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“Representing Radicals” Lawyers’ Guide from Tilted Scales

“Representing Radicals” Lawyers’ Guide from Tilted Scales

Book cover of "Representing Radicals" featuring someone facing off a riot cop
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Resisting state repression and surveillance is one of the cornerstones of The Final Straw and has been since the beginning of this project. Over the years we’ve featured interviews with support committees, political prisoners, defendants in ongoing cases, incarcerated organizers, radical legal workers and lawyers and others to talk about how power strikes at those who it fears constitute a threat. For those of us caught up in cases, navigating self-defense through the courts, penal system and mainstream media can be treacherous, as we attempt to balance our political and personal goals with our lawyer’s desire to have us do as little time and pay as little money as possible to the courts. Winning in these circumstances can sometimes seem to pit a well-meaning lawyer or legal worker against their own client. Enter the Tilted Scales’ new book, “Representing Radicals.”

This week, you’ll hear Jay from the Tilted Scales Collective talk about this book out from AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studies, about anti-repression work, and about this book’s attempt to shift the culture of legal representation by intervening with arguments by radical lawyers, more intimately inviting clients and their supporters into the fray and new frameworks for approaching cases.

You can find their guide for defendants and other resources, as well as contact, at TiltedScalesCollective.Org. You can hear our 2017 interview with another member of Tilted Scales about their defendants guide. And you can follow the group on instagram or twitter.

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Featured Track:

  • The Wrong Side Of The Law by Mick Jones from Mick Jones

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Transcription

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself with any names, pronouns, affiliations, or references that would help the listeners orient themselves?

Jay: Sure, my name is Jay, I use they/them pronouns. I’m a part of the Tilted Scales Collection since 2017, and have been involved in anti-repression organizing more broadly over the last decade or so.

TFSR: Would you talk a bit about Tilted Scales? Who constitutes its membership and what activities it gets up to?

J: Sure, we are a pretty small collective of anarchist legal support workers who have been supporting and fighting for political prisoners, prisoners of war, and politicized prisoners mostly in the so-called United States. Tilted Scales Collective was formed out of the North American Anarchist Black Cross Conference in 2011 and out of the need to build anti-repression infrastructure more broadly, but what folks were noticing was re-inventing of the wheel every time folks in the United States got hit with serious charges. There was a need to pull together or draw in resources and experience to rebuild some infrastructure for providing legal support. So our collective has written two books, the first book is called A Tilted Guide to Being a Defendant, which is published in 2017. And we recently published a follow-up book called Representing Radicals. And that’s what I’m going to be talking about a little bit more today. We also have given training and workshops about anti-repression organizing, as well as participated in numerous committees and legal support efforts over the years.

TFSR: Cool. And for folks who are unfamiliar with anti-repression work, a lot of our listeners have heard various conversations on the show about it, and those who have been with us for a long time may even remember a chat with folks from your collective about the Defendant’s Guide when it came out. But could you talk a little bit about the framework of anti-repression work or any of the cases that your collective has participated in, offered support for?

J: I guess the idea behind anti-repression work and organizing is that repression from the State is an inevitable part of making change, or building the new world or destroying this one, etc. Repression of some kind is going to be inevitable, people are gonna get hit with criminal charges. So anti-repression organizing seeks to, at baseline, do some harm reduction around the negative outcome of criminal charges. But also use the fact that folks, maybe one person or group of individuals, are facing charges as kind of a vehicle for movement organizing or building bonds of solidarity and coming out on the other side stronger. Some examples that I’ve been a part of… I was involved with the organizing around the J20 case back in 2017. I know other folks in the collective have participated as individuals, not necessarily as part of Tilted Scales, but I’ve participated in different legal support efforts for different mass mobilizations throughout the years, the Eric King Support Committee, etc.

TFSR: It makes sense to be coming out of the ABC conference, because, as you say, most of the work that Anarchist Black Cross does and has done historically is to give post-conviction support to people that have already been given a sentence, are already behind bars in a lot of cases. And so it makes sense to do the forward-thinking of how we A) decrease the number of people that are ending up behind bars, B) decrease the amount of time that people are going to be serving if they are going to do any time behind bars? And, like you say, with the mobilization and popular education element… What is better to stop people from interacting with Grand Juries than to have regular discussions where Grand Juries are a part of people’s vernacular? And what people are talking about, and you may not be able to totally demystify them, but at least making people aware makes them readier to be able to… Just like how talking about CopWatch, know-your-rights type education stuff is going to hopefully get ingrained in people’s brains that they can refuse to speak to law enforcement, or they can make those interactions as safe as possible or whatever. I think that’s super helpful.

J: Yeah, and I think that the Defendant’s Guide definitely hits on a lot of that. I know much of the guide talks about the different aspects that are involved in various stages of the criminal legal process, like what happens pretrial, what happens if you take your case to trial, what happens if you plead out, what happens if you are convicted, what are your options for sentencing and how to think about that? That’s one aspect of anti-repression work – that demystifying piece, the other aspect of it is helping the folks who are facing charges and their comrades move through that process while still advancing or moving forward with their political goals at the same time. And sometimes that looks like bringing those politics into the courtroom or into the way that legal support happens around a case. And sometimes it looks like resolving the case as quickly as possible so that folks can get back to the other organizing that they’re doing.

TFSR: The approach that was in the Defendant’s Guide, and which also shows up in Representing Radicals, it’s like a bookmark, a “This is the thing that you should pay attention to”. Obviously, it’s a lot more filled out in the Defendant’s Guide, but a Venn diagram of personal goals, political goals, and legal goals, and setting that out and working through the process of what that looks like for you as a defendant, what do you want to get out of this? What damage can you legally inflict, hopefully, on the process of repression to make it not profitable for them to ever try that again, or at least decrease the amount of damage it’s going to do in the meantime? That’s a really cool model that you present. I like the visuality of it.

J: Yeah, I like that model as well. I’m glad to hear that it reads well in the Defendant’s Guide. I think it’s been really useful in conversation with folks who are facing charges. One thing that our collective does is occasionally have calls with groups of friends or support crews who are coming together, sometimes after a big action (this happened a lot last summer) to help them think through the next steps in terms of navigating the criminal legal process. Thinking about options kind of as containing discrete but overlapping goal areas, or overlapping but discrete areas of impact is, at least for me. and seemingly other people, a useful way of being able to visualize what options exist within the context of the system that is fully designed to make you feel like you have no options or the only option is to be out immediately.

TFSR: That’s really well put.

So as you mentioned in 2017, you published a very timely Tilted Guide to Being a Defendant, just as over 200 people were arrested during the January 20, or J20 inauguration of Donald Trump had started building their legal defenses. The defendants from that case were over 200 people. This is not in a vacuum, obviously, following months of resistance at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline in which I believe thousands of people participated. And a lot of people caught charges, although it’s notable that the federal felony charges all fell on indigenous people. You and the AK Press bumped up the publication date in early 2017 and got a lot of copies into J20 and I’m imagining NoDAPL defendants’ hands. I guess it’s always a good time for books defending radicals to come out, which is a depressing thing also. But would you speak about the general goals of this new book Representing Radicals? Who your audience is? Is this primarily aimed at radicals approaching legal work such as yourselves or legal workers who are shifting towards radical approaches at defense? Law professors? Should we be sneaking copies into public defenders’ briefcases?

J: I was not involved with the Tilted Scale Collective back in 2011 when the idea for the Defendant’s Guide was first dreamt up. But as far as I understand it, the idea to write this companion book has always been there. As you said, the Defendant’s Guide is written to anarchists radicals who are facing criminal charges and to their comrades and supporters and close people who might be wondering how to help them through that process. And, by contrast, Representing Radicals is mostly written to the attorneys who are representing them. So we tried to balance throughout the book the fact that some attorneys are going to be already quite sympathetic, maybe share a lot of politics with their radical defendants. For example, people at the People’s Law Office in Chicago or the CLDC or movement lawyers who’ve been devoting decades, their whole career to defending activists, anarchists, radicals, etc, Balancing the fact that there might be some people’s lawyers, but other people’s lawyers may not understand at all where their anarchist, radical clients are coming from, are less familiar with anarchists and radicals and concepts like movement perspective, non-cooperating pleas, etc.

The other audience that we’re hoping might have interest in this book would be law students who are still figuring out who they might represent, or how to bring in some of their ideals about the world into their legal practice. We really wrote this book coming from the idea that it could be something that defendants or a support committee could give to attorneys and say, “Here’s what you need to read to understand how to provide the best representation for me.” Or similarly, for supporters of defendants who are locked up pretrial, just to have a tangible resource that you can send to an attorney and say, “Here’s what you need to read to understand how to provide the best representation for my friend, partner, comrade, etc.”

One thing that in my own experience being a part of different anti-repression groups over the years that I run to is that oftentimes, defendants, as well as their supporters, run up against a variety of tensions, even in trying to communicate with and work alongside the most sympathetic attorneys, just because the role of an attorney is quite different than the role of a defense committee or a group of supporters. So, like our first book, Representing Radicals isn’t intended to necessarily be a protocol, a “how-to guide” telling lawyers how to do their jobs, but rather a guide to help people think through what they might want to achieve when facing charges, and how their attorneys can focus on those legal goals specifically, while still helping their client balance other goal areas. Personal and political, and whatever other goals a defendant and their comrades might have.

TFSR: It makes a lot of sense, something that I’ve seen in terms of conflicts come up between lawyers and radical defendants / their defense committees, or support committees is this ingrained – I think you’ve touched on this – this ingrained training in the US legal system: A) the concept of innocence and guilt is a strange one, B) also the idea that individual culpability, for a process when there’s way more dynamics in that and it leaves out the social context in so many cases, and people are often stymied from actually presenting social context to flesh out what was going on. I think that that process of thinking through… Like no incident is going to be exactly the same as the next… But like teasing the lawyer who’s reading it into, instead of just advocating or speaking on behalf of their defendant, to get them the best deal, which might include some sort of plea deal where they’re asked to name other people or whatever to get their charge down. If the lawyer’s thought is “My goal is to get my person as little time as possible and to end this in a timely manner”, especially if I’m a public defender and have like a stack of people to handle. And the challenges that the book poses and the quotes, also, which I want to get to in a bit, but trying to open up this whole world of conversations to lawyers who may be very good at doing their job in the way that they’ve been trained to do it. This might get them to think about the myriad of other ways of looking at the outcomes of a trial besides just what charges, what fees, whatever this individual defendant has to pay. I think that’s really important.

J: Totally. You really hit the nail on the head. Throughout the book, we talk a lot about what “the best possible representation” could mean to radicals, and oftentimes, the training that lawyers get in law school, really hammers home this idea that they have an ethical obligation and a professional obligation to provide their clients with the best possible representation that they can, which in criminal cases often equates to ensuring that they come out the other side relatively quickly and with minimal legal consequences, usually plea deals that are going to minimize prison time, minimize probation, etc. One of the shifts that we try to make in the book, a bit of a paradigm shift, is to help lawyers understand that, as anarchists and radicals who are thinking about facing criminal charges from a movement perspective, we’re gonna want outcomes from a legal case that are aligned with our political goals and principles, even if it comes up at personal expense, or even if that means unsuccessful legal outcomes or negative legal outcome. Also helping lawyers see that those outcomes in cases are in line with lawyers’ ethical obligation to their clients, so as long as their clients fully consent to the terms and have an active role in shaping what their legal defense looks like.

One thing that the book does hopefully pretty well is it includes not just our own perspectives, as of folks who’ve got quite a bit of experience doing legal support work over the years, but also includes the voices of a lot of movement attorneys, who’ve been doing movement lawyering for decades, who really restate that point over and over again… That actually it’s your clients and your client’s supporters and the projects and movements that they’re a part of that really should be driving the bus, and that the lawyer’s job is to listen to their clients and help them meet their legal goals, while still balancing their other priorities.

TFSR: The whole experience of going to court is a terrible thing. It’s meant to be alienating and terrifying and make you bow before the majesty of the representation of legal power and the sovereignty of the State to ruin your life. All that like standing and sitting and all the weird churchy stuff, leftover from the time of kings and queens. It feels really important to find this space to intercede and say, “Hey, you’re supposed to be this person’s… you got their back. So let’s talk about how do you understand what they’re saying?”

Also, I really appreciate the glossary that you provide, and some of the key concepts that you’re trying to introduce or shore up in the legal work. Could you talk a little bit about the glossary and what you put in there and what you’re hoping to achieve?

J: We decided to make the glossary pretty early on in outlining the book. And our decision to do so was partly to include terminology that, unfortunately, may not be familiar to every person who might be reading our books, like different identity terms are included in the glossary. And also, we wanted to break down what we meant by anarchist and other radical tendencies. We wanted to be clear about that. But we also use the glossary to explain a little bit these broader concepts: movement lawyering, collective perspective, politicized prisoners, prisoners of war. In the anarchist subculture, it might be unnecessary to define a glossary, but when communicating with a lawyer who doesn’t have experience working with anarchists, radicals, that particular population, it might be a new territory, very unfamiliar.

TFSR: There are also the quotes that you mentioned, which are interspersed throughout. You mentioned already a few, the People’s Law Office in Chicago and the CLDC. Can you speak to what the hope was by including direct quotes from people who do legal work as professionals and who work in movement and the idea of movement lawyering?

J: I know that we wanted to include the voices of movement lawyers primarily because we have experience doing certain kinds of anti-repression and legal support work, but none of us are lawyers, and so we felt as though there are some things that lawyers would just be more knowledgeable about and to speak to with more experience. We also thought that by including the voices of many attorneys who are movement attorneys and represent radicals every day in their professional lives, we could shift the conversation a bit. So that an attorney who is reading the book, who maybe is not in that world, would feel as though it’s more of a peer-to-peer conversation, as well as the added bonus of hearing from folks with a ton of experience doing legal support. By movement lawyering I really mean… I mentioned PLO and the CLDC. But movement-centered lawyering really happens when a defendant and their legal team take into consideration the defendant’s legal, personal and political goals in relation to the political movement of which the defendant is a part. One definition I read recently says that “movement lawyering increased the power and capacity of people involved in social struggle, rather than the power and capacity of the state and legal system.” I like that. So, movement lawyering, in my mind, is an approach that means not only meeting the ethical obligations of an attorney but understanding a radical client’s legal, personal and political goals fully when creating legal strategies and an overall defense strategy. And it means having some mental context for the case itself and understanding how that case situates in a broader movement and then using that understanding to build a legal representation that is going to align with the client’s goals and principles and interests, and possibly, hopefully, the goals and principles and interests of their supporters and comrades.

The other thing I wanted to say was that movement lawyering, even in cases where there aren’t multiple defendants and even when we’re not talking about collective defense necessarily, movement lawyering really does take into consideration other people who might be affected by the outcome of a particular case. That collective perspective considers the short and long-term political consequences of criminal charges and takes into consideration co-defendants’ affiliated groups and broader movement when making decisions about legal strategy.

TFSR: One of these quotes really stood out and I’m gonna read it at length…. The ethical obligation to the greater good by Dennis Cunningham, Esquire. It’s on page 91. “As lawyers, we have it drilled into us that we owe a duty of representation to each client, the rest of the world be damned. If something would make us hesitate before attacking someone else’s interests, our loyalties are said to be divided, and we’re supposed to avoid taking the case or withdraw. But wait, our political clients want and deserve to be represented on a political basis. If a client to whom we owe such unflinching duty demands it, we owe a broader duty to the client’s community or activist group to receive input from and account to their community, show solicitude for the welfare of others in it, act in ways that promote the esprit and effectiveness of the community, and take care not to undermine its values or the goals of the client’s activism. Call it intersectional lawyering, no adversary has ever tried to pierce the attorney-client privilege, because I met in solidarity with fellow plaintiffs, defendants, or legal supporters. My amazing activist clients have always been my teachers and my comrades and helping me hone this practice. And for it, we have all been the wiser, happier, and freer.” I like that quote.

J: I like that one, too. I think I’ve said it already, but one thing that that sidebar that you read from Dennis Cunningham really hones in on and one thing that we try to repeat throughout the book is, again, this paradigm shift from an individual defendant’s best legal outcome to more of a collective perspective that reimagines what it means to provide someone with “the best possible representation.” And within that thinking beyond the best plea deal, the best legal outcome. Yeah, and Dennis really says it well in that quote, thinking through actually, from our perspective, that is what a lawyer should do. And that is the job that they’re ethically obligated to do for their clients. Many movement attorneys do share at least some or many of the principles and goals of their clients. But even when they don’t, I really do feel as though it is the job of any attorney to be able to meet their clients on that place, and be able to provide your clients representation that takes into account co-defendants, takes into account broader social struggles. And that is their job, and that is doing it well.

TFSR: Could you talk a little bit about the introduction of concepts and realities of support committees into this? Because it feels normal for me and for a lot of us, I’m sure, to be like, “Yeah, of course, all your buddies are going to show up to court with you.” What sort of conversation are you hoping will come out of this? What sort of understandings are you trying to bring to lawyers around defense committees? I think it’s really useful that you talk about some of the complications that can come up.

J: In the Defendant’s Guide, we do talk a little bit about defense committees, aka support committees. By that, we mean the folks who show up to provide the political, personal and legal support for defendants as they move through the process. And that can look a lot of ways. And there’s a lot of different names for efforts like this, but all are rooted in community care and support in the face of systemic oppression or state repression. Some examples that come to my mind would be the RNC8, the organizing that was done post J20s, Water Protector Legal Collective, and all the other various support efforts that arose around Standing Rock, various efforts for a wide range of anti-occupation, anti-imperialist freedom fighters over the last several decades. We could refer to a lot of different formations or groups as different support committees, and most referred to them as something along those same lines. Sometimes it’s a formal organization that takes the reins with providing support, but often times, it’s like our buddies or friends, and it’s an informal group of friends, comrades, loved ones, tend to cover a lot of the bases when folks are facing charges.

So in the Defendant’s Guide, we talk about what is a defense committee how to form one, what might it do, what are some areas of tension that might come up? But in Representing Radicals, we really wanted attorneys to view the defense committee, or supporters more broadly, as potential assets for them to do their job well. From the mindset that attorneys and supporters can work together, they have separate goal areas or separate lanes that they’re driving on (to use this sad analogy) but to separate track. But really work collaboratively to provide defendants with a solid way of meeting their political and personal legal goals. Because too often, in my experience of doing anti-repression work, lawyers can view, groups especially, groups of supporters as threatening or feel concerned about attorney-client privilege, feel as though political organizing around a case might detract from the legal representation that they’re wanting to provide, might harm a client case, might do more harm for them, politically and legally, than good. And there are certainly legitimate concerns there sometimes, but we really do think that if we could demystify some of what a defense committee does for attorneys, many of them might hopefully be more inclined to work collaboratively or at least communicate about their boundaries and accept that a support committee might take other actions and that’s okay, so long as it’s okay with the folks who are facing charges. Because ultimately, those are the people who are going to be most impacted by how the lawyer participates and helps the support committee.

TFSR: Similarly, the book talks about the strengths and pitfalls of different kinds of media and breaks down different conceptions. I’m really proud that we could be mentioned among movement media in the book, that just delighted me so much. Can you talk about the things that you touch on and some of the suggested frameworks of approaching media that you make in the book towards lawyers?

J: I want to say that the Defendant’s Guide also talks about media and talks about it more from a perspective of if you and your comrades are wanting to produce media around a case, here’s some ideas for doing and some tensions that have occurred in the past in our experience, here are some awesome folks who are doing media already to reach out to, etc. I think about media as one area where often times, an attorney might bristle at the idea that a defendant, even indirectly through a support committee, might put anything out there about a case before a legal outcome is reached on it. And in Chapter 5 of Representing Radicals, we talk about how media engagement might help or hinder legal goals and some tensions that we’ve encountered in our experience, and also some considerations for attorneys who are advising their clients and their support committees on a media strategy. But the point that we’ve really tried to make is that, ultimately, it’s going to be up to a defendant (and potentially to their supporters) about what gets said to the media or what sort of media is produced. And that’s fine, so long as it’s aligned with a defendant’s legal goal and strategy and that a defendant is aware of and consenting to the impact that certain media might have on the legal case.

In fact, in my own experience, for example, I was involved with the support committee for CeCe McDonald, who is a transwoman in Minneapolis, who survived an attack by a white supremacist man at a bar and was charged with murder after he died. In that particular case, we thought media would be tremendously helpful in shifting the public narrative about CeCe, and also, in my opinion, had a tremendous impact on the legal outcome of that case, she was offered a plea that she felt she could live with, ultimately, and one that was, in terms of legal outcomes, substantially better than, in my opinion, what would have happened, had we not taken a media strategy in that approach, in that particular case.

For attorneys who are advising their clients about media, and many attorneys are going to say, “Don’t say anything at all”. And that is a fine way of approaching media if the client’s goal is to resolve the legal aspect of the case as quickly as possible, with very little fanfare. Engaging with unsympathetic media might not be necessary or effective or desirable, depending on the facts or the circumstances surrounding the case. But, however, like I just said, if the client’s goal is to shift public opinion about the political circumstances surrounding their case or, even more broadly, to shift a public opinion around the political circumstances of the case, so that it may have an impact on the legal outcome of the case, engaging with mainstream media or putting out your own media might be strategically necessary, even if it complicates the legal strategy or make the lawyer add stress to the defense preparation. And so we really want attorneys to understand that there are separate spheres that the support committees and attorneys are operating in. Attorneys don’t have to talk to the media, but other people might and that’s okay, so long as defendants consent to it.

TFSR: It’s cool to hear the experience around CeCe McDonald’s case because she was fighting such an uphill battle with that.

J: For real. And the early media that came out around her case was horrible. And she was facing at first one and then two murder charges in Hennepin County. So I do strongly feel that the political campaign and specifically the media strategy part of it really did directly influence the legal outcome of that case. And then more broadly, influence the community, public narrative around self-defense, around the intersections of anti-Black racism and transmisogyny, and the criminal legal system. I really do feel that media work was very successful in terms of meeting its goals. We were lucky in that case to have a very sympathetic attorney who was not involved in the creation of the media but consented to let the CeCe McDonald Support Committee do what we did.

TFSR: In 2013, one of my co-hosts, William, got to interview Katie Burgess from the Trans Youth Support Network about CeCe’s case. That felt really important for us to be able to participate in that. When you were talking about, before you named CeCe, I was thinking about Luke O’Donovan’s situation in Atlanta where he defended himself against young men who were attempting to queer-bash him. Being around for the court hearing, the actual trial, part of the trial, at least… but just seeing the impact.

Folks in his support committee did a really good job of framing some public narrative around the circumstances. Because I can totally understand a lawyer or legal crew deciding, “We just don’t want to engage, we do want to just keep our heads down, get through this and not become a target for either reactionaries or for the prosecutors. For the prosecutors often times try to frame these narratives around prosecutions anyway, because their literal job is to prosecute, not to resolve a situation towards justice. So if they’re gonna frame a narrative anyway, you might as well try to steer it in a different direction.

J: Totally. And I do think where it gets a little sticky, often it is difficult to talk about the context of a case and the politics of it and the ways that power operates within it, without getting into the facts of the case. And so it makes sense that lawyers would bristle about talking to the media before they’re able to do their job, which is to bring up the facts in court or negotiating a good plea deal based on the facts of the case. But I do think it’s possible. And I also think if someone, especially when we’re talking about situations where the charges might be not very serious, maybe it was a pre-planned mass arrest where folks willingly participated in it and are now facing not-very-serious-consequences, it totally makes sense to talk about the fact. It can, it doesn’t always have to, it could totally make sense to talk about the case publicly before a legal outcome is reached. As long as that fits within the defendants’ broader political and legal goals and strategy.

TFSR: To pop back to the quotes that you interspersed throughout the book, I could see it being pretty useful if a lawyer reads this, and they’re just they’re radical-curious, or if they’re going through law school and they’re trying to find a way to become a movement lawyer. It’s cool to think they suddenly have a list of names, a list of organizations that they can either intern with or contact and reach out and say, “Hey, I read this thing. I’m having these thoughts. Can I bounce some ideas off of you?” There are already organizations, for better or worse, that do varying qualities of jobs from ACLU to the National Lawyers Guild and other groups, other networks. There‘re already networks that include movement lawyers, but it seems like a good tool for networking movement lawyers.

J: Right, we hope so.

TFSR: Are there any topics that I didn’t ask about that you want to share on?

J: Well, I already hit on how this book includes not just our voices, but lots of input from movement lawyers, comrades, and also we wouldn’t have been able to write this book without conversations with other legal support workers who’ve been in it with us over the years. And just like our first book, this book is intended to be an experiment. It’s the wisdom collected from people and their networks for decades and in many of them for far longer than any of us entered the field have been doing this work. We hope that the experiment will help people fight back more effectively and better survive the brutality of the legal system. But we don’t intend it to be a definitive, only way to think about these things, but we do hope that it is useful, and we would love it to be a resource that gets used and built upon all the time.

TFSR: Just out of curiosity, though, the idea for this feels very novel, but obviously there have been periods when the struggle has been heightened, and at least in the US, I can think of certain decades or certain periods of time and movement eras when there has been more activity and more agitation and more arrests, whether it be the late 1800s, during massive labor strikes around the country, or the suffrage movement, or movements to end Jim Crow or the civil rights era, the 1920s communist and anarchist and socialist agitation, the “long 60’s”, obviously, or the Clamshell Movement. Are there any other private experiments in this vein that you’ve heard of where radicals with anti-repression experience were trying to formally reach out to change the culture of lawyering, to bring more lawyer comrades into the fold?

J: This is a big on-me, but I can’t remember them. To my knowledge, there have been other publications that are similar to the Defendant’s Guide, but I’m not aware of anything like Representing Radicals that speaks to the way of representing radicals directly. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

TFSR: I didn’t know there was an inspiration where you’re like “Well, this is sixty years old at this point, so not really that applicable, but it is a cool idea”.

J: I would defer to other members of Tilted Scales Collective who are more involved in lawyering.

TFSR: So you are pleading the Fifth?

J: Yeah, I don’t know.

TFSR: How can folks get a hold of the book and keep up on the work of Tilted Scales?

J: The book is available through AK Press, it offers a discount on books sent to prisoners and bulk orders if you contact them about it. We really appreciate that folks from the AK Press and The Institute for Anarchist Studies are putting effort into this book to be more accessible. About the Tilted Scales Collective, you can learn by checking our website, Instagram, and Twitter with the caveat that we are not super active on any electronic platform, mostly because none of us really likes them, but we do try to make it easy to find out resources and we hope it will help people in their struggles. Our website, for example, does have a link to chapter 2 of the Defendant’s Guide, and direct links to other media we produced in the past, as well as templates that may be useful in you getting to work with a lawyer and specifically around navigating collective defense.

TFSR: Thank you so much for having this conversation and thanks for all the hard work and amazing stuff that you do.

J: Thank you, it’s really nice to talk with you and we are excited to see how this book impacts our movements more broadly.

No Evil Foods Union and PLAN Line 3

No Evil Foods Union and PLAN Line 3

Union Busting At No Evil Foods

No Evil Foods Union Busting Flyer
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This week on The Final Straw, we’re presenting two conversations. The first was a chat with workers from the local, plant-based protein company ‘No Evil Foods’. The company has been getting flack for using social justice imagery while working to undermine unionization efforts at it’s factory here in Asheville, NC. The workers talk about strategies they took in organizing attempts and experiences they had with disinformation about collective bargaining from the management and the union-busting consultants in their employ. In order to protect the anonymity of the workers, we’ve replaced their voices with our own. See our show notes for a script of the chat.

Although not affiliated with the unionizing effort, the fedbook page for Asheville Solidarity Network hosts some of the flyers in support of workers unionizing No Evil Foods and Mission Hospital. It’s also acting as a hub for posts about mutual aid responses to the Covid-19 and the Corona virus crises in the Asheville Area. For more resources in different places around solidarity and mutual aid in this intense time, visit ItsGoingDown.org.

To see a few pictures of the propaganda distributed to No Evil Foods workers, check our show notes. Here are also a couple of links to flyers against the union busting found on social media (1, 2) as well as a post about a Zapatista school complaining of misrepresentation by No Evil Foods in their marketing and a collection of links including audio recorded from one of the forced anti-union meetings.

PLANning for Anti-Pipeline Action

After that, you’ll hear a conversation with Garrett, an anarchist involved in Pipeline Legal Action Network, based in so-called Minnesota. PLAN has recently published a legal workbook for people planning around resisting pipeline infrastructure expansion, in particular with the Line 3 pipeline. The guide also brings together a lot of other useful resources for any crew or affinity group and is available for free at PlanLine3.com alongside a lot of other material.

Announcements

Share Your Words For Our 10 Year Anniversary Show

Basically, we’re opening up the lines to hear what you have to say to us. Send us a message about the show, any memories you have, what you’d like to see or how it has affected you.  Instructions for signal voice messages, voicemails or sending us mp3’s can be found here.

New Free Community Meals in Asheville

On Sundays at 4pm near 644 Haywood, just around the corner from Firestorm Books, a project calling itself Hot Potatoes is offering free, hot meals from reclaimed and donated ingredients to the community as well as free produce when available.

Grand Jury Resistance

Grand Jury resistors Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond have been ordered released from the Arlington, VA jail where they’ve been held while refusing to participate in Federal Grand Juries concerning Wikileaks and the attempted extradition of Julian Assange. This came days after Chelsea self-harm or suicide in her cell under the stress of nearly a year in prison and after only about a year after being released from an military prison. Amazingly, although the government was imposing a fine of a thousand dollars for each day of her incarceration for refusal, within a few days of her release the fines a crowd source fundraiser paid off the remaining $267,000 in fees she was facing upon release. Jeremy Hammond, meanwhile, is being transferred back to Federal prison where he will resume the last few months of his incarceration. His time was put on hold during his resistance of the grand jury. More on his Jeremy’s case and how to write him a letter of support can be found at FreeJeremy.net and more about Chelsea is up at ReleaseChelsea.com.

Prisoner Corona Virus Hotline

Starting Monday, IWOC and Fight Toxic Prisons chapters will be opening a hotline that prisoners in the so-called US can call into to report outbreaks, denial of adequate medical care and other circumstances related to Corona Virus. To allow for the calls to be free for prisoners, fundraising is happening now. You can learn more at bit.ly/covid19prison

Update on Eric King

Anarchist and antifascist prisoner Eric King is fighting a possible 20 year charge added to his remaining time. In recent disclosures he talks about his targeting by prison staff at FCI Englewood, who threatened him and his family during visiting time, including consciously sitting his partner and their two kids near to the sex offenders during visitation, rather than in the separate family section. In his statement to the court, Eric says that when he attempted to use the prisons own complaint mechanisms he was further targeted for assault and harassment by staff, including continued harassment about his family, threats that fall under the protections afforded by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003, interferences with his ability to communicate with his family and his lawyers, removal of his personal and legal items and more. You can read the whole thing up at SupportEricKing.org, where you can also find the fundraiser for his legal defense to fight this 20 year hit he might face. The fundraiser is also up at fundrazr.com/e1cKo1. You can also find our interview from last year with Eric at our website.

Month in solidarity with Bomani Shakur

Finally, for the month of April, 2020, the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement and others will be trying to focus attention on the Lucasville Uprising death row case of Bomani Shakur, aka Keith Lamar. He’s been held for almost 18 years for charges related to the uprising and has been denied the ability to effectively challenge his death sentence even though the state recognizes that it withheld potentially exculpatory evidence in his initial conviction. You can learn more about his case and how to get involved in the month of action for Bomani at revolutionaryabolition.org , more about his case at KeithLamar.org and our past interview with Bomani at our website.

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Script of chat with workers at No Evil Foods

TFSR: Would you care to introduce yourselves for the purposes of this conversation and what your relationship with No Evil Foods in Asheville is?

No Evil Foods Workers: All of us work in the production area of No Evil Foods. This means that we are directly responsible for measuring and mixing the ingredients, running the mixes through the machines, cooking the mixes into the product, cooling the product, portioning the product, and boxing the product so it can be shipped out.

TFSR: Can you talk about the situation? What were the working conditions like at No Evil Foods when active talk of unionization started, how was response from workers?

No Evil Foods Workers: Active talk of unionization began at least as early as the summer of 2019. At that time, one of the shift supervisors on second shift was spearheading the campaign, and was very vocal and open about it. He had even apparently gone directly to management asking them to recognize the union. At that time, employees had no health care, and there was no shift differential for second shift. Those were two major concerns that were eventually addressed, but the biggest reason for desiring a union was simply for the production team to have a seat at the table when it came to future changes. The company is going through a huge growth period right now, and the production employees that make up the vast majority of the workforce are caught up in the undertow, so to speak. In response to the initial unionization campaign, management gave a speech about how they felt unions weren’t right for the company. Mere weeks later, they changed the production schedule from a four-day work week to a five-day work week with monthly mandatory Saturdays. Dozens of production team workers quit in response, and the unionization campaign seemed forgotten. However, reps from the union reached out to workers who had signed cards, and slowly we began to seek out more signatures and discuss the ongoing need for representation. The response from workers varied of course, but there was no hostile conversation about it among employees before the union busting tactics started. Some weren’t sure what a union actually did and the protection it offers. Others had only heard negative things. But the more it was discussed between production workers, the more we felt as though we had a decent chance of bringing everyone together for this cause. The open dialogue was almost always positive, and many employees were excited and curious about the possibility of being able to have a greater say in their working conditions, pay, benefits, etc.

TFSR: How did No Evil Foods respond to talk of workers organizing themselves or joining a union. Who did they hire to bust the effort and what has that looked like? What union were you working with?

No Evil Foods Workers: We really have no way to know for sure when management found out that we were attempting to unionize, but we have theorized that it was probably around December-January. It’s likely that their first attempt to deter a “need” for a union was to find out what we wanted and attempt to give it to us. In January, they gave night shift a pay differential, they made sure night shift was getting out on time and not staying late – as had been the trend. They even added an employee award program to give us each a free gift. This was the start of what would be a serious manipulation campaign.

When management was officially informed that we had filed with the NLRB, the first poster we were handed was about union cards. The word “dues” was mentioned nearly 10 times. “Union authorization cards are LEGAL documents” it reads. “Do not sign a union card unless you are willing to accept all the possible consequences of unionization…” (“Consequences of unionization”) “Union representatives are salesmen…” “Collective bargaining involves give and take, and is a risk…” Ironically, this flyer started out by assuring us that No Evil just wanted to give us all the “facts” to help us make an “informed” decision. This theme of wanting us to make an “informed” decision was a consistent talking point throughout the entire campaign, even though what they were actually doing was trying to drastically misinform us.

It didn’t stop there.

On top of the flyers, the main response by management was to bring us into captive audience meetings. These meetings were mandatory and involved each shift being corralled into dimly lit rooms and subjected to various power point presentations about unions. The topics varied, but the information was always slanted, with a lean towards either being anti-union or being neutral – never positive. One meeting went over the legalities of the union constitution, which felt like an attempt to just confuse everyone with an hour’s worth of legal lingo. Another meeting was about the UFCW and how much those at the top make. (Curiously, nothing was mentioned about how much those at the top of the No Evil food chain make.) Another meeting was all about collective bargaining. Demonstrating just how biased these meetings were, an employee at the collective bargaining meeting asked if there were any benefits and the speaker had nothing positive to say. The very last of these meetings was about the investors of No Evil and how the owners (Mike and Sadrah) “can’t control” what they might do in response to a union. This was the meeting that essentially scared the piss out of everyone, and many of us believe that this was the meeting that really tipped the scale. People walked out of that meeting truly fearing that they would lose their jobs and the warehouse might shut down if the majority of eligible voters voted ‘yes’.

Essentially, either by design or by coincidence, these meetings were all designed to play on very specific fears of the workers. Fears about sexual harassment and how the union might make it harder to get rid of stalkers. Fears about not understanding the union constitution and its legalities. Fears about collective bargaining. (“You may get more, you may get less.”) Fears about job security and how the warehouse might close down if we end up moving forward with unionizing because the investors might not like it.

To answer the question about who they hired, the lawyers names are Leigh E. Tyson and Jonathan Martin, both from the firm Constangy Brooks, Smith, and Prophete.

From their website:

“We can help you realistically assess the employee-relations atmosphere in your workplace environment. And we can help you build and foster the kind of workplace environment in which a union is irrelevant. We know it doesn’t always pay to be the proverbial bull in the china shop. Even as we advise management on union organizing drives and decertification efforts, we have maintained professional relationships with the unions. We are not known as “union busters” – nor do we want to be. The firm has particular strength in collective bargaining and negotiation experience. We take pride in knowing the subtle differences, like when to be tough – and we can be extremely tough – and knowing when a non-adversarial approach is in the best interests of clients.”

They’re not “union busters” and yet coincidentally, they specialize in “union avoidance campaigns”.

To answer the other question about which union, it was the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union, aka, the UFCW. This was Local 1208, based out of Tar Heel, NC.

TFSR: Can you talk about some of the rumors management and the lawyers have been fostering about unions, including the weaponizing of fears of sexual harassment at the workplace?

No Evil Foods Workers: One of the very first rumors was about drug testing – specifically, about the union coming in and drug testing everyone. No Evil does a fairly noble thing and hires felons. It also doesn’t drug test. So between those two things, the fact that a rumor was started about the union deciding to randomly drug test everyone (which would not happen unless we voted for it to happen or the company pushed for it to happen) could be a coincidence – or it could be evidence of management playing on the fears of its workers.

TFSR: So, management offered to get No Evil Foods living wage certified. What does that mean? How does that measure to the cost of living index for Asheville and is there a significant difference with what a union might help with?

No Evil Foods Workers: No Evil Foods is determined to be “living wage certified” by Just Economics (a regional membership organization based in Asheville that has a voluntary certification process to determine if an employer pays what is considered a “living wage” in the area). When you look into the requirements to be living wage certified according to Just Economics, it’s very interesting what that actually means. The way this is determined is through what’s called the “Universal Living Wage Formula”. To be brief, it is based on the idea that one employee, who works 40 hours a week, should not have to spend more than 30% of their gross income on housing. While No Evil Foods pays better than most places in the area, anyone who has or currently lives paycheck to paycheck can tell you that this formula does not account for utility bills, expensive emergencies, monthly payments for necessities like a car or phone, or childcare. It’s not to say that No Evil Foods isn’t taking a step in the right direction in this regard, but it would be naive to assume their “living wage certification” accurately reflects the living cost of their lowest paid employees.

A union could have drastically changed the lives of all Production workers at No Evil. The mere opportunity to get a say in wages and benefits is something that EVERY workplace should strive to achieve. While the idea of using a formula that assumes everyone fits into the same box when it comes to living expenses isn’t a bad place to start, no arbitrary certification program or employer knows what their paycheck to paycheck employees truly need to be paid in order to thrive in today’s economy.

TFSR: This push to counter or bust unionization among the workers at No Evil Foods seems to fly in the face of the ethical image they push as not only a producer of vegan, alternative proteins and their leftist imagery. How does that feel and how have you seen this conversation happening?

No Evil Foods Workers: Being vegan means something different to everyone, but at its core definition, it should be about maximum harm reduction to all living beings – animal or human. Even the No Evil Foods mission statement reads:

“No Evil exists to empower people to make positive changes for themselves, the environment, and the welfare of animals through awesome food. Do No Evil is the crux of what we do and the center from which all good emanates. We’re family founded, majority women-led, human centered, and purpose-powered, and we’re determined to bring people closer to the origins of their food while addressing issues like food insecurity, economic justice, and climate change. At The Axis, No Evil Foods’ homebase, we cut through the noise, speak our truth, and attempt to change the world one bite at a time.”

Empowering people should include empowering their workers – and empowering their workers should be about more than monthly team meetings and a suggestion box where we leave mere suggestions. The truest way they can live up to their mission statement (and it’s still not too late to do the right thing) would be to empower their workers and allow them to unionize. It would mean allowing their workers to have a collective voice in day-to-day decisions. Back that mission statement up with radical actions to prove it.

No Evil Foods Workers: A common business model in Asheville these days, at least among breweries, seems to be to build a brand and sell it off to a bigger company once it’s out of debt and expanded. There’s been speculation about why the ownership / management might push so hard back on attempts to structurally raise standards for the workers at No Evil Foods because of a fear of spooking the investors. Speculating, does that seem like a possibility in this case and how would leveraging for working conditions differ between a locally owned versus larger employer?

A: It’s absolutely a possibility. Leveraging with employers whether they be a small, family owned company or a massive corporation will never be a simple task if the position of management is to put the bottom line above all else. Historically though, large corporations are notorious advocates for nothing but profit at the expense of their employees. Having a solidified contract in place at this stage would protect us from this if in fact this is their plan for the future. It’s worth noting that at one of the captive audience meetings we were told by Mike (one of the two owners):

“It’s a very real risk that having a union at No Evil Foods would greatly impact our ability to continue raising capital, which risks the survival of our business. To be frank, I had one of our current investors say this week, ‘I’ve seen hundreds of companies come across my desk, and I have never seen an investment in a unionized startup, especially not at this stage. If I was looking at this business for the first time, I would run the other way.'”

Why did he say this? Because if this speculation about the inevitable selling of No Evil Foods is true – if a large corporation were to buy them out – this large corporation would have to listen to it’s employees who already have a solidified contract of employment that directly benefits the workers.

TFSR: Word on the street is that workers are talking union at the local healthcare system called Mission, which is a huge employer around here and was recently purchased. What would you say to your coworkers at No Evil Foods or workers at Mission or elsewhere who might be considering a struggle for a workplace union?

No Evil Foods Workers: Do a Google search for the Union Busting Playbook and inoculate your coworkers to the tactics and talking points that they will inevitably be subjected to. Maintain solidarity with your coworkers and constantly find new ways to draw more people into the “organizing committee” – or the primary core of people responsible for the drive. Organize casual get-togethers outside of work. Strong bonds between workers are the best defense against any nonsense management decides to pull. Be resilient, be calm, and do your research. Know the ins-and-outs of the union and be able to answer questions people will inevitably have. Be ready to be yelled at. Be ready to be threatened. Be ready to be manipulated and gaslit. There is no bar too low that management won’t stoop to in order to get people to turn away from unionization, as many of us found out. Communicate to coworkers that your struggle to organize your workplace has far reaching effects for workers in the region. You aren’t just empowering yourself, you are taking part in a historical struggle that’s been waged for years; you’re fighting for our collective future.
And one more piece of advice to current/future organizers: Record your captive audience meetings!!!

It’s a safeguard, and exposing these union busters and showing the public how all of these talking points and strategies are the same in so many ways is incredibly important.

TFSR: Will you continue working and struggling at No Evil Foods even after this vote against a union? Why?

No Evil Food Workers: We said this many times during the campaign, but this is not the worst job we’ve had. There are some really awful places out there to work and while this one definitely has its problems, it’s not among the worst. Unfortunately, this was often used against us as an argument by management – i.e., “Even union organizers have said themselves that this isn’t a bad place to work, so why do we need a union?” They didn’t really understand why we wanted a union. North Carolina being Right to Work was one of them. (In the month since the election concluded, four people were fired.) It’s also fair to say that about 98% of production workers haven’t been there for more than a year, a telltale sign of a company where job security isn’t really something prominent. On top of that, management often makes decisions rather willy-nilly; the top-down approach creates a lot of problems. Yes, there are ways for us to “suggest” different ways of doing things, but suggestions are suggestions, and management always has the option to ignore us. Collective bargaining would have given us a voice that couldn’t be ignored, and management proved by hiring “union avoidance consultants” that they’re not really interested in taking what we have to say seriously.

So to answer the question, yes, I think a lot of us will stay there and continue fighting for this. But I also think that for many of us (including some “no” votes who are slowly coming around and realizing they were misled) there’s not a day we walk into work and don’t expect to be fired for something trivial.

Management has fallen back into the same patterns that brought the union in to begin with. The firings only prove that we don’t have job security. The random, day-to-day changes in new policies and procedures only prove that we need collective bargaining and ultimately a union.

For a company that markets itself like No Evil Foods does, union busting shouldn’t be the kind of problem that it was during our campaign. Either the company takes off the mask and stops pretending to be revolutionaries who care about their workers, or they step up, do the right thing, and help their workers form a union.

Former Political Prisoner Zolo Azania

Zolo Agona Azania

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This week on The Final Straw radio we are sharing a chat that Bursts had with New Afrikan, former Black Panther and political prisoner, Zolo Agona Azania. Zolo is  from Gary, Indiana where he lives now, working a job and also doing re-entry work with the formerly incarcerated and community service to break cycles of trauma. After 7 and a half years in prison from ages 18-25 where Zolo engaged in political education with members of the Black Panther Party from Indianapolis, he was released. In 1981 he was re-arrested, picked up by the Gary police while walking around the city after a bank robbery took place, resulting in the death of a Gary police lieutenant. Because of his political views and circumstantially being on the street at that time, Zolo was convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to death.

Zolo beat that death penalty from within prison twice and blocked a third attempt by the state to impose it. For the hour, Zolo talks about his life, his parents, his art, his education, his time behind bars, his political development, the Republic of New Africa, and his legal struggle.

To get in touch with Zolo you can email him at azaniazolo5( at)gmail(dot )com or you can write

Jumpstart Paralegal and Publishing
PO Box 64854
Gary, Indiana 46401

To see more of Zolo’s art you can visit this support page!

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Transcription

TFSR: We’re sharing a chat that I had with Zolo Agona Azania. Zolo is from Gary, Indiana, where he lives now working a job and also doing reentry work with the formerly incarcerated and community service to break cycles of trauma. After seven and a half years in prison, from 18 to 25 where Zolo engaged in political education with members of the Black Panther Party from Indianapolis, he was released. In 1981 he was arrested, he was rearrested picked up by the Gary police while walking around the city after a bank robbery took place resulting in the death of a Gary police lieutenant. Because of his political views and circumstantially being on the streets. At that time, Zola was convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to death. Zolo beat that death penalty from within prison twice and blocked a third attempt by the State to impose it. For the hour Zolo talks about his life, his parents, his art, his education and time behind bars, his political development, the Republic of New Afrika and his legal struggle. To get in touch with Zolo you can email him at azaniazolo5@gmail.com or

Jumpstart Paralegal and Publishing
PO Box 64854
Gary, Indiana 46401

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself for the listeners?

Zolo: My name is Zolo Agona Azania. I am from Gary Indiana. I just was released from prison upon parole on April to six 2017 at the spending over 35 and a half years in prison.

TFSR: And what was your childhood like?

Zolo: My childhood was pretty much happy. I was born on a farm in a small town called New Magic, Missouri, on the Mississippi River. The town had a section called LaFord. And that’s where the farm was. My parents moved to Gary, Indiana when I was a little over two years old. And there I was raised and where I went to school

TFSR: Before you had said that, your parents moving you up there was a part of the mass migration. What were they might migrating from or migrating towards?

Zolo: Well, we lived in a poor rural area. It was in Missouri Valley where there was a lot of flooding. The levee was like our backyard. I liked it, but you disrupt the school. So there was many days during every year that school were disrupted because of the floods. My mother, she was an athlete when she went to school. And she told told us, the children, that she used to want to go to school so bad that her father used to set her on the side of the axle on the tractor and drive through the mud and water so she can get to dry land and get to school. So I said “that’s what I want to do! I want to go to schools!” “Oh, no, no, you got you can’t go.” So I really feel bad about that for a long time. So I just didn’t have any control over this. I just ran the streets and did what I wanted to do as a child growing up in the city. I became a country boy in the city. So I used to bring all kinds of stray animals home: lizards, snakes, frogs, stray dogs, every dog you can think of… cats! I really didn’t have any fear of dogs. And the first time I get in trouble was stealing two Doberman pincher puppies who had just freshly had their ears and tail clips.

TFSR: Did your parents let you keep the animals? Or was it just like “no no no bring them back!”

Zolo: Sometimes, sometimes. My mother was pretty much against it. She didn’t like female dogs, because they will have puppies. And she want puppies all over the place. So always had a female dog. I never hardly had a male. Always was a girl. But when my parents weren’t looking, I was sneaking dogs in the house. Or I would feed them by going into refrigerator and getting some hot dogs or something leftover. I would put in my pocket or somewhere and sneak it outside and feed it to animals.

TFSR: How far did you go in school? And what did you enjoy studying?

Zolo: I started out loving school completely. But I kept running into different roadblocks. I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out then. And by the fourth grade I wasn’t doing too well. I lost all interest in school. But my primary interest at the time was math, English, and art. I excelled in those things all through school, except for the other subjects. They went down. My English stayed up kind of high. My art stayed up high. But all the other subjects, they went down. I just didn’t do the work.

At a certain time, I was in… around about the fourth or fifth grade, someone came up with a new system of doing math. A new way of doing math. Matter of fact, the symbols had been changed. And they still use the symbols! The period for multiplication, the dot for decimals. The line with the dot over and above the line like a colon almost. But you had the division. Instead of writing the numbers on the top, you would draw a line and then do all the figuring on the side. So I had begin to learn that and I was getting pretty good at it. All of a sudden teacher came in one day and say “oh we don’t do that no more.” And I just like threw my hands up in the air and I just… I’m not trying. I’m not doing this no more. Math never recovered.

TFSR: Is that when they started doing long division?

Zolo: It was long division. And I’d liked it because I learned how to do it and just all of sudden just stopped. Saying “we don’t do that anymore, we going back to the old way.” I never recovered.

TFSR: I guess jumping forward a little bit. How did you find yourself incarcerated in the first place? Like how did you find yourself in prison?

Zolo: My father passed away when I was nine years old. I was real close to my father. He’s also a Korean War Veteran. Even though we were living in a city. My parents took me from rural Missouri. My father took me fishing with him all the time. So I was around water. I was in the woods. And we would sit there on the banks of the pond or river or the lake. And he would tell me to be quiet. He said fish can hear us. And if a bird flew by or some animal, he would like touch me or do his hand where he can catch my attention. Then he would just like point. My first time seeing a pelican in a wild, flying low over the water looking for a fish to scoop up. Wow!

It was fascinating to me, you know? And then he would tell me about the fish. Fish can think and they are smart. Sometimes the fish would learn how to nibble the bait off the hook without getting caught. And sometimes the fish would come up to the bank, past the lines we got in the water, and they would come up and look at us. He said “Well, let’s go. We are never catch anything today.” So I learned a lot from my father out there in the woods. So when my father passed away I didn’t have anybody to fill that void. So I would go on my own. And is my mother found out about it she would beat me to death because she was afraid that I would drown, because my grandfather drowned. My father’s father drowned fishing with another buddy. They were drinking and got drunk. Got to arguing. Somebody stood up in the boat. The boat flipped over. My grandfather could swim but he got trapped under the boat and couldn’t get out. Drowned.

So I ended up running the streets. I used to build go-karts. I used to do the things that person would do when he was in the woods. I had me a little hatchet. I used to go find somebody’s tree, little tree. I would chop it down and run. I stole… well I really didn’t.. I did steal them, but I was put up to do it by an older boy who I looked up to. I was about 12 years old. He was 14. And we he knew where some dogs were in the garage. And him and another boy came to me and said they wanted me to help them because they were too big. They couldn’t fit through the window. So they picked me up and put me through the window, say “wow! You can get through this window.” “No I can’t. Can’t nobody pick me up.” So it’s always an excuse. Chicken! So they kept calling me chicken. And so that was like peer pressure. So I bowed to the peer pressure. I climbed through the window, and I went and opened the doors. So now they’re telling me to go back in there and bring the dogs out. I said “Well I got the door open.” We were on some bikes. So I wouldn’t get the dogs out. And I was holding the two puppies while Jacobi was pedaling the bike, we rode away. Got away.

Well, we eventually got caught. So because of my age, and I had never been trouble before. Well, I never got caught… put like that. I didn’t have a record. The judge did not want to send me away, because they may have led me on the wrong path and it can be the beginning of a long cycle. So he put me on probation until I was 18. But I did not know I was on probation until I was 18. Well, I successfully completed probation. They kept giving me one chance after another. So by the time I did turn 18 I caught a felony case. It was a home invasion case. And I was sent to prison the first time on that charge in 1974. I was arrested in December 1972. I stayed in the county jail for 16 months, eventually pled guilty on that charge and that’s how went to prison the first time.

TFSR: So you were in for 16 months before you actually pled guilty. That was all like pre-trial.

Zolo: Yes that was all pre-trial stuff. You know, waiting to go a trial. I originally was going to have a jury trial. But my lawyer and my mother talked me in to pleading guilty.

TFSR: Was that a public defender?

Zolo: No I had a paid attorney. I had a private private counsel.

TFSR: They just figured that in front of a trial, a jury, you would get a harsher sentence?

Zolo: Yes. I was facing a life sentence.

TFSR: Wow.

Sorry to jump back and forth, but what sort of work was your mom doing during that time?

Zolo: Well, Mom did odd job that she could find. When my father passed away he had military benefits. He also had Social Security. My father also had several insurance policies. He would talk to me about them. He would be at the table. He always was reading and writing. So I wanted to read and write too. So I kept saying “I want to write!” But he would tell me “Go on, boy!”. But eventually, he came to me one day said “Come on, you gonna learn how to read and write.” So he started teaching me how to read and write at home. And when I didn’t follow instructions, or was slow picking up on it. He hit that belt. Right across my back. Oh!!! He said “That’s the answer! You didn’t answer the first time. You know what it is. What is this answer?” “That’s an A. “And what is this?” “That’s a B.” “And what is this?” “That’s a C.” And I had to keep going, and then he took the paper away. And they made me say them without looking at the paper. And here come that belt. WHAP! I ended up learning how to read and write.

I was doing pretty good at home. I was always told I was smart. And when I started school, I was one of the students who already knew how to write. I knew how to write my name. I knew how to count to ten in kindergarten. By the time I was in the first grade I knew how to count to 100. I was the first student in my class to count to 100. I knew how to tell time. This means a minute, this is five minutes. And it’s divided in five minutes around the clock. Every every five minutes there’s another five minutes added. So that’s how you tell time. Well, so I did that while I was in the kindergarten. We had a little mechanical clock, like where you can see the gears turning. And the teacher might say, “put one o’clock.” I put the hand on one o’clock. “Good!” You know, some students, they just couldn’t get it. So I thought that I was a little better than others because I knew something that they didn’t know.

Well, my father passed away. All that stopped. Because I didn’t have anyone at home to help with homework. I didn’t have anyone at home to teach me anything or help me with my school. My mother didn’t do it. She said that she did not know about this new math and she didn’t know a lot how they were doing things at the time. This was in the 60s. So I was just on my own. And my mother did not show the interest in school that I expected her. Even though I still held on to my art, my mother would discourage me from drawing. She said “you always want to focus on your art, on that art, on that art. You just keep harping on that art and your grades is going down. It’s more to school than art.” So I resented that. So I just stopped drawing from for a long time.

Till one day, I was looking at a magazine and it had a picture with Abraham Lincoln. And if you draw this picture you can win a prize. So I drew the picture and sent it in. I won the prize! But the prize was to go to art school. To take the art correspondence course. Matter of fact, from the Art Institute of Chicago. And the art Institute of Chicago sent a representative to my house after I had won and found that I was too young you had to be at least 14 and I was 12 or 13. I was somewhere around there. But I wasn’t old enough. They said well since you did such a good job. And I showed the representative the other drawings that I had in the house. They said they going to give me a waiver. They said that I was good enough to do it. So they let me start taking a correspondence course. We put the papers out and my mother started paying for it. But I ended up running the streets now. On my own I’m losing interest in art. So I start running the streets. I ended up going to prison. So while I was in prison, I said “I’m just gonna finish my art course.” So I wrote a letter to my mother and told her to send my drawing board and my pencils and the equipment that was given to us from the school.

TFSR: And she sent it to me. I wrote a letter to the to the school and said that I would like to finish my course. They said that I owed them 200 and something dollars. I did not know that my mother has stopped paying the tuition. Well, I was convicted 1974. But I was arrested at 72. December 1972 to April 1974. And then I was sent to prison. They counted my jail time in county jail towards my sentences. So, while I was there I met a man we call Rooster. He was a Picasso to the penitentiary. Picasso was a famous Spanish artist.

Zolo: He did his rendition of the Mona Lisa. He did what you call abstract and surreal art. And so I began to do surreal art. Surreal art would be like, if you would draw a forest, and the forest is there, but in the middle of that forest is a giant owl. But the owl is like it’s superimposed on the forest. Then it may be a clock where the owl is looking at a clock. And that would be surreal. Most of my art, if you look at my art… it’s done that way.

TFSR: Yeah, I’ve heard it described that surreal art is a lot of reaching into into your dreams, sort of, and looking for imagery there and then bringing that out, just sort of trying to help people make that connection between what their brain… not their logical rational, awake brain tells them but what their inside mind and body tell them and make that connection.

Zolo: Yes. Yes. That too! Salvador Dali did a lot of painting like that. I think he did the one with the clock. The clock looked like it was melting. That’s surreal.

TFSR: And you were able to get that equipment sent in and work on it in?

Zolo: Yes. So I really honed my skills while I was in prison. But during that same period of time, I had begin to do systematic political study. Reading and study of what was taking place on the streets. And people that was being arrested and coming into prison who was politically active on the streets. That’s what that was like beginning to be the majority of the population. Who had influenced in the population? These prisoners. So I gravitated towards people like that. And that that is how I began to get be re-educated.

TFSR: Last night you shared a little bit about that process of how you got involved with people that were doing this thinking and this talking and they held like an air of respectability. Even even the staff recognized it. Can you talk about those people and how that brought you into the study group that you’re in?

Zolo: Yes. Children are psychologically… physically and psychologically insecure. So children form groups as protection. They play together in small and large groups. I was a young man, I was a teenager, I was 19 years old when I came in the prison door. So I gravitated towards other young people like myself. And we ran together. And we protected one another. But I used to see certain prisoners walk by themselves, they didn’t run in a crowd, but they still had protection and respect that I was striving to get or earn for myself. And the rest of people in my group, the same thing. So I said, that’s how I want to be. Well, I eventually was able to get to know some of those people. And they spent time with me just like William Turner, we call him Rooster, who taught me how to paint and the concepts that he painted. Hugh Lions, we call him Mwatha ▪. He was an expert dialectician. So he taught me about dialectics and the study of the contradictions inherent in things. Makau ▪ he was a martial artist and he exercise all the time. So I learned some self defense techniques from him. I also learned about George Jackson because he was trying to imitate and practice some of the things that George Jackson wrote about in his book. And that was the beginnings of my reeducation and driving the role of political consciousness.

(▪: Mwatha and Makau’s names are informed guesses at a correct spelling. If we find we’ve spelled these elders names wrong, we will correct this -Editor)

TFSR: Was it difficult to get the materials to study in the study group? and who all was participating in it? Like what kind of prisoners?

Zolo: Oh, yes. At that time it was hard getting that material into the prison. Because the prison saw it as a threat to security. They always say it was a threat to security. But even still, during that period of time, them books seemed to find their way in prison. And it was now allowed in. But you have people in prison who had a thirst for knowledge, who had a thirst for reading and learning, unlike what it is today. Well, it’s still around today, but not as it was then. Everyone wanted to know something. Everyone wants to learn about something. And during that time, throughout the whole country, because I read an article in Ebony magazine where different prisons would highlight where they have Black culture programs. We even has a Black study class that we had attended. And it grew. A Black study class was a non accredited class. You weren’t forced to go to it, but you volunteer, but you couldn’t get any credit for it. For attending the class. We were not interested in that. We was interested in being able to study and learn. And a lot of prisoners had that type of attitude. It was expected when you come to prison. One of the slang terms we used to use was “carry you sponge with you.” Because sponges absorbed water. So we want to absorb the knowledge that was in the book. Yeah, a sponge.

TFSR: Those two older gentlemen that you mentioned who were running the study group were members of the Black Panther Party.

Zolo: Yes. They were members of the Indianapolis chapter. Indianapolis had a pretty good, well organized chapter. Some chapters was not as well organized, some were corrupt – and basically was counter revolutionary. You know, they were just Panthers in name only. But Indianapolis was actually practicing the 10 Point program expound. On the leadership of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. And COINTELPRO played a part in its destruction also. But in the process, the people that was sent to prison who was members of the Black Panther Party, they kept it going while they was in prison. So I became one of their students. And in some kind of way it came out that I was a member of the Black Panther Party. And I saw it on the internet myself. And some people had mentioned it to somebody else, and it got back to me. I’m like “No, I was never a member of the Black Panther Party.” I was a student of members of the Black Panther Party.

TFSR: Would you have been a member? Would you have joined?

Zolo: I would have been probably, I probably would have been. If the party had kept going I probably would have been, yes.

TFSR: Okay, so you’re arrested 1972… 16 months. By 1974 you are imprisoned. When did you get out?

Zolo: I got out July 8 1980.

TFSR: And can you say anything about your political involvement after that point?

Zolo: Well, after I was released from prison in 1980, I did seven and a half years. I immediately sought to put into practice the things I’ve learned. The new things I’ve learned while I was in prison to make a difference within the community. But I was not interested in walking on anybody’s picket line. I was not interested in anything non violent if violence is being practiced against me. Now, if it was no violence practice against me, then I practice no violence against anyone else. I was peaceful with those who were peaceful with me. But I did not turn the other cheek for anybody who tried to put their hands on me.

TFSR: Those those words seemed to me to reflect Malcolm X’s sentiments.

Zolo: Yes, that includes the police and anybody else.

TFSR: You were incarcerated again after that. What were the circumstances around your rearrest and what was your sentence?

Zolo: Well, I was accused of bank robbery and murder of a Gary Lieutenant police officer. And I was facing the death penalty. I was never identified in the case. No one ever said. “That’s the man right there. That’s him.” That was never done. It was circumstantial evidence about the color clothes I was wearing. Where I allegedly ran. Where I allegedly tried to hide certain things in bushes. Running through people’s yards and stuff like that. So even though even though the police officer wasn’t sure. I was the only person on the streets at that time. No one else was standing around. So the police obviously grabbed me and threw me in the backseat of a car, handcuffed me, and took me down to the police station. So they never arrested anyone. Well they had arrested some other people. But it was after that I was in jail.

TFSR: Did the police or the court accused you of being affiliated with any organization?

Zolo: Well, at that time, they did not know who I was. They just thought was just some random person who was accused of a crime. But after they found out who I was. That’s when the sensationalization began to be published in a newspaper. Printed on the newspaper. Because I openly declared my citizenship as a conscious citizen of the Republican New Afrika. And they consider the Republican New Afrika a terrorist fringe group, as they called it. So for that reason, I was singled out and made to be the leader of this bank robbery and murder of a police officer.

TFSR: Can we talk for a minute about the Republic of New Afrika? Because I’m very basically familiar having read some articles online with the concept. And I’ve read that the Cooperation Jackson, for instance, down in Mississippi was a project that had its roots in centuries of resistance to oppression of Black folks, but in particular, folks who identified with the Republic of New Afrika attempting to create an actual physical land that could be incorporated into that wider project. Can you say for listeners, where that idea came from? What it constituted and what sort of folks who are engaged in the project of New Afrika?

Zolo: Yes, absolutely. That that was not a new concept. It was something that as a consequence of the slave war, and the slave trade of African people brought to this country. Most were concentrated in the southeast United States. And in some of those areas, the captive slaves were a majority in those places. There were all Black counties, they were all Black areas. In the 1930s, and 40s, the Communist Party USA financed a study. So a man named Harry Hayward who was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World as well as of the Communist Party USA, and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. He was a member of the Abraham Lincoln brigade, where Harry Haywood went to the South, the southeast, and he did a systematic study and wrote about the Black Belt. It was called the Black belt, and how the people in those areas who were members of different tribes, originally fused together as one people.

TFSR: Do you mean like folks who came from ancestors of different parts of Africa who were stolen here? Or do you mean indigenous tribes that were living in that area?

Zolo: Well, both. Well, first, for example, you had the Igbo people. You had the Fulani people. These are different tribes. You had the Mandingo people, you had the Zulus, you had the Makoshas, you had the Ankahs. You had different types of different tribes. And even though the indigenous people were there also, over a period of time, there was a fusion and an intermingling, as well as an interbreeding. And those people became one people. Some of the slaves even join different indigenous tribes, and they were accepted as members of the tribe. And so these people became known as New Afrikans. New in the sense that we haven’t uprooted from a country and brought to another but we did not change who we were. We were still African people who was living in another country and we brought our culture and some of our words with us. And those words, some still survived to this day. Such as the word banana – that comes from the Wolof people. You see what else? Goober for peanuts. So there’s a lot of words that’s in the English lexicon now that comes from African words.

TFSR: And that was brought over by the populations that were disinterred from Africa, not just through European interrelation with North African and with the astronomers and mathematicians and scientists that were in Africa, but specifically brought over by the transatlantic slave trade.

Zolo: Yes. Now, even though what you just got to saying, that took place also. It was not as widespread as what the effect of the Atlantic slave trade had on the indigenous population, as well as people of African ancestry, African descent, who were uprooted from their country. Primarily on the west and southwest coast of Africa and were brought here to the United States, what became later known as the United States.

TFSR: So among the people that use the term New Afrikan, because I’m sure there are a lot of people that don’t, who are of African descent, is that project, that nation, or… well not that nation because a nation doesn’t need a State attached to it, or a border necessarily. A nation as a constituent of the people that are engaged in it. But that term, that phrase, that identity continues to be used is an amalgamated landmass that is self determining, still a project of people that are identifying as New Afrikan?

Zolo: Yes. There are villages there right to this day. For example, the Georgia and Carolina Islands. Where you have people who held on to many of their ancestral ways. They were called the Gullahs. They are trying, when I say they I’m talking about the State and federal government are trying to uproot those people and to take that land and turn it into vacation resorts and golf courses. So they’re still just trying to destroy a people’s culture. The country is the land. and the nation are the people. And we have a historical relationship to that land in the southeast United States that we called the Republican New Afrika

TFSR: I have read about the Ogeechee folks in South Georgia also who during slave times were were farming rice, out in the in the wetlands and whatever. But after the war, gained some autonomy before the federal government stepped back in and took the land and gave it back to the white landowners. So once law enforcement and your prosecutors found out your political affiliations and your ideas, I had heard you mentioned before that your face was plastered on the newspapers for five years.

Zolo: Yeah, for five years straight I was in a Gary Post Tribune everyday. Something was said about me every day. Eventually it started to fade a little. I would be in the paper – the court made a ruling on my case or if I filed some type of petition, they would say “He just filed a petition! He’s claiming this and claiming that.” Or my appeal would get denied… “Oh, appeal denied! Execution date will be set.” So it went on and on and on and on like that for the rest of the years I was in prison.

TFSR: So you were put onto death row. How long did you serve that and what sort of self defense were you able to muster during that time, like a legal self defense?

Zolo: I was on death row for a total of 27 years and three months. At that time, I did not have the right legal representation. The attorneys that I had were court appointed lawyers who did what they were told to do, and nothing more. And so they did not serve my interests of how I wanted to fight my case, or prove my defense. It wasn’t until Michael Dortch and Erica Thompson and John Stainthorp of the People’s Law Office. When they came and began to represent that my case received the attention that it deserved. And they brought up the political aspects of my case and show how was singled out because of my political beliefs and my political activities.

TFSR: So until that point, you didn’t have a support committee or anything like that on the outside or anyone agitating?

Zolo: No, no, I had no one. My mother, some members of my family, a few friends. I had support from prisoners. But we was prisoners can only do so much to help each other in that respect. But that was it.

TFSR: And the way that you’ve talked and not because I’ve read up on this, but it sounds like you’ve educated yourself very deeply in and the legal processes and in your own self defense, despite having lawyers that ended up joining your side. Would you have considered yourself a jailhouse lawyer? And what was that process like?

Zolo: Yeah, eventually happened. People have been recognizing my efforts, and I actually became a jailhouse lawyer. I didn’t plan it that way. I did what I thought was best for myself, because there was no one else to do it for me. And I was angry in that process, because I did not have the help. So I saw help from other people. So one day I got a letter from a man who was a quadriplegic. But he owned a nudist camp in Roseland, Indiana. His name was Richard Drost. I don’t recall his first name right now. He wrote me a long letter back and he couldn’t write with his hands, he had this machine that he talked into and it wrote a letter for him. So he sent me a long letter. In that letter, I’m reading waiting for him to say “I’ll help you.” I’m waiting for him to say that. But he just kept saying, in general to make it short, he said that the prosecutor got many cases. Yours is just one of them. But you only got one case, and you got 24 hours in a day to study. You have more time to work on your case than the prosecutor got to work against you. And he said “use your knowledge, learn the law, and fight and fight for your rights.”

I was so pissed off. I didn’t tear the letter up, I just folded it and threw it to the side. But I eventually was thinking. I said “Wow, he got a point there.” So I tried to read and study and learn something about the law. I just read anything. Give me a law book, regards what it is, I’m just reading it. I read aimlessly. Book. Law. Read it. Then I began to understand the concepts of the statutes and how they applied and the language that was used to explain these things about the law. I began to put certain things, books to the side, and now I’m looking for particular things about the law that concerned my case. And from there, I just learned about it.

TFSR: So you said it was 27 years that you were incarcerated in that stent. And so how were you able to get yourself off of death row? How were you able to overturn the conviction that would have sent you to, I assume, the electric chair?

Zolo: Well, I was given the death penalty twice. But I never stopped fighting. I did not fear speaking truth to power. I did not fear that it was going to kill me if I speak my mind. I did not fear that. For some reason or another, they conveyed that message to me that they feared people would listen to me. So I saw that as an opportunity for myself to organize, to use my case to organize. To use my case as an example of injustice. So I went back and forth from public presentation of my case, to the courtroom presentation of my case, even though the court was supposed to be public. It’s not really presented in such a way for the public to understand what’s going on.

So my theory and practice was to use the courtroom as a classroom, and to instruct people, not necessarily the judge or the prosecutor or the public defender system, but to instruct the people who were in the audience who was listening. Even though I had my back to them, and they was in the audience observing the trial, I spoke loud enough. And I explained things in common layman terms with every day common person would understand what I was saying. And I call it using the Dick Jane and Sally words. You know but of course they don’t like that. They like for you to use large words. They say “keep it simple.” That’s not what they actually mean. They say keep it simple? That means don’t overdo it. Not keep it simple, per se, or in actuality, not keep it simple. They want to keep it simple, then don’t use the Latin term. Don’t use then Greek terms or the or the language that the ancient Romans spoke. When they use words like that, they are trying to deceive the public.

Latin is dead language and they keep it alive through the legal court system. So I learned Latin. So when they was in there talking they will say things that I didn’t know what they were talking about it, but they were talking about me. What did he say? What does that mean? “Okay, your Honor. Okay. All right. That’s it. All right. Court Adjourned.” What happened?! I’m sitting, my heart beating fast. I didn’t know whats about to go on.. So I learned what the words meant. So when I learned what those words meant, I began to use them. And when I would be in trial and I’d get the opportunity to speak without the threat of the Bailiffs putting their hand on their pistol like they ready to shoot me and being gunned down in the courtroom, I would explain what that word means. Instead of using the actual word I would use the meaning. For example: Nunc Pro Tunc. Nunc Pro Tunc means that something was done that was a mistake, that was not a fatal mistake where you couldn’t come back and correct it, that the judge made. So, if I’m having a Nunc Pro Tunc hearing and I’m trying to get something in the record concerning my defense that’s in my favor. I may use the word Nunc Pro Tunc but then after that I’m only using the definition. The judge made this mistake. The judge done this! The judge done that. The judge left this out. This mistake here was prejudicial to my defense. That’s when the judge did this. The judge…. that’s enough of that! But if I keep saying the word Nunc Pro Tunc then the audience wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

TFSR: When we first met, like in the library, and you were talking about studying these older cases and learning from them, you made a point of saying that learning the rules of how the court operates, but not basing your defense on those rules, necessarily. This seems like an example of that. Just sort of seeing how they operate and going your own way with an understanding of that, seems like a really smart approach, but also something that a lot of people would be hampered by. They would see the rules and they would say “I got to color within these lines” as opposed to “I see what those rules are. I see what they expect. I have my own ideal of what I want to achieve out of this.”

Zolo: Yes. Correct. That’s accurate. It’s like playing pool. You know, a person can play pool, but they may do particular pool shot, and somebody may call it a trick shot. Well, in a sense it is a trick shot. But it has to do with skills, you are playing within a certain rules. But there’s no rule that says that the ball just can’t bounce up in the air, jump over another ball and hit another ball and the ball going to pocket. They didn’t figure that one out that a ball cannot come off the table, it cannot go over another ball and it can’t come down and hit another ball to knock it in a pocket. They didn’t say that. So person do a shot, or trick shot as they call it, and make his point and knock the ball in the pocket, corner pocket, side pocket or whatever. It’s all within the rules.

TFSR: It kind of reminds me of those stories of like, the devil comes down and somebody has an interaction with them. The devil challenges them to something and the way that they’re able to get around it. The danger is the devil is in the detail, right? Of what is said and what isn’t said contractually. But you are literally dealing with the devil when you’re going through this court circumstance. And so paying attention to the details and just saying, “Well, you didn’t you never said I couldn’t do that. And that’s not in the rules and say that I can’t do that. You never said that I couldn’t explain actually what the words mean to the jury and break it down for the people that are in the audience or talk loud enough so that they can understand what I’m saying as long as I’m not disrupting the court.” I think that’s super smart.

Zolo: That’s what I did.

TFSR: So you had that overturned. Or both of those overturned, you said, and those were consecutive?

Zolo: Yes. I got my death sentence overturned in 1993. That was the first time. But I have been fighting my case for like 12 or 13 years. And I basically the jury recommended the death penalty for the second time. So I get the death penalty in 1996 for the second time. I found my appeals. My appeals were denied, I went to the US Supreme Court. So I filed a successive petition, which is a special petition. You have to get permission to file one of them. Because effectively, my State appeals ran now. It was within the rules I can file another petition if I can show that an egregious violation of my due process rights has occurred, or been committed by the State or the court. So I filed one of those petitions because I had an all white jury. It came out later that the jury had been rigged against me. There were jury members, as well as some members of the court system itself, like the Jury Commissioner. And this came out through an investigative a reporter at one of the local newspapers had done. So I took the newspaper article, and I filed the petition and said “this is what happened to me within this period of time.”

So it took place between January or February of 1996 up to September 1996. It was taking place within there. So that’s when my trial was held. Within that particular frame when the jury was selected. Come to find out, I was one of those people that had a tainted that jury because of that reason. So now we have to go through what you call legal wrangling. I have to show that I was prejudiced, and my due process rights was violated as a member of a class. So that is how I was able to argue that I am a distinct member of particular class. And I use those same examples of the Black belt South. People uprooted from Africa during the Atlantic slave trade, supplanted over here, they came with their ways, and culture, in their heads and in their daily practices. And they applied them while they were here that did not change who they were. They were African people then, and African people now coming into a new awakening of themselves. At times we saw ourselves as different individual tribes and those tribal distinctions and conflicts have been blurred and diffused and we have become one people. Instead of one individual tribe, we are saying we are one New Afrikan nation. And this is what I did with my class argument, that I was singled out and prejudiced as a member of particular class, that New Afrikan class.

TFSR: So the court granted relief?

Zolo: Yes, they granted relief and overturned my death sentence for the second time. And the judge threw the whole case out. I got special judge, he threw the whole case out. This this judge was a judge advocate or jag as they call it. He was a colonel in the Army Reserve. And Steve David was a civic judge. He encouraged young people, he would have field trips to court and he would teach young children about their civic duty and how the court system worked. And so we had a fast and speedy trial argument. It took three years for them to try me. And I had been fighting the case for that period of time. So we found a petition to dismiss the case for violation of my rights because witnesses died, evidence that I needed to prove my issues was gone. I couldn’t get it back because of the delay caused by the State. Well, the judge agreed and threw it out.

Well, the US Supreme Court didn’t like that. Some kind of way he got reactivated and was called to active duty. And he was given the task of organizing a legal legal defenses for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. And cut the US Supreme Court had ruled that Guantanamo Bay prisoners had the right to file Habeas Corpus petitions challenging their detention. Well, Steve David was treated like a criminal. Let him say it when he came back. They were successful to a degree but he had been accused of being sympathetic with terrorists. He had been accused of covering up for terrorists. So he he came back to give a speech about his experience of organizing the defense, for the organizing the attorneys for the defense. He was like the head public defender, for example. And he had maybe 50 deputy public defenders and he assigned to what cases was what. That was his job to coordinate the defenses for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

My attorney, one of my attorneys told me they had went to the conference that was sponsored by…. I can’t remember… it wasn’t the American Bar Association. It was sponsored by some other group in Indiana down in Indianapolis area. And Steve David said “now I know how it feels to be on the other side.” So he turned his back to the audience and he had a target stuck to the back of his suit coat. And he turned around the audience got it, that he became a target. And well, anyway, Indiana Supreme Court, in spite of all that reinstated the death penalty charges, saying that the State can retry me for the third time, and that I was the one. The defendant was the one causing most delays by appealing. [laughing] If I didn’t appeal, I would have been dead. What do you mean I caused most of the delays by appealing?! What is it saying?!

TFSR: I’m sorry court? Yeah, that’s terrible. I’m sorry. Also, it’s in the rule-book. So you got to do these things. You even had to go through a special appeal to be able to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision.

Zolo: Yes, they allowed it in. Yeah. But they didn’t figure that I would go file to dismiss the charges for delaying trying me within a year, they had one year to retry me.

TFSR: So they blamed you for not getting a speedy trial.

Zolo: Over three years. It took over three years to retry me. And then while we was picking the jury for the third time, the Attorney General quit the case. Let’s say they don’t want to go to trial. So they brought me a deal, in which I didn’t have to plead guilty to anything. I just refused to plead guilty. I refused to recognize the legitimacy of the court to even try me on this case. And they have been caught so many times cheating, violating their own rules, in the worst way. By plenty evidence, I still got this information. I brought it home with me. They planted evidence they falsified the ballistic tests, firearm examiner, they suppressed evidence to show that never fired a handgun, a paraffin gunshot residue tests. We also hired our own experts. We hired a ex Indiana State Police officer to analyze our gunshot residue tests. He ended up being ostracized by the Indiana State Police and Attorney General and the governor and the court system. We also hired an ex FBI agent to testify for the defense. And everything was… I proved everything. The people who came forward to help me they said was a conflict of interest, because a law enforcement officer was killed. I don’t think so. I think that these people should be commended for coming forward to speak then tell him the truth.

TFSR: Yeah. I mean, so the professionalization of expertise means that people that are experts in this sort of thing are going to get called before court, are going to become law enforcement officers or develop this expertise. Yeah, that’s absolutely ridiculous. That would basically just cut you off at the knees for getting any sort of expert witnesses to talk about the things that they became experts in because they were law enforcement officers. Yes.

Zolo: So there was a conflict of interest.

TFSR: That says a lot about how like…

Zolo: “You are not supposed to be on their side!!! You are supposed to be on our side!”

TFSR: Look at the uniform. Yeah, that says a lot about the the fairness and if they didn’t want people in Guantanamo to be able to challenge their own incarceration, then they don’t really believe in a fair legal system, where everyone gets advocacy to make logical arguments and a fair trial can occur and someone can get convicted or found innocent based on the evidence and based on the argumentation, right?

Zolo: Yes, that’s right. Yeah, that’s correct. You know, and that’s what they don’t want us to do. And now judges, the judges, I want some more. Because at the time the prosecutor quit the case was in October 2008. I think it was October 16 or October 18. I don’t recall the exact date. I think it was October 17. That’s what I think he was. I’m pretty sure of that. Well, the audience cheered. YAY! People was embracing me. My lawyers was embracing me, everybody was happy. While I was embracing one of my attorneys, I kept feeling this tap on my shoulder. So I’m thinking there is somebody else saying “give me a hug”. So I turned around and it was a judge. So I stop. The judge had came off the bench. And then he told me, he said “Oh, congratulations. Enjoy yourself going fishing.” Because I had talked about how I like to fish and he shook my hand. I though he will try to hug me. [laughs] So that was one hell of an experience for me. So then the Attorney General and the prosecutor. The county prosecutor and the State Attorney General, they said that I was intelligent and a formidable force.

TFSR: That’s probably about the nicest thing they’re gonna say.

Zolo: No, so that made us say… “okay, yeah”

TFSR: So that brings us up to 2017.

Zolo: Yeah, yes.

TFSR: I guess can you talk about what the process was like getting out? Who was waiting for you on the outside? Was there anyone waiting for you on the outside? What sort of resources did the State give you as someone they were releasing into the public? And were you coming straight from death row, just into the wider outside world?

Zolo: No, I was released from death row into the general prison population. And I did almost another 10 years in the population. I was released January 30 2009, where I was sent to RDC, the Reception Diagnostic Center. And from there, they assigned me to a prison. And I did. Then was released in 2017.

TFSR: What was what was being released like?

Zolo: When I was released from death row, it was almost like going home. It was like, this is a freedom. I got freedom. And I was treated altogether different. While I was on death row everything was a heightened security. Something’s going to happen any moment now. I was handcuffed and shackled everywhere I went. And when I got to the general population, I kept creeping in my mind that I was tempted to turn around to put my hands behind me when I saw a guard thinking that I was supposed to be handcuffed. But I caught myself. I didn’t go all the way through with it. But I had talked to other people who had been on death row with me, who had been released over the years. It was like internal organization between us. And when we see one another, we would gravitate to another one another and we ended up talking about what happened when they left, when you left, so and so eventually get executed. When you left so and so came and they put him in the cell that you was in. Some new person, he’s charged with this, charged with that. We were talking about things like that. Oh, I’d saw when you left I’d say I gotta get out of here too.

We would talk this way among ourselves. But one person who had began to slip mentally, he began to lose his mind a little bit. He was becoming more and more irrational. He finally made it to general population, but because of his mental illness it was unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court ruled to execute the mentally ill. So he made it to population and I saw him coming over to me. He began to walk, he would walk like this, scratching his chest, but he would walk like you take those little steps like he’s walking on hot coals, you know. And he came to me one day when I was in the mess hall. And I saw him coming over to me, I didn’t know what to expect and he came over and he smiled. To let me know he recognized me. And he bent down to my ear, and he said “You are a prime example of what consistency and tenacity is.”

TFSR: That’s an awesome thing to hear.

Zolo: That’s what he said. He was supposed to be mentally ill. But he had a moment of clarity and said that when he saw me. People was thinking I was crazy. Because that’s how I did. I had obsession with my case. All I talked about every day was something about the law, something about our rights, about going home someday. Didn’t know when and didn’t have a clue. Couldn’t even see daylight at the end of the tunnel nowhere. I’ve always had that in the forefront of my mind that I was going to get out of prison. I was determined to get out of prison. Not just to get off a death row, I wanted to get out of prison, I want to go home. I saw mistakes that I had made, politically speaking, that I can do good. I can do something to help people. And to be a contribution not only to the community, but to the world.

I had begin to receive more and more attention in my case. In the process of preparing for the third death penalty trial, my attorneys and I filed a petition to the to the Organization of American States, requesting them to intervene on my behalf because of the human rights violations that’s taking place. The State tried to oppose it by saying this is the common criminal trial had nothing to do with human rights. But we knocked that down because the US Constitution is a human rights charter. So you saying the US Constitution is no good means nothing? So basically, we compromised that they would drop their arguments about terrorism and did I was a member of the Republic of New Afrika or some other terrorist group. And that I would drop my petition to the Organization of American States.

And this is during the same process of picking the jury for the third trial. And during that time, they just quit the case. I was released into the general population. I got in school. I was able to fight my case the rest of the way through federal court. So in 2015, the US Supreme Court denied my petition for Writ of Certiorari saying I did not present any issues for them to review. So I just only had two more years to do. So I just use that time to prepare for my reentry.

TFSR: That reentry process, you’ve already said how it affected, at least going from death row, which is hyper security and keeping people segregated from each other and probably a lack of contact and how difficult it was transitioning from that into the wider prison population. And I would imagine it was very difficult when you got reentry into the wider non prison or whatever you want to say… outside of the prison walls. Getting used to having wide open spaces and getting used to having less restrictions on motion and also more responsibilities. Meals weren’t just provided that you had to find means to get those and also with being hampered around having a felony on your record.

I think it’s really fascinating and really awesome that not only you mentioned having this focus when you’re inside on your case, but also on helping other people and getting home and getting free. And that seems where a lot of your life has been directed. And now that you’re out, getting involved in and helping to coordinate service towards the community to end cycles of violence and help folks acclimatized themselves back into wider communities outside of behind bars. Can you talk about some of that work that you do in Gary?

Zolo: Yes, my primary interest is the cause of crime. It’s not as simple as saying, people are part of their environment. Poverty leads a person to steal and rob. That’s true also. But that’s not the answer of that particular problem. There’s something else involved. And it deals with the way people think. Their thought process. The way a person thinks is the way they act. And the system of capitalism is an immoral system and it reached reached his peak with the African Atlantic slave trade. That was the peak of capitalism, where the exploitation of people’s labor is stolen from them. And a person’s labor is not used for their own benefit to earn a decent wage or a livelihood. That was exploitation of their labor and those people who are totally exploited and their resources was used to benefit someone else and something else, at the detriment of the workers themselves.

And that was the highest level of capitalism at that time, which was imperialism. And after that, there was no other capitalism left. But there was people who made so much money, they had to figure out another way to keep this going. So they come up with the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment of the US Constitution says in part, that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist in the United States, except as a punishment for crime. Now they got slaves again. Now they have to come up with a way to keep people coming in prison. So it’s a long range…. what word am I trying to find to describe their… long range con game. To trick and manipulate people to do what the status quo want them to do and who will keep a semi line of people fed into the prison machinery.

TFSR: I’m pulling back from times of like either conversations that we’ve had or times that you’ve spoken here about a sort of elder status, and taking care of younger people in the community, people you’ve viewed as children, not being afraid of your children but working with your children to help to sort of foster them in a very father-like manner. What sort of programs to help to undercut the pipeline into prisons in your community do you engage with? What does that look like and how are you changing minds and trying to open eyes and help people realize the tools that they already have?

Zolo: My daily activity is to practice what I preach. I walk that walk. But I recognize children, as human beings. I recognize other people as human beings. I recognize all people first as human beings and I treat them as such. Children are not given the respect that they should have as human beings. They are seen as someone who is insignificant. Do what you’re told. Stay out the way, go play. But I show the children that you are important. And you are important, not only because you are you, but you are important to the wider community. You have a say so in this community. What you say and do affects this community, if things are not going so well, you can do something about changing that. And I would give them examples. I also go into the schools and talk to the children.

Myself and Benny Muhammad in Gary, Indiana, we formed the Reentry Circle. The Reentry Circle is a transitional support group. Transitional in the sense of people coming out of prison and have somewhere to go to talk and seek support. Right now we don’t have a budget. We are operating out of our own pockets. But we are growing. So it’s not always having money to throw money at a problem. We are prime examples, living examples of that. We are doing things that we don’t even have a lot of money to do. So why do the city administration or the county, why they cannot be doing the same things? And they got the funds in the budget and the means to do it.

So we educate the people that way. Showing that they don’t have an interest in lowering the crime rate. They don’t have an interest in helping you to stay in school and obtain education. For your benefit, education for you to benefit and learn and to work and earn and live a happy life. They want you to be a brainwashed robot, conditioned to maintain the status quo. To keep things the way they are. Not for change, but to keep the money flowing. So if you commit a crime and you go to prison, and that somebody is paying for that somebody is and when and when somebody lose some money, like taxpayers, that means somebody is gaining the money. The money wasn’t just lost and blew away in the wind. The money went in somebody’s bank account. And the people whose bank account that is going into are those who runs and maintains the status quo. The State. The State consists of, not some mythical being somewhere behind the corner, the State is a combination of police officers, executives, the news media, the corporate industrial complex, and the legislators who make the laws, and the judges and prosecutors who enforce those laws. Those people together are the State. So the State doesn’t have an interest. And youth centers and the youth being able to have a voice and a say so and what happens to them.

This is how I tried to influence the young people to become better and become to take the initiative to do something about what’s going on. Martin Luther King was 26 years old when he led the Montgomery bus boycott. And when I tell people, I’m talking to young adults in their early 20s, and 30s. And I tell them that, they start to relate, now they can relate to Martin Luther King [JR], because he was a young man like them, but he was mature. And he was doing something positive and constructive. I said you can do the same thing. And I try to build up their confidence. I say “I’m not gonna tell you what to do. I’m not gonna tell you what not to do. But I’m gonna give you advice on what, from my experience what is best.” And what I say to you is the same things I’m doing myself. I say now “you’re the leader. And you lead by example. You don’t lead by sitting back somewhere in an armchair giving somebody orders to go do this and go do that.” That’s not a leader. That’s a dictator.

Those are the type of people who maintain the status quo to keep things the way they are. Who closes the schools and build and build some prisons, and then take people who are able to obtain education, and then put them in a prison that they just built at right after school just got closed down. You have to be able to learn to decipher the truth from the trick. What is the truth? And what is the trick? Closing the school down and saying that the school is not making money because there’s not enough students enrolled in the school is a contradiction by saying that the classes are too overcrowded. And the teachers can’t teach and focus attention on the class, on the students, because they have too many students. So once now you don’t have that many students and now they are saying they want to close the schools down because you don’t have enough students. Wait a minute, that don’t make no sense. But they don’t want you to think that way and be able to see what they’re doing.

It’s no different than the way the status quo is maintained. It’s no different than the mythical fantasy movie Wizard of Oz. Because once the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, and Dorothy realized that the man behind the curtain was a human being just like they were, pulling those levers, was not all powerful, and could not be taking out of that position. The main tenets of the status quo, the representatives of the State, they are the Wizard of Oz. They are pulling the levers behind the curtains. Once you pull back that curtain, they are exposed, and people can see. And once the people see the people know what to do. You know what to do. What it takes to get things right for your own community.

TFSR: And I guess I want to ask one more question. So the way that capitalism and racialized capitalism operates in our society creates trauma, and the trauma especially impacts the communities that are on the bottom of the social hierarchy and society. So groups that are racialized as Black or brown or indigenous, queer and trans folks, femme folks, women all bear the brunt of and especially like poor folks, and a lot of that overlaps, bear the brunt of trying to survive, trying to thrive and also dealing with the traumas that they interact with by being over policed, by not having subsistence, by getting public services cut, by having their families broken up generationally, by incarceration by prisons. Can you talk about what community organizing looks like and trying to break that cycle of trauma and help people realize what those traumas are?

Zolo: First, we have to work from a premise of human rights. We must keep human rights in the forefront of the struggle in whatever we’re doing. Whatever facet of society, whatever group, friends group, marginalized group, we must keep human rights in the forefront. Whatever it is, we must first say “what are we talking about?” We are talking about human rights. So can we talk about human beings? So human beings. What are human rights? Human rights are the rights that a human being is born with on this earth. So we’re talking about a person’s sexual orientation? That’s their business. If that’s what they want to do, that’s their right. That’s their human right now. I’m straight. I don’t go that way. But somebody else does. So that’s on them. I still respect them as a human being. We’re dealing with a human being.

How was slavery justified? Well, first they had to justify by saying that these people are not human. So we can treat them this way. We can deprive them of the status of a human being by saying that they are three fifths human. Probably human? A little bit. But they’re not all the way human. They are like a beast. They’re like the animals. They don’t deserve the same respect. But it wasn’t until people start expressing their humanity, individually and collectively. You have many individual resistance where people struck back because of their humanity. You have had countless examples. But you also had collective actions, where people organized to express their humanity, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, of 1955. You can go on and on and on, of different examples of people expressing their humanity.

George Jackson, he was a prisoner True enough, as defined by the 13th Amendment, United States Constitution. But he was a human being. You see, they say as slavery itself, a person has been convicted or duly convicted in court of law, they didn’t say a human being. They want to avoid the word human being, because the people who represents the State, they consider themselves human. Those of us who are not part of the State, who are the poor and oppressed, we are considered some other people, some lesser people. They do not want to recognize us as human beings deserving of respect and recognition. That we should enjoy the right to live our lives the way we want and to raise and raise our children the way we want. That’s how genocides slips in. Keep human rights focused. If a person say I’m a trans prisoner, or I’m a queer, whatever you want to call themselves. I’m a human being and whatever anyone is doing to violate their rights to abuse them, you are abusing a human’s right. Keep human rights on the forefront. Human rights is got to be a front. That is up front. Always. Human rights.

TFSR: Well, I have kept you well into lunch. Thank you very much for having this conversation.

Zolo: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

TFSR: Before we end, is there any way that listeners who aren’t in Gary who can’t get involved in the organizing that you’re doing? Is there any a website or an email or anything where people can get in touch with you learn from what you’re doing? Or if they have some money and like what they see you doing and want to give a donation, Is there a way that they can get in touch with you all?

Zolo: Yes, well, it’s easy to get in touch with me on the internet. Just put my name in or say my name and it’ll come up. “Zolo Agona Azania Art”. You might say ”Zolo Agona Azania free from prison”. My name will come up and my information is there. My email is azaniazolo5@gmail.com – you can reach me there. Or you can also reach me at

Jumpstart Paralegal and Publishing
PO Box 64854
Gary, Indiana 46401

And you can reach me there also.

TFSR: And people can check out your art online?

Zolo: Yes, they can!

TFS: Thank you very much.

Zolo:You’re welcome.

Error451: #11 (CLOUD Act)

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A change of plans: instead of airing the interview with comrades in Yogyakarta about May Day repression of anarchists there, we’re including that in the radio show for next Sunday.  So, instead, kick back with this new issue of #Error451 !

The CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act) got passed by the U.S. Congress earlier this year and signed into law by President Trump.  It’s a revision of the 1986 Stored Communications Act.  Basically, it allows U.S. cops from local up to Federal to request data belonging to persons of interest that is stored on overseas servers from the private corporations or organizations storing it. If the U.S. executive makes an agreement with the foreign power where the data is stored, that power also gets a degree of access to the data of persons of interest to the overseas powers.  Basically, governments can more easily spy on folks around the world!

We talk a bit about the implications of the Act, how it came to pass and the types of practices and services folks can engage to help protect themselves from some of these government excesses.

Check out past episodes of Error451 and hit us up if you have ideas for segments or guests you’d like to hear from.  Check out our contact page!

featured track: “Bob Ross remixed by Symphony of Science’s John D. Boswell for PBS Digital Studios

J20 Court Updates + Perspectives on the SESTA-FOSTA

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In this week’s episode of The Final Straw Radio, we have three segments on two subjects. This week there’ll be no Sean Swain segment due to technical difficulties, but we hope to be hearing his clarion call towards dancing around the ashes of swivelization next week.

In part one, I spoke with Friday, a former J20 defendant and a supporter of the remaining 59 facing charges. We talk about the arrests, the case so far, what we saw come out of the first trial group in November of last year and the upcoming trail date set for April 17th, 2018. On Monday and Tuesday, April 2nd and 3rd there will be a call-in campaign for the for U.S. Attorney Liu to #DropJ20 and on Tuesday, April 10th there is a call for a day of solidarity with the J20 defendants. More info on that can be found in this episodes show notes or up at defendj20resistance.org alongside printable pdf’s plus ideas for solidarity actions alongside the #’s and scripts for the call-in campaign.

In part two of this episode, we’ll be airing a statement from episode 24 of the Hotwire. Here, you’ll hear LX, an anarchist and sex worker in the Midwest, where they’ll talk about their perspectives about the impacts of the laws, as well as views of recent struggles among strippers in NYC, NOLA & RVA, tools sex workers have made for themselves to share information, as well as words of encouragement for sex workers and ways that non-sex-workers can offer solidarity . You can find a full transcript of what LX has to say, alongside the rest of the Hotwire episode which we recommend giving a gander and listen, at their website.

Following LX’s breakdown of the law and some of the views around it, you’ll hear William Budington in the inaugural episode of season 2 of the occasionally weekly tech podcast from an anarchist perspective, #error451. William (a tech expert and trainer who is employed at the Electronic Frontier Foundation) breaks down the development of SESTA (which has been folded into the now-passed FOSTA (or Fight Online Sex Trafficking)) ACT, which awaits Trumps signature. The bills posed as anti-sex or human trafficking laws, however William argues, as do many groups who fight against sex trafficking in the U.S. plus consensual sex workers and their advocates, that FOSTA will hurt adults engaging in erotic services and drive them into the shadows where they in fact face more dangers, that FOSTA will take tools from their hands in keeping safer, and that even the US Department of Justice has warned that the Act will making finding and prosecuting actual human traffickers much, much harder.

Though there’ll be some overlap in what is said between William and LX, we wanted to keep the two presentations intact.

A few links that both folks mentioned to pay attention to include: Tits And Sass ; SWOP ; Tech Dirt #157 ; Strippers organizing in NOLA ; Desiree Alliance ; Survive The Club ; An informative IGD article we pulled some links from with MORE INFO.

A quick announcement about former black panther and political prisoner, Herman Bell. Herman has been in prison for 45 years for the killing of two police officers during his time with the Black Liberation Army. He has expressed remorse for the killings and family members of one dead cops has expressed that they want Herman released. He has been granted parole to be released on April 17th but there has been a pushback by the Policeman’s Benevolent Association in NY state and they’ve been backed by Mayor deBlasio and Governor Cuomo in attempting to block Herman’s release. If you want to help press back, you can:

Here are THREE THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW to keep the pressure on in support of Herman Bell::

  • CALL New York State Governor Cuomo’s Office NOW
    518-474-8390

  • EMAIL New York State Governor Cuomo’s Office
    https://www.governor.ny.gov/

    • Script for phone calls and emails:
      “Governor Cuomo, my name is __________and I am a resident of [New York State/other state/other country]. I support the Parole Board’s decision to release Herman Bell and urge you and the Board to stand by the decision. I also support the recent appointment of new Parole Board Commissioners, and the direction of the new parole regulations, which base release decisions more on who a person is today than on the nature of their crime committed years ago. Returning Herman to his friends and family will help the heal the many harms caused by crime and decades of incarceration. The Board’s decision was just, merciful and lawful, and it will benefit our communities and New York State as a whole.”

  • TWEET at Governor Cuomo: use the following sample tweet:
    “.@NYGovCuomo: stand by the Parole Board’s lawful & just decision to release Herman Bell. At 70 years old and after more than 40 years of incarceration, his release is overdue. #BringHermanHome.” 

Before we start, we want to share the great news that we can now be heard Mondays at 8pm on the airwaves of KRJF-LP on 92.3FM in Santa Rosa, California! Hella hello, buddies!! We also can be heard on air Sundays on WSFM-LP in Asheville (NC), Mondays on KWRK in Fairbanks (AK) and KWTF in Bodega Bay (CA), Tuesdays on KOWA-LP in Olympia (WA) and Sundays at WCRS in Columbus (OH). If you are hearing this show and want it up on your local airwaves, please consider visiting our website and clicking the Radio Broadcasting link for details and ideas about how you can make that happen. The more stations our free radio show airs on, the more people get to hear the voices we’re presenting.

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