Comrade Migs, NATO 5 prisoner
Greetings of solidarity, comrades and friends.
I sincerely hope this communiqué finds all of you in the very best of health and highest of revolutionary spirits.
I am coming to all of you with all the love and admiration in my heart to thank you for the love, compassion, and solidarity you’ve given me since I was captured, along with 4 other comrades and brothers in struggle, in May 2012.
As most of you know by now, I eventually took a non-cooperating plea after deciding trial was not the best option for me. Though some of you may be disappointed I didn’t “prove my innocence” at trial like so many expected me to do, others were relieved to finally have some closure and an end in sight. I feel I should say why I chose what I did, for this is the first time I’ve been able to speak about this case without formal state persecution.
There is no justice or truth in the United Snakes of Amerikkka’s Justice System. It’s a lie. Propaganda. Laws and courts are about politics, power, and privilege, though of course the Authorities pretend otherwise. I am in political opposition to the state and clearly would never receive a fair trial even if such a thing existed in the system. I am an Anarchist and directly oppose The United States Government, its allies, institutions, armies, and courts. I perceive their very existence to be a direct and immediate threat to freedom and life.
We were targeted and arrested because of our beliefs and love of life and humanity. Though I had the best lawyers who did so much and in so many ways were just really huge emotional supports through this as well (Steve and Matt, I love you), I did not want to go to trial. They argued and fought for me to have the opportunity to be released before my trial would have even started.
I had total faith in both Steve and Matt and the NLG as a whole. However, for me trial would accomplish nothing. If I were to be found not guilty, then what? I still endured all of this time in jail, losing a year of my life already and many, many other things. All of those losses were well worth it to me to stand for Anarchism in the face of Global Capitalism’s military arm. Even if I were “proven innocent,” the system would never clean house or call for the lynching of the pigs, state prosecutors, Feds, warmongers, politicians – the tyrants who orchestrate political and social persecutions, who build a neoslave trade of prisons and prison labor, who send our youth off to die and kill the poor overseas for money, etc. There would be no accountability as usual.
Their decision in court means nothing to me because I will not be deterred and because I do not acknowledge them as my masters or a legitimate Authority, period. I feel, plain and simple, that I have a job to do as an Anarchist and Activist and a revolutionary. And that is to rebel, resist, and defy (as my comrade Hybachi says) against tyrants. Though many political prisoners continue from behind bars to do beautiful work and projects, to organize within these institutions – because it is not over, prison isn’t the end by any means – the fact remains that we are more efficient and have access to more resources outside these walls.
I felt I had an obligation to all of you and myself to do what I needed to do, without compromising my values, to get back to fighting and pushing the best I can. That meant taking this 3-year plea so I can get out soon and get back to our collective struggle. I felt it was the best option I had and was the best for my comrades, friends, family, and myself, as well as our struggle.
Now I have to speak about what is most important to me by far. More than anything else, I want all of you to know that your support, and compassion and solidarity, throughout all of this was and is so incredible. I fail to articulate the extent of how it has truly touched me. You showed us so much solidarity I could never forget. The countless letters of support (the guards hated that) and encouragement and inspiration moved me in ways I struggle to articulate. Having all of my legal expenses paid for and the NLG standing with us. Having money raised for us to be able to buy food, hygiene supplies, stamps, etc from commissary regularly. I received regular visits from so many people.
All of these acts of solidarity continue to prove how beautiful our humanity and “the people” really are and display why we need not a State and a force to regulate and stunt our growth, to keep us from experiencing our full humanity. I was not allowed to be forgotten. I was loved and supported the entire journey, and even now in prison, I’m walking with you. Never alone.
So many of you I did not know before this, and I have made new connections with many groups and individuals. Many of these new, beautiful relationships, forged and birthed from state violence and repression, I will have for the rest of my life. I am so fortunate to be part of such a strong and amazing community and network of communities. Local and global, we’ve stood together.
The State uses prisons and jails to divide and alienate us, to break unity and solidarity, to divide and conquer – attack us individually, break our “individual will,” and scare us collectively. As long as you do not let go of our hands and we do not let go of your hands extended in solidarity to us through the rows of razor wire, this entire tool and tactic of imprisonment as well as their intended outcomes will fail!
Solidarity is the strongest weapon we have, and it works.
The State uses prisons to destroy our movements and crush resistance. They are tools to maintain social control and psychologically destroy the mind and will of the prisoner. The support given me has enabled me to convert all of the abuse and violence of my incarceration into more pushups in my revolutionary boot camp and not paralyzing bullets, like intended.
I, like many “political prisoners,” was targeted, beat, threatened, thrown in segregation, starved, refused medical treatment, and on and on for most of my stay to varying degrees. Now, some of the most violent, volatile, and sick individuals I’ve ever encountered (including anti-fascist struggles and maximum security inmate populations) are employed as guards at Cook County Jail. Because of your campaigns and actions, these violent fascists were ordered to no longer put their hands on me, and then refrained from doing so. They eventually turned to less aggressive (and nearly laughable in comparison) forms of harassment. Your pressure got me released early from “the hole” more than once, and in many ways my treatment and handling improved altogether.
I want all of you to know this because we learn from experience. We learn to resist more effectively. What I want to convey is: because I was given the aid I needed, I have been able to use this terrible State repression and miserable incarceration to become a much more confident, strong, and determined Anarchist and Activist. I could not have done that without you. I give you my full love and gratitude.
I would also like to extend a special thanks to the NATO 5 Defense Committee, the Anarchist Black Cross, the NLG (National Lawyers Guild), the Occupy movement, and all of the people who’ve penpalled me through it all. Thanks to those who worked so hard to raise awareness of our cases, raise money for our defenses, representation, and commissary, and share information on the tactics the State employed to entrap and railroad us, in order to prevent and counter future attacks on others by the same means.
I will never forget you as you never forgot me.
I hope to be back out, side by side with you soon enough, continuing to fight for total Liberation.
No prisoner left behind! Dot your I’s, cross your T’s, and Always circle your A’s!
Til my coffin drops and til the end of days, long live Anarchism!
In solidarity and struggle,
Government name: Mark Neiweem
Slave #: M36200
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764
As soon as you were arrested lawyers from the Lawyers Guild of New York got your name and immediately provided legal service. I can’t say enough about The Lawyers Guild. They were present everywhere during the three days of gatherings, with their bright green hats, and they provided legal counsel for each person who was arrested.
My job with Occupy was to make sure that people coming out of jail were well taken care of. This involved making sure that they had a good snack or meal if they needed it. Or even a cigarette if they needed one. It involved staying close by for a hug or a suggestion about what to do next. Here is my jail support story.
During one of the Jail Support trainings the day before the actions in the Financial District one of the trainers mentioned that the police often take away a person’s shoelaces and then don’t return them. On Monday afternoon I went down to the courthouse, where some of the people that were arrested on Monday morning were being let out of jail. I sat down on the sidewalk in front of a man and woman who had just been released. They seemed rather shaken and talked about their experience getting arrested. Mostly they were happy to be out of jail and they were happy to have cigarettes and food.
As we talked, I looked down and noticed that they didn’t have any shoe laces so I asked, “Would like me to go and get you some shoe laces?”
“Yes!” was their amazed and appreciative response.
So I walked up to a store on Broadway and found them some shoelaces. After we laced them up together they got up and danced joyously in front of the court house.
Later in the afternoon I moved to another location, One Police Plaza, where people were getting out of jail. A group of Occupy Wall Street Jail Support people had set up shop in a small park close to this spot. I walked there with a small brass band who were also on the way. It seems that one of their friends had been arrested. They welcomed their friend with a rousing brass number.
The mood became more serious and intense when a priest and a nun who had just gotten out of jail appeared among us. I was concerned about the sister because she was shaking all over. She said that she had not been able to eat any of the jail food and she was starving. Fortunately, with a little food and some hugs her shaking stopped and she felt much better. The priest was extremely concerned because he had left his drivers’ license in jail. Later, a police officer came out and returned the drivers’ license. I even heard a report from a friend who said that when the sister was talking to the whole group in jail he saw tears in the eyes of a female police officer.
On Tuesday morning I was back in front of the courthouse. It was a rainy, windy day and one of the Jail Support people had asked me to bring some ponchos. This time I went right into the courthouse with one of the Lawyers Guild lawyers. As people came out of the courtroom I took some basic information from them. These folks were just getting out and they were kind of disoriented. I really wanted them to get outside and get some fresh air, and some food and human contact.
After lunch I went back outside the courthouse. Lots of folks who had gotten out of jail plus other Occupy people were there. Suddenly a woman came up to a young guy who was standing beside me. She was sobbing and saying something like, “They have destroyed my son’s life, they have destroyed my family’s life.” A young man, who was also doing Jail Support, whom I will call Billy hugged her and consoled her. She told us that her son, a 27- year- old Algerian, had been entrapped by the NYPD. He had emotional problems and they used this to their advantage to get him into trouble. She gave us some leaflets with information on how to help her son and left.
Billy started handing out the leaflets to people passing by. A man and woman walked by him and the woman snarled at Billy,“Get a job!” Billy got upset and started talking to the man and woman, explaining that he had tried to enrol in college but he couldn’t afford the tuition. Suddenly the man opened up his coat revealing an NYPD badge. At that point I walked toward the woman and said, “I am a retired school teacher. I have taught for over twenty-five years!” When she saw me walking toward her she shouted at me, “Move back!” It frightened me, and I moved quickly away from her. Billy kept on talking to them.
In the middle of all this I recalled the Jail Support training we had received earlier. One thing the trainers stressed, “It is a really bad thing if jail support people get arrested. Do everything you can to avoid arrest when you are doing jail support!”
So I said to Billy, “Remember, we don’t want to get arrested. Why don’t you move away?” My advice was not well taken. Billy said to me, “I have a right to talk to them!” At that point I just sat down on the steps and hoped for the best. Before too long the police walked away and a bad situation was averted.
I feel so fortunate to have been able to assist, even in a small way, those people who were arrested near Wall Street on September 17. Many of the people arrested chose to participate in non-violent civil disobedience. I remember the saying from the civil rights movement, “Keep your eyes on the prize!” I think that the people with the courage to accept arrest placed their entire beings in danger for all of us. They knew why they had taken the trip to the financial district. A remarkable cross-section of people came to New York on this first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. I think that what the people had in common was their powerful level of commitment and their deep understanding of the injustices in our country.
They took the risk of being arrested, and in spite of the extreme difficulties they faced all around them, they experienced so much love and support from their Occupy friends. I can’t help feeling that for those who were arrested their work will continue with an even greater sense of urgency and commitment.
From there I joined some friends and walked toward Wall St. once more. There was a group of protesters on either side off Broadway near Wall Street, mixing with business men and women heading to work. There were police horses behind the barricades, lots of police in the street and police cars and prisoner transport buses parked. When I stepped off the curb into the crosswalk during a chant of “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” I must have caught the attention of one of the white shirts. When it became clear that even with the red light I would not be able to cross I returned to the sidewalk but I saw a white shirt point at me to a new line of police that had just arrived. I tapped my friends on the shoulder and said, “I have to go, I think the police are targeting me.” With that I felt someone grab my arm and pull me toward the street but I was able to jerk free and duck under some scaffolding. I ran a few seconds before a large man stepped in front of me, blocked my path and gave me what amounted to big bear hug. I assume this man was an undercover police officer. Within seconds uniformed police that had pushed through the crowd, forced me against the metal scaffolding and tightened cuffs around my wrists.
They walked me onto the police bus where I had a front row seat to watch some clergy sit down in front of Wall Street in an act of civil disobedience. When the police crammed thirty of us into a holding cell, our cuffs still on and increasingly painful as blood collected in our hands, swelling them against the hard plastic rings, an 81-year old priest I had watched lay down at the foot of financial power led us in song. “I’d like to share some freedom songs I first sang with Martin Luther King in the jailhouse of Selma, Alabama,” he said. We sang songs, the dozen women in the holding cell across from us joining in. Our voices pushed out beyond the bars, and we alternated singing with mic-checks and soapboxing why we choose to join the movement. The 81 year-old priest then mic-checked a message to the police, dozens of whom clogged the space between our cells. I cannot quote the words but clearly remember the meaning and emotion: We are all brothers and sisters in this struggle and I urge you to see us as allies in a common cause rather than enemies. We each repeated his eloquent words and I could see a burly police officer directly in front me nodding his head. At the close, he looked at the priest and placed his hand on his heart. It sent chills through my body.
Finally, my name was called, my cuffs cut, my person searched then led to an even larger holding cell. When I walked in I saw about one hundred people pressed together between bars and reinforced glass, sitting on wooden benches, lying on the concrete floor and standing in the spaces in-between. All of them were clapping. As each new prisoner was added to our cell, we clapped. We clapped when each female was lead past us to the women’s cells. There was a non-stop flow of cheer. The holding cell had been self-organized into a very crowded section against the cell door that was loud and boisterous, while at the far end near the two metal toilets was quieter and some people lay on the benches or floor, using their shoes as a pillow. Within the louder section there was also a small General Assembly that formed where people shared their arrest experiences and discussed tactics. Every few minutes as new prisoners were added we heard new tales from the outside: We shut down a Chase Bank; I was plucked off the sidewalk for no reason; we blocked the doors at Goldman Sachs; I was trying to take pictures of an arrest when they grabbed me; etc. etc. At various points some prisoners grabbed garbage cans or water jugs and started drumming. Everyone else quickly picked up the rhythm clapping their hands or banging on benches, walls and metals bars and a hundred of us made music together before the police stormed in and took away the makeshift drums. The time between the noises we made together were filled with hundreds of subversive conversations.
It was wonderful. Each time I heard a new story of the actions taking place on the street after I was picked up I felt like I was missing something; but I also knew the community we formed in our cells was one of the most incredible things that would happen all day; one of the most liberating things I would ever feel. I knew that just by going out with Occupy Wall Street I was risking arrest; and in fact that was a major motivation in coming out, to show that I will not be intimidated, to count my body among the opposition. The power of the system is never so naked as when it forces it’s dissenters into a metal cage. Only then does it become so transparent and so obvious that they will never control my actions, that they will never control my thoughts and suppress my hope for a different world, a better world.
When I was released, nine hours after I was detained, a group of friends were waiting for me with food and love, thus completing the experience and ending it with warmth and inspiration rather than fear. Yesterday, I was free.
– John Dennehy –]]>
While working my second job of the day this past Wednesday, I was monitoring Twitter and feeling a bit guilty. Some of my friends were in Wisconsin, marching against the failed Walker recall. Other friends were marching through downtown Chicago to the Canadian consulate in solidarity with the student protests in Quebec. And there was a memorial to a beloved mental health consumer and advocate who passed away in her sleep happening at both mental health clinic occupations.
I was missing all of the above because I was working, but I felt guilty because I had slept between jobs that afternoon instead of stopping by one of the mental health clinics or doing other Occupy activities. I know that it’s a good idea to sleep on occasion, but with so much going on it’s easy to feel like I’m not doing enough. Or at least that I wish I could do more.
I’m a nanny, and I was cuddling with an adorable baby girl (who happens to also be my niece) that evening, checking Twitter between wiping her spit-up. As I watched in horror, my Twitter feed started to blow up. First I learned that one friend had been arrested in Milwaukee as others were trampled by police horses. Within minutes I was seeing tweets from my friends in Chicago describing unprovoked police brutality and many violent arrests. I saw pictures of police officers using metal batons on protesters and heard that one young female comrade was surrounded by six cops, beating her brutally before they arrested her. I was in shock; I hadn’t expected a relatively ordinary march to end this way. My heart sank as I read the names of my friends who were taken away by the CPD, seemingly targeted for being main organizers within Occupy Chicago, but some of the most sincerely peaceful people I have had the honor of meeting.
Until this week, I had not participated in jail solidarity actions because one of my nannying jobs starts very early in the morning. As I watched the violence unfold, however, I did some quick mental calculations. I had slept several hours during the day; I could probably stay awake through the night and head directly for my morning job, given enough coffee and adrenaline. By canceling a couple of daytime appointments, I could even get a nice nap in later. It was the least I could do for my friends (who were later joined by those violently arrested in NY). So I went home to get a change of clothes, some snacks, a blanket and pillow, charged my devices, then headed back into the city toward the jail.
As I pulled up across the street, I could hear them still banging on pots and pans, making quite a ruckus through the otherwise still night. There were about 25 people, with more arriving periodically. I said my hellos, gave a brief statement on livestream, and found a spot to set up.
A short while later, a group of plainclothes cops came out of the station. The leader of the pack approached us with a printed copy of the sound ordinance in hand, telling us we had to stop making all that noise. I didn’t hear the rest of the confrontation because I was distracted by a plainclothes cop who had come around the side, where I was sitting. The most polite way to describe him is “meathead.” He was wearing a tshirt that said, I kid you not, NATO SUMMIT 2012 – WE WOKE UP EARLY TO BEAT THE CROWDS. He spent the next several minutes trying to provoke us and shining his flashlight in our eyes and cameras when we tried to take his picture. Luckily we did get a couple of photos, even if they aren’t as close or as clear as we would have liked.
After that confrontation, however, they mostly left us alone. We settled into card games, conversations, food runs, and cuddle piles. We were able to use the bathroom inside the station, but it meant walking a gauntlet past at least ten pissed off cops for the dubious privilege of using a metal jail toilet.
At about 2am, I bedded down. I never quite got to sleep, but I spent the next few hours lying on the sidewalk, drifting in and out of the conversations around me. When there was a lull in conversation, the rustling of the rats in the bushes took over. At about 3:30am the first camera crews showed up, but once I saw another press liaison had it covered I hid from the bright lights under my blanket and tried to tune it all out. I gave up at 5, accepted a donated cup of coffee, and started getting ready to head to work. None of the arrestees were released until after I left, so I didn’t get to hug them, but I’m glad I spent the night regardless.
Those early morning hours were very meaningful to me, and I wish I had enough words to express what I felt. I was aware that I had given up the comfort on my bed to not-really-sleep on concrete in solidarity with my friends in Milwaukee, Chicago, and New York who were doing the same inside jail cells. I felt the warmth and camaraderie of my friends around me and those at home sending messages throughout the night. I was overcome with the knowledge that if and when I got arrested for exercising my First Amendment rights, these same people would rally around me. And I knew that I was part of something special, something that no cop in a stupid tshirt could take away. We’re a family, and a community, and a force to be reckoned with.
Morning came and I went back to what I call my civilian life, but the experience of jail solidarity will always stay with me. Unfortunately, it’s an experience I expect to have many opportunities to repeat in the near future. But these arrests don’t weaken us; they make us stronger, individually and collectively.
I’ll see you all out in the streets.
– Rachel Allshiny –
Editor’s note: This post is one of many recounting events on June 6th, in which cities all over the world marched in solidarity with protests in Quebec. You may read about New York’s march here, an arrestee’s account of the experience here, and multiple points of view of the same march’s first five minutes here. The photo for this post above is by Abel Mebratu.]]>
Minutes after the surprise raid, the occupiers held an emergency GA which led to a group of 50 – 100 people marching in the streets on their way to the local police station where the arrestees were being detained. Once there, we were met with a line of agitated “peace officers” who shouted at us to “get the fuck away from them.” Some were slamming their batons on the ground in a failed attempt to intimidate the growing crowd of protesters who began giving the “pigs” a piece of their mind.
After finding the entrance, a group of about 5 of us let ourselves in to attempt to have a reasonable conversation to gather information about those who were arrested earlier in the evening. Pratibha Gautam, an attorney and member of “The Fresh Juice Party,” offered her legal knowledge and engaged the clerk in a civilized manner. I began to film with my cell phone & within seconds a disembodied male voice firmly requested that we shut the door. As I began to walk over to shut the door, 15-20 armed police officers filled the space and instantly demanded that we pick one person to speak to the gang of officers and the other four of us were given a 10 second warning to leave the building or stay the night with our fellow occupiers in a jail cell for “trespassing.”
Gautam was chosen to speak to the officers while the rest of us waited outside the glass doors. Unfortunately the OPD was uncooperative and did not give her any useful information, but rather a lie designed to send us to an empty building in search of our abducted comrades.
Occupiers yelled messages of love & solidarity to the prisoners with a loud and clear collective “OCCUPY!”
-Fresh Juice Party]]>