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Aug 25, 21

Abolitionists Hit the Streets in Support of Call to ‘Shut’Em Down’

On Saturday, August 21st, abolitionist groups across the so-called United States took to the streets in solidarity with a call from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, for a day of national ‘Shut’Em Down’ actions outside of jails, prisons, and detention facilities. While many events are being scheduled for later in the month and on September 9th, to mark the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, here’s a roundup of actions that kicked things off.

To check out our recent interview with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, go here.


Tacoma, WA: On August 21st, a noise demo and rally was held outside of the Northwest Detention Center, which has been the target of an ongoing campaign for closure and an epicenter of hunger and work strikes by those held inside. Within the last few weeks, several detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 and there is currently a call for a phone-zap campaign.

According to a report from Perilous Chronicle:

The NWDC has been the site of many protests and organized resistance since it opened in 2005. La Resistencia, formerly known as Northwest Detention Center Resistance, has spearheaded many of those demonstrations and events. While the detention facility was recently slated for closure, the current number of rising covid-19 cases inside the facility has kept local activists engaged in pressure campaigns against its administration.

One protestor, who was introduced only as Maria, explained that her son is detained at NWDC and expressed disbelief that the facility remains open despite the risks during COVID-19 pandemic. “What do they want? To take everyone out of there in a coffin?” she asked. Why have they not closed this place down? I do not want to wait until 2025 for them to close this place, it should shut down now. Because people in there could lose their lives. What will happen to all the mothers, wives, and kids, waiting for their sons and husbands to come home?”

The national #ShutEmDown2021 demonstrations are one part of a longer trajectory of organizing for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, who in 2018 helped coordinate a national strike of prisoners. In an August 12, 2021 press release, the group announced a call for inside prison demonstrations in 2022. “Jailhouse Lawyers Speak members around the nation are making a direct appeal for people locked up to disrupt the normal prison operations of america” the release said.

Maru Villalpando, the main organizer of La Resistencia, expressed the group’s solidarity with anti-prison organizing going on around the country. “We’re joining this because we agree that all prisons and jails and detention centers should be shut down,” she said.


Bay Area of California: In the days leading up to August 21st, abolitionist graffiti slogans were written and banners were dropped across Oakland, Berkeley, and the wider east bay. There was also a #ShutEmDown2021 demonstration held outside of the notorious San Quentin prison in Marin County.

From Oakland Abolition and Solidarity:

About 40 people marched from the Larkspur ferry building to the west gate of San Quentin this morning, blocking an entire direction of traffic. An hour of speakers from in and outside the walls commemorated George Jackson and other prison organizers. A banner with the face of George Jackson stretched across the road during the march reading, “They have learned that resistance is possible. The holds are beginning to slip away.”


Sacramento, CA: Sacramento Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) held a noise demonstration outside of the Sacramento County Jail. From Sacramento IWOC:

A couple beautiful moments from tonight’s noise rally at Sac County Jail, in solidarity with those inside and #shutemdown2021. We may have been a small group, be they heard and saw us, and that was exactly what we were there to do. 

Folks reported that small group of neo-fascists were also out across the street, but did not disrupt the event.


Winona, MN: Book Not Bars tabling.

Milwaukee, WI: Abolitionist tabling at benefit show.

Coldwater, MI: People rallied outside of Lakeland Correctional Facility. One organizer wrote:

On the 50th anniversary of George Jackson Day our action evolved from just one demonstration outside of Lakeland (where there have been 40 deaths this past year), to a statewide tour of prisons in MDOC including Parnell (10 deaths) and Cotton (4 deaths).

Our final stop on our statewide #ShutEmDown Tour across MDOC was at Lakeland also known as the “geriatric facility” where many men who’ve aged far out of crime are sent to serve life/death sentences or long indeterminate sentences. MDOC reports 24 deaths, inside organizers report that the number is far higher, closer to 40! Another example of how our “publicly” owned state facilities actually operate privately.


Washington DC: DC IWOC and other groups held a noise demonstration and rally outside of the DC jail. One person on social media wrote:

There was an amazing #ShutEmDown2021 noise demo last night in DC where countless incarcerated comrades called in to share their stories and push folks to reclaim and amplify abolition. Every single speaker discussed why abolition is so important right now for prisoners.

A rally to demand freedom for political prisoners was also organized on the DC mall.

Reidsville, GA: A #ShutEmDown2021 rally held outside of Georgia State Prison.

Gainesville, FL: On August 21st, a large mass march of abolitionists blocked streets and held a rally in front of the Alachua County Jail. According to a report from Florida Prisoner Solidarity:

Today we took over 39th Ave outside the Alachua County Jail because the pigs wouldn’t let us in. We stood out there in solidarity with Heaven and Ava, and all Black mothers facing the reality of our white supremacist carceral state.

This action was in solidarity with all people trapped inside cages across the state and world. @jailhouse_lawyers_speak put out a call, let’s keep answering.

Source: Alligator Credit: Lauren Witte

As the paper the Alligator reported:

With linked arms and voices chanting “there’s blood on their hands” and “Black women matter,” about 100 protesters overtook the entrance of Alachua County Jail on Aug. 21.

Residents held up signs that read “protect Black babies” and “jails kill” in solidarity with Erica Thompson, a 25-year-old Alachua County resident who lost her child Aug. 9 after her cries for help were ignored and she was forced to give birth inside her jail cell.

Protesters say the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office violated Florida’s Tammy Jackson Act, which ensures inmates in labor are immediately taken to a medical facility, given proper care and not placed in restrictive housing against their will. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in 2020 after Tammy Jackson was in labor for seven hours isolated in a Broward County jail. Florida Prisoner Solidarity raised more than $8,000 through a GoFundMe page for her food, transportation and postpartum care.

At 5 p.m., marchers were met with barricades blocking the entrance of the Alachua County Jail. Deputies were waiting for them. Some officers told protesters they would not be allowed to visit the property again if they engaged with the protest. As a precautionary measure, one organizer passed out emergency contact forms in the event protesters were arrested.

After confronting ACSO officers at the entrance of the jail, protesters lined up in the street and halted traffic. Before police arrived, organizers blocked drivers from passing through and asked them to turn around.

Source: Alligator Credit: Lauren Witte


Harrisburg, PA: Banner drops called to #ShutEmDown2021 and ‘Fire to the Prisons.’

Bronx, NY: Abolitionists marched through the Bronx to the Vernon C. Bain Center, aka “The Boat,” for a rally outside of the facility.

New York, NYC: Abolitionists, anarchists and antifascists held a rally in New York City outside of the offices of architects involved in the construction of local jails. A solidarity statement was also played at the rally from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak.

For upcoming #ShutEmDown2021 events, go here and follow #ShutEmDown2021.

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