Filed under: Editorials, Political Prisoners, US
Originally posted to It’s Going Down
This morning Eric King was sentenced to 10 years after accepting a non-cooperating plea deal for one count of the “use of explosive materials to commit arson of property used in or affecting interstate commerce” (18 U.S.C. § 844[h]). Eric admitted to an attempted attack on the office of U.S. Congressional Representative Emmanuel Cleaver on September 11th, 2014.
From Eric’s Support Crew:
A number of people gathered together today and made it through the court’s security check to fill the rows with love and solidarity. Thank you to everyone who came out! Eric was in the best spirits one could anticipate considering the grim circumstances at hand. As always, he demonstrated the incredible balance of light-heartedness and serious commitment to his values that we have come to appreciate in him so much. He entered the courtroom smiling at supporters and signed “I love you,” to his partner, a gesture of affection that was quickly squashed by a US Marshall. Despite the shackles on his ankles and wrists, he was warmly animated throughout the proceeding, smiling and rolling his eyes at the more laughable court proceedings, and even flipping off the prosecutor. He also delivered a powerful sentencing statement to the court, refusing to back down. Not even the gravity of the moment could keep his spirit down or his words in check.
Putting into words the emotions we’re all feeling right now is difficult. There is a certain sense of relief in knowing that he will soon be transferred out of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) Leavenworth. CCA is notorious for abhorrent prison conditions, and Eric’s time there has consistently shown that infamous reputation to be well deserved. We do not expect his time in federal prison to be good, but hope that he will have a better chance of getting his basic needs met in that system than he was able to find in the for-profit, slave-holding facility in Leavenworth. While there is a feeling of closure in this chapter of Eric’s story, there is also a palpable rage as Eric has been stolen from us and will remain locked away for the next eight years.
Prior to imposing the sentence and conditions of release, Judge Fenner felt it necessary to announce to Eric and enter into the court record that Eric is “obviously a sick, deranged and dangerous person” with a “history of mental illness.” While there is always room for learning and growth every time a comrade is imprisoned, we refuse this narrative that Eric’s actions can be summed up as those of a deranged individual. We want to strongly counter this assertion of the state and remind those who hold power that resistance to and direct attacks against systems and structures of oppression is not a sign of mental illness nor delusion. In fact, in many cases these acts of resistance, large or small, are the most sound reaction one could take when faced with the daily horrors and brokenness that are imposed on us all. Eric expressed no regrets today in court and we continue to stand in solidarity with him.
While the state and media wish to portray Eric as a “mentally ill and deranged,” individual, as Judge Fenner stated prior to announcing the imposed sentence, it remains ever clear to those of us on the outside engaged in struggle that there is nothing ill nor deranged about a refusal to accept the conditions under which we all live. Eric took to action in Kansas City after participating in the initial uprising in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. The state has made it their goal to disconnect Eric’s case from the streets of Ferguson, so much so that Eric’s attorney made a statement today to the court to correct media rumors that the attempted arson was racially motivated and to clarify for the record that Eric is not a white supremacist. It seems clear that the state’s desire is to create distance and divide amongst those who share intersecting struggles.
We had the opportunity to speak briefly with one of the people from the support crew who has been working on Eric’s case since his initial kidnapping by the state. They had this to say:
Today was a hard day in many ways. This chapter of the story has come to a close for Eric, for his support crew and for his loved ones, but there is a new chapter in the story that will begin to unfold over the next eight years. I didn’t know Eric prior to his arrest and incarceration, but over the last nearly two years I have come to call him a friend. His strength and resolve has always remained unwavering, a quality that I hold admiration for. He has held strong to his convictions and never allowed the conditions of his incarceration, which have often times been horrific, to break his spirit.
Watching him in court today was both heartbreaking and heartening. I feel proud that he refuses to back down from the actions he chose to take, even while shackled in a courtroom surrounded by enemies he expressed no regrets. While his actions may not be those others would choose they are his and he owns them.
I also feel proud to say that this is an instance when prisoner support has made all the difference. When we first contacted Eric back in the fall of 2014 the state was threatening 30 years in prison, terrorism enhancements, supermax prison and Eric was ready to sign a plea deal for 15-20 years. By providing him support from the outside it gave him the strength necessary to advocate for himself and hold strong. While today feels heavy and the loss is certainly palpable, there is a victory in there to be found. I hope that this can be an example to others of why support is vital, how it impacts outcomes and that others will continue to dream impossible dreams knowing that someone will have their back.
While the court transcript will take a few weeks to become available, Eric did communicate a brief statement the night before his sentencing to be disseminated:
There have been so many people that interjected themselves in my life with the sole purpose of being there for me and limiting the state’s crushing effect. I don’t know what I would do without those people. From the smallest greeting to the big gestures, everything has meant so much to me. Prison support is a real tangible thing that people can do for each other. We cannot have a functioning radical community without it. So thanks to everyone who reached out to me, if we still talk or not, you have been awesome.
Now that said, I stand by my actions. After seeing what happened in Ferguson, so close down the road, I was disgusted by the lack of mobilization in my city. Three hours away people were fighting for their lives and we weren’t even taking to the streets. We were doing nothing. My act as a very personal display of my anger and rage toward the state as well as an act of solidarity to everyone in Ferguson. We never know our own strength until we are tested and even with my ridiculous sentence I feel at least proud to have been able to stand strong and refuse to cooperate with the state.
I am just really happy that I don’t have to take this alone and have so many amazing people standing next to me. Until all are free.
Thank you for your roles in my life and for your support.
You can keep updated on Eric’s upcoming transfer and new mailing address over at Support Eric King. You can also see further coverage on today’s court proceedings over at Unicorn Riot.