How US Uncut saved my friend from jail
To protect the identity of the person in this story, I’ll refer to him as “Harold.”
On a recent Sunday morning, my best friend Harold’s birthday, we both intended to wake up early for breakfast and coffee, and maybe play a game of chess before I had to leave for work. Harold has been a big fan of chess since I taught him how to play just two months ago.
Not more than 30 minutes after I called Harold to tell him I was on my way to his place, he was handcuffed in the back of a Jackson Police Department (JPD) patrol car. Ten minutes later, he was back in the passenger seat of my car, laughing nervously into his hands.
“Woo, saved by the movement,” He said. “Let’s get out of here.”
We had just gotten coffee and drive-thru breakfast after leaving Harold’s house. I was running on two hours of sleep – that’s the only rest I get on the weekends in between working all night as a doorman at a neighborhood club, and all day as a waiter at a local cafe. Harold is a full-time student in Jackson, Mississippi, and needed a ride to school. He’s a 25 year-old Navy vet who’s been crashing on couches and riding on the hospitality of friends like myself and others until he gets back on his feet.
Like most people in my state, neither of us have much in the way of finances or influence, but we can all get by if we help each other out. That’s why the South is so famous for our hospitality- you’ll never get kinder treatment than the kind given from folks who have nothing to give. Most of us still share freely without expecting any favors in return.
Just a block from my house, Harold saw a beautiful woman on the side of the road with a flat tire. While he had been silent most of the morning, he perked up and asked me to turn around and help her out. Even though there were several parking lots around for me to use for a turnabout, I made an illegal u-turn in the middle of the road. And of course, a JPD officer swerved into the lane directly behind me and turned on his lights. I pulled over into the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, feeling the sharp sting of irony as the woman in distress pulled away and got back into traffic just as quickly as I was stopped.
“I think I’m fittin’ to go to jail, man,” Harold said with a sigh as the officer walked toward my car. (For those unfamiliar with Mississippi’s inner city dialects, “Fittin’ to” is a mangled version of “fixin’ to,” or “about to.”)
After the officer examined my documents and told me I was going to be cited, he peered into my car and looked at Harold in the passenger seat. The officer questioned my friend, spent a few minutes in his patrol car, then walked back to the passenger’s side window.
“Step out of the car please, sir.”
Harold nodded slowly and opened the door, automatically put his hands in the air as he stood up. After some quick chatter on his radio, the officer pressed Harold up against the side of my car, patted him down quickly, and promptly put him in handcuffs. He led Harold back to the patrol car and pushed him into the backseat.
I felt queasy, and could feel myself starting to sweat. I went through the address book in my phone, looking for someone I could call to get my best friend out of jail. It was Harold’s 25th birthday, and it looked like he was going to have to call his mother to ask if she could post his bail.
Ten long minutes later, I looked into my rearview mirror and saw the officer open Harold’s door, release him from the handcuffs, and let him walk away. Harold was laughing off his anxiety as the officer drove off. I was sure Harold was being facetious when he said the US Uncut movement kept him from going to jail. I couldn’t help but scoff.
“He asked me if I was actually friends with the white dude who was driving the car,” Harold explained. “I told him, ‘Yeah, that’s my dude Carl, we startin’ a movement against corporate tax dodgers and unnecessary budget cuts.”
“And what did he say?”
Harold burst into a wide grin. “Dude, when I told him me and you are organizing of our own free will to save jobs like his and his son or daughter’s teachers, and that we were on the same side, he agreed with me! Hoo hoo!”
We both laughed off the tension that still lingered from the stop and drove on. Turns out, a warrant for Harold’s arrest was re-issued on a 4 year-old unpaid citation. But everything is good for Harold now- by being pulled over and arrested, Harold was not only able to secure a new court date and payment plan for his citation, but also enthrall his own arresting officer with the power of US Uncut’s message. After Harold signed his release form on the hood of the officer’s car, the officer gave him a small burst of encouragement.
“I don’t want your past to distort your future. I’m letting you go, because I’m interested in seeing what you’re going to accomplish.”
Of course, I still have a pricey traffic citation to pay. Unlike Harold, I didn’t bother negotiating with the officer- it was pretty moronic to make an illegal u-turn in broad daylight.