Helped steer convention protests

Photo by Paul DeRienzo

Longtime East Village activist John Penley was arrested at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte earlier this month as he was helping lead a veterans protest. Hundreds of police wearing camelbacks for hydration and peddling heavily equipped bicycles shadowed the protest march, making walls of spoked wheels to pen the activists along the route as helicopters patrolled above. A Vietnam-era Navy vet, Penley moved home to Asheville, North Carolina, this spring to get treatment for serious health problems, but that hasn’t dampened his activism. Arriving in Charlotte directly from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, he went to work interfacing with the media and organizing marches. Penley was at the head of the veterans march when police blocked them from reaching the convention center. Wearing his new trademark sailor’s cap, which earned him the nickname “Skipper” from Occupy Wall Street organizers, Penley walked into the police lines and was promptly arrested. He was held at the county jail, where he said the light in each cell was on 24 hours and medical care cost $20 a visit to the nurse. Many of the prisoners, he said, were homeless folks swept up on minor charges during the convention. After 36 hours of chasing around bail money he was released, but not before the photo of his arrest went worldwide.

Paul DeRienzo

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