It’s one thing to read in a book about the racist incarceration system in America dubbed the New Jim Crow, but to walk into a jail and see every other inmate except the one we’re visiting be a person of color is shocking. After visiting Audrey and Mike yesterday, we are left thinking about the incredible privilege we have making the choice to enter the injustice system as political prisoners. Although the blockaders take strategic actions that frequently land us in orange suits, in fact, all inmates are political prisoners. Many people held hostage by the state are victims of a twisted politic that targets people of color and lower socioeconomic status. The overt racism and glorification of genocide and imperialism, evidenced by a sexualized image of an indigenous woman surrounded by icons of colonialism desecrating an entire wall of the waiting room, left us feeling horrified and infuriated.
All things considered, Audrey and Mike were doing okay. They were both really happy to see us and were all smiles during our visit. Mike said he was bored; Audrey said she had been watching herself on the news and trying to sleep as much as possible during the day when the guards on shift are most hostile.
Audrey and Mike are being held on a charge of felony criminal mischief with a $10,000 bail each. By accusing them of criminal mischief at the state jail felony level, the state is alleging that they caused up to $20,000 worth of property damage. This charge, while ridiculous on its face, has unfortunately become all too common in this campaign, with eleven other blockaders also arrested on this charge. Further complicating Audrey and Mike’s situation is the incredible difficulty we face in bonding them out, as the local bondspeople are charging outrageous rates for out of county residents.
As difficult as the situation is right now, we couldn’t help but leave the jail acutely aware of the immense privilege available to all of us as blockaders, not only for being able to make the choice to get arrested and go to jail, but also for the incredible support network of people writing letters, donating money, and actively working toward their release. These things do not exist for almost all people trapped within the confines of the Angelina County jail and of all prisons in the United States, and the majority of people incarcerated are people of color. Audrey recognizes her privilege and told us “I’m appreciating learning about prison injustice by experiencing it myself rather than reading about it in a book.”
The tree sitters went into this action expecting the worst, that they may have to sit in jail for weeks or months and later battle what Mike calls “fake felonies” in court. They were willing to take this great personal risk to highlight the devastation wrought by projects like tar sands exploitation. Those who suffer most from the perversion of the resources that sustain life are people who are most dependent upon those resources: people of color, women, and the economically impoverished. By impairing the ability of people to sustain themselves, TransCanada erodes the sovereignty of indigenous people. This action was taken in solidarity with Idle No More to demonstrate what we want to see happen on a larger scale, for environmentalists to participate in a movement with all those whose health and way of life is threatened by resource extraction.
Love and Rage,
Luna and Pfunk