We both knew what we were really there for, sitting side by side propped against the bedside table. I was trembling a little and super-conscious of the warmth of her leg and shoulder against mine, but I needed to go through the motions of logging into Xnet and seeing what email I'd gotten and so on.
There was an email from a kid who liked to send in funny phone-cam videos of the DHS being really crazy — the last one had been of them disassembling a baby's stroller after a bomb-sniffing dog had shown an interest in it, taking it apart with screwdrivers right on the street in the Marina while all these rich people walked past, staring at them and marveling at how weird it was.
I'd linked to the video and it had been downloaded like crazy. He'd hosted it on the Internet Archive's Alexandria mirror in Egypt, where they'd host anything for free so long as you'd put it under the Creative Commons license, which let anyone remix it and share it.
The US archive — which was down in the Presidio, only a few minutes away — had been forced to take down all those videos in the name of national security, but the Alexandria archive had split away into its own organization and was hosting anything that embarrassed the USA.
This kid — his handle was Kameraspie — had sent me an even better video this time around.
It was at the doorway to City Hall in Civic Center, a huge wedding cake of a building covered with statues in little archways and gilt leaves and trim. The DHS had a secure perimeter around the building, and Kameraspie's video showed a great shot of their checkpoint as a guy in an officer's uniform approached and showed his ID and put his briefcase on the X-ray belt.
It was all OK until one of the DHS people saw something he didn't like on the X-ray. He questioned the General, who rolled his eyes and said something inaudible (the video had been shot from across the street, apparently with a homemade concealed zoom lens, so the audio was mostly of people walking past and traffic noises).
The General and the DHS guys got into an argument, and the longer they argued, the more DHS guys gathered around them.
Finally, the General shook his head angrily and waved his finger at the DHS guy's chest and picked up his briefcase and started to walk away. The DHS guys shouted at him, but he didn't slow.
His body language really said, "I am totally, utterly pissed."
Then it happened. The DHS guys ran after the general.
Kameraspie slowed the video down here, so we could see, in frame-by-frame slo-mo, the general half-turning, his face all like, "No freaking way are you about to tackle me," then changing to horror as three of the giant DHS guards slammed into him, knocking him sideways, then catching him at the middle, like a career-ending football tackle.
The general — middle aged, steely grey hair, lined and dignified face — went down like a sack of potatoes and bounced twice, his face slamming off the sidewalk and blood starting out of his nose.
The DHS hog-tied the general, strapping him at ankles and wrists. The general was shouting now, really shouting, his face purpling under the blood streaming from his nose.
Legs swished by in the tight zoom. Passing pedestrians looked at this guy in his uniform, getting tied up, and you could see from his face that this was the worst part, this was the ritual humiliation, the removal of dignity.
The clip ended.
"Oh my dear sweet Buddha," I said looking at the screen as it faded to black, starting the video again.
I nudged Ange and showed her the clip. She watched wordless, jaw hanging down to her chest.
"Post that," she said. "Post that post that post that post that!"
I posted it.
I could barely type as I wrote it up, describing what I'd seen, adding a note to see if anyone could identify the military man in the video, if anyone knew anything about this.
I hit publish.
We watched the video.
We watched it again.
My email pinged.
> I totally recognize that dude — you can find his bio on Wikipedia. He's General Claude Geist.
He commanded the joint UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
I checked the bio.
There was a picture of the general at a press conference, and notes about his role in the difficult Haiti mission. It was clearly the same guy.
I updated the post.
Theoretically, this was Ange's and my chance to make out, but that wasn't what we ended up doing.
We crawled the Xnet blogs, looking for more accounts of the DHS searching people, tackling people, invading them. This was a familiar task, the same thing I'd done with all the footage and accounts from the riots in the park.
I started a new category on my blog for this, AbusesOfAuthority, and filed them away. Ange kept coming up with new search terms for me to try and by the time her mom got home, my new category had seventy posts, headlined by General Geist's City Hall takedown.
I worked on my Beat paper all the next day at home, reading the Kerouac and surfing the Xnet. I was planning on meeting Ange at school, but I totally wimped out at the thought of seeing Van again, so I texted her an excuse about working on the paper.
There were all kinds of great suggestions for AbusesOfAuthority coming in; hundreds of little and big ones, pictures and audio. The meme was spreading.
It spread. The next morning there were even more.
Someone started a new blog called AbusesOfAuthority that collected hundreds more. The pile grew.
We competed to find the juiciest stories, the craziest pictures.
The deal with my parents was that I'd eat breakfast with them every morning and talk about the projects I was doing.
They liked that I was reading Kerouac. It had been a favorite book of both of theirs and it turned out there was already a copy on the bookcase in my parents' room.
My dad brought it down and I flipped through it. There were passages marked up with pen, dog-eared pages, notes in the margin.
My dad had really loved this book.
It made me remember a better time, when my Dad and I had been able to talk for five minutes without shouting at each other about terrorism, and we had a great breakfast talking about the way that the novel was plotted, all the crazy adventures.
But the next morning at breakfast they were both glued to the radio.
"Abuses of Authority — it's the latest craze on San Francisco's notorious Xnet, and it's captured the world's attention.
Called A-oh-A, the movement is composed of 'Little Brothers' who watch back against the Department of Homeland Security's anti-terrorism measures, documenting the failures and excesses.