“My commitment to our struggle recognizes neither boundaries nor limits: only those of us who carry our cause in our hearts are willing to run the risks.”
Rigoberta Menchú, I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala
Rarely have I written about the direct actions I’ve engaged—I haven’t written about most of the protest demonstrations I’ve conducted. Why? For one, in the heat of battle it’s extremely hard to write and also because I have no desire for praise or accolades, I realize it is important to get information out about what goes on back here to freeworld society but I generally have an aversion to writing about myself and what I do.
After describing the last direct action I conducted—the reason I’m still down here in the dungeon on disciplinary status—to a compañera she said I need to write about it, so I will…Screaming mania is a daily occurrence in this place and rarely is there any quiet. People are generally terrified of the quiet and what it brings: self-reflection and reflection upon one’s environment. I passionately love times of quiet but only rarely do I get to enjoy such times, almost exclusively in the very early morning hours.
It was early in the morning when the wretched little ghouls of oppression and sadism decided to destroy my enjoyment of the quiet. I had just finished some nice morning Yoga and Shaolin Qi Gong and started to engage in some study when the calm was shattered by the heavy steel entrance gate to the section slamming open. A team of officers—including a Sergeant—came on the section escorting Y and it was obvious an incident had occurred. They put him in the cell next to me and I asked what had happened.
Two officers had come around earlier and told him it was shower time. Y didn’t move fast enough for them so they ‘jacked’ his shower. Sometimes, when particularly lazy and sadistic C.O.s are working they’ll attempt to lighten their workload by coming up with some type of ‘reason’ not to put people out to rec. or in the shower. This can be the result of general idiocy or can be a retaliation tactic against a specific inmate or inmates. This incident with Y was caused by a combination of both the former and the latter.
After they jacked Y for his shower they taunted him and he reacted by throwing a liquid concoction at them (but not hitting them with it). They all got into a cursing and yelling match and the Sergeant moved Y over to the super-seg dungeon cell next to the one I was housed in. (I’m still in a super-seg cell, just a different one). Just another example of the vicious cycle of pathological and physical violence that goes on in prison. And when I saw that the two C.O.s who were involved in the incident weren’t switched out (as they should have been) but remained on the pod I knew the cycle wasn’t complete for the day.
Rigoberta Manchú is a perfectly brilliant and beautiful woman, an absolute goddess. Briefly, for those of you who do not know, Rigoberta is longtime indigenous rights activist from Guatemala. She wrote I, Rigoberta Manchú: An Indian Woman In Guatemala and won the Nobel Peace Prize for her social justice work in 1992. If you don’t know Rigoberta, get to know her, her story is powerful. In her book Rigoberta talks about how she was being hunted by the brutal and vicious government forces during an extremely violent and murderous COINTELPRO-esque campaign against indigenous rights activists.
They had raped, mutilated, tortured and murdered many in her community. Rigoberta’s father was burnt alive, her mother was brutally raped and viciously tortured and murdered, her brother tortured in unspeakable ways and then executed. The entire Guatemalan military-police establishment was hunting for Rigoberta with orders to rape, torture and murder her.
At one point while in hiding Rigoberta felt extremely dejected and began losing hope. Then she met up with her little sister and Rigoberta expressed this and this is what her little sister told her:
“What has happened is a sign of victory. It gives us reason for fighting…this just gives us one more reason. We have to fight without measuring our suffering, or what we experience, or thinking about the monstrous things we must bear in life.”
After hearing this Rigoberta felt greatly encouraged and she renewed her commitment to Struggle. True Struggle requires sacrifice. One who is truly dedicated to fighting for social justice will experience deep pain but one who is truly committed will also face this pain with unwavering dedication. I know this, I live this…
A few hours after Y came to F-section the officers began feeding lunch and I saw that one of them was one of the C.O.s involved in the earlier incident. Knowing is general mode of operation I had the feeling he was going to try to not feed Y and then pass the word onto second shift not to feed him also. The putrid stench of injustice was in the air so I prepared to eradicate it. I didn’t have a homemade gas mask ready so I grabbed a sheet, which is the next best thing.
“Chow time one row F-section,” a guard yelled and I heard the food slots opening and closing. When they reached my neighbor’s cell they passed him up and didn’t feed him and then opened my slot and gave me my tray. Before they could close it I stuck my arm out of the slot and ‘occupied’ it. My calm, rational reasoning was met with typical asinine ignorance and witless lies. I’ll spare you from a recollection of the nauseating rhetoric and just say that the C.O. kept lying and saying he would be back to feed Y, but I knew he wouldn’t.
There was no compromise and I remained steadfast so the Sergeant arrived. More Orwellian Duckspeak ensued complete with bombastic threats but I remained unwavering. The Sergeant stormed off and I braced myself for intense battle—I knew the SWAT team would arrive soon. A few minutes later the entrance door to the pod slammed open and Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! The SWAT team came to my door in full riot gear. The first man on the riot team had the riot shield facing the corner of my door and the Sergeant held a canister of LE-10 Crowd Control chemical gas in his hand. A C.O. behind him had the incident video camera rolling.
“Offender will remove your arm from the slot or chemical agents and a 5-man team will be utilized!” yelled the Sergeant. I gave no response as I prepared to be hit with riot gas. “Offender will give up the slot or chemical agents and a 5-man team will be utilized!” The Sergeant pulled the pin on the canister and about 5 seconds later in a tone bordering on uncontrolled rage he screamed: “Offender Will, give the slot up or chemical agents and a 5-man team will be utilized!” I saw his finger go to the trigger of the canister and I quickly lifted up the slot leaving only my hand visible so the riot gas wouldn’t drench me so heavily.
His sadistic urges overwhelmed him and the Sergeant broke from policy and in a fit of anger ordered two-man on the team to fight me over the slot. Hesitantly—knowing he was doing wrong—he approached the slot and began yanking it down while I gripped it tight trying to maintain control. My hand was slammed into the sharp edge of the door and because the C.O. was standing up and the slot opens outward he used his weight and leverage to gain control of the slot and slam it all the way open. The Sergeant quickly stuck the gas canister right in my face and I jumped up to dodge the blast but he didn’t fire on me immediately and two-man slammed the slot closed. “Incident resolved” and the Sergeant and his SWAT team minions left.
My hand is still bruised and it looks like I’ll have a permanent scar—one to match the many others I have on my body from having violence forced upon me and injured during non-violent protest demonstrations. If I had not engaged in this demonstration I could be on Level 1 right now. Level 1 means more visits with people I love deeply, a radio to listen to music that enlivens my spirit and nurtures my soul, decent nutritious food I can buy on commissary, vitamins, Art supplies, more recreation time. None of these things are allowed in the dungeon (i.e., disciplinary status Level 2 and 3) where I am right now.
I’m never reactionary—I only engage in methodical strategic actions. I knew I would remain on disciplinary status for at least a month longer. I was also put on 7days of food loaf restriction (i.e., basically a bread and water diet) and I knew this could happen. I knew that I would face pain and suffering. I knew all of this before I committed the direct action. But I also knew that Struggle means taking risk and Struggle takes commitment.
The philosophy of civil disobedience teaches that direct actions can be used as sanctions against an oppressive regime or specific oppressive individuals. Creating such a major incident shuts down normal operations and the main goal of this wretched little Death Camp is to run in a smooth systematic manner. Such actions also embarrass oppressors because it takes them out of a position of power and control; civil disobedience can be a powerful deterrent. Later on Y did get fed and another officer told me that some of the higher ups were “…pissed off because [the C.O. who jacked Y for his tray] started all that shit and the team had to come behind this bullshit. I’ve been doing this for many years and I know what I’m doing.
I committed this direct action because of all of the above, but also because out of the 80 people on the pod I absolutely knew that I was the only one who would. Y isn’t a personal friend of mine and I barely know him. But it’s not about him or about me or even the individual sadistic officer—it’s about Struggle. It’s about living a Life of Unwavering commitment to Struggle. It’s about standing in the tradition of those on the outside fighting with me now. Oppression must be vehemently challenged every time it rears its ghoulish head. If others aren’t willing to suffer to do this, well, I am. If Rigoberta were here she’d be doing the same. Would you?
From the Polunsky Death Camp
In the East Texas Piney Woods
With Strength & Love: