Statement to the Public by Jailed IMF/World Bank Protestors
(The following statement was written by 70 of the male protestors arrested during the IMF protests and incarcerated for the past week. The writers consolidated ideas, suggestions, and editorial comments for the letter by passing suggestions between bars, from cell to cell.)
We, the male prisoners arrested in Washington, D.C. during the week of the A16 demonstrations against the IMF/ World Bank (April 16-22, 2000), wish to express our solidarity with our fellow inmates, as well as with prisoners around the world who die and are tortured daily, often simply because they ask to be treated fairly, equally, and justly. Second, we wish to express our sincere thanks to the many supporters who stayed outside the jail in solidarity with us, and to those many who sent e-mails, wrote letters, and made phone calls on our behalf. Also, we would like to thank the elected officials and members of congress who supported us. We wish to express our deepest thanks to the noble and tireless efforts of the volunteers with the Midnight Special Law Collective and the National Lawyers Guild. Most of all, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to our sisters in the adjacent cell block, whose powerful spirits and attitudes kept us strong during the past week. Collectively, this supportive response stands as testament to a growing worldwide community of resistance to unjust economic globalization and to the increasing corporate control over our daily lives.
Over the past five days we have been shuttled through the D.C./Federal judicial system. Despite the relatively trivial charges that most of us received ("crossing a police line, "parading without a permit, or "incommoding) and our shared decision to remain silent when asked to identify ourselves, we were subjected to a series of "divide and conquer tactics, both psychological and physical. We were denied contact with our lawyers for consecutive periods of more than 30 hours at a time; left handcuffed and shackled for up to eight hours; moved up to 10 times
from holding cell to holding cell. Many of us were denied food for more than 30 hours and denied water for up to 10 hours at a time. Though many of us were soaking wet after Monday's protest, we were refused dry clothing, and left shackled and shivering on very cold floors.
For no apparent reason, some of us were physically attacked by U.S. Marshals; we were forcefully thrown up against the wall, pepper sprayed directly in the face, or thrown on the floor and beaten. At least two individuals were forced against the wall by their necks in strangulation holds, with threats of further violence. This sort of violence was perpetrated against at least two juveniles in order to separate them from the larger group. The U.S. Marshals told us that we would be going to D.C. Jail, where we would be raped, beaten, and given AIDS or murdered by "faggots and "niggers.
Chief Judge Eugene Hamilton, in a shocking violation of legal ethics, appointed public attorneys for each member of our group and ordered them to post our bonds while we were still in the D.C. Jail, expressly against our wishes and best interests. In fact, though we asked repeatedly for our own lawyers, we were assigned public defenders who consistently acted in the interests of the prosecution.
All of this came after the excessive violence used against peaceful demonstrators in the streets of Washington. (Violence perpetrated by police included running people over with police motorcycles, clubbing, beating, pepper spraying, tear gassing, trampling with horses, and systematically fabricating scenarios to legitimize police actions in the eyes of the public.)
After our arrests last week, many of us chose to remain anonymous to protest these abuses. We chose to show solidarity with our fellow protestors who were unjustly charged with felonies and misdemeanors in the act of non-violent civil disobedience against the IMF and the World Bank. It is clear to us that the District of Columbia and the Federal Government, by trumping up charges, by arresting frivolously, and by keeping us in jail for a week, had much less of a problem with our alleged infractions than with the fact that we spoke our minds and faced up to their brutality and threats. Simply put, our jail time was not about our trivial charges, but instead about our peaceful, nonviolent, and successful exercise of our constitutionally protected rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
Despite efforts by prison officials to alienate us from the resident inmate population, we continue to feel a great sense of community and solidarity with them. Unlike the "brutal monsters that the racist, homophobic U.S. Marshals described to us in offensive and threatening detail, we found our fellow inmates to be intelligent, caring, and passionately concerned about injustice inflicted on all members of our society by governments, as well as injustice perpetrated by U.S. based corporations, around the globe. Many were informed about the severe injustices caused by IMF/World Bank programs which have forced hardships on the majority of the world's people. Together we discussed how life in a D.C. prison resembles the life of residents in the third world. In the same way that corporate investors profit from the sustained poverty of poorer countries (poverty sustained in part through the loans and polices of IMF/World Bank), so too do many investors profit from the sustained incarceration of U.S. citizens as prisons in the U.S. become privatized. The increasing privatization of prisons creates perverse incentives for prisons to incarcerate citizens in a system that benefits from what can only be called "slave labor.
We believe that the increasing injustices of the prison system and of the IMF/World Bank are fueled by the same naked greed. Racism, homophobia, sexism, global and local environmental devastation, the ongoing campaign to criminalize basic labor organizing tools, and many other forms of oppression are merely symptoms of a system that places profits above all other values. We believe that love, compassion, liberty, and basic human and environmental rights should be the driving forces in our society. We are determined to help create a world in which these values are stronger than selfishness.
Our movement is a small part of a worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood joining in solidarity with all the impoverished, oppressed, and progressive people of earth. For us, breaking the law is not a frivolous gesture, but rather a last-resort means of exposing the immense powers that we all face when we attempt to create real, ethical change. We continue to draw inspiration from the civil rights, anti-nuclear, anti-war, environmental justice, labor rights, and anti-oppression movements. Who are we? We are your sons and daughters, your sisters and brothers, your fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers. We are your co-workers, your fellow parishioners and rabbis, your healers, your teachers, and your students. We will continue to risk arrest, and if necessary resist with our very lives, until we expose this world as one in which profits come before people, so that a more just, humane, and free global society may take its place.