Anti-Prison Protesters Face Jail Time for Holding the DOJ Accountable

Update: 12:00 EST: All charges have been dropped!

Anti-Prison Protesters Face Jail Time for Holding the DOJ Accountable

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Katie Nolan

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:

  1. Follow through on filing suit against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), implement staffing replacements and mass releases.
  2. Stop the construction of all new prison and jail facilities.
  3. End targeted retaliation against incarcerated organizers, including the abusive use of solitary confinement and non-lateral transfers.
  4. Provide real rehabilitative programming and shortened sentences for ‘good behavior’.
  5. Remove U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay Town from office.
  6. 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: 

  1. End all collaboration between the D.C. Jail and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  2. Pass the Second Look Amendment.
  3. Restore local control of D.C. parole.
  4. 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. 


Statement from the 5 protesters who were arrested:

We, a group of individuals coming from various backgrounds and affiliations who  formed part of the DC Abolition Coalition decided to take action in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters on October 1st, 2019.
We believe that prison is at the heart of our struggles and that abolition is the only way forward. We find the state of Alabama’s correction facilities to be guilty of crimes against humanity, additionally we find it completely ludicrous that the United States Department of Justice is seemingly too incompetent and vile to follow through with the report they released in April of this past year. We acted in solidarity with the freedom fighters behind bars who have been working ceaselessly to improve conditions, asking for the basic human rights the state promised to give. 
The response we have been given- the threat of imprisonment  and financial insecurity. Disgusting. 
Furthermore, we look inward at the Correction Facilities here in DC and find it too, to be guilty of inhumane conditions and treatments. 
On Oct 1st 2019, the same day as our action, Jaamal Byrd was reported dead by DC cell block, a place he was supposed to stay one night under an alleged charge. His death remains a mystery due to the refusal of release of information by the department, even to his family. We ask DC Corrections Department, is Jim Crow really over?
Right now this murderous department (agency? Institution?) Is working to construct a new jail here under the guise of improving conditions. We know this means more inmates. From Alabama to DC, more jails means more inmates. We demand that DC halt these plans and improve conditions by meeting our demands and those of No New Jails DC. We also recommend the entire department quit their jobs and dedicate themselves to something of actual value to our communities.
Regardless of how today, and the days moving forward, turn out for us, we will continue to act in solidarity with the movement as it continues to push forward. 

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