Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Featured, Incarceration, June 11th, Political Prisoners
Welcome to the 2018 June 11th International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason and all long-term anarchist prisoners interview series! With these interviews we seek to keep alive the recent histories of repression, resistance, and prisoner solidarity. To better know the prisoners we support, to grapple with some of the challenges of prisoner solidarity, to learn from and support each other across generations, struggles, borders, and ideologies.
Last year we spoke with Sean Swain, Josh Harper, Daniel McGowen, supporters of Eric King, the Cleveland 4, and both Joseph Buddenburg and Nicole Kissane. Those can be found under the resources tab in the 2017 section at June11.org. They turned out so amazing and moving. They turned out so amazing and we really encourage everyone to check them out if they haven’t yet!
That brings us to 2018.
The theme for June 11th this year is how to maintain the long-term movements and commitments that are necessary for supporting our comrades both 7, 10 years and in turn be regenerating and nourishing to us in our struggles. We hope through y’alls engagement with June 11th events, writing, music, actions and these interviews, we can really dig into these questions.
So with all of our guests this year, we’ll be discussing those concepts that as well as their own stories, their passions, and their work. First we have with us Panagioti from Fight Toxic Prisons, or FTP as it’s often been affectionately referred to, which is “organizing resistance at the intersection of mass incarceration and the environment.” One of the main ways they do this is holding a major convergence every year right around June 11th. And those connections is really important because of the history of June 11th beginning with solidarity for eco prisoner Jeff Leurs in 2004, and then after Jeff’s release eco-anarchists Marius Mason and Eric McDavid.
Eric of course was released in 2015, but Marius remains a primary focus for June 11th. The Fight Toxic Prisons convergence started in DC in 2016, moved to Texas in 2017, where Marius is currently held in federal prison, and is coming to Pittsburgh later this year.
June 11th: Did I get all that right? Can you tell us more about how FTP got started and why this focus on the intersection of prisons and the environment?
Panagioti: So the focus of looking at prisons and the environment – I think that looking at the organizing around June 11th is a big part of what led to this organizing and this idea of having an annual convergence and building a movement that looked at the intersections of incarceration and environmental impact. I think that some of the prisoners you listed in the introduction have seen these things first hand and I think that we’ve learned largely from prisoners that have come largely from the environmental movement and have seen first hand what’s happening on the inside, as well as social prisoners who’ve been in for decades and watched the development of mass incarceration build up in this country. For example, Eric McDavid was at FCI Victorville which is on a military base surrounded by superfund sites; Daniel McGowen was held at Marion, a federal prison that’s also a military base and also a notoriously contaminated site known as Crab Orchard; and Marius Mason at the moment is still at FMC Carswell, a military base that’s been contaminated for years. Also, Jeremy Hammond is on a prison site that was until last year a former coal mine in Eastern Kentucky.
So these are just some examples of prisoners who have also experienced and seen environmental contamination. We’ve heard from prisoners after starting up the mid-June convergence we’ve been hosting for three years now. We started hearing from other prisoners’ issues of water contamination, problems with black mold, sewage leaks inside the prisons, and that was a big inspiration for trying to build more momentum and not just have a one-off convergence or action on this issue.
June 11th: As I mentioned y’all went down to Texas last year and concluded that convergence with a noise demo at Carswell where Marius is. I assume most people listening to this know who Marius is, but if you want to talk about him and Carswell, which is a notoriously shitty facility and y’all’s choice to focus on that last year.
P: Yeah, so I think people who’ve known of Marius’ case or knew Marius personally from years of previous to his incarceration, I think it meant a lot to be geographically close and get to see the facility he’s locked up in and also hear from other prisoners that are in there currently or have been in there in the past. We were able to make connections with other political prisoners who were held in the administrative unit. Like the Aafia Siddiqui and members of her support committee who came out and spoke about the conditions and situations that led to her incarceration. We also highlighted some of the series of reports that have come out. FMC Carswell is a medical facility. The ACLU did a report called “hospital horror” about the long legacy of medical neglect and mistreatment that’s occurred there. So it was good, to highlight the prison and to be there to see for ourselves.
The noise demo that occurred afterwards I think exceeded most people’s expectations – especially for those of us who’ve been to a number of prison noise demos where it’s hard to tell if anyone can hear or to know if you’re being noticed out there. In this case they had prisoners walking back and forth across the yard, who were able to shout back and forth to each other. Those people are in the same notoriously bad, contaminated, abusive prison. and that message was spreading throughout the facility where our friend and comrade is locked up. I think that meant a lot to me and I know that meant a lot to those who weren’t there to see, including those from Marius’ support committee and from his family.
One of the other perks of having it at Carswell was that we were able to assist in visitation with Marius’ daughter and attorney who came to the convergence and spoke and also have that point of connection and to build over the long term the legacy of organizing with prisoners and their family members. So Arianna spoke on a panel with a niece of Leonard Peltier, and drawing the connections between these two cases, seemingly disparate cases, people whose incarceration was decades apart, but have this commonality of having family members on the outside that are left trying to hold things together and explain and support their loved one on the inside. These are a couple of things about the Carswell gathering (the Texas gathering and the demonstration at Carswell).
J11: Are there any updates on the Move Marius campaign or other campaigns against Carswell?
P: Well I think most people know that Marius was moved out of administrative segregation after seven years of a fight to have that happen. I think people also know that Marius has been involved in one of the most active and visible campaigns around supporting transgender people in female federal facilities – one of the first individuals to push the federal system to recognize them, although the actual manifestation of that is moving slowly in regards to legal name change and getting access to medicine and treatment (hormone therapy), but that’s an ongoing struggle and legal struggle and a struggle that deserves political support. That deserves pressure that’s moving at a slow pace.
The other updates that I’ve heard are that with Marius in general population he has access to a lot more of the minimal level of programs and activities that are available and he is staying busy and appreciative of ongoing support knowing that the years pass by and it gets more and more difficult to maintain that [support] with people that have different paths and priorities in their lives. So those of us who continue to do this kind of support work are always appreciated increasingly as the years go on.
J11: In other good news. I heard recently that after initially denying prisoners to organize a transgender support group at Carswell, they recently agree to let them do that and decided it wasn’t a threat to the facility. So another project that y’all have been working on for over three years is resistance to this proposed new federal prison USP Letcher in Letcher County, Kentucky. I understand there was recently some bad news around that – there was some indications that the government might be moving forward with trying to get this prison built. Can you tell us about USP Letcher, the environmental impacts it would have, the organizing that’s been done around it, and where things stand now?
P: Yeah there has been some significant news after the three and a half years of holding the prison at bay with the environmental impact statement and dragging it through that process of bureaucracy, what we call “paper wrenching” (filing comments and challenges to the environmental permitting).
We actually just got news two or three weeks ago that the Environmental Impact Statement was signed, with what they call a “Record of Decision,” so they’re able to move onto the next step which they’ve stated is acquisition of the land. Which doesn’t mean they’re going to break ground tomorrow, but they are intending on attempting to move forward. But it didn’t happen smoothly, and like I said it took over three years and in doing so I think they’ve lost a lot of faith even internally from their own power structure. About mid-last year the Department of Justice released a statement that it doesn’t actually even need this prison, based on its own assessments, demographics, and statistics – that it specifically thought to rescind the money, $440 million, to put back into the budget because it could not justify Bureau of Prisons’ own need for this prison. And so of course we have different reasons for opposing the prison, not what the BOP and Department of Justice say, but we do view that as a sign that there are internal fractures and cracks and there is not a uniform position around wanting to build this prison, and we think that’s a good ground to fight from.
So there are organizations who are gearing up for possible litigation, both from an angle of prisoners who were not properly informed and able to engage in a process as well as local impacted people in Letcher County who are opposed to the prison. So the resistance to the prison is moving forward, and we’ll be hearing more about that. The convergence in Pittsburgh was in part wanting to build motivation and movement in that part of that region of central northern Appalachia, where the ongoing opposition is going to need to come from. Letcher County is a small community and there is a very strong, vocal opposition to the prison but this is not just a local issue and I think the need to build regional and national moment is still very much present.
J11: Are there any other upcoming campaigns or actions around resistance to USP Letcher that we should keep an eye out for?
P: I would keep an eye out for more likely after the convergence, but this summer I think you’ll be seeing more. The Earth First! Rendezvous is happening the first week of July, in Southeast Ohio, so geographically that’s also one of the closer areas to this remote proposed prison and so there’ll be momentum building around that. Earth First! is of course one of the main networks in movements that inspired this organizing so we’ll be continuing to build that support there and we’ll see where things go if they actually do move forward with any sort of ground work. Although we don’t believe that’s going to happen quickly, we think it could – there could be some sort of forward progress and in that case we want to be prepared to escalate opposition if we see they’re actually starting to break ground in anyway this summer.
J11: So I’m sure that there’s so many ways that this manifests, but do you have other examples of the ways that prisons are both toxic to both the prisoners that are inside of them and the land and communities that they’re built upon?
P: Yeah, for sure! We’ve seen examples all over the country and we’ve been gathering documentation both in the form of public letters requests and letters from prisoners as well as news outlets (the media exposés) and so you know it’s a long list and it could be a really long conversation, but to highlight a few that are maybe more current and pressing:
We just in the last few weeks heard updates from prisoners in Massachusetts at MCI Norfolk where over a year of intensified pressure around contaminated water at the maximum security prison there led to a hunger strike by one of the most active prisoners in the facility. When he was attempting to organize an independent distribution of bottled water to other prisoners there he was retaliated against and sent to the hole. In response he went on hunger strike. They were able to resolve some of his demands within the week and so the hunger strike ended, but it did force the situation to be highlighted and the Boston Globe picked up the story and hundreds of thousands of people heard about this story which otherwise stays behind closed doors. Actually there’s a handful of similar situations where water quality impacts or quantity, in some cases have turned the water off in prisons because of problems with the water supply. Basically infrastructure problems with trying to maintain giant warehouses full of caged human beings, human being problems of water and sewage and I think that’s another good example to prisoners actually responding and getting attention. There was an uprising at a state prison as a result of punitive water turn-off because prisoners were active and there was some conflict within the prison. The prison guards attempted to turn off their water as punishment and in response an uprising broke out and people were able to get up onto the roof of the prison and take over unit for, I think this was a couple of days before it was suppressed.
In Pennsylvania and Texas there’s been these kind of parallel water contamination issues being challenged by jailhouse lawyers and some prisoners like Malik Washington at Eastham. It’s an administrative segregation unit. He was thrown in there after organizing at the other Texas prisons, especially surrounding the September 2016 uprisings nationally (the Attica anniversary) and so Malik Washington has been organizing publicly around the water quality at Eastham and several other units. I would check out what he’s been up to and also some of his writings. The Earth First! Journal recently published an article of his about the industrial slaughterhouse prison labor operations that’s got a lot of good insight on the overlapping intersections between animal liberation, the environment, and the prison system.
Also in Pennsylvania Bryant Arroyo has got around a year running of jailhouse lawyer challenges and that’s been inspiring to see. Bryant’s an active longstanding prisoner. Mumia Abu-Jamal called him a “jailhouse environmentalist,” and he’s kind of coined that term. Building off of jailhouse lawyer movement where he’s been organizing several prison facilities in Pennsylvania. He was another one of the big motivations to come to Pennsylvania with the convergence this year.
J11: So while y’all are working on these projects and having convergences all over the country, you’re also involved with some really remarkable local organizing with prisoners in the Florida Department of Corrections. I’m thinking primarily about the prison strike in the fall of 2016 that you mentioned, and Operation PUSH which started in January of this year. Can you start by telling us about what organizing in Florida looked like before, during, and after the prison strike?
P: Yeah! To be honest I didn’t have a lot of local involvement with prisoner organizing before the prisoner strikes in 2016. I’ve been in touch with other people, and I’ve worked at Prison Legal News for a time, and so I was following prisoner-related organizing in that position and specifically I was working on some issues with censorship in prisons. For example Prison Legal News has a blanket ban against any prisoners receiving the magazine. Earth First! Journal had been censored in several prisons and state institutions and also there was some other issues sort of arising out of extreme cases of abuse where there had been organizing. But to the involvement with mass prisoner communication was not something I had personally been involved in. So when we sent in a mailer from the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, letting people know about a solidarity demonstration we had planned, which was going to occur at Coleman, the federal prison in Florida, we didn’t expect such a massive response and we were also among other people in the country who were surprised when Florida was the first prison to go off on September 7th. The Holmes Correctional Institution, which is one of the panhandle prisons, was one of the first places and I think that one of the more remarkable and ambitious rebellions that happened surrounding the Attica anniversary.
And then after that, we counted at least nine other institutions that had some level of participation, four of which were classified by the DOC as “major disturbances.” Mostly prisoners refusing to go to chow or work assignments and then facing brutal repression as a result of that. We sent a letter out asking to get first hand experiences of what it looked like, and several of the letters pointed back to outreach that prisoners had gotten from mailings we had sent letting them know there’s a protest on the outside. Not even at a state facility but that it was in conjunction with a broader, national call to action, and it was kind of a good wake up for us that prison systems like this in Florida, notoriously brutal and repressive prison conditions, some of the worst in the country.
So the opportunity to hear the knowledge that people were paying attention on the outside was a huge piece of prisoners having the courage and confidence to stand up and participate in something like this. I think it surprised the DOC as well. We built on that. We published some of the letters the prisoners had sent and sent them back into the prisons to let people know what had happened on the inside. At least a glimpse of what other prisoners were experiencing, and it was very well received by prisoners. It was received with less enthusiasm from the administration. And they banned the publication. It was called Plantation Rising. We printed 5,000 of them and sent about a quarter of those into prisons, both in Florida and elsewhere, and the rest we sent all over the country. And used in Florida specifically to connect with people on the outside and build support for some of the prisoners who engaged in activity or faced retaliation for activities surrounding September 2016 uprisings. So after that, people I think learned about the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons and heard what we were up to and we developed a mailing list around that and Operation PUSH I think came in in that context. In between then there was also the August 19th organizing around Black August that had national participation and also in Florida was a pretty big deal. Most of the entire state of Florida’s prison system went on lockdown for that weekend in fear of what happened from September of the previous year.
J11: While there are issues with inside/outside communication all over the place during the strike, put on lockdown, prisoners were put in seg, and communication was cut off in any number of ways. It seemed to me there was more info getting out of FDOC than in a lot of other places. So what was y’all’s experience with that? Did you learn anything or develop any strategies that helped you keep in touch with people even during times of repression and retaliation?
P: I think really persistence is a huge piece of it. Continuing to write and to send, in our experience, large quantities of mail in because although we have developed individual relationships and we’ve built on those, we’ve found that any time mail could be censored or delayed indefinitely. So what we’ve found was that the more of it we sent in, the more response that we got. And so trying new facilities and reaching out has been successful. And it’s a mixed level of success you know? Like in January, now after two years of developing a reputation amongst prisoners and amongst administration we’ve found that the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, while we haven’t confirmed it on paperwork, it has been rumored to be listed as a “security threat group,” which is similar to the gang designations that a lot of other prisoner organizing ends up getting thrown into. It provides an easy way for the administration to censor and retaliate against prisoners. So we’ve been dealing with that, but we have found that consistently sending in mail, coordinating with other organizations to build mailing lists (prisoner books groups or even religious that have some level of concern for social justice and solidarity between inside/outside organizing). So you know, coordinating with those different groups who may have different perspectives or different priorities, but also view the value in maintaining connection.
And also following up. We did a lot of…probably “damage control” is the word. A lot of people experience retaliation just because of the mail they received from us. Some of those people didn’t request the mail, but we added them to the mailing list anyways, and we learned that it means a lot that if you find out that prisoners are thrown in solitary because of the mail that you sent that following up and putting pressure on the administration is important for them to know that people are out there and not forgetting about them or throwing them under the bus. And that’s a big responsibility and an ongoing lesson that we have to learn how to deal with.
J11: Yeah that’s a thing that was coming up for me while you were talking, is I like the idea of going for volume and reaching out to lots of prisoners, but I do worry about the effect it can have if somebody hasn’t agreed to be on a mailing list or what have you, to send them things about organizing on the outside or something coming from this group that is labeled as a “security threat” – the kind of risk that kind of puts them in. And so I feel like that’s a thing that lots of people are trying to do, is like how to balance those concerns and those interests?
P: Those [concerns] are true and I’d love to hear from other people about how they are dealing with it. Here, one of the things that developed out of the Operation PUSH prisoner strike, which was called by prisoners, and the intention was to be statewide. Largely it resulted in retaliation that effectively had a significant impact on the prison system, though a different impact than a strike, but we’re still kind of calculating the amount of pressure that was built and in some ways, calculating it by the repression. Like now we’re seeing this massive threat to visitation and really persistent shake downs for cell phone communication. People with cell phones, hundreds of cell phones have been confiscated in Florida prisons following the prisoner’s strike that was launched in January. And the visitation cuts that are proposed would cut visitation more than half than it currently is. It’s already only on the weekends, the cut would cut it to every other weekend, or limited to possibly only two hours per day. So that’s a major blow.
But it also is an indication that Florida Department of Corrections is really feeling a threat in the communication between people on the outside, and people on the inside. And I think the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons is really one small piece of that. A lot of the organizing that’s been really effective is among prisoners and their own family members who have engaged in challenging the prison system through the grievance process. That tends to usually be a failure, but it’s a starting point and there’ve been some pretty massive complaints and lawsuits by prisoners and their family members that have been successful in the state so I think that’s also what they’re looking to reduce or minimize is the communication, so it that has that effect.
J11: You’ve been talking about Operation PUSH, which is a prisoner-led, statewide strike initiative with the logic of “slow and steady processes of economic impact through non-participation.” While a lot of framing was about prison slavery, prisoners are also demanding an end to price gouging and the full reinstatement of parole. Operation PUSH ended up having participation in 17 correctional facilities I believe, outside solidarity demonstrations across the state, and over 150 organizations signing on for support. FTP as well as Gainesville IWOC seem to be two really important groups drawing attention to that operation and supporting those inside. Can you tell us more about Operation PUSH and what y’all learned from that initiative? You already spoke to some of the outcomes, is there any ongoing resistance or retaliation?
P: We’ve been tracking prisoners that have been sent to solitary or relocated to other facilities as a result of the Operation PUSH call, and the dozens that we’ve direct correspondence with, but we think in the hundreds, maybe thousands, of prisoners who were relocated either as a result either in anticipation or in response to things that had happened over the last two months. There’s been several disturbances that we’re still waiting for public records requests responses on to try and find out the actual extent of them. The Columbia CI Annex there was a claim of a disturbance of some sort. It was the one month anniversary of Operation PUSH kicking off, but we don’t know the exact details aside from the claim that several prison guards were sent to the hospital. They claimed also that no prisoners were injured, which is, as most people who’ve ever paid attention to prisons, we know is almost definitely a lie. And so we’re still trying to find out what lead to and what followed that uprising in Columbia CI on February 15th. And on March 7th at Gulf CI, there was another disturbance listed by the Department of Corrections, and mostly they just announce these things as excuses to cancel visitation or put facilities on lockdown, and they’re forced to disclose that publicly because it effects their schedule of visitation. So these are things that we are battling back and forth over whether they’re going to release the records. Well, they have videos and photos that show the incident, what occurred and how it occurred, so these are just some examples.
Those are prisons where we have heard of activity and momentum building and we don’t know what the actual impact of these events in the last two months were, but we think we’ll find out – it could be months to have the public records request actually honored. It could be a lawsuit that forces it. So we don’t know the outcome of that yet but we have been tracking things like that. We’ve also been providing mailing lists of prisoners that, while we don’t yet know their involvement and we’ve been maintaining and supporting anonymity of prisoners, we have lists of Florida prisoners who have expressed that they want to receive mail, and so we shared those lists with other activist organizations and letter writing efforts and we’ve distributed those to groups all over the country to generate letters of support, to generalize support for prisoners facing retaliation, as a result of Operation PUSH. That’s one of the other things that we’ve been doing in the aftermath.
J11: Another issue that had come up in Florida recently, as you mentioned, is this attempt to severely restrict in person and contact visits, and replace them with video visits, often via tablet. Many facilities are introducing tablets, which sounds to some like a luxury, but really serves to further monetize, isolate, and very strictly route so many operations of the prisons into this little device. For example I’ve heard of some places no longer have physical law libraries, but just an app that you log into on a tablet. And most things you have to pay for on the tablet by the minute. It’s not accessible or luxurious. And one thing we’ve been thinking about around June 11th and long-term prisoner support is the necessity of real human relationships between people on the outside, and comrades on the inside. While not always possible, in person visits, just getting to hug each other, is such an important part of building that connection. What’s the situation with visitation in FDOC right now and what do you think about the importance of building those relationships both inside and out?
P: Well it’s been a major focus of most prisoner-related activities around the state in the last two months and as an organization that’s focused largely on environmental health, we view human contact as a basic human right, but also as an environmental justice issue and humans are also species and that connection with our families and communities is a fundamental part of life, of our biology, and we want to bring that front and center. And because you guys, especially with the June 11th framing and looking at the history of June 11th being connected to a lot of environmental anarchists organizing and biocentric perspectives, we think prisons represent in many ways the worst of what industrial society has to offer and basic connections to community and in person visitation, I think really highlight that. And I think it’s important that people who have a deep critique of this society look at this and build with other people who were seeing this, in some ways unveiling how ugly and how deep this system impacts the earth and the people and animals that live on it.
And I guess some examples of that, around organizing against visitation cuts, we’ve been communicating largely with wives or partners or family members of these prisoners and who are very much, from an emotional gut level, talking about the impact of seeing someone you care about on a screen and the reality of a child who grows up touching a screen, attempting to connect with their parent and I just really think it speaks to how deep and how disgusting things have gotten in society. And I think one of the most damning examples of the introduction of these types of technology into prisons is that they’re actual giving them away, which you should be suspicious of at any point, when these companies that are so profit-based start giving things away is because they know that people would rather have human contact, rather have visits, people don’t want to be paying all this money, but almost like pushing a drug they’re being handed out. The FDOC’s kiosks are being put in by JPay for free, and then you know obviously they’ll get the return on people being forced to use them to maintain any level of contact. But we know that contact will be tightly controlled, more easily monitored, and in the end that could result in in-person visitations being cut all together. And we’ve seen that in a lot of county jails. It’s been kind of the canary in the coal mine, in the sense that it’s happened in tiny jails all over the country where human contact visits are eliminated shortly after they implemented the video visitation. So you know, we have to prepare for that.
J11: I’d like to get your thoughts on this theme of long-term movements for long-term prisoners. How do we build a sustainable movement so that we and others can continue to be there for friends in prison in the coming years and decades? How do we have more regenerative instead of exhausting and depleting organizing, and what can we learn from our movement’s long-term prisoners and the rich history of support for them?
P: Well I think the answer to that is seeking out ways where support work isn’t always on the defensive – that we’re building offensive attacks, not just through direct action, but also through support networks and organizing that actually poses a threat. And that’s something that we’ve really learned from these experiences organizing in Florida – we know the Florida Department of Corrections views us as a threat because they’ve been telling prisoners that in their repression and while that’s frustrating and we think it’s wrong that we be listed as a Security Threat Group in order to repress or retaliate against people, we think it’s also a complement that they view us as a threat because, you know, they should! And being a threat to an institution doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have the ability to communicate, that some of these things are supposed to be built-in rights, that we have to use the documentation of this colonial and imperialist power structure, but we do have those rights and defending them, you know like launching free speech amendment battles around our communication with prisoners I think is really important and continuing organizing.
I guess I’ll give another example. In Florida we’re challenging phosphate mine and it’s a big deal locally. People all over North Florida are opposed to this phosphate mine, and we’re figuring out ways to coordinate with prisoners who are actually geographically the closest to the mine – a quarter mile from this 10,000 acre phosphate mine would be the Lake Butler Medical Reception Center. So we’re organizing with prisoners to challenge this phosphate mine and in doing that, I think connecting environmental activists from the whole range of organizations like often people thought of as the lefty, liberal, or like moderates, then seeing that prisoners also have a role in the stake of participation and efforts like movements on a local level and I think that’s been really helpful at deepening that bond and that connection and that respect for prisoners as people.
J11: In addition to Marius you list Walter Bond, Michael Foster, Red Fawn, Little Feather, and other long-term indigenous prisoners Oso Blanco and Leonard Peltier and the MOVE prisoners on your site. Are there any particular cases you’d like to draw attention to or any shoutouts?
P: Well I think for sure people should be paying close attention to what’s coming out of the Standing Rock cases and I think that there’s so much momentum and enthusiasm that it burned really hot and really fast in a lot of ways and it’s important to not forget that for years after those moments, there is a need to support people who face the worst retaliation and so that’s high priority. It’s something we want to highlight at the convergence this year. We’ll have speakers from the family members of support committees for some of the Standing Rock NO DAPL resisters who were locked up.
J11: Lastly, the Fight Toxic Prisons convergence that you were just talking about is in Pittsburgh from June 8th-11th this year, and there’s this call for Juneteenth of 2018. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s being planned for those dates?
P: Well the convergence, and if you check out the documents that came out the last two, there’s a pretty rich collection of photos, and videos, and audio recordings to give a glimpse of what they’ve been like, but I think showing up and seeing for yourself is the best way to see what’s happening at them. We expect this year again that there will be a lot of voices coming from former prisoners or the family members of prisoners as well as call-ins of people who’re still locked up, and we’ve usually ended them on a high note of physical presence and disruption of either offices of prisons or places that we think represent what we’re talking about (this intersection between prisons and ecology) and so there will definitely be ample targets in Western Pennsylvania around those issues, so we plan to link up with organizations based in the Pittsburgh area and coordinate an action together on Monday. So if you’re coming, plan to stick around til Monday!
And then a week later, Juneteenth kicks off. And there’s been a call, primarily from Texas prisoners spreading nationally around recognizing Juneteenth recognizing the abolitionist holiday, connecting it to the struggles against prison slavery. So I think that’s just starting to develop. There’s a call to action that’s circulating nationally to get groups on board to plan community events and demonstrations in their own local areas.
J11: Any final thoughts?
P: I think that’s it! I hope to see some of y’all at the convergence in Pennsylvania and of course continuing to honor and build the tradition around June 11th as a day of solidarity and support for anarchist prisoners. Thanks a lot for having me on here.
J11: Yeah, thanks so much! You can find more information about many of the things we’ve talked about as well as a bunch of other stuff at FightToxicPrisons.wordpress.com
Thanks so much for listening! You can find this, all the other interviews, the 2018 call out, so many zines, posters and other support materials at June11.org
If you’ve got friends on the inside, send them the call out! Getting statements and responses from prisoners all around the world is always one of the most inspiring and invigorating parts of June 11th.
You can find a list of events planned for this year on our website or on our column at ItsGoingDown.org. Send us an email to June11th [at] riseup [dot] net with events in your town. We hope to see dozens and dozens of events, actions, music projects, or whatever else you’re inspired to do this year.