Category Archives: California

Unity And Struggle Through The Bars with Mwalimu Shakur

Unity And Struggle Through The Bars with Mwalimu Shakur

Photo of Mwalimu Shakur from 2021 at Corcoran Prison (copied from Mwalimu's site)
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This week on the show, you’ll hear our conversation with Mwalimu Shakur, a politicized, New Afrikan revolutionary prison organizer incarcerated at Corcoran prison in California. Mwalimu has been involved in organizing, including the cessations of hostilities among gangs and participation in the California and then wider hunger strikes against unending solitary confinement when he was at Pelican Bay Prison in 2013, helping to found the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, or IWOC, Liberation Schools of self-education and continues mentoring younger prisoners. He was in solitary confinement, including in the SHU, for 13 of the last 16 years of his incarceration.

For the hour, Mwalimu talks a bit about his politicization and organizing behind bars, his philosophy, Black August, the hunger strikes of 2013, the importance of organizing in our neighborhoods through the prison bars.

You can contact Mwalimu via JayPay by searching for his state name, Terrence White and the ID number AG8738, or write him letters, addressing the inside to Mwalimu Shakur and the envelope to:

Terrence White #AG8738
CSP Corcoran
PO Box 3461
Corcoran, CA 93212

Mwalimu’s sites:

To hear an interview from way back in 2013 that William did former political prisoner and editor of CA Prison Focus, Ed Mead (before & after the strikes), search our website or check the show notes.

Other Groups Mwalimu Suggests:

Announcements

Shut ‘Em Down 2021

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Jonathan Jackson at the Marin County Courthouse, the assassination of his brother George at San Quentin in California and the subsequent uprising and State massacre at Attica State Prison in New York. Black August has been celebrated at least since 1979 to mark these dates with study, exercise, community building, sharing and reflection by revolutionaries on both sides of the bars. In the last decade across Turtle Island, you’ve seen strikes and protests and educational events take place around this time of the year as we flex our muscles.

This year, as you’ve heard us mention, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is calling for weeks of action for Abolitionism under the name “Shut ‘Em Down 2021”. You can find out more at JailhouseLawyersSpeak.Wordpress.Com and follow them on twitter and instagram, linked in our show notes, alongside links relating to this weeks chat. You can hear our interview with a member of JLS from earlier this year about the “Shut ‘Em Down” initiative, or read the interview, at our site and in these show notes. Also, check out our interview with the remaining member of the Marin Courthouse Uprising, possibly the oldest living political prisoner in the US, Ruchell Cinque Magee.

Shaka Shakur Hunger Strike

New Afrikan prison rebel, co-founder of the New Afrikan Liberation Collective and IDOCWatch organizer, Shaka Shakur has been interstate transferred hundreds of miles away from his support network to Buckingham Correctional Center in Virginia (recognize that name?). There was a call-in campaign this week focused on VA Governor Northam, director of VADOC Harold Clark, VADOC central regional director Henry Ponton and Warden Woodson at BKCC. This was in support of Shakur’s hunger strike in protest of the transfer, his time in solitary prior in Indiana for having his prescription medication, being moved into solitary at BKCC with minimal hygiene and no personal materials. As noted in the transcript about his hunger strike at IDOCWatch’s website, the transfer interrupts civil and criminal litigation Shaka Shakur had pending in Indiana and has caused him to be halfway across the country after his own surgeries, the loss of his family matriarch and another aunt, the hospitalization of mother and other health hardships.

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Featured Tracks:

  • Blues For Brother George Jackson by Archie Shepp from Attica Blues
  • George Jackson by Dicks from These People

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Transcription

TFSR: Hi, I’m wondering if you could introduce yourself for the audience, maybe like your name, your location, if that’s useful, any pertinent information that will help the audience understand you.

Mwalimu Shakur: My name is Mwalimu Shakur, and I’m in Corcoran State Prison, where I’ve been for the last 17 years, 13 of which were in solitary confinement. But, you know, due to our massive hunger strikes in challenging this legislature inside of prison, the bureaucrats decided to let us out to the general population.

TFSR: Can you talk a little bit about some of your background, where you came from, how you became politicized, and how you identify politically now?

MS: Yeah, well, I came from Los Angeles, California. You know… gang violence was a problem in every neighborhood around the whole LA County area. As well as most of Southern California, but I grew up in a gang neighborhood, and not having really no political education, and only knowing the street way of life. You kind of navigated through court cases, you know, cases that put you in prison. But once you come inside of here, you have older individuals from your same community and other communities around the country who became politicized. And they became politically mature, so they can re-educate others that come in.

And for me, landing in prison, or what the drug mentality, gang mentality, criminal mentality all together. It put me in a situation where I was always involved in physical combat with others. You know, people I knew from my area, and then we have race riots. So those types of things that put you in solitary confinement. And when you go to solitary confinement, or you catch an infraction, those in SHU term, they’ll place you around more politicized individuals, who’ve educated themselves, studied their own history, study, politics, economics, a vast array of things. And being around those guys, that was the program on the inside. So I was able to start educating myself. I educated myself, so much so that I developed it into my practice. And it gave me a discipline, that became second nature to me. And once my mind started opening up to this new reality, I started seeing things more clearly, and I realized and understood why my community was the way that it was.

It wasn’t because we wanted to do these things, it was by design by those who oppress us and control us so that they can put us in their prisons and enact a modern day slavery type practice. Being in prison, that’s exactly what it is. So that’s what happened to me. And now, the more I still learn, the more I’m able to teach, and hopefully stop others from making those same mistakes. And if my teaching is correct, the way it was with me, then we can stop this schooltoprison pipeline which is what we say when you have a lot of people from inner city coming to prison, not knowing what to do with their self, they usually end up here. And we’re trying to break, break that curse, break those habits.

TFSR: A lot of people in the listening audience may not understand what you mean, with talking about how the situation was set up, particularly at this time, like you went in during what could be called like the heyday of mass incarceration in the United States. And if you could maybe break down, since you’ve been in for a while and some things have changed greatly, somethings have stayed the same. There’s this guy named Biden, I’ve heard about that has a still pretty prominent politics, that was pretty prominent. And some of the political decisions that put a lot of people in particular, Black and brown folks behind bars at that time. Can you talk a little bit about that context?

MS: Yeah, well, in the inner city, they flooded it with cocaine. You know, as if to say that the little progress we’ve made in the 70s, from the 60s revolutionary era, would quiet us and stop us from progressing as a people and as a culture. So you flood all the inner cities with this cocaine, okay? A lot of us partook in selling it, not knowing or really having a vast understanding and just further destroying our community and our people. So we became hustlers in the drug game. Gangs were rapidly building and growing. And then they put guns on the streets.

So now with the gun wars, and drug wars… basically the administration, I think and believe, had it set up that way so that they can take taxpayers money to build more prisons and create more laws to put us in and clearly show you the problems that are happening in those inner cities. And they created it, you know, and when you study it, you see it unfold that way because the only ones being hauled off into these prisons is Black and brown people. And the sentences are outrageous. Without a murder just for like selling small amounts of cocaine, you can get a lot of times – double digits, Okay? And then they enacted other laws, like the three strike law and made it seem like we were the worst people on planet Earth.

And in all actuality, that’s not really true. If you wouldn’t flood the inner cities with that cocaine and had made it possible for us to have better quality education in our schools, made it affordable to go off to college and learn a higher field of study so we can be successful in this country, we would have had more success. But the ratio, you know, people Black and brown playing sports was very limiting and that was the only ticket that I see out if you weren’t being a drug dealer. So that’s why I say it was by design, when you studied you see that mass incarceration boom, is still in effect right now, right? And what we’re doing is trying to challenge some of those laws and get them out of here. Because we recognize what they did. And with some of the laws changing, it’s like they’re admitting it, that they did do this and now it’s time to make it right. So that’s what I see.

TFSR:

Awesome, thank you so much for sharing that. Part of the context that I have for you and was excited to have you on the show is because you have a long history of struggle alongside of other prisoners against unethical situations, against cruelty, against mass incarceration. One of the points in the struggle of prisoners that I’ve heard you refer to was participation in the hunger strikes against basically unending use of the SHU or solitary confinement. Can you talk a bit about it? People may have heard of the term SHU or secure housing unit? How does that differ from solitary confinement more generally? Is there a difference?

MS:

Well, no, there’s no difference. I mean, we refer to solitary confinement is to AD-SEG, administrative segregation, which is what they first put you before you get the SHU term. The situation is the same. 23 hours locked down. Except for once you once you go to the SHU, that’s when you can have appliances like a TV or radio, okay? In AD-SEG, you can’t have those two things, but you can have everything else. You still go to yard every other day for a few hours. And you’re in a dog-like kennel-type cage, where they put a urinal, so that you can use the restroom. But you have no contact with another human being. You can see from cage to cage, but you can’t contact them, you can’t touch them.

The only human contact you have is if you have a celly. So the practices are the same. The length of time, in AD-SEG is not as long as it is in SHU. Like I said AD-SEG is like a pit stop before you get to Security Housing Unit. And within a Security Housing Unit. You can’t have the type of things you can have on in the general population. You can’t take college courses, you can’t go to school. You can’t take a vacation. You can have a few books. You can have no tennis shoes. Just like, some type of shoe that’s not really designed to protect your feet, you can put on like a shower shoe, but with a little bit more support. You could have no athletic shorts, no T-shirts. We took like two pairs of T-shirts to make a long sleeve T-shirt in case it was cold. So you couldn’t have sweat suits, thermals, beanies, nothing like that, to keep yourself warm.

It’s a real inhumane practice to have. You pretty much break a person down to nothing. And you put them in a cell, like I said, confined for 23 hours a day. And it was just because of those conditions: the small portions on the trays, the lack of quality healthcare, always being handcuffed every time you do come out of the cell to go to a shower, which is like five minutes. If you’re in Pelican Bay, then you’re not in a dog cage, you are in a little cage right behind your cell so you see nobody.

So yeah, we all came together talking through the doors, talking through the toilets, to each other and decided to come up with a strategy to get out of here. To get released. It worked because, united we stood on a hunger strike. And then we started challenging the injustice that puts you in there, like the gang validation. And then we start challenging the practices that they use to keep you in there. Like, if you talk to another inmate who’s a gang member, then you get another point, and it keeps you in there longer. And mind you, you are going through a classification every six years to get considered to be released. So it was really inhumane, the practices were. We just came up with the hunger strike strategy as well as challenging the rules in order to get up out of here. And for the most part, it worked.

TFSR: You talked about participating in the hunger strikes against SHU containment. Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between the administration and gang status? There’s a term, you’ll be able to come up with it, but, basically where if you’re assigned a gang status, because somebody else pointed at you, the only way in a lot of cases to get out of the SHU at that point was to basically claim that someone else was a gang member, and give false testimony in a lot of cases, to be able to reduce SHU time. Is that Is that a fair description? Is that what happened?

MS: Yeah, well, what it is, is the administration, they look at who they feel is against them as far as political-ness. Like for us New Afrikans, I could speak on that. We’re not a gang, but being a politicized, conscious, New Afrikan means you can challenge the conditions and wake others up to that knowledge on how to do so. And what they do is they’ll put that gang label on you, because they put the gang label on the other ethnic groups, and it will stick with the other ethnic groups, if you’re a gang member that came from society, and you come up inside of these prisons and you group together, and you form your structure.

So what they do is they put that label on you. So they can get away with the type of law book that they write. They come up with these rules, just like the bureaucrats and society come up with rules and different laws to get legislation passed, okay? The bureaucrats in prison do the same, they get a book where it gives them the rights to whatever they consider gang practice: like reading certain types of books, certain type of cultural literature, a certain type of drawing depicting that literature. Anything you read, study, or practice, if they consider that gang participation, they’ll slap you with that label.

Okay? And if you rack up… they give you points for everything you do. Okay, if you speak this Swahili language, they say you are communicating in code. Okay, so that becomes a gang point. If you exercise a certain way, in military form, that shows unity. They look at that as gang participation with other gang members. So it’s whatever the rules they can try to come up with to make stick on you, which gives them their little right to hinder you. And once they have enough points, like three to four points, they then can put you in solitary confinement indefinitely. And what it does is, they give you an indeterminate SHU, which is only six months. But every six months, they just keep stamping it. So then you stay in there for years and years and years and you only go to committee every six years if you have an indeterminate SHU. So that gives me the right to keep you in there. And then when you go to that committee, they stamp you again. Saying, “well, we see them talking to another gang member, he hasn’t denounced his association”.

So, you know, those little things keep you in solitary for that length of time, and the only way to get out is parole. And if you debrief, go through the little process of dry snitching or telling on others, informing on others and work for them, or you die. You know? And we wanted to take that power back. So we all got together and decided, you know, let’s come up with these strategies to do so. But it’s a flawed system. We challenged it, it worked because we didn’t have the political maturity to understand that in order to beat their system, we should unite. But once we develop that, we found those strategies to be significant in winning our freedoms from behind that wall. So now, they can only use this SHU practices, if you catch a SHU-able offense. You know, whatever they deem a SHU-able offense by getting caught with a weapon or participating in some type of a riot or melee, assault on the staff, anything that will warrant SHU placement?

TFSR: Mwalimu, just to make a point, on the on the gang jacketing, and the files, and the debriefing and everything. Like, if you get paroled out… and like a lot of people are going to end up staying with their families because they don’t have money. So if they can go anywhere, they’ll try to stay with their family. Oftentimes the ways that the California government defines gang membership, there’s a relationship to… they say like, “Oh, it overlaps with family.” So it seems like it complicated it too, when you go and you stay in your cousin’s house or whatever, they are then associating with a known gang member and this kind of thing. I’m not sure if it still is the case, but I think in 2013 this was still the case, gang injunctions would then come into play where maybe if because you’ve been communicating with your cousin, who’s on the outside. When you get out maybe you can’t go to the neighborhood that your your cousin lives in, because they’re considered to be gang associated through family connections or whatever. Is that right?

MS: Well, it’s true still because yeah, they can gang jacket you. But once they do background checks on your family, and they see that they’re not involved with the street gang or anything like that, they will back up but they will still watch you. Most people, the family already knows about them, and what to expect in case they parole to a loved one’s house. Now, if you go to your neighborhood, and you are a member of a street gang, then the parole department is going to watch a lot more, because if the street gangs is under any type of surveillance for any type of activities that they have, they’re going to see if you’re participating in things like that. And that’s also avoidable. It’s all about you and what you want to do to integrate back into society.

For me, I was working, went back to school, and living a productive life, where they couldn’t pinpoint me for doing things with known gang members from my area, or anybody else I might have ran into that I knew, because while they’re watching me, they’re seeing that “Okay, he may be speaking to people, but he’s not doing anything that we consider illegal or gang activity.” So, they won’t push on you so hard, they’ll gives you a little leeway. But for those that do go back out there and do anything like that, you’re just setting yourself up for failure, you know? Surveillance capitalism, you see it all over now they got cameras on telephone poles, and certain community areas where they can watch the neighborhood and see what they’re doing, and things of that nature. So the community is under surveillance, you know, normal people under surveillance. I mean, so they’re watching everything you do. But it’s up to you, that individual, on how well they want to be productive out there and what they want to do while they’re out there.

TFSR: Yeah, what you’re describing, though, with, like the inside / outside affiliations, and the constant surveillance is counter-insurgency. Right?

MS:

Right. Right, right. And they do that in here as well as out there. I learned that firsthand by being in the SHU and being investigated by ISU officers and IGI who are supposed to work with gang members in prison. But they’re going out there in society and work on parole agents, and other Sheriff departments and patrols certain gang neighborhoods. And that’s how I got arrested, actually, on three violations that I obtained. I was arrested by them, you know, and I didn’t commit a crime. But one of my violations, they put me back in prison for being out past curfew because I stopped at a gas station before I got home, and then they were the one’s harassing me! Okay? Then I’m at home, you know, it’s a decent hour, but they came to my house, saying “Well, you are living above your means.” You know, just little chickenshit things like that. It’s the thing that they do when you have their gang jacket on. And like I said, it gives them that right, because of their flawed law book that they put together, that they target us. You know?

TFSR: During the last portion of our conversation, you were talking about the the prison strikes, the hunger strikes across California prisons that actually spread way beyond that, around concerns of solitary confinement. And you talked about when people realize that when they were unified, they have a lot more strength. Can you talk about that sort of organizing. That inspirational moment and the hard work that you all put into create negotiations and some sort of like, de-escalation between different crews, whether they be specifically racialized crews, like the Aryan Brotherhood? That sort of stuff that inspires people still from the Lucasville uprising and from Attica before it?

MS: Yeah, yes. When you show a person your purpose, and you can sometimes take race even out of it, and just show the love for humanity. When you take a stand for others who are being oppressed. And you show them the conditions in which they’re being oppressed, they can understand and say “That makes sense.” So what we was able to do was, let them know that there’s a bigger picture than this little bickering that we had going on for generations and generations. And when you show them that bigger picture, and they see that “if we unite with you all, whether our interests are the same or not, and we can reach the objective by doing so, then let’s do it.” And then the whole time, while you’re doing that, you still show them your correct views, your correct ideology, what you proceed. You show them the incorrect ways in which they’re being treated by the government. You show them that it’s a class struggle, and not a race struggle, and you use these teaching moments, you know, to show them that it’s the race caste system was devised by the two party government system. To show you that “look, if you divide yourself from the Negros and the Indians, then we will give you special privileges,” but they’re not getting as those privileges. So now you show them that, “look, you’re serving their interests as much as we do, or we are. And if you believe in American values, you’re going to lose because they’re not going to treat you the way you think you deserve to be treated.” And you can clearly see that with people that go off to war. So when you show people where they’re wrong is that and who is responsible for the wrong they’ll lean more towards you.

And that’s what we were able to do with the other ethnic groups in California, as well as when we got the word out to society, and had a lot white people, a lot of Mexican people, a lot of other ethnicities join forces with us, in solidarity, to help us overcome the challenges that we were facing here. And we had a lot of people from other countries like maybe Europe, you know, where there was a lot of civil unrest, and a lot of organizations who established themselves, they were poor people organizations. They realized that it was a class struggle. And that’s how you win the masses over. You know a lot of times people just, they have a feeling, they have a thought, they just need to be pushed to exercise that thought and give into that feeling. And when you show him that you’ve got that love and support for them. And they feel that strength, they tend to latch on, too.

TFSR: What were some outcomes actually, of those strikes. I know it led to higher court responses and admonition of the state of California for its practices. How have things changed because of that mass movement of people, and how has that peace that was brokered, and reflection, that it was a class struggle, and not a race struggle… Where does that seem to fit in the California system to you now?

MS: Well, now that they let us all out of solitary confinement, you know, that was one win. And then they can only use solitary confinement or the SHU for if you catch a SHU term. You know, it would have to be a criminal infraction, just like if you’re on the streets, and you catch a case and you go to prison. They have to utilize it the way it was designed. So they can’t use those practices no more. Also the guard union took a hit, because a lot of them can’t work in the SHU no more and get that hazardous pay, which is like triple pay. So they lose out. The Board of Prison Terms has said “You know what? We’re going to have to start letting some of these people out of prison and back into society.” So the laws have been changing.

Since we’ve gotten into the general population, and utilize our practices, and shown them, you know, this revolutionary way of doing things. When they implemented their own self-help groups, which are like robotic programs to teach you how to have common sense the way they want you to, you see how they’re doing it, and you change that narrative and create your own self-help groups. Things that you know will really work. And you’re working together with other ethnicities, and you’re increasing the peace and showing this younger generation “You’ve been misled, you’ve been misguided. You know, we’re the ones who made mistakes, and had the faults, it’s time for us to change that.” And when you do that, you see legislature saying “Okay, well, they know the truth now. They know what really happened. They know how the Three Strikes were devised. They know who pushed the crack cocaine into the neighborhoods.” we’re taking the power back by realizing that there’s a peaceful way to get things done, there’s a peaceful way to bring these changes.

And if you keep telling the truth, you take the power out of their 1% class of hands, and you win more of the masses over. Because you make people who didn’t know, understand, you know, by teaching them those truths. And then they research those facts on their own and they’re more willing to want to help you. So a lot of changes are still needed, but we got the ball rolling. And that’s one thing that I can say is happening right now throughout the California prison system.

TFSR: So this year, Jailhouse Lawyer Speak, which is a coalition based around and in prisons around the US and a lot in the South, is calling for days of action, solidarity and education on the outside with folks struggling on the inside on August 21, and September 9. And I’d like to hear later about Black August and about education and the 50th anniversary of George Jackson’s assassination, and how people participated in the Attica Uprising also. But I’m wondering if you can say a little bit about the importance of having people on the outside acting in solidarity and understanding the unity between inside and outside as well as the differences. And just to sort of like point to that trajectory of activity… the inspiration of the hunger strikes in California that spread the movement in Georgia, in the early 2010s, the Free Alabama Movement and the strikes that were happening in Alabama and Mississippi around that time and the sort of like chronology of struggle. Could you talk about the importance of the inside / outside solidarity and the upcoming dates of the action and education?

MS: Yeah, well, the inside outside solidarity is of paramount importance because we don’t want separation. We don’t want the 1% class to think that people in society look at us as bad people, you know? They need to understand that it’s important to support us on the inside because we are the ones who will be fighting once we get out, we’re the ones who are going to fight with them, to help them challenge different conditions out there that are still oppressing them out there is as it is in here. You know, it should never be a divide. It should always be unity.

You know what we sparked in California by recognizing our conditions, we’re glad that it trickled over into the other states because they were up against the same type of oppressive slave conditions. I mean, they didn’t start in California with the three strikes, for example. They started in California, and that actually spread to other States, and they just call it something different, but the condition is still the same. So the importance of knowing that, will build that unity, and people outside will see the importance of this, to stand in unity with us on the inside to get things done because t takes us all in order to beat back Capitalism and Imperialism.

What we would love to see more of, is a lot more changes being done in the Constitution, like Ammendment 13. Keeping those clauses there allows them to still keep those practices, those slave practices. And people on outside needs to really understand a lot more of what they’re up against. And if they are working with anybody in here, we can always show them to look at Liberation Schools. It teaches you something that the American public school system didn’t teach you. We teach the truth based on all cultures, how they’ve been oppressed, economically, politically, militarily. And the need to eradicate those backwards ways of thinking and doing, because you know who established them. And if you know that, then you can fight them a whole lot easier. So we look forward to continuing our Liberation Schools and winning the masses over that way. We look forward to supporting you all out there. As well as I know, you guys will look forward to helping us on the inside. And yeah, we can talk about it a lot more than next time I get a chance to call.

Working inside and outside is the best thing possible so that we break away from that dividing line, that they try to put there because they want to keep you separate. Unity in the masses is of paramount importance, if you want to go forward in this class struggle, because we need to unite, helping each other with whatever we got going on, that reaches a positive objective of change. You know, and like what you’re doing now, this right here builds unity of the masses, builds solidarity, this reaches people so they can see their purpose. And if they need help with anything, and there’s others who might have a semblance of how to make it happen for them, then, you know, by all means you should always assist. You know, and that’s what will keep the unity strong. People always want to be able to lean on their comrades and loved ones and sometimes other people have better programs or something else is working, that they might not have working. And you always want to help people so that they can achieve their goals, just like how you want to achieve your goals.

TFSR: So we’re talking right now, in August, that’s the 50th anniversary of the Attica uprising as well as the assassination of George Jackson, which, as I understand in 1979 began being practiced mostly by Black radical prisoners, and then by others in solidarity, the practice of Black August. Can you talk a little bit about the practice, it’s important to you? And also a bit about the education and the Liberation Schools?

MS:

Yeah. Well the purpose of keeping the practice going of Black August is what the month means to New Afrikan revolutionaries and fought and gave their life to win freedoms that we have in here. They put their life on the line to challenge these conditions. So, the Liberation Schools, from the onset is to teach that, about our history, our cultural practices, because this is something that we didn’t learn in school. And when you learn through the Liberation Schools, it allows you to go out there and not compete in the capitalist market, but understand what Capitalism is all about and utilize your finances for socialist practices. You know, helping grow Blackowned businesses or other oppressed ethnic groups in the communities, businesses, and building that unity and solidarity. Because what you learn is that we all have shared cultural practices. In Howard Zinn’s book The People’s History of the United States you learn how divided line was established and by whom. You learned the importance of solidarity and unity and how to help each other, you know “Each One Teach One” practices come to mind. And you see the importance of doing so. So yeah, this whole month, we pay reverence to those who paved the way for us, basically, and continue with this study. And practice the exercising, something we do in unity. Just to feel strength.

TFSR: So you mentioned, like the practices and the importance of sharing this, learning and mentoring, and study, and focus, during the period of Black August, and also like redirecting funds back into socialistic endeavors. Could you talk a bit about sort of the legacy for you of some of the big ideas, and some of the big thinkers. George Jackson obviously comes to mind. His struggle, his writings have been like greatly influential to folks that are doing study behind bars. I know that you’ve done work on projects that have collaborated with George Jackson University. And also, I would like for you, if you if you’re okay with it, to break down the term New Afrikan, which you’ve defined yourself as. I think some listeners may be unfamiliar with that term and some of its lineage.

MS: Well, the New Afrikan term is your ideology. You know, we consider this our New Afrikan being as we’re descendants of our ancestors who came over here as slaves. So we don’t use the term African American or Black or… We try to refrain from those terms, because those are the terms that the oppressor wants to call you and to see things in his way is just not the correct way. So that’s why we call ourselves New Afrikans, it’s an ideology. And all ethnicities who are revolutionary nationalists should always refer to their self in a way that they feel comfortable, not in a way like the oppressors feel like referring to them. And you know, most of my role models, so to speak: yeah, George is one; Mao; Marx; Engels; Amílcar Cabral; Patrice Lumumba; Kwame Nkrumah; Jomo Kenyatta. All those who took the liberation stands, Che Guevara, to challenge oppression, and unite the people, and challenge the conditions that were oppressing them, not just the people. Those who sacrificed their life, paved the way for us. The spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of all of those who continue to do the same, because, as you can see, the problem still exists.

I do like Huey’s concept as well, because, creating a party, which Lenin spoke about, a party or self-governing organization of the people. You know, that’s basically what Communism is. And Socialism is your economic practices. So it works in hindsight, as long as you’re always keeping the People in mind. When you create programs for the People, they are programs designed to help further the people along, and keep them thinking about self sufficiency. Because that’s what it’s all about. You don’t need to compete in the capitalist market, work your way up the capitalist chain, because you’ll never make it to the top. In understanding that, you want to wake up the minds of others who don’t yet know that. And that way they won’t be running around like dogs chasing their tail, so to speak. Lost and caught up just trying to make ends meet. They’ll make things better for themself. Okay?

TFSR: You were just telling me about the liberation Schools. Can you talk a bit about what y’all do and what the idea is?

MS: Okay, with us, it’s always about need. So, as far as like the Liberation Schools, we try to bring the material, the cultural material, historical material, where we read it and studied it, and we practice our way of life like our ancestors did. And every program we create, is a program of need. So when we grab the certain books, by for instance, Chancellor Williams has a book called The Destruction of Black Civilization, and it tells you how it was destroyed in Africa. Okay, Then he tells you, he does a sequel, part two: The Rebirth Of African Civilization. And that tells you how to build these self sufficiency programs that are designed to allow you to implement socialist practices that are programs of need that people have, so that they can continue to raise healthy families. You know?

Like for instance, we created one program, I have to use a pamphlet so you can get the in depth details of it. But like for instance, one of them was like building a community grocery store. And let’s say for instance, I have enough finances to rent a space and build a grocery store. I use a comrade or friend in the community that has their own construction company, and I spend money with them who is not going to charge me a lot to build the grocery store. Okay, the grocery store, all the stuff that I’m selling in a grocery store, let’s say or instance there are four or five people on my street who have organic fruits and vegetables. The soil is ripe for planting and growing foods and vegetables. So I take all their groceries, all their stuff, I pay them what they want for this, reasonable price, and I turn around and sell it to other people. And what you see is the practices of implementing that. And everybody has enough. Everybody is not in need. And the concept continues.

And you can use it with other things like a clothing store. I have a friend of mine who’s a good artist. So I might want to go to another friend of mine who has a linen shop, and buy some linen, and then take my other friend’s art and transform the art onto the clothes and start a clothing line. You know what I mean? And go to another friend of mine who owns like a store similar to Walmart, and put my stuff in his store and have him sell it for price. So that everybody has enough money. Everybody is working and contributing to each other’s businesses, and we’re growing and thriving those businesses and living off of that. Those socialist practices are what’s missing in the communities. And if there is a lot of, you know, what we call a mom and pop spots, the community businesses, thriving those businesses allows for a safe environment in a thriving community. And that’s one of the things we teach in the Liberation Schools. One of the ways that we’ll be able to implement socialist practices.

People get other things out of it. Because we don’t just study New Afrikan history, we study all oppressed people’s history. Mexican history, First Nation peoples history, which they call them Indians or Native Americans, because that was all of Central South America. We study American history. When you study other culture’s history, you fill in the gap that’s left out of American history, where all of us played a part in history, and we fill those in. We study theology, break down the different religions, show how cultures worship God in different ways. Some comrades are Muslim, so they can talk about that. Some comrades are Christian, Hebrew Israelites, Judaists, you know, I’ve heard all different types. We just study all the sciences that we can and some of the arts. And there’s people who are more well versed in languages and in other forms of study than a lot of others, so they study on an advanced level, and then some study on a beginning level. And as long as you can grasp the concepts, and implement them into your practice it will change your way of thinking and how you relate to each other. When you see that each other has a need, and you learn about core value systems, and you try to complement those needs based on their core value system.

TFSR: So, to go back to the example that you gave, of both starting markets and trading with each other and using each other’s resources and such, how does the socialist approach not allow for the re-creation of a bourgeoisie within that community? Certain people have access to certain resources? And if they continue to hold on to it, doesn’t that just reproduce the class dynamic?

MS: Yeah, if you can’t show people the importance of the socialist practice, then yeah, they’ll stay with a bougie mind. And that’s middle class mainly because they try to reach for that 1% class. A lot of them don’t make it. So if they want to continue to reach for it like that, then you have to just let them do what they do. You know, but for those who see the importance of the socialist practices, you continue to welcome them in and show them the importance of sharing those resources. Because you don’t want to be materialistic, if you if you become too materialistic, then the capitalist mind has as engulfed you. You continue and you start thinking like the 1%, which is what they they want. You see it on a TV screen all the time, the lavish lifestyle. They want to showcase that so that you can see that that is success. And it’s really not. You know?

I was in the streets, and I was a hustler and I used to think that that was the way to be successful. When I realized, after studying my history, when I came to prison, that all I’m doing is stepping on my own people, hurting my own people and creating genocidal practices as well as menti-cidal practices by destroying people’s mind. Making them think that this is the way to be, and it is not. So you have to use a practice that we call “eradicating backwards and unprogressive ways of thinking and behavior.” And when you read and study more, you see that that’s the most important thing to do. You know? And when you apply that mentally, you have to encourage others to do the same. But yeah, if you can’t reach everybody, so if you can’t, you just got to let them pretty much fall to the wayside.

TFSR: I’d love to hear more about your ideas on, for instance in Corcoran, in your study group where, like people have limited access to material resources, there’s… literally the institution is there to keep people separate from each other and monitor their relationships. Sharing knowledge is definitely an aspect of socialism. But is there are there other practices or or ways that people relate to each other that sort of reflect on this socialist practice you’re talking about?

MS: Us who come from the inner city, you know, we’ve swallowed a lot of our differences. And we see that there’s a common goal. And that common goal is keeping it peaceful on the prison yards, and not let anyone disturb that peace so that we can make it back to society where our families and our community needs us. So we can undo the damage that we did with the selling of drugs and the gang banging and the, you know, things like that. So we pretty much understand our conditions. And we know that we are our own liberators. So we fight to do just that. We’ve already, because of our agreement to end all hostilities, we’ve already got football tournaments going, basketball tournament, softball tournaments, handball tournaments, things like that. We share in the practices of implementing the self-help groups. We know how to build better men. We know how to interact with each other to help each other thrive and overcoming any injustices that come our way. So we help each other with law work and stuff like that, filling out 602’s, medical forms. Anything like that to show and build unity, which helps with the solidarity.

So coming across those lines, youngsters coming in here who have a different mindset, they see that, and then they realize “Wait a minute, we thought it was like negative and violent!” And we show them “No, this is why it was violent at first, it was CO’s behind it starting all that.” You know? Then of course when there is bloodshed, it’s hard to stop it. But we show them the importance of building that unity, and why we’re resorting to a different way of doing things. And they’re starting to relate to that more. So it is a lot of action. And we were trying to take the hands out of these CO’s, slowly but surely.

I mean, we’re up against the California Guard’s Union. It’s real big and powerful. But, you know, we’re not going to let that discourage us. We’re going to keep doing the best that we can, so that we can overcome this and get these laws to change, get these Parole Boards, hopefully, with people from the community on them, that would have more sympathy towards us. And let us out instead of believing in Capital Punishment. But yeah, it’s still a work in progress, but it’s working. It’s working in a good way. So much so that the governor is letting people off death row, and letting them transition into prison, so they can function in a normal environment. So hopefully they can get a Parole Board date or win their case in court. You know what I mean?

TFSR: So I guess the specific question, again, about the place that you’re being held, or at least the state. So in terms of the demonstrations that are being called for by JLS that we’ve talked about, or mentioned before, between August 21 and September 9, asking for folks on the outside to spread the Abolitionist message and work with comrades and connect with comrades behind bars. I was wondering if you could talk about some of the issues that are specific to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation system, where you’re currently being held. And any sort of insights on what you would like folks on the outside to be working on, or programs that they could be coordinating with, based on the conversations that you’re hearing and the reality on the ground, where you’re at.

MS: Well, where we’re at, if comrades on the outside were building Liberation Schools, that will be of paramount importance, because now they’re educating themselves on the need and the importance of transforming the inner cities into positive places, getting rid of all the negative things. And that’s mainly what we’re doing in here, because our selfhelp groups, we’re finding needs, and trying to meet those needs. And what the state does is they want to create selfhelp groups that the prison board will accept. So they can transition back into society and be a robot basically, for them. And we don’t want that, that’s not therapeutic programming. Rehabilitating is people who want to change. And they know what they want to change. And if you create certain types of programs that help that change prosper and thrive, then that’s what’s needed.

And that’s what we’re trying to do. What outside comments can also do is work with organizations that are already doing things in prisons, whatever it may be. If it’s creating newsletters, newspapers, podcasts. Whatever it is, so that people in here can let you know what’s going on. And you can find ways to help that, to bring about those changes, that’s what’s needed. We really would like to see people from the community on these Parole Boards, instead of ex-police, DA’s and people in the legislature who only want to control us all. We don’t want to see them because they don’t really want to help you. You know? If they help you transition to society, then they don’t have a job. They have a job when all these prisons stay full. So that’s basically what’s needed.

TFSR: Are there any sort of organizations that you want to name that folks would get involved in? Like, you were one of the founders of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Commitee? So I don’t know if that’s one that you’d want to name or Oakland Abolition or any other sort of groups?

MS: Yeah, IWOC is always… whatever state you’re in, whatever city you live in, there’s a chapter, and we’re trying to create more chapters. But yeah, IWOC is a good group to get involved with because their Abolitionists and activist, and a lot of them have other professional fields where they can utilize those tools to help transition us out into society and create safe space for us to be involved in community work. They challenged legislature. Initiate Justice is another organization that they really challenged legislature and try to get… They’re guiding Senators and State Council members to pass certain laws that will let us get out of prison earlier than what is expected. You’ve got Critical Resistance, they’re pretty big, and they work to abolish prisons altogether. But a lot of them are activists. You got California Prison Focus. There are some other organizations out there in society and different states. I can’t think of them all right now, but any organization that’s working with inside people to make conditions better on the inside, as well as transform those communities into positive places like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in the South. You know, those are organizations you want to be a part of. We have a lot of organizations that we’ve established like the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panthers Party. That’s an organization that deals with racial schools. Prison Lives Matter is a new organizations like Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, where we’re trying to continue to connect ourselves to these other prison plantations throughout this country, where we continue to develop consciousness through our education, and our revolutionary theory. We can apply that to practice so that we can continue to grow and thrive as a class, not just as a nation, but as a class of all ethnicities, and struggle to win our freedoms.

You have to liberate the mind first before you can liberate the body. That’s something that I always tell people. That’s something that people can get involved with, and if they’re not working with anybody on the inside, they can always go to my website and contact me, go to other comrades who might have websites and contact them directly. So that that way we can help them get that extra push they might need to get involved in something.

TFSR: Can you say what the what website publishes your writing?

MS: Yeah, I got two different websites. One’s a penpal website and it’s called Wire of Hope. You can go to wireofhope.com/prison-penpal-terrance-white and you’ll see some of my writings on there. My comrade she put that that website together in order to establish relations, not so much as romance. If that happens, that’s a good thing, but to get us a voice out there as well as have people in the community connect with some of us on the inside so that they can work with us with doing positive things out there. And then I got my own website is ajamuwatu.wixsite.com/ajamuwatu

Ajamu means “he who fights for what he wants” and Watu means “people”. So if you put that together, it’s saying “he who fights for the people”, a Swahili word. And you’ll see a lot of my writings. My writings are mainly about education. How to build and create selfsufficiency programs, how to develop political thought, how to apply revolutionary theory to practice.

And one thing I always tell people is never be embarrassed if you go through the political immaturity stage, because that’s a given. You have to develop your own way of doing things based on your understanding. There’s no big me’s there’s no little you’s. But as long as you are studying cultural history, politics, economics, African history, you will see the holes in American history. And you’ll be able to see the lies that they put out there. You know, a lot of the reading material that we read is like, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States of America which shows you how the 1% class divided the rest of us in the 99%, and how they’re continuing to exploit us through their Capitalist system. The more you read, and learn, and study, the more your mind will open up. So you’ll see where there’s a problem, and you want to challenge that problem any way you can, as long as it warrants success. I would always encourage people to do that.

TFSR: And Mwal… Mwalimu… *laughs* Sorry, I’m still learning, you know? I guess we are all learning right?

MS: Yeah, well we’re all alive and learning. It took me a while to pronounce them all right too. You know, it’s funny because in Swahili dialect, the A’s are pronounced like “e” and the I’s are pronounced like “e”. So it’s backwards for the English vowel sound. The U was pronounced “oo” The M is pronounced “oom” you know, so it takes a while, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll flow like water. *laughs*

TFSR: Yeah, I guess it’s just about practice, and praxis. Comrades, thank you so much for having this conversation. I really appreciate it. And I really value you taking the time and making the effort to get in touch and be in touch about this. I wish you total solidarity and take care of yourself. Keep in touch.

MS: Well, thank you. Thank you. I appreciate you for having me, man. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you, comrade, people of like mind, in order to go forward is always a beautiful thing. You know, I enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy working with people and helping them out as best I can. “Each one, teach one” is something that we have to continue to do. And “can’t stop, won’t stop” is something we have to continue to be mindful of. So yeah, I’m always here for you all as well. Thank you. Appreciate you all so much. It’s always a pleasure.

Anarchist Resistance In Prison: Jennifer A. Rose and Comrade Z

Anarchist Resistance In Prison: Jennifer A. Rose and Comrade Z

Jennifer Rose
Download This Podcast

On this podcast minisode, we feature the voices of two incarcerated comrades: Jennifer Amelie Rose and Comrade Z. Both chats were conducted through the mail and are voiced by comrades in the Channel Zero Network.

 

Jennifer Rose

[04:07-12:12]

First you’ll hear Jennifer Rose. Jennifer, formerly known as Jennifer Gann, is a member of the Fire Ant Collective which just released it’s 6th issue and is due to put out another very soon. She is a trans woman who came up in the southern California punk scene, became politicized and began organizing inside of prison since the late 1990’s. Jennifer Rose has a parole hearing that she could use support letters for coming up on July 28th, 2020 and also more letters in support of her commutation application. You can learn more about Jennifer Rose’s case by visiting BabyGirlGann.noblogs.org where you can find out how to donate to her legal fund. You can read issues #1-5 of Fire Ant Journal up at Bloomington ABC’s website & #6 at Blue Ridge ABC’s website.

And you can write to Jennifer at:

Jennifer Rose E – 23852
Salinas Valley State Prison D3-1250
P.O. Box 1050
Soledad, CA 93960

You can find out how to format support letters, you can email her lawyer, Richard Rutledge at RLaw@RutledgeAttorneys.com or write to Mr Rutledge at:
Richard Rutledge, Attorney At Law
7960 B
Soquel Drive #354
Aptos, CA 95003

You can write letters of support to the Board of Parole Hearings on behalf of Jennifer by addressing them to the following address:

Board of Parole Hearings
Post Office Box 4036
Sacramento, CA 95812-4036

And you can write to the CA governor, Gavin Newsom on Jennifer’s behalf by addressing them to:

Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Comrade Z

[13:17-33:49]

Since this was conducted in writing, Jennifer’s words are being voiced by Margaret Killjoy, the host of the podcasts ‘Live Like The World is Dying’ and ‘We Will Remember Freedom’, both members of the Channel Zero Network.

Then, we’ll hear from Comrade Z, aka Julio Alex Zuniga, an anarchist prisoner in Texas, about the situation at the Darrington Unit. Comrade Z was mentioned by Jason Renard Walker at the end of our interview that we aired on April 19, 2020. Although all three conversations cover some hard to listen to subject matter, we want to give a special warning to Comrade Z’s portion, which talks in detail about terrible conditions at Darrington and discusses suicide and death of prisoners. You can read another interview with Comrade Z that appeared recently on ItsGoingDown.org and you can check out and/or purchase his artwork on instagram by viewing @julioazunigaart. Thanks to Matt Brodnax for helping us set this interview up and his support for Comrade Z.

You can write to Comrade Z at:

Julio A. Zuniga #1961551
Darrington Unit
59 Darrington Rd.
Rosharon, TX 77583

Jason Goudlock

As a closing note, I had hoped to share recent words from Jason Goudlock, currently incarcerated at Toledo CI in Ohio, give a brief update on his situation and how the ODRC is not handling covid-19 however technical difficulties got in the way. Suffice to say, prisoners were still being transferred into Toledo CI shortly before April 15th, prisoners were not given any significant protective gear nor cleaning supplies and folks were starting to get sick. Learn about Jason’s case, watch the documentary about him and find out how to support him at FreeJasonGoudlock.org. You can reach Jason via jpay email or write him at

Jason William Goudlock, #284-561
PO Box 80033
Toledo, OH 43608

. … . ..

Transcription of Jennifer Rose interview

TFSR: Could you please introduce yourself for the audience? Who are you and where are you?

Jennifer Rose: I’m glad to hear from you and happy to have this opportunity to participate in The Final Straw Radio.

So, to introduce myself, my name is Jennifer Rose. I’m a a trans woman incarcerated in California and currently held at Salinas Valley State Prison, a men’s facility.

TFSR: Can you tell us a bit about where you came from and how you came to be incarcerated?

Jennifer Rose:I’m from Southern California, born and raised in Riverside, and spent my teenage years living in Huntington Beach (Orange County). I was in the 1980’s punk rock scene around the L.A. area doing a lot of drinking and drugs which led to my involvement in an attempted robbery and another armed robbery for which I was jailed, convicted and sent to prison for seven years.

TFSR: How did you become politicized?

Jennifer Rose: While I was serving my time at Folsom Prison, I became involved in prison protests and abolitionist struggle, for which I was targeted, placed in solitary confinement and beaten by guards.

This is how I became politicized as a prison rebel, resisting brutality and torture, sabotaging and breaking a dozen prison cell windows in the inhumane ‘Ad-Seg’ unit. I was involved in the gladiator fights where guards encouraged racial violence and then shot at us with 9mm assault rifles using live ammo. There were additional charges brought against me for attacking a pig officer, for weapon possession, and for two assaults on a state prosecutor and associate warden. For these I was given a 25 years-to-life sentence under the ‘three strikes’ law. This was around 1995 and 1996.

TFSR: Can you talk about the struggle of being a woman in a male-assigned prison? What sort of support have you received and what sorts of hurdles?

Jennifer Rose: To answer your question about being a transwoman in a men’s facility, we have faced the most adverse circumstances imaginable. From the discriminatory harassment and brutality of the pigs, to the hatred and violence of other prisoners, and even rapes and murder! This has began to change more recently, at last in California with many legal reforms and court victories.

I have been able to find widespread support from outside groupls like Black & Pink and TGI Justice project, among others. Also, lots of support among abolitionist and anarchist collectives, and the extended family of LGBTQ prisoners. The main hurdles we face continue to be our unsafe housing conditions, exposure to homophobic and transmisogynist violence from gangs, domestic and sexual violence. We are in a very disadvantageous situation facing the various types of gender violence on a daily!

TFSR: Is there anything else you’d like to say about how you discovered anarchism and what inspires you about anarchy?

Jennifer Rose: I became politicized during the 1991 Folsom Prison Food Strike, which was a protest against proposed visiting restrictions that cut our visiting days from four times a week to twice (weekends and holidays). Just prior to this, I was given a copy of the anarchist zine Love & Rage by another prisoner and had also been influenced by Jailhouse Lawyers to educate myself about so-called legal rights and remedies for which I became a strong advocate.

Eventually I would learn the hard way that the pigs don’t give a fuck about the law, or peoples rights. It’s only used at their convenience as a tool of social control and criminalization of marginalized people and communities. The people thing that inspires me about Anarchy is the simplicity of the idea, of abolishing the State and it’s illegitimate Power. They claim their Authority from God and Natural Law… and originally as white male property owners under colonial government. That’s crap! I love the basic concept of Anarchy, which is Freedom! It’s basic principles of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, non-hierarchy and autonomous collectives, internationalism and solidarity, etc.

TFSR: Have you been able to do much organizing within prison? If so, around what sorts of issues and how did it go?

Jennifer Rose: I’ve done a lot of organizing within prisons, including legal advocacy and ‘jailhouse lawyer’ work, as former leadership in Black & Pink and working with TGI Justice Project to change discriminatory policies and improve living conditions for trans women in the men’s prisons. We’ve had a lot of success and made progress over the past 12 years or so, including betteer access to basic trans health care (e.g. hormones, surgery, etc), access to and inclusion in prison programs and job assignments, accommodation of women’s clothing and cosmetics and more awareness of and prevention of sexual abuse among other things. I am currently awaiting an approved gender affirming surgery and transfer to a women’s facility sometime this year!

TFSR: You mentioned in a letter with me that you organized briefly with Maoists. Are you now or have you ever been a Maoist (that’s a Senator McCarthy joke)? But, really, how did that happen? What was that like?

Jennifer Rose: As for Maoists, yes, I did work with MIM-Prisons for a while which offered study group sand worked directly with prisoners on many projects. I carried on a dialogue with them via correspondence, often debating with them over my anarchist sympathies and their political line on gender and State power (their ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’). I did think I could work within that Maoist framework at one point, but eventually had to reject the ideological bickering sectarianism of Maoists. I’ve always been an anarchist at heart, even when I went through this stage in my personal development. Eventually I came in contact with insurrectionary anarchist writings from Greek comrades in the FAI-IRF and CCF, which I was strongly influenced by, and developed friendships with like-minded comrades.

TFSR: You’re a collective member of Fire Ant. Can you talk about the project and what part you play in it?

Jennifer Rose: I’m extremely proud of my involvement as a member of the Fire Ant collective. The project started as a concept I was discussing with several different comrades via regular correspondence, including Robcat, Michael Kimble, Sean Swain and Bloomington ABC. We all had similar ideas of trying to organize and faciliate a national or international anarchist prisoner conference where we could bring together the collective voice of imprisoned anarchist rebels, perhaps publish a paper, start a support fund to raise funds and material aid, and generally build anarchist prisoner solidarity in a way we haven’t yet seen!

We’ve always had ABC and National Jericho Movement mainly focus on leftist ‘political prisoners.’ Many imprisoned anarchists are not recognized as ‘political.’ In point of fact, we are anti-political! However, we believe that ALL prisons are political. Anyways, the part I played is pulling all these comrades’ ideas together, and putting them in direct contact about this exciting project.

Once Robcat offered to facilitate a zine, Bloomington ABC offered to provide printing and distribution free! And they also halready had a support fund set up. So we all pulled together and formed the Fire Ant collective. Robcat came up with the name and we all contributed to the zine connecting our individual and collective struggles from prisons across the U.S. and internationally! I’m proud to be an accomplice in this seditious conspiracy toward worldwide anarchist insurgency.

TFSR: There have been some victories of recent in your sentence. Can you talk about what happened?

Jennifer Rose: As far as my recent sentence reduction on October 28, 2019, this only affected one of my sentences for assault and battery on the prosecutor, a ‘non-serious’ felony, which was knocked down from 25-years-to-life to 8 years. Yay!

TFSR: Similarly, you were telling me of improvements in the conditions of your confinement as relates to gender, right? And what are next steps for you and what can listeners do to support you and try to hasten your release?

Jennifer Rose: My next steps are getting my surgery, transferring to a women’s facility, and a parole suitability hearing on July 28, 2020 with the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). The greatest support comes in the form of letters to the Board and/or the Governor advocating for my release, and any amount of commissary funds which I can receive via jpay.com.

TFSR: I’m not sure if you’re much of a reader, but do you have any book suggestions for the audience?

Jennifer Rose: As for recommended reading, I would strongly suggest the Emma Goldman autobiography and Assata Shakur autobiography, Michelle Alexander’s ‘The New Jim Crow’, and anything by Butch Lee, Sean Swain or Greek insurrectionary anarchists of CCF!

TFSR: Any comrades you want to shout out on the show?

Jennifer Rose: Shoutouts to Robcat, Breezy, Michael Kibmle, Sean Swain, Eric King, Marius Mason, Jeremy Hammond, Sacramento Prisoner Support, Nashville ABC, Nadja in Bloomington and Chelsea Manning! And in case I missed someone, solidarity to all anarchists and antifascists! Thank you for your efforts in the struggle. To The streets!!! Thank you!

. … . ..

Transcription of Comrade Z interview

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself for the audience? Who you are, where you are, how you got there?

Comrade Z: Hello Everyone, Thank you for having me on The Final Straw. It’s an honor. My name is Julio A. Zuniga. Alex is what everyone calls me, or Comrade Z for those who are standing with me 10 toes down in solidarity.

I am a survivor of B-Line solitary confinement at Dirty Darrington Unit and currently trying to reach out to activists and anarchists in the area who can help me organize a statewide work stoppage. Enemy of the State and of the Dirty Darrington administration, my whole heart and soul is hellbent on bringing the attention of the entire nation to the administration and it’s human rights violations, cruel and unusual punishment, physical assaults by staff, mailroom policy changes, inadequate law library, commissary price gouging, infestation of roaches, mice and spiders, sewage leaks in the cells, constant power outages, the list goes on and on. The torture tactics are of primary concern because it’s driving people to die by suicide. So far it’s been 1 suicide per year since I’ve been here. How I got here was because abolitionists in East Texas rose up against Telford Unit, for Housing Administrative Segregation inmates at that facility without telling the surrounding community about it. They were against it. People of New Boston, TX and Texarkana found out about TDCJ housing G4 and G5 offenders because an Officer Davison was murdered by a solitary confinement offender who was being tortured by Telford Unit by withholding his mail and refusing him basics he needed, like food. This caused the entire town to begin the takedown of wardens and the torture of all inmates by using lockdowns for 90 days or more, then by stopping all hot meals for an entire year in 2017. So, since that officer died in 2015, it was the people who brought forth change to that unit. It is now a pre-release unit, no administrative segregation offenders and no solitary confinement. I was not blessed with any kind of support, so I intentionally got into trouble just so they could ship me off. Best move I ever made, so I thought. However, that is how I ended up here.

TFSR: What can you tell the listeners about Darrington Unit and your experience being held by the TDCJ?

CZ: The Dirty Darrington Unit is a hub unit. Thousands of inmates pass through here weekly, transferring to other units, coming off of UTMB Medical Branch at Galveston, or Psyche Unit Jester 4. Some of them are bleeding, soiled in feces and urine. All mentally ill persons coming off Jester 4 have had no kind of hygiene for over 3 days. All these lay over cells are so unsanitary it takes a healthy person 24 hours to get sick by sleeping in one of these cells. There is nothing humane about that. They usually house people with wrong custody levels, endangering lives at will, resulting in physical and sexual assaults. It’s Dirty Darrington’s specialty.

I encourage you to ask administration how many lives Dirty Darrington has claimed because they refused to help suicidal inmates. Also, how administration uses offenders to snitch on others with a false hope of beating a disciplinary case, then throw them back into population, leaving them to kill themselves behind the dishonor. On the 2nd week of November 2019, a guy killed himself after spilling the beans on others. When he asked them to help him because he felt suicidal, they ignored him. This is the suicide I witnessed that really proved verbatim the words Sean Swain voices in Last Act of the Circus Animals. When Rico killed himself, the show was like Cirque de Soleil. You had every basic need availed to you – blankets, mattresses, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, cleaning materials, officers serving trays like they do in population with full portions. They even gave us light bulbs. It was disgusting to see it. You saw paint crews, utility crews, the works. For a week the unit experienced humanity, but once the coast was clear and the administration got away with murder, it was back to torture tactics, a pattern I have seen one too many times on Dirty Darrington.

Overall my experience has been depressing, lonely, stressful, painful. I’ve seen this administration use psychological torture for 23 months straight, for this is how long I’ve been held in solitary confinement. Only recently was I magically released and placed in E-Line (G5) administrative segregation – the filthy administrative segregation area that is notorious for roach infestations, no lighting in showers, no restrooms on the rec yard so if you have to urinate or have a bowel movement you are going to on the same area men play basketball. Fecal matter is all over the floor and people wonder how they got sick. Easy – as soon as you come in from outside rec, they serve chow. If you have been playing basketball then munch on your baked chicken, then suck the grease off your fingers. You just sucked on chicken flavored fecal matter and urine. Dirty Darrington knows exactly what it’s doing. Environmental disaster, B-Line, E-Line, G-Line, A-Line, C-Line, D-Line are all torture areas. In the winter it’s cold showers. In the summer they heat your water for you. No coincidence. There is so much more. There are over 200 men in administrative segregation and solitary confinement on Dirty Darrington. Some men are going through it worse because they believe this is normal prison policy. It’s not. I’m here to expose this unit and it’s human rights violations. I appreciate you hearing me out.

TFSR: It’s hard to imagine that the staff and administration aren’t aware of the conditions there. Are they showing any signs of working to fix the situation?

CZ: I knew something was terribly wrong with this unit when it runs through 4 wardens in less than 2 years. They are aware of every single atrocity. They personally handle all grievances and it’s rare an inmate ever wins on Step 1. They have to go all the way to Huntsville with their grievance to get fair treatment. By that time it’s been 60 days solid since the claim was made.

It’s designed this way to ensure we never win any kind of grievance claim. Another way, as it is now, that they refuse us grievances all together on Dirty Darrington because they also are aware that if they hand them out they will be reading grievances for years. They know this place is crumbling to pieces. If it rains outside it rains inside too. The guards look like underwater welders when it rains. They wear rain coats indoors to stay dry. Nothing is being done except punishment and enslavement. I am on a mission to learn from outside sources how to organize, to create a psychological warfare on this administration in the name of all the dead that could not deal with their torture chambers and for the mentally ill who cannot speak out against them who are, as we speak, living in horrible conditions on Major Pharr’s solitary confinement. It’s only a matter of time before another death by suicide. We can thank Dirty Darrington’s Administrative Segregation ringmasters for imposing torture on the already weak men by starving them, by withholding their mail, by refusing mailroom to give them pictures of loved ones or birthday cards, or by sending their shakedown team to physically abuse them and confiscate their property. It’s all designed to break you. It’s happening every day.

TFSR: How do the conditions you’ve described above affect the health of prisoners? What’s the condition of physical and mental healthcare available at Darrington Unit?

CZ: Personally I don’t get sick easy, but since being on Dirty Darrington I’ve had a serious sinus infection, primarily from the mold in the showers and the dust that carries all kinds of germs. As far as psyche at Dirty Darrington goes, it’s got potential. As far as physical, you’ve got the infamous Nazi doctor Speer, extorting everyone, but not giving adequate care to anyone. If you get sick they still allow this idiot to practice. Nothing gets done about his childish outbursts. He once tried to do a rectal exam on me, He said it was my yearly check-up. This was the first time I met him. As he stood up and slapped on a latex glove my spidey-sense told me to ask a simple question, “What’s the name on the computer, sir?” He said “You’re Contreras #… blah blah blah” I was like “I’m out!” I’ve had problems with this doctor ever since, namely because retaliation is a trend on Dirty Darrington when you file a grievance. I tried to explain to everyone what this man tried to do. No one tried to help. He’s still here. All my medical treatment was taken away by this man for no reason other than I am or was chronic care hypoglycemic. If you have heat restrictions, work restrictions, anything that will make your ailment easier to handle Dr. Speer will terminate it and then send you into a Twilight Zone of sick calls, just so he can charge the co-pay. Others – he refuses to treat simply because it’s not life or death.

TFR: Can you talk about the suicides that you’ve been aware of during your time and are there any in particular you’d like to reflect on? Are there any strings that tie the circumstances together?

CZ: Well, I’ve been on Dirty Darrington for two years, going on three. I got screwed out of my legal work, got all my medical restrictions taken away, basically because I am indigent and I have no one on the outside to call here and raise a fuss, which is the only time you see inmates get what they need.

So, B-Line 3rd row, 15th cell, 2018 – A young man hung himself. The image of a nurse chest compressing this man never left me. It really caused me a lot of anger. It was senseless. It taught me just how they break men’s minds. It would disgust you. I remember this older man who would wake up screaming and just slowly, losing all reality, these torturers left him in that cell with a stack of trays, full of food with dead mice and roaches that he would just stack up toward the end of his sanity. Inmates could smell death. They tried to talk to him but couldn’t stand the stench of death. So, they brought Captain Lance the kitchen boss to remove the trays, stacked 20 high. But, you cannot talk to a broken man. He was a vessel, nothing more. After 2 canisters of pepper spray, still nothing until finally Captain Lance had the courage to tell administrators that he was no longer right. It was his voice that forced them to send him off that night, never to be seen again. For months they left that man in this condition. It’s happening now. This is normal? I’m not trying to hear that.

For these men, I ask to be armed with support, to feed the torturers a taste of their own medicine. I opened my eyes all the way at this past suicide in November 2019. I’m done talking. We need a bombardment of activism, protest, support. We need an uprising so this administration will be forced to take responsibility for all their fuckery.

One thing I know is we have nothing to gain for staying in good standing. “Good time credit” is not counting toward parole. “Work time credit” is another tool they have to control prisoners. Only the prisoners that still believe in the tooth fairy are too scared to accept this fact. People have tried for years to have these laws passed. Republicans are not interested in helping us. With a statewide work stoppage we will bring all these men’s dreams to fruition. We need to spread these facts to the entire state and shut it down. Stop slaving for your ringmasters. You want a real change, stop doing your slave jobs. Stop putting money in politicians pockets and ask them to put it your account to pay for the work you do. Slave days ended over 150 years ago – Why do you volunteer to work for the oppressor? Those of you who have no one, wouldn’t you like to support yourself in prison instead of risking solitary confinement for stealing food to sell in your living areas for hygiene. I can go on and on.

TFSR: What are working conditions like the prisoners incarcerated by the TDCJ as you’ve experienced? What sort of privileges come along with work, what sort of pay (if any), and sort of work is it?

CZ: They work these guys to exhaustion. They do not pay. The work is back breaking. No one will receive as much as an extra portion of food. These units are still slave plantations, only the name has changed. Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Research “The Sugarland 95” – You’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s time to bring this slavery to a screeching halt.

TFSR: How have you experienced support while you’ve been on the inside? What would you like from folks on the outside?

CZ: I had to go to extremes again to have the support I have today. I never conformed to prison culture. I love tattoos, motorcycles, art, hunting, fishing, boats and the only way I was ever going to see or hear about that is by reaching out. As a result of picking up a contraband cell phone I met “Mongoose Matt” by calling a random tattoo shop. Haha! It was awesome. Fineline Tattoo NYC is Matt’s workplace and it took all but 60 seconds to make one of the best friends I’ve ever had. It makes me so proud to say that. Shortly after getting pinched for contraband Matt has been there through all my solitary confinement, sending in anarchist literature, commissary bread for hygiene and art supplies, and in 7 years now on a 15 year sentence for a so called “murder” it’s his solidarity and support that saved my life and sanity.

Dirty Darrington had officers from the McConnell unit come hit us for shakedown and those creeps took all my property and left me with nothing. This was my breaking point. I just felt like giving up, but Mongoose comes flying in with letters and powerful words of encouragement and because of him I am fighting today. They tried to break me intentionally. I know this for a fact. Only problem is I survived. TDCJs “Cease to speak or cease to breathe” motto doesn’t scare me. I have nothing to lose. Now, I’m asking for you to stand with me until we punch a hole in this darkness and make it bleed light. Sean Swain is the other reason I fight. How you doin Sean?

Here’s the deal – folks out there, my only weapon at the moment is this here pen. I want surrounding activists to contact me so we can get started. This is still far from over and I believe that it’s only through the voice of the people that we can bring this down on a statewide level. I could use all the support available in my fight against the state. Things are slowly changing for me, so I will be allowed more visitors on Dirty Darrington Unit. Soon I will be allowed to call out. In the meantime, anyone can write me. There is so much to learn and prepare. No doubt that without your direct support places like Dirty Darrington and surrounding plantations will continue to thrive, rubbing it in the community’s face.

The Texecution state is also a slavery state. Shut em down. Nobody is gaining a thing. It’s a slap in the face when the officials of the state come here to lie to everyone that they are doing everything they can to change these laws so that we actually become productive. The only laws passed are laws to make it harder on us to get home to our families. For the oppressed indigent offenders who cannot afford hygiene products, organizing a hygiene run to bring forth relief, peace of mind, and a sense of compassionate care. I’ve seen exactly how good this place could be, but as long as we have ringmasters like these hypocrite wardens, coward-ass majors and captains, vindictive supervisors who love to use cowardly acts and body slam people while in restraints such as Sergeant Akinsonu, Sergeant Williams, Sergeant Estrada, Sergeant Baker, who writes her own rules when it comes to keeping people down. All these cowards and a few more on my shit list need to be burned at the stake for their inhumane treatment of human beings. We need to give them a little perspective. We need to all come at them via phone calls, media, advocacy centers, anyone that can hit them where it hurts, to show them that we are not alone. We are not going to accept this kind of abuse and pretend it’s normal. It’s policy. Policy is made up as they walk to the pisser. It’s a shame the population is in love with their ringmaster.

As a survivor of these gulags, food is still the #1 tool used to break solitary confinement offenders. Many months I went hungry and many months I eat the unwanted veggies inmates discarded just to survive. Sometimes portions were almost a smear of meat on tray. We need to end this today.

TFSR: What inspires you these days? What brings you joy?

CZ: Oh that’s easy – Defiance from Detritus Books is my inspiration. I’ve gotten very close to Comrade Mongoose and against the peace and dignity of the Texecution State I’m in constant contact with Comrade King and Comrade Swain. I wish them the best in the struggle and hope to see them soon, for I am coming up for parole soon. It’s a crap shoot, but optimism is helpful in situations such as this. I get my jollies by sending Matt handcrafted portraits of all kinds of cool, weird characters. Y’all are actually owners of one of my pieces. Thank you.

TFSR: Is there anything I failed to ask you about that you want to talk about?

CZ: You all can check out my Instagram @julioazunigaart or contact Matt to place an order for a handmade portrait. I only have No.2 pencils to work with because this unit will not allow my supporters to send me art supplies. Anything that makes people happy like greeting cards and pictures are slowly being taken from us as well. Go figure. This is Bible seminary college too. This is the unit that pumps out “field ministers”. Unbelievable, huh? Bass-akwards, I tell ya! I gotta let ya go for now. It’s been an amazing and liberating experience. You all are amazing. Please allow me to send hugs to Sean Swain, Eric King and to all the comrades who are in the trenches fighting their ringmaster. Thank you for setting the example. I hope to be in that position soon. Thanks y’all. Hope to hear from you soon. I would like to close with a quote from Benjamin Tucker:

Power feeds on its spoils and dies when its victims refuse to be despoiled. They can’t persuade it to death; they can’t vote it to death; they can’t shoot it to death; but they can always starve it to death.”

If you would like to contact Alex, please send a letter to:

Julio A. Zuniga #1961551
Darrington Unit
59 Darrington Road
Rosharon, Texas 77583

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Tracks heard in this podast:

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me (instrumental)

RZA – The North Sea (instrumental)

Asheville threatening Harm Reduction; SFBay View with Mary Ratcliff

Steady Collective + SF Bay View Newspaper

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This week on the show we feature two interviews. The first is with a volunteer at the Steady Collective, a group that self-describes as “ dedicated to promoting the wellness of people who use drugs through empowerment and respectful collaboration. Our goal is to improve overall community health by reducing the rate of drug overdose and the spread of infectious disease with education, advocacy, and direct services. “ Their ability to operate a harm reduction program around needle exchange and narcan distribution to stop overdoses in the midst of the #opiodCrisis in Appalachia is being threatened by the city of Asheville. Here’s the website for 12 Baskets, the food distribution program out of Kairos West.

Then I spoke with Mary Ratcliff, the editor of 27 years of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, with a print distribution of 20,000 copies around the U.S., including thousands behind bars. For the hour, Mary talks about the history of the paper, it’s relationship with prisoners and prison struggles and the difficulties faced by the poor and populations of color in white supremacist capitalism in the so-called U.S.

Announcements

A12 in D.C., Cville & Boston

Last weekend witnessed far right, nazi-affiliated, sexist, homophobe rallies in Portland and Berkeley, which I’m sure folks are aware of. Patriot Prayer and Proud Boy goons schlepped their way out from under rocks in their goofy-ass larping costumes to spit their deranged and hateful screeds and threaten and attack counter-demonstrators where they could. And the police helped by holding back and assaulting the anti-racists at both events with pepper spray, batons, tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as legal charges. Big ups to the brave folks who came out to stem the tide of hate on the West coast, and also a big a thanks to the comrades who came out in Providence, R.I. where they were able to shut that crap down real fast.

This weekend the year anniversary of the August 11th Torch Rally and August 12th Unite The Right Rally in Charlottesville approaches. On Sunday, August 12th in Cville there’s a day of events of remembrance and mourning starting at 9am in Washington Park. The police presence has been shown to be huge in the runup to this weekend with Martial Law and States of Emergency declared by local and state officials, leave for police being suspended, and swaths of the city shut down and blockaded. Follow #AllOutCville for updates. In Washington, D.C., haters are trying to put on a second UTR to draw their morons in swastika and Pinochet shirts and confederate bafoons into the streets. Information about what’s happening and how to congregate against it can be found at https://shutitdowndc.org/ . And check out the ItsGoingDown’s “This Is America #24” for voices from the ground in DC & Cville.

On August 15th in Boston there is planned a Town Hall Meeting at the Arlington St Church in preparation for the counter-demonstration on August 18th at the MA State House to shut down the far-right hate front group, “Resist Marxism”. More info at http://bit.ly/fight-right-boston

Be safe out there, cops and klan go hand in hand. Bring water, watch out for your friends, don’t leave alone.

Worker’s Assembly Asheville

On Monday, August 20th at 6pm and every 3rd Monday of the month, the Asheville IWW is hosting a service industry workers assembly at Kairos West. If you work in food serice, retail, hospitality, breweries, or other service industries and don’t have the right to hire or fire, come by and join the discussion on issues facing your ilk including wages and hours, but also issues such as racism and gendered violence that workers face in and outside of their workplaces. The discussions are aimed at creating direct action solutions and creating class solidarity. To hear about their first Assembly, check out our interview on the topic.

Reminder on upcoming #August21

A few CZN member projects have been producing content specific to supporting and understanding the Nationwide Prison Strike. You can find great, related content to enjoy and share by ItsGoingDown podcast, Kiteline Radio & Rustbelt Abolition Radio. Links are in our notes to those recent episodes. Also, visit incarceratedworkers.org for the new and very shareable video breaking down IWOC’s role in the strike and reasons to support #August21.

If you appreciate this podcast and the voices that we bring to you each and every week (at least once), please consider a one-time or recurring donation via paypal or liberapay. You can also subscribe to recurring donations to us at patreon.com/tfsr and get some pretty sweet swag. If you want one of the shirts or mixtapes or sticker and button packs we offer to patreon supporters but can’t afford a monthly donation, drop us an email and we’ll work something out.

Indigenous Resistance in so-called B.C. and Mattole Forest Blockade in CA

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This week we are talking a little break to work on other things, and so have taken the time to re-broadcast two interviews from two other radical and anarchist audio projects, both of which have been doing amazing work.

Blocking Trans Mountain Pipeline and Defending The Mattole

From Embers

The first we’ll present is from an anarchist radio show in so called Kingston Ontario called From Embers. This interview was originally released by them in the middle of June, and is with Kanahus Manuel, who is a Secwepemc woman fighting against the Trans Mountain Pipeline on her land in a variety of ways. This situation of extraction, forced displacement, and ongoing subjugation on Secwepemc land is one which has many aspects to it all of which Manuel talks about in this interview. Kanahus Manuel was arrested recently, a few days after the tattoo gathering that she mentions around half way through the interview. If you would like to read more on this issue though, we will be posting a bunch of articles in the show notes for this episode, which you can access through our noblogs website or via your podcasting app. These links will include both how to support Manuel post arrest, the explicit call for solidarity from the Secwepemc Women Warriors Society, and also the original links that From Embers included in their blog post.

To hear more from From Embers, hit them up at http://fromembers.libsyn.com/website/

A quick update, From Embers has JUST joined the Channel Zero Network! Woot!

Radical People podcast

The second interview is from the podcast Radical People, which recently became a member of the Channel Zero Network and is hosted by Eamon Farrelly. In this interview, Eamon speaks with Sweet Pea about the 20 year strong Mattole Forest Blockades in Humblodt County California. In this interview the guest speaks about their experiences participating in this forest blockade, and I thought it was an extraordinary interview because so often we get a picture of direct action which is very action oriented but this presents an experience which is profoundly emotional, or spiritual. Anyway, I liked it a lot and found it very inspirational, hope you will too.

To hear more from Radical People, hit them up on Soundcloud, also via any podcasting app. We had to cut some out of this interview, and you can hear the full version on their platform. They also have a patreon if you have any loose change kickin around, and are on Twitter @Radical_Podcast.

To get in touch with the Mattole Forest Blockade, you can email mattoleactioncamp@riseup.net and on FaceBook you can search Save the Mattole’s Ancient Forest for news and updates via that medium.

Links:

Support Kanahus’ Indigenous Land Defense Fund (includes a link to her YouTube channel)

It’s Going to be a hot Indian Summer: Secwepemc Women Warriors call land defenders to B.C. (on her arrest and much more info on the ongoing situation in this region)

–Links included in the original From Embers blog post–

Wreck: A Vancouver Anarchist Publication

Defend the Territory by Warrior Publications

Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly (includes more information on the Kindermorgan man camps and the statement against them)

Tiny House Warriors Facebook Page

Tiny House Warriors GoFundMe

Unsettling Canada by Arthur Manuel

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Playlist here.

Autonomous Northern California Fires Relief Efforts

Download This Podcast Mini-Episode

I’d like to share a Final Straw Radio mini-episode, a conversation with Emilio of the currently unofficial Sonoma County IWW, or Industrial Workers of the World. This chapter doesn’t yet have an official charter but they were in the process or organizing one when the fires in Northern California started last week and have used this as a platform for fund-raising and trying to work out solidarity relief in Santa Rosa, the seat of Sonoma County. For this chat, Emilio and I talk about the weather patterns of northern coastal California, relief efforts by the Red Cross and other NGO’s around shelter and care distribution, what their nascent chapter of the IWW is trying to do and related topics. To find more about their chapter, you can go onto fedbook and stay tuned in the conversation for their relief phone number, a few material needs you can provide from a distance and ways to get involved if you’re in the area.

Support Janye Waller + Anarchist Thoughts on Tactics at Standing Rock

Support Janye Waller + Anarchist Thoughts on Tactics at Standing Rock

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This episodes features two portions: an interview with Noelle about Black revolutionary, Janye Waller, incarcerated in Oakland; then, an interview with Noah about anarchist tactics in the NoDAPL struggle at Standing Rock.

Janye Waller
In the first segment we talk to Noelle about the case of Janye Waller. Janye is a young Black revolutionary from Oakland, California, who was the only person convicted of property destruction after the 2014 demonstrations in the Bay following the non-acquittal of pigs the murders of Michael Brown & Freddie Gray. Noelle is a supporter of Janye Waller and believes that Janye’s conviction was a clear case of railroading and racial profiling against a community activist. Janye is now finishing up a 2 year sentence with one year off for good behavior. The interview was held in February of 2017, and Janye is set to be released in coming months, then he’s out on parole. You can find out more about his case and donate to his post-release fund at https://rally.org/supportjanye and updates can be found on his support fedbook page and to find out more about some projects Janye was involved with in Oakland, check out the site for El Qilombo

You can write to Janye in the near future by addressing letters to:

Janye Waller #ba2719
A Facility,
P.O. Box 2500,
Susanville, CA 96127-2500

Anarchist Observations of the Struggle at Standing Rock

In the second segment William speaks with Noah, who is a well established movement medic, anarchist, and participant in #NoDAPL at Standing Rock, about his experiences there and analyses of how this resistance was organized and how it developed. This interview was recorded days before media saw the images of the Sacred Stone Camp burning and having been disbanded, so many of the modes and tenses that we employ are not what we might given the current position of the camps. We talk about a wide ranging set of topics, from what worked in the camps to what the failings were, and how resistance to extraction industries could look moving forward.

Thanks to 1312 Press for transcription and zine layout (found on Instagram & also email):

For links on how to support the efforts at Standing Rock – which are ongoing and support is needed both for folk’s legal and medical expenses – check out:

Water Protector Legal Collective
Sacred Stone Camp
Medic and Healer Council

Announcements

ACAB2017 End of Submissions

Shortly there’ll be a posted end to a call for submissions for presenters, workshops and bands at the first annual Asheville Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfaire up on the website, but we announce it here. Submission deadline is April 1st, 2017. Spots are filling up fast. Check out the website for updates and we hope to see you there!

TROUBLE showing at Firestorm, March 24th @ 7pm

That about says it. First episode of TROUBLE, which was chatted about in our last episode as the new video series by subMedia will be showing at Firestorm Books & Coffee at 7pm on Friday the 24th of March!

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Episode Playlist

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Transcription

TFSR: So we’re here to talk about Standing Rock and I’m sure that folks have heard about it if they have been keeping at least half an eye on the news, but for those who haven’t, would you mind giving a brief overview of what the struggle is and what has been happening there?

NOAH: So the Dakota Access Pipeline is a large pipeline that would carry heavy crude oil to refineries in Illinois before getting sent out of the country for foreign consumption. The pipeline is routed to pass just upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation’s water intake, which is part of their concern, as well as the pipeline route
as gone through a number of sacred sites causing the desecration of burial sites and other old religious sites. Back in August (2016) when construction got close to the Missouri River crossing by the Standing Rock reservation, the Sacred Stone Camp, which had been in existence since April, had made a bigger call for support in which many folks responded and that’s when the first arrests took place, lead largely by women and youth from Standing Rock and other Indigenous women and youth. Here you saw some very strong images of women running out onto the Cannon Ball Ranch to block construction equipment which was some of the first real civil disobedience, as well as the Horse Nations coming to just be presented to the law enforcement that was there, but the law enforcement ended up being scared by the presentation of the Horse Nations and so they kinda backed off and fled. That was some very strong imaging right off the bat there.

I arrived not long after that and helped provide medical support for some of the non-violent civil disobedience and just in camp at large, based out of the Red Warrior Camp. Red Warrior Camp was one of the few organizations that really took a strong lead in actual civil disobedience that stopped pipeline construction and were it not for the Red Warrior Camp, Indigenous People’s Power Project, some of the crews, some of the other bands of the Lakota Nations
really stepping up and taking that direct action to the pipeline construction, that pipeline would be said and done by now. And we certainly wouldn’t have cost Dakota Access the millions upon 2millions of dollars we’ve cost them in lost time, delayed contracts and stock price as well as the divestments from the banks which with Seattle and some Native reservations have totaled well over $3 billion worth of money withdrawn from Wells Fargo and punitive response from people. So the divestment is going to leave a lasting mark on these banks’ psyches and their shareholders’ psyches when they think about funding more of these projects.

TFSR: Absolutely, and it seems like along with the actions that have been taken at the various camps, the relationships between the various camps has been also very important to have outreach via social media and awareness being spread in a grassroots way, because mainstream media was very slow seemingly to pick up on
struggles going on at Standing Rock. Do you have anything to say about media blackouts there or anything like that? What has the process been for getting word out?

N: Well certainly it’s been led by some grassroots media projects that have been around since the start of the Sacred Stone Camp. Folks with Unicorn Riot have been there throughout the course of much of this which certainly is where I first started getting my media from
as they did intermittent updates on the Sacred Stone Camp from it’s start and through several stages of it well before Standing Rock or NoDAPL became a more common phrase. I think it was also very important for the largest camp at the Oceti Sakowin camp, the Seven Fire Council Camp, which was kind of just an overflow camp.

TFSR: Was that the youth camp?

N: The International Youth Council had a tipi in that camp for a while, but they were also holding space at Sacred Stone Camp and the Rose Bud Camp. The camps can be confusing when you’re there, and have been confusing. I’m sure it’s particularly hard to keep track of when you’re watching from afar. Sacred Stone Camp is Ladonna Bravebull Allard and her family’s land, which was started
by Ladonna and some other matriarchs from the area and the youth runners back in the start of April. And it was the Dakota Youth Runners who started getting a lot of attention from the long-distance runs they did.

It also needs to be pressed that there have been folks in that region who have been organizing in anticipation of the Keystone XL pipeline coming through Lakota territory that allowed for some of the groups within this larger mass to come together quickly and in an organized manner and show greater levels of discipline and training because we had been training together. We were under the leadership
of Lakota matriarchs and other Lakota elders who understood from the get-go that as these pipelines were coming through, we needed to be able to have a common language around how we fight and how we resist with non-violent civil disobedience. And so folks are familiar, folks understand that there are different roles. If your role is
media for the day, or medic, or police liason, that’s your role for that day and you need to stick to it and if that’s not your role, then you need to not try and make that your role.

So that’s why when the camp was significantly smaller than when it was 12,000 people between the camps, when there were only a few hundred folks in camp there was more effective direct action to stop the pipeline than when there were all these folks who came to stand with Standing Rock but there were no plans to use that mass of people effectively or an unwillingness to utilize any of those plans on the parts of some.

TFSR: Is that just because the camp got so unruly with the size, or do you feel that people were kind of not respecting any directives that were being told to them?

N: No, as I’ve seen it put on the internet, that there was a problem with “peace-chiefs” trying to lead during a war situation. And so there were folks who, in the language I would use, didn’t respect others’ diversity of tactics. And so there were folks who would interfere with Warriors and Water Protectors on the frontline and cause division and even go so far as to utilize spiritual abuse and manipulation to interrupt actions that were happening, or not allow actions to happen or prevent them from happening in very vague ways, like getting outside folks to try and scream at people that “Elders said no!” And what they meant was Dave Archambault and the tribal council might not be happy with what’s going on. But there are a number of different elders in the camp because there
are many different tribes and nations in the camp, but not everyone listens to the same elders. Folks are taught to listen to their elders. The Lakota are not a monolithic group, they disagree with each other. Sometimes the grandmas and aunties would be there telling folks to hold the line while others would be telling them to go back to
camp and pray. To some extent because the camp grew so fast and there wasn’t space made for an all-nations council of any sort, these rifts and problems became rather challenging at times because there was so much to do just in camp life and preparing for the change of the seasons and to try and train and utilize huge numbers of people who were rolling over every few days as well as deal with mountains of supplies coming in.

It all became very challenging, and then you have a real separation of leadership of folks who are contracted by the tribe to help, or were from larger non-profits who largely operated out of the casino rather than the camp. So you have that disconnect of folks who weren’t involved in the camps but were considered leadership for one reason or another, which made things very challenging all in all. When the information about what’s happening in camp gets through games of telephone, you end up with a lot of rumor and heresy added in, or misinformation, and that can be seen by how often facebook says the camp is being raided when we’re not.

TFSR: As an anarchist, I feel almost single-mindedly fixated on this idea of what you were talking about in regards to a non-respect of a diversity of tactics and trying to parse out where a rhetoric of non- violence is coming from. We talk a lot about how liberals have sort of co-opted the idea of non-violence to weaponize it against radical struggle basically, or to weaponize it as a way to take the wind out of sails of radical struggle. I would imagine that this rhetoric of non-violence is a bit different given the layers of colonization and disenfranchisement that people are experiencing. Do you have any words about that?

N: There’s certainly a real challenge for anyone who’s not Lakota or Native to understand the nuance and the history between the Indian Re-Organization Act, Tribal Councils versus the Traditional Treaty Councils. It’s important especially for outsiders to err on the side of listening to the folks who are directly hosting them in these situations and not be overtly disrespectful to local communities. Now that doesn’t mean that local communities are unified in their response, and that’s not really our place as outsiders to really dive right into the middle of it and stir it up. I have been working with some folks who were out there for several years so those were the folks I took my lead from because they are traditional Lakota and Dakota Matriarchs. So with that, there was a division of folks who believed in the courts and believed in that being the primary route and would at times spread disinformation about how the action of folks locking down to equipment or shutting down work sites was going to negatively impact these civil court proceedings. If anything they gave these civil court proceedings the time they needed to get denied, but there hasn’t been a win from the courts in this battle that I’m aware of. So if we were relying solely on those means, the pipeline would have been built by now.

The spark of inspiration that that has come out of Standing Rock would not have been if it weren’t for folks who understand that prayers have to be met half-way. We can’t just pray and expect things to stop, and similarly we have to understand robust histories. You hear this ongoing colonized myth that First Nations Peoples were completely passive or pacifistic when that’s simply not true. It’s well known that many Nations and many people were almost
always armed and prepared to defend their homelands and their territory and their way of life from settler-colonial populations. Part of this myth comes from those boarding schools; it comes from this western narrative that says “It was the white folks that freed the slaves!” and “It was the white folks who were benevolent enough to give these Natives the reservations!” rather than things like, the
6Lakota slaughtered a whole division of the cavalry at the battle of Greasy Grass and killed Custer and took that flag, and that was part of writing the treaty. Red Cloud’s wars and the Big Powder Bluff were the reasons for those treaties, the Northern Cheyenne; the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota’s fierce resistance to the U.S. incursions
and these settler/colonial incursions are what created these treaties. It’s also what provoked the U.S. into using genocidal tactics such as slaughtering all the buffalo and stripping Natives from their culture to send them to boarding school, so they could re-write those narratives
and send those kids back to those cultures with this wrong narrative.

And so with that you have this Christian idea of forgiveness that is pressed, or of understanding, and I personally hope that those cops and law enforcement come to some dawning of understanding that their ways are bad. But until that happens I have no sympathy for them or no forgiveness for their behaviors until they seek it. And so it’s something that personally baffles me, especially coming from a medic’s perspective and seeing the grievous injuries that we’ve seen out there. That folks want to negotiate with these people or work with them to get into that system. It’s one of those things, some folks who don’t want the (Water) Protectors to continue resisting are legitimately scared that those cops are going to kill one of us. And that’s a very real possibility but it also disrespects a lot of those folks’ agency, who understand that they may die in this struggle. And that if the state is going to go through such measures and allow their law enforcement to utilize these munitions, these so-called less-than-lethal munitions in reckless ways, then yeah they may end up killing someone but you know if they kill a Water Protector whose got their hands up and are in prayer, isn’t that that non-violent Ghandian King-esque nonviolence that they’re talking about? Let them harm us to the point that the moral imperative becomes so overwhelmingly against them that they have to give up? That they don’t have the will to beat you any longer?

TFSR: Also in a time when we have this new president now who is actively seeking to criminalize so-called peaceful protesters? Seeking any kind of legitimacy from the state doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, but what also makes a lot of sense is taking leadership from people who are most effected and also keeping in mind that that’s a non-homogenous group of people. It’s a very complicated situation, it seems like it’s very difficult to know where to draw the line while also maintaining your own political integrity in all of this as well, to be a whole human being. You mention that you are a movement medic, and you have spoken about your experiences at Standing Rock, but I was wondering if there was anything that you wanted to add about your involvement at the camp?

N: My involvement at the camp has largely been as a medic in support of the Water Protectors, so I’ve both worked to help increase the medic capacity and continue to work to try and help us stay coordinated and functioning in a way that allows us to provide the best level of care that we can. I have also gone out on a number of the direct actions to support Water Protectors and have dealt with some injuries and elements and the volumes, which were pretty staggering at times. November 20th when they just kept using water cannons on folks, both speaks to the heart and willingness of the water protectors but from the medic’s perspective we saw over 300 patients that night.

Several folks were severely injured; Sophia Wilansky nearly lost her arm that night, and other folks have lost permanent vision from that night, and the level of PTSD that has been inflicted on folks in these situations or the potential for it.

Similarly when the Sacred Ground Camp on the Easement was raided on October 27th, they literally just lined up and whooped on folks all day. We’re seeing the Miami Model play out in rural settings. Sheriff Laney from Cass County and Sheriff Meyer from Morton County I’m sure will retire real soon and go on the law enforcement and security speaking tour, to pop up at every pipeline and give advice
on how to deal with these “damn eco-terrorist protestor types.”

TFSR: And there has been a whole lot of law enforcement there from day one it seems, right?

N: Not from day one, I mean Morton County I think employs 33 or 39 sheriffs total. (*laughter*) And the North Dakota State Police and Highway Patrol could only muster so many folks, but now law enforcement from nine other states, federal agencies like the ATF and Border Patrol have been deployed out there. There is I believe just more than 500 North Dakota National Guardsmen who are activated presently. There is now quite the policing apparatus as was on display when the Last Child Camp was raided and shut down. They had over six armored vehicles out that day.

TFSR: It feels important to analyze police responses to struggles like this in order to get a psychological hold on to what the hell is going on, and we’ve been seeing a lot of media recently about the struggle, and many different approaches from total erasure to pretty heartfelt support. I’m wondering what your opinions are about how you see
this struggle informing future struggles and how you see this one particularly continuing, or if it’s too early to say?

N: I think at the very least what has happened out there in the treaty territories has brought a new level of what it looks like to be brave in the face of the state for folks. And it’s behaviors it can be pointed to as strong definitive attempts at non-violent action that we’ve already seen. At the Piñon Pipeline, there was one action out there and they cancelled it. At the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, there have been a couple of actions already and they’ve shut down work. Mississippi Stand went after other sections of the Dakota Access Pipeline down in Iowa, we’re seeing folks starting to really resist the Sabal Pipeline, Spectra Pipeline, Lancaster PA is starting to openly build camps and openly express how we aren’t paid outside agitators, here’s the local teacher. These are local folks who are stepping up and saying “Oh heck no, can we do this here?” I think it’s important as we do this that we need to understand that there is a space for specifically prayerful things, and there is a space specifically for the prayer war, and there is a space for the more confrontational direct action tactics, but these are not the same space.

And I think it needs to be stressed that the Water Protectors and Warriors never went back to the camp and were like “Ya’ll are praying wrong! Ya’ll need to go pray over there! Ya’ll need to pray like this!” That is what some of the folks who use spirituality like Christians do, they use it as a manipulation tactic. They use spirituality much like
Christians say “You have to pray like we pray here.” Even to otherLakota, who were taught differently. That caused some real tensions, and there’s some real beef that I can’t claim to fully understand that I know. There’s family members who don’t like each other over that stuff, because folks called and asked for Warriors to come and those same folks, when they saw what Warriors did and what Water Protectors do to actually stop pipelines, they got scared. Either pressure got put on them through back-channels, or they realized that they would not be able to
control the narrative. So they pass a number of rules or any number of authorities on folks to say “You can’t do that this way!” Which certainly rubbed a number of folks the wrong way, when no one could really say where these decisions were coming from.

TFSR: Before I ask the next question I want to be really explicit about what you mean by prayer. This is non-Christian explicitly?

N: Yeah, this is explicitly Lakota spirituality, whose homelands we were on, Lakota treaty territory, Lakota and Dakota lands, and there were some basic modicums that were asked of folks to respect, things like don’t take pictures of the sacred fires, or put stuff in the sacred fires unless you’ve gotten permission. If you have a uterus and you’re on your moon, then to stay away from ceremony, stay out of the kitchen, just some cultural norms there. Up at big camp, there were folks from many nations operating in many different ways. There was some kind of manipulation of that that happened that was used as a point of leverage to dishearten and disrupt some of the youth and some of the frontline folks. Part of that is intergenerational difference, part of that is that older folks were raised in a time when native youth were being snatched and taken to boarding camps. A certain amount of hiding was the safest way to do things, which some of the folks with the International Youth Council and some of the other youth that have been leading this understand. They love and respect their elders but they also recognize that it is a different day and that these adults who are coming in to leadership roles who have listened to their elders and gone and gotten those educations and have been getting told for years that they need to step up and lead. When this happened in camp, there were folks that came up and criticized them. There were other elders that wouldn’t chastise folks in public, would openly support folks for not trying to take a lead role but were there as an elder to both support and be a resource.

There was a lot of issues around white folks telling Lakotas to stay in a prayerful way. There are Warriors that I know who are Pipe-Carriers, they don’t carry their pipes to the frontline, they are very spiritual and prayerful people, and for people to accuse them of not being in a prayerful way while they’re going to risk their freedom and personal wellbeing for the future generations, for the water, for the air, for the commons like that, for all of us, to challenge those folks’ spiritual intentions and spiritual actions, especially if you don’t even understand their spiritual practice, is both disrespectful and the added attitude of an agent-moderator. That’s some stuff that could be portrayed by folks intentionally trying to upset affective action.

TFSR: Do you feel like this is an analysis that is spreading? I have seen a little bit of analysis of what you’re talking about right now being disseminated over news channels and social media and whatnot, but do you see this spread of, for the lack of a better word on my part, this discussion of a diversity of tactics being disseminated to other anti-extraction struggles?

N: You know it’s hard to say, I’ve largely stayed put in North Dakota for the past several months. But a lot of folks from different struggles came through and I can’t speak for them because they saw what they saw with their own eyes, depending on when and where they were in those camps they could have seen drastically different things and been told drastically different stories as to what was happening at that moment, what had happened up until that moment and where things were going to go. But I do think folks are waking up and I think the intersectionality of struggles that is becoming more present is what will allow this discussion of diversity of tactics to really come more to the forefront. I don’t think it needs to be a discussion, I think it just needs to be a respect that happens. And with different groups that aren’t in a position to lose privilege from where they’re at, have that freedom of nothing left to lose, whereas privileged folks, largely a lot of white folks, but settler-colonialist folks who have more access to stuff, pull their punches. They have a real tendency to pull their punches in these situations, or paid-organizers pull their punches because finishing off a campaign definitively leaves them without work or without the control of an organization that they had. Whereas, folks whose hearts are true, who really are committed to that land, that water and that future, and getting everyone free as soon as we can now, they’re gonna be more willing to not view a broken window or some damaged bulldozers as violence when they see people starving, people going hungry, people being incarcerated, unarmed protestors, etc. We have people who are facing decades (in prison time) for a lockdown. We have this aggressive set of policing tactics that are being deployed against us that, like it or not, folks
need to create that big crowd for some more direct action to happen out of so that it can be done safely and non-violently, or the options that will be left will be groups that don’t come out in public and only see violence as an option and not getting caught, if non-violently praying and getting arrested can get someone 10-20 years (in prison). It’s going to push folks in that hardcore direction, and it’s more a question of if we can do the outreach and the education that the bulk of the dissidents of society come with us, rather than cling to law and order as the main goal of society rather than evolution or something like that.

TFSR: You mentioned the intersectionality of struggle a little while ago, and one of the last questions that I have is that is struggle an inappropriate word? Just to go off script for a moment…

N: It definitely is a struggle. We’re all tired and hurt and sore. It’s a damn struggle, convincing folks to support, folks having to win that support through footage of them standing in prayer getting the crap beat out of them by multi-state law enforcement, that’s a struggle, that’s a fight.

TFSR: For real! Then this struggle has generated a lot of momentum it seems, at least within anarchism, around anti-extraction industries and there was a lot of momentum prior to this, but this feels somewhat different. Also one thing that I find really exciting is that it has generated a lot of discussion about meshing these two discussions of anti-extraction struggle with an explicit anti-colonialist discussion as well. Would you talk about whether you see this as being something new, and a bit about the importance of intertwining these two analyses?

N: I think the intersectionality starts becoming to be real obvious when you look at things like the current immigration raids versus the fact that Flint still isn’t a priority of our federal government, to get them clean drinking water. The fact that the state of North
Dakota has spent $23 million and counting on policing costs to get a pipeline put in that’s not going to create much revenue or jobs or anything for that state. There’s a need to kind of recognize the continual looting of this land by financial interests of various sorts, that is the base injustice. Folks who want to tweak or modify the system, I feel are failing to appreciate the toxicity of what this American system was built on, that it is built on stolen land, that it is built with stolen hands, and much of this profit. I’ve done a lot of work in labor and class stuff, and there’s a temptation to say “Oh this is a class thing” and “the value of our labor is being taken from us” but even the labor that we’re taking on is being stolen from the land
of folks who were the first inhabitants here. None of that is possible, a lot of the anarchist and revolutionaries will fight for everyone and forget the Native people, and so I think that it is crucial that how we start thinking about these struggles brings into the anti-colonial decolonizing mindset and the support and leadership of folks who are still strong in their indigeneity, to avoid tokenizing folks because “Hey you’re Native, we’re gonna put you in charge” even if someone was raised Christian and they don’t know much about where they come from. The importance of that indigeneity, those are the folks that have that understanding of living with the land and living as part of an eco-system, and they have that appreciation of the land and the creatures that all vie for us.

And so when we talk about the pollution and damage done by these extreme industries, we need to look at that damage done and that cultural genocide that’s been done against folks who just want, like many Indigenous cultures around the world who lived as part of the land they were on, and were thankful for that land, for providing for them, as opposed to the Christian concept of dominion over the
land, which is an interesting interpretation of being good stewards. I think that the need for those intersections, the need for Black Lives Matter and how powerful it was to have folks like Chairman Fred Hampton Jr come out with folks and all the 300+ Nations that came out and showed their solidarity and numerous white folks from different organizations that came and showed solidarity, saw in a lot of ways how that camp was operating in a good humble way, and there was no need for money for most things. If you’re doing work, there’s kitchens that will feed you, and a lot of folks took that shit like it was Burning Man and just came and took and were culture-vultures on the whole thing and were fetishizing Natives in resistance and were just working on their photo or art project or wanting to come up and tell the tale. Are you Native? You probably shouldn’t be telling that tale, you should help and empower these Native youth who are trying to tell their tales right now.

And I think that’s some of the importance of intersectionality is these recognitions that there are going to be folks who just know how to do it better because they were raised that way. It’s like the damn tipis that didn’t budge in the windstorms, and everyone’s tents that gotten flattened out. There’s some stuff that local folks will just know, and when we’re talking about these rural places and when we’re talking about taking Indigenous leadership or local leadership in place, is we have to recognize that just because you may be educated, or a permaculture demi-god to folks out there, that doesn’t actually translate to that bio-region, and if that doesn’t translate to pragmatic things that folks can do, if you’re just gonna come and say you should do it all in this way, it’s that same problem. It’s not looking at the intersections, it’s presenting “this is the way it should be done. This is the model we have, this is how we’ve been doing. We fail most of the time, but this is the model of how we do this.”

TFSR: That also calls into question really challenging people to actually fully examine why they’re doing something. Are you going to Standing Rock because you want to work on your photo project? Are you going to be updating your instagram about it? or are you going to actually have as real solidarity with people and struggle as
you can have?

N: And there’s the question there about a lot of conditional allies out there. I’ve seen their facebook comments about how getting beat up or saying mean things to law enforcement doesn’t keep with our message and loses support for us. And I challenge anyone that if your support is so easily lost, did you ever really give it in an earnest and heartfelt way? There are some grandmas out there who just about make me cry with the support they show their youth, and how proud they are of these young folks. I’ve seen these young folks get to the top of the hill, where there’s footage of folks getting brutalized at the bottom, they’ll touch a cop, not in a harmful way, just touch ‘em.

Showing their bravery, demystifying and showing that they could do more but not having to. Seeing these different ways of doing things, seeing these powerful moments of praise that folks get, knowing that these young folks are earning real prestige in their culture by doing these things while others are both trying to shame them while other grandmas are holding them up. It’s a lot.

TFSR: That’s incredible, and for me such an amazing concept and very inspiring thing to hear about. Those are all the questions that I had, do you have anything else that you wanna add?

N: Just that there isn’t a region in this country that’s free from pipeline expansions right now. Get trained, get rowdy, let’s kill this stuff. Let’s kill some black snakes.

I Don’t Know About Yall, But I’m in it to Win it: a conversation with Black Rose Anarchist Federation in L.A.

Black Rose Anarchist Federation

blackrosefed.org
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This week we spoke with Romina and César, who are two members of the Black Rose Anarchist Federation in LA. We talk about what it’s like organizing in an Especifist federation model of anarchism, about anarcho-communism, and tensions and points of unity between non federation and federation organizing. We wanted to interview these folks in order to present another model of possible engagement, for folks who perhaps are looking for ways to plug in. This conversation is somewhat introductory, and we welcome any feedback you have. To see more on this project, you can visit http://www.blackrosefed.org/

 

Announces

Asheville-Area Events

Tonight, Sunday the 5th of March from 5 to 7:30pm at Firestorm in Asheville, join Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross for an evening of solidarity in the form of letter writing for long term political prisoners: people who are locked up for their activism and resistance to systems of domination and oppression. Supplies will be provided as well as copies of the March 2017 prisonbooks Political Prisoner birthday calendar. More info can be found at https://brabc.noblogs.org

On Thursday, March 23rd, check out the Tranzmission book packaging party, also at Firestorm. Tranzmission prison project is an all volunteer, books-and-zines-to-prisoners project that focuses on getting materials to incarcerated LGBTQI prisoners. This event starts at 6pm.
http://avlcommunityaction.com/

On Sunday March 12th at the Odditorium in Asheville, there’ll be a benefit for folks facing charges attached to the J20 Inauguration protests in DC this January. The door is at 8pm, it’s a sliding scale donation and an all-ages show. Bands include: Gullible Boys; Mother Moses; Maitland +more TBA
https://www.facebook.com/events/844030912404007/

Water Crisis in PA Prisons

Since August of 2016, Mumia Abu-Jamal and other Inmates at the State Correctional Facility in Mahanoy, Pennsylvania, have been plagued with unsafe drinking and bath water.

For several months now, inmates have complained about brown, oily water in both the showers and the faucets of their cells. This has been an on-and-off problem from August 2016 to this very day. One of the inmates at SCI Mahonoy, Lorenzo Cat Johnson, when asked of the matter, stated that one week the water seems good and another week, when run, the water seems to go from the color gray to the color brown.

As recently as last week in a conversation with MOVE Political Prisoner Edward Africa, Eddie was asked what he did for water and he stated that he obtained his water from a hot water filter that was on his cell block.

So other than the alternative to obtain a little water from a hot water filter, men are being forced to shower and wash in brown water. Eddie stated that the only time inmates can get bottled water is when they are on a visit in the visiting room. All the while, prison staff are being provided bottled water at SCI Mahanoy and are being told not to drink the water because it’s unsafe.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is suffering from a very serious skin condition due to Hepatitis C, is required to take specialized baths in the prison infirmary, but has not been able to take these baths due to the water hazard. Grievances have been filed on this matter, but to no avail–the water situation has not been resolved.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

On March 6, 2017 there will be a National Day of Action aimed at both Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.

The power is in the hands of the people; the only way to make these officials respond is through massive public pressure, so we are upping the ante.

From 9 am to 12 noon, folks are being asked to call, fax, and tweet the office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

(P) (717) 787-2500
(F) (717) 772-8284
(Twitter) @GovernorTomWolf

From 1 to 3 pm, folks are being asked to call, email, and tweet Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.

(P) (717) 728-2573
(Email) Ra-crpadocsecretary@pa.gov
(Twitter) @DOCSecretary

These Are the Demands:

(1) Inmates at SCI Mahanoy are provided immediately with clean water both
for their bathing and other personal needs.

(2) An environmental Protection Agency testing of the water at both SCI
Mahonoy and SCI Frackville.

(3) Bottled water be provided immediately to inmates in all Correctional
Facilities across Pennsylvania.

Let’s keep the pressure on to get clean water for the men and women
across Pennsylvania’s state prisons.

For more info, people can go to
http://www.freemumia.com/
http://www.bringmumiahome.com

Reflections on June 26, 2016 antifa resistance in Sacramento, CA

Reflections on June 26, 2016

https://rally.org/June26th
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We have an hour long conversation with organizers of the June 26th antifascist resistance in Sacramento, CA, that routed the attempted organizing on the Capitol Steps by white nationalist groups, the Traditionalist Workers Party and the Golden State Skinheads (among other groups). The TWP & GSS rally was an attempt to take symbolic space and inspire further and more public demonstrations by these and affiliated groups however the 40 members who showed up were quickly routed by the diverse antifa numbering 400 or so. In the ensuing fracas, 9 antifa were hospitalized, most serious among them for stab wounds. During the hour long podcast, hear 3 organizers talk about medic preparation, what the event looked like, media responses, post-confrontation security for those hospitalized and more. It’s well worth noting that money is still being raised to help cover medical costs of those injured on June 26th. To help, you can visit https://rally.org/June26th .

A conversation with Keep Hoods Yours and on the July 25th International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners

KHY and Intl Antifascist Prisoners Solidarity

nycantifa.wordpress.com
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The first segment is a short conversation with members of NYC Antifa, an antifascist group in New York City. In this conversation we talk a bit about the history of this day of solidarity plus the state of fascism in the US and abroad. This conversation was transcribed and re-recorded to protect the folks’ identities. To learn more about this, you can visit https://nycantifa.wordpress.com/, and to donate to the international defense fund you can visit https://intlantifadefence.wordpress.com/about-2/

A large portion of this episode is a conversation with a member of Keep Hoods Yours. Keep Hoods Yours, or KHY, is a radical graffiti crew based in the SF Bay Area that organizes against gentrification, against sexual predators in the scene, against racism and more. During the conversation, we’ll hear about the rebel cultural car events called Sideshows, the police killing of Richard
Perkins during one of these Sideshows, KHY participation in uprisings against the Ferguson verdict, resistance to Fast Agent and poning of Kenny Truong and the shutdown of racist, gentrifying business “Locals Corner” in the Mission District. You can find KHY on Instagram or in the
streets. This interview was formatted into a zine by 1312 Distro and is available for printing thanks to IGD.

Announcements

Luke O’Donovan Solidarity

On July 25th at 9 am Luke O’Donovan will walk out of Washington State Prison after serving two years there. We are thrilled to see our friend free from behind prison walls. He is in high spirits and very excited to be released. As many of you who have been in touch with him know, he has occupied his time with a rigorous workout routine, lots of reading, and correspondence with all those who took the time to communicate with him.

Unfortunately he will not be allowed to return to his home and life in Atlanta. Due to the judge adding a banishment condition to his probation, Luke will have to move all the way to the West Coast for the next eight years, or until the conditions of his probation are changed. Moving forward, here are some ways to continue to support Luke as he starts life on strict probation.

Money– Luke will need money in order to cover his living expenses while he gets on his feet and moves his belongings and life to the West Coast. He will also need money to cover the probation and drug testing fees that he will be subject too. You can donate or set up recurring donations by visiting their paypal site.

Care Packages– Luke will need lots of little things, like clothes to rebuild his wardrobe, delicious vegan food, and other items that you are not allowed to have in prison. If you would like to send a care package please email letlukego@gmail.com to work out details on where and what to send.

Solidarity and Support- Throughout Luke’s case and subsequent imprisonment the support and solidarity he has gotten has been overwhelming. From the solidarity marches and actions to the mountain of mail and the hundreds of postcards sent to the judge we have been thrilled by all those who have taken action for him. Once things are more clear we will begin trying to get his banishment condition appealed, check back for updates. For now any and all actions are appreciated. As Luke’s new living situation isn’t worked out yet we can’t provide contact info at this time, but email us at letlukego@gmail.com if you want to get in touch.

Luke is set to be free from prison, but there is still a lot to do. Thanks everyone for your past and future support.

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Playlist

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Transcription

What follows is the transcript from an interview with Keep Hoods Yours (KHY) that appeared on The Final Straw Radio (TFSR). KHY is an anti-authoritarian, anti-gentrification, anti-sexist, anti-racist and so forth, graffiti crew based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This interview talks about organizing in youth culture, radical potentials in graffiti, some of the struggles that KHY has been involved in and more. The Final Straw is a radical radio program out of Asheville, N.C. and their episodes can be found here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/. This interview was transcribed in an effort to broaden conversations around radical organizing and antagonism within vibrant subcultures that anarchists and other radicals find themselves involved in. Ultimately, it also serves as a proposal and a challenge to punks, graffiti writers, skateboarders, dancers, musicians and artists of many forms to never pass up on an opportunity to strategically target our enemies and fire at will, and to explore the creative cultures we find ourselves enmeshed with for spaces to attack from. Or, in the words of the KHY interviewee, to “develop an antagonistic, decentralized, popular culture of resistance that can hopefully develop our capacity to identify and attack the various forces which exploit poor and working class spaces, including gentrifi cation, police violence, rape culture and local white supremacist and fascist efforts.”

TFSR: Well first off let’s talk about, what is a graffiti crew? For those people listening who may know nothing about graffiti culture, what is it and how does it operate?

KHY: Well they vary from crew to crew, but for the most part a graffiti crew is a semi-formal grouping of graffiti writers that have similar styles, aesthetic choices and a philosophy towards the craft. They group up and collaborate in order to do graffiti, to exchange styles, knowledge, strategies, and supplies and generally have each other’s backs. Since it’s a culture that’s rooted in the streets, anything can happen. And it being illegal, we can’t really rely on mainstream institutions to solve conflicts. But it varies. For some crews, they’re just drinking buddies. For others, they are very serious, formal, tight-knit and organized. It definitely varies.

TFSR: I guess the first thing people would think of when they think graffiti-crew; they think it’s automatically connected with a gang.

KHY: It’s actually not, it’s often the other way around actually. Especially in working-class neighborhoods, some youth do graffiti instead of falling in the gang trap. In some cities, gangs and graffiti crews get along or just don’t beef, while in other cities it’s much different. In some crews there’s overlap in gang affiliations and graffiti crews. But for the most part they’re two very separate worlds that sometimes conflict.

TFSR: So sense of place seems pretty central to the idea of KHY. Could you tell some of our listeners about, generally speaking, the upbringing of many of the people involved? What do you think drew them to become involved in KHY? And, what kind of drives people to be engaged in this activity that could potentially be legally dangerous for them?

KHY: All of the people involved in this project at this time were born and raised in the Bay Area. Part of what’s driven folks to become involved in KHY is just been seeing the blatant gentrification, police violence and other problems in our neighborhoods. And also seeing how liberal non-profit efforts at changing things fail completely. These efforts usually end up alienating folks in the hoods that are probably attracted to things like KHY, because they see it as a way to engage with the oppressive things happening in their neighborhoods without committing themselves to reformist or legal means. It’s potentially dangerous, but the reality for folks is that the problems they’re dealing with are already dangerous. They face a larger danger from losing people in their community to police violence, to gentrification, to having families split apart, to the erasure of their culture and the loss of dignity that comes with it, that kind of thing. So really, the risk of catching a misdemeanor case for writing on a wall, it doesn’t feel all that dangerous compared to our daily reality.

TFSR: And let’s talk specifically now about KHY and how, when did it form, and overall what are it’s goals? And also, as both a radical project and a graffiti crew, how did it evolve over time since it first started?

KHY: KHY formed at about 2008-2009 with just a couple of us, and it’s grown over time. It’s grown at a much faster rate in the last three years or so. It’s really just a graffiti crew that’s rooted in radical ideas, including anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian and anti-colonial thought. KHY aims to highlight the anti-property values of graffiti culture by exploring how targeted graffiti application could be used as a form of direct action. Also using culture, like active youth culture and radical organizing, to help develop an antagonistic, decentralized, popular culture of resistance that can hopefully develop our capacity to identify and attack the various forces which exploit poor and working class spaces, including gentrification, police violence, rape culture and local white supremacist and fascist efforts.

TFSR: Great, thanks for sharing that. And let’s talk about what kind of campaigns you all have been involved in. To me, the first thing that pops up in my mind is Local’s Corner, which obviously wasn’t something that was started by you guys but is something you were involved in. If you could talk about that, and just what happened (Local’s Corner is closed now, it was a restaurant in the Mission District). Also, you’re involved in a campaign around Fast Agent, so if you could just talk to us about what both of those were, and why you chose those as targets.

KHY: The Local’s Corner campaign, it was a very obvious example of the blatant colonial white supremacist mentality behind some of the gentrifiers in the mission district. For folks who don’t really know the story behind it, it involves the owner refusing to seat people of color. There’s one specific incident where they denied a Latina mother and her kids a table, claiming that there weren’t enough seats, and then sat down a group of customers of the same size right after. There’s another incident where some local students carried out a test, where they had a group of white students come in, and they were given seating, and then they had a group of students of color come in, and they weren’t given seating. There was already a lot of local anger at that business, but the mainstream liberal attempts to hold them accountable were failing. Folks had a petition floating around, they had some protests, but none of that really put enough pressure alone on Local’s Corner to really do anything. KHY targeting Local’s Corner was the tipping point for their business. The bad publicity along with the mainstream legal pressure, then on top of that the repeated vandalism, which became popularized as other folks not involved with KHY in any way began replicating the strategy themselves, it was just the final straw. And they closed, they called it. We did that to show that direct action can be accessible to folks who don’t feel as familiar with it, ya know? It doesn’t necessarily need to involve a high-risk action, like burning something down. It can be creative, accessible, less of a risk than folks assume. And it can be effective, it can shut things down. You can make a gentrifying business get the fuck out of your town.

TFSR: I would assume for younger people that would be like a big tipping point, like “Oh we actually shut this thing down.”

KHY: Yeah, and I think that a lot of people saw that, even some of the liberal people gave us credit, they said that KHY had a lot to do with it, that they wouldn’t have closed without our efforts. And I think that legitimized direct action and more militant, illegal tactics n the eyes of the community, because it was effective. It was a small victory, but people were glad to see them leave. It also engaged a lot of folks who had never been involved in direct action before. Once other graffiti writers began vandalizing it, writing messages, their names, just scribbling over it, whatever, they became engaged in that process. They were able to build their confidence in attacking what essentially attacks them.

TFSR: Yeah, and I also think that’s interesting with the Fast Agent thing, which basically are a bunch of ads that are on bus stop benches, I see it as you are targeting things that are in the social landscape, like “Hey, get this!”

KHY: Definitely. It’s essentially what graffiti’s always been about. It’s been a battle for the public visual landscape. There’s something inherently very antagonistic, anti-property, and anti-capitalist about graffiti. So Fast Agent is an advertising campaign for the real estate agent who has the highest record for flipping properties in the neighborhoods being targeted by gentrification, the number one real estate agent in the East Bay. His name is Kenny Trong, and he, like Local’s Corner, already faced a lot of resentment from the locals. He wasn’t very strategic about it either. He did a lot of talking shit to people online and instigating and being condescending to folks. And part of that entitlement was blasting West Oakland and parts of East Oakland with these Fast Agent ads to take up space and show his presence, to assert his economic power.

So we started targeting him, and encouraging other folks to do so. At this point it’s been our campaign that’s had the widest participation than any other. I mean there’s been hundreds of other people from all walks of life who’ve tagged on them, vandalized them, ripped them out, far more than we ever did. It’s normalized, decentralized, has a life of it’s own, has little to do with us. And again, it goes to show that you don’t necessarily have to be a part of a group or organization. You don’t have to go through legal means or follow the law. You don’t have to ask for anything, you can just take resistance into your own hands, at your own pace, even if you’re isolated and even if you don’t want to be a part of anything formal. And at this point it’s been going on for over a year.

TFSR: Let’s talk a little bit about; if people are going to look at KHY stuff, primarily they do that through instagram. So how do you find, through engaging in social media, have you been able to build relationships with other projects through this? And also, what is it like using social media as a means to show people what the crew has been doing, but at the same time obviously the police use that as a means for surveillance?

KHY: So far, social media has been a means to highlight some of our ideas of resistance to folks who aren’t already involved in radical circles. Folks that are already radicalized, that are already involved in radical movements, don’t need social media to get informed. So the social media thing was really meant as a way to engage folks in the hood who were on social media anyways. So far, it has helped build some solidarity. We’ve reached out to folks in other cities across the west coast, the U.S., even in other countries. Just as far as exchanging some inspiration, news, strategy, ideas, just making those connections between similar struggles in different cities. There’s been a lot of sharing too, folks will send us photos of them doing politicized graffiti in their cities, things that are going on in other places. We’ve had folks use politically targeted graffiti in application and send us reports about it, stuff like that. Now that we’ve got a strong social media presence, we focus more on highlighting other struggles that might be isolated. It’s also helped to build some relationships that have materialized from real life, outside of social media. There’s definitely limitations to using a medium like social media that’s always surveilled. But, in reality, only very specific things are communicated through instagram. The photos that we post about Fast Agent for example, 90% of them come from folks that have absolutely nothing to do with KHY. At this point it’s more about documenting recent and ongoing struggles. At most, there’s just pictures of KHY graffiti, unfortunately social media became part of graffiti culture. There’s hella accounts documenting graffiti, and it’s just not as hot as other forms of direct action.

TFS: ‘Cause you hear all the time these horror stories of how someone goes and steals a bunch of paint, and then their next picture is of their job, and then police go to their job and arrest them.

KHY: Yeah but, in the Bay Area graffiti is just so widespread and so ingrained out here that it’s so easy to get away with it, that they’re not really prosecuting graffiti in the same way that they would in some small town. And if you’re not prepared to deal with the potential consequences, you shouldn’t even be doing it.

TFSR: Is that something you all think about too? ‘Cause it’s not just some instances, but it’s everywhere, it’s integrated into the landscape, like it’s murals, it’s advertisement, graffiti is part of not only working class communities but also capitalism itself. I guess, what does it mean to be a graffiti artist but also to make that radical connection?

KHY: Well most of the time, graffiti isn’t even that radical or political, but it is inherently, and that’s what we’re trying to highlight. We’re trying to highlight that this culture that a lot of youth from all walks of life participate in, is already inherently radical. It already has revolutionary potential, and folks that participate in this culture already have the tools necessary to carry out resistance. People do graffiti every day, and people do graffiti on everything, anything, all it takes is strategic placement, and if desired some messaging, and then it becomes a form of direct action.

TFSR: Well that kinda brings us to my next question, but has the politics of KHY affected other street organizations or graffiti crews that are in this general area? And has the stance that you all have taken pushed people that are in the graffiti scene in a more political direction? Or has it already just been going that way because of the gentrification and police violence in San Francisco and Bay Area?

KHY: As far as other street organizations and other crews, there’s been a lot of mutual respect. Our goals have kept us out of the usual and petty conflicts that exist in graffiti, and that’s given us a lot of room to focus on what we’re doing. We’re not engaged in the usual beef dynamics in graffiti politics, even though some of us might have been involved in before. We’re more interested in exploring potentials for unity, collaboration, and focusing on common enemies. And for the most part, other writers see this and respect it, or just leave it alone. We’re also not pushovers, and have our own histories out here that some people aren’t aware of. Graffiti was beginning to take a slightly more political direction in the Bay Area, but it was very minor. Graffiti is full of problematic people and oppressive behaviors, and so we’ve helped to push local graffiti in a more political direction as far as people becoming more involved, as far as people becoming strategic with what they do graffiti on, about what they paint, and also about bringing up dynamics in the culture, of how to carry themselves, solidarity, things like that. Calling out rape culture and misogyny, highlighting different issues that affect writers. There’s a drug addiction epidemic in graffiti that’s hard to talk about that has cost a lot of heavy hitters and good people. We’re definitely trying to radicalize graffiti writers, while using graffiti to radicalize folks that don’t do graffiti.

TFSR: When you are all engaged in that, do you feel like there’s some push-back? Because I would imagine that that kind of political stance almost seems like a cliché, to bring that stuff up in any sort of youth culture. I imagine people would just respond with “Oh I don’t care about that. For me it’s just about destroying shit and that’s what it is.”

KHY: The only push-back we’ve really felt is a few misogynistic individuals feel threatened by us highlighting a lot of predators in the Bay Area, calling out rape culture and being really explicit about that. It’s almost unheard of for a graffiti crew, for a project that mostly consists of males in a culture that’s male dominated, to explicitly call for fighting patriarchy and pushing rapists out of their scenes and spaces in a militant way.

TFSR: That it is pretty crazy, because historically graffiti has been so male dominated.

KHY: Yeah, so really that’s been most of the push-back. So far as our broader politics in this project, there hasn’t been much push-back because we’re actually graffiti writers in the first place. We’re not people who aren’t a part of graffiti and aren’t just using graffiti to try to reach out to youth or whatever. We’re already graffiti vandals, we have styles, we have history, we have legitimacy, we have these relationships already. And now we’re choosing to use our momentum to try to radicalize the culture and folks that have access to it. All of our campaigns have been about things that are blatantly a problem locally and that most people relate to regardless. People are already mad about them, we don’t really deal with abstract political concepts. We’re not out here putting out academic rants and things like that. We’re acknowledging what people are already well aware of; police murdering people, gentrification, and the recent rise in white supremacy organizing in the Bay Area. These are problems that people are already pissed about.

TFSR: We’re gonna talk a little bit about of the rebellion in the Bay Area against police violence in late 2014 in a second, but I just wanted to ask, you know we’re talking about social media, do you see any interest to create a KHY magazine, or something basically that’s off the internet? Obviously there’s this presence that’s online, I don’t know what you think about this, but how do you feel about graffi ti zines, magazines, publications, basically anything else that’s outside social media?

KHY: Even though social media has helped reach a broader audience, we understand that it’s pretty limited and temporary. We’re working on a zine project which should hopefully be coming out soon.

TFSR: Well that’s awesome to hear. I know there’s a lot of graffiti nerds out there that are rubbing their ears. So let’s talk a little bit about, in fall of 2014 and in the wake of Darren Wilson basically being let off for the killing of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, M.O. There were a series of riots that erupted in the Bay Area, and graffiti writers in my opinion played a huge role in that rebellion. Can you talk about the experience you thought of overall of the members of KHY in that revolt? How did it affect the crew in general? And how do you feel like the revolt changed people, especially those that were kind of like new to either “political action” or anything like that?

KHY: There were some folks involved in this project that were out in the streets. These demonstrations had a positive, energizing affect on most of the youth that came out. The revolt was very empowering for most people, for a lot of newly radicalized folks to feel that power, and to be able to hold space in the streets, to be able to push back cops, to be able to target things that they disagree with or don’t want in their neighborhoods, within the protection of a larger crowd. I think it also helped to establish radical politics within local youth cultures. You saw a lot of cultures being represented, you saw a lot of graffiti writers painting while there were riots in the background, you saw musicians, skateboarders, dancers, etc. A lot of the revolt was very youth-led, very youth involved. I think it was successful in bringing a lot of people out into the streets, being radical and having fun.

TFSR: I was telling people from out of town, I said that I felt that the graffiti writers were kind of like the Bay Area version of the soccer hooligans in Egypt, they kind of played a central role. It seems like a lot of the media, even radical media, overlooked that. It was really interesting to see people writing everywhere, a lot of different things.

KHY: Yeah, graffiti writers were definitely out during the revolt. And so many people do graffiti now; it’s just so widespread. A lot of graffiti crews were out during that. Your comparison of graffiti writers to soccer hooligans as an antagonistic cultural force is a good one, it’s interesting that that dynamic isn’t highlighted much.

TFSR: To our next question, could you talk about the recent sideshows that have taken part in East Oakland, and you might want to talk about “What is a sideshow?” for people listening who have no idea what that is. And KHY’s reaction to the police killing of Richard Perkins, who was killed outside of the sideshow in East Oakland, C.A., and more over what is your view of sideshows in general?

KHY: Well sideshows are a long-standing tradition in Oakland, and they’re essentially car-shows in the street where folks who space in the street and perform stunts with their cars. They do donuts, things like that. It’s like an outdoor, moving car-sport-party. They are a rebellious, self-organized activity of the working class and have a lot of valuable dynamics. In East Oakland, there’s not a lot for the youth to do, and we all know that there’s violence, all that, and these shows alleviate some of the anxiety, depression, and alienation that come with living through all that shit. Sideshows are empowering because they give the youth something to do in the streets collectively, and they give ownership over the streets that they live in while having fun and being rebellious. They’re unique because they’re decentralized, they’re organized without any permits or any formal hierarchy or leaders, and they easily and quickly gather a lot of people. They’re militant and very anti-police. When police come by, they don’t get taken seriously or they’re literally attacked. And often sideshows don’t end until the participants want them to; bottles get thrown at them (the cops). If they catch a lone cop; windows are getting smashed, hoods are getting stomped. Sideshows are usually so big that police can’t get to the center of the sideshow because of all the cars that are taking up the streets for a few blocks. I mean, some of them have hundreds and hundreds of participants, there’s a strong solidarity and a sense of unity when cops show up. Folks don’t snitch on each other and try to avoid internal violence. Sideshows have an insurrectionary potential. They’re often accompanied by graffiti, general public rebellion and sometimes riots. People are militant and often armed. These shows are very fluid and flexible at being able to move from hood to hood, from city to city, very efficiently. Some folks involved in this project are a part of sideshow and car culture in the Bay. Some of us were around, just keepin’ it lit, kickin’ it, when Richard Perkins was murdered. Everyone saw the murder of Richard Perkins as police retaliation for a nonstop weekend of huge sideshows that the police could not control, and for attacks on a couple of police cars also. Everyone saw that as a way for them to try to assert their dominance over Oakland and to scare folks into going back home. The police lied as always, they always do, they claim that he randomly drove up to them and pulled out a gun on them, a fake gun at that. Everyone knows that’s not true. He was at a sideshow having fun, he was not gonna randomly run up to cops and pull out a fake gun on them. This is not the first time this has happened in Oakland, where the pigs say that somebody pulled out a fake gun on them so they had to shoot them. Some are thinking that it may be easier for the State to frame people in Oakland with fake guns that you can’t trace. People were at the scene where the cops show him, they said that he wasn’t doing anything and that once he was shot down, they saw the cops kicking him, moving his body around carelessly. It’s just blatant white supremacist state violence. It was in response to the lawlessness of the sideshows and how they made the police look like they didn’t have any control. Especially with an increasingly gentrified Oakland, the police are really trying to kill that culture and oppress it. It’s really just repression.

TFSR: Let’s switch gears a little bit. Can you talk about the kind of support that KHY’s gotten? Specifically from the Mission District, but also the Bay Area in general. I’ve seen a lot of different articles and stuff being written, kids handing out KHY stickers and stuff like that. Cause it is kind of impressive that KHY has gotten sort of the notoriety within the Bay Area and the Mission District specifically for kind of a taboo activity so to speak. And can you talk about this positive feedback, but also the negative receptions as well?

KHY: I think the support really comes from the fact that again, our campaign and the issues that we’ve been addressing have been things that a lot of people in our hoods already care about. And this moment is kind of a downtime for radical struggles in the Bay Area, so a lot of responses to police murders, gentrification, etc. have mostly been dominated by liberal ideology and pacified nonsense, which folks are alienated from and can see that it usually brings no kind of results. It feels like a slap in the face when the only response to someone in your hood being executed by a racist pig is a so-called “peaceful protest” in which every detail is so micro-managed that the lame ass protest security in yellow vest is staring at you because the message on the sign you’re holding is “too-militant.” The fact that we’ve been engaged in struggles that people are feeling hopeless about in a refreshing, creative way while bringing a militant radical ideology to the forefront definitely has to do with the support we have, despite using a taboo activity. We haven’t really had any negative reactions aside from folks who obviously wouldn’t be down with our project, like yuppies and cop apologists and occasional whining, delusional liberals but who cares about them. At first we thought that we’d be accused of being a gang, but that hasn’t happened much. Most folks are just actually excited to see graffiti writers use creative application to inspire the community and educate folks by discussing revolutionary ideas. They usually are highlighted by the existing liberal left, while also creatively targeting things in the community that everyone hates, whether it be banks, gentrifier businesses, corporations, cop cars, crossing out white supremacist graffiti, the sort of things within the public landscape for all to see, showing that they aren’t untouchable.

TFSR: You mentioned that a couple times, could you just touch on that? White power graffiti in the Bay Area…

KHY: Historically there hasn’t been, aside from the obviously established white supremacy that it’s inherent in a settler state, an open-public-white-supremacist movement in the Bay Area for various reasons. Possibly in relation to gentrification and all these new-comers from new places , there’s been an obvious rise in white-supremacist graffiti. Whether it be swastikas, “white power,” anti-Black messages, anti-Mexican messages, etc. So we decided that was a very easy thing to gather support for targeting, and it’s something that can bring folks together around a common enemy. Despite differences in the community in conflict and divisions, everyone can agree that we don’t want Nazis, we don’t want white supremacists, and by us taking the initiative to start crossing out those messages, we’ve inspired other folks to do so. So now all kinds of people, even those that don’t do graffiti, are buying markers and crossing out these markers where they see ‘em. It’s empowering people to take matters into their own hands, instead of waiting on the liberals or police to do something. They’re engaging with that on their own, because they should, because these are their streets and their struggles.

TFSR: Well let’s talk a little bit about, you mentioned the Bay Area’s kind of been in a down-tide, you’ve all really continued to push since the revolt of late 2014, can you talk a little bit about the kind of different organizing things you guys have done, different community outreach events, and just talk a little more about as you were saying the need to build in these down moments?

KHY: That’s another main focus of this project, to use culture and community organizing to help those ideas actually materialize in our neighborhoods. We can’t just wait for the next uprising or the next series of riots, we can’t just wait for the next police murder and hope this will be the one that will trigger an uprising. In the meantime, between these peak points in struggle, we need to be doing a culture of resistance and building collective capacity. We need to be establishing and normalizing radical thinking within the cultures that make up our communities. We need to be educating and learning from each other. We need to be building relationships, meeting each other, strengthening those relationships, building trust so that when there are peak points in the struggle again, when folks are in the streets, they’ll already have stronger relationships, they’ll trust and recognize each other. And do this cultural work, this grassroots work; we’re also able to bring in new folks and branch out of these closed circles of radicals. We don’t need to wait for peak points in struggles; oppression is always there, exploitation is always there, alienation is always there. So even if there’s nothing going on, or if you’re isolated, or if the city you live in doesn’t have a very established radical movement of any kind, anyone can grab a marker or a spray can and go target and challenge things in their neighborhood that are problematic, spread ideas and creatively take back public space.

TFS: Well I’m really curious, what do you think the possibilities for bringing radical politics into, as you said cultural things. I’m thinking specifically youth culture, from hip-hop to graffiti, to punk, to motorcycle crews, to sports, to anything. What kind of advice would you give to anybody that’s looking to do this style of activity? It doesn’t even have to be graffi ti, but something culturally oriented that doesn’t really kind of have the auspices of political activity.

KHY: I think it’s very possible to bring radical politics into more traditional forms of youth culture. Most of these cultures already have inherently antagonistic aspects, but it needs to be done in a way that carries legitimacy. It needs to be done by folks that are already participants in these cultures. It’s hella see-through when folks who aren’t apart of the culture haven’t put in the work, time, risk, energy, etc. pop their heads up in said culture and try to use it to make politics cool or something. It comes off as corny, opportunistic and insincere. I think it’s really up to those who are already a part of these cultures to bring radical perspectives into them. We’re actually graffi ti writers in the fi rst place, and we’re able to maneuver in a way that allows us to reach a lot of people while remaining authentic and rooted in real graffiti.

TFSR: So for anybody that’s listening to this that is involved in graffiti specifically, and they are like ‘Wow this is great, I have these political ideas and am into graffi ti…’ Is there any advice you’d give them to form something like KHY in their own towns or cities?

KHY: Just do it. Do it. You already have the tools, skills and desires to do graffi ti, and you’re already pulling it off. Just think about placement, strategy, what’s important to you, and see if anyone else is down. That’s our point, that it’s really that easy.

TFSR: ‘Cause I think that’s a really key point that you hinted on, fi nding targets that people already know are like this huge bone of contention, that kind of thinking and strategy is something that’s often missing. Do you wanna just tell people how they can get a hold of KHY stuff, online? Or they can go on instagram and other places?

KHY: Yeah, folks can check us out at keephoodsyours on instagram, or just run into us in the streets. Shout out to all of our Bay Area people in the struggle and all the vandals putting paint where it ain’t, keepin’ it rooted in the streets.

Che Café still stands & Confrontations with Nazis in Olympia, WA

http://thechecafe.blogspot.com/
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This week we have three segments for the audience.

First, we bring you segment from Sean Swain, an anarchist prisoner in the Ohio prison system. You won’t be hearing Sean’s voice on this recording despite Sean having his communication reinstated. The segment is about calls by members and supporters of the Free Alabama & Mississippi Movement of incarcerated workers for a boycott of McDonalds due to some of their exploitation of prison labor. More on FAMM can be found at https://freealabamamovement.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/f-a-m-s-step-3-mcdonalds-initiative-s-to-p-the-school-to-prison-pipeline/

Next, William spoke with folks involved in the struggle to save the Che Café, a social space present on the University of California in San Diegos La Jolla campus. The Che Café is a 25 year running co-op space and venue that is now in danger of eviction by the University and is currently squatting their location. Check out the website for The Che Café http://thechecafe.blogspot.com. What you’ll hear is an anonymized version of the conversation for the safety of those in struggle with the campus. Thanks to the folks at the Ex-Worker for putting us in contact with the folks at the Café. You can find the text from William’s conversation later in this post.

Finally, Bursts & William spoke with an anarchist resident of Olympia, Washington about the shooting of Bryson Chaplin & Andre Thompson, two unarmed young Black men by Officer Ryan Donald of the Olympia PD and some events that followed. Chaplin & Thompson, in two incidents on the night of the 20th of May, shot and seriously injured the men for allegedly trying to steal beer from a convenience store. The men were shot in the back, Bryson Chaplin being left paralyzed from the waist down. Over the next few days, rallies took place under the monicer of Black Lives Matter with hundreds entering the streets of Olympia. In response pro-cop rallies under the name of Blue Lives Matter (not a pro-smurf movement, sadly), in small numbers, countered the anti-murder demonstrations. As time went on, White Supremacists became more visible in attendance, which the police tried to distance themselves officially from. As more White Supremacists, some openly carrying guns, attended these events an Anti-Fascist march was called for. This escalated into the night of May 30th when police held back their presence and the anti-fascist march collided with the White Supremacists, including armed Citizens Patrols Militia members, Neo Nazis, and Third Positionists. As conflict ensued, the racists were chased from the streets of Olympia for the night and their manifestation has been resisted by Anti-Fa patrols. We spend a good portion of the hour talking about police power, institutional White Supremacy, anti-fascist organizing and some of the potential pitfalls of de-centering struggle away from a critique of institutional power and towards the fringe reactionaries.

Related-ly, there has been a call-out for folks to engage in the July 25th 2015 International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners. From the call-out:

“Antifascists fight against those who—in the government or in the streets—dream of imposing their fascist and other Far Right nationalist nightmares on the rest of us. Throughout the world, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and racist bigotries are on the rise. Antifas are on the frontline in confronting these reactionary politics, and we will not forget our comrades imprisoned in the course of this struggle.”

More can be found at nycantifa.wordpress.com

Also, to relate this to local issues to Asheville North Carolina, well-known character from the so-called National Youth Front, Daxter Reed has been attempting to recruit at our local community college, ABTech as well as around town and in the punk and metal scene. The goofball even tried to show up at the May Day rally holding a sign for NYF and was summarily run off. It should be made apparent that these nazis and their foolish antics are not welcome here.

First, though, The Final Straw is soliciting folks in the audience with design skills to submit sticker and poster designs to us. We’re hoping these stickers and posters can make their way out to bookfairs, conventions, manifestations and the walls and un-smashed windows of the world, widening our audience and spreading some audio-anarchy further. We’re looking for the designs to include the show name, our website at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org and either imagery or words pointing to the nature of the show. If you have a design, you can send a mockup or completed version to thefinalstrawradio(at)riseup(doot)net in pdf format. Designers of chosen images will receive some free swag from the Anarchyland.

Playlist

Script from Che Café conversation
William Goodenuff : First of all will you talk about the history of the che cafe?

Che Cafe : The Che café actually started as the Coffee Hut in the late 1960s. The project to build the café cost 15k and was funded by student fees alone. It was the first student center at UCSD that was both student funded and student run. It hosted and continues to host discussions that facilitate brainstorming of marginalized/non-main stream issues (race, social justice, climate change, non-hierarchical forms of student government, etc…)
CC : It had two main roles:
CC : 1) it was the campus social center where student group of all political persuasions and interests hung out and had discussions
CC : 2) the collective is an incubator for cutting edge, non-mainstream thought, and gave birth to innovative ideas and practices
CC : it’s also important because it’s a safe space where all students were and still are welcome to hang out
CC : especially at a time where oppressed peoples where facing violence. One example was where people in the lgbt+ community were facing violence. The Che held a series of lgbt sponsored non-sexist dances in the 80’s, providing a safe place where it didn’t exist elsewhere

WG : Gotcha, I wanna talk about safer space in a minute, but just to give some context will you describe the space for listeners who have never been there, is it more like a show space or do people live there too? Is it still a cafe?

CC : Do you want us to describe the space as it is currently or also as it has been historically?

WG : I was thinking more in terms of how it is today, just how it looks and feels to be there for the benefit of folx who haven’t seen it.
WG : But also if historical cues make sense I’d be into hearing that!

CC : Before the occupation, it was more of a hardcore punk venue for music. But with the occupation, it has expanded to become so much more

WG : What occupation do you mean?

CC : Well, the UCSD administration is trying to evict and destroy the Che Café. They served the eviction on march 23rd and we’ve been occupying the Che in resistance since then. 93 days and counting.

WG : Oh shit I didn’t know that there was an occupation!
WG : How has it changed since then?

CC : Regarding the events we’ve had since the occupation
CC : we’ve expanded our programming tremendously
CC : we’ve had political meetings. For example, hosting the IWW
CC : We’ve also had workshops, like zine making workshops, feminist workshops, vegan cooking workshops. And something called Fem Fest, which is a feminist centered festival. Speakers from all over have come to speak at the Che. We’ve hosted workshops with Synchronized Cycle, a feminist bike collective. We’ve had circle discussions talking about issues affecting the people. We had music events, such as Che Fest, which was an all day music festival. Bands played inside and outside, upwards of 20 bands played. Hardcore and Indie and Surf Punk.

We’ve also had movie nights, ranging from light hearted movies to serious documentaries, with discussions after documentaries, student film nights, documentaries made here, queer/feminist film nights

As far as music shows, for awhile, we stopped doing shows because we thought it would help our case with the university. The strategy killed momentum but it made us less of a threat. When we started doing shows again, the university started threatening us again. We had university security watching us.

We’ve painted the Che, touched up Mario Terero. He painted a lot of the murals. He’s a well known Chicano muralist and did some of the murals on the building. Students have also painted murals. One member of the collective wants to do a mural of a lot of Chicana feminist writers that have a lot of influence on the Chicano identities. The Che has always been a place for marginalized peoples, including Chicano people.

We’ve done record swaps, there aren’t many all-ages record swaps in the area. The Che has always been a space for all ages to be included.

There have also been open mic nights and poetry readings. This has been a recent thing that a lot of people have gotten more and more engaged with. We have prominent poets in San Diego and Los Angeles who will be featuring at the Che on July 24th

There’s also something that happens called the Co-op prom or Safe Space Prom: Co-op prom happens every year for all the members of all the co-ops on campus. Co-op members are super connected and this is yet another form of social bonding for us that can happen in a safe space with lots of political unity.

We also have Meatless Mondays: They’re nice because they get a lot of students to come to the Che. It’s really nice to have students out here. We used to sell vegan donuts and coffee. A lot of people who wouldn’t normally come would come and ask questions and talk to us about the space.
We’ve even had a play produced here called Sodom and Gomorrah

WG : Is the Che Cafe on UCSD campus itself? I’ve never been to San Diego.

CC : Yes, it is located in Revelle College. Revelle was the first college in this campus system, and currently there are 6 colleges in the UCSD system

WG : Gotcha, I think it’s really rad that it’s been a place for marginalized folks for so long. I’ve definitely known folks who held that space as really important for a long time.
WG : Is it ok if I go off script for one question?

CC : sure

WG : Without compromising your security/safety, has there been much solidarity with the Che from within the student population? Acts of support etc?

CC : The majority of occupiers have been students and there were also graduate students from UCSD that participated as well as outside help from UCSD alumni.
CC : as far as acts of support there have been minor acts like chalking and banner drops by students in support of the Che, as well as petitions etc

WG : Word.
WG : How often has UCSD issued eviction notices to the Che? And since the Che is not the only cooperative, does it similarly target other collective spaces on campus?

CC : I don’t have the exact number of times that the University has tried to get rid of the space but in its 49 years, it has been at least 10-15 times. We can give you a more accurate number if you like…?

WG : Gotcha. No worries on exact figures. I just wanted to get a sense of the extent that the University was trying to evict the space, and it seemed to me that they’d tried fairly often.

CC : Yeah, the Master space agreement for all of the other collectives on campus expire at the end of 2016, which is worrisome.

WG : Really quickly, what is the Master Space Agreement?

CC : the MSA is basically the agreement that (after much effort) allowed for these spaces to have the level of autonomy that they currently hold from the university, and it includes details on rent, etc. Kind of like a lease but a little more involved.

CC : To go back to the question of other evictions or threatened evictions, aside from collective spaces UCSD has in the last decade alone shut down CLICS ( a humanities library which was also occupied), Graffiti Hall, Porter’s pub, University Art Gallery, and the Ceramics Center

WG : That’s a crazy amount of resources shut down!
WG : What do you think the universities are trying to do? Is it a question of resources or control?

CC : Well, leading to why the university is trying to do, it might help to consider that the Che is physically located on the fringe of campus rather than prime real estate, it’s on the borders of a much more developed and built-up campus, but along with the cooperatives it is one of the few remaining establishments on UCSD run entirely by student and community members in the midst of a transformation of the university into a morass of private corporations and centrally-run “student” centers
CC : if you look at the corporate donor list for UCSD, it looks like you lined up a 100 NASCAR drivers
CC : There’s been a lot of construction on UCSD campus and two of the companies doing that are corporate donors not to mention that UCSD gets 2.5 billion dollars in funding from the Department of Defense, there’s an entire research center dedicated to drones and a bunch of other surveillance research is done here, and a lot of military research in general

WG : Holy shit! I had no idea about all of that.
WG : That definitely puts the eviction attempts in a totally new light, thanks for going into that.
WG : So as per the Master Space Agreement, the Che is a relatively autonomous space from UCSD?

CC : yes
CC : But the attack on collective and social spaces is not isolated to just UCSD. It has been happening elsewhere. We were talking to someone who went to UC Davis and the same stuff that has been happening here has also been happening there It’s systematic. And from what we heard, they’ve been trying to shut down the co-ops at UC Davis repeatedly

WG : That’s so brutal.
WG : What will it mean for the students if the Che gets shut down?

CC : If the Che gets shut down, that means the university will likely increase the pressure on all the other co-ops because the Che getting shut down would set a precedent.
CC : And like we said before, the Che has a long history of being an alternative community and social space for alternative and marginalized students and community members in general. It still very much is this for the community, despite pressure from the University. If we lose the Che, marginalized students and community members will lose a space that’s important to diversity of thought and expression. Keep in mind that the Che is a very long time part of the UCSD campus, even before it called the Che, back to the 60’s and 70’s.
CC : In addition, without this space, it will be harder for marginalized students and community members to resist against university policies.

WG : For sure. This is such a brutal example of how expression and politics are being increasingly curtailed by institutions.

CC : Yeah, it’s all about control. About shifting the university from a public to private model through any means necessary for the UC system in general.

WG : Agreed! It certainly looks that way to me.

CC : Additionally, an interesting note is that the current head of the UC system, Janet Napolitano, used to be the secretary of homeland security.

WG : Thaaaat just totally blows me away.
WG : You’ve already outlined the political and cultural place that the Che holds on campus, but could you talk about what it means for students to have a safe space within the context of the university?

CC : Could you clarify that question please?

WG : The question may actually be redundant, now that I come to think of it. I was wanting to get a sense of how large a part the Che played within the student body of holding safer space for folks, but I actually think we’ve touched on that sufficiently?

CC : Oh yeah, we can touch on that question
CC : The Che as it is today is unfortunately unknown to most of the students because the campus is so spread out.
CC : the Che, before it was even the Che, used to be the center of student life at UCSD during the 60’s and 70’s, being in the middle of the Revelle College.
CC : But there’s been purposeful expansion since then that has made it harder for students to gather in autonomous spaces, but the Che is still one of the main punk and anarchist spaces in San Diego.

WG : Wait, on of the main anarchist spaces in all of San Diego??
CC : Yeah! In my experience, I haven’t seen many other anarchist spaces in this town, the Che seems to be the main nexus for anarchists in the city

WG : Gotcha.

CC : Social spaces on campus have really shifted from autonomous student spaces to corporate spaces like the Price Center (*note: this is the largest so called “student” center in the country and hosts many capitalist ventures like fast food restaurants and a movie theater, it has over 30,000 visitors a day).
CC : And we have important safe spaces on campus like the Woman’s Center, the LGBT Center, the Black Resource Center, and other important spaces, but none of these spaces are as autonomous as the Che. They’re politically progressive where we’re more anarchist, and are unfortunately more beholden to the University

WG : Yeah, that makes total sense. It’s so important to have spaces for anarchist folk.

CC : yeah, basically

WG : Did you get a chance to read the statement from the Hobo space in Bologna? If so, do you have any words for those folx?

CC : Yeah, we read that statement
CC : And we definitely stand in solidarity with the students and community members resisting in Bologna
CC : We shouldn’t just defend and preserve the existing autonomous spaces but expand and open up more of these sort of spaces. The stronger the network of autonomous spaces for anarchists and radicals, the easier we’ll be able to resist against Power. We encourage the leftist, radical, and anarchist to defend existing spaces and open up more of these spaces by any means necessary.

WG : Totally agreed. I know they’ll take strength from that.
WG : Is there a way for people who aren’t in your area to help with the struggle concerning the Che?

CC : Yeah, definitely.

WG : And is there a way for folks to keep apprised of how y’all are doing? A website?

CC : Oh yeah, we have a facebook page, which is facebook.com/che.cafe.collective
CC : And the Che has a webpage which is thechecafe.blogspot.com
CC : and in regards to support
CC : People should get involved more with the struggle for the Che and the co-ops. Join the occupation if you can. Put pressure on the administration in whatever ways you can. Donations also help with legal funds, and we have a paypal account. You can reach us at checafe@gmail.com. We need more support from the media. If you’re in the media, contact us. Spread the word that we’re still alive and still fighting. Encourage people to come to meetings. Help us occupy. The more people who resist with us, the better. If you have an event you want to do, you’re welcome to do it in the space as long as you put it through the collective process. Send resources like vegan food and books and anything else. Volunteers to help clean up are also really appreciated.

CC : Also, Pressure the vice chancellor and the chancellor to stop evicting the Che.
CC : We have a meeting with the Chancellor on July 15th and the more support we have at that meeting, the better.

WG : Let me know how it goes and I can report in on the radio. Also are there contact details for the VC and the chancellor?

CC : Yeah, we definitely will keep you updated, and the web page with all that contact info is chancellor.ucsd.edu/cabinet

WG : Gotcha. That’s all the questions I have, do y’all have anything else you wanted to close on?

CC : In regards to that, it’s important that we fight for these spaces because it’s in these spaces where we’re more free: free of the majority of the power dynamics of our society.
CC : and fighting for these spaces ultimately will lead us into fighting against Power itself so we can ultimately abolish authority and power and live a free life where we decide what we want do, no one else deciding for us, no politician or boss, but us living lives of true joy.

WG : Totally agreed! Thanks so much for taking the time to have this interview! Keep us posted, stay safe. Solidarity to yall.