“I think the protest on the 31st is an awesome idea. This jail is pretty messed up…It is as if it’s a game to them–‘I wonder how much time I can take from them today?’ It’s pathetic
.”–Durham jail prisoner
“Me and my cell mate will be looking for you all on New Year’s Eve.” –another Durham prisoner
Prisoners at Durham County Detention Center saw and heard demonstrators on New Year’s Eve, as dozens of people joined together to drum, chant, dance, and light up the night sky and show their solidarity with those locked up in Durham and around the world. Carrying signs and banners with messages such as “Outside to Inside: You are not forgotten,” “Prison: Slave Ships on Dry Land,” “(Love) for All Prison Rebels,” and “Happy New Year to All Humans,” the demonstrators continued their percussion, dancing and skateboarding for nearly two hours, bringing tidings of love and rage to three different sides of the jail, to facilitate maximum exposure to inmates. In addition to the steady and raucous noise made by drums, pie tins, kazoos, and other noisemakers, a number of paper lanterns were launched into the night sky at different points in the evening, making for a beautiful scene and an apt metaphor: the fire of freedom burns strongly inside and outside for as far as the eye can see–and beyond.
“It was awesome,” a first-time New Year’s Eve demonstrator said afterward. “Everyone had a lot of energy, and the drums are really loud.”
Not surprisingly, the demonstrators were scrutinized from the moment they congregated by sheriff’s deputies, Durham police, private security forces, and the two ‘undercover’ dogwalkers pictured here.
Given recent actions by police at Durham demonstrations, their reaction was relatively tame, though the constant photographing, filming and general surveillance should be seen as an attempt to intimidate and heighten the repression of any display of resistance. Nevertheless, the noise demonstration began at just after 7:30 p.m. and continued unabated until almost 9:30. The demo marked the third year in a row such a solidarity protest has occurred at the downtown Durham facility on New Year’s Eve. The protests coincide with others around the world, showing a unified hatred for prisons and the society that accepts them, as well as a recognition and support of the bold and creative self-activity of prisoners who daily attempt in little and huge ways to remake their/our world. Durham jail prisoners specifically have come together to try to repeal a ban on pencils in cells, as well as struggling against cutbacks in rec time, and arbitrary and brutal c.o. attacks.
Prisoners and demonstrators waved, signed messages and held their fists high, momentarily breaching the walls that seek to keep them apart. In keeping with the general mood of New Year’s Eve, the demonstration was festive and spirited, as many people wore party hats and funny glasses, and some marched, danced and skateboarded on the streets and sidewalks near the jail, before finally marching away in unison at the conclusion.
Another demonstrator, who had been to previous New Year’s Eve events, shared why she came out: “To give the people in jail something to know that they are not forgotten about, even on a night like that where everyone has their own thing going on.”
Although this same young person displays a healthy mix of impatience and persistence, commenting she hopes she doesn’t have to keep protesting the existence of jails, prisons, and other forms of unfreedom the rest of her life, she said the demo was serious–and fun: “I thought it seemed like people were enjoying themselves. It may have been almost too long, but that’s mostly because people were really enthusiastic.”