"Was anyone arrested?" There is sometimes a confusion in the press and our movement when using the word "arrest." According to the dictionary, "arrest" means first, "to stop," and second, "to seize and hold by legal authority." As editors, we count a person as having been arrested whenever the authorities have stopped the person from continuing a particular course of action, and then restricted their freedom to leave. A particular crime need not be alleged at the time of arrest. Often, protesters are arrested and sooner or later released, without being cited for a particular offense. Sometimes, a citation may be issued, but no arraignment held. And sometimes, a charge may be dismissed after the arraignment but before trial. It is often incorrectly stated that demonstrators were "detained but not arrested," when in fact they were arrested but not charged.
We think of this confusion when activists and organizers mention a possible trend of no arrests taking place at large, national civil disobedience actions. For instance, sixty-eight people were taken away on buses on August 9 after trespassing at Los Alamos and released several miles away at a park without being charged. Back in November, more than 2,300 activists were loaded onto buses after crossing the line at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and driven several miles away to a park where they were also released. We consider that these people were arrested, but then not charged with any crime. While in custody they were not free to go.