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  • Rob Will

Riot Gas, Fires, And Constant Screaming

Updated: Sep 17

Riot gas, fires, and constant screaming – I’m back on disciplinary pod! I was moved from the “management cell” down on A-pod, where the Warden had me separated from everyone else on disciplinary status because I’m supposedly “an instigator and a troublemaker.” Now I’m on E-pod with everyone else involved in protesting: Gabriel Gonzalez, Kenneth Foster, Reginald Blanton, Andre Simpson, and Robert Woodard. Tony Ford is still on A-pod on the “death watch” section because he still has an execution date pending.

We’re all on Level 2 disciplinary status, with the exception of Reg (Blanton) and Dre (Simpson), who are on Level 3. On Saturday, Reg and Dre refused to leave the recreation cage until staff addressed certain problems. Of course, we have a huge list of problems, but they specifically addressed the fact that Kenneth hasn’t been able to make commissary for over a month and the ventilation problems with the building we are housed in. It’s cold outside, yet cold air is blowing out of the vents instead of heat!

Manipulating the ventilation system from hot to cold, cold to hot, and back again at irregular intervals is a tactic this system uses to keep us physically uncomfortable. This, of course, leads to mental and physical stress. Especially since Warden Hirsch, in true tyrannical form, made a new policy that disallows level 3 inmates from possessing commissary bought clothing. TDCJ doesn’t provide winter clothing such as thermals or summer clothing such as shorts. We’re forced to buy things like that from commissary (at highly inflates prices, of course!).

So Reg and Dre occupied the day rooms and then started addressing the problems to the officers working the pod. The officers were indifferent, so Dre and Reg refused to leave the yards once again, and the officers called ranking staff members to let them know there was a “situation at hand.”

Sergeant Henderson came and began his rhetoric and they still refused to leave. So Lt. Richey was called – Mr. “I strongly support the death penalty and can’t wait til each and every goddamned one of you are executed!!” He was of NO help, of course, so Dre and Reg told him that they were not going to leave the day room until humanitarian conditions were implemented, starting with turning on the heat and allowing Kenneth to make commissary. (On Level 2 and Level 3, all we can buy on commissary is a limited amount of hygiene items and writing supplies.) Lt. Richey stormed off...

Me and Gabriel are housed on E-section and Reg was in E day room, so we were all talking as Reg was getting prepared for the Emergency Response Team. Dre was in D day room getting prepared as well. From much experience, we’ve learned that when faced with civil disobedience, no matter how non-violent, this system always reacts with violence. All Lt. Richey had to do was simply turn the heat on and call commissary and tell them to let Kenneth “make store” like everyone else. But, being the sadistic person that he is, we knew he would instead choose a violent and oppressive option . . .

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! The Emergency Response (ER) Team came on the pod in full riot gear (as always). Reg covered his face and I took the opportunity to address Sgt. Henderson who had the Crowd Control gas canister and was giving the orders. I told Henderson, “It’s a damn shame that you, as a working class black man, are about to assault another working class black man with chemical agents to enforce the oppressive rules of a system built on slavery! Look at you. You’re a modern day salve master!

Instead of a whip, you’re using a canister of gas. You’re worse than the 'house negros' who would tell on the field slaves to gain favor with the massa!” On and on I went right up until Henderson pulled the canister trigger and saturated the area where Reg was. Reg then came to the recreation yard gate door and said he’d willfully be handcuffed. In an attempt to humiliate and degrade, Sgt. Henderson ordered a strip search. As Reg was “stripping out,” he was also giving a protest speech in a loud and firm voice. The officers cuffed Reg and popped the gate, but before the ER Team could get to him, Reg sat down and refused to move. The ER Team picked him up and carried him all the way back to his call in F-section. Reg continued with his speech until his cell door slammed shut. We expected the ER Team to run right over to D-section where Dre was, but instead they ran off the pod. We heard one of the officers tell another that a riot just jumped off in general population, in 7 and 8 building. Every few minutes for the next 2 hours, we’d see a handcuffed general population inmate come on the pod and be led to a segregated single-man cell. (That’s the only type of cells on this building.) A and B section of this pod are administrative segregation for general population and C through F are death row. 50 people were involved in the riot and 21 of them are now in A and B section of this pod. We heard that the riot involved 2 rival Mexican gangs and one person was stabbed multiple times, another was nearly beaten to death, and others sustained various injuries. (or so says TDCJ).

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! -- They finally came to get Dre. I can only see a small portion of D day room from my cell, but I heard 2 bursts of gas and then I saw the ER Team carrying Dre back to his cell. He was giving a protest speech the entire time! As everyone can see, IT DON’T STOP! We’re going to keep the momentum going with less frequent direct actions until the next LARGER mass protest. This will hopefully be a joint effort between us on the inside and activists on the outside. We will continue to DRIVE forward and be the voice of dissent and sanity in the midst of oppression and madness!

One love, One Struggle:

Robert Will – #999402

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