Statement by Inside-Outside Alliance, June 2014
“Cause summer’s here and the time is right for dancin’ in the streets.”
‑‑Martha and the Vandallas, 1964
“Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fightin’ in the streets.”
–The Rolling Stones, 1968
We endorse the call out for a demonstration at the Durham jail on Friday June 13th and invite anyone to join us in filling the heavy June evening air with the sounds of drums, shakers, kazoos, pots, pans, whistles and anything that makes noise. It is right to rebel, and it is always right to show solidarity with those who rebel in creative and courageous ways. So, we will stand strong for targeted eco-activists and longterm anarchist prisoners, along with prisoners poised to strike at Polk C.I. (in Butner, NC) and, of course, prisoners in the Durham jail. Coinciding with international days of action in support of targeted radical environmental activists, we are taking the occasion of this lone Friday the 13th of 2014 to show support for the ongoing struggles of Durham jail prisoners and to register our disgust for the so-called protest rules introduced by Durham’s city council this winter.
Freedom Friday to fight repression
What do the cases of Marie Mason, Eric McDavid and other long-term eco-activist prisoners (see june11.org/) have in common with the situation faced by those organizing in the Durham jail against conditions and those on the outside in Durham who have been pulling back the curtain on police misconduct? Repression by state forces. This occurs and can be expected whenever there is a level of success and where official power deems that example must be snuffed out by any means necessary. To honor all prisoners in motion against their oppression, we must also fight what we face on the outside. To relight the flame of popular revolt, we must bring a good mix of Martha & the Vandallas and, if necessary,the Rolling Stones, as always we should.
Although we come in a festive mood to conjure images of a world without prisons and jails, cops, or borders, we also come in a militant mood, because Durham city council attempted this winter to straitjacket dissent and to sow the fear of resistance in the future. What more absurd thing could come from a council which in one breath in late January declares its ‘support’ of public dissent and in the other delivers its new rules of protest? The only thing more absurd is they are not new rules at all, but were only re-established after police actions and the council’s own missteps this winter.
While the fog of time may cloud some memories, it does not obscure the actual events of the winter and especially December 19, the night of the second of three vigil/demonstrations against the police. It was on that night that people, angry at the death of Jesus ‘Chuy’ Huerta and in support of his family, marched on the sidewalk to the police station in order for the family to erect a memorial, and kept to the sidewalk all the way back to CCB Plaza. Restraint and discipline were the order of the evening—and still this crowd, while dispersing, was attacked by the police, with riot cops teargassing and batoning anyone and everyone who stood in their way, and literally charging and attempting to arrest dispersed groups of young people for no reason whatsoever. City council covered for the cops’ incredible excesses that night by laying down rules for protest, specifically prohibiting night marches and the use of masks.
Interestingly, though not surprisingly, these rules were broken first not by anti-police radicals hellbent on justice, but by folks with presumably considerable disposable income at their disposal at a Mardi Gras celebration in March. Therefore, along with being a demonstration of solidarity with prisoners near and far, this noise demonstration is a clear and decisive “Piss off!” to Durham city council and its supporters. It is not time to make nice. As the poet T-Bone Slim said, “Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.” We say, whenever you are presented with restrictions on protests, the only way to respond is to protest. And, we call for one that celebrates our creativity and existing struggles and points a way toward a new world.
Environmental dead-endism and prison society
“To be honest, the world is at its limit…the air is constantly polluted…This jail is not for me.”
–inmate at Durham County Jail
It may be natural for one who follows the amplify voices blog, or keeps tabs on Inside-Outside Alliance to ask, ‘Why are you making a point to support ecological activists or long-term anarchist prisoners?’ A natural question, perhaps, but one borne more out of the logic of our enemies, and the enemies of freedom everywhere. It is our enemies who seek to divide, to keep our struggles apart. In fact, the mainstream, middle-class environmental movement, which in 40-plus years has created for itself a business if nothing else, shows the fatal weakness of such an approach. In its attempts to ostensibly address serious problems—climate change, pollution, endangered species and extinction.–this moribund movement rarely acknowledges that the economic system by which we are organized–capitalism–is itself an ecocidal system. We live on a sinking ship of a planet, and the only way off—save zombie apocalypse or divine intervention—is through radical thinking and radical action, the kind for which Marie Mason, Eric McDavid, and a number of others are being so severely punished.
Related to the city council’s so-called tolerance for dissent is the city’s cultivation of a label as being green and environmentally conscious, as it grabs for investment capital and burnishes its credentials as cool. Durham is full of environmentalists, and we, like so many cities, are nary the better for it. In a city largely being ‘redeveloped’ on the backs of the descendants of enslaved people and migrant laborers, and becoming more livable only by people with increasingly more money, ‘deep ecology’ is equated with individual actions such as riding one’s bicycle or ELF, composting or recycling, or with the enlightened policies of elected leaders and business elite, which result in something like the city’s monstrous embodiment of ‘green building,’ a symbol of both the bankrupt state of environmentalism and the city’s longtime marriage to white supremacy: The Durham Justice Center. A building which at every turn—even the bathrooms—heralds its energy use and sun-drenched corridors, but has less room inside its courtrooms for supporters and observers than the previous, still-standing courthouse. But what more would we expect from a building which only exists to criminalize and extract money from poor, mostly black and brown people? And whether they start out there before going to court or end up there, we must remember the next bed for a number of visitors to the “Justice Center” is a mat at the Durham County Jail.
It has been on such mats that a number of prisoners have awakened from the nightmare of existence, and sometimes dreamed of something new. That is why we endorse the noise demonstration June 13th. Just as anti-capitalist eco-warriors through their actions combat the logic of economic growth, we affirm that it’s not redevelopment or revitalization (a racial code word if there ever was one) that’s needed in Durham, it’s regeneration, nothing less than the creation of a free society. And regeneration can only come through a glorious interplay between struggle and participation, to make our dreams—not of condos and beer gardens for the few, but of bountiful gardens and beautiful music for all—a reality.
This is hell, nor are we out of it
“Rather, the jails, like the high schools, like the swollen cities, like the polluted rivers, like the congested traffic, like the TV, like slow or quick violence, are taken for granted as the nature of things.” –Paul Goodman, 1971
Death can come in so many ways, and pondering all the ways our sick world can kill us can nearly paralyze us, but perhaps the scariest thought of all is that we live on a dying planet, one that is increasingly becoming less capable to sustain human and other animal life. It is scary because it is true. Sabotaging the system—be it destroying genetically modified crops, shutting down a plant where chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing are produced, or any number of other actions—requires boldness, creativity, and an understanding that it may be necessary to destroy what we have in order to build something new. The activists behind bars who are remembered in actions and events around June 11 know that—in fact, they have lived it. They face long prison sentences, often on flimsy or manufactured evidence, or testimony by handsomely paid entrappers/informants. But there are also many in this city who recognize that the time for patience was never, and many of them are those left behind by the city’s planners—those in jail, or maybe headed toward it. Largely, these are black and brown youth, who have been ‘endangered species’ their whole lives, and for whom there actually are a ‘million ways to die’ in the city.’ Some of these youth were in the streets this winter, some of them will be the next time. All of them have the chance to be rebel workers/eco-warriors/freedom fighters in their own right.
We would like nothing better than to see the radical ecology movement to continue to learn and take initiative from those fighting for their survival in our cities, and those engaging in collective struggle from the inside, be it in a county jail or state or federal prison. An example to heed is that of West Virginia prisoners (and those outside in solidarity) resisting the state’s forced poisoning of them in the face of the coal slurry spill that despoiled the entire region’s water. Or, closer to home, the newly formed Brotherhood in N.C. prisons, as well as those coming together inside Durham jail. The slogan cannot be simply Earth First, because on a planet that’s dying it’s dying more quickly for some, and in this country, especially, it must be remembered that white supremacy and domination of the earth are two sides of the same coin.
One small but bold step. And open to leaps toward the liberation of humankind (and the rest of Earth, too)
“We were not able to choose the mess we have to live in – this collapse of a whole society – but we can choose our way out.” –C.L.R. James
We urge anyone and everyone to join us at the jail to bring the noise and break down the walls of isolation for those inside and outside. This event is important, and not just another thing to do on a calendar, because Durham prisoners want people there; because it raises awareness of repression against radical activists; and because it is a retort to Durham city council’s attempts to shoot down the people’s power to raise serious questions and contend for space. Regardless of our individual affinities, we as a group in Inside-Outside Alliance are not especially interested in defending or raising awareness about anarchists or eco-activists being targeted. Although we think it is important to fight repression and the attempted isolation of radical activists, it is not in general what we do. This is to take nothing at all away from or diminish the principles and boldness of activists who find themselves behind bars, but we think it’s necessary to make the following assertion: all prisoners are political prisoners. We support all prisoners in motion to assert their humanity. We think these inside struggles, and those outside against police terrorism, will continue to pop off in small and large cities. It is no coincidence that this is happening and will happen in places with some of the worst air and water quality and access to healthy food, and in places that are being rapidly re-developed for the benefit of the few.
Like Marie Mason, Eric McDavid and others, we believe that a defense of the wild is urgent and necessary, but we think it must be materially connected to the destruction of what in many ways is its opposite: the penal system of cops, courts, jails and prisons. And these struggles need to be firmly connected to even more struggles, so that we may find a way not to live a little better, but to truly live. We come today as a group and with others as a modest effort to find each other in the cauldron of public protest and link struggles in the cause for freedom. We urge you to join us.
— Inside-Outside Alliance, June 2014