From It’s Going Down
The following report details someone’s harrowing experience while crossing the border from Canada into the United States.
CW: Sexual assault and police violence
[a note on phone security from PSA Editors: Disappearing messages being turned on for signal doesn’t delete old messages. It is advisable to delete all messages, leave signal groups and uninstall signal before crossing a border. Draining your phones battery probably won’t provide you with more privacy, instead make sure your phone has a complex pass phrase, has a setting to delete all data after 10 incorrect attempts and is turned off before you cross.]
A few weeks ago I was traveling alone with my dog from Alberta, Canada back through the U.S border into Montana. Upon crossing, border patrol agents asked me only two questions: “Where do you live?” “Olympia, Washington,” I replied. “Have you ever been arrested?” “Yes,” I answered.
Right away, I was told to pull over for an extended search and interrogation. I cross the border often and am no stranger to being put through the ringer due to my US passport bringing up my previous arrest record, so I didn’t think much of this.
Upon entering the building, my car keys and passport were taken from me, which was congruent with my previous experiences. However then I was placed in a locked holding cell with my dog and I realized that this was different.
Instantly, I turned disappearing messages on. I attempted to run down my battery to make my phone die by setting the screen to the highest brightness but I was patted down and my phone was immediately confiscated. My phone was definitely manually looked through and from what I understand there is a high potentiality that the data was downloaded for later investigation [for more information on phone security, go here].
“Through the glass window I could see half a dozen agents pouring over my belongings searching for something incriminating. I asked multiple officers for a phone call to speak with an attorney and they all said no.”
After several hours of searching my vehicle, I saw multiple US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents walk past my cell wearing latex gloves and carrying armfuls of my belongings. Mostly books, zines, journals, and sketchbooks but also stupid shit like an orange my friends gave me, and some candies.
Through the glass window I could see half a dozen agents pouring over my belongings searching for something incriminating. I asked multiple officers for a phone call to speak with an attorney and they all said no. My dog was left in the holding cell by themselves and I was pulled into an interrogation room. I was shown pictures and photocopies of my journal entries, my drawings, stickers, highlighted excerpts from books and anything else they found in my car supposedly linking me as member of the “terrorist cell – Antifa.” Any book that had the words “revolt,” “destruction,” or “militancy” in the titles were scrutinized for evidence to fit the narrative they were attempting to construct.
“I was shown pictures and photocopies of my journal entries, my drawings, stickers, highlighted excerpts from books and anything else they found in my car supposedly linking me as member of the “terrorist cell – Antifa.”‘
I was questioned about little dead pig doodles in my sketchbook, specifically one titled “The Life Cycle of a Revolutionary.” They repeatedly pointed to each figure in the drawing, and fueled by paranoia asked me, “What does this mean?” They were also especially amped about a zine I had titled Destroy The Border. (As though in their delusions I was on a solo mission and this zine was my blue-print to single-handedly destroy the US Border.)
Suddenly, I was able to put it together. It had not even been a month after anarchist and antifascist comrade Willem Van Spronsen (Rest in Power) was killed by Tacoma Police officers for taking action against the Northwest Detention Center. These CBP officers have been all riled up on white-nationalist propaganda and instilled with fear of the dangerous leftist terrorists, especially those coming out of Washington State.
CBP continued to inform me that they knew I was part of “antifa”: an “extremely violent terrorist unit, whose goal is to murder police officers,” according to them. Interrogations continued about whether or not it was my intention to murder CBP agents. They kept asking me if I had explosives on my body and patting me down.
“Interrogations continued about whether or not it was my intention to murder CBP agents. They kept asking me if I had explosives on my body and patting me down.”
After my third interrogation, I was hauled into a cell in the back with no windows and nothing in it but a metal table. Two border pigs told me to strip as they taunted me and made explicit sexual comments toward me. I physically resisted and was threatened to be charged with assault of an officer if I did so again. The border pigs proceeded to cavity search me while laughing to each other, which was an obvious humiliation tactic and blatant sexual assault. I could hear my dog barking while I was being strip searched.
I was taken back into the first holding cell where I waited another couple of hours with my dog, both of us still being denied food/water or access to a bathroom. Eventually I was informed that I was being charged with a felony offense for transporting dangerous narcotics across the border. They had found two joints and a CBD tincture for my dog’s arthritis in my vehicle. A local sheriff came in and arrested me, attempted to continue to question me after I requested to speak to a lawyer. I was driven to the nearest small town and booked into the jail. Finger printed, questioned more, and more creepy “flirtations.” My dog was with me in the cruiser, and remained in the cruiser while I was being booked into the jail. They threatened to take my dog to the shelter.
“Two border pigs told me to strip as they taunted me and made explicit sexual comments toward me. I physically resisted and was threatened to be charged with assault of an officer if I did so again. The border pigs proceeded to cavity search me while laughing to each other, which was an obvious humiliation tactic and blatant sexual assault.”
After hours of them trying to weigh my CBD oil as weed flower to find a way to charge me with a possession felony, they realized that CBD is legal and were only able to charge me for the two joints, a misdemeanor. I bailed myself out. They took me and my dog back to the border. They made it clear to me in the same rapey tone that it was a bummer I wasn’t going to be spending the weekend with them in jail. Upon being brought back to the border I was reluctantly given back my keys and passport and released.
I walked into that situation a little too naive. Afterwards I understood how in so many ways I was slacking on my security. I desire to normalize anti-state rhetoric, yet it can make me vulnerable to being targeted. I am going to be more paranoid, but not to the point where it interferes with my work, or immobilizes me. I wanted to share this as a reminder that tactics are escalating against anarchists and antifascists. We could all benefit by utilizing better security practices.
Also, fuck border pigs forever.