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Freedom of Speech...and the Right to Remain Silent
by Mickey Z.
August 24, 2004

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Beat the Heat: How to Handle Encounters with Law Enforcement
By Katya Komisaruk
(Illustrations by Tim Maloney)
AK Press: 192 pp, $14.00

Magic Words: “I am going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer.”

With cell phones surgically attached to their ears and Reagan buttons adorning their golf shirts, the Republicans will come swarming onto Manhattan Island at the end of August evoking images of a Hitler Youth reunion doing a GAP commercial. Joining them in the sweltering late summer heat will be legions of protestors and squadrons of police. This volatile mix guarantees we'll see a sudden evaporation of homeless people, an abundance of street closings, and arrests by the busload. “The cops are here to protect us,” we'll be told...but Katya Komisaruk sees things a little differently.

“People should assume that the officer is not trustworthy, and take the most conservative approach: remaining silent and asking to see their lawyer,” she advises.

Komisaruk, admitted to Harvard Law School while serving a five-year sentence in federal prison following a protest against nuclear weapons, is a criminal defense lawyer in Oakland and part of Law Collective ( With the land of the free incarcerating its citizens at the rate of 1200 per week, Komisaruk's book, Beat the Heat, is required reading for any American not wealthy enough to buy immunity from the criminal injustice system. “This book will help keep more of our brothers and sisters in the community," says Zack de la Rocha, formerly of Rage Against the Machine, “instead of sitting in cages watching the prison industry's profits grow.”

In the parlance of the day, Beat the Heat is a pre-emptive strike...through words and images (and let's hope Joel Andreas' “Addicted to War” has effectively put to bed any questions about the value of the cartoon approach), Komisaruk gives the type of legal coaching we all need before we end up cuffed and fingerprinted...and it all begins with the magic words: “I am going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer.” Learn them, memorize them, use them, and be ready to repeat them as often as possible.

From the first encounter with a police officer to detention, interrogation, arrest, confessions, statements, searches, grand juries, trials, and much more, Komisaruk (as author and primary cartoon character) walks the reader through many of the pitfalls and trap doors involved when navigating the criminal injustice system. Even if you've been busted several times or your cousin's a cop and your uncle's a lawyer and you've got your TiVo programmed to record every episode of “Law and Order,” this book will blow your mind. You might even find yourself taking notes.

Cops, judges, and lawyers are trained to deal with the situations detailed in this book, but the rest of live in a bubble of TV-induced misperceptions. There is so much to know and so many mistakes to be avoided that nobody can afford the luxury of not learning these ropes. Nothing can be guaranteed, but Komisaruk provides the tools you'll need to “increase the odds in your favor.”  And, again, it all starts with: “I am going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer.”

In the United States of Incarceration, Beat the Heat is an essential and accessible textbook for survival.

Mickey Z. is the author of two brand new books: The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda (Common Courage Press) and A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense (Library Empyreal/Wildside Press). For more information, please visit:

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