Filed under: Action, Incarceration, Midwest
Report on recent home demonstration in Milwaukee demanding freedom for prisoners in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday March 23rd, Forum For Understanding Prisons began an occupation (from dawn till dusk) outside Wisconsin DOC Secretary Kevin Carr’s house in Glendale, Wisconsin. Their intention is to let the secretary know that he is not doing enough to keep the prisoners of Wisconsin safe during this pandemic. And they will remain until the DOC meets their demands (the last few paragraphs of the report found here).
A brief recap of the day’s events goes as follows:
They showed up and held up the banner, announced their intentions. Kevin Carr came outside to put something in his mailbox, and was immediately dismissive of them, he turned and as he was going back inside said, “you’re presence isn’t gonna make me do anything!” They reminded him that they’re not trying to make him do anything other than his job. After Carr went back inside, they began to read the demands.
Shortly thereafter, a police officer came to tell them they are not allowed to use the speaker between the hours of 10pm and 7am, so they could resume the reading at 7am (which was about 10 minutes later). He said that they were otherwise being compliant with the law. He also said that Carr was out of town at the moment, which they knew was untrue, because they’d seen him that morning.
At 9am, they had a phone call with Elijah, a prisoner at Waupun Correctional, which they live streamed to the facebook feed. He explained how the virus got in to Waupun (through a doctor who was recently out of the country and was not tested before he came back to work and was put in contact with at least 18 different people at the facility). He also discussed the lack of effective measures taken by leaders at the facility, which will likely result in the virus being spread around to more people.
Police continued to drive by every half hour to hour from that point on. Around 10am, one of Kevin’s neighbors came and took a photo of the banner. She said she posted it on her social media and asked if there was anything they needed.
At noon, the three people present began a letter writing session and played the most recent episode of The Final Straw (found here), which centers on the COVID 19 crisis in the prisons.
At 3pm, after Carr’s wife came out to get the mail, two more cops came and told them that their banner wasn’t allowed to be set up on the lawn the way that it was (pictured above), and that “if [they] don’t take it down, we’ll take it down for you!” So they took the banner down, even though it had been there for 8 hours already and several other cops had driven past and said they weren’t doing anything wrong.
At about 5:30pm, Carr came home and again ignored them and refused to answer any questions they had about what steps he had taken to ensure the safety of Wisconsin’s prisoners.
For the 6pm live feed, they continued reading the demands and then began an appeal to Kevin Carr’s morality (he is a devout Catholic), detailing the ways in which the DOC is currently failing the prison population so greatly. The speaker, Ben Turk, has met with Kevin on at least one occasion, and Kevin has admitted that there is an issue with the culture of the DOC in Wisconsin, but said that the change takes time. Time is something we simply don’t have anymore.
Not long after this direct address was finished, another police officer arrived to let them know that they are not allowed to use the speaker without a permit, citing a city ordinance. The demonstrators were told that there’s nothing wrong with what they are doing, but that they simply need to get a permit. The officer said that they would be able to obtain one with no problem the following morning from the police station.
It’s clear that the police are escalating their tactics to frustrate and disrupt this occupation, while at the same time pretending that they are not an overbearing presence for the benefit of the upper-middle class community.
For their last installment of the day, they read the ordinance the cop had cited aloud. There’s a notable exception 11.2.9(10)(c):
The reasonable use of amplifiers or loudspeakers in the course of public addresses which are noncommercial in nature.
If their demonstration is not a non-commercial public address, then what is it?
You can follow FFUP on facebook (@prisonforum) to keep up with their check-ins hourly. Links to the archive of yesterday’s live feeds can be found here.