Filed under: Action, Immigration, Repression, Southeast
Report on repression of a group of anti-ICE activists who have been re-arrested on new felony charges, following an anti-ICE demonstration in December of 2019 against the GEO Group.
WEST PALM BEACH, FL – The first arrest came suddenly, while activist Alexis Butler was relaxing Friday evening at her Dania Beach home. Butler answered a knock at the door and was met by the Broward County Sheriff Department. Witnesses state that BSO told Butler they were responding to a 911 call from her cell phone number and asked to come inside the house. Butler affirms no such call was made, and thought she might have been “SWATed,” a cruel and illegal practice by which someone anonymously calls in a false emergency to another person’s residence.
When Butler refused their entry, officers stepped through the threshold and forcefully pulled her outside. Butler’s partner says it was then that police stated they were acting on an arrest warrant and refused to show the digital warrant to Butler or her partner when asked. The conditions surrounding Butler’s arrest are disturbing, not only to her loved ones, but to the other eight activists, making up the GEO9, who were also arrested the same day.
— IWOC Gainesville (@iwoc_gnv) February 11, 2020
On the morning of December 3rd, while protesting outside GEO’s main headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, and citing GEO’s extensive history of human rights abuse in their facilities, their continued profit from mass incarceration, and their involvement in supplying detention camps for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), eight nonviolent protesters were arrested. A ninth protester was arrested on the sidewalk, outside of police barricades, for using a megaphone.
All nine activists were released on their own recognizance the evening of the third, and given charges of misdemeanor trespassing. Six of the nine protesters were preparing for their scheduled court appearance against GEO on February 11th, when they got the news of Butler’s arrest, and the addition of possible felony charges. Now the rest of the GEO9 fear that they too may be facing similar charges to Butler, and have to be ready to be arrested straight from their hearing at Palm Beach County Courthouse.
— IWOC Gainesville (@iwoc_gnv) February 11, 2020
Community members organized a solidarity rally against GEO Group on Tuesday morning outside the Palm Beach County Courthouse, in West Palm Beach. Solidarity may be an important tool for activists facing the corporate behemoth that is GEO Group. With a net-worth of over 2 Billion dollars, GEO has its tendrils in every aspect of the Palm Beach, and Broward County correctional systems, so the assumption that GEO could directly influence the fate of the GEO9 protesters is more than speculative.
Alexis Butler was finally released from jail after three days on Monday, in what activists are calling an intentional move from law enforcement, Butler has a hold on her transfer to general population, which means she has been excluded from many of the regular rights allotted to detainees, some as simple as a bed. Through phone calls to her lawyer and outside support, Butler has reported what she says is obvious mistreatment, and out and out cruelty regarding herself and her case – but also other incarcerated people at the Broward Main Jail.
Anti-ICE blockade this morning shut down the corporate headquarters of the @GeoGroup in #Florida for their continued role in mass detention and ongoing horrific conditions inside private prisons. #AbolishICE #NeverAgain https://t.co/aKKYkshJOn
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) December 3, 2019
“There is no lights out.” says Butler, who has not slept since her arrest. “We are given just a mat on the floor to sleep on.” Butler, who is a vegetarian, says she was allowed by one guard to keep a packet of peanut butter, given out at meal time, since she could not eat the other meals, but hours later a second guard told her it was considered contraband. When Butler asked to file a grievance, the same guard refused her request and placed her in isolation for the following 14 hours without food or water. On the phone, Butler has said she witnessed guards publicly mocking a female inmate who asked for sanitary pads, forcing her to prove that she had bled through her pants.
The conditions in the Broward Main Jail are a bleak microcosm representing the larger crisis of the American prison system. The circumstances of abuse Butler and other inmates have faced over the last three days may be a civil rights violation, but they are not unique. GEO has been publicly facing allegations of human rights abuse as far back as 2005, yet their annual profits have risen, unhindered by consequence.
On Friday, February 7th, police re-arrested #GEO9 protester Alexis Butler and are charging her with 3 new felonies relating to the shutdown of the GEO Group headquarters last December. Please help us raise bail funds as well as ongoing legal expenses for the GEO9. pic.twitter.com/4HHwcHRO9E
— Palm Beach County DSA (@PalmBeachDSA) February 10, 2020
In an attempt to maintain their grasp of a twisted narrative that paints this multi-billion dollar company as a victim, GEO continues to press for more severe charges for the nine nonviolent-protesters who opposed them on December 3rd.
Protesters and allied groups are desperately fundraising in a race against time for defense costs, and a host of other fees associated with this on-going legal battle. The GEO9 are hoping that Tuesday’s support rally will lend the safety of visibility to their cause, should they be arrested on the spot, without being allowed to attend their court date.
Update February 11th:
The community went out in solidarity to support our GEO9 comrades at the Geo is Guilty Rally and Court Support for their West Palm Beach court trial this morning.
Six of the GEO9 have been re-arrested on felony charges but all are expected to be bonded out today. One comrade so far has been bonded out. The charges are expensive and we need everyone to continue spreading the word so that we can cover escalating legal fees. Thank you to everyone who has spread the link and donated! 100% of the funds go directly to our comrades to get them out of jail and to support the fight for prison abolition.
Here’s hope to a future world without prisons! Solidarity to the GEO9!
Fundraising Link: https://www.everribbon.com/ribbon/view/74891…