Last Tuesday, on May 23rd, a few dozen protesters staged a noise demonstration, blocked streets, and clashed with police outside of the Atlanta City Detention Center. The demonstration, organized by crews and individuals associated with the autonomous anti-prison movement in Georgia (including, but not limited to, the Atlanta Black Cross and the General Defense Committee of the IWW), was conducted as a response to the deaths of two immigrant detainees in Georgia. Two days later, on May 25th, a group of human rights organizations rallied outside of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office downtown. This group was primarily composed of paid protesters and staff affiliated with nonprofit organizations such as Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia-Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Project South and others. These organizations were demanding the closure of Stewart Detention Center
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jean Jiminez-Joseph, a Panamanian national, died in solitary confinement on May 15. His death, an apparent suicide, is directly attributable to his debased condition in the Stewart County Detention Facility. The next day, Atulkumar Babubhai Patel, an Indian national, lost his life at the Atlanta City Detention Center due to congestive heart failure.
May 23rd Demonstration
New Strategy of Tension Against Autonomists or Repressive Anomaly?
Carrying anti-prison and anti-police banners, our small partially-masked crowd marched down Peachtree Street toward the Atlanta City Detention Center. Upon arrival, individuals in the crowd began shooting fireworks, lighting smoke bombs, banging drums, and leading chants. Clusters of imprisoned people huddled around their windows and waved, knocked on the glass, and held up hand-drawn “thank you” notes.
Corrections officers formed a line outside of the facility while nearly a dozen Atlanta Police Department cruisers gathered behind the demonstration. Roughly twenty Atlanta police officers abruptly entered the space of the protest with their nightsticks drawn, swinging them wildly, shoving and screaming at the hostile crowd in order to make two arrests. The arrested were both black demonstrators who were passing out fliers and speaking into the megaphone. Protesters, masked and unmasked, briefly attempted to obstruct the arrest, but were unable to. We lacked the tools and mass necessary to repel the police, although our crowd was determined and angry.
In the Atlanta context, this is an abnormally repressive approach to protesters.
In 2012, a noise demonstration outside of the DeKalb County Jail catalyzed a riot in three buildings of the facility in which inmates threw objects at officers and barricaded their cells. Demonstrators outside smashed open the electrical box and cut power to the street lights outside. In response, roughly 12 squad cars poured onto the streets and dispersed the crowd. Similar uses of force by police have occurred only under circumstances of militant confrontations with property or Nazis, such as the clashes with police on Stone Mountain last April or the vandalism and clashes with police on Peachtree Street in November of 2014 in Ferguson-related mass resistance. Since at least 2010 (and probably for much longer), Atlanta area police have favored a strategy of de-escalation and pre-emptive counter-insurgency in relation to protests including meeting with black clergy and “protest leaders.” This is the strategy they have ostensibly developed in tandem with the Israeli Defense Forces in their annual tuition-funded outings to Tel-Aviv (under the Georgia-Israel Law Enforcement Exchange Program).
It is possible that protest management dynamics within the Atlanta Police Department are shifting towards a more hands-on approach in relation to autonomous groups. It may be the case that individual officers acted outside of department protocol, or that the particular intelligence on this crowd justified escalated force. Without further research, it is not possible to know whether or not this is true but autonomous groups – anarchists, communists, black autonomists, and others not affiliated with nonprofits, trade unions, or political parties – should organize as if this is a fact. We should come prepared with banners on each side of the demonstration. We should maintain clear focus regarding the balance of forces particular to the landscape, size, goals and energy of a crowd and of our team or individual capacities within that crowd.
Borders Within and Between: This is What Democracy Looks Like
The Trump administration has escalated the deportation frenzy initiated under Obama by hiring 15,000 new immigration-related law enforcement personnel in ICE and the Border Patrol. Even leftist charlatan Bernie Sanders, in his July 19, 2015 interview with Vox editor Ezra Klein, stepped up to defend deportations and controls, stating that the rejection of borders “[does] away with the concept of the nation-state altogether.”
The western-democratic organization of life has always rested on a deeply racial process for separating and parceling life. The organization of normative “cultural” standards in relation to the arrangement of economic and home life, with its official representation in politics and state discourse, has continuously renewed itself on the production of “foreigness” and cultural distinction. Producing the official civic “interior” culture rests innately on the recognition of relative unintelligibility in regards to other forms of speech, attire, spirituality, culinary arts, and sexuality etc. This demand for separation and distinction upon which democracy and fascism alike have both founded themselves, has played out across vast global territories and, more importantly, has eviscerated the vital resources of each and every one of us. The conflicts of the world play themselves out at every register of existence, not only between nations or classes but in the competing engines of desire to which each individual is held accountable.
If we want to establish greater access to the inexhaustible potentials of life, we must destroy the prisons and the economic subordination of life – of speech, of attire, of spirituality, culinary arts, sexuality etc. – which have justified them. We revolt in order to say: we do not want to feel like foreigners to ourselves, so we do not recognize the “foreigners” you have produced with your borders, your laws, your prisons, your official discourse. The fundamental hyper-diversity of life and desire is the source of all adventure, the certainty of the capitalist monoculture – now reducing itself to a mere virtual phenomena – makes us want to puke.
The bridge to freedom passes over the ruins of the detention centers.
Jean Jiminez-Joseph and Atulkumar Babubhai Patel
Read writings by prisoners in revolt on the Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross Website