When you or your crew get pinched and have to appear before a judge, it feels like there’s nothing left to do but observe the railroading you’re about to receive. But that doesn’t have to be the case for your legal case. Court support is the tops when you feel you’re staring down a hopeless bottomless pit and the only thing staring back is the shell of a human that wants to suck out your soul and send you to prison. Court support must be a principle of solidarity.
A recently published book by long-term legal support organizers, Tilted Scales Collective, can be summed up in a quick paragraph:
As a political defendant, you will be dealing with the criminal legal system on its own turf. The political level of your situation includes largely unfathomable technicalities and procedures that are designed to disempower you and make it necessary to hire an expert (i.e., a lawyer). You can also approach your predicament on a political level, which may be more familiar ground to you and your supporters. A political defense may be less limited by the court’s rules, ranging from complete disregard of those rules to calculated rebellions against the court’s authority while attempting not to jeopardize your case entirely. Regardless of the balance you strike between political and legal defenses, you will also need to think about the personal level: what you want to achieve and what you are willing to endure.
The courts know solidarity among criminals is the antithesis to their work and they fear it. Ninety-four percent of state convictions are the result of plea deals—ninety-seven percent for federal convictions. A “fair trial” is a myth anywhere in the United States court system.
The Fraternal Order of Police overwhelmingly endorsed Trump as a candidate, and this is just one election cycle removed from 2012 when they refused to endorse either Romney or Obama—the first time the organization ever withheld an endorsement. Trump blew all the right dog whistles to trigger the state’s monopoly on violence into a mess of foaming, rabid mouths. In response, the cops and courts are criminalizing any dissent and tacking on huge charges far outweighing any alleged crime, and attempting to salt the path of any court support.
In Omaha, Nebraska, on the wide open prairies away from whatever might remain of an adversarial press, the Douglas County prosecutor, Matt Kuhse, is trying to game this thirst, and this fear, by making it a condition of a plea bargain that the large support network of the half dozen people arrested in March for blowing air horns and banging drums at a pro-Trump MAGA rally not be allowed in an open court. Prosecutor Matt has nothing more than his own fear to use as wedge to drive between people due to a lack of evidence of criminal activity. The goal is to force people to self-ostracize from (post)-leftist organizing; to break networks and tower over the wreckage like a tiny god-emperor.
As anarchists we walk everywhere with the knowledge that the state surveils and criminalizes dissent down to the smallest act. Anarchism is sedition to every government and every form of coercion, and they fear publicly acknowledging this tacit agreement. As anarchists in solidarity with the criminal class, we seal that agreement with every step, hoping the next leads to the liberation of all peoples as we tear down prisons and jails brick by heavy brick, and with it, the crushing defeat of those that stand in the way. You know who you are, you capitalists; you politicians; you cops; you rapists; you soldiers; you white nationalists; you prison guards; you landlords; you shitty tippers; you dog kickers; you prosecutors and accomplices. All yall fascists bound to lose.
Over 200 people arrested during Trump’s inauguration are now each facing more than 70 years in prison because they were in the vague vicinity of a broken window. In the months since their arrests, the prosecution has continued piling blanket felony charges on the defendants, including journalists. This is punitive charging: the intention is clearly to terrorize the defendants into taking plea deals so that these inflated charges never come to a show trial.
This is not even the first time this century vast conspiracy charges were used to harass and intimidate protesters tossed in the US court system. The RNC Welcoming Committee helped to organize massive demonstrations during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. In retaliation, police raided several homes and arrested eight organizers, charging them with “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism.” After two years of widely publicized struggle, all charges were dropped against three of the defendants, while the others plead to misdemeanors. The FBI used informants like Brandon Darby, previously known to anarchist organizers, as tools in their repression attempts.
It isn’t only protestors at electoral spectacles either, in instances with far more serious implications, prosecutors are using the same strategy to terrorize people arrested defending Standing Rock in 2016, in hopes of bullying them into accepting guilty pleas. More than six hundred defendants are facing these charges. Residents of Ferguson, MO like Joshua Williams and Steve Martin are serving a decade in prison for defense of their home, while others with high profiles are tracked and executed by cops. The same repeated in Baltimore. Donta Betts got 15 years for arson, and Allan Bullock was facing a life sentence for rioting and vandalism of a cop car, but after court support pressure, he received 6 months and 5 years probation. However, after missing meetings with the probation office and court, he was arrested for probation violation and sentenced to over 7 years in prison.
Court support is one of our last weapons against the bulldozer that is the prison-industrial complex dead-set on disappearing any dissent into a violent little cage. Keep each other safe so we can live dangerously together.