Indigenous Space and Decolonizing Prison Abolition
(Sean Swain starts at 05min, 12 sec)
Ni Frontiers Ni Prison
(starts 12min, 08sec)
Today we have a two part show! In the first part we are presenting a conversation with someone from Ni Frontiers Ni Prison, which is a group in so called Canada that is resisting the proposed construction of a new migrant prison in Laval, a town just outside of Montreal. This is a transcript of the original audio, read for the show by Grier, shout out to him! In this interview we talk about the prison and what it would mean for people who’d be most affected by it, the general rise of far right sentiment in so called Canada, and many more topics.
The interviewee names the place they are based as occupied Tio’tia:ke (jo-jahg’-eh), which is the original indigenous name for so called Montreal, the colonizer name. The naming of indigenous land will continue throughout the interview with various locations in the name of decolonization, though Tio’tia:ke is the one which will be the most prominent.
As an audio note to all those paying attention, a fridge turns on midway through the interview then turns back off nearing the end, we’ve tried to minimize the background noise but it’s still somewhat noticeable.
Music for the intro and outro by A Tribe Called Red with Stadium Pow Wow.
Some links to historical events mentioned by our guest relating to Canada’s’ treatment of immigrants and refugees:
“Chinese Head Tax“, a policy which “meant to discourage Chinese people from entering Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway”, a government project which I conjecture used a bunch of precarious and immigrant labor in order to complete.
Komagata Maru Incident, the historic entry denial of a group of Indian refugees seeking entry into Canada on the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru in 1914, resulting in the death of 20 Sikh people at the hands of the then occupying British government.
“None Is Too Many” policy for Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, an anti Semitic stance that put people who were fleeing Nazi terror in further danger and possible death.
Robert Free on the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center
(starts at 38min, 04sec)
Next we’ll hear an interview with Robert Free, a long-term Seattle, WA resident and Tewa (pronounced tay-oh-wa) Native American. We discuss the history of the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, a cultural and resource center for urban Native Americans in Seattle and the surrounding communities. The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center was established after a series of protests and occupations in 1970 of Fort Lawton, an army base that had previously occupied the park. Robert Free discusses the influencing factors of that time, some of the finer points of the occupations, as well as the implications of protesting and occupation on stolen native land.
Some of the names and events mentioned in this chat you may recognize from our February 17th, 2019, episode of The Final Straw when we had the pleasure to speak with Paulette D’auteuil, about the case of long-term American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier. More info on Peltier’s case can be found at whoisleonardpeltier.info
. … . ..
Next week we hope to bring you a conversation with support crew for incarcerated former military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who is now imprisoned for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury. More on her case can be found at https://xychelsea.is including links for donating towards her fundraising goal for legal costs aiming at 150 thousand smackeroos.
On December 7, 2018, Columbus police murdered 16 year old Julius Ervin Tate Jr.. On December 13, they arrested his 16 year old girlfriend, Masonique Saunders, charging her with the murder they committed.
Masonique is being charged with aggravated robbery and felony murder, and is currently being held in juvenile detention. The police have alleged that Julius attempted to rob, and pulled a gun on a police officer, and that Masonique was involved in said robbery. Felony murder means that if you commit a felony and someone dies as a result of that crime you can be charged with their murder.
We believe that these charges are unjust, and demand the freedom of this 16 year old Black girl and justice for the family of Julius Tate!
To help Masonique and her family, donate to her GoFundMe.
A quick reminder, if you’re in the Asheville area this coming week, Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross is hosting two events. On Friday, April 4th from 6:30 to 8pm at Firestorm, (as we do every first Friday of the month) BRABC will show the latest episode of Trouble, by sub.Media. Episode 19 focuses on Technology and Social Control. After the ½ hour video we’ll turn chairs around and have a discussion of the film for those who’d like. Then, on Sunday, April 6th from 5-7pm as BRABC does every first Sunday of the month, we’ll be hosting a monthly letter writing event. We’ll provide names, addresses, backstories, postage and stationary.
Prisoners we’ll focus on are longterm political prisoners from Black liberation, to Earth and Animal Liberation, to anti-police violence activists caught up in prison whose birthdays are coming up or who are facing severe repression. Or, just come and write a letter you’ve been meaning to write to someone else. It’s a nice environ for that sort of thing.
Extinction Rebellion week of action
The movement to halt and roll back human driven climate change called Extinction Rebellion is planning some upcoming events in the so-called U.S. in line with a worldwide call for action over the week of April 15-22nd. Check out https://extinctionrebellion.us/rebellion-week for info and ways to plug in. If you’re in the L.A. area, see our shownotes for a fedbook link to some of their upcoming events. And remember, practice good security culture by not giving up as little info as possible. Keeping your info more secure today ensures your ability to fight with less hindrance tomorrow!
Marius Mason moved
Anarchist political prisoner Marius Mason has been moved to a prison in Connecticut, a change viewed as a success by his supporters as he’s closer to family by hundreds of miles. If you’d like to write him a letter to welcome him to his new place, consider writing him at the following site, but make sure to address it as follows:
Now, here’s a statement by the Highlander Research and Education Center outside of New Market, TN, about the fire early on March 29, 2019:
“Early this morning, officials responded to a serious fire on the grounds of the Highlander Research and Education Center, one of the nation’s oldest social justice institutions that provides training and education for emerging and existing movements throughout the South, Appalachia, and the world.
As of 6am, the main office building was completely engulfed and destroyed. One of ten structures on approximately 200 acres, the building housed the offices of the organization’s leadership and staff. Highlander’s staff released the following statement:
“Highlander has been a movement home for nearly 87 years and has weathered many storms. This is no different. Several people were on the grounds at the time of the fire, but thankfully no one was inside the structure and no one was injured.
“While we are physically unhurt, we are saddened about the loss of our main office. The fire destroyed decades of historic documents, speeches, artifacts and memorabilia from movements of all kinds, including the Civil Rights Movement. A fuller assessment of the damage will be forthcoming once we are cleared to enter the remains of the building.
“We are grateful for the support of the many movements who are now showing up for us in this critical time. This has been a space for training, strategy and respite for decades and it will continue to be for decades to come.
Fire officials are working to determine the cause as quickly as possible and we are monitoring the investigation closely.” –Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele, Co-Executive Directors, Highlander Research and Education Center.
Highlander has played a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement, training and supporting the work of a number of movement activists: Rosa Parks prior to her historic role in the Montgomery Bus Boycot, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Septima Clark, Anne Braden, Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Hollis Watkins, Bernard Lafayette, Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis.”
On March 25, 2019, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Wende Kerl shot and killed Danquirs Franklin in the parking lot of the Burger King on Beatties Ford Rd in Charlotte. Police narratives posit that Mr Franklin was armed and posing a threat, while eye witnesses say that Danquirs Franklin interceded against an armed man bothering an employee and that the armed man ran away before the police arrived, who then shot the first black man they encountered. Friends at Charlotte Uprising have been holding vigil and fundraising for Danquirs Franklin’s family as the police’s actions leave his child fatherless. More can be found at the Charlotte Uprising twitter and fedbook pages. Rise In Power, Danquirs.
This week we had the chance to interview Lelia, who is a community activist and a part of the group Comunidad Colectiva, an immigrant rights group based in Charlotte NC. We got to talk about a lot of things in this interview, the work that they and other groups do with immigrant and undocumented communities, about the February ICE raids that got national attention, what effective rapid response can look like, and the challenging tension associated with both being anti state and being in the position of having to negotiate with police and sheriffs for safety reasons, plus many more topics.
We wanted to mention something called 287(g) and give a bit of information for listeners who may not have heard of this before. 287(g) was a contract between local officials and ICE which essentially made police forces extensions of ICE, and also instituted deportation proceedings as part of run of the mill arrests. More is explained about this contract later on in the interview, but it gets mentioned fairly heavily before that time.
You can keep updated on this group’s work by hitting them up on Facebook and if you have a few dollars you’d like to throw them to recoup the costs associated with their rapid response network, their Venmo is @comunidad-colectiva.
Next week on The Final Straw, stay tuned for an interview with a member of the Montreal based group Ni Frontiers Ni Prison (which is No Borders, No Prison) about fighting a proposed new migrant prison, decolonization, the rise of far right sentiment in so called Canada, and many associated topics, plus a possible other interview.
Update on Kinetic Justice
In a brief update to last week’s interview on the hunger strike by Kinetic Justice of the Free Alabama Movement, we’d like to share the following news. On March 20th, Kinetic Justice Amun (aka Robert Earl Council) resumed his hunger strike as he was transferred briefly to segregation housing at Limestone prison, but ended his hunger strike within a few days and was transferred to general population at that prison. He can be written at the following address:
Robert Earl Council #181418
28779 Nick Davis Rd
Harvest, AL 35749
Consequently, 8 of the prisoners transferred with Kinetic in the middle of the night, began engaging in a hunger strike in response to their own incarceration in solitary. In response to the hunger strike, administration cut off water to the cells they were held in, giving them bottled water.
The 8 prisoners ended their hunger strike on March 22nd, and administration claims they’ll be transferred to general population in the Alabama prison system as they’re not under investigation currently.
For the hour, Paulette tells about Leonard’s life, his case, his health, the resistance that Leonard was and continues to be a part of, COINTELPRO, and Leonard’s art. You can learn more about Leonard Peltier by visiting the ILPDC’s website, http://whoisleonardpeltier.info, where you’ll find lots more info, Leonard’s artwork, ways to plug in and do events to raise awareness of Leonard’s case and keep up on updates. You can also find the ILPDC on twitter and fedbook.
Welcome to the 19th edition of B(A)D news: angry voices from around the world a commonly produced monthly show of the anarchist and anti-authoritarian radio network, on this occasion composed by Črna Luknja, anarchist show on Radio Student from Slovenia.
– Final Straw from USA:
This month, The Final Straw Radio shares part of an interview with Delee Nikal, a Wet’suwet’en community member from the Gidimt’en clan and the Cas Yikh House, a First Nation in so-called British Columbia, Canada. On December 14th, 2018, the Canadian Supreme Court pushed through an injunction on behalf of Coastal GasLink (owned by TransCanada) threatening the Wet’suwet’en community defending its land of the Unist’ot’en clan with police invasion and extending it to land defenders at Gidimt’en Camp. Gidimt’en camp was invaded by Royal Canadian Mounted Police on January 7th, although the Unist’ot’en Camp stands. More information can be found at https://unistotencamp.com, https://wetsuweten.com and keep up by following https://sub.media. To hear our original interview, visit our website.
– Črna Luknja, Slovenia:
In Serbia people express their dissatisfaction with the government on the streets of Belgrade and other cities for more than one month. We manage to make interview about the situation – why heave the protests started, who are the protagonists, is there a potential for anarchist involvement – with comrade from Anarcho-syndicalist initiative (ASI) in Serbia.
This week we feature two segments, the first on anti-pipeline resistance at the Gidimt’en Camp in Canada and second with JR from sub.Media about Mental Wellness and the recent Trouble episode on the subject.
First Nations Pipeline Resistance in so-called BC
First up, we’ll hear from Delee Nikal, a Wet’suwet’en community member from the Gidimt’en clan and the Cas Yikh House, a First Nation in so-called British Columbia, Canada. In 2009, Wet’suwet’en members of the Unist’ot’en clan (also of the Wet’suwet’en nation) began actively blocking pipeline workers and government officials from accessing their land without prior and fully informed consent of the nation on the land. Over the years, Unist’ot’en has become home to various structures to not only block the passage of the pipeline but also to create opportunities for indigenous folks to heal themselves and promote their culture. On December 14th, the Canadian Supreme Court pushed through an injunction on behalf of Coastal GasLink (owned by TransCanada) threatening the Wet’suwet’en community defending its land at Unist’ot’en with police invasion. Following this, a public statement was made by the 5 hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en for all of the clans to block pipelines on their land.
The Wet’suwet’en people have no treaties with the Canadian or provincial government, their land is unceded and sovereign territory within the bounds of what’s claimed by Canada. According to United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 10: “Indigenous Peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories.” This includes RCMP, and/or military removal of Indigenous Peoples occupying their territory , say the land defenders. They also point out that the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Delgamuukw/Gisdaywa court case affirmed that Wet’suwet’en title, based on the traditional clan governance system, was never extinguished.
In the days since this interview was recorded, an update to the injunction by the Canadian Supreme Court was released that updated names and places to be targeted by police action and the chiefs were informed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP, a Canadian Federal police force that their people and their spaces would likely be attacked by the RCMP in coming days to move forward on the building of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The Wet’suwet’en resistance to the pipeline is asking for native folks to come to help defend the land from further Canadian incursion, for allies and accomplices to engage in solidarity actions to pressure and embarrass the Canadian government and spread word of the resistance of Wet’suwet’en people on their sovereign lands in defense of the earth, air and water that all of us share on this planet.
A great article breaking down a bunch of the history can be found at the Earth First! Newswire’s site from which we’ve poached some of the links and which has some great ideas of how to signal boost the situation, fundraising ideas and other ways to give and more!
And secondly, we are going to present an interview with JR, who is a member of the subMedia collective about their recent Trouble episode called Mad Worlds. Trouble is a monthly mini documentary series from this collective which highlights different aspects of life and struggle on the far left. It’s meant to be watched in groups to promote discussion and counter the increasing isolating aspects of modern day existence. The episode “Mad Worlds, Redefining Sanity Through Struggle” explores the concept of sanity and how this is intrinsically linked to the white hetero settler colonialist patriarchy, and also gets into the psychiatry industrial complex and what it could mean to be on either side of that structure. This is the first time that me and Bursts have interviewed someone together, so let us know what you think of that!
To see more from subMedia, including It’s The End Of The World And We Know It And I Feel Fine, also called The F*cking Show which features anarchist news analysis and reporting from the infamous character of the Stimulator, also they do a semi regular anarchist/antifascist hip hop workout show called Burning Cop Car (which we’ve drawn on multiple times for music to score The Final Straw), and of course Trouble, you can see all that at https://sub.media. They are in the middle of a fundraising push right now, and you can see info about that at sub.media/donate to liberate your dollars.
This week, we’re excited to share the voices of Jess and Olive, who both did legal support, and do prisoner solidarity with the folks facing Federal prison time from the struggle at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This episode was heavily edited for radio, so I suggest you find our audio at our website or in itunes or soundcloud or youtube or ideally our podcast stream and listen to the podcast version, cuz it is crammed full of great information and perspectives we don’t have time to include in the radio version of the show this week.
Jess did legal work supporting the struggle in Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and into 2018 and continues to support political prisoners in the case. Olive lived in camp, engaging in nonviolent direct action and working security during the winter (late november-february), survivor of water crises in West Virginia and as a Sundancer. Olive stayed through the raid on Oceti near the end of February 2017 and became a paralegal afterward and doing legal support for their loved one, Rattler.
At the end of these notes I’ve included a few post-scripts from Olive about the folks who caught sentences, Akicita and prophecies of the “Black Snake”.
We speak about L’eau Est La Vie camp in so-called Louisiana is continuing the struggle against the southern endpoint of the Dakota Access Pipeline from Enbridge. Visit the site to learn more and how you can get involved, they need help!
Support sites for the Federal Prisoners from Standing Rock
The day after this airs is New Years Eve and cities around the U.S. and abroad will be continuing the, I believe Greek anarchist, tradition of noise demonstrations outside of jails and prisons. Check out itsgoingdown.org for a list of places holding these where you can join in and be heard behind bars. In Asheville, folks’ll be meeting up on College St in front of the court house and jail at 7pm and will bring noise makers, warm clothes, banners and signs.
Upcoming BRABC events in Asheville
Also this week, Blue Ridge ABC will be showing the latest Frontline/PBS documentary called “Documenting Hate: America’s New Nazi’s” about the Atomwaffen Division at 6:30pm on Friday, January 4th at Firestorm Books. Also, on Sunday January 6th at Firestorm, BRABC will host it’s monthly letter writing event from 5pm to 7pm at Firestorm. No experience necessary.
Finally, The Final Straw Radio alongside It’sGoingDown, crimethInc and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief are calling for a week of action around the weekend of January 20, 2019. With the charges from January 20, 2017 dropped, we can focus on other forms of long-term solidarity and mutual aid, creating a fertile soil for future resistance and creativity. You can find the challenge and ways to plug in at cwc.im/survival
Episode Notes from Olive
As an aside, I want to share a little more information from Olive about Akicita:
“…Traditionally, Akicita would go to battle as a last resort and were always the last to leave, but they acted as protectors and to hold people accountable and dispense consequences when necessry, one example being on Buffalo hunts; people were not allowed to take more than they needed or to hunt by themselves because it hurt not only other tribal members but the Buffalo population. Akicita made sure the hunts happened with integrity. They also kept Nacas, elders, and the people informed. They were mediators of conflict. They were recognized for acts of bravery and selflessness. “
Also, Olive had these notes to share about the Federal Defendants who’ve been sentenced:
“Little Feather’s mother is part of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in California, so I forgot to mention he is also Morongo in addition to also Lakota and Chumash.
Rattler is a descendant of the war chief Red Cloud, who also signed the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868, one of the treaties we were defending with our occupation through camp.
Rattler’s Lakota name is Mato Tanka (Big Bear). Angry Bird’s Lakota name is Sunka Wakan Sica (Bad Horse).
Not everyone with federal charges are Akicita or Ikce Wicasa. Rattler, Little Feather, and Angry Bird are Akicita and Ikce Wicasa camp security. RedFawn and Dion had other responsibilities and ties to the camps. “
Olive also had this to add about their own participation at Standing Rock:
“If it’s relevant, I didn’t mention another responsiblity I had while being in camp. I formed with two other femme people Two Spirit and Women’s security branches so gender queer folks like myself and women/femme people could deal with our own safety/decolonizing issues within camp. This is how I began to work with Akicita security directly.
The role of Akicita, the several councils that made up camp for collective decision making, and the ceremonies we participated in were all ways we were actively decolonizing our daily lives and DEFYING state intervention in disputes among our community (concepts of transformative justice try to exert the same concept of “don’t call cops, be accountable” but don’t necessarily have the structures to do it like traditional indigenous societies have) “
Another addition to the audio that I’d like to include is a short write-up that you can find in our show notes about the concept and Lakota and Standing Rock prophecies of the “Black Snake” which has been applied to the Dakota Access Pipeline
“I didn’t feel we had the time, but I wanted to at least tell you about some Lakota prophecies related to the “black snake” and historical context of where camp was located. All of this information I have is from Standing Rock elders and Lakota that know their lands well, including Tim Mentz, a Lakota archaeologist from Standing Rock, as well as my own experience from living in camp.
Grandfathers, some in the early 1800s, had visions of a “black ribbon on top of the Earth to separate all people…the people wouldn’t gather anymore…when the black ribbon goes underneath the Earth there will be no more Lakota.” This “ribbon” is seen as pavement and fossil fuels. Prairie Nights Casino was built on top of a known site where ceremonial fasts were held. Cannonball River has buttes, all with names known to the Lakota one being Tipi Butte near the Backwater Bridge. Near Backwater Bridge (where cops kept up barricades after North Camp raid), there are remnants of old Sundance ceremony arbors. October 22nd arrests happened partly because we were protesting the 27 burials that were uprooted for DAPL’s access roads that were across from HW 1806. Cannonball Ranch, which was eventually bought by DAPL, had Bear effigies, burials in the four cardinal directions, with at least 82 other sacred sites and ancestral sites of the Lakota. Southwest of where Oceti camp is Horshoe Bend, along the Standing Rock border is Treaty ground where men gathered to discuss the 1851 Treaty (North Camp was actually 1851 Treaty Camp). Spotted Tail (Sicangu band) and Big Head adopted one another around the year 1851 in the same location of Oceti camp. “
Mutual Aid in Post-Hurricane-Florence Lumberton, NC
This week we had the opportunity to connect with Vanessa Bolin, who is an indigenous artist, community organizer, and activist who has been helping with flood rescue and rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, NC, which is in Robeson County. In this interview we talk about what still needs to be done in this area, how to help out, some important parallels between post hurricane relief and anti pipeline organizing, and the importance of foregrounding marginalized voices in mutual aid efforts.
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is also coordinating a bunch of efforts, you can learn more about this group at mutualaiddisasterrelief.org or look them up on any social media platform. If you have 4-14 days spare and want to get down to Robeson County to help out, especially if you have proficiency in Spanish and skills in logistical coordination, you can send them an email to get networked in at WeKeepUsSafeVC@protonmail.com.
To connect with EcoRobeson, the group which is doing anti pipeline work in Robeson County that is mainly affecting already disenfranchised people, you can follow this link.
Somethings we’d like to mention:
When Vanessa talks about the struggles of the Dine people (who are sometimes known as Navajo) where she mentions uranium mining, this is a huge issue that spans many generations. You can visit Black Mesa Rezistance, which is an organized effort in Black Mountain and Big Mesa (also known as Arizona) on the part of the Dine and Hopi people to defend themselves and their existences. You can learn more about this effort at https://blackmesa.rezist.org/ and follow the links for further material to learn about the history and present day projects and struggles.
And finally, for a look into some of the truly amazing legacy of the Lumbee Tribe in so called NC, we at The Final Straw recommend the book To Die Game by William McKee Evans. This book details a resistance movement at a time when Lumbee youth were being targeted for conscription into the Confederate army, and how they along with a diverse coalition of other resistors, eluded capture in the swamps of eastern NC for over 5 years. You can also read about this in the book Dixie Be Damned, along with many other lesser reported moments of resistance in the American Southeast.
Announcements for Prisoner Support
Jalil Muntaqim, former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army is facing the parole board in November as his August visit was postponed due to clerical issues. He’s going to be getting a lot of pushback from the Policeman’s Benevolent Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Corrections Guards associations and the rest of the gallery of reactionary so-called unions for cops. Those groups are on alert, as we’ve seen with the tug of war around the release of Herman Bell, any time an aging political prisoner, especially one accused of involvement in the killing of a cop, comes up for parole. The parole boards are often made up of former judges, D.A.’s, Prosecutors and law enforcement, forming an added blue wall for prisoners facing parole boards. So, Jalil needs us to write letters of support for his release. Although some of the links are dead from the earlier parole push, you can check this IGD link (see our shownotes at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org for the link) for a list of achievements Jalil has since his incarceration.
Also, Jalil’s birthday is October 18th, so feel free to send him a separate birthday greeting!
Also, also, check out our website to hear past episodes featuring interviews with Jalil conducted by buddies at Prison Radio on CKUT in Montreal.
To support Jalil, follow these instructions passed on from National Jericho NY:
Write a letter in you own words in support of parole for Jalil, address to:
Senior Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator
Sullivan Correctional Facility
325 Riverside Drive
Fallsburg, New York 12733
BUT SEND TO:
The Parole Preparation Project
168 Canal Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10013
The subject line should be “Anthony Bottom 77-A-4283”
We are making an effort to include letters of support for Jalil that are personalized and from people who are familiar with him and his work. If you want further instructions for how to write a strong, personalized letter of support, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please send a copy of your letter to Jalil for his files:
Casey is an anarchist political prisoner who also has a parole hearing coming up, his one and only for his 12 year stint for the stabbing of the president of a university in Missouri. Casey recently got married to a woman being held in another Missouri prison. He’s studying calculus so he can go to school to be an aerospace engineer once he’s released. He goes before the parole board November 2018. He’s unsure of exactly when he gets out, but knows he isn’t eligible until November 2020. He’s currently saving his money (and asking for help) to afford a cheap vehicle when he gets out in order to transport himself to work and school. His intentions are to parole out to the St. Louis area and attending a community college until he gets his basic credits and can transfer to a university. His eyes are set on the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Casey suffers from depression and has a history of schizophrenia. he describes himself as socially awkward and says he often feels misunderstood. He has a kind heart and he looks forward to getting out relatively soon and getting to see all of those who have shown him support over the years. He thanks you all.
Casey was recently transferred to the Farmington Correctional Center in Farmington, Missouri. In November, he will go before the parole board for the first and ONLY TIME and he needs your help!
Thoughtful and professional letters to the parole board by people who care about Casey and are willing to offer support to him during his transition back to life outside of prison can make it more likely that Casey will be released.
*Even though the letter should be addressed to the parole board, all letters should be sent directly to Casey and he will deliver them to the parole board:
Casey Brezik #1154765
Farmington Correctional Center
1012 West Columbia Street
Farmington, MO 63640
Anarchist prisoner Sean Swain is still being silenced by the state of Ohio and could use your letters. He’s potentially in the process of being transferred in an inter-state deal which will make his life way harder. Sean has communicated that he was at one point on hunger strike and is extremely isolated. You can write to Sean at :
Sean Swain #243-205
P.O. Box 120
Lebanon, Ohio 45036
It’s suggested that concerned listeners call
ODRC Director Stuart Hudson (614) 387-0588
Governor’s Counsel Kevin O’Donell Stanek (614) 466-3555
Callers should voice concern over Sean’s health, access to communication and the blocking of counsel from his recent RIB hearing that threatens to transfer him out of Ohio.
On IGD you can read the list of demands specific to NC prisoners that Joseph Stewart wrote back in July. He was transferred after the outside published his statement in support of the strike and has intermittently been left off of prisoner support call-ups so he can surely use some supporting letters at Polk CI where he is currently housed. You can write Joseph at :
Joseph D. Stewart
Butner, NC 27509
Three other prisoners in NC, are held within the Hyde Correctional Institution, a facility in Fairfield, NC, are being threatened with retaliation for their active support and organizing in solidarity with the national #PrisonStrike. They’re facing threats of administrative repression, as are any other fellow prisoners connected to the national strike. More info in our show notes
From a statement by the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM) and Vaughn17 Support in Philly:
On Feb. 1, 2017, after a series of peaceful protests yielded no results, incarcerated comrades took over a building at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware to demand slight improvements in their treatment. After a 20-hour stand-off, the prison’s response was to literally bulldoze their barricades and figuratively bulldoze their demands, retaliating with constant beatings, destruction of prisoner property, and denial of food and medical care.
Furthermore, the state has accused 17 of the incarcerated with egregious offenses even though these charges have no basis in reality. The state’s response shows once again that any prisoners standing up for themselves, to regain dignity and achieve decent treatment, is a threat. And the state will collectively punish everyone and anyone to hide its barbarism. The only role of prison guards, wardens and the Department of Corrections (DOC) is the perpetuation of slavery and subjugation.
There is a call for court support for the 17, who will be attending trail in small groups, at New Castle County Courthouse, 500 N. King St., Wilmington, DE 19801. The first trial starts on Monday, October 8th and the last is slated for February 11th, 2019. People in the area interested in helping volunteer for court support can learn more by reading this IGD article.
A pdf of a poster with addresses, pictures and info on the 17 prisoners pulled into this case can be found here
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
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.
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.
This week William got the chance to speak to Bruno Renero-Hannan, who is an anarchist historical anthropologist from Mexico City, about their solidarity work around two of the original 250 Loxicha Prisoners in the state of Oaxaca. This rebellion and imprisonment occurred almost simultaneously to the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas in the mid-late 90s with very different results. We talk about the long and complex history of this case, the similarities and differences between this uprising and that of the Zapatistas, the ongoing political repression of Alvaro Ramirez and Abraham Ramirez, and the economic solidarity push being orgainized by our guest, as well as some stark parallels between this case and that of the remaining 59 J20 defendants. If you would like to see the 45 minute broadcast edit of this interview, you can go to The Final Straw Radio Collection on archive.org.
For a transcript of this interview, you can find an imposed zine for printing here
Or follow this link to the transcribed text at the bottom of this post.
As per the very reasonable request on the part of the folks doing support for Alvaro and Abraham, we have omitted the Sean Swain segment for this episode. The You Are the Resistance topic did not pair well with the main interview content nor were Keep Loxicha Free supporters aware of the segment. We regret any confusion or discomfort that this caused.
We would like to take a bit of space here to explain to new listeners that many of the Sean Swain segments are meant in the spirit of satire; Swain himself has been a political prisoner for over 25 years at this point, and his humor is sometimes abrasive, but he is a committed believer in the dismantling of all forms of oppression.
He and we are open to feedback on this segment, and any content we present!
Sean Swain #243-205 Warren CI P.O. Box 120 Lebanon, Ohio 45036
Resist Nazis in Tennessee
On Saturday, Feb 17, Matthew Heinbach of the Traditionalist Workers Party will be speaking at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 1-4pm. If you don’t like this, you can contact the University by calling 8659749265 and demand that they disinvite this open neo-nazi organizer from their campus!
Some Benefits in Asheville
For the drinkers in Asheville, this week features two libation-centric benefits for books to prisoners projects.
On Wednesday, February 14, Valentines Day, three bars in Asheville will be participating in a drink special that will raise money for Tranzmission Prison Project, our local LGBT books to prisoners project with a national scope. You can visit the Crow & Quill on Lexington, the Lazy Diamond around the corner in Downtown or the Double Crown on Haywood in West Asheville on Wednesday for more details.
On Thursday, February 15th at the Catawba’s South Slope Tasting Room & Brewery (32 Banks Avenue #105) for their first New Beer Thursday fundraiser of 2018!! Starting with the release on the 15th and running through March, a portion of the cost of every glass of their pomegranate sour sold will be donated to the Asheville Prison Books Program!
More events coming up this week include: Thursday the 15th at 7pm Blue Ridge ABC is holding a benefit show at Static Age for a local activists with a sliding scale cost. Bands featured are Kreamy Lectric Santa, Cloudgayzer, Secret Shame, Falcon Mitts & Chris Head
Later that night in Asheville, the monthly benefit dance party called HEX will be holding an event at the Mothlight to raise money and materials for A-Hope, which provides services locally to houseless and poor folks. Bring socks, footwear and camping gear to donate!
On Tuesday, April 20th at 6pm at The Shell Studio, 474 Haywood Rd on the second floor, there will be a showing of the locally produced documentary entitled Hebron about human rights struggles in Palestine.
On Friday the 23rd at 6:30pm, the Steady Collective will be participating in a Harm Reduction forum at the Haywood Street Congregation at 297 Haywood St. in downtown.
Also that night, BRABC will be showing the latest TROUBLE documentary by sub.media at 7:30pm at firestorm books and coffee. This will be a second on Student Organizing around the world.
Finally, on Saturday the 24th 9am to 3pm at Rainbow School, 60 State Street in Asheville there’ll be a Really Really Free Market organized by the Blue Ridge General Defense Committee or GDC. Bring stuff that’s still good to share and come back with other stuff that’s still good for free! Perfect for spring cleaning or dealing with inclement weather on a budget.
A Call for Art Submissions for ACAB2018…
A reminder that if you are the sensitive, artistic type, the ACAB2018, or Asheville Carolina Anarchist Bookfair is soliciting art for fundraising and advertising purposes. If you have image ideas that you can put into action and want to share them, that’d be dope. We’re looking for things we can put onto postcards, t-shirts, posters and other swag to spread word about the event and help us cover the costs of operation. Contact us at email@example.com
…and for Yours Truly at TFS
Likewise, if you are feeling artsy fartsy and want to help out this show, we’re looking for swag imagery, either as a logo or a standalone piece of art we can feature for fundraising purposes. If you like the show and want to help, post your files on share.riseup.net and send us a link at firstname.lastname@example.org or share it with one of our social media identities. If we choose to use your art, we’ll send you a mix tape with one side produced by each of our regular contributing editors.
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This is the transcript of an hour and a half long interviewconducted by The Final Straw radio show, which is a weekly anarchist radio show that hosts interviews about a wide range of topics, including Black liberation, anti racism, anti sexism, LGBTQ solidarity, struggles against extraction industry and pipelines, prisoner solidarity,and solidarity with refugees and migrants, among many other topics. While we do some informal fundraising, this show is a volunteer effort and can be accessed free of charge.
The Final Straw RadioP.O. Box 6004Asheville, NC28816
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The Final Straw Radio: (Introduction) This week, I got the chance to speak with Bruno Renero Hanan, who is an anarchist historical anthropologist from Mexico City about their solidarity work around two of the original 250 Loxicha prisoners in the state of Oaxaca. This rebellion and imprisonment occurred almost simultaneously with the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas in the mid to late 90’s with very different results. We talk about the long and complex history of this case, the similarities and differences between this uprising and that of the Zapatistas, the ongoing political repression of Alvaro Ramirez and Abram Ramirez and the economic solidarity push being organized by our guest. As well as some stark parallels between this case and the case of the J20 defendants.
TFSR: Thank you so much for taking the time to come onto the show. Would you tell listeners a little about yourself and talk about what projects you do?
Bruno: Yeah, sure, I’d be happy to. And first of all, thank you for having me on the show. It’s an honor, a pleasure and I really appreciate the space.
My name is Brune Renero Hanan. I am originally from Mexico City where I grew up, although I’ve lived in the United States for quite a while now. And I am from a kind of bi-cultural, bi-national family. So, currently I live in south east Michigan where I am a PHD candidate in Anthropology at the University of Michigan. And the main work I’ve been working on the last 3 years has been, partly through political solidarity and party through my academic research with political prisoners in Oaxaca Mexico. In particular over the last several years I’ve been writing about and working in different capacities to support a group of political prisoners known as the Loxicha prisoners who were all Zapotec men incarcerated for several decades since the 1990’s up until just last year. And that’s mostly what we’ll be talking about today. But, other projects that I’ve been involved in, I’ve also done other forms of politically engaged research in the state of Guerrero around guerrilla movements there in the 1970’s and state terror and the so-called Dirty War of state violence there.
I’ve also done stuff around anarchist organizing in Mexico City, other left political stuff around the Cult of Santa Muerte in Mexico City. I’ve been involved in political organizing to support the families of the families of the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa. For instance we, here comrades and I in 2014, organized a welcome for the caravan of family members when they came through. I’ve also been involved in anarchistic and antifascist organizing in Ann Arbor and in Michigan, working with Huron Valley. Right now, I’ve kind of brought some of that solidarity with political prisoners in Oaxaca into conversation with folks here in Michigan and that’s sort of become a joint project between folks in Oaxaca and here Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
As far as resources, the one thing I’d like to plug is our Patreon website. It’s a sort of gofundme sort of thing where people can sign up to make monthly donations which can be anything (as little as $1 each month up to as much as they’d like to. And we’re trying to build up to covering the impossible and unjust court fees being called “damage reparations” which our comrades Abram and Alvaro have to pay each month. So that’s the one thing I would ask people to remember and if they’re able to get on there and donate. So, that website is https://www.patreon.com/keeploxichafree . That Patreon website is what we’re trying to build right now.
And it’s challenging, trying to build it up through folks we know and without having to really go through any questionable or unethical ways of getting money or would compromise this project in any way. It’s sort of going peer to peer, our friends, friend networks, or reaching out in a space like this where people who might also feel solidarity, could join on.
TFSR: And let’s talk about the situation. So, like you mentioned, we’re here to talk about an ongoing situation of political repression against two indigenous, Zapotec men, community members Alvaro Sebastian Ramirez and Abraham Garcia Ramirez who are from the Loxicha region in Oaxaca. They were incarcerated for 20 years, also like you mentioned, for resisting the Mexican state and were just given what is ridiculously called early release. And we’ll talk about that more later. But could you talk about the original struggle in which Alvaro and Abraham got arrested?
Bruno: Definitely. So, this is a slightly complicated story and it’s a long history now. So, we’re talking about the situation of political repression against these two political prisoners, Alvaro & Abraham (no relation between the two of them) and they are both Zapotec community organizers from San Augustin de Loxicha, which is a town in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, very close to the state of Chiapas which is very well known as being the site of the rebellion of the Zapatistas as you mentioned. Yes, Alvaro and Abraham were longterm political prisoners known as the Loxicha prisoners. They were the last 3 to be released but originally this was a group of upwards of 200 prisoners, all of them Zapotec men, a few women later, but from the original group almost entirely men, arrested between 1996 and the late 90’s.
All of them were accused of being complicit in a guerrilla armed uprising that took place on August 28, 1996, when a guerrilla group called The Popular Revolutionary Army, or EPR, attacked soldiers, police and marines, naval installations in various part of Mexico simultaneously that night, but the most forceful of those simultaneous attacks took place on the coast of Oaxaca near a very fancy tourist resort town in a place called La Cruzecita Juatulco. And there, close to 20 police and soldiers died and several guerrillas died as well in this confrontation. And according to the state and federal authorities, they discovered amongst these dead guerrillas that one of the members was a municipal authority from this town San Augustin de Loxicha, where there happened to be this very strong indigenous movement which had emerged in the early 1980’s and was at this point very strong, fairly radical.
Alvaro and Abram were both members of this movement that was largely organized around this indigenous organization called The Organization of Indigenous Zapotec Pueblos, or Communities, formed in 1984.
So, in 1986 when the guerrillas of the EPR attacked soldiers and police, the state ended up basically pointing their fingers at this entire region, this entire region of Zapotec communities within the fairly large municipality of San Augustin de Loxicha. It basically uses this guerrilla uprising as an alibi to crush this strong indigenous movement that had been growing for the previous ten years in this area. So, there’s various ways to answer this question of why are Alvaro and Abraham in prison, what was this original struggle? Part of that original struggle that landed them in prison was their many years of activism and organizing in the OPIC, the Organization of Indigenous Zapotec Pueblos in and around Loxicha.
Alvaro had also been involved in the democratic teachers struggle of Oaxaca since the early 1980’s. Abraham had also been involved in other leftist organizing prior to that as well. So, that’s one answer: they were political prisoners because they were political subjects who were very active in their communities, forming assemblies, organizing marches, enormous marches, taking over the central plaza of Oaxaca City, in the Zocalo, taking over the airport. That’s part of what makes them political prisoners from 1986 onwards.
The other is that they’re accused of being Guerrilleros, members of a revolutionary, clandestine organization which has often been the classic definition of being political prisoners. However, Alvaro and Abraham weren’t the only ones arrested, as I mentioned. They were 2 out of upwards of over 200 people from this cluster of communities that share the Loxicha Zapotec langauge who were all arrested under these charges of being guerrilla’s, but many of them were not even involved in even the region social movement. Many of them were completely a-political or perhaps might have had a contrary politics.
The point being that in the kind of witch-hunt that took place there in the aftermath of the EPR attacks, people were just rounded up randomly at times. It was really a situation of state terror that happened there in San Augustin de Loxicha from late 1996 with the militarization of that region, with the beginning of the mass arrests that led them to this sort of locally well-known story of the Loxicha prisoners. So, militarization, mass arrest, kind of explosion of paramilitarism, a return of violent executions. In addition to the prisoners, there’s also the situation of executions, disappearances, rape… You know, it’s really a horrific situation that took place that didn’t end up getting a lot of attention for many reasons at the time. It got a little attention, but nothing in comparison for instance to the attention that the Zapatistas got in Chiapas at the time. And partly, that had to do with the complicatied reputation of the EPR, this guerrilla movement that has it’s origins in the late 1960’s and 1970’s in other parts of Mexico, Central Mexico, also kind of through coalitions and alliances through, it’s roots in the state of Guerrero.
Going back to the original question of what was the original conflict then that got Alvaro and Abraham to be long-term political prisoners and at that having just gotten down to 2017, that they were in fact the longest ongoing cases of political imprisonment in Mexico that I know of. I don’t know of any political prisoner in Mexico in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s that was in for 20 years or even close.
TFSR: Thank you so much for that incredibly detailed answer. Can you talk about just what they were officially charged with by the state? I just remember seeing Alvaro’s statement, his recorded statement on ItsGoingDown.org about “I was charged with this and this and this and this” and it was just this amazing long list of charges.
Bruno: Yeah, definitely I recommend that folks check out that video, it’s like 3 minutes. Especially if you speak Spanish, even though Alvaro’s just reading from his letter, he’s a very charming person. It’s cool to be able to hear his voice. And for me it was special to produce that video and to be able to see it because, having known him for upwards of 6 years now, it was the first that I was able to film him or take a picture of him or use an audio recorder while talking to him. Even though we’ve had this kind of relationship of interviewer, interviewee for half of a decade.
So, in that video he lists all of those charges and it’s kind of ridiculous, this laundry list of every imaginable crime that you could throw at someone, including terrorism, conspiracy, homicide… Basically, every conceivable high-caliber political and violent crime thrown at somebody. To the extent that in the early days when he was first charged, he had a sentence of 190 years. He was a well-known and respected teacher where he was from, kind of a well-respected and radical organizer. And this is why he ended up with those charges. Partly the fact that he was who he was, as someone who was really working to build autonomy in San Augustin de Loxicha, in a model that was similar to what the Zapatistas were doing, not identical, but something similar.
The combination that Alvaro and his comrades were doing that work and the fact that the Mexican state urgently needed scapegoats and the infliction of actual terror in order to clamp down on the uprising of the Popular Revolutionary Army or anything that smelled like it in order to not be dealing with that front as well as the Zapatista front which at this point the state could not simply annihilate or ignore… So, they had to kind of deal and negotiate with it.
The combination of these two situations are what led them to someone like Alvaro having a 190 year sentence. What exactly these were… The most important of these is Omicidio Calificado, which can be translated sort of like 1st Degree Murder. It’s not exactly the same as 1st degree, it can also be translated as Aggravated Murder. That’s the one that ended up adding the most number of years to the sentence as well as attempted homicide. They were kind of pinning the murder of soldiers and police to them, as well as several of the other long-term Loxicha prisoners. In addition to the charges of aggravated homicide and intended homicide, there was also as I mentioned terrorism, conspiracy, stockpiling of weapons, theft, illicit use of foreign property, damage of former property, illegally detaining someone else or impinging on their freedoms… it’s a long mouthful of things which in the end some of those were dropped through appeals, through different legal actions over the 20 years in prison.
Several of them such as terrorism, stockpiling of weapons, were honest symbolic ornaments placed there by the state to make clear what this was about. On the one hand, dismissing these charges as being about criminals and not authentic, political entities that the State should have to negotiate or deal with such as they were with the Zapatistas, but rather to deny that they were political prisoners while placing these very strongly politically tinted and stigmatizing charges onto their sentences such as terrorism, conspiracy, so on. Which were later dropped. So, terrorism, that kind of very particularly stigmatizing and dangerous charge… Being called a terrorist gives states basically a free hand to do whatever they want to people. And that was even before the so-called War On Terror had begun. This was in the 1990’s, sort of the run-up to the logic of this War On Terror, as well as in this sense developing and practicing some of the methods that the State would later use in the so-called War On Drugs. Both as Narcos and as the State.
Yeah, so the charges, I was saying, in the end that Terrorism, an especially flashy one, got dropped I think around 2009 during an appeal, 2010. But, it was notable to me as I was living in Oaxaca, visiting the prisoners regularly, at which point they were transferred from this low-security state prison where some of them had lived/been held captive, this group of the last 7 of them were transferred to a new high security Federal semi-privatized prison 2 hours south of Oaxaca city. I remember that in a statement from the State government explaining why these prisoners were transferred, they would invoke this charge of terrorism even though it had been dropped already. They said something like “The secretary of Internal State Security announced yesterday in a statement that all of the Federal prisoners in the state of Oaxaca being accused of being Narcos as well as the 7 Loxicha prisoners accused of being armed guerrillas and terrorism were all transferred yesterday to the new Federal Prison in Miahuatlan etc etc”.
So, constantly invoking this terrorism charge even though it was dropped years ago and was always useless, but symbolically those things ring out and give the State a lot of power in being able to manipulate people and coerce people or throw them in prison or use violence against them when you accuse them of being a terrorist. Especially when there’s a lot of silence and un-memory, I would call it, around the issue such as there were around Loxicha, where there’s always been a committed solidarity movement around the prisoners since 1996, but it has waxed and waned, kind of in and out of public perception, submerged and then emerging again into awareness locally, sometimes nationally. At times, gotten international attention. Certainly there has been committed International solidarity from anarchists in France, from the CGT in Spain, folks locally in Oaxaca City, in Mexico City. From, sometimes, fairweather solidarity and sometimes really long-term. I think it’s particularly different anarchist groups or anarchist leaning groups in Mexico and Europe who really stuck with Alvaro in particular. On account of his kind of adopting the 6th Declaration of the Lacondon Jungle of the Zapatistas in the last 7 years. That’s something we can talk about…
TFSR: As you were talking I was thinking about this aspect that the state has which is a kind of toxically manipulative… especially with the stigmatizing charges that you were talking about like terrorism, which… I was interviewing somebody some time ago and they said something like “The war on terror is a war on emotion”, which issomething that is very very difficult to contain and very difficult to define. And it’s something that, even though the charges were dropped, it’s something that follows folks around forever. Which I think is the nature of the carceral state and will sound very familiar to people who have been keeping even half an eye on political repression cases around the world. And you did answer the question that I had, to some degree, I was going to ask “What have solidarity endeavors been like throughout their incarceration and what kind of media attention have they gotten?” And I was wondering if you had any other words about the fair-weather nature of support for the Loxicha prisoners…
Bruno: You’re absolutely right in seeing that one aspect of what the state does is manipulating and coercing. Particularly in some of it’s most egregious ways through methods or strategy such as War on Terror or War on Drugs. You’d mentioned that someone you had interviewed before had called it a sort of War of Emotion against Ghosts, not that one metaphor has to exclude the other.
But I think that you kind of need the emotion in order to animate the war, to allow it to happen. And in order to have the emotions, you need to have the ghosts and they can be ghosts on illusions of things that are there or things that are made up. And I think that toxicity is also really an important concept when thinking about State violence, especially the most directed State of Exception-y violence really depends on ideological toxicity. It strikes me as relevant to the Loxicha story..
The Loxicha story is, as I’ve come to know it, there’s the pre-96 Loxicha story, which is politically the story of a growth of the Inidgenous Movement. And the second half is the story of a community or cluster of communities dealing with State violence and political stigma that particularly took its most direct form in the formation of this group of people that became known as the Loxicha prisoners. As I mentioned, some of them were highly politicized (even radical) political subjects, organizers, militants. Some of them, who became part of this group of hundreds of political prisoners, were completely non-political or political in ways that you wouldn’t think would get them in prison for being Leftist Insurgents. But many of them, almost all of them were Inidgenous, many of them spoke very little Spanish. That’s partly a manifestation of structural racism and classism in the Mexican political/legal/carceral system. Mexican prisons are full of poor people, indigenous people, innocent people… Not that I think that innocent or non-innocent is a formula that works to put people into cages, I don’t think that you can put people into cages. But this is one of those lines that people in cages, the prisoners themselves would say to me “Prisons are full of poor, full of Indigenous, full of Innocent people.” So, that’s sort of some of their thinking.
So, in any case, you get hundreds of people thrown in there and part of what this focused mass-incarceration of Indigenous people from this one area accomplished was to fracture this political Indigenous movement that had emerged there in the previous ten years. Kind of fractured, and stopped it in its tracks. The State is always good, the Mexican State in particular, at causing infighting, infiltrating social movements and here it really showed its talent at undoing and fracturing a social movement, pitting it’s leaders and members against each other. While at the same time, they were being attacked on all sides. They were confronting militarization, the rise of paramilitarism, the return of caciquismo and pistolerismo, the rule of old political bosses and gunmen which that organization had emerged partly in order to oppose.
What the State needed at this point in 1996 when it was dealing with the Zapatista Uprising in Chiapas, really taking the State by surprise… There was certainly a lot of fear on the part of the State of other Indigenous rebellions or other rebellions of the poor, of other Zapatista movements and uprisings happening in other parts of the country. The State, quite frankly, was terrified of this. So in ‘96 when you get yet another surprising attack, but at this point the Mexican State, the Federal government, had no other choice but to engage with the Zapatistas because they were very successful in what they did. In forming their communities and their rebellions, a revolutionary army. Throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s, the Zapatistas… it wasn’t all victories.
Now in the decades that they’ve been around, they’ve suffered many losses and confronted great struggles, but it’s been a successful revolution. I guess that’s just one of the important things that has to be noted in this discussion. The Zapatista uprising has been success, and that’s why in 2018 you can visit Chiapas and visit the Caracoles and actually witness a successful living, breathing and walking Revolutinoary society, small and embattled as it may be. And this other story that we’re talking about here, this kind of other Revolutionary movement that emerged in Oaxaca in the early 80’s and 90’s, is the story, sadly, of a failed revolution on the other hand.
It’s a story of a rose that failed for many reasons. Part of them might have been internal contradictions, but part of it was unrelenting and effective State violence. And it’s really hard to talk about what happened in Oaxaca and with the Loxicha prisoners and not refer it to what happened and was happening in Chiapas at the same time. It was about surviving. The Mexican state certainly tried to annihilate it, using military force against it, and could not. They couldn’t use military force and they were not effective with the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party / Partido Revolucionario Institucional), the long-term ruling party in Mexico. None of it’s large and well-tried arsenal of political, social-economic tools of co-optation was effective at undoing the Zapatista movement, either. It was somewhat effective, they lost some of their Caracoles/autonomous regions, but 5 of them, there they are!
But this is the reality that the Mexican State had to deal with in 1994, 95, 96. And with the emergence, then, of this other Guerrilla uprising with the face of the EPR, the Mexican State effectively made it’s project to take a different course of action then to basically annihilate them. Because of how well the Zapatistas grounded themselves, the state was negotiating with them and refused to do this on two fronts. They said “we’re going to recognize the Zapatistas as a political entity, we’re not going to say that specifically, but we’re at the negotiating table.” By 1996 you had the State negotiating with the Zapatistas over potential Constitutional reforms that would recognize Indigenous autonomy. As the EPR makes itself known, it’s strongest in parts of Oaxaca and Guerrero and parts of central Mexico, but the state at all levels organized itself to focus on the military solution to dealing with the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and with other Indigenous communities that may or may not have been involved, may or may not have sympathized but where there was a risk of that… That was the Loxicha story. Yes, there was some presence of this revolutionary movement, the EPR, but in throwing so many people (including “innocent people” into prison) part of what you get is this sort of social punishment. It doesn’t matter if you were in or you weren’t, whether you knew or you didn’t. It was here, it was around you, so you were all going to pay for some kind of a random act.
Some of the high profile prisoners among the Loxicha prisoners, were the Municipal Authorities. So, essentially the entire democratically elected, local government of the municipality in Oaxaca, the majority of local government municipalities. More than 400 of the 500 of these entities, like counties, are ruled by Usos y Costumbres. It means that indigenous communities at the municipal level can determine their own way of electing local authorities and it also means that they do this to the exclusion of political parties. So, this is how the authorities in Loxicha are elected, that this has practically been happening pretty much always in indigenous communities in Oaxaca but had only become Constitutionally recognized one year earlier in 1995 as part of efforts of the Oaxacan State level (Mexico’s most indigenous state). It was their way of trying to placate the indigenous communities in the way of throwing them a bone in the form of recognizing autonomy to a limited extent. So obviously it’s not coincidental that it’s one year after the Zapatista Uprising.
TFSR: I was really curious about the relationship between the Loxicha uprising to the Zapatista revolution, and you spoke to that really really eloquently and I thank you for that because you know, the Zapatistas are world wide such a revolutionary example and are very very looked to, and the examples that they bring into revolutionary discourse are very cherished I think. And I think that it’s a really poignant situation to me when I’m hearing you talk about it cause these two things were going on so concurrently and one of them is way more lower profile and the one that’s way more lower profile somebody you know, was in prison for 20 years, you know? It’s very poignant to me that these two things were happening simultaneously. But yeah I thank you for talking about that, that wasn’t really a question it was just a reflection.
Bruno: I can actually say one or two things more about it, so I wouldn’t want to make it sound like the Zapatista’s fault that the Loxichas and the indigenous movement in Loxicha kind of was dealt a harder hand, you know I wouldn’t want to kind of say “oh well because the Zapatistas were getting all this attention people in Loxicha were screwed over”.
A way of understanding the different forms of attention they got but it’s very much to its credit that the Zapatista movement is still there today, and I think it’s partially due to the fact that they really knew how to organize. It’s why they’re there now. But I do want to say something more about the more substantial versus fair weather forms of solidarity.
So, one of the facets or one of the realities of the Loxicha story in its second phase as a story of many many political prisoners and their many families, tons of fractured families and fractured communities who then, while faced with a lot of violence, have to organize themselves in order to out of nowhere create this prisoner solidarity freedom movement, one important aspect of that Loxicha story as a prisoner liberation story is that the struggle was made particularly difficult by its association with this particular armed group, the EPR. So, while in the mid ’90s a lot of people wanted to be on board with supporting the Zapatistas because really they did have a very novel, very moving, very inspiring political message, which is why they really changed political discourse at the time. And a lot of people wanted to be involved with them, whereas the Popular Revolutionary Army, the EPR, at least kind of at its leadership level – this was a national, IS still a national organization, it’s still around – their discourse was fairly stuck in the past, it was still a very old fashioned stodgy Marxist-Leninism with a Maoist streak that really wasn’t speaking to people. To be honest, I’ve been studying this cluster of movements for years, and I find it really hard to get through a statement by the EPR through to the end, it’s just really hard to read.
Whereas with the Zapatistas stuff, it’s impossible to put down! So there’s partly this: the EPR’s political discourse, its rhetoric, its public statements, don’t really inspire. Also the EPR comes out of the longer lineage of armed clandestine movements in Mexico, and some of these such as the PROCOUP-PDLP, which is the Partido Revolucionario Obrero Campesino Union del Pueblo – Partido de los Pobres. So this predecessor of the EPR, one of its predecessors, has a lot of dark associations; in the 1970s and ’80s that group was involved with a lot of violent infighting within its own ranks, there are these stories of so called “revolutionary trials” against its own former comrades, very foul treatment of its own political prisoners and then disavowing them, and in some cases killing its own former prisoners who had abandoned rank.
So there were these dark associations, some of which are on the level of legend some of which are actual, around this organization. And the fact that also then in 1996 when the EPR rises up, the Zapatistas who really are holding a lot of the world’s political imagination, or at least in Mexico and many other places, they’d already put down their weapons. The actual armed confrontation between the Zapatistas and the Mexican state lasted for twelve days. Then because the Zapatistas have always been really good at listening – the practice of listening has always been really integral to a lot of their political praxis on many levels – they heard this public outcry calling for an end to the war, and they put down their weapons and have since then, while there is still a revolutionary army that is a part of its movement and it’s not going away. But it has managed to successfully implement and develop its revolutionary society and communities without having to ever go on the military offensive since 1994.
Anyway at that point, it had been two years since then when in 1996 the EPR rises up, shooting up police and soldiers, and for several of these reasons then a lot of people weren’t that sympathetic when you then get this story of indigenous political prisoners who are all accused of being members of this particular revolutionary organization. And, you know it really doesn’t matter, clearly for most of them the Loxicha movement wasn’t the EPR. The Loxicha prisoners were really the product of a witch hunt, and you had a very diverse group of individuals in there. So because these many associations around the EPR, the state was very good at stigmatizing that movement. And so then as you arrest people who you accuse of being members of the EPR, you call them “terrorists”, and then it’s very easy to throw them away and to make people think twice before getting associated.
So as I began saying, a lot of people wanted to get on board with the Zapatistas in terms of NGOs, human rights organizations, legal aid, translators, all sorts of solidarity. But with the Loxichas, people were very hesitant. It was a very very limited kind of people, of organizations, essentially it was one of each category: one human rights organization, one team of solidarity lawyers, one NGO, that got on board with the legal and political defense of the Loxichas in the aftermath of ’96. And you know, this was making a full loop back to one of your questions, I think this is really one of the manifestations of the state being effective at using toxicity and stigma as it needs to. So here because of its political needs it was essentially effective at stigmatizing an entire community, a racialized stigma, such that for years young men or adult men from Loxicha would never say they were from Loxicha to this day. People will say they’re from the coast, or any other town, but people just won’t identify with being from Loxicha because it’s very dangerous. And nobody wants to get involved in anything that smells of Loxicha much less the EPR, because as late as 2007, whatever you say about the EPR the truth is that its own militants are still being disappeared by the Mexican state. So effectively being branded as EPR is to be branded as someone that the state might very well disappear or at the very least thrown into prison for years.
It became a very very toxic accusation, and that’s one of the byproducts of this whole conflict, of the Loxicha crisis.
TFSR: (Break audio) You’re listening to our conversation with Brunero Rennero-Hanan about the situation regarding Alvaro and Abraham Ramirez – no relation between the two – who are two out of the two hundred fifty original indigenous people arrested in the Loxicha region of Oaxaca in the mid ’90s. If you’d like to hear a 45 minute edit of this interview you can visit archive.org and search for The Final Straw Radio Collection. We’ll be back with the rest of the interview after a short musical break, what you’re hearing right now is Gabylonia with her 2012 release Abuso de Poder. Shoutout to subMedia’s hip hop podcast Burning Cop Car which is where I first heard this track.
TFSR: I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mid talking about who are Alvaro and Abraham personally, you mentioned at several points that you had a personal relationship with Alvaro, but will you talk about who they are and the projects that they do, and what is important to them politically these days?
Bruno: Yeah, definitely. So first how I got to know them -and I have a personal relationship with both of them, Alvaro and Abraham – because both of them were among the last 7 of the Loxicha prisoners. So of that group of prisoners that was upwards of of 200, maybe as many as 250 in the late ’90s, all those that were originally associated with this case there were still seven of them in prison in 2012. I started visiting them and interviewing them to record their oral histories. So, I started visiting Oaxaca regularly around 2008 because I was beginning my doctoral research around questions of social movements and historical memory, and originally I was interested in students around the popular assembly of the peoples of Oaxaca, and around then is when I became aware of the Loxicha prisoners who were definitely an old story, it’s kind of one of these long still breathing stories of state violence and grassroots solidarity that I didn’t quite understand too well but it was something that was because of the effervescence of the 2006 urban uprising of the Iapo, there was this rising to the surface of other forgotten or dormant political struggles.
I got to know Abraham and Alvaro in 2012 when I shifted my research from the popular assembly of the peoples of Oaxaca in that 2006 movement to the Loxicha story. And so I moved for a while to their community, to San Agustin Loxicha, where I lived for a bit over a year conducting interviews there and doing historical research, ethnography. At the same time that I started visiting them in two state prisons close to Oaxaca City, in Iscotel and Etla, I would visit these last seven of the Loxicha prisoners. I ended up getting to know five of them, or interviewing and recording the oral histories of five of them, and I got to know particularly well a few of them. In particular, Alvaro and Abraham as well as a couple of others.
So my relationship with them was from the beginning one of political solidarity and accompaniment as well as being centered around this project of recording their oral histories. It’s partly for my academic research in order to try and get this piece of paper, but I’ve often seen my role in politically engaged research as being someone who can amplify the voices of others, or share stories. That really became the basis of our relationship, the beginning was I would go and visit them, and six of them were in Iscotel Prison. This being kind of a low security prison, I would be able to spend several hours hanging out with them just listening and writing down stories in my notebook.
Low security prisons in Mexico might be kind of surprising to what Americans imagine prisons being like. The fact is that it’s still a prison, and a place that is locked up and constrained, but a place like Iscotel Prison, the prisoners didn’t have to wear uniforms. They could walk around in the periphery inside the gates, and around the building. And the Loxicha prisoners having been there so long, when I got to know them they had already been there for like fifteen years, they’d kind of accrued some seniority, some respect from both the guards, authorities, other prisoners. One of them was on his own in a different prison in Etla, Zacharias who became a master carpenter there, but the other six were in Iscotel. They were all in one single cell, cell 22, where several had been since 1996. Originally there were maybe 50 or 60 of them in two cells, but as they ended up slowly getting out and just those with the longest sentences remained in, the first six of them lived in cell 22 there in Iscotel Prison. And it was always striking to me that a prison, its main purpose is kinda to isolate humans, to de-socialize them, to try to extract them from society, and I was always struck by how limited the state could be for just how great humans are at subverting that. How the Loxicha prisoners had over these 15 years been able to carve out a little habitable space, a little human corner, within this dehumanizing place.
So Alvaro had also become a carpenter in prison, he’d picked up the trade there, and for instance built a second story inside the cell, what’s called a tapanco, kind of a little loft so that they wouldn’t be so cramped and that way two of them had their beds upstairs and the other four were down below. He also ended up building a little altar to the Virgin and their other patron saints, in Mexico it’s not uncommon at all to be leftist, even radical, perhaps even revolutionary, and still be devout, they’d organize events.
So anyway that was their life in there, and I got to know them through this relationship of interviews and recording their stories. The first time I got to know Alvaro actually was in the context of a forum that was organized by a collective known as La Voz de Loxiches Zapotecos en Prision, which is a collective that Alvaro is part of, along with some of his relatives and other supporters. And so they in conjunction with La Rev Contra la Revolucion, the network against repression which is part of the Zapatista network. So they collaborated to make this forum about Alvaro or for him, in solidarity with him, as well as other political prisoners in Oaxaca, in Chiapas. And the second day of this forum involved making a visit to Iscotel, so that’s kind of how I first went in. I was hesitant at first to just go in to try to visit them and say like “Hey I just want to hear about your stories.”
I thought it was important to first go in on the side of political solidarity rather than the side of oral history. And so my first encounter with Alvaro was in the context of the second day of this forum when about a dozen of us, including some members of his collective and relatives and then a few other anarchist-anarchist leaning comrades from Mexico City and Chiapas, Zapatista supporters who ended up going in and to my surprise ended up having a seminar – you know, sitting in a circle and discussing politics and prison with Alvaro himself – inside the prison. I never really expected that something like that could happen, so that to me was one of my early lessons in what effective prisoner accompaniment and solidarity looks like.
Let me tell you about them as well, and my impressions of them. So, of those last seven Loxicha prisoners who were in when I got to know them in 2012 and started working with a few of them, the first one I got to know was Alvaro. He’s the one I’ve gotten to know best so far, and this is partly because his political project and his views align the most with mine, and I’ve just found him to be a very inspiring and inspired political collaborator and interlocutor, he’s someone I’ve learned a lot from. But anyway so, Alvaro has been a political organizer and radical pretty much his whole life. He grew up in a small community called Iganoma Guay, which is a little village in the municipality of San Agustin de Loxicha, as a Zapotec speaker in a peasant family. I think he didn’t have a pair of shoes until he was 12 years old, he grew up farming but ended up working in the country side and then as a young man went to become a teacher.
In Oaxaca since the 1980s, which is when he started the teacher’s union, there has been a fairly powerful and at times radical movement. He was part of that original radical emergence of that kind of the Democratic Teacher’s Movement in the early ’80s, and then some of his early political struggles back in Loxicha, back near his home, were the establishment of schools for communities. Then in 1984 he was one of the co founders of the organization of indigenous Zapotec communities or pueblos, the OPIZ, and he also became a member of the local municipal government. So from the mid ’80s to the mid ’90s, Alvaro basically dedicated himself full time to becoming an organizer, and so this meant organizing the communities of Loxicha politically, internally, often in order to really try to break the power of casicas and pistoleros, political bosses and gun men in the region.
Loxicha was a place where political violence was really rampant, there was a lot of land theft, peasants were really badly exploited by middle men purchasers – coyotes – who would buy their coffee, this was a coffee growing region. And so some of Alvaro’s early struggles with the OPIZ were to try and combat some of the biggest problems of the communities which were poverty and that political violence and marginalization. He ended up being an important figure within the OPIZ through the ’90s and up until he had to go into hiding once the persecution of the movement began particularly in earnest, although he’d been in hiding and kind of living a partly clandestine life in the past before. And then he was arrested in 1998, as he mentions in that video that’s on the publication on It’s Going Down, he mentioned that he was detained in mid December in 1998 but then it wasn’t until 11 days later that he was actually presented at a prison and this was because for 11 days he was disappeared and tortured by the authorities who were trying to force him into making false confessions, to denounce his comrades, and this was something that happened frequently with many of the arrests and detentions of people from Loxicha. Many cases of torture and forced confessions, signing hundreds of blank pages.
So then Alvaro is later sent to state prison in Etla where he stayed for many years. He was a victim of an assassination attempt there several years later and then he was transferred to Iscotel Prison where most of the other Loxicha prisoners were. That’s where I got to know him. At the point when I got to know him he had gotten kind of a new political faith and he was by then the most politically active and most radical of them. I think several of the others were perhaps experiencing political burnout after so many years of struggle, of different failed options. And I think Alvaro also suffered from burnout, that’s something that I’m sure is common for prisoners in general. But at this point Alvaro was going through a kind of political re-animation that had been brought about probably a few years before when he became really invested in the project of the Zapatistas and particularly that which is explained in the 6th Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. That has really become one of the most important parts of his political project since then, he kind of found a new political energy at that point sharing it with other prisoners, trying to enact it. I think the Zapatista discourse really served for him to re think a lot of his current political practice; inside the prison he started thinking about how to think about new forms of organization, how to talk to other people about horizontal organizing and autonomous work, how to get that message through in a successful way.
He also began corresponding and engaging with other prisoners who were adherents of the 6th Declaration of the Lacondon Jungle. And I think it also served partly to reinterpret his own political trajectory and his past.
Some of the most insightful and exciting political discussions I’ve had were with Alvaro, and his daughter and her partner who were some of the members of the collective that has supported Alvaro for many years, at least since 2009, built around this Zapatista model. Not that it’s trying to replicate, but to just use some of those basic principles. And some of that work has been around re-thinking as people in solidarity with him, cause his relatives are his allies but also for himself, kind of re-thinking what it is to be a political prisoner as a political subject. To re-think what solidarity looks like, that solidarity isn’t charity, or a favor, that it’s not done for someone but with someone. Really trying to place a political prisoner at the very center of his, her, their struggle for liberation. So in sum, Alvaro is someone who has inspired and taught me a lot about prison, about freedom, about solidarity, about autonomy. His Zapatismo has become a really influential thing for him, and so as soon as he got out of prison in 2017 one of the first things he did was, instead of now just corresponding with that Zapatista network and that network organized by adherents of the 6th, he went and started meeting people.
He got involved immediately with the campaign to support Marichuy, the potential candidate for the National Indigenous Congress, was kind of a recent Zapatista project to try to subvert the national elections in Mexico. He joined the campaign to support her and get signatures, and joined their tour through southern Mexico and followed them to the Zapatista communities. He ended up visiting all 5 caracoles, which I know a lot of people who claim to be Zapatista supporters who haven’t visited even one, certainly not 5!
He had just gotten out of prison, been inside for 20 years, that’s a scary moment for a lot of people getting out of long term incarceration. People are often very flustered, maybe kind of scared, suffering from some trauma. He certainly had no money but he somehow just made it work.
And then I can tell you about Abraham. Abraham was one of the next prisoners that I got to know by recording their oral histories. Abraham Garcia Ramirez is like Alvaro someone who grew up very poor in a rural community in the municipality of San Agustin de Loxicha, he’s from Santa Cruz. He tells a story about not being able to get past the 5th grade at the closest school because he suffered an accident when his teacher’s donkey had a rope attached to it that accidentally caught on his leg and ended up dragging him several meters and messing up his leg really badly to the extent that he couldn’t walk. And his parents were afraid to take him to a doctor because they were afraid that they would amputate his leg, which may sound silly but it’s not a story about these ignorant parents, those stories are expressions of what structural racism and poverty look and feel like where indigenous people, speakers of Zapotec like Abraham’s parents, were generally treated so poorly with so much derision, discrimination, by authorities, by doctors, judges, police, people who held power, it was so common that they were afraid that if they took their son in that they would sooner amputate his leg than fix it.
So Abraham tells a story about not being able to back to school because he basically sat at home on a little stool for a year and would just read by himself. He sat on his own, he continued working as a coffee cultivator from a very early age. Then in his youth he ended up getting involved first through a kind of leftist political party, the PRD, on the coast of Oaxaca, and then I think being disappointed with party politics, he ended up then hearing about the indigenous movement of the OPIZ that was forming back in his hometown and around Loxicha. And when he went back there in the early ’90s he ended up getting involved.
And so I would say that Abraham like Zacharias, another of the last prisoners to get out, were part of kind of like a second generation of all these militants and community organizers. So Abraham was very charismatic, he was very charming and effective political organizer, so at this point the OPIZ in the early ’90s really had a lot of political presence throughout most of the 70 odd towns and villages that make up the municipality of San Agustin de Loxicha. So Abraham was someone who was organizing people to organizing assemblies, getting people to come out. Things he would do would be to organize in communities internally to counter an absence of the state in many places, to be able to deal with problems on their own whether it was questions of, say, domestic violence: Abraham would say “ok we’ve got this problem, how do we get to the root of it?” This led to women organizing themselves and saying that alcohol was one of the biggest problems behind domestic violence in the communities, and so many communities ended up banning alcohol. Enacting that kind of local change was part of what these organizers including Abraham were doing as well as in some cases organizing to make demands of the State, whether through negotiating with the State itself at points or organizing enormous marches of hundreds or in some cases thousands of people to take the highway and march to Oaxaca City, four hours to the north, or to occupy the central plaza in Oaxaca, to take the airport.
So then by 1996 when the EPR uprisings happened, Abraham was a well known organizer. And certainly the State had its eye on him, because he’d been one of the important organizers in taking the plaza in Oaxaca City, the airport. So it was very easy to pin the guerilla accusation on him, as well as many others who were well known activists or organizers with this organization of the OPIZ. By the time I got to know Abraham as another of the long term prisoners who’d been in for decades, he always struck me for being extremely humble. I’m not sure if that’s the most flattering thing..
TFSR: It’s not necessarily like a quality you would find in – you mentioned that he’s very charismatic and very charming, and humility is a really interesting character trait to go along with those two things. I don’t often find that.
Bruno: One of the striking things about Abraham is that he is humble, and you’re right that is sometimes an unusual feature in charming or charasmatic figures. But that’s I think one of the things that’s notable about indigenous and peasant movements in a place like Mexico, I was always struck by the motto or the principles of the organization that Abraham and Alvaro were militants in back in the ’80s and ’90s, the OPIZ, their 3 core principles were discipline, honesty, and humility. And you say ok, discipline and honesty are pretty standard fare for the values of activists, maybe even revolutionaries, but humility is not something you often find in the espoused values of revolutionary movements. But I think it’s certainly an expression of this being a peasant and indigenous movement rooted in the country side, and humility is something that’s really highly valued in the communities.
And it’s something like someone like Abraham certainly really lives by. By the time that I got to know him better and was recording his stories, he was not as politically involved. At that point he was a bit more focused on his legal case, plus he had a baby daughter; he’d separated from his previous partner in prison and met another partner there. This was at that time a co-ed prison, and they had a baby daughter who was born there in prison, and in fact grew up there for the first couple years of her life, and that was really the main focus of his attention at that point. Now currently, since he got out in 2017, he’s returned to some of his organizing but at a very local level. I think he’s been re adjusting to life on the outside slowly, but he’s been living in a shelter that was one of the material gains you could say of the Loxicha Prisoners Movement. They eventually managed to extract this shelter from the State in a concession in the early 2000s where now several families who were victims of state violence in Loxicha now live. It used to be mostly for families of prisoners to be able to stay in Oaxaca while they visited from Loxicha.
But anyway, now people who were victims of violence in different forms now live there, and Abraham and Zacharias are both living there. Abraham is kind of taken upon himself to reorganize the space where you’ve got dozens of people living in order to make it a little more comfortable and clean and pleasant for the people living there. And on that, he’s also working to try and support himself and his family, his wife who’s still in prison and his smallest daughter who’s 5 in school. He’s weaving baskets to support himself like that, to try and help his comrade Zacharias to set up a carpentry workshop. And that’s what he’s up to these days.
TFSR: One of the reasons that we both are talking right now is that they are out of prison, but they are being forced to pay some pretty exorbitant fees to the Mexican State for so called “damage reparations”. Could you talk a little bit about what they are being forced to pay per month and is this a common tactic on the part of the Mexican State for extracting funds from former political prisoners?
Bruno: Yeah, so Alvaro and Abraham got out finally after 20 years in prison, on July 7th of 2017. And so for 20 years the demands for them and for the other prisoners has always been immediate and unconditional freedom. And finally they were able to get their freedom after being robbed of 20 years of their life, but in order to accept it they basically had to sign onto a really sordid deal where in order to be recognized as being accepting of a quote unquote “early release”, because at this point their sentences were around 30 years, and having gone through 2/3rds of their sentence and proven that they are well behaved or something like that, then they were granted this so called benefit of being given an early release. In order to do that they said ‘we’ll give you the early release but you have to accept a whole list of conditions’ some of them just kind of being symbolic nonesense, like “I promise not to do drugs or commit crimes”, but also they had to promise to pay these so called damage reparations to the court. Which allegedly are a way of monetizing the deaths that they accuse them of causing. But really this is just ransom money that goes to the courts.
So each of them are being charged slightly different figures, but close to around 125,000 pesos, which is sort of like 7,000 dollars depending on the exchange rate, over the course of 2 years. Which translates basically to paying in the case of Abraham 250 dollars more or less to the courts each month and for Alvaro, about 280 dollars each month. Which is a ludicrous amount! I mean I would find it hard to be paying that each month on top of my rent, and frankly the kind of money that you can come by even as a relatively modestly living person in the US is impossible compared to Mexico. So to assume that ordinary people, not to mention poor people, could pay this in Oaxaca is unrealistic. Not to mention people from rural communities who happened to have spent the last 20 years in prison and just got out. It’s just another slap in the face right, this added injustice heaped on top of a mountain of injustices, the core of which is 20 years of prison built of course on top of all the injustices that led these people to rising up against the State in various forms, or confronting the State, and then being made political prisoners. So anyway, this is just yet one more injustice. And part of why we’ve taken it up here.
Through my connections with the Loxicha prisoners to help out however I could, and we’ve taken it up here in the US, even though there’s a network of support for Alvaro and Abraham in Mexico, it’s just doing something in the vein of economic solidarity is much easier here in the US. Even just a few dollars that might not be a lot to people here, even ordinary people who might have low-paying jobs, just a couple of bucks a month is something that we can afford. If we hit up some wealthier Liberals, maybe they can throw in some more. That’d be great! But even with some very small donations built up from a pool of friends and comrades, I think we can hopefully get to covering that $530 a month that would cover both of their damage reparation fees. Thus, helping them to not be forced to go back to prison. That’s really the punchline behind this. They’re being charged these damage reparations, essentially ransom by the courts, under the threat of being forced back into prison for another 10 years.
They both realize that this is a threat that they face and they’re both very philosophical about it, but it’s impossible to fathom (for them, their families, friends) that they’d go back in for another 10 years for this completely unjust and counter-insurgent political imprisonment.
TFSR: In a recent statement by Alvaro that’s posted on ItsGoingDown, he makes a declaration of solidarity with the J20 defendants and he calls the process “an attack against the youth who resist, reveal themselves and rebel.” Will you talk about the parallels between this case and those of the J20 defendants, 59 of whom are still facing decades in prison?
BR: Gladly. To be forced to think of the parallels between the Loxicha case and the J20 defendants amongst the friends and comrades here in South East Michigan who have worked with us to start this economic solidarity project with the Loxicha Prisoners, Abraham and Alvaro, that includes a couple of the J20 defendants who live here in Michigan. As we started up this economic solidarity project, I was really pleased, I thought it was really cool, that these comrades in the J20 defense, were keen to help out. And then it struck me that it made perfect sense, that you would get really heart-felt solidarity without having to really think about it much from folks who are facing the prospect of political imprisonment with people who are just emerging from it. The conditions and situations of the two movements are different in many ways: one in the United States during the Trump Era; the other we’re talking about in the mid-90’s in Mexico. And yet, the parallels are looking at violence and political imprisonment from opposite sides of a prism.
It’s sort of like in the case of the J20 defendants, you’ve got this original group of around 250 (coincidentally 250 people arrested and accused of ludicrous crimes, these really symbolically charged & trumped up charges aimed by the state at putting dissidents behind bars and at dissuading people from dissenting against the state; politically motivated use of the courts and of prisons to scare people, to inflict a bit of terror against dissidents or possible dissidents… Even among the J20 defendants, it was very clearly targeted against people who were marching under the banner of anti-capitalism, anti-fascism. But you’ve also got people who were thrown in there who were journalists, photographers, who weren’t directly involved in protesting but it doesn’t matter, it’s a part of the message. Similarly in Loxicha, in the mid-90’s, again you’ve got different conditions, but a group of around 250 people who were arrested, detained, sent to prison, under these symbolically loaded political charges. Again, some of them were resisting, protesting, organizing against capitalism and the State. Some of them just got caught up in the violence, swept up in the witch-hunt. And yet, I think that what caught the imagination of these comrades who are J20 defendants in Michigan who want to support Alvaro and Abraham is to think… Here the J20 defendants are looking down the barrel, looking at the prospect of decades of political imprisonment for resisting the state, for protesting it. And they’re looking at these comrades in Mexico, from very different worlds, but one which also for resisting capitalism and organizing these hundred of people. Instead of looking at the prospect of it, they’re emerging from decades of political imprisonment.
This led to conversations here about how there must be a lot to learn from one site to the other. What can folks who are young organizers such as the J20 defendants, what can they learn, what can we all learn from listening tot he story of people who did suffer through decades of political imprisonment. And the other way around, what can folks like Alvaro and Abraham learn from new forms of resistance and solidarity that are emerging from and being expressed by something like the J20 defense. So, it was this cool surprise here to get J20 defendants in on the project and to have these discussions and to compare the two phenomenon. And then, when some of us visited Alvaro this past December, we had a visit with him now the first time in freedom, recorded this video, did some interviews. We were talking about J20 and the J20 defendants so, on one had he hadn’t heard about the J20 (which shows that we need more communication across Leftist networks internationally) but then we had a really great conversation where we explained what had happened on J20 and the situation of the defendants were.
It took so little explanation, he was immediately captivated, perceptive, clapping his hands “Of course, that makes perfect sense. Obviously these are the repercussions, this is what the State did in reaction to those who are marching under the banner of anti-capitalism and anti-fascism.” And we had one of those classical, great discussions that Alvaro is fantastic at, discussing some of these comparisons. One fo the great things to come out of it was that we kind of proposed that this could be the beginning of some exchanges. We thought it’d be really great to organize some form of dialogue, exchanges, encounters somehow between Alvaro, his comrades, the former prisoners in Mexico and J20 defendants and their allies in the US to give this conversation some actual substance. And there, Alvaro and comrades offered then that they could disseminate that and share it in a newspaper like Unios (a newspaper of the network of adherents of the 6th Declaration [of the Lacondon Jungle, the Other Campaign of the Zapatistas]).
TFSR: That’s so wonderful that it was such a productive conversation. That makes me really happy to hear that and congratulations for being a part of that and for setting that up and drawing those parallels. I think that’s really really awesome.
BR: Thanks. And out of that conversation is where Alvaro wanted to send a shoutout to the J20 Defendants that we recorded that’s on the video on Its Going Down. So, I have to confess that last line in the video which you quoted where he says “we recognize this as an attack against the youth that organizes and rebels and reveals itself”… I was the one who wrote the subtitles on that video. I was translating this letter which he was reading from. The word “to rebel” in Spanish, which is “que se rebela” he spelled it “revela” which means “reveals itself”. I knew he meant “rebels” and I wondered if whether that had been purposeful, so I translated it as both: it both rebels and reveals itself. You never know, was it a slip of the pen or that might have just been Alvaro’s message itself. In one word, you both rebel and reveal yourself.
TFSR: I liked it very much, especially in the context of J20, which was a Black Bloc, which is supposed to be an anonymous thing, that was then revealed by police, it was then also… people were doxxed by fascists and members of the alt-right. I found it to be a very great, linguistic insertion. Like, you revealed yourself, that’s courageous, you rebelled and that was courageous. I thought that was brilliant.
BR: I love that. And you know, you’re totally right. You mention, it was the Black Bloc where people concealed their identities, their faces, and that they do so in order to reveal themselves., in order to rebel. It’s kind of like what the Zapatistas did in covering their faces. “In order to be noticed, in order to have a face, we had to cover our faces.” I’ve always loved that through this kind of anonymizing yourself, you become someone.
I kind of imagine that in rebelling and revealing themselves, Alvaro might be saying that in that act of rebellion that you reveal yourself, not only to the State, to others, but even to yourself. People discover themselves in that moment of action, as Frantz Fanon said, “Consciousness is born in action, not the other way around.”
TFSR: Could you remind us of the Patreon link and talk a little bit about the economic solidarity project / endeavor being organized under the banner “Keep Loxicha Free”?
BR: That’s kind of the main focus of what we’re tryihng to organize with this economic solidarity, so I really appreciate the change to broadcast it a bit. For most of us who are working on this, this is our first time doing this kind of economic solidarity. I, personally at least, find that economic solidarity can feel kind of tricky or off-putting. Economic Solidarity is one tiny fragment, one tiny instance of what solidarity can look like. And I think for those of us who are further left, with anarchistic leanings, Zapatista sympathizers, dealing with money is something that’s really uncomfortable. We don’t like doing it and it’s partly why Alvaro and Abraham themselves have not been able to raise that money.
A couple of the other last Loxicha prisoners who got out last year had the same conditions but were able to raise that money through connections to Unions or through asking the State. Alvaro and Abraham had not wanted to do that. A part of the way that these ransoms work in Mexico is that you have to ask someone powerful to help you out and you end up indebted. So, what we’re trying to do by bringing that economic solidarity pitch here to the US (and
internationally, if people want to donate) is to try to take that weight off of having to ask for the money over there. Instead, we said “let us ask for you, it’ll probably be easier.” But several of us have never done fundraising, so it’s figuring it out as we do it. We thought that one of these go-fund-me type pages would work and that Patreon with it’s monthly donation system would work for this.
So, we’re trying to work up to $530 per month, we’re currently at $201, almost halfway there. In recent months we’ve been making this work also by presenting this story at events, going to events organized by comrades and friends, and making little 5-10 minute pitches and passing the bucket. Through that along with the Patreon we’ve been able to cover their payments so far. But you can only present so many times in your community and pass the bucket, so we’re really hoping this Patreon website will be a self-sustaining effort so that for the next 2 years Alvaro and Abraham will be covered and don’t have to live every day with this hanging threat the moment you wake of “if I don’t pay this money, I go back to prison.” So, that’s what we’re trying to do with the Patreon site. https://ww.patreon.com/keeploxichafree
TFSR: Bruno, thank you so much for taking the time. I got a lot out of talking with you about this topic. Many thanks and solidarity from here!
BR: Thank you so much, I really really appreciate the space. I really appreciate the attention. There are a lot of things that you all could be covering, so I appreciate that you also thought this was important and were willing to open your space, your time for this story. Also, thank you to all of the listeners.
Again, hopefully, what we’re trying to do is to plug that Patreon website, but we also think it’s really important just to be having these conversations. A part of this is that we want to raise this money to help our comrades, but we also think that sharing their story, their testimony, their experience and also our own experiences. Making that a conversation is really an important part of building grassroots solidarity, awareness and political education. I’m really glad to be a part of the conversation!
This week, Bursts had a change to speak with two participants in the L’eu Est La Vie camp (Water is Life in French) organizing against the Bayou Bridge pipeline that Energy Transfer Partners is trying to push through the swamps of Louisiana at the tail end of the Dakota Access Pipeline. For the hour, they speak about the pipeline, the lifeways of people living in the bayou, potential impacts on the environment and the impact on our guests of increased indigenous forefronting to struggles to defend the environment in recent years around Turtle Island. More on their work can be found at http://nobbp.org/
Resist the TWP in Knoxville! January 21st at 12 Noon
The Traditionalist Worker Party is a neo-Nazi, white nationalist group which is headquartered right here in North Carolina. This group promotes white separatism and a white supremacists view of Christianity. Begun in 2013 by the now infamous Matthew Heimbach as the official face of the similarly neo-Nazi group the Traditionalist Youth Network, the TWP’s main focus seems to be promoting their agenda by making attempts on public office in local elections while maintaining something that could be called a street presence.
There is much more to be said about this group, from its formal designation by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group to its yearning to establish Turtle Island as something called a “white ethnostate”, seemingly a mythological and highly revisionist creation of the alt right and its philosophical forebears.
What is more relevant right now is that this group is seeking to descend on Knoxville, TN on January 21st at 12 noon to protest the second annual Women’s March and support the anti-choice group Right to Life. The exact TWP rallying point is still unknown but may coincide with the Women’s March rallying point in Market Square at 12pm and then join the Right to Life rallying point at World’s Fair Park at 2pm. Details will be shared as they get received, so keep eyes on your favorite news sources for updates.
From the Holler Network and Nashville ARA:
“The TWP and other white supremacist groups view Southeast Appalachia as an ideal region for a white separatist movement, and they prey upon rural and semi-rural areas to build their base. But their claims to Appalachia fly in the face of centuries of resistance to white supremacy and settler colonialism that are woven into these hills and rivers. From indigenous resistance to militant maroon communities, to multiracial labor strikes and prisoner uprisings, to the very existence of tight-knit black and brown communities across these hills, we know Appalachia has never been and will never be their all-white vision- as long as we continue to resist.”