Empty the Cages: Former Political Prisoners Speak Out

empty-the-cages-flyer

https://www.facebook.com/events/754237618050159/

Join ABC and political prisoner support chapters across the continent in our annual panel discussion featuring former U.S. political prisoners:

Thursday October 13th
Doors open at 6:30pm
Speakers 7-9pm
Location: Whittier Community Center, 2900 Downing St.

Spanning generations of political struggle for liberation in the U.S., we are proud to help host this panel that will prove to be informative, inspirational and will help us build a stronger movement of support around resistance to repression by the State.

Speakers:
Sekou Kambui
Daniel McGowan
John Tucker
More TBA
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Sekou Kambui:
Sekou is a New Afrikan/Cherokee former political prisoner who survived 47 years of incarceration. Throughout the 1960’s, Sekou participated in the Civil Rights movement, organizing youth for participating in demonstrations and marches across Alabama, and providing security for meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Sekou became affiliated with the Black Panther Party in 1967 in Chicago and New York. While in Detroit, he became a member of the Republic of New Afrika, before returning to Birmingham. Back in Alabama, Sekou coordinated community organization activity with the Alabama Black Liberation Front, the Inmates for Action (IFA) Defense Committee and the Afro-American People’s Party in the mid 1970’s. Sekou was also a soldier in the Black Liberation Army (BLA) during these years before his capture.

In 1975, Sekou was falsely arrested and charged with the murder of two white men: a KKK official from Tuscaloosa and a multimillionaire oil man from Birmingham. There was absolutely no evidence against him, only coerced testimony from individuals who subsequently recanted their statements. The judge refused to allow the recanted statements to be stricken from Sekou’s record. He continued the fight throughout his time in Prison. On June 30th, 2014, Sekou was released on parole.
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Daniel McGowan:
Daniel is an environmental and social justice activist from New York City. He was charged in Federal court on counts of arson, property destruction and conspiracy, all relating to two actions in Oregon in 2001, claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). McGowan was facing a minimum of life in prison if convicted when he accepted a non-cooperation plea agreement. His arrest is part of what the US government dubbed Operation Backfire; a coordinated, multi-state sweep of over 15 activists by the federal government who have charged the individuals with practically every earth and animal liberation action in the Pacific Northwest left unsolved. Many have considered this round up indicative of the government’s ‘Green Scare’ focus which has activists being arrested and threatened with life in prison. Many of the charges, including Daniel’s, were for crimes whose statute of limitations were about to expire. Daniel was released from prison on December 11, 2012.
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John Tucker:
John was one of five antifascists arrested in May 2012, after an altercation between white supremacists and antifascists in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park that left ten injured fascists, three of which needed hospitalization. The case of the Tinley Park 5 received an overwhelming amount of public support. Despite the fact that the meeting was organized by violent white supremacist organizations including the National Socialist Movement, Council of Conservative Citizens, and Ku Klux Klan, the state showed their cozy relationship with white supremacy by refusing the accused antifascist activist bail or a plea deal comparable to any other criminal defendant in Cook County. In January 2013 the Tinley Park Five accepted a non-cooperating plea deal. John Tucker was released in February 2014. As of September 2014, all of the TP5 are released.
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Donations are encouraged, and will go towards the 6th Annual North American Anarchist Black Cross Conference.

If you can’t make it and would like to help cover travel costs for the panel and the conference, please donate here!
https://fundly.com/na-abc-conference?showsteps=1

We’ll see you there!

Resisting FBI Repression – A speaking tour with Leslie James Pickering

Leslie flyer

Join us Wednesday, September 14th at 6:30PM!
Tivoli Room 442 (1363 E. 9th Avenue)
https://www.facebook.com/events/114894128966233/

Over the last two decades, Leslie James Pickering has been a target of the FBI, accumulating a file over 30,000 pages long.

Beginning with his work as Spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front Press Office in the ’90s, Leslie has sustained two Joint Terrorism Task Force raids, several federal grand jury subpoenas, threats, infiltration and extensive surveillance.

This repression has continued through Leslie’s political prisoner support work and the founding of Buffalo’s radical bookstore, Burning Books. Between 2012 and 2014, the FBI used two informants in an attempt to paint Burning Books as a front to form a 9-person eco-terrorist cell and Leslie as its “mastermind sociopath.” See secret FBI files detailing this investigation for yourself and hear Leslie’s struggle to continue to be a voice for revolution in the face of decades of state repression.

 

December 7th: Ten years later

From Daniel McGowan 12/7/15:

Ten years ago today, I was finishing up stuffing holiday cards for my employer when 2 beefy men asked me if i was indeed, Daniel McGowan. Once I was handcuffed and being frog-marched through the office, I knew what it was about.

At the same time, 6 of my codefendants were getting arrested at the same time. Others were receiving grand jury subpoenas as well. Sadly, all the people arrested that day became cooperating witnesses save for William Rodgers, who I knew as’Avalon’, who took his life in a county jail on the Winter Solstice, two weeks after we were arrested.

Of course, other arrests followed in the months after that, with a handful of codefendants refusing to play the game. We came together in solidarity to fight the charges and reduce the potential sentence as much as possible. For that, I will always have gratitude to Jonathan Paul, Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher (though it would be disingenuous for me to not point out the latter two peoples’ identification with esoteric fascist movements currently).

I was bonded out of jail, fought my case on house arrest for a year and months after that, worked out a plea that did not involve naming names or becoming a witness against anyone. It had repercussions for me including more time and no protection from grand juries (and surely, two years later, i was called before one as a witness and put on civil contempt of court). That said, I cannot have seen it going any other way. My regrets with the case is that more of my co-defendants did not stick with us and move forward together-something that had been the idea when worst case scenarios had been discussed years prior.

10 years later, its obvious to me every time i go to any activist event that many younger activists do not know this history. I suppose it is the struggle we all face-how to remember and memorialize, but not live in the past and nostalgia. I can tell people to watch If a Tree Falls or read Green is the New Red (thanks, Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman & Will Potter) but that is an incomplete picture. How then, do we, move forward in our fight for justice and pass on to others what we learned? Its a longer question.

I use the word “I” often in this post and perhaps others as I am talking about the past but at no point have I ever felt alone and not connected to others. Without these stalwart, loyal and amazing people in my life, I know with certainty that things would have gone a totally different way:

Jenny Malone- my former partner and best friend. The rock. The Wizard of Oz behind every aspect of the support campaign and the ‘trying to keep me sane’ campaign. G.O.A.T.  EXES 4EVAH!

My family especially my sister Lisa who funded my legal defense, let me live with her while on house arrest and did not waver or flinch one time. These people taught me loyalty.

Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan better known as FAF.
This small group worked their asses off, put on so many shows, sold a zillon t-shirts, made my court dates, wrote articles, supported me mentally, emotionally and financially, put their lives on hold for some time to make sure I would have a life to come home too. So much gratitude to all of them. I am not even in touch with all of them, which to be honest, saddens me but I have nothing but lifelong gratitude for all of them. Shoutouts to Andrew, Ainsley, Eliza, Kitty, Corey, Sideshow, Cindy, Marianne and Ryan.

This article may be the best article I have seen on the topic though its quite dated. Check it out.

Write my codees:

Rebecca Rubin #98290-011
FCI Dublin
5701 8th Street – Camp Parks
Dublin, California 94568
Birthday: April 18

rubin

Rebecca Rubin is serving a 5 year sentence for her role in a series of Earth Liberation Front (ELF) actions including the arson of the Vail Ski Resort Expansion and US Forest Industries. She also participated in the liberation of horses and the arson of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse Facilities in Litchfield, California and Burns, Oregon. Rebecca is expected to be released in September, 2017.

 

You can buy Rebecca a book (or 5!) at http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2EEY8SICPOC9D

Justin Solondz #98291-011
FCI Oakdale I
Post Office Box 5000
Oakdale, Louisiana 71463
Birthday: October 3

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Justin Solondz pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson for his involvement in the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson of the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001 and the Romania Chevrolet dealership in Eugene, Oregon. Justin was imprisoned in China for three years prior to extradition. His anticipated release date is 9/23/2017.

Marius Mason: New Poetry

Support Marius Mason:

Give Me One Of Them

A dentist and his luggage arrive in Zimbabwe
Cash and carry-on, pushing the buttons of privilege and pardon
That his class feels heir to, a legacy
Of helmeted conquistadors in search of gold or something shiny
Those Roman envoys come for tribute from the territories
Legions come to kill, conquer or consume..like tourists
Greasing the palms of hired-hands – the Future’s traitors
Handing off their nation’s treasures to the clamoring idiots
“Give me one of them”, he roars, gesticulating wildly
The ugly American who can buy anything
It’s practically online shopping and no safari
When the trophy’s guaranteed (or your money back)
Swindled and stolen by subterfuge
An empty stomach so often a trap full of entanglements
And so another African will make a Middle Passage
As a corpse
The deed is done, and life converts to property
The ebony-tipped lion dubbed ‘Cecil’
Like an immigrant at Ellis Island changing names and nations all at once,
By bureaucrats who needed a familiar name in their own tongue
Unbecomes, falls into history
Ends his story and his line in blood
The collaborator, Honore`, will pay the price before the law,
But surely honor suffers even more
As the greedy foreign butcher slinks
Behind a sturdy Minnesota door
And we, the wild tribal Diaspora dispersed by birth
From Mother Africa, generations gone and
Scattered loose across the globe, like seeds
Will know ourselves one less


Marius just completed Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley.  Check back regularly for what Marius is reading and writing about!

“What’s more political than the question of expendability?” Barry Schwabsky
With clouds on the horizon spotted,
Have we decided yet?
Who will ride the ark with us,
Protected from our floods and pestilences
In valuable concubinage-
And who will sail instead into Eternity? These honeybees, so small
Among the lilies of the field,
That we might miss them altogether,k9267
Especially the rushing bipeds travelling through
A plastic, frantic world
Lives lived indoors, cramped and strangers to the sun.
But the bees make music working
through their quiet summer days, even if there is no one to hear
In fields and orchards, lawns and meadows
Tending their life’s work
And our own as well.
The tiny fuzzy fairies falling
Prey to a darker pall
That spreads a shadow everywhere
The approaching silent spring soon
Minus singing bees
Who, as it turns out,
Are much less expendable than we

 

Action Needed!

From Support Marius Mason:

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February 22nd Call-Out

From Support Marius Mason:

helloxfamily1Never too early for a call-out!  Marius and friends are organizing events to take place January 22nd to support queer and trans prisoners.  Support Marius by supporting others!  Let us know if you want to do an event and we’ll send you materials.

TransCanada Attempts to Enter Unist’ot’en Land

From Submedia TV:

The Unist’ot’en Camp stands in the way of several tar sands oil and fracked gas pipelines in western Canada. This week they are on high alert for a possible raid by Canadian federal police. A couple of days ago supporters recorded this incident, where TransCanada attempted to enter the territory and do field work.

Thirteen More People Arrested in Seneca Lake Seven Generations Blockade

From Earth First! Newswire:

photo from We Are Seneca Lake

photo from We Are Seneca Lake

A Seven Generations blockade of a Crestwood fracked gas storage facility in Seneca Lake occurred this morning, resulting in 13 arrests. The same amount of activists were arrested on August 4, ratcheting up this month’s total to at least 26 people.

The arrestees represented students from five different colleges, as well as families, teenagers, and the elderly.

According to We Are Seneca Lake, “A tanker truck was waiting on the side of the road before the We Are Seneca Lake blockade was in place. The truck was later guided into the driveway in front of the blockaders. Blockaders were then told they were being arrested for disorderly conduct.”

A participant in the action, Gabriel Shapiro wrote:

“Today young people and their supporters took a stand for our collective future here in the Finger Lakes. Crestwood wants to turn our region into a storage hub for fracked gas serving the entire Northeast U.S. Their plans put too much at risk. We want to come back and possibly raise children here someday. We don’t want methane, LPG, brine, heavy machinery and the fracking industry to have anything to do with that.

“We are living a different story and it involves locally grown food, world class wine, and a vibrant, self-sustaining economy. We are the Finger Lakes and we are standing together for a different future than Crestwood is presenting us with.”

The We Are Seneca Lake civil disobedience campaign has been ongoing for years, and has led to hundreds of arrests. The campaign has brought public attention to the widespread disapproval of fossil fuels development in the region.

Marius Mason: New Poetry

From Support Marius Mason:

Untitled (The River Runs Yellow, August 2015)

The River ran Yellow in Colorado
When the river ran yellow past
The outfitter’s shack, kayaks lined up
Colorful, in Back
They could smell it coming first
Loaded with silt and clouds of poison
A heavy-hearted river full of sighs
Something rotten in the Animas
And coming downstream fast
The rainbow trout winking out like stars at dawn
And all the apocolyptic chemistry
Cascading and assailing invisibilia,
The magic microscopic lego-like pieces upon which
Everything is built
Begins a domino affect
A yellow light means caution, a warning
But Gold is King
So we careen through our intersection
With the world
Like a drunken teen in someone else’s car
Will we beat the light this time,
Or be hit by natural consequences?
Brace yourselves for impact

Untitled (August 2015)

Me, I’m Not
You , my friend, are a winner!
Ding, ding, ding
Happy happenstance in the living lottery
Genetically consistent maybe
Or just expected features
Yes, save that ticket, and no regrets
Watch local programming to see if
Circumstance graces your appropriate presentation,
and properly apportioned face
With its geranium kiss
At home in the temple of the soul
In fellowship, a member
Of the congregation at last
But me, I’m not
I’m just the beggar on the outside steps
Making everyone uncomfortable
So drop a coin in my bowl and meet my eye (I)
As you pass by
(and I do not)

BREAKING: 2 Animal Activists Facing 6 Months in Jail for Protesting on the Sidewalk

From Green Is the New Red:

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Two animal rights activists in Utah are facing six months in jail for holding peaceful protests against an amusement park’s treatment of animals without first paying $50 and completing a “Free Expression Permit Application.”

On Tuesday evening, activists Jeremy Beckham and Lexie Levitt were visited at their homes by Salt Lake City Police detectives with court orders from nearby Farmington City.

Beckham says that when he saw a Salt Lake City detective at his door, his heart started racing and his body tensed; he quickly started filming, because he is familiar with animal activists being prosecuted as “terrorists” for things like chalking on the sidewalk.

He didn’t know what was about to happen, but he thought it could be serious.

“I’ve been an activist a really long time,” says Beckham, who is a board member with the Utah Animal Rights Coalition. “And I’m honestly shocked” at the charges.

The detective attempted to ask Beckham about other protesters, so they too could be served court orders, but Beckham remained silent and continued filming. He then said “I don’t have anything further to say.”

Lexie Levitt, an organizer with the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, says that when police arrived at her home, they pounded on her doors and windows. She didn’t know what was happening, she said, and at first she was too afraid to answer. When police returned, she learned she was being charged with protesting without a permit as well.

The charges say that the activists “did conduct, promote, manage, aid, solicit attendance at or participate in any advanced planned free speech expression activity without first obtaining a permit for the event.” [View the criminal complaint]

They are class B misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail.

The Blackfish Effect

lagoon-lion-cageThe activists had been protesting animal cruelty at Lagoon Amusement Park, where lions, pumas, elks, kangaroo, zebra, leopards, tigers, and other wild animals are kept in metal cages with concrete floors, without enrichment or stimulation.

Photos taken by the activists revealed animals in barren, filthy conditions as the “Wild Animal Kingdom” train ride passed by their cages.

And in 2013, an amusement park employee was gored by a wildebeest there.

Activists said that the award-winning film Blackfish, which exposed conditions that are dangerous to both animals and humans at Sea World, has resulted in a surge of public awareness about the dangers of animals in captivity.

white-bengal-tiger-lagoonAs Sea World’s profits have plummeted by 84%, they resorted to using spies to infiltrate protest groups like PETA.

Lagoon Amusement Park has done it’s best to keep protesters away as well. When activists gathered outside their corporate headquarters with signs, Lagoon turned on their sprinklers — in the midst of a drought.

“No one should have to fear that the police will pound on your door at 8 o’clock at night to hand you criminal charges in connection with a peaceful protest,” Beckham said. “It is astounding the lengths that Lagoon is willing to go in order to shut up the caring people who are speaking out against their abysmal ‘zoo.’”

Jumping Through All The Hoops

Beckham says what surprises him most about the criminal charges is that the activists had gone to great lengths to ensure they complied with the law.

At the July 18th protest at the amusement park, for which Levitt is being prosecuted, there were about 20 protesters. They all stood across the street, because they did not want to accidentally trespass. They even went down to the courthouse and got a plat map to ensure they would be on public property.

At the July 16th protest at Lagoon offices, for which Beckham is being prosecuted, there were only four people in attendance, and they chose the protest location specifically because it had a public sidewalk where they could stand. (One of the other attendees was Levitt, and the other two were afraid of being identified for this story because they might be prosecuted as well.)

They held signs that said “Stop imprisoning animals,” “Sanctuaries not cages,” and “Lagoon abuses animals.”

The activists occasionally chanted, but never used megaphones or amplified sound.

During their many protests this year, police have driven past and taken photos of protesters, but they have never asked them to leave or threatened them with prosecution.

It appears their abundance of caution might have actually been used by the police against the activists. Beckham and Levitt had both been in contact with the city, alerting them about their protests in advance, and they suspect that’s why they were singled out for criminal charges.

“Free Expression Claim”

Just a few months after the September 11th attacks, Farmington City leaders used public safety concerns to justify a “Free Expression Activities Ordinance.”

The ordinance requires protesters to obtain a “Free Expression Activities Permit,” pay a $50 fee, and obtain insurance before engage in constitutionally protected speech.

The form the city requires asks protesters to explain “reasons for your activity” and also their “free expression claim.”

At the time, the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho said the proposal was full of “constitutional defects.” The city passed it anyway.

As the Deseret News noted, the ordinance was passed in advance of animal rights activists protesting the rodeo, in a clear attempt to stifle their speech.

Misguided Priorities

The prosecution—for purely First Amendment activity— was coordinated with multiple police departments in different cities, which is a rare occurrence for a class B misdemeanor.

A Salt Lake City Police Department detective visited the activists at their homes, multiple times, to serve them in person, when the paperwork could have been sent in the mail

And the investigation was led by the Farmington City Chief of Police himself. Chief Wayne Hansen, who was named Utah’s police chief of the year in 2014, authored the probable cause affidavit used in the prosecution, and noted it was based on his “personal observations” of the protesters.

“It’s sad that the Davis County Attorney and the police apparently care more about shielding Lagoon from criticism than they do the First Amendment,” Levitt said.

The police treatment of animal rights activists is radically different than the treatment of animal abusers. Recently, Utah animal rights activists made international news when they disrupted a “pig wrestling” competition, and some of the confederate-flag-waiving wrestlers attacked them and slammed them to the ground.

Those individuals are not being prosecuted.

As for Beckham and Levitt, they had another protest planned at Lagoon this Saturday. After speaking with their attorneys, they’ve decided to cancel that demonstration rather than risk additional criminal charges.