On Friday morning, Harvey Weinstein was escorted from the 1st Precinct to the New York City Criminal Court where he was arraigned on first and third degree rape charges. It was then we got to see what has become a rite of passage for accused criminals and a moment many have eagerly anticipated: the perp walk. For decades, Weinstein has strutted down red carpets across the world and he treated this photo op much the same way. Wearing a black suit over a light blue sweater, his hands cuffed behind his back and flanked by two detectives, Weinstein still held his head high and smiled for the cameras.
Later, after assuring the court that his client had a $1 million cashier check in hand to cover his bail, Weinstein’s lawyer stood on the steps of the courthouse and declared, “My client did not invent the casting couch,” in a bizarrely tone deaf attempt at declaring Weinstein’s innocence.
The perp walk has been happening in New York for at least a hundred years. Celebrities like Johnny Depp and Russell Crowe have done it. Famed gangsters like John Gotti turned it into a series of peacocking struts. There is what might be the infamous perp walk of all time: JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, being transported through the basement of Dallas Police headquarters as reporters swarmed around him, was shot and killed by Jack Ruby during his perp walk.
There seems, to me, that there is a particular style of perp walk among famous and wealthy men who prey on women and who believe they are untouchable. They’re sending a message. They hold their heads high. They exude annoyance at being made to bother with such plebeian rituals as arrests and arraignments. We saw it with Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel worker in 2011, and whose perp walk, as he was pulled off an airplane attempting to leave the United States, sparked indignity around the world. We saw it even with Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh, who went to his death convinced he was a martyr and who stood rigid and unapologetic as he was escorted in front of the media.
Some of the people watching felt vindicated by Weinstein’s perp walk and others took an almost sympathetic approach, describing him as frail. Watching Weinstein in handcuffs I felt neither of those things. I saw a man, a man accused of violating as many as 95 women, who was able to give himself up voluntarily to police, who was able to easily produce $1 million in exchange for the ability to return to his home wearing an ankle monitor, smiling for the cameras because he knew how soon those handcuffs would come off.
I saw a man who will now use the very same money and power he utilised to victimise women for dozens of years without consequence, to cast himself as a victim, as collateral damage of “outdated values.” Weinstein’s arrest and his public shaming of his perp walk may be a “symbolic victory” for the Me Too movement, but it will only be a jail sentence, away from the fame and attention he’s courted his whole life, that will truly mean something.