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
On the east side of the street there is a strip of grass. People are often sitting, waiting–usually for hours–for loved ones to walk out of the gates, always looking over their shoulders to make sure they don’t miss them. Sometimes when you’re in the area you get the pleasure of witnessing one of these reunions. People run into the street to embrace their families with smiles and sometimes even tears.
Even further south is the entrance to another division–Division 10–where two of my friends, two of the NATO 5, are currently being held. I go to visit one of them, Sabi, usually once a week and I can tell the guards are beginning to recognize me.
Two blocks further is 31st Street, the southernmost point of the jail. Hang a right and you’re on your way to Division 9, Supermax, the division that holds “the worst of the worst.” This is where my other three friends, the rest of the NATO 5, are being held.
After the first round with security, you are let out into a parking lot. There is one small building, the entrance to the lair. On your way to the doors you sometimes see prisoners on what is almost an enclosed porch. They are sometimes playing basketball, sometimes just standing against the fence, taking in the fresh air and sunshine.
Once inside the building you are led down a half-spiral staircase and told to wait behind a red line nearly 15 feet from the desk. Sometimes there is a line of people and sometimes there isn’t; either way you will have to wait behind that red tape line for what feels like forever, but in actuality is usually about two minutes.
After you tell them who you want to see, you silently pray that nothing is wrong, like the division being on lockdown or your friend being in the hole. After holding your breath while they type away at a computer for a few minutes, you are told to have a seat and they’ll call your friend’s name.
This is always the most agonizing part. The seats are these big stone blocks and all there is to read are signs warning against property destruction to the already-broken water fountains, the list of prohibited items, and the list of artículos prohibidos en español. Cell phones are not allowed, so most of the time people make quiet conversation. The walls are gray concrete and the floors dark tile. Sometimes the room is so crowded that people have to resort to standing or sitting against the wall by the men’s bathroom. Yes, in theory it’s truly wonderful, that so many people are keeping connections with those on the inside, but I doubt you’ve had to sit on the floor of a county jail waiting room two inches from the men’s bathroom.
My first time visiting was not long after the guys were arrested. The division still had this weird system because they didn’t want them interacting with others, so one of the three would take up an entire visiting room, just him and his visitor. Because of this I had to wait nearly four hours to meet Jacob (aka Brian Church, who goes by his middle name). While I was waiting one of the guards came in holding a blue jersey with white lettering that said “Super Maxxx” in a scripty font.
When I finally got to meet Jacob he came in and gave me this sort of confused look as he sat down, hands cuffed in neon orange, a graying thermal under his bright yellow jumpsuit, his freckles matching his red-orange hair.
“The worst of the worst.”
The entire time I had to fight the tears that were welling up. He probably thought that I was crazy, or that I was PMSing, nearly crying over a person I had only seen behind Plexiglass or in the newspaper.
This week I brought an old friend of mine, Cari, to meet Jacob. She is not an activist and has never even been to a protest, but she wanted to come along. We walked to Division 9, were greeted with a nice pat-down and walk through metal detector number one, and then headed toward the entrance of the lair. This time there were no yellow jumpsuits playing basketball or pressing their faces as close to fresh air as possible.
After waiting behind the red tape line, Cari and I register with a guard who keeps cracking jokes about the Olive Garden and their breadsticks, while on the other side of the room mothers are trying to control their children as they wait to see their husbands for the first time in a week for a mere 30 minutes, and that’s if they’re lucky.
After signing in, we sit on the cold concrete slab, a relief after being in nearly 100 degree weather outside. Twenty minutes of waiting and one of the guards begins yelling names. I do not hear Jacob’s, but she does call out “Chase, Jared!”–another of the NATO 5–and my other friend excitedly gets up and waits in line behind metal detector number two.
Another 30 minutes, and she calls another group of people. This time I hear “Church, Brian!” and Cari and I go wait in the line. We are told to go up to the third floor. When we get there most of the seats are taken, though there is one at the end where we wait until they bring Jacob out.
Not long after we enter, one of the guards opens the door and yellow jumpsuits start shuffling into the room, looking for a face they recognize and then sitting across from it, through a sheet of Plexiglass.
When Jacob comes in, I wave and smile to him and he sits down. Same neon orange handcuffs, same bright yellow jumpsuit, same freckles that match his red-orange hair. We start talking and catching up. He says he is doing okay and before long he asks Cari her name and introduces himself. She says, in a breaking voice, “Hi, I’m Cari.” I look over to see that her shaking hands are trying to shield her eyes, and I am immediately brought back to my first visit with Jacob.
For the next 15 minutes, Jacob and I talk about Occupy and Anaheim. I ask him if he needs any books and he asks me if I can print out pictures from May Day and the FTP march he went on only hours before he was arrested.
As we are leaving the visiting room, I ask Cari what she thought of her first jail visit, and she says, “It was okay. He totally doesn’t belong in there, though. He just seems like some kid. How old is he again?”
“Twenty,” I respond.
New York, NY–We were led to an old gymnasium, decorated with an odd juxtaposition of colorful murals of the NYC skyline – including a tragically ironic depiction of the Statue of Liberty – and plastic chairs arranged in neat rows, which were sorted by the number of seats for visitors. We were pointed to a set of three chairs across a round plastic table facing a lone seat – a setup designed to ensure our being physically separate from Mark. We were allowed to hold his hands (and did so – the entire time) but couldn’t move closer to him or sit on the floor near him.
We waited in anticipation for a few moments, and then, suddenly, there was the lovely, bearded man walking slowly across the room towards us, a wide smile breaking his somber face as he saw us. The three of us engulfed him in an amazing group hug (a corrections officer chuckled that we were going to suffocate him), and then long, lovely individual hugs before sitting down. His hugs are still super wonderful and feel as they always have – teddybearish, heartfelt, and huge. He looked a bit thinner (by, he later told us, about 8lbs), but bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and ostensibly healthy overall.
We started out conveying individual greetings and messages from a plethora of supporters who had asked us to give their regards. We told him about the solidarity actions outside Rector Coopers’ house and which are ongoing outside of Trinity Wall Street. We related the story of a comrade who had been turned away by corrections officers on a previous visit due to insufficient ID, and how a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles had left him so frustrated that he had three-quarters of the DMV pumping their fists in the air shouting “[expletive] the system!” And we talked about the amazing community meeting that empowered the Otter Solidarity Team to set up his visits, and all the collaborative organizing throughout the community that has gone into supporting him while he’s gone. He was especially moved by this: “That might make this all worthwhile, in some way,” he said.
And Mark shared quite a bit with us – in fact, he spoke about as much as the three of us did, combined. We’d gone in somewhat concerned that he would be withdrawn, but found him to be extremely present and coherent. What he told us, though, was at times difficult to hear. He described feeling that he had left part of himself behind when he was taken to jail, and explained that “in here, this isn’t the real Mark Adams.” He expressed some anxiety about being able to rejoin his full self upon release, but it felt to us like the stories we brought from the outside had already relit – at least, momentarily – Mark’s internal Roman-candle-in-waiting. He grinned when we assured him that the Mark we know and love is very much outside the barbed-wire fences, in our hearts and conversations and on our signs, and will be waiting for him along with the rest of us when he gets out.
He said that he knew our visit would leave him happy for the next few hours but then he would go back to how he usually is. He spends most of his time in his bunk, reading, doesn’t go outside and tries to keep to himself.
He’s received quite a bit of written correspondence – so much, in fact, that the corrections officers remarked to him that he was getting mail “like Lil Wayne did when he was in Rikers!” Some of the letters came from quite a distance, and Mark said he was particularly tickled by some childrens’ drawings of the D17 courtroom – a big round judge, and Mark sitting on a bench with a big beard. He again reiterated that he doesn’t often feel up to writing back, and we assured him that every time this statement from him has been passed along, everyone’s all “pssh” and that he shouldn’t feel any sense of obligation.
An interesting and useful bit that came up: he loves all of the books he has been receiving but he doesn’t know who any of them are from because the packages are opened and discarded before he receives the books. In the future, if you are sending him a book and want him to know it’s from you, write a note inside the cover for him. He also voiced some amused bafflement at the amount of communist literature he had received: “whoever keeps sending those books – I get it!” he told us grinningly. He stores the books in a large tupperware under his bed- it is completely full and he is trying to figure out what to do with the surplus books. There is no library at Rikers and if they get left around, books often wander off with the corrections officers.
Mark brought up his hunger strike, and how it has helped him bring his protest to Rikers. “I came to Occupy Wall Street to march and hold signs, and I can’t do that in here,” he explained. His hunger strike has brought him the power to fight back against the trauma and disempowerment of his sudden abduction, and to politicize his time in jail. The heightened medical attention he has received has brought him many people – doctors, counselors – with whom to discuss his politics and Occupy Wall Street. We shared some of the community’s concerns about his hunger strike – related to his well-being, the outside-jail politics of it, and the impact it may have on the OWS community – and he welcomed the “honest” feedback and promised to consider the concerns. “I’m not one of those comrades who won’t listen,” he promised, and we assured him that we already knew that about him.
Mark described his perception that officers at Rikers were somewhat taken by surprise by his adamant refusal to agree to any normal medical treatments given to inmates upon admittance (many of us already know of Mark’s avowed dislike of allopathy) and even more by his decision to pursue a hunger strike during his incarceration. One of the results is he sees a doctor twice a day, a different doctor each visit, which gives him many people to talk to about his statement. He is on some semblance of a juice fast, but the only juice available comes from powder – so, it’s basically flavored sugar water. The healthiest thing he has access to is three bottles of Powerade he’s allowed from the commissary each week. His sugar levels are being monitored by doctors to keep his glucose at healthy-ish levels. He told us of the awful food available to inmates, and even if he wasn’t on a hunger strike there wouldn’t be much for him to eat. All meals involve mostly meat dishes. There are two options- regular, and kosher/halal, but no vegetarian or vegan choices, and what few vegetables accompany the meal would not constitute appropriate nutrition on their own.
We tried to run the visiting schedule by him, but Mark has enjoyed the surprise of not knowing who is coming, and trusts our judgment. “I mean, you guys know who my friends are, right?” he said with a big old Mark Adams grin on his face. And he knows who his friends are, too, and feels very loved.
We were given no warnings as to how much time had passed during the course of our visit, and seemingly out of the blue, the C.O. who had led us in handed us back our boarding passes. We looked at him quizzically, not ready to understand what that signified. “Time to go,” he explained. And that was it. We took our time for another minute of loving squeezes, and watched Mark shuffle back to the door through which he came (we caught him making a goofy face at a C.O. on his way out), as we were escorted back out the door we had entered, out past security and onto the bus. For all the hours of waiting and negotiating the Rikers bureaucracy to see Mark for that one bittersweet hour, the exit was rapid and painless. By around 5:30 we were back on the city bus and headed off of the island.
The contrast was stark, and tragic: we returned to our lives of freedom and companionship; he to his of confinement and isolation. We decompress, together, in a comfortable living room, while Mark – along with 14,000 other Rikers inmates, and another 7 million across the country – are left alone to process the injustice and dehumanization perpetuated by mass incarceration.]]>
New York, NY–We spent the previous twenty-four hours preparing ourselves for what we imagined would be a difficult day: poring over the DOC website’s rules and regulations, reading and rereading reportbacks from the last two visits, seeking and receiving much great advice from lots of great people – and bracing ourselves emotionally. We were probably as prepared as we possibly could have been, but it took the visceral experience to truly grasp its weight.
Upon our arrival via the Q100 bus from Queens Plaza, we followed other visitors towards the entrance along a path that seemed constructed to immediately make you feel trapped and uncomfortable. We stood in line for about 20 minutes between two chain-link fences with barely enough space between them for two columns of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The inside fence has large-print advisory signs on them, which were a challenge to read because there was no room to stand back. The only sign with reasonably-sized lettering was, for some reason, elevated about 20 feet in the air, making it just as difficult to read but in a totally opposite way. Almost every sign throughout the visit bore rules upon rules, and threats of arrest if any of these rules were broken – as if we needed the reminder.
The sun beat down. In the distance, we could see large, imposing buildings surrounded by barbed wire, and we wondered where Mark was. We were among only about six white folks of about 50 total people in sight. Almost all of the other visitors were women with young children, and most seemed inured to the dehumanizing bureaucracy that frustrated us at every turn.
We left everything in the first locker except our quarters, some cash, our IDs, and the books we brought for Mark — (The Gift, The Wu-Tang Manual, and a book of poetry by Adam Mansbach) — and proceeded through the first security checkpoint. We waited in another line inside for about 30 minutes, and when we got to the front of the line, we were each in turn identified, asked for an address, and quizzed as to our relationship with Mark. We were a little surprised when they fingerprinted us and took mugshots, which were printed out and given to us on rectangular paper that looked and served exactly like airline boarding passes.
After another 30 minute wait, we were pointed towards a white bus, which took us to the Eric M. Taylor Center. The short drive across the plaza reminded us we were now trapped in the belly of the beast – giving us the slightest taste of the “YOU CANT LEAVE” message that inevitably resounds for all prisoners throughout every moment of their sentence. It also allowed us a glimpse at Incarceration City – isolated buildings, each surrounded with violent tangles of barbed wire. Every inch of the place is a visual threat, its role as an institution of confinement and disempowerment constantly reinforced.
We received a brief lecture from a corrections officer before being let into the building, including mention that there had been “a slashing” at the building next door earlier that day and no one was being allowed in or out of that place today. After another security check, the back of our left hand was stamped with a clear substance. We were bewildered by the invisible stamp; we don’t know what it was. We were told it was to mark that we had been through security, but we don’t know how to read it and have no idea what, if anything, it says. (We would love to know more about this practice, if anyone knows.)
After an excruciatingly long hour (or so – without phones or watches, and no clocks on the walls, the entire visit felt as though it took place in a time vacuum) in a room full of chairs reminiscent of a free clinic’s waiting room (the soap opera and hysterical baby really set the scene) we were finally called to enter the “visiting floor”.]]>
Chicago, Il – In the depressing afternoon of June 14th, I watched the same tactics from prosecutors regarding freedoms of the remaining NATO5 “terrorists.” After dejectedly exiting 26th and California, my comrades and I drove across Chicago to support another prisoner. In a different courtroom with similar ridiculous charges levied against yet another gentle comrade whose only crime was daring to stand up to the bully state, I watched an Occupier stand in front of a judge. This time, instead of shackles, he entered the room with his right arm heavily bandaged and in a sling, and his body was in disrepair. The bruised, battered and shocked accounts from thathorrible night of his brutal and unnecessarily forceful arrest at the Quebec Solidaritérally and Casserole march showed his arm was fine before incarceration. He’s being charged with a crime against police that he did not commit. The irony is lost not on us, that all those cops’ goals include breaking protester bodies and crippling Occupy Chicago’s spine, while our ambitions instead encompass nonviolently creating new structures to improve this world. Our comrade’s body and spirit have been damaged by the very state we are striving to improve for the people, even those bastard cops.
Even though I gasped in horror and empathic pain, verbally echoing the looks of sadness, pain, rage, and anger emanating from the faces of our friends filling courtroom bench, there was nowhere else I’d rather sit. I had to see, not just for myself, but for the defendant as well. I needed to sit on the front lines of injustice, listen to the lies of state, absorb the fuel to figuratively burn this society down and nonviolently establish more beneficial structures for all people, especially ones like the defendant and the NATO5, whose only crime is raising their voices against a cancerous state. Court and jail support are essential to the health of a movement. They keep the movement focused on past struggles for which our family sacrificed their freedom, and strengthen us to work even more closely, as well as remind us how quickly our own freedom can be taken away by the state. Solidarity is the tenderness between struggles. Jail solidarity means calling our dedicated and beloved lawyers to check on our comrades and setting up visits to see our friends. That solidarity manifests itself when we fellow activists attend court dates and surround the space outside prison cells. It means sitting on those cold benches, radiating love and care. Jail support is what binds us together in- and outside of the cells.
Linking any agitation for social transformation to jail support is logical. At Occupy Chicago not only do we continue to support our allies’ struggles, as in Quebec, we’re continuing to fight for a new society: one without corporate money influencing politics and policies. The myriad applications of that idea include repairing economic disparity, reversing the pandemic of home foreclosure, creating better financial lending structures, empowering people across the world to stand up! fight back!, enforcing or generating accountability structures for government, determining an education system that benefits the public without debt, providing human services like mental health care instead of wasting taxpayer resources and in reaction to the June 7 brutal and savage police attacks on Chicago’s peaceful protesters, speaking out against police suppression and brutality.
Organizing is doing what is loved and tying that love into doing what’s needed for the greater good. We become better activists, better supporters, and better friends by educating ourselves and others. Before my fellow protesters were caged, I knew nothing about prison support. After diving in to the blazing ocean of others’ pain andtears by reading haunting firsthand accounts of jail life and treading visceral, hot water after internalizing the stories of crushing loneliness and omnipresent fear which manifests itself through incarceration, listening to what can be accomplished, we determined where and how to direct Occupy Chicago’s dedicated energy, bodies and resources. To support our caged comrades, we all keep fighting by keeping their struggle present in the public consciousness through past and upcoming press conferences, noise demonstrations, fundraising, education,courtroom solidarity, radical direct actions, and political pressure campaigns. We show our comrades we love them by establishing working groups, , letter-writing parties, and visitation day/time announcements. We show them love simply by standing with them and reassuring them that they are not alone.
While I’m not physically caged with my comrades, I feel locked away. My energy, heart, and body are as dedicated to their fight and to their comfort. Precisely as Occupy fights for systemic change by highlighting the interconnectedness of home foreclosure to the education debt crisis and the corporatization of financial structures, forging the correlations of a repressive state climate coupled with brutal police repression and political imprisonment to Occupy Chicago’s overarching society-rebuilding endeavors is an exercise in solidarity.
Experiencing the waves of gratitude once we attained our victory of their freedom is enough to buoy me through the nights when I can’t sleep, thinking of people I used to stand with in the streets, now caged. Seeing, then freeing our comrades only inspires me to keep working, keep struggling, until the prisons come down, the movement for which our comrades have sacrificed their freedom will support them in our collective struggle.