Update: 12:00 EST: All charges have been dropped!
Anti-Prison Protesters Face Jail Time for Holding the DOJ Accountable
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NOVEMBER 7, 2019 — Five people are in court today after arrests stemming from an October 1, 2019 protest outside of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), when dozens of activists gathered in solidarity with the demands of the incarcerated freedom fighters in Alabama prison facilities. Local activists are facing charges of “Incommoding” after protesters scaled and locked themselves on top of ladders in front of the entrances to DOJ. The action sought to draw attention to the demands of Alabama-based prisoner advocacy group Unheard Voices of the Concrete Jungle. These demands include that the DOJ must:
- Follow through on filing suit against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), implement staffing replacements and mass releases.
- Stop the construction of all new prison and jail facilities.
- End targeted retaliation against incarcerated organizers, including the abusive use of solitary confinement and non-lateral transfers.
- Provide real rehabilitative programming and shortened sentences for ‘good behavior’.
- Remove U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay Town from office.
- Halt the transition from in-person to video-only visitation.
In April 2019, the DOJ released a scathing report outlining ongoing 8th amendment violations in the Alabama prison system, including denial of healthcare, overcrowding, sexual abuse, violence, and death. The Alabama Department of Corrections was given seven weeks to remediate problems before a lawsuit could be filed. Many months later, conditions have only worsened, but the DOJ has not taken action. The October 1 demonstration was an escalated action taken in solidarity with organizers inside and outside of prison in Alabama who have been fighting for months to get the DOJ to simply do its job.
The group of arrested protesters in court today put out a statement preceding their court appearance. They said:
That the DOJ would sooner inflict punishment on concerned individuals than protect Alabama’s incarcerated population from ADOC’s violence is disgusting….Regardless of our outcome, this movement is mighty, it is indignant, and it will not stop. There is a groundswell of support for our comrades behind bars. We call for no new jails, no old jails, and for the full humanity of our comrades in this struggle to be uplifted.
The DC Abolition Coalition and its supporters also used the October 1 action to draw attention to D.C.’s high level of incarceration and injustice within local facilities, and made demands of officials to:
- End all collaboration between the D.C. Jail and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- Pass the Second Look Amendment.
- Restore local control of D.C. parole.
- Halt the proposal to construct new jail facilities in D.C.
Organizers have since learned of the death of Jamaal Byrd while in custody at D.C. Central Cell Block on September 30th, just one day prior to their demonstration. They join with his family and local organizers in calling for an immediate investigation.