Filed under: Editorials, Incarceration, Police, Political Prisoners, Repression, US
Originally posted to It’s Going Down
This being the inaugural writing of our bi-monthly column here at It’s Going Down, we’re going to take a brief moment to fill y’all in on what you can expect to find in this space. As two anarchists who have long been immersed in movement defense work we find that the connection between what is happening on the inside of prison walls and what occurs on the outside is too often disconnected. We hope to highlight the connections, broadening all of our definitions of movement defense in regards to prisoner support and anti-repression work. You can expect to find a mashup of prisoner updates, repression news from across North America, and some analysis on both the connections and the general state of movements.
In the spirit of expanding our ideas about repression, we strive to open up new questions and dialogue about what it will look like to prepare and intensify our struggles. Since the uprisings in Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore, MD, and all the smaller ruptures over the last year, we think its fair to say that there is a consistent, low-level insurgency developing in the U.S., that we haven’t seen in the last 30 years. The pigs and the State have been looking at various populations of people as potential insurgents for decades. Its time we start seeing ourselves as such, and act accordingly.
“As two anarchists who have long been immersed in movement defense work we find that the connection between what is happening on the inside of prison walls and what occurs on the outside is too often disconnected.”
We know that the State tries to bring its hammer down inside prison walls, and it appears to be ramping things up on the outside as well. Folks who are newer to political struggles can be shocked or dismayed at the lengths the State will go to in attempting to keep back the crashing waves of revolt that have been sweeping the country. The more spectacular expressions of state repression, such as conspiracy charges, grand juries, and informants, have the effect of spreading paranoia amongst comrades and creating an atmosphere of distrust and fear that can deter new people from engaging.
Often times, as we have seen just in the last few years, heavy-handed crackdowns can have their drawbacks. Though many find themselves galvanized into joining struggles after the State appears to overstep its bounds. The contradiction of U.S. values of free speech and stormtroopers in riot gear become too obvious for even the most hardline fence sitters to continue to ignore.
Sometimes, its the less overt forms of repression, that come long before the big news headlines, tear gas, and drawn out court cases, that can do the most damage to our movements. Everyday policing and thinly veiled “investigations” of various communities have the effect of beating down the collective confidence of populations. It is no coincidence that these things intensified and have befallen poor communities of color alongside the rise of Black and Brown Power movements of the ’70s. When a community begins to see itself as a community-in-struggle, folks tend to get too uppity and its time to criminalize and harass them into submission.
Since the racist murder of 9 Black people in Charleston, SC, there have been sweeping direct actions against symbols of the Confederacy across the South. After Bree Newsome declared war on the rebel flag by scaling the flagpole on the Capitol grounds in SC, a flood of similar actions spread across the Southern U.S. and beyond. In Chesterfield, VA alone, just in a few weeks there were 2 confederate flags stolen from front porches and burned, garnering hyped-up coverage by local news outlets.
Confederate monuments across the region have been vandalized, some even hit multiple times, resulting in more news coverage than graffiti would typically garner. There has even been an occasionally trending hashtag, #noflagginchallenge, of people videotaping themselves stealing confederate flags from porches and the backs of trucks, sometimes in the middle of traffic. Aside from the unadulterated joy that comes from watching white middle america fly into a frenzy over what is essentially Bart Simpson-style antics, it is important to note the mainstream media’s coverage of these actions. At every opportunity, petty, political pranksterism becomes a reason to lock your doors at night, even without flying racist symbols outside your house.
After over 2,000 people attended an Anti-Klan counter-demonstration in Columbia, SC, the only arrests made were anti-racists, with almost comical media narratives making the pettiest of charges strike fear into the hearts of already fearful white people. Two of the arrestees, Eddien Patterson and Stephen Loughman, are requesting financial aid and other support. While Stephen’s charge of “Breach of Peace,” may seem insignificant, the media portrayal paints him as a random white hooligan with no clear anti-racist affiliations. This also serves to widen the distances between communities of color in struggle and potential white accomplices. Eddien has been portrayed as an ultra-violent Black man with no political analysis around race of his own, leaving him to only fit within a racist narrative of “gang bangers,” and “thugs.”
“The more spectacular expressions of state repression, such as conspiracy charges, grand juries, and informants, have the effect of spreading paranoia amongst comrades and creating an atmosphere of distrust and fear that can deter new people from engaging.”
While many of the actions described appear small, we don’t want to seem as if we aren’t elated at a new tradition of militancy re-surfacing across the country. This low-level but consistent attack on white supremacy sets the bar for how far future ruptures can go, legitimizing tactics in the popular imagination that previously were off the table except to the most militant political factions. Evidence of this is seen in the political landscape of the St. Louis area, forever changed by the events of last August.
On the anniversary of Mike Brown’s murder, thousands flooded the streets to mark his death and celebrate the uprising. Demonstrations and disruptive actions went off around the country, spilling over into the week after. Showing who they really are, the police tried to kill again that night, a shoot out erupting in the middle of the protests that details are still very fuzzy on, even from the protestor’s side. A state of emergency was declared as anger in the streets flared once again.
Then once more, 10 days later, on the anniversary of the police murder of the Kajeme Powell, police killed Mansur Ball-Bey. Media estimates anywhere from 100-150 people, mostly from the neighborhood engaged in the initial protest immediately following the shooting. Riot police quickly came in force, forming lines and beginning to push back against the crowd. Before too much time had passed, fires were lit and tear gas was deployed. A new tone is being set in St. Louis and Ferguson that has spread like a wildfire across the country.
Moving our attention back to what’s been going down on the inside, in the last two weeks of political prisoner news there have been some major losses. While many hearts are aching from the murder of Yogi Bear on August 12th, the resolve to fight against the state apparatuses that wish to destroy us can only grow stronger. With hearts heavy, but fists up, here is the last two weeks in North American political-prisoner news.
“This low-level but consistent attack on white supremacy sets the bar for how far future ruptures can go, legitimizing tactics in the popular imagination that previously were off the table except to the most militant political factions.”
Yogi Bear, aka Hugo Pinell, died under mysterious circumstances after having spent the majority of his 50 year imprisonment in solitary confinement. Yogi Bear died much as he lived, in struggle, as his death was during a uprising and riot within the prison. The details of his murder are still unclear and we can only imagine how little help CO’s and prison administration will be in providing answers. This Black August we remember not only the uprising at San Quentin more than 40 years ago, but we remember our fallen comrade. Rest in power, Yogi Bear.
There is a fundraising effort that has started with the goal of creating a public memorial for Yogi Bear. You can learn more and donate here.
On August 19th, Bomani Shakur (Keith Lamar) released a statement about the denial of his appeal to the Sixth Circuit United States Court of Appeals. At this point his case will go before the Ohio State Parole Board who will then set an execution date. Bomani released a brief statement this week that can be found at Lucasville Amnesty. While this news comes as yet another blow to those in struggle alongside Bomani, his head is up and heart is strong “It’s not over yet–and even if they succeed in murdering me, I won’t let that stop me from living my life NOW. I’m not going to unravel, or break down in a heap of sorrow.”
Eric King, anarchist prisoner awaiting trial in Leavenworth, Kansas released a new poem through his support crew this week. His support crew are currently raising funds to help with the bullshit costs of incarceration as well as travel funds for attendance to his trial coming up this Fall. With Eric’s recent return from solitary housing to general population, he now has greater access to recreation time and communications. Drop him a line of support at:
100 Highway Terrace
Leavenworth, KS 66048
Chelsea Manning, currently being held at Fort Leavenworth, was found guilty on allegations of prison infractions. Apparently having expired toothpaste and LGBTQ publications is a no-no in military prisons. But, no bigs if the prison commissary is actually the purveyor of the expired toothpaste contraband. Chelsea was being threatened with solitary confinement, but instead received restricted access to recreation time for 21 days. While this is certainly better news than indefinite solitary confinement, it isn’t without possible long term ramifications as Chelsea reminded folks in her recent statement: “Now these convictions will follow me thru to any parole/clemency hearing forever. Was expecting to be in min custody in Feb, now years added.” Chelsea also has a current fundraising effort to gather legal fees for her appeal. Find out more about donating or instructions for writing Chelsea here.
Abdullah Majid, New York state political prisoner, is currently launching a campaign around his parole. He is in need of financial support during his parole process as hiring legal representation and an investigator is an expensive endeavor. You can make donations to:
Abdullah Majid Freedom Campaign
Post Office Box 1274
Bronx, New York 10467
‘Krow,’ aka Katie Kloth, is also in need of legal defense funds. There is a fundraising site that breaks down Krow’s wishes of how donations are being split between their own legal fees and some radical projects. Remember though, even when you don’t have the funds to donate, a letter of support is of massive importance! So write Krow a letter:
300 Taconite Street
Hurley, WI 54534
All letters must be addressed to Katie Kloth (not Krow Kloth) or they will not be received.
Brandon Baxter of the Cleveland 4 has been in SHU since June after having been assaulted by a correctional officer for having called out the CO’s for their negligence in handling a sexual assault of one inmate by another. It is unclear how long Brandon will be housed in SHU, but several more months are expected. SHU is torturous and your letters of support are vital during this time. Send Brandon some love and soli at:
P.O. BOX 5010
Michael Kimble, a black gay anarchist, currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a white, homophobic and racist asshole. Michael, wo has served 28 years to date, is up for parole this December and needs support in this process! Letters, petitions and phone calls of support are requested. You can find all the details to support Michael over here.
That’s the roundup for this edition. Until next time, keep those fires burning and the insurgency rising.
– Your friendly career bad kids