In Chicago on October 29, 2012, dedicated Occupy activists and their allies, all NATO5 supporters, attended End the NATO5 Witch Hunt: Raising Funds from the Dead. I was lucky enough to be in town for the evening and even luckier still to read my compilation piece about the struggles of jail solidarity.
Boots on the ground is one aspect of protest, arguably the most fun, most invigorating, and proffers the sentiment that our voices and bodies are transforming the system.
With our manic dancing to the song of our unified voices singing, “Ah! Anteee! Anteee-capeeetalista!” in the streets under the ruling class’s nose, how could the public remain unmoved? How can they not join in and support us, even for a moment?
With our energy, spirit, dedication, and words, we are altering reality.
We are unstoppable.
We are building a better world with every step forward towards the heart of downtown Chicago. When we stand in the streets, screaming for social change, educating and empowering our sisters, brothers and the masses, the power structures do their best to remove us. All those bastard cops step in and attempt to silence our voices by making arrests. When de-arresting fails and our family is ripped from us by the state’s savage hands and those boots on the ground are transformed into prison slippers on a cold cement floor, how does our movement stand?
What do we do, as revolutionaries, when our comrades, our family-in-arms, the people with whom we make social change, are locked away from us?
We stand in solidarity, as we do in the streets.
We are dedicated to one another, dedicated to social change, and, like the power of our people, that don’t stop when our freedom is taken away.
Jail solidarity means waiting outside the holding area or prison with hot coffee, food, cheers, and hugs for fellow protesters locked away.
Jail support means bandaging our friends who were smashed to the concrete by the state with words and kindness, ministering the sunset-colored bruises, massaging away the aches from unnecessary and excessive uses of force.
Jail solidarity means writing letters featuring silly stories and cartoons, sending reading material like science fiction, nonfiction, and art supplies like colored pencils and paper.
Remaining strong in the ugly face of the state’s repression isn’t easy. Jail support is hard on the heart. When three of the NATO5, Brent, Jay, and Jacob were lead into court, shackled at their waists, wrists, and ankles, I leapt to my feet, eyes blurred by tears of hot rage. These children, barely old enough attend college, were dressed in mustard yellow jumpsuits with the letters DOC screaming from their backs. They looked so small. Bulletproof glass separated me from rushing into the court and hugging them. The following day, I watched the final two members of the NATO5, Mark and Sebastian look equally as small and helpless in their jumpsuits, powerless against Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez’s kangaroo court. While being lead away to their isolated cells and away from us, they glimpsed us standing and raising our fists to them in solidarity.
While I’m not physically caged with my comrades, I feel locked away. My energy, heart, and body are dedicated to their fight and to their comfort. Precisely as Occupy fights for systemic change by highlighting the interconnectedness of the home foreclosure epidemic to the manufactured crisis of ‘budget showdown’ and corporations buying legislation, we are now forging those correlations inside a repressive state climate coupled with brutal police repression and political imprisonment to Occupy Chicago’s overarching society-rebuilding endeavors.
Experiencing the waves of gratitude once we attained our victory of their freedom is enough to sustain me through the nights when I can’t sleep, kept awake thinking of people I used to stand with in the streets, now caged.
Seeing, then freeing our comrades only inspires me to keep working, keep struggling, until the prisons come down. The movement for which our comrades have sacrificed their freedom will support them in our collective struggle.
After one Cook County Jail visitation, my chest hollowed and I sat in that dirty, flimsy chair for a moment with my head hanging down, face in my hands. Simply, my brain was overwhelmed at the abject cruelty of the state and the lies of those bastards who ripped our comrade from his world, in order to prove a point to we who speak out against repression, we who attempt to build a better world for all people.
As I walked silently through the cold glass doors and into the sunlight, the chill from that prison lingered in my bones. Leaving the chilly rooms with the dirty floors and power-drunk guards is next to unbearable.
Even though we go home, we’re not gone.
We remain locked away in our visited comrade’s memory, in the remains of their endless day locked away from all known beauty and joy. One of the Occupy family will be back the next visiting day. Letters and postcards will bolster them through this. Tonight’s earnings will funnel into their commissary.
Jail support is hard on me, hard on my delicate heart, but serving jail time would be impossible without comrades, like me, like you all here tonight, like anyone who can harden their hearts and stand up in solidarity against the state. By dedicating time and energy to support our caged friends, we’re demonstrating to the state, the world, and to each other that their fight is our fight.
We will keep fighting until they’re free, until the prison walls are rubble.