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

solondzjpg-184d7e27d46e0341

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.

Prisoners’ Rights Attorneys Press Constitutional Challenge to Experimental Prison Units

From Center for Constitutional Rights:

Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

October 28, 2015, Washington, D.C. – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed a district court ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) secretive, highly-restrictive Communications Management Units (CMU). In 2014, CCR’s lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, uncovered hundreds of documents detailing the BOP’s process for designating prisoners to CMUs. Among other issues, the documents revealed that the BOP did not draft criteria for designating prisoners to the CMUs until three years after the first unit opened; that different BOP offices tasked with designating prisoners have different understandings of the criteria; that the reasons provided to CMU prisoners for their designation are incomplete, inaccurate, and sometimes even false; and that political speech exercised by prisoners was used as a factor in their CMU designation. In its ruling, the district court did not consider these documents, instead finding that the CMUs are not sufficiently unusual, harsh, or restrictive to trigger due process rights.

“The Bureau of Prisons has kept everything about their Communications Management Units opaque—from how you end up there to how you get out,” said plaintiff Daniel McGowan. “I only learned through this lawsuit that I was sent to the CMU because I continued to care about politics when I was incarcerated and because I wrote letters to my friends on the outside about social justice issues. Other people in the CMUs should have the right to learn why they were actually sent there, too.”

In addition to having their telephone and visitation access heavily restricted, CMU prisoners are categorically denied any physical contact with family members, forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their children or spouses during visits. Attorneys say this blanket ban on contact visitation is unique in the federal prison system and causes suffering to people in prison and their families.

“Communications Management Units impose harsh restrictions on prisoners’ communication with their families and with fellow prisoners for years at a time,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol. “All we are seeking is an explanation of why these prisoners are being singled out for such a restrictive unit, and the chance to contest false or retaliatory placements.”

In addition to appealing the district court’s due process ruling, CCR is also appealing adverse rulings on their claims that prisoners were held in the CMUs in retaliation for First Amendment protected political and religious speech.

The CMUs were quietly opened in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, Illinois, in 2006 and 2008, respectively, to monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners and isolate them from other prisoners and the outside world.  Sixty percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim, though Muslims comprise only six percent of the federal prisoner population.

The documents uncovered in CCR’s lawsuit were described in detail in a recent TED Talk by journalist Will Potter.

Read the brief filed today and for more information on Aref v. Holder, visit CCR’s case page. For more on the Center for Constitutional Rights work on mass incarceration, visit our issue page.

The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher are co-counsel in the case.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.

 

CCR: Daniel McGowan freed, but BOP invents special restrictions against publishing of articles

From the Center for Constitutional Rights:

April 8, 2013, New York – Today, attorneys for activist Daniel McGowan at the Center for Constitutional Rights released the following update on his situation:

Daniel McGowan is back at the halfway house where he has been residing after a week that was by turns difficult, disturbing and ridiculous. To recap: on Monday, April 1, Daniel published an opinion piece on the Huffington Post titled “Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech.” On Thursday, April 4, Daniel was picked up by U.S. Marshals from the halfway house and taken into custody at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. He was issued an “incident report” indicating that his Huffington Post blog post violated a BOP regulation prohibiting inmates from “publishing under a byline.” The BOP regulation in question was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007, and eliminated by the BOP in 2010. On Friday, April 5, after we brought Daniel’s unjust detention to the BOP’s attention, he was released from MDC, and the incident report was expunged.

That same day, Daniel was provided with a list of prohibited activities by halfway house staff, which he was required to sign. The list forbids him any media contact without BOP approval, though BOP regulations only require preapproval of in-facility interviews. It also prohibits him from publishing any writing of his own without prior BOP permission. As far as we know, this is a made-up rule applied only to Daniel, in a further attempt to chill his freedom of speech.

McGowan, who was released from prison in December and is serving out the last six months of his sentence at a halfway house, is a plaintiff in a Center for Constitutional Rights lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, challenging the constitutionality of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) experimental Communications Management Units (CMUs) where he was kept for four years. New documents uncovered in the case indicate he was placed in these highly restrictive experimental units as retaliation for his political writings on current events and issues while he was in prison.

Aref v. Holder challenges the violation of prisoners’ fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to due process. Attorneys say that because transfer to CMUs are not based on facts or discipline for infractions, a pattern of religious and political discrimination and retaliation for prisoners’ lawful advocacy has emerged. Daniel McGowan recently amended the complaint to include claims of retaliation for First Amendment protected speech.

For information about CCR’s federal lawsuit challenging CMUs, visit the Aref, et al. v. Holder, et al case page orwww.ccrjustice.org/cmu.

The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher are co-counsel in the case.

Daniel McGowan soon to be released, support needed!

Daniel McGowan is coming home to Brooklyn in time for the holidays this year! His family and friends are very excited to be able to see him. We are asking for your help in making Daniel’s transition a smooth one. He will need to purchase everything from groceries to a new computer to clothes that fit him (he’s lost about 40 pounds!). Please help in any way you can. If you are in NYC, you are also invited to our celebration party on Friday, December 7th! Details can be found here: http://www.supportdaniel.org/morehelp/welcomehome.php.

Thank you so much – from us and from Daniel – for your support through these very difficult years. Prisoner support does not end when prisoners come home. We hope Daniel will continue to have your support and encouragement, and we wish you all happy holidays!

Best,
Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan

Support Daniel by visiting this donation registry

This Wednesday! Eco-Prisoner Letter Writing and “If A Tree Falls” Filmscreening

Join us for our monthly letter writing night. For March we have a very special addition to the evening.We will be writing letters to environmental prisoners and enjoying tasty vegan lettuce wraps.

After letter writing for vegan mini pies (available for a small donation to benefit prisoners) and a screening of the film If a Tree Falls: A story of the Earth Liberation Front.

This event is free and family friendly.
Continue reading

If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

Gitmo in the Heartland

On the evening of May 13, 2008, Jenny Synan waited for a phone call from her husband, Daniel McGowan. An inmate at Sandstone, a federal prison in Minnesota, McGowan was serving a seven-year sentence for participating in two ecologically motivated arsons. It was their second wedding anniversary, their first with him behind bars. So far his incarceration hadn’t stopped him from calling her daily or surprising her with gifts for her birthday, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. But Jenny never got a call from Daniel that night—or the next day, or the next.

It was only days later that Jenny heard from a friend that Daniel was in transit, his destination Marion, Illinois. She quickly researched Marion and learned that it housed both a minimum- and a medium-security facility. Daniel, however, was classified as a low-security prisoner, a designation between minimum and medium. Even though he had a perfect record at Sandstone and had been recommended for a transfer to a prison closer to home, Jenny still didn’t think it was likely that Daniel would be stepped down to minimum security. But it made no sense that he would be moved up to medium security.

By May 16 the inmate locator on the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) website showed Daniel in a variety of places, including a federal correctional facility in Terre Haute, Indiana. After speaking with several people at the BOP, Sandstone and Terre Haute to no avail, Jenny e-mailed friends, “This is seriously like pulling fucking teeth.”

Read the rest here.