Filed under: Action, Communique, Incarceration, Maritimes
Anarchists in so-called Nova Scotia detail a noise demonstration in solidarity with the prison strike on September 9th.
On the evening of Sunday, September 9, 2018, a group of anarchists and prison abolitionists marched onto the premises of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (more commonly known as the Burnside jail) to communicate a message of love and solidarity to the prisoners inside. September 9th was the last day of the Black August North prisoner strike organized by people on the inside, which had started three weeks earlier. The initial prisoner statement and strike demands are outlined here. Their statement at the end of the strike is found here.
The strike started on August 21, the 47th anniversary of George Jackson’s death in 1971, and ended on September 9, the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in the same year.
Our group first approached the women’s wing, which is where we turned on our sound system, unfurled our banners, started lighting fireworks, and began chanting as loud as we could. They responded by banging on the windows. We did not stay too long before we marched further to the men’s wing where strike organizers were locked up. We were there for about twenty minutes. We showed them a grand fireworks display, and some participants climbed up the fence, either to wave to people inside or tie flowers to the uppermost chain links.
Here are some of the things we chanted:
“Burnside Jail to Collins Bay, fighting back is the only way.”
“They can take our lives away, but not our dignity! Our hearts will pound against these walls until we all are free!”
“Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons!”
Our banners read: “Prison is Revolting” and “Against Prison”
At moments when we stopped making noise, we were able to hear rhythmic banging on the windows. Some prisoners waved, and others flicked the lights on and off in their cells. At one point, the chant of “You are not alone” was taken up spontaneously in our group (it wasn’t on our chant sheet), and that turned into an especially powerful moment of connection and tears. Eventually, we ran out of fireworks, and so we waved goodbye and left the way we came in.
It was as we were approaching the women’s wing again, with the intention of communicating to those prisoners for a little while longer before calling it a night, that a Halifax PD paddy wagon arrived. The vehicle screeched to a halt 20 or so feet from us, and two cops came out and charged us. What followed was a short scuffle in which the cops laid hands on several people, many people were pepper sprayed, and one person was brought to the ground and put in handcuffs. A third cop jumped out of the back of the van with a dog, which was used to intimidate and clear away the crowd. Though the presence of a trained-to-be-vicious and unpredictable-seeming police dog did cause our group to back up, we continued to yell at the pigs together and stayed tight. It was clear to us that the cops were intimidated by our collective rage and defiance.
What we were doing on September 9th was, of course, an effort to confront prison by connecting with the prisoners inside and showing our solidarity with their struggle. It was not planned as a combative action, we were not prepared for a fight. Based on our collective experience of attending dozens of previous noise demos outside jails in so-called canada, we did not predict such an immediately escalated response from the police. At the very least, we expected to be told to leave before being attacked and having a friend put in handcuffs. It’s not at all surprising, though, that Halifax cops would respond to our demonstration with aggression. That’s what cops do.
In the words of the Burnside jail prisoners, from their statement at the end of the strike:
“To the protestors who came right down through the woods to the back of the jail, risking their freedom to stand in solidarity with us, you gave us the most liberating feeling. We want you to know, we could hear you, and we believe you: we are not alone. Thank you. We love you, and are grateful to have you by our sides.”
This demonstration fully achieved what we set out to do – express our love and solidarity with those locked up, connecting despite the seemingly impenetrable prison walls. Our experiences strengthen our resolve to act in solidarity with those struggling against the cruelty of prison. The police response strengthens our rage against them, and against all State institutions of social control and criminalization.
– some anarchists