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The last year has been full of changes and transitions for our imprisoned comrades and for those of us engaged in struggle on the other side of the walls. Now, solidly in the throes of spring, we feel compelled to celebrate these transitions and victories as new life and energy burst forth all around us. It is not often that we get a chance to truly mix celebration and struggle – but now is one of those times! On January 8th of this year the Eastern District Court of California ordered Eric McDavid released from prison. Our comrade Marius came out publicly as a man and began seeking resources for his physical transition. We believe these are both transitions worthy of celebration and reason for continued struggle. It is in this spirit that we bring you our thoughts about J11 2015.
First, a bit of housekeeping: We have a new email address: june11th at riseup dot net! If you sent something to the old address, it is likely we did not receive it. We would love it if there were many translations of this callout and other support materials (many thanks to ContraInfo and others for supporting translation over the years)! Please send information about the June 11th events you are planning this year, posters, zines, and any report backs to june11th at riseup dot net. We are looking forward to hearing from you and will post events as we receive them at June11.org Every year events happen in new cities, and we hope you’ll encourage your friends and comrades far and wide to join us this year.
This day is an annual day of solidarity with long-term anarchist prisoners, including Marius Mason and Eric McDavid. In calling for the day, we aim to deepen ongoing support for comrades facing long sentences. They, in particular, risk being forgotten within a prisoner support model based on reacting to spikes in state repression and other emergencies. We are committed to building a model of solidarity that is both long-term and capable of flexibly responding to new developments. It is also vital to constantly build new links of solidarity between prisoners and between struggles, rather than fall back on static networks of personal links and contacts.
Originating as a day of solidarity for eco-prisoners, J11 remains anchored in a project of ecological defense and struggle against a society based on exploitation and confinement. As the focus shifted to solidarity with Marius and Eric, two eco-anarchist prisoners serving roughly 20-year sentences, people have expressed their solidarity through letter-writing nights, fundraisers, educational events, demonstrations and attacks. Any real effort to aid prisoners cannot be based simply on passive support, but must also include a commitment to build on their struggles before and after their imprisonment. More explanation about the context for and strategy of June 11th can be found here: http://june11.org/about/
Last year, while organizing J11 events, we addressed challenging questions about the relationship between ecologically oriented struggles and anarchist anti-prison struggles. It is clear to us that the world which requires prisons also requires the destruction of the environment; as anarchists, we despise both. We are heartened by the growing movements against the tar sands, LNG pipelines, fracking and the myriad other ecologically destructive projects. The escalation of eco-struggles across the globe is both necessary and exciting. Both Marius and Eric remain committed to these struggles, as we remain committed to them, all eco-prisoners, and the struggles that they all – we all – are engaged in. But this year we have been given cause for celebration – and we would like to emphasize that as we move forward.
This year Marius Mason publicly shared his new name and use of male pronouns that better reflect his masculine gender identity. To quote his lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen who is assisting with the legal aspects of his transition, Marius is someone “whose courage and integrity are made even more salient by the fact that his own liberation and autonomy have long been severely circumscribed.” In the face of a world that systematically subjects trans people to violence, isolation and abuse, we hope that everyone shows their support of trans liberation by supporting Marius and the many imprisoned trans folks. This struggle should extend beyond mere fundraising. Trans prisoners are struggling not only for the material necessities of existence, but are also struggling against systems of domination which will stop at nothing to prevent them from simply being who they are. Our solidarity needs to be as creative and varied as the state’s tactics are cruel and oppressive.
On January 8th of this year, Eric McDavid was released from prison after nine years of incarceration. Eric returned home to his friends and family after a federal court granted his habeus corpus petition, stating that the FBI withheld evidence during the trial phase of his case. Because of this, Eric was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge which carried a five year maximum sentence – four years less than the time he had already served in federal prison. Eric’s incredible determination and the awe-inspiring support from his family, friends and comrades have not only contributed to his emotional and physical well-being while behind bars but also to his eventual release. His release from prison after 9 years is a monumental change. Eric is now faced with building a new life after almost a decade of incarceration. This is a new phase of struggle for him, and we are committed to continuing our solidarity with him post-release.
We face new questions about how to help Eric during this transition from a heavily controlled prison environment to a life in the open prison (the conditions that overlap between Eric’s parole and the society of control in which we all live). Although he is no longer living his life in a cage of concrete and razor wire, Eric still constantly faces the repressive apparatus of the state. His movements are restricted, his communications monitored, and his time is spent in ways that aren’t always of his choosing. All of this limits his interactions with the communities he has been away from for so long, the communities he wishes to engage with and be a part of. We must figure out how to lessen the impacts of these kinds of restrictions and how to enable as smooth a transition and homecoming as possible. We are thrilled to be facing these questions nine years earlier than we’d expected.
The focus of June 11th events this year will continue to include Eric by aiding him materially and emotionally during this transition and maintaining channels for political engagement concerning Eric’s entrapment. Eric’s case remains one of the most obvious examples of the state targeting and entrapping anarchists in this country. But we must always remember that his case is in no way exceptional. Muslim communities have borne the brunt of these kinds of attacks from the FBI. We should always be finding ways to work in solidarity. Post release support is a vital component to our struggle, and we’re obviously thrilled beyond words that Eric can walk and talk among friends and Earth according to his own desires again, and with every step we affirm that we want the destruction of all prisons.
The practices of ongoing solidarity should not solely serve as a soothing cultural custom: our actions carry potential for real material consequences – both positive and negative – for our imprisoned comrades. As we practice solidarity with imprisoned comrades and loved ones, our goal goes beyond simply supporting them; we aim to build social momentum against an entire system of domination and ecological destruction. These linkages add significance to all our gestures of solidarity, rendering them more potent tools on behalf of those inside, but also increasing the risks should these gestures be miscalculated or imprecise: as always, exercise care and sharp analysis when laying plans.
This reflection applies to the entire range of support projects, including fundraising. We hope though, that fundraisers also create spaces for discussion and struggle. A common anxiety among comrades facing long sentences is whether there will still be subversive projects and conversations underway when they get out. It’s up to all of us to make sure that there are, and that these projects and conversations are stronger, richer, and more vital. And it’s everyone’s letters to prisoners that ensure their ongoing connection to this process.
A specific element of this process is building our capacity for ongoing prisoner support. There have been both victories and setbacks over the past year as anarchist and other rebellious prisoners have waged struggles against their conditions, including both hunger and work strikes. Nikos Romanos’ hunger strike and the accompanying revolutionary solidarity reminded us of the subversive possibility of struggles coordinated across prison walls. But as anarchist prisoners, like Sean Swain in Ohio or Michael Kimble in Alabama, increasingly conduct similar fights in North America, the movement has frequently lacked the connections or strength required to offer meaningful solidarity. This is not a criticism of the dedicated support crews working with these rebel prisoners, but is directed to the rest of us, indicating the importance of generalizing active forms of solidarity with prisoners.
An important aspect of the long-term project of prisoner solidarity is maintaining old connections while building new connections with other prisoners in struggle. Recently released comrades Amelie and Fallon encompassed this idea well in their February open letter http://en.contrainfo.espiv.net/2015/02/17/mexican-prisons-open-letter-of… Generalizing solidarity means escaping the space of the small “activist scene” to allow surprising new relationships to form. Part of our proposal this year is to build stronger relations of solidarity with trans prisoners in struggle, both to offer immediate personal and political support, and to prepare to offer more meaningful aid in future struggles for safety, hormones/other medical resources, and dignity. http://supportmariusmason.org/2014/07/07/free-marius-jacob-mason/ We were inspired by Chelsea Manning, who won access to hormones despite very adverse conditions, dramatically indicating the possibility of future victories for other trans prisoners.
We will continue to adapt to a changing landscape produced both by the victories won by our imprisoned comrades – including Eric’s release, Marius’ coming out, Nikos Romanos’ seizure of “room to breathe,” and just in the past few days, the amazing homecoming of Amelie, Carlos, and Fallon, — and by ongoing transformations of the repressive machinery. These transitions mark the expansion of the project and not any sort of stopping point.
“The struggle is not over… it assumes new forms. No matter what its face, no matter what the time, it’s still war.”