At 5:30 pm on Sunday August 7th, about 35 folks gathered in front of the jail in downtown Durham to spread awareness of and show our solidarity with hunger striking prisoners in California. We also wanted to draw attention to recent attacks on anarchist comrades in the Northwest. This demo followed up a similar protest two weeks ago in Greensboro.
Our presence was purposely timed with visitor’s hours at the jail, and for the hour and half we were there there was a constant stream of family and friends coming in and out of the large, modern, Orwellian structure. Handbills in English and Spanish explaining the various anti-prison struggles around the country (see text below) and business cards with information on how prisoners can get material support from local anarchists on the outside were given to folks visiting loved ones. Others banged on pots and pans, played drums, blew on kazoos, held banners, and chanted (“Cops, Pigs, Murderers!”, and “Abajo las Presiones, la Policia son Cabrones” were two favorites). One person just waved a large stick in the air with word “against” written on the end of it.
Soon after we arrived, prisoners on every floor of the building began cramming up against the plexiglass windows of their cells to get a better look, while some stood in stairwells or on balconies waving and throwing fists in the air. Eventually many of these prisoners managed to make small posters out of paper on hand, reading things like, “I love this,” “Fuck Cops,” and “@.” Others started banging on the plexiglass. Most of the family members expressed similar sentiments. Though a fleet of cop cars showed up to watch, and a couple of us were eventually forced off the jail property for “agitating the prisoners,” the demonstration otherwise proceeded without incident.
This kind of breakdown of the isolation of prison, however brief, along with the love and rage expressed back and forth through a thin vein of plexiglass, however circumstantial, alone made the demonstration feel worthwhile. Of course, we also hope that hearing about such things can raise the spirits of prison rebels in California, not to mention inspire similar rebellion to spread here. We also want comrades in the Northwest to know that despite the repression they’ve faced, their struggle continues to be an inspiration. And of course, though we only just learned of it, we send our best to those engaged in fighting the police this very moment in London.
Text from the handbill is printed below.
SOLIDARITY WITH ALL PRISON REBELS!
On July 1st, dozens of prisoners in the long-term isolation unit of Pelican Bay in California began an indefinite hunger strike. Their strike quickly spread, and has now been joined by over 6,000 prisoners in at least 11 prisons across the state. Though some prisoners have entered into negotiations with officials, an estimated several thousand in southeastern CA remain on hunger strike.
These prisoners are held in soundproof cells with no windows for 22½-24 hours per day, often for years at a time. The only way out of this slow torture is to “debrief”, i.e. inform on other prisoners, a situation which clearly encourages false accusations. They are served unsanitary and unwholesome food, punished collectively for the actions of individuals, and routinely denied access to basic services like phone calls or warm clothing. In an attempt to change these conditions, these prisoners have united to put their own lives on the line. Over 100,000 American prisoners are held in these solitary conditions. Solitary confinement is not an aberration from the norm but in fact the logical result of a country that locks up more of its population per capita than any other nation in the history of world.
We are here to support the efforts of these strikers, and the struggle of all prisoners to free themselves from the brutality and isolation of prison. We also want to draw attention to other acts of state repression on the west coast. This past weekend 26 Seattle anarchists were arrested, seven attacked and critically injured by police armed with shovels in their own home. Only a matter of days earlier, police in the Bay Area murdered an unarmed African-American teenager for not paying a $2 metro fare. Both of these incidents have elicited acts of solidarity and counter-attacks.
It goes without saying that the brutality of the police and the torture of prisons are inextricably linked. In both cases, the function of these institutions is not to reduce crime but to perpetuate a long history of slavery and exploitation. If prisons are to be understood as warehouses for the poor, then the police are the bosses of the unemployed. As such we wish for nothing but their destruction.
-some anarchists against prisons, and the world that creates them.
www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com | www.trianarchy.wordpress.com | www.prisonbooks.info
AGAINST POLICE AND PRISONS!
Inmates hold notes up to the windows for the demonstrators to read