musicians came year after year. Why are we now being treated like a nuisance? Now that the area is desirable to people with money?
Bottom-line, Bill and Nancy work hard to get the required permits every year and should never have been treated like that. They do it by the books and bring a wonderful thing to the city. It amazes me that people who do such good for the community are battled by the city instead of thanked and supported for all their self-funded contributions and personal effort in making an arts fest happen year after year. Do the people who just moved in to the brand new tower think they should take precedence over a large community of artists that have been brightening that dark space for a decade?
posted by: Renee Sheckfee on July 2, 2012 4:32pm
ROBN, Try this on for size. Where did I ever mention “quell riots”? I didn’t. He chose, after a response of the police, to attempt to incite one by his words (if he gets arrested they’ll be making more arrests). Sorry, those are fighting words in a cop’s world. I worked for 20 years at NHPD and that comment was very stupid on his part. And look how many didn’t back him! He let arrogance (especially by not having that permit on his person when it was obvious that the police would be sent) interfered with that night. And by giving the definition of DC, I hope people realize that if something like a band ou loud party is an annoyance, people can be arrested for causing it. I never met him and only judge this one incident independently of who he might be. And truly, I agree with about 80% of your posts however, it’s safe to say we can agree to disagree on this one!
posted by: RCguy on July 2, 2012 4:46pm
Thanks to REM for her perspective, working at BRU during construction. The 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of her comment should be required reading in this story.
posted by: newhavenlifer on July 2, 2012 4:56pm
you played right into 360 managements hand ,HOOK LINE AND SINKER.now she has the upper hand when you go to negotiate your festival next year.looks like longwarf for you guys next year off the beaten path. like they did to the spanish festival 6 years ago.REMEMBER COOLER HEADS PREVAIL.we dont live in theor should we have a FTP attitude.IDEAT SHOULD BE ABOUT PEACE AND HARMONY IN THIS TIME OF TURMOIL.GET REAL ITS 2012 NOT 1969
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 2, 2012 6:09pm
We will need to find a tape of that particular protected speech, but believe me, it was a plea of solidarity, not insurrection. After I made the speech, people cheered, and went on to enjoy the music.
The problem with your argument, Ms. Sheckfee, is that we don’t all live “in a cop’s world”. Most of us, in fact, live in the regular person’s world, where every affront, taunt, or unpleasant word doesn’t give us license to tackle and handcuff someone.
I suppose I agree that Mr. Saunders’ words were poorly-chosen in that they had a high likelihood of provoking an irrationally aggressive response by the police. Q.E.D.
I find your continued obsession with the physical location of the permit a little mind-boggling. According to the facts as presented, it was in the possession of the co-organizer, around the corner, in another part of the venue. And even if it was home in a safe, that’s a complete red herring because surely the police knew there was a permit for the event.
posted by: RCguy on July 2, 2012 6:57pm
RENEE, Yes, a sad display by Mr.Saunders, calling young cops Rookies, and insinuating that others would be arrested if he was arrested.
The Ego manifests its evil self in many ways: Some people organize arts festivals & others become cops.
Renee, you can berate Mr. Saunders quite capably, but while dismissing the entire situation, you really have nothing to say about the experience that Mr. Packer depicts? It sounds horrifying.
If you want respect, you give respect. If you have authority and power, you need to act with humility. Pepper spraying the people you are sworn to protect is criminal.
Bottom line is that officers are officers because they serve and protect citizens. When they get out of line—as the officer certainly did when she pepper sprayed bystanders—it is disappointing and disheartening.
posted by: Renee Sheckfee on July 2, 2012 9:55pm
Bill, I think a video of exactly what transpired is absolutely essential in this. Yes, there are three sides to every story. William, you’re damned right I am obsessed with the physical location of the permit. We don’t work in city hall and calling for the permit information was not an option at night or on a weekend. Seriously, have you EVER worked at the police department? If not, don’t make assumptions about what the police know or what they don’t. I understand it’s just easiest to make such assumptions (just like people think that every cop should know who Bill is): Cops very frequently get moved out of their regular area of work to cover different events. And Streever, “cops moved to arrest him. He walked away”. THAT is what I’m focusing on. He chose for the situation to turn physical by walking away, after being informed he was under arrest. He was treated no differently than anyone else who disregarded being placed under arrest. I believe he fully knew that there would be an issue and chose not to keep the permit on him. And, although I wasn’t there, it didn’t look like anyone took a direct hit from the pepper spray. If she felt threatened enough by the size of the crowd to ensure no one came closer to her, so be it. Someone’s feeling of being threatened varies widely among different people. My point of view is completely due to the information provided. Should any further video or information become available, I may decide differently. Only time will tell, I suppose.
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 2, 2012 10:36pm
The very first thing I brought up with the arresting officers was that the police had to sign off on the permit, were notified, and were part of the process.
It seems to me that something as simple as “There is an Arts Festival going on in Pitkin Plaza until 10pm” at the shift change briefing would have gone a long way to avert this PR disaster.
Why is the Police Department even involved in this process if they cannot pass the information down to the officers on duty.
Any answers Rob Smuts? How bout you, Dean Esserman?
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 2, 2012 11:46pm
One last point, and I will leave you alone…...
A video tape is not essential evidence.
The two pieces of missing footage are:
1) My “Incendiary” Speech. 2) The Police Attack on my personhood.
Anyone got ‘em?
If not, I guess we will have to rely on witness testimony. It is a time-honored tradition, afterall. As is a jury of your peers.
I guess I would argue that it would be the responsibility of the PD management and the shift supervisors to know that there’s a three-week festival underway in a city park. I don’t imagine anyone ever asked the Arts & Ideas organizers for their permit, did they? Seriously, have you ever arranged a big outdoor event in a public park? The Parks Department issues those permits electronically, at least sometimes. It was about 90 on Saturday. What kind of condition do you think a piece of paper stuffed into Mr. Saunders’ pocket all weekend would have been in at 8:30 on Saturday? It’s like not there’s office space and filing cabinets out on the plaza.
Again, surely it’s reasonable that the paperwork relating to the festival would be in the possession or ready reach of one of the co-organizers, around the corner, in an indoor location, safe from the elements. To insist that his treatment was justified because he didn’t have the permit in his pocket is plain silly.
Renee, I don’t want to be in a society where people are sprayed in a crowd with pepper spray by people who feel “threatened”. If the situation was that dangerous, the police should have brought more resources, or first informed the crowd that they would be pepper sprayed.
Several armed, authorized individuals—who hold power over others—and are carrying guns felt threatened by a bunch of music fans in an open, public place?
Seriously, if this is how it works, we need to completely re-think the basic fundamentals behind policing.
Here go with the Police brutality whines. The dude was arrested not beaten…he got a little bruise on his elbow…
posted by: Uncle Egg on July 3, 2012 8:12am
I tend to give the cops a little bit of latitude about this type of thing. It’s a damned scary thing when a crowd turns on you, and although those of us who know the people involved know they did not pose any threat to the officers on the scene, it may not have looked that way to the cops.
That said, it seems to me the police missed opportunities to de-escalate the confrontation.
Let’s start with the fact that they were responding to a freakin’ noise complaint, not a shootout or bar brawl. If they couldn’t confirm the permit status immediately, there was no reason they couldn’t have either waited for Nancy to turn up or called in to their supervisors to confirm the permit before they started busting heads. At worst, a few neighbors would have to put up with another half-hour of noise, no harm done.
It seems like they were itching for a reason to fight. Someone earlier in this post said Bill’s statement (“You’re going to have to arrest all of us,” or whatever) amounted to “fighting words.” Really? Because that doesn’t sound like a threat to me. It’s like saying, “Don’t punch me or you’re going to have to beat me to a bloody pulp.” Very unusual interpretation of the word.
The officer could have let Bill walk away. It’s not like he was going to run off somewhere and there was no public safety issue. If he’s going to rant and rave, let him rant and rave. It’s protected speech.
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 3, 2012 8:36am
When I walked away from the officer, I was going to continue my search for Nancy and the permit. Since I do not have a cell phone, I had called her on a festival attendees phone (his 13, 12, and 9 year old boys—The Forresters, had played earlier in the day).
I still had the phone in my hand when I was tackled. Curtis retrieved it, and returned it to it’s owner.
posted by: robn on July 3, 2012 9:42am
I thought it was weird for the police to demand inspection of the festival permit, but apparently, that’s their right by law.
Chapter 19 - PARKS, RECREATION AND TREES Sec. 19-5
(b)(1)Public gathering, permit requirement. An organization, group, or individual requesting permission to hold or present an organized event, assembly, public speech, musical program, festival, or similar activity in any park area shall obtain a permit from the director or his/her designee(s) in accordance with this chapter.
(e)(9)Failing to produce and exhibit a permit upon request of any authorized person desiring to inspect the same is expressly prohibited.
Renee, I respect your opinion. Quite honestly I normally side with the police, not always… but I do give them a wide latitude in the performance of their duties. I as I stated I personally know several members of various forces, including my brother in law, who was a Detective in Norwalk (20 & out). He is now a police officer in a smaller town not far from here. As you state you were a officer for some time, you know the training provided to officers,at the academy and thereafter is fairly extensive and comprehensive. I need say no more about this as I believe it is common knowledge that officers are trained to diffuse situations and not escalate them. I was there, you were not. Mr. Saunders was thrown to the ground directly behind me and so close that I was struck by the rather young male officers leg during his flying tackle of a citizen who not resisting arrest. No matter the situation or cause the way Mr. Saunders was put into handcuffs was unwarranted. I am not surprised that all parties involved were injuried as the flying tackle was quite violent. Needlessly so in my opinion. As to the pepper-spray I saw the officer aim the spray at myself and the female in front of me. As you can clearly see in the video neither of us were close to the officer at the time of the spraying (you can’t see us in the shot which explicitly details an uninhabited area of 6 to 10 feet). Of course while forming your opinion you ignore my statements that Officer Sequi and I locked eyes as she aimed at me. Her spraying me was intentional and misdirected as I made no derogatory comments whatsoever and was merely documentating this event. Uncle Egg - I echo your sentiments. It did appear to me the police were itching for this to happen. On a personal note. I have been warned that any action, such as a lawsuit, on my part will result in undesirable treatment by the police and/or their agents to myself and Bru Cafe. First you pepper-spray me (and others)for no reason… now you threaten me? Really? What country are we in????
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 3, 2012 11:52am
The Comedy of Errors continues…..
I went down to Union Station to get a copy of the police report for this incident. I was informed that they could only give me a press release with the basic information, as the actually report was sealed at court.
On this press release they:
1). Erroneously list my name as William Saunders Jr. For the record, my name is William T. Saunders.
2). Erroneously list my birthdate as 10/31/63. For the record, my birthdate is 10/31/64.
So who is this mysterious person that got arrested??? Apparently my long lost son, who was born before my conception….
posted by: Mister Jones on July 3, 2012 1:08pm
That’s the law, and standard procedure, under FOIA that you can’t get the police report if an arrest has been made, all you get is the identity of the perp, etc.
posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on July 3, 2012 2:39pm
Sad this had to end this way. I was there with my wife, eating at O’tooles between 5 and 6:45 and it was a good event with a cool crowd. Those attending were well mannered and interesting, peaceful and watching the bands.
By law the permit should have been on site.
Going to a microphone and telling a crowd that arrests were imminent in an attempt to get them riled up against the police does fall under inciting to riot, and although the crowd did not attack the police their actions are manifest of the hostility that is alledged to have been incited.
Mr. Saunders was obligiated to stop the music until the permit could be presented. Doing otherwise was provocative, and an obvious attempt to incite an event with the police. And conditions did exist with the inexperienced officer involved who sprayed into a crowd of people who she did not later arrest. It is illegal to use that spray unless in the process of making a lawful arrest.
It’s so clear that this whole escapade was NOT about the permit, but somehow it keeps coming up, so I guess I need to chime in.
Much earlier in the comments, William Kurtz called the permit issue a red herring. He couldn’t have been more correct. I figured most would see it that way, too, so I’ve tried to keep my distance in the discussion, but some clarification is still necessary.
During the permit application process, we are required to designate a specific person as the official contact during events covered under the permit. That person is responsible for having the permit on his or her person during the permitted event. Each City Department signing off on the permit (including NHPD) is given the name and contact information, so in the event of any issues, there is a specific point of contact. All of the official paperwork designates me (Nancy Shea) as the event contact (just as in past years). My name and cell phone number, was provided to the NHPD, but they chose not to use it.
When I got the word that trouble was brewing at Pitkin, I headed there to present the permit. The officer actually seemed a bit miffed that the permit did, in fact, show up… then said he doubted it was a valid permit. (If he really thought that, wouldn’t you think he would investigate a bit further rather than just making the statement?) Anyway, from what I hear, I arrived just minutes after they whisked Bill away. Clearly they were on a mission that didn’t involve the permit, otherwise they would have waited those few minutes.
Hey, now that I think of it, if I had passed the permit off to Bill, I would be in violation of the permit agreement… wonder if they would have hauled me off, in that case…
posted by: EarlyBird on July 4, 2012 9:15am
I would just like to know about this mythical NHPD that responds to noise complaints at 8:30 pm on a weekend! My experience—in East Rock no less—was that my neighbors and I could call in noise complaints on a party house full of aging frat boys at 2:00 am, 3:00 am and so on, and get no response or maybe a drive-by an hour later. Clearly the fix was in on this one, and Chief Esserman should be ashamed. Played AND pwned. And to the poopy-pants neighbors at 360, a big “really?’ to you. I’m pretty sure it’s customary to give all parties a pass until midnight, especially on a summer weekend. Bill & Nancy, Happy 4th, and keep on rockin’ in the free world!
posted by: Mister Jones on July 5, 2012 12:58pm
All you conspiracy theorists, do you have any idea how police dispatch works? The non-emergency call comes in and available officers respond. It would be nice if they new about the permit, the ongoing festival, etc., but this is real life, not some ivory tower. And in the real world, if you mouth off to a cop, you get arrested. Bill the “provocateur” tried to play the cops and it sorta backfired on him, except that he got what he wanted.
If the police department was intent on shutting the Ideats down, why did they allow the music to continue as planned? Seems to me that once Nancy showed the permit—and Bill stopped mouthing off—there was no problem.
It’s unfortunate that Bill got a little scrape, but the cop with the broken wrist is worse off, and all those complaining about police brutality and blood on the streets of New Haven, well, there is real police brutality in this world, and this ain’t it. Tell me, if you are a cop, vastly outnumbered by a crowd closing in along with Bill’s taunts, would you feel threatened?
Well, Mister Jones, there is real abuse in this world, too, and (to quote you) this ain’t it.
A cop who feels abused by someone calling him/her a *bad* name, should find another line of work.
posted by: RCguy on July 6, 2012 12:51am
Mister Jones, I have yet to be arrested for “mouthing off to a cop.”
Knock on wood.
posted by: REM on July 8, 2012 12:44am
No one gets arrested for “mouthing off to a cop”. You get arrested for something they make up because you hurt their ego/feelings/pride with words, which is legal so they have to think of something else to actually arrest you for. :)
I’ve rarely seen a cop maintain professionalism and simply do their job when being called names. They usually have ego issues and have to assert their power over you. Teach you a lesson, regardless of whether you are doing anything illegal or not. Speaking from my experience.
These cops were definitely power-trippin’. Hard.
posted by: theothersusan on July 9, 2012 4:31pm
To the people who said Bill is a misogynist:
I have known Bill since his college days when he was a fraternity brother at Phi Sigma Kappa. We have been friends since his freshman year. He has always treated women pretty much the same as he treated everyone—he gave respect to those who deserved it. He does not suffer fools or bullies of either sex.
Thus always to tyrants, Bill—thanks for fighting the good fight.