Take a Flyer Off a Wall: Six Hours in the Hole

Daniel Au Valencia
25
1982

I was imprisoned for six hours because I removed a flyer from a bulletin board.

I was handcuffed, shoved into a police car, battered, confined and secluded, put in more restraints, injected with a tranquilizer, and tortured, all because I took a piece of paper off a wall.

That’s not the whole story, but it does completely encompass the part of the story where psychiatry was involved. I caused ten cents worth of property “damage” (really property improvement), and therefore no longer had any human rights.

When we talk about the most absurd aspects of the psychiatric establishment, it’s important to avoid throwing members of our movement under the bus. Someone who was imprisoned much longer than six hours shouldn’t ever have the length of time used as circular evidence that the length of time was correct. Someone who really does hear voices isn’t any more deserving of being locked up and tranquilized than someone who doesn’t. At the same time, I have to tell my own story accurately, and what I was locked up for was taking down a flyer.

My story, like many others, is proof that there are no checks or balances in the field of psychiatry, least of all in forced treatment in psychiatric prisons. No stopgaps, no fail-safes, no consequences. No way to ensure even proper enforcement of the blatantly discriminatory rules currently in the law books, much less the system of informed consent we should have.

As you may have guessed, the so-called “vandalism” of a bulletin board was merely an excuse used by people who already wanted to get rid of me for other reasons. I am (or was) a college student, and I always identified as having a disability, rather than a “mental health” issue, which tends to scare the DSPS office because they know the D in their title stands for Disability (even though the ADA covers “mental health” too, but I digress). When I wasn’t disrupting classes by raising my hand to ask questions, I would go to the office to make violent and threatening comments like “there is a federal law called the Americans with Disabilities Act” or “advising me to drop the class is not an accommodation.”

Fast-forward to a totally unrelated situation: I see a flyer in the Sociology department that says “Look at all these famous, successful people who all majored in Sociology, even though that has nothing to do with any of their current careers! Correlation is the same as causation!” I thought “misinformation does not belong in a place of learning” and took it down. Oops, a teacher saw me — a teacher who knows my name. Double oops — a teacher who also found out that I’m Autistic three days ago as part of a class discussion of obscure holidays.

For a neurotypical student, this transgression would probably warrant an assumption that the flyer was for an event that had already passed, or at worst elicit a halfhearted “hey, don’t do that.” But since all Autistic people are ticking time bombs ready to become serial killers at any moment, this teacher naturally called the police, who naturally heard the ridiculous “I fear for my life” part more clearly than the “he* took down a flyer” part and actually responded to the call (*I’m a they, not a he, but this teacher is transphobic too).

Two police officers arrived, and soon realized that they didn’t have shit to arrest me on, but since information on my disability that’s illegal to share with them had been shared with them, they decided they could detain me “for a psych evaluation” just because they felt like it. Being handcuffed and transported in a police car, not an ambulance, it felt an awful lot like an arrest. They would later claim that a 5150 hold is what they meant by psych evaluation, which is already defined way too broadly (danger to self OR others — you can detain me for skating without kneepads?), but they didn’t even meet the minimum legal criteria for that.

Apparently that doesn’t matter. A police officer saying that I should be confined in a psychiatric prison made it so. There was no one else other than those police officers to make the judgment call about whether an evaluation was warranted (unlike for example the grand jury system, which determines whether a case has enough merit to even get a trial). No one at intake asked to see any kind of warrant or documentation — they just took the word of the cops, despite my verbally informing everyone I saw that they were now witness to a crime.

Come to think of it, no contact was made with a licensed psychiatrist at any point in this psychiatric process. Hell, there wasn’t even a physician. I was arrested, tried, and convicted by two police officers, no one else. Once I was admitted into the psychiatric prison within a larger hospital, one cop left and the other went inside the prison with me, which I’m sure violates all kinds of privacy laws. More importantly, it tells us two things about hospital policy:

  1. In psychiatry, a cop and a doctor are considered interchangeable, meaning that being trained to escalate violence and find ways of making people guilty is what makes a person qualified to perform the duties of a psychiatrist.
  2. In psychiatry, a cop and a doctor are considered interchangeable, suggesting that a doctor’s purpose is using violence to seize control on behalf of the government.

The same could be said of the nurses who carried out my sentence: They took it upon themselves to both enact the direct physical battery (and restraints, and seclusion, and torture) and to prescribe forced medication. Without asking any diagnostic questions (including about potentially fatal allergies), a nurse injected me with what I later found out was Ziprasidone, a tranquilizer marketed as an antipsychotic. Mind you, I was not psychotic, nor was I ever “diagnosed” as such by anyone, nor did any cop or nurse involved even claim that I might be psychotic – and even if my actions were attributable to psychosis, they still wouldn’t warrant an act of forced, invasive, and mind-altering medical violence in response.

The best “medical care” I received that day was from an intern nursing student who checked my eyes using a cellphone flashlight. That was the person who finally realized that there was nothing wrong with me and I should be released immediately. I can only assume that because she hadn’t been in this industry for long, she hadn’t yet unlearned the natural instinct to view other people as human beings with the basic rights to dignity and nonviolence.

Luckily for me, the student intern was granted the same unilateral decision-making power as the cops and nurses. Tell me what’s wrong with this picture: I am now in a position of being thankful that the least qualified person in the building had the maximum authority over my fate.

If I really did have a so-called “mental health diagnosis” from a psychiatrist, or if I weren’t able to keep my composure because of the mind-altering drugs they injected me with, dare I wonder what different decision the all-powerful intern might have made?

The deciding factor in both my imprisonment and my release was whether someone perceived me as fully human. The worst part of the whole experience wasn’t being drugged. It wasn’t the initial arrest, it wasn’t the complacency of witnesses, and it wasn’t being restrained, secluded, or tortured. It was being dehumanized — like when I tried to memorize the names of my assailants for the malpractice lawsuit. I have the names of the police officers and the nurse who drugged me, but another nurse flipped his name badge to hide his own identity, and never showed up in the hospital record. I had shouted repeatedly “That man! What’s his name?” to which he responded “No, my name’s not Jackie Chan” and laughed.

This was when I began to see firsthand the ways that all the violence against me would be retroactively justified. In that nurse’s perception, I was not human. I was part of another species called Them Buncha Crazies.

If I had tried having a calm dialogue about how the Mad Pride and Neurodiversity movements argue “natural variations of the human race” over concepts of “illness,” that too would have been met with laughter — but not because we aren’t respected among scientists, not because we don’t have enough people who agree with us, and not because we challenge the status quo. Anything I had said would have been laughed off, for the same reason you laugh at a parrot when it says something that sounds human (even though some parrots have shown that they can in fact understand human speech, which just makes this a more perfect analogy).

You wouldn’t try to have a serious dialogue with every animal you meet, and by the same logic (or at least they see it as logic), psychiatrists and doctors, and apparently also nurses, don’t consider it a real conversation when they hear language sounds from something that is biologically homo sapien but can no longer be called a person (their phrasing, not mine) now that it has a relationship with psychiatry.

In a psychiatric prison, there is no distinction made between different disabilities or neurominorities. We are all the same to them. Where a self-identification of Mad may be used to reject labels, an other-identification of Them Buncha Crazies is used to reject individuality. I became a non-person as soon as the word “disability” was passed around. No one had to say “mental health” to the cops, because it’s assumed that being disabled is the same as “mentally ill,” and “mentally ill” is the same as “dangerous.”

This may sound counterintuitive, but being lumped together by the psychiatric establishment is exactly why we must lump ourselves together. When we fixate on specific labels, we are tripping over our own feet in the fight for equality. The problem isn’t that the labels aren’t legitimate — I’m Autistic, and therefore, autism exists. The problem is when we are inspired to overly limited missions such as “autism isn’t a disorder, so let’s tear one page out of the DSM, without worrying about what’s on the other pages or even challenging the fundamental concept.”

If we all stick to our own specific sub-communities, we will never challenge the psychiatric establishment. I can argue all I want that autism is genetic and genetically formed brain types can’t be illnesses — it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference, beyond that ableist teacher maybe needing to find a different “ist” to target me by (I’m a transgender atheist Jew, take your pick). The cops and the nurses could have even agreed that autism isn’t a mental illness, and still done what they did. Once your body enters a police car or an ambulance, it doesn’t matter what labels you carry or what the apparent “symptoms” are.

It doesn’t matter if you even have any label at all. The moment you acquire a mental illness is when someone who doesn’t like you decides that you have one. In Salem it didn’t matter whether you really were a witch or not; in McCarthyism it didn’t matter whether you really were a communist or not; and in psychiatry, being Mad or neurodivergent or none of the above has no relevance once you’ve been sufficiently accused.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry you got needled/stuck(?) and administered a mind altering drug. The psych drugs could kill some one, but the person/patient/prisoner officially would not die from the drug, as the magical drugs can only do “good” things to a human being.
    “neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS)” is one of the official descriptions.

    My advice in such a situation where the police show up to the inconsequential action of taking down of a flyer, is to LIE to the police and say “No I did not take down the flyer. What are you talking about?” The onus( the burden) is then on the accuser to prove you did something wrong or criminal.

    One of the signs of “sanity” is the ability to lie, if you can not lie it means you are insane.

  2. Thanks and my very empathetic sympathies. Yes -otherness – is the crime. Look at the horror of Rwanda between two groups of people both sides vilified by the other. In Irish history – to be an informer could get you killed- reasons of why notwithstanding. In stories many are simple folk beset by their own issues.
    Getting a SS check is a red flag. Fear rules. The entertainment industry has colluded with this
    Maybe we need a Untied States of Otherness? That or the island of misfit toys for real.
    We need to unite and work together past all the self and other imposed divisions, barriers, walls, and obstacles. We, Us are such important words. Glad to see you are so brave and active.
    Are you fearful this will happen again? Or with this just the perfect storm? When this does happen how does one cope with the fear?
    The funny thing is most police officers , many have their own issues and many are in or in enforced treatment themselves – a whole different issue MIA needs to shed light on.
    I would surmise like Sandra’s recent blog and others we are all at the mercy of a few and boy have they done a slam dunk job at pulling the wool over all of our eyes.
    Unite!

    • Frankly, I have had enough of the damn busybodies hanging on every thought I utter. I can’t imagine someone calling the police after you sharing a personal experience. I’ve been violated needlessly and want to remember to avoid these manipulators. This way I’ll also be the friend some didn’t have and keep you out of that pit.

  3. Daniel

    Great blog and exposure of the totalitarian nature of Psychiatry in this country.

    Psychiatry has exactly the same authority as the executive branch of government in the U.S. That is, the ability to suspend and circumvent the Constitution by taking away a person’s fundamental rights in a so-called free society. A Fascist President like Trump can suspend the Constitution in order to deal with so-called terrorist threats (real or made up) – think this can’t or won’t happen – THINK AGAIN!

    And a psychiatrist can simply sign a piece of paper after a 5 minute conversation with a cop or a “mental health” worker and anyone’s basic Constitutional rights can be removed in a heartbeat. You can then be sent to a psychiatric hospital (prison!) and drugged into oblivion and only possibly receive some type of court hearing days later. And in such a court hearing the power differential is stacked way in the favor of Psychiatry.

    Check out this article at Refusefascism.org and you will read a very similar story about the role of cops and threats of Psychiatry being used to oppress those resisting this System and Trump’s election: https://refusefascism.org/2017/01/17/brutal-arrest-outrageous-charges-nypd-assaults-refuse-fascism-activist/

    Richard

      • Oldhead

        I am not attributing this to Trump. The conditions in the U.S. to suspend the Constitution have existed for many decades for both Psychiatry and the Executive Branch.

        I do believe that the current election of Trump represents a serious leap in the direction of Fascism in the U.S. I believe this increases the likely hood of even more future examples of totalitarian forms of oppression throughout many institutions in this country.

        I believe that Psychiatry will only GAIN in power under a Trump administration, and that Psychiatry will be used as an even greater weapon against the masses in the coming period.

        We must unite all who can be united to drive the Trump regime out of power. Of course, our work will not end with such a campaign, but such a movement would create more favorable conditions to reach even greater goals in our efforts to end all forms of inequality and oppression.

        Richard

  4. Thanks for sharing your story, Daniel, you’re spot on. I was illegally dragged out of my own bed by five paramedics, while the sixth paramedic told the other five that what they were doing was illegal. And then I was shipped a very long distance from my home, and massively “snowed,” by this now convicted doctor:

    https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/pr/oak-brook-doctor-convicted-kickback-scheme-sacred-heart-hospital

    Who was doing this same illegal crap to lots of patients, for profit. Apparently he only got prosecuted once he started defrauding the government with his little medically unnecessary attempted tracheotomy scams.

    And the second time I was held against my will, a police officer took me to a hospital because I was lying in a park, minding my own business, watching the clouds, trying to mentally come to grips with the fact that I’d found the medical proof that the “bipolar” drug cocktails actually create “psychosis,” via anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning. I’m not certain when lying in a park and thinking became illegal, but I was illegally shipped back to Kuchipudi’s psychiatric partner in crime, without having signed any HIPPA forms giving the doctors a right to look at my prior medical history. And, of course, my forced physical did result in a “medically clear” diagnosis. Isn’t it staggering, in a city the size of Chicago that I’m sent to the same criminal, but yet to be arrested, psychiatrist twice, randomly?

    So in my case, a desire to sleep in my own bed and lying in a park minding my own business are reasons for today’s psychiatrists to forcibly lock people up and attempt to murder them via anticholinergic toxidrome poisonings. Forced psychiatric treatment is un-American, un-Constitutional, and it needs to be made illegal.

  5. I know this isn’t on-topic, but I have to say, FAIL to whatever school railroaded you out. You write and reason remarkably well. If you weren’t Mad, those nutty professors would be tripping over themselves to grab the credit for your brilliance. That degree mill definitely gets an F for human rights and academic freedom. Damn!

  6. Thank you for making me laugh out loud because what we went through isn’t funny. Dehumanized is exactly how it feels to have your spouse who is verbally abusing you to get a court order to have you incarcerated in a mental health facility. A squad car came with the order and as I walked away said please get in the squad car or I’ll have to cuff you. I asked him to cuff me and ring the doorbell so my then husband could see what he did. I was taken to court where a judge and attorney interrogated me. My ex fabricated lies because he had been gaslighting me. The psychologist I saw told me not to worry about discrepancies in my records but then submitted them so the discrepancies could be used against me. Then to mental health where they did a strip search because they had to check my clothes? Thankfully didn’t search where the sun doesn’t shine but traumatic enough to have people shaking out your clothes while you stand in your underwear. My antibiotic was taken away as I was told they had to dispense it. Psychiatrist asked why I was there and I said I was having marital problems and sleep issues. At meals you had to fill out on a scale from 1-10 how depressed you are. Well if marriage wasn’t enough.. what would they do next? Always mark low. Now med time and we all line up at window. I started waking up during the night and in the am with migraines but no one would tell me why. A nurse did a physical but wouldn’t answer my questions. The other Dr asked me to stay for a longer evaluation (for what? I was never informed.) because the court document said the judge could send me to the state hospital for six months! That’s when I lost it. Had enough abuse. I chose to risk court, when my hero, a court advocate showed up. He listened to my story and said he wouldn’t let them do that to me. On the way out the female psych Dr said you don’t belong here, your civil rights are being violated but you have a dysfunctional marriage. Still blamed for what was done to me. Although I felt drunk and had migraines they still denied drugging me and gave my full bottle of antibiotics back when I left for court. How can this legally happen? Is it just a blatant lack of respect for life or a deliberate character assassination?

  7. I wish there was a word that could describe this type of treatment. It is like racism but it’s not based on skin color. And it is not a brief encounter, like sit on the back of the bus. The mistreatment begins with the sharing of a “diagnostic code” usually by someone who is a government employee (teacher, etc) with another government employee with a gun. The guy with the gun usually has a companion with him, who also has a gun, and the guys with guns escalate things.

    What comes next are “orders” from the guys with guns, or restraint and transport to the location of the next team.

    The cop duo then performs a handoff to other government employees (jail or hospital/jail) with a wink and a nod. The new team then assumes the benevolent public servant persona.

    The new team then decides what is best for the new admit, who, of course, lacks insight. What is best is usually exclusion, imprisonment, restraint and maybe an injection of antipsychotics.

    Most of this is done without any input from a doctor. But if a doctor was brought into the mix, his role is to create a psych record to justify whatever mistreatment his team chooses to impose.

    On occasion, there may be an outsider newbie on the team who hasn’t been indoctrinated into the system. They may be the only advocate the labelee has.

    Most incidents of racism last a few minutes. This scenario is like racism that lasts hours or days or weeks. And it’s infectious. I wish there was a word for it. It’s not just discrimination. Its really more like state sponsored stalking.

  8. Sad. It reminds me of something I saw on the news. An American college student removed a small flag on display in North Korea. Poor dumb kid wound up sentenced to 8 years of hard labor.

    Of course you have to be careful in those totalitarian dictatorships. Apparently those of us who are neurally atypical have to be equally cautious at home in America. Land of the Free my foot!

  9. “Officer if I committed a crime take me to jail”

    I had them ask me if I wanted to go to the hospital or jail when I broke something when I was drinking and slept it off in the drunk tank and the next day I was out no charges instead of a hospital nightmare.

    I am not a lawyer but you may want to ask one about charging the school with “swatting”

    “The moment you acquire a mental illness is when someone who doesn’t like you decides that you have one.”

    From what you described in the story “As you may have guessed, the so-called “vandalism” of a bulletin board was merely an excuse used by people who already wanted to get rid of me for other reasons.”

    Sounds like you were “swatted”

    Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service into sending a police and 9-1-1 response team based on the false reporting of a serious emergency. “threat to self or others” did they say anything like that in the 911 call ?

    Swatting has been associated with online harassment campaigns, and episodes ranging from small events to large incidents, from a single fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta.

    Swatting suspects face a wide range of penalties for creating a false public alarm, depending on the situation: anywhere from 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine for a fourth-degree charge, to three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine for a third-degree charge, to five to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for a second-degree charge.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=swatting+penalty

    Its about time that ‘game’ people play of falsely accusing their victim of being suicidal and ‘mentally ill’ to use the police and hospital as a weapon to start paying the price, swatting is a serous crime.

    MIA should do a whole story on this subject.

  10. Wow. Thanks for this.I this I was swatted. More than once I fear. At least it gives mea framework to put my situational memories in perspective. The first supposed swat took place with a neighbor who was a tenant of the rented house next store, and whom I had welcomed into the neighborhood with cookies. It was a bizarre scenario and I made a one sentence statement in a traumatic moment ( when family privacy should have been respected) and she gleefully said very out loud,” I know what’ll I’ll do I will call the police!”It was an act of such nefarious stupidity with waves and waves of ramifications that I would do anything to take it out of my memory bank.
    I am glad to know that this is an actual problem and that I am not alone.
    In all my years as a professional Social Worker mother, neighbor,cousin,friend, daughter, sister, niece, peer, I would never ever do something like that to anyone. There are ways and there are ways and our society. really needs to get our act together for all of our sakes. Thanks for the Lind

  11. Your analysis of the psych prison (as you aptly describe it) experience is so accurate. Once you’re in the system, it’s like you lose all rights, all voice. It’s the people who put you there who have credibility, when it really is often the case that they are abusing their power or are totally biased. No matter what you say, it is not trusted because you are the “ill” one. You are suspected of lying, even about your own issues. If you claim you don’t hear voices, they’ll try to override you and say that they still think you do. The doctors have absolute power and they know it, and they dogmatically tell you that they “know” exactly what your condition is and that you “need” their medication.