Filed under: Action, Anarchist Movement, Incarceration
Report back from New Year’s Eve noise demonstration in Sacramento, California.
It’s been a tough year for anarchists and anti-fascists in Sacramento, CA. From a year when a solidarity demo was attacked and threatened with a firearm, organizers have faced increased and escalated police repression, and members from the de-centralized Neo-Nazi terror cell “The Base” have begun organizing on local campuses, there have been plenty of reasons to be demoralized. However, none of these events could throw a wrench in Sacramento’s annual NYE Prison Solidarity Demo.
Around 7pm NYE, anti-fascists from Sacramento converged at a local park in downtown. The usual target is the most convenient one; The Sacramento I St Jail, referred to as “the largest form of public housing provided by the city of Sacramento.” In this towering symbol of colonial imperialism, 100 meters from the Downtown Plaza, hundreds of folks ripped from their community await trial, bail, or are lost in the system from months to years.
About 20 people met for the demo, carrying black flags on short poles and signs that read “FREE THEM ALL.” A 16-foot cloth banner read “HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE, ABOLISH ALL PRISONS” with the Iron Front symbol. In the middle of downtown, a low-banging drum beat began to roar over the noise of New Year’s Eve traffic as the demo left the park. On the march to the jail, the demo began a caroling of old Union hymns, from The Internationale to Ralph Chaplin’s “Solidarity Forever.”
Arriving at the jail, comrades decided with local prisoner advocates on the ideal plan of action. Stay off the jail property and across the street or they’ll declare a lock-down affecting holiday visitation rights; stay away from the west end of the building where the phones were, so as to not interrupt folks on the inside during their holiday phone calls. The goal was to bring holiday spirit and solidarity to the folks of our community who face unjust persecution by the illegitimate State, and not make their lives more difficult by our presence. We couldn’t have been successful without the valuable contributions, insight and wisdom of decarceration activists in our community.
Starting on the east side of the building, laser pointers, flashlights and projectors were pointed at the fogged glass windows of hallways, cells and recreational rooms. Pots were beaten with pans, lampposts with poles, drums continued to beat and the street began to chant: “Inside! Outside! Were’ all on the same side!” and “You are not forgotten! You are not forgotten!” The silhouettes of folks on the inside could be seen waving, stacked on top of each other and banging against the glass. The street erupted with, “Free them all! Free them all!”
In roughly 10-12 minute intervals, the demo moved from the East to the South towers housing two major units. Folks inside were ecstatic. Along I Street itself, a clogged, three-lane, one-way, bystanders and drivers honked, revved their engines, and cheered. Folks still in their cells hailed the demo by flicking light switches in their cells.
Folks continued to the East end where road flares were deployed in the street. Activists began a chant that incorporated a dance with the silhouettes on the inside: “Turn it up!,” hands pointed up, “Burn it down!,” hands pointed down, “No more prisons in this town!” while making an “x” with your arms then spreading them into a “t.”
To end the visit to each tower, those gathered led a countdown and screamed “Happy New Year!”
There’s an important note about a solidarity demo, about its effectiveness and what role it plays in the greater movement. There has been a critique this year about how “a noise demo ain’t gonna liberate incarcerated black and brown prisoners” and they are absolutely correct. An international call to solidarity doesn’t mean folks are going to storm the gates, liberate the incarcerated, and free all prisoners. A solidarity demo is about acknowledging that an international struggle continues, that a wound to one is a wound to all, and about showing solidarity between those on the inside and outside. The critique urges folks to “Bailout a comrade for the new year, get them proper representation for the new year, or support the incarcerated families,” and we absolutely agree that doing decarceration work is not a one-day process, but a full-time effort at combating forms of police repression in our community. However, it is important to honor those who we have lost in solidarity, and those locked inside, isolated, and deprived of contact from one year to the next. We couldn’t agree more that it is not enough to be performative, and that we must show up daily to do the work of decarceration and abolition.
Still, we will never deny how strong a tool solidarity can be, and that showing up in front of a jail, camp or prison to celebrate with those inside fills us all with hope. So in 2020, from Sacramento, to Hong Kong to Egypt to Greece: Fire to the Prisons! Fuck the Police!
– Some Sacramento anti-capitalists and anti-fascists.