Flash Protest at ICE Office

from Twitter

Earlier today in Philadelphia, PA, around 9 AM, protesters created a noisy disruption outside the ICE office during morning traffic. They said they were joining in a national response to President Trump declaring a state of emergency to fund his border wall.

Vaughn 17 Trial 2 Verdict

from Support the Vaughn 17

None convicted!


Obadiah Miller

Riot – no decision
Felony murder – no decision
Murder of law enforcement officer –no decision
First-degree Assault, Officer Joshua Wilkinson – not guilty
First-degree Assault, Officer Winslow Smith – not guilty
Kidnapping Lt. Steven Floyd – not guilty
Kidnapping – Wilkinson – not guilty
Kidnapping – Smith – not guilty
Kidnapping – Patricia May – not guilty
Conspiracy – not guilty


John Bramble

Riot – no decision
Murder felony – not guilty
Murder law enforcement officer – not guilty
First-degree assault, Officer Joshua Wilkinson – not guilty
First-degree assault on Officer Winslow Smith – no decision
First-degree kidnapping, Lt. Steven Floyd – not guilty
Kidnapping, Officer Joshua Wilkinson – not guilty
Kidnapping Officer Winslow Smith – not guilty
Kidnapping – Patricia May – not guilty
Conspiracy – not guilty


Abednego Baynes

Riot – not guilty
Murder – not guilty
Murder of law enforcement officer – not guilty
Assault, two counts – not guilty
Kidnapping all counts – not guilty
Conspiracy – not guilty


Kevin Berry

Riot – not guilty
Murder 1st degree felony – not guilty
Murder in 1st degree law enforcement officer – not guilty
Assault – not guilty
Kidnapping –not guilty
Conspiracy – not guilty

Feb 25th, 6:30pm: Letter-writing Event for Sean Swain

from Philly ABC

We are at it again with a new location and we’ve switched from the 1st to the 4th Monday of the month; as always all letter-writing supplies & snacks are provided!

 

Where: A-Space, 4722 Baltimore Avenue

When: Monday, February 25th, 6:30pm

This month we are writing letters to Sean Swain, an anarchist prisoner and jailhouse lawyer who has been held by the Ohio DOC since 1991. Before his incarceration, Sean worked as a union organizer and journalist. A home invasion by the relative of a court official led to Sean’s killing that person in self-defense, within his own home. Nevertheless, Sean was convicted of first-degree murder in 1991. Even though the conviction was overturned in 1993, he has still been held ever since. In 2012, Sean was blamed for a disturbance by a group of prisoners calling themselves the “Army of the 12 Monkeys”, and since then, he has been held in “supermax” (aka solitary confinement) basically every day.

In spite of his circumstances, Sean has been a huge force for helping fellow prisoners with their cases, and fighting for more livable conditions within the prison walls. He wrote the book “Last Act of the Circus Animals”, and also has a semi-weekly segment on “The Final Straw” podcast. Because he dares to push back, Sean faces massive repression by his captors, including repeated harassment and outright assaults. He has had to go on hunger strike many times, just to obtain basic human dignities. In spite of this, Sean has not lost his spirit or his sense of humor, and loves getting mail from comrades on the outside. Drawings, jokes, and solidarity are particularly encouraged (all of his mail is read by the guards, though).

If you are unable to make it to the event, you can drop Sean a line at:

Sean Swain #243-205

Warren Correctional Institute

P.O. Box 120

Lebanon, OH 45036

 

We will also be sending birthday greetings to political prisoners with birthdays in February and March: Veronza Bowers (Feb 4th), Kamau Sadiki (Feb 19th), Oso Blanco (Feb 26th), Ana Belen Montes (Feb 27th), Joy Powell (Mar 5th), Andrew Mickel (Mar 13th), Ruchell Magee (Mar 17th), and Jaan Laaman (Mar 21st).

Vaughn 17 Defendant Speaks!: Jarreau Ayers Gives Breakdown on State’s Attempt to Railroad Defendants

from It’s Going Down

One of the Vaughn 17 speaks about the State’s attempt to hide evidence and railroad prisoners throughout the current trial. Produced by the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM).

Jarreau Ayers of the #Vaughn17 gives a breakdown about how the state is trying to bury evidence and railroad the defendants in this trial. The defendants resisted horrendous prison conditions and now they are standing strong together to fight back against the onslaught of the state. They fight back not just for themselves, but all future victims of the judicial system.

[Video Here]

“The majority of the victims of this mischievious court are overwhlemingly minority and lower class citizens when based off ethnicity and economic standards. The subterfuge of vicious, unrelenting racist and classist attacks at times are so subtle that they have the ability to be overlooked and unconsciously accepted by its victims and its future victims.”

Vaughn 17 Trial 2, Week 4: The Defense’s Case

from Support the Vaughn 17

The fourth week of this incredibly long and punitive trial saw defendants Abednego Baynes, Kevin Berry, John Bramble, and Obadiah Miller finally able to speak to the lies the state’s used to construct a case against them. Two defendants from the first trial — Jarreau Ayers and Dwayne Staats — also testified this week, revealing new information about the parts they played regarding the takeover. Other inmate defense witnesses completely discredited the testimony of several of the state’s witnesses, leaving the state with even less of a case against any of the remaining defendants.

Monday, February 4th, saw the tail end of the prosecution’s case. After two weeks of unreliable testimony from unlikeable inmate witnesses, on Friday the state had finally managed to produce a somewhat competent witness, Michael “Latino” Rodriguez. Rodriguez testified that he saw Bramble assault Officer Wilkinson and that he saw Miller stab Sergeant Floyd. Monday’s cross-examination showed that Rodriguez’s testimony contradicted that of other inmates, that he’d gotten information about what’d happened from other people, and that his motivation for cooperating was to get out of jail rather than having been moved by his “conscience.” But he seemed to have made a better impression on the jury than previous witnesses. After lead investigator David Weaver testified about the investigation again, the prosecution rested on Monday.

“I shouldn’t be here.” – Kevin Berry

Kevin Berry’s defense began by calling a few fellow prisoners who were with him during the takeover and attested to his lack of involvement. One prisoner, Joseph Galloway, discredited state witness Henry Anderson’s testimony, saying he was asleep during the assaults he’d said he saw: “Unless he’s superman, he didn’t see nothing cuz he never left the room.” When questioned, he also said that no one had been down near the hot pot watching the assaults, which wipes out another state witness’ testimony. Berry then testified, noting the “bullshit stories” of the prosecution’s witnesses and explaining to the jury that he should never have been charged.

“Peaceful protests don’t work. I’m past that.” – Dwayne Staats

Obadiah Miller’s defense counsel brought up Jarreau Ayers, who admitted he’d lied during the previous trial and that he had in fact collaborated with his co-defendant Dwayne Staats to plan the takeover. Ayers explained he’d made the decision to risk perjury and attest to this now because he’d come to realize that the uprising was a “righteous cause” and that he needed to accept responsibility for it. He said he couldn’t bear to see men who had nothing to do with the takeover being convicted for things he’d decided to do, even though it meant that he now stands no chance of ever leaving prison. Ayers told the courtroom, “I’m sacrificing everything to be here today.”

Staats also expanded on his role in the takeover. During his and Ayers’ trial in the fall, Staats had explained (not under oath, according to him) that he had sought to plan the takeover along with other “lifers” — people who had nothing to lose — and had recruited six other prisoners to take part. On Wednesday of this past week, Staats told the court that he’d also been the first to punch Sergeant Floyd, a signal that attacks on all the officers were to begin. This new admission made the prosecution furious. Staats shrugged this off, explaining that his defense had been based on what the investigators said about him, and that they hadn’t been able to find a witness who said they’d seen him hit anyone.

Ayers and Staats both convincingly explained why they had not recruited the particular defendants on trial to take part in the prison takeover. Of Bramble, Ayers said “Can I be honest? He and his friends just get high all the time.” When asked if any white guys had been asked to participate in the uprising, Ayers laughed and said, “No.”

Staats explained that he’d seen firsthand that Kevin Berry didn’t have the potential to be part of the takeover when an officer had put hands on Berry previously and he did nothing in response. Neither of them knew Baynes, who kept to himself. Miller was known as a tier man, who, as Staats explained, were handpicked and trusted by the police, meaning they were not trusted by other inmates. Miller also testified to this in his own defense, explaining to the jury that many of the inmates who’d lied about his involvement in the uprising had problems with him because he’d been picked for the job despite others having seniority over him.

Baynes testified on Wednesday that he’d spent the morning of the takeover watching Rachel Ray, which he watched every day, and that he’d left before it was over. When questioned about masked inmates he’d seen at a distance during the uprising, he replied, “If you want me to guess, I can play a guessing game like your witnesses did.”

After much censorship and condescension from Judge Carpenter, Baynes’ defense attorney Cleon Cauley was finally allowed to bring up prison expert and correctional operations consultant James Aiken. Aiken testified that inmates should be housed separately after a “critical incident” in order to minimize “contamination” of the investigation. In this case, they were housed together; some people who are now state witnesses were even in the same cells. The judge did not allow him to testify about several significant matters.

John Bramble’s defense presented one prisoner who’d been cellmates with Melvin Williams, who had testified previously that Bramble had come to his cell saying he’d attacked Floyd. Williams’ cellmate testified that no one had ever come to his cell that day saying that. Another inmate’s testimony discredited testimony from another state witness, Larry Sartin. The most significant testimony that day, though, came from prisoner Terek Downing, who had taken care of Counselor May in his cell during the uprising and had witnessed the attack on Sergeant Floyd. Downing exonerated Bramble, whom he’d seen also watching the attack. Downing also completely undermined the previous testimony of state witness Carello, who he said stayed in his cell during the attacks he said he’d seen, and described state witness Rodriguez’s claim that he had also been with Ms. May as “completely false.” Like several defense witnesses before him, Downing described the case against the current defendants as “frustrating” and told the court, “Y’all got the wrong people on trial.”

Bramble’s testimony closed out the defense. Bramble spoke out against state witness Michael Carello’s (now-discredited) claim that Bramble had bragged that he’d “gutted Floyd like a whale, and felt like a KKK member while doing it.” Bramble responded: “That doesn’t even make sense. My mom is black and my little sister and brother are half-black. I was ashamed when he said that. That’s offensive.”

Bramble also spoke to the brutality endured by C-building’s inmates right after the takeover, which he described as a “full-on assault.” Lieutenant Vanes, who’d commanded the force that eventually blitzed the building, had testified that they had used force because prisoners were resisting. Bramble testified that no one had resisted.

Four to five days after the takeover, the 18 prisoners who were ultimately indicted were chosen to be moved to a different building. For a week, Bramble testified, they had only the clothes they’d had on, which were still wet, and no shoes. They weren’t allowed to take showers or make phone calls for five days. When transferred to a different prison, they were put on a tier with nothing, their property was confiscated again, they weren’t given property or books for three months, and they had to go on a hunger strike in order to get their allotted recreation time.

The prosecution succeeded in getting some moderate convictions in the first Vaughn 17 trial because two of the defendants, Ayers and Staats, offered up testimony regarding their involvement in the takeover. The third defendant, Deric Forney, whom only a few witnesses claimed to have seen assaulting an officer, maintained his innocence and was acquitted on all charges.

This trial is different. This time, all four defendants are in Deric Forney’s position. A few more state witnesses have “evolved” their stories to include Bramble and Miller’s names, and there is a questionable DNA sample related to Miller, who as a tier man had regular access to where it was found. But Bramble, Miller, Berry and Baynes have all held out under pressure and abuse for the past two years to stay in solidarity with their co-defendants. They have now convincingly attested to their lack of involvement in the takeover and some of the ways in which they were targeted as part of the state’s desperate attempt at retaliation for one of the most important uprisings so far this century.

The prosecution and the defense’s closing arguments will take place on Monday, February 11, starting at 9:00am in Room 8B at the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. Jury deliberations are expected to begin on Tuesday morning.

SAVE LAVA FROM ATTEMPTED BUILDING TAKEOVER

from Go Fund Me

As some of you may have heard, over the last month two former members of the LAVA collective have attempted to seize control of the building and community center. Banned for numerous reasons including misogynist and homophobic behavior toward collective and community members, renting space without approval and pocketing the money, etc, these former members first changed the locks on the entire building, refused to let anyone into the common areas or their own offices, and then resorted to calling the police on members of the collective in order to maintain their control.

Luckily, their bid to take the building for themselves has failed and the LAVA collective is now able to access the building. However, because these former members have chosen to involve police, LAVA is unable to bar them from entering the space as well – and if they see an opportunity, they may attempt another lockout.

That’s why LAVA is in dire need of financial support – in order to serve them with a notice to vacate (these former members do not live in the building or in west philly), we need advice from a lawyer so that the people in question will not be able to call the police again once they are successfully removed from the space.

Please donate what you can and share this campaign so that we can get advice from a lawyer, as well as do vital work on the space to make sure we pass L&I inspections which are happening as a result of the two people in question calling the police.

Thank you!

[Donate Here]

Friendly Fire Winter newsletter!

from Friendly Fire Collective

OUR WINTER NEWSLETTER IS OUT!

Winter 2019 (1).png

~For more info on the upcoming retreat in this issue~

The emerging vision of Friendly Fire

from Friendly Fire Collective

1-21-3-1-1-1-1-2-1024x640

Power has a way of co-opting the subversive for its own stability. The teachings of Jesus, an anti-imperialist prophet, included. Within a few centuries, Christ’s communities of holy fools and prophets ossified into a vehicle of imperial power, playing a vital role in historical and contemporary colonialism. Today, Christian institutions are globally advocating for right-wing reactionary ideologies. Christianity has materially and historically proven itself to have a devastatingly synergistic relationship with imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and cisheteropatriarchy. For those of us who are Christians with revolutionary anti-capitalist convictions, we are responsible for working through these contradictions for the sake of reparations. U.S. and White Christians are especially called to take responsibility for the sins of their tradition and institutions, working out their salvation in fear and trembling with the knowledge that the sins of the Church are insurmountable.

The Friendly Fire Collective has a number of Christian members currently working through these contradictions. We have been asking ourselves what discipleship in Christ looks like in the context of the US, where Christendom is losing its grip but Christian hegemony remains.

For those not acquainted with our community, Friendly Fire is a network of individuals, cells, and communities who seek to accompany revolutionary and liberatory currents as people of faith. Originally a collective of far left Quakers, we re-oriented our mission early on to include mystics of all faith traditions, including outside Christianity. Though our network is national, our “base” is in Philadelphia, where we have a community focused on anti-imperialist discipleship.

As a community with an apocalyptic vision, we believe that today’s global political  crises are connected and reveal the imperialist order collapsing on us. The last days are here—the world as we know it is coming to an end—and we must build a new world in the ashes of the old. The masses are being called to enact God’s transformative judgment in this world, tearing the mighty off their thrones and lifting up the oppressed. We believe this is essential to the gospel of Jesus.

Though the institutional Church widely dismisses and even combats the political convictions of our community, we look to the witnesses of the Taborites, Beguines and Beghards, early Quakers, militant Anabaptists, Liberation Theology-inspired Christian base communities, the Christians for National Liberation in the Philippines, and other communities and prophets on the outskirts of Christendom that found subversive power in Christ’s gospel. Prophetic communities have periodically popped up throughout history to reveal the sins of the State Church, and to proclaim and demonstrate a different way of following Christ that is egalitarian, communal, Spirit-driven, and against the cruelty and nonsense of the status quo. Many of them tended to retreat from the world, creating isolated communities of mutual aid, spiritual presence, and committed agape love. Other communities, like those who followed the early radical reformer Thomas Müntzer, were grounded in the experience of God and a profoundly political narrative of the apocalypse, feeling that Christ himself invited them to be disciples through the class struggle. This form of political discipleship laid ground for the German Peasants’ War.

As Christians who seek the death of empire, we take comfort that we are not alone, and millions of others who followed Jesus sought the same thing.

We especially look to the example of Christians like Camilo Torres Restrepo, who famously remarked, “If Jesus were alive today, He would be a guerrillero.” He followed Jesus out of the priesthood and academia, and into the revolutionary struggle, joining the National Liberation Army in Colombia. He was shamelessly a Christian Marxist, and provided spiritual support to his comrades. He was martyred in his first experience of combat. His life embodies the gospel our Christian members believe.

In the context of the US, we understand that essential to our discipleship in Christ is combating Christian hegemony. We see an emerging strategy in the Christian/Religious Left forming, which we tend to call “religion for the commune,” that expounds on this mission. This strategy calls us to orient our spiritual lives, as individuals and as spiritual communities, around accompanying liberatory currents. As people of faith, we feel called to be present to the revolutionary process, seeing the political struggle as a spiritual struggle. The love of God dares us to follow empathy into its most radical leadings, including to revolt against a world built on the exploitation of the masses. We hope to corporately participate in the revolutionary struggle, as well as be present to the spiritual needs of the growing revolutionary movement, creating spaces of prayer, contemplation and pastoral care. Through this work of accompaniment, we intend on modeling a new way of being a spiritual community. We can form a theology and practice built from and for the people.

Spiritual practices are a gift to disciples, transforming affinity groups into disciplined revolutionaries, and they can be a gift to the forming Commune. But we should offer these spaces for healing, contemplation, and spiritual practice with the Commune in mind, never centering our spiritual affinity groups or in any way replicating the dynamics of imperialist Christianity. When we join our faith to the Commune, we can discover with the people how to love and serve God, and even how to be disciples of Christ.

Anarchy Afternoons

from Facebook

A-space has been an anarchist social center on West Philly’s Baltimore avenue for decades. This weekly event will prioritize the social center by holding regular open hours. Friday afternoons, A-space will be open for people to come in, hang out, and discuss anarchist topics.

At its most basic, Anarchy Afternoons will provide coffee/tea, wifi access, and space for people to read, write, and talk. Anyone is welcome to stop by for a drink and learn more about anarchism and its history. People with flyers for related events or anarchist literature are encouraged to come by to distribute material.*

As Anarchy Afternoons develops, there will be more intentional discussions based on short presentations, readings, and videos.
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*pls note: Anarchy Afternoons is an informal social space. It does not aim to form an organization or serve to increase membership in existing ones—groups are encouraged to promote events, but this is not a recruiting center. Anarchy Afternoons hopes to open up discussion space for connecting with each other without the pressure to join a group.

[Fridays 1-6pm at A-space Anarchist Community Center 4722 Baltimore Ave]

State Introduces New Witness, Who Felt Led To “Tell The Truth” After First Round Of Trials Ended

from Support The Vaughn 17

The second week of the second round of trials in the state’s pursuit of retribution for the uprising in James T. Vaughn Correctional Center this time two years ago came to an end Friday, January 25 in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a short week, with the federal holiday observed on Monday and Judge Carpenter, who presided over the last round of trials, leaving early on Friday to travel to Las Vegas (but not to gamble, as we were assured). Per Judge Carpenter, there will be no court on Monday of next week, either.

The bulk of this week was the state’s presentation and the defense’s cross-examinations of some of their roster of collaborating inmate witnesses, all of whom testified that they were in C Building at the time of the takeover on February 1, 2017. They acknowledged varying degrees of engagement with people they identified as having various roles in the process, though not all agreed as to who did what, when or where. This is consistent with testimony from last trial, in which all of this week’s snitch witnesses had already testified. As promised by defense counsel in opening arguments, there is indeed a dizzying array of contradictions being shown by the state to the jury.

For the first time, we heard from Aaron Lowman, a 33 year old person serving a life sentence in prison under Delaware’s habitual offender statute. This statute was recently revisited, allowing for the possibility of reduction of sentences as well as for parole in certain cases; while defense attorneys have certainly made them work to prove it, the state has had each of their witnesses thus far speak frankly from the stand in confirmation of their not having any sort of “deal” or “agreement” with them from which they may stand to improve their current situations.

The agreement to align with power means embracing its repression and debasement of human beings- including one’s own self. The inevitable outcomes- personal devastation along with little, or even no improvement to circumstances- are evident all over this situation. This was quite clear in the testimony of Aaron Lowman, who tells us he was previously known as Snoop but has since renounced what he called his “street name.” “Snoop” was apparently mentioned by cooperating witness Antonio Guzman, who testified in last trial and in this trial, stoking the interest of state investigators. He had previously declined to disclose information in statements to these investigators, which he demonstrated from the witness stand both for the prosecutors and for defense attorneys. This, he tells us, is because he was fearful of being charged; as far as speculation thus far about Lowman’s active involvement in the uprising, it was said by Antonio Guzman that “Snoop” tied his hands up prior to releasing him through the yard door in the presence of Jarreau Ayers, convicted of all but the murder charges in last trial. Lowman was consistent with other snitch witnesses in saying that Jarreau Ayers was one of the people negotiating from inside C Building via radio and cellphone with Delaware Department of Corrections personnel, and that he was involved with people leaving the building through the course of the uprising.

Why would a person with life in prison fear providing information to investigators? There is so much here to explore about assisting one’s oppressors and/or collaborating in ill fate befalling people who are in similar situations to one’s own. We didn’t hear about that, though. We reminisced over the testimony of DeShawn Drumgo, also incarcerated at Smyrna, in defense of Jarreau Ayers. The state, we’ll remember, had asked him why he didn’t assist investigators. “They were beating me. That’s a slave mentality,” he said. Aaron Lowman feared retribution, he said repeatedly. “I didn’t want what happened to Smitty [correctional officer and state witness Winslow Smith] to happen to me,” he said.

He said a lot of things- things that were profoundly inconsistent with prior collaborating witness testimony. He said that correctional officer Lieutenant Sennett, called as a witness for the state last week and who also testified in the previous trial, entered the building when it was under siege and heard Sergeant Floyd- who was found deceased 20 hours later, when the state retook the control of the building by bashing a wall with a backhoe and clearing a path inward with flash bangs and fists of fury- say “help me, get me out of here” from inside a mop closet. Aaron Lowman tells us that Sennett ran out, and that he did not see him again.

He said he was able to move freely about the building because his door did not lock completely, though it stayed closed enough to not disturb the remote key system used by correctional officers. He testified that he took advantage of this that day, though under cross-examination it became clear that he had testified that he saw things from viewpoints that are not permissible in the light of building layout and mechanics of the space. Happily, he did not identify Abednego Baynes or Kevin Berry in photographs, which is consistent with prior witness Antonio Guzman saying nothing of import about them, himself. Last week, state’s witness Royal Downs, himself incarcerated in C Building at the time and operating under a plea agreement of guilty to riot charges only in exchange for information about the uprising that he featured prominently in, said of Abednego and Kevin, “I don’t even know why they’re being charged.” He confirmed that he knew Abednego, and confirmed that he was “not involved in anything,” in the words of defense attorney Saagar Shah, co-representing Abednego with Cleon Cauley.

In the same exchange, there was discussion about whether Aaron Lowman believed that others in C Building were telling investigators that he had been vandalizing property in the building. He doubled down on saying he “didn’t do nothing.” Defense counsel Shah asked him if someone had otherwise, would they be mistaken or lying? He said “no, I did what I was told to do, not of my free will.”

Later, with prosecuting assistant attorney general Nichole Warner, he honored what he’d previously testified to- that his mother encouraged him to tell the state what he knew. The skillful observer of this history in the making will note that his statement to investigators indicating his transition to active collaboration against the defendants of Smyrna came on December 5, 2018, after the end of the first trial. “[I wanted] to get it off my chest for the most part, and come clean.” “What were you told regarding deals?” Warner asked. “There would be absolutely no deal for my testimony,” he responded. “What does that mean?” “That I will do the rest of my time in prison,” he answered.

The final word went to Anthony Figliola, defense attorney for Obadiah Miller, who ferreted out a long and significant list of contradictions between Aaron Lowman’s testimony and that of all other witnesses who have come before him during his cross-examinations. He built on what AG Warner had him verify his having asked to turn the recording he was aware of off during his statement in September. “You asked for the tape to be turned off, then you started identifying people. Was that before or after Detective Weaver [chief investigator, who attends the trials with prosecutors] gave you the names of the inmates implicating you?” “He never did,” Lowman answered. “Are you sure of that?” “Yes.” “Nothing more.”

Court will resume at 10am Tuesday, January 29 in Wilmington.