On The Recent Events In West Philly

Submission

It’s well known that West Philly is rapidly gentrifying. Developers and more moneyed renters and buyers continue to successfully take more space from poor and working-class Black people. In this process, one of the few negative consequences these newcomers might experience is getting robbed in the neighborhood. In January, the number of robberies in the heart of gentrifying West Philly shot up, in the area between 41st and 49th streets (from east to west) and between Ludlow and Cedar avenues (from north to south). At least eight robberies were reported during that month, according to a University City District (UCD) report. Four homes on Hazel and Larchwood avenues between 49th and 51st streets were also burglarized during this time.

In response, a few of the more unapologetic gentrifiers not only reported the incidents to the police, but also attended a “community meeting” hosted by the police. Following the meeting, the Philly police announced that they would have an increased police presence in the area, including foot patrols specifically in the area between 48th-52nd streets. Sure enough, residents have noticed a lot more cop cars as well as cops on foot in the area since.

On Wednesday, March 6, this increased cop presence and paranoia culminated in the cops shooting a young Black man who live near 49th and Hazel — exactly where gentrifiers had been complaining about burglaries and robberies taking place. Claiming that they had been called to the scene in response to a “stabbing incident” (no stabbing victim was found at the scene) and that he was holding a knife outside a house on the street, the cops shot 25 year old graduate student Kaleb Belay six times (three in the chest). As of this writing he is stable condition at Penn Presbyterian Hospital.

It’s never worth it to call the police over some lost property — and we personally won’t call them to deal with any of our problems. The high 40 and low 50 streets are undergoing intense gentrification. Know that the police’s role is to attract more gentrifiers and push people originally from the neighborhood out. That’s what happened when University of Pennsylvania cleared out an entire neighborhood (what was once called the Black Bottom) of West Philly in order to move the school there decades ago — that’s why UCD security roam the neighborhood.

The police are just looking for an excuse to roll in and further the dispossession and extermination of Black people from the neighborhood. Don’t give them one!

The night after the police shooting, a group of 20-30 people marched down Baltimore Ave with a banner reading “Fuck the Police.” At least two new buildings on the ave between 50th and 48th streets, all with gentrifying new architecture, had windows broken, and one had “Fuck Cops” written on it. The Mariposa Co-Op, which has been a beacon of gentrification in the neighborhood for a long time (known for calling the police on panhandlers), had red paint thrown at one of its surveillance cameras. Anti-police tags and stickers were put up. After the police arrived, things calmed and the march went to the hospital where Kaleb is recovering before dispersing. Throughout the march many passersby and drivers shouted “Yeah, fuck the police!” and other words of encouragement. There were no arrests.

As is usual, the police and media are trying to confuse and bury the story. Initially police reported responding to a call of a man with a weapon, then they said it was a stabbing, although no stabbing victim was found. News media have not been prioritizing the story, instead continuing to publish other stories that justify the further policing of West Philly.

The Eritrean and Ethiopian networks in Philadelphia have come together to support Kaleb. Fundraising efforts have begun to help with costs associated with surviving being shot by the police. A vigil has been organized, and other support meetings have already taken place.

The police and gentrification work together to displace, imprison, and eliminate black and brown people. Each reinforces the other. Gentrifiers encourage the police to do their job, and the police create a welcoming environment for gentrifiers. It’s not surprising that gentrifiers are inviting the police into the neighborhood through the rhetoric of crime and safety (being racist is passe). Despite what either group says, their goals align. It should come as no surprise that Kaleb was shot by the police after neighbors reached out to the police to be more present in the area.

It makes sense to us that people are attacking construction and new buildings in the wake of a gentrification-enabled shooting. Fuck the police! Fuck gentrification!

Notes and Critiques from the Philly Anarchist uhh…Network? Meeting? Caucus? Jawn?

Submission

Hello everybody,
First of all, we want to reiterate our total surprise and pleasure at both the attendance of the last meeting and the way conversation went: the fact that so many different folks and tendencies could all hang out in that room together and talk strategy and desire was completely rad. For those who didn’t attend, hopefully the notes attached here will help!
We are currently setting up a listserv through Riseup, but, as anyone knows who has gone through Riseup before, it takes a little while, so thanks for bearing with. You should receive an email from that group by the end of this week.
For now, we wanted to send out the notes and, with a week’s hindsight, solicit critiques, questions, or suggestions that could be brought to the next…meeting? convergence?…to sharpen our knives and focus the…network? gaggle? rhizome?…on what folks really need.
Some prompt questions:
What did you take away from the meeting?  What did you think could have worked better?  What would you want to be different from meetings going forward? How could a network like this actually help you to achieve your desires?
Please let us know what you’re thinking! We crave your critique. And also, remember that this is meant to be a…forum? caucus? council?…that anyone can call for upcoming actions they think are important, so please get in touch if you think it’s time we had another, and we will discuss with you and help plan out the logistics for the next meeting.
More soon!
Philly Anarchy Jawn
[Notes Document]

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.

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.

Reportback from Yiddish Anarchism conference

from Anarchist News

01/20/2019

As one of a pair of Philadelphia anarchists who traveled up to this event together last weekend, I admit that I did not know much about Yiddish anarchism as such before registering us both for this academic conference (subtitled “New Scholarship on a Forgotten Tradition”). I’m also not an academic (at least not officially). What I found there- especially as the day went on- didn’t seem too very anarchist overall.

I kept telling myself that it was the time period’s historically significant preoccupation with work, work relations and wars that was being focused on (the late 1800s through the 1950s, mostly) and asking myself if it’s possible that there just isn’t that much information available that could be considered fairly to be illuminating on Yiddish anarchism in and of itself (though a robust list of materials at the host facility/archive/museum was offered, which I’ve attached). At one point I found myself fidgeting in my chair when questions about left unity were brought up from the audience.

There was a strong start, though. Spencer Sunshine, the conference organizer, made a few salient points. One was that most situations ask how to keep anarchists and radicals out of them. This, instead, was staging a conference in which he thought 70 people would show and there were 1300 responses of interest on Facebook (which is of course an excellent barometer for actual attendance, but sure). On the actual topic, he promised exploration of Yiddish anarchism appropriate for the historically-minded- both for Jewish interest and for New York interest- for the Yiddishist crowd who can read primary sources, for what he called radical rejecting-of-Zionism Jews and for anarchists, who would ask what specifically Jewish anarchy would look like. He endeavored to look for more positives, in his words, citing exhaustion with the default anti-Zionist Jewish identity.

Assertion after assertion after assertion after assertion followed for hours, punctuated with a handful of interesting historical nuggets and a few funny/poignant slides. It was indeed an academic conference. The indeed well-over-capacity crowd seemed to cover a lot of ground, though- there were lots of younger college-age folks, and someone posted on Twitter about saving seats with an Antifascist Action flag draped over them (though I did not see that). We were told in the welcome address that there was an enormous collection of Yiddish pornography in the museum’s archives, which made everyone laugh. Several elders were present, many of whom were attending along with younger people. This is promising, especially if it was more a manifestation of shared interest in anarchism, which clearly has a legacy problem. The median age of attendees seemed to be about 40 or so.

To circle back to Spencer Sunshine, he did also briefly mention the phenomenon of anti-semitism on the left, which in my avowedly not-a-leftist-at-all view is enormous and also poorly addressed. I thought on it more than he talked about it in his introduction, and so I’ll take a swing at it here. A gaping hole in the wonderful world of identity politics and the stifling, stilted, caricature-generating, frankly authoritarian practice of living and organizing by them is the persistent assumption that Jewish people are white and/or white-passing. I would say that I deal with that every day but I avoid, avoid, avoid people who think and act like this and I have for a very long time, preferring to think about whiteness as actively choosing to be on the side of power rather than being committed to interrogating, confronting and unwinding it wherever it may manifest itself, even in polite- and/or polite activist- society. It would have been amazing to see more about of how the milieu, especially on the Lower East Side, in which Yiddish anarchism is said to have been situated for the most part, made this commitment to being free happen in its heyday and since. Forgotten tradition, perhaps; I personally suspect it is alive and well in more places than a less careful and attentive eye may tend to look around. We need much more than war stories, anecdotes and tales of friends of friends to make- and keep- this real.

The programming- which consisted of unrelated 15 to 20 minute presentations by individual, active, paid academic writers and educators glommed into awkward panels that each in turn fielded questions, including an early one about why bother asserting anarchist identity at all if the world we dream of will never come to be. There was also the aforementioned inquiry into the importance of left unity both here and there (meaning in 1920s Russia, the domain of another presenter who made a valiant effort to delineate the revolution she spoke of as being anarchist, not socialist and made a single-line mention of individualist anarchism as a tendency in Russia). The program had a few objectively interesting topics but there didn’t seem to be much of a method to it overall. It seemed like the roster of presenters was drawn from who responded to express interest, and of those, who was available to be there. We were reassured that someone came from Croatia to attend, though. In a frankly concerning exchange, a presenter who teaches in Budapest told us that “people who get caught intentionally got caught,” because “you can just say you’re not an anarchist.” He can take that right back over there, for my part. A biographer and historian of Johann Most, New York-based publisher, atheist firebrand (he wrote “Die Gottespest”- translated as “The God Pestilence”) and frenemy of Emma Goldman- sounds like Most was fun at parties- presented and promoted his book about organizing in beer halls. I didn’t stay to find out what postvernacular meant, because I read it in the conference guide under the subtitle “the politics of flagging with Yiddish.”

It wasn’t clear through the whole day that what was promised- an exploration of what makes things distinctly Yiddish anarchism, as the conference organizer said was division by language, not identity and not Jewish but Yiddish speaking- would be shown to us aside from the work of one presenter who is a historian of Rudolf Rocker and the London East End. Local favorite Voltairine de Cleyre was mentioned as a contributor to working-class organizing that skewed heavily Jewish and/or Yiddish speaking (a theme, this and/or!), and a lot of similar content followed. We were taught that Rose Pesotta, who was a garment workers’ union organizer in New York, traveled to Lodz in the wake of the devastation of war across Europe to find people who asked only for moral support, literature, a printing press and a linotype machine in Polish. Their desire, according to the presenter, was to keep learning by virtue of their not having asked Rose Pesotta for visas or help for themselves. Okay.

Meeting a Yiddishist for the first time was good, though. Anna Elena Torres, whose field of expertise is working-class poetry in Yiddish and history/biography of its writers, including Peretz Markish (1895-1952). She told the story of his life’s work, The Man Of Forty, which was smuggled out of his native land in a potato sack by his wife once he was caught up by the state under suspicion of being its enemy. She gracefully fielded a question about backlash against use of the Yiddish language in publishing, confronting the notion that it was used to get around censorship rather than a manifestation of pride in who one is and how one wishes to express oneself. She also told us she talked to Audrey Goodfriend once, which made me (and I am sure some others there) smile, thinking of the people who knew and loved her. Professor Torres said she asked her why she still engaged with Yiddish in the context of anarchism after long-running newspaper Freie Arbeiter Stimme ended in 1977 and a half (in her words). “What are you, an academic?” she said Audrey Goodfriend responded. “Fortunately,” she told the audience, remembering, “at that time, I was not.”

Second Vaughn 17 Trial: End of First Week

from Support the Vaughn 17

After failing to present any substantive evidence all week and then seeing their star witness devastatingly discredited under cross-examination on Friday, one might think the prosecution for the Vaughn 17 case would be going home this weekend and discussing how to quietly drop the charges against the remaining prisoners charged with alleged involvement in the February 2017 uprising at Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware.

Unfortunately, it’s more likely that the state will again draw out its proceedings for at least an additional three weeks in an attempt to convince an obedient jury of the defendants’ guilt, despite having almost nothing to show for its two-year investigation other than its own culpability.

Wednesday of this week saw testimony from a correctional officer working as a fireman at the time of the uprising, who’d come up from the prison building’s basement in the early moments of the takeover. He likely could have stopped the uprising from happening, but chose to return to the basement. He was only able to identify one prisoner, Dwayne Staats, who, according to his own pro se defense during the last trial, played an important role in planning and maintaining the building takeover. Counselor Patricia May, held by prisoners during the uprising but not assaulted, also only identified Staats (he had identified himself to her during the last trial). Correctional officers Winslow Smith and Josh Wilkinson, who were held in a supply closet during the uprising, testified at length about to their injuries but could not identify anyone. According to their own testimony, they were released within hours from the hospital’s emergency department following the uprising, which does not indicate severe injuries. Extensive photos of their wounds were shown for the benefit of the jury, however.

No mention has been made so far of the violent abuse nearly every inmate in the building was subjected to immediately following the uprising, nor of the punitive confinement conditions, beatings, and harassment that the prisoners targeted by this investigation have been dealing with for the past two years.

The state’s main witness, Royal “Diamond” Downs, testified at length on Friday. Downs exonerated both Abednego Baynes and Kevin Berry, saying that they were “just there, just like anyone” and confirming under cross-examination that he was surprised that they were charged.

Downs is a significant witness because he was the only inmate charged who cooperated with the state (the other defendants were likely targeted in part because they refused on principle to cooperate), and though he claims otherwise, he clearly played a major role in the uprising, had significant power in the prison, and a detailed knowledge of other inmates’ activities. He claims to have seen Miller as part of a group that went into the building from the yard with masks on (allegedly to start the takeover by taking the COs hostage), to have noticed Miller changing his clothes outside the mop closet after the first assaults, and that Miller told him he had “poked” Floyd. Downs had to have his memory of previous statements to investigators “refreshed” by prosecutors at least four times during direct testimony alone, which was what allowed him to “remember” the two current defendants’ involvement. Miller’s lawyer is expected to challenge Downs’ testimony in his cross-examination on Tuesday.

John Bramble’s lawyer, Tom Pederson, came out swinging in his cross-examination of Downs, which lasted almost two and a half hours. Before demonstrating at length that this is not Downs’s first time cooperating with the state and that he will put his needs before anyone, Pederson grilled Downs on his failure to have mentioned in his many previous statements that he’d seen Bramble going into the building with a mask on, or that he’d seen him later during the occupation with a shank. Downs also claims to have talked to Bramble immediately before the takeover and that Bramble said he was “with it.” Though Downs was incredibly stubborn, he admitted that his testimony was inconsistent and could not explain why he had not previously named Bramble along with the group of prisoners going into the building wearing masks.

The prosecution has still not been able to produce any witnesses who say they saw the assaults, and other circumstances — like the low visibility, the flooding that likely spread blood to many of the prisoners’ clothes, and the tendency of many prisoners to regularly carry shanks for self-defense — show how little such circumstantial evidence can contribute to proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. On Monday, the investigator tasked with collecting evidence following the uprising even defended his failure to send in masks for analysis by stating repeatedly that wearing a mask did not entail involvement in assaulting officers.

Cross-examination of Royal Downs is expected to resume on Tuesday, January 22, at 9:30am at the New Castle County Courthouse.

Four More Bravely Stare Down State’s Fixation On Retribution For 2017 Smyrna Prison Uprising

from Support the Vaughn 17

Wilmington, DE

“Prison is not somewhere people aspire to spend their lives,” Delaware assistant attorney general Nichole Warner told us as she opened the state’s case against Kevin Berry, John Bramble, Abednego Baynes and Obadiah Miller. These four individuals, like those who were tried before them, know this fact all too well given the repression they have faced before and after the events of February 2017. And so, once again we bear witness and offer support however we can- by writing letters, by showing up in court, by raising money, by making time to listen, by lifting up voices for human dignity!

Speaking about February 1, 2017- AG Warner described “a day unlike any other, that not all would live to regret,” when prisoners seized control of C building at James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility, and held it for nearly a day. She spoke of the uprising in terms of terror and criminal responsibility, underscoring the state’s method of dealing with issues by making people pay, instead of taking even modest steps to correct dire problems. It was evident from the previous trial, where no service was given to the vicious, coordinated and planned machinations of prison (and the devastating impacts this causes to people and families), but rather, a singular desire on the part of the state to identify, isolate, and punish several individuals for the collective failure of a brutal, racist system to protect even its own enforcers, such as the late Sergeant Steven Floyd.

Cautions came in opening arguments from defense attorneys for each of the comrades currently facing trial, focusing on Delaware’s accomplice liability statutes and the state’s emphasis on circumstantial evidence. Cleon Cauley for Abednego Baynes noted that “everything the state said earlier was not evidence” and advanced his notion that “it will become evident that the state made a snap judgment” about his client. It is hard to disagree with Mr. Cauley’s claim that “constant questioning is the only way we can reach the truth.” Andrew Witherell, representing Kevin Berry, emphasized the need for presumption of innocence despite, in his words, the stigma of incarceration and the understanding of an inmate’s condition as being unpopular. Speaking to the jury, he said “you can see and hear [collaborating] witnesses, make conclusions about what they say and how they say it, how they act, their demeanor.. you can listen and make judgment as to their bias, their concerns. Is there trickery? What do they expect to get out of this trial?” Tom Pedersen, representing John Bramble, asked the jury “would you be satisfied with what you hear if Mr. Bramble was the valedictorian of the charter school?” He then warned the jury that they would hear a “dizzying array of contradictions,” asking them to consider whether they would “allow these contradictions to return a verdict of guilty.” He also correctly identified a “lack of dignity” in the state’s approach, extending this to Sergeant Floyd and making clear that this is “about finding truth, not about throwing it up against the wall and hoping something sticks.” He promised a “vigorous and zealous” defense of John Bramble moving forward. Obadiah Miller, who was anticipating release in October 2019 prior to being targeted by this- as the judge explicitly stated during court- ongoing investigation, is being represented by Tony Figliola. Mr. Figliola instilled the notion that his client was “a friend of some of the organizers, and he was dragged into this because of that association.”

A sobering reminder that in its relentless quest to retaliate against those who dare to assert their humanity, the state will also seek to criminalize us based on who our friends are.

Following a once more tedious and plotless offering and review of the state’s direct evidence- photographs and envelopes out of context while interviewing the state’s crime scene experts and evidence collection and processing teams- it was apparent that the approach of wearing out the jury by showing item after item would be used again, in addition to heavy reliance on collaborating witness testimony for the state. The state appears to be counting on the jury- and thusly on each of us- to accept its deadly assertions through trading on what Jarreau Ayers called “the illusion of prestige” during his own self-mounted defense in the fall’s first round of trials. Jarreau Ayers’ diligent and courageous pro se efforts resulted in his acquittal by jury on the murder charges and conviction on kidnapping, riot and conspiracy, but it was clear that this illusion of prestige he so perfectly identified was going to be strong again in the opening week here.

Details of what was described- as it had been in the last trial- as the biggest crime scene in Delaware history were reviewed, but the state continued to fail in accounting for why well under 10 percent of the items presented as evidence were in turn analysed by forensic experts despite this investigation being characterized as a “spare no expense” situation. The death of a law enforcement officer (as correctional officers are classified in Delaware) was one of the outcomes of the uprising- this carries its own separate murder charge in Delaware, so each defendant indicted for murder has two murder charges despite there being one death discovered in the end. The state demonstrated in its witnesses’ testimony once more that no outside consultation was made by the state’s investigators with professionals who had engaged with similar situations at any time. It was, as it had been before, abundantly clear early this week that the strength of the bamboozle would again be key to the state’s pursuit of retaliation, retribution and fear-mongering in a desperate attempt to persist in their agenda of domination over each and all of us.

Court support is always welcome- though discretion, composure and situational awareness all remain paramount as there is and has been constant media, state and law enforcement presence (all with smartphones) in the courtroom, hallways and surrounding areas in Wilmington. It remains advisable to note for care of self and others that this will be a long haul, with record of a 5 week trial completed thus far and reasonable belief that this second round of four planned trials will last at least that long as well. Stay tuned for regular updates as to the evolving cases both for and against the defendants of Smyrna.

vaughn17support.org

Second ‘Vaughn Uprising’ Prison Revolt Trial Underway in Delaware

from Unicorn Riot

Wilmington, DE – On Monday January 14, opening arguments took place in the second trial of prisoners accused of involvement in a prisoner revolt at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center on February 1, 2017. During the events that were quickly labeled the ‘Vaughn Uprising’, prisoners at Building C at the prison facility in Smyrna, Delaware took over the building and held several guards and a prison counselor hostage while demanding improvements to poor living conditions. The uprising ended the next day with police forcibly retaking the building and with corrections officer Sergeant Steven Floyd found dead in his office.

Prisoners have also filed a lawsuit claiming prison guards systematically tortured and abused them in indiscriminate collective punishment since the uprising took place. In the months after the uprising, 18 prisoners from Vaughn would be indicted on felony charges of murder, assault, kidnapping, riot, and conspiracy.

The first trial of three prisoners accused of involvement in the Uprising concluded late last year. Dwayne Staats and Jarreau Ayers, both prisoners serving life sentences at Vaughn who represented themselves at trial and freely admitted their involvement in events during the uprising, were both convicted on some of the charges brought by the state. Derric Forney, a younger prisoner scheduled to be released in a few years, was found not guilty on all charges despite prosecutors’ insistence that he acted as a “soldier” working under alleged planners of the building takeover.

Letters sent by Staats described how the intention behind the building takeover was to create awareness about abuse and poor conditions at Vaughn. In this respect he wrote, “the trial is an extension of the uprising.” Similar themes appear poised to define the second Vaughn Uprising trial as well.

Opening arguments in the second trial from the State of Delaware, given by Deputy Attorney General Nichole Warner, were nearly identical to those made in the first trial last year. Little evidence was mentioned that pertained to the specific defendants, with the prosecution instead giving a general overview of events on February 1, 2017 and making an emotional appeal over the death of corrections officer Steven Floyd.

The four defendants currently on trial are Abednego Baynes, Kevin Barry, John Bramble, and Obadaiah Miller.

  • Baynes is alleged to have been seen participating in the attacks on each of the 3 corrections officers taken hostage that day.
  • Barry is accused of being seen “in the group huddled up in the yard” before the uprising took place, and prisoner witnesses for the state reportedly claim he was seen assaulting two corrections officers and had blood on his clothes.
  • Bramble is accused of being seen wearing a mask, assaulting one of the COs, and having blood on his hands and clothing.
  • Miller is accused of being seen by prisoners with Sergeant Floyd after he was taken hostage, is accused of being seen with a knife, allegedly had blood on his clothes, and prosecutors claim his DNA was found in the mop closet where Sergeant Floyd was kept after he was taken hostage (Floyd was later moved to the Sergeant’s office where his dead body would later be recovered. According to the autopsy by the medical examiner, Floyd did not die from a specific wound and likely would have survived if police had rescued him sooner.)

Defense attorneys for all four prisoners on trial aggressively contested the evidence against their clients in their opening arguments, insisting that the state would not meet its burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Andrew Witherell, representing Kevin Barry, told jurors that “simply because [Barry] is a sentenced inmate…that doesn’t lower his standards” of rights to due process: “the fact that he’s a prisoner does not imply any additional bad will.”

Witherell told jurors that “little, if any” of the evidence they would hear at trial would have anything to do with his client. He also cast doubt on the integrity of investigations by the prosecution, which he said was largely based on incomplete police work done in haste in the immediate aftermath of the prison revolt: “Police wrote a report, rubber stamped [it], and here we are.

Anthony Figliola, representing Obadaiah Miller, also took shots at Delaware prosecutor’s assertions about his client’s guilt. Figliola told jurors “this whole prosecution is selective” because out of “126 inmates in the C Building…only 18 were charged.” Miller was due to be released in October 2019, Figliola told the courtroom, which cast doubt on his motive to attack prison guards because he “was not one of the guys that had nothing to lose“.

Figliola asserted that the only “direct evidence” against Miller, who is accused of participating in the attack that led to Floyd’s eventual death, is from other prisoners, “individuals who weren’t charged” and therefore have a clear motive to curry favor from prosecutors and prison officials through testimony favorable to the state’s case. He also told jurors about how many of the inmate witnesses had been housed together in the months leading up to trial, creating a scenario where “some of them go back, and they talk to the other inmates, and a plan is formulated” to change their stories.

Maybe 8 people…had access to that mop room at all times…whose DNA did they look for? One person. That’s what I mean when I talk about selective prosecution.” – Anthony Figliola, defense counsel for Obadaiah Miller

Miller’s lawyer further attacked the assertions that he stabbed Sergeant Floyd, saying that investigators “didn’t find any shank on Mr. Miller“, “didn’t find his fingerprints or DNA on any shanks“, and didn’t find any blood on his clothes. Miller is also accused of being seen wearing a mask during the uprising, which Figliola said doesn’t mean he is guilty since many prisoners were covering their faces to avoid breathing in smoke from fires that had been set inside the building. Figliola also told jurors that Miller’s DNA being found in the mop closet where Floyd was held hostage didn’t mean he was guilty either, since Miller was a “tier man” who was entrusted with a job cleaning the prison facility, meaning that he had regular access to the mop closet, meaning that his DNA could have ended up there as the result of his normal cleaning duties.

Thomas Peterson, defense counsel for John Bramble, began his opening argument with a folk tale about a farmer who finds a snake freezing to death and puts it in his pocket, only to be bitten and poisoned by the snake. He told jurors that the fable illustrated why they shouldn’t trust the inmate witnesses central to the prosecution’s case: “really what this case is going to boil down to…[is] the testimony of snakes from James T. Vaughn…this case is predicated upon the testimony of those inmates.”

Peterson went on to tell the court that “there is not one iota of objective, scientific evidence that points to the guilt of John Bramble” and promised that “you are going to hear a dizzying array of contradictions” in the evidence provided by the state.  Bramble’s lawyer also challenged jurors to reflect on whether it was truly possible for them to give a fair trial with the presumption of innocence “to someone who’s already in jail”, asking them “Would you be satisfied with this same quality of prosecution…if Mr. Bramble were the valedictorian of the charter school?

Peterson said that Bramble deserved “to be prosecuted based on quality evidence” and denounced the prosecution’s evidence as having “no dignity” and providing “a lack of dignity to Sergeant Floyd” by not adequately investigating the circumstances surrounding his death. Characterizing the Delaware Attorney General’s work on the Vaughn Uprising case as a “throw everything up against the wall and hope something sticks approach“, Peterson told the jury that “an inmate doesn’t come to court and testify unless he wants something in return.”

After the first three defendants made opening arguments, Judge William Carpenter told the state to call their first witness, and had to be reminded that he had forgotten entirely about Abednego Baynes, the fourth defendant on trial in his court. Baynes is represented by attorneys Saagar Shah and Cleon Cauley, whose opening argument alleged that the state made a “snap judgement” after the uprising and that the case against their client is based on that snap judgement rather than proper evidence. “My client was put on a list early in this process,” Cauley told the court, asking jurors to “question everything” and to look out for missing or contradictory evidence in the state’s case. Like other defense counsel, Cauley insisted that “little, if any” of the evidence to be presented at trial would implicate Abednego Baynes.

The case brought by the Delaware Attorney General, like their case in the first trial, depends on accounts by cooperating inmate witnesses, many of whom have given contradictory statements and live at the mercy of prison officials who will be watching their testimony with interest.

Testimony by inmate witnesses is also expected to be used as evidence in a lawsuit on behalf of prisoners housed at Vaughn. The lawsuit, which is being brought by Delaware attorney Stephen Hampton, alleges a deliberate policy of “ongoing abuse” and “ubiquitous torture” of prisoners. Hampton also noted that three suspicious deaths of Vaughn prisoners since the February 2017 uprising have been dismissed by state officials as unrelated to any foul play by prison staff. In the first Vaughn trial last year, several inmate witnesses for the state testified about being violently abused by prison guards and police in the immediate aftermath of the uprising.

The second Vaughn Uprising trial, like the first, is scheduled to last over a month, with weeks of witness testimony from corrections officers and inmate witnesses. 11 other prisoners indicted for their alleged role in the uprising are scheduled to go to trial later in 2019.

 

Title photo credit: Tomasz Kuran aka Meteor2017, via Wikimedia Commons


Unicorn Riot’s Coverage of the Vaughn Uprising trials:

Philadelphia, 2018: Year in Review

from It’s Going Down

Originally published in the pages of the anarchist magazine, Anathema, what follows is a look back and reflection on anarchist activity in 2018 in the Philadelphia area.

Most of 2018 was a disaster, as the Trump administration carried on with its daily diversions and atrocities against the backdrop of the rapid destruction of the earth, ever-worsening economic downturn and class stratification, and rampant white supremacy, border violence and fascism. Our efforts to fight these worsening conditions seem to us to be both extremely inadequate and to offer a glimpse of what might still be possible. Below we share some of our thoughts on changes in the local anarchist space, some of our critiques and disappointments, and some of our moments of joy and success. This article is written with the intention of initiating reflection and dialogue, and of furthering anarchist struggle; responses and critiques are welcome.

CHANGES

In 2018, we’ve seen the feeling of urgency about Trump’s presidency die down. The rush to get active has slowed and radical struggles have changed as a result. It seems that many liberals have left the streets. At the demonstrations and public meetings, instead of a mix of restless liberals and radicals, we have seen that a diversity of radicals (communists, socialists, anarchists, and others) make up a large part of who is present. The major struggles of 2018 here — anti-fascist counter-demonstrations, Occupy ICE, the prison strike — were spaces opened up by and filled with many different radical actors.

As always, 2018 brought with it social shifts in the anarchist space. Friendships forming and ending, new groups coming together and coming apart, individuals taking on more and less active roles. Some organizational projects are finished, like RAM Philly and Love City Antifa; others have sprouted up (Liberation Project, Friendly Fire, the latest incarnation of the Philadelphia IWW, and the informal pseudo-organization Summer of Rage). Other projects have stayed put, continuing and even expanding their activity during 2018: the North, West, and Solidarity chapters of Philly Food Not Bombs; Radical Education Department; the Philly Anti-Repression Fund; Philly Antifa; as well as this publication, Anathema.

One difference between 2018 and the year before has been that things have felt less frantic — the need to respond to Trump’s election by “doing something” has slipped away like so many liberals from the street. This is not to say that anarchist activity has slowed or stopped; anarchists are still doing their thing, this time with an energy that feels more unhurried.

STRENGTHS

The anarchist space has proved itself to be consistent, communicative, and intense in 2018. Through the major struggles of the year, a range of tactics and approaches were put forth. From doxxing fascists to knocking on doors to spread information in neighborhoods, from sabotage and attack to squatting and occupation, the methods used in the last year have been much more varied than in 2017. This may be due to the diversity of radicals present in and around the anarchist space.

The diversity of tactics and actors has led to a need for communication and clarification, which, although sometimes in an abrasive manner, has been met with publications, conversations, and communiques. The most notable example is the conflict between some anarchists and others at Philly’s Occupy ICE. This feud led to the clarification of anarchists’ positions within the larger radical space, via participation in assemblies, the publication of a controversial zine, the distribution of anarchist literature, and countless face-to-face conversations. Tensions along lines of class, race, and comfort were addressed by anonymous writer(s) Philly Anarchy Jawn, and texts were written by a heterogeneous group that emphasized the role of homeless comrades in the struggle against ICE and policing in general.

This kind of clarification between radicals is important to understanding each other’s struggles. It’s clear that ideas of left unity are not appealing or relevant to all anarchists in Philadelphia, but it seems that mutual understanding and the possibility of collaboration (when our goals line up) is still very much on the table. What will it look like to continue putting forward our analysis and positions? Is it really so bad if we’re not all on the same page about everything? Can we re-imagine discord between radicals as a multiplication of fronts on which to fight the social war? How can we use the diversity of ideas and approaches to struggle as a strength, and work together when our projectualities align?

Beyond Occupy ICE, counter-information initiatives continue to provide a space to encounter and deepen anarchist and anti-authoritarian ideas. The walls in 2018 were not kept blank, and anarchist zine distros, social media accounts, this newspaper, the PHL AntiCap website, conversations more and less public, and the publication of the book Movement for No Society by local anarchists have helped spread and deepen anarchist ideas. What messages are we interested in spreading, and to whom? How can we articulate our ideas in ways that are accessible to our intended audience? How can inter-anarchist communication better sharpen and solidify our ideas?

Public social space was opened up for benefit events more often this year, including for a J20 brunch, a J20 benefit at LAVA, the annual June 11th barbecue, and Running Down the Walls. If these events continued or happened more often, it could serve a number of purposes in building a stronger radical milieu.

Relatedly, anti-repression efforts among anti-authoritarians were strong: J20 resistance defense successfully drew to a close in the spring; the Anti-Repression Fund and other individuals conducted a campaign against the Mural Arts Program’s Frank Rizzo mural that succeeded in driving down the plea deal for a friend who had been charged with most recently vandalizing it; and a coalition of Philly anti-authoritarians got together to help coordinate support for the Vaughn 17 prison rebels as their trials began in the fall in Wilmington, DE.

Philadelphia ABC has been a consistent project that aims to support political prisoners, but has made efforts to do much more. Monthly letter-writing nights not only open space to communicate with prisoners, but also for anarchists, new or not, to run into each other and share a meal. ABC organized Running Down the Walls in August to uplift the struggle of political prisoners, and has also been focused on freeing the Virgin Island 3 by organizing a call-in and write-in campaign. What other long-term anti-prison projects are we interested in creating? How can we bridge the gap between so-called political and social prisoners?

As anarchists face a society whose notion of time matches the speed and amnesia of scrolling through a smartphone feed, memory and remembrance begin to feel more and more important. Timelines and chronologies have been published online and as zines, specifically a text on the unfolding of the anti-ICE camps and a zine recording the struggle against gentrification over the last five years. This year saw the death of Pablo Avendano, which had a powerful impact on many radicals. People wrote graffiti, dropped a banner, and organized two bicycle rides to commemorate his life and keep his name in the street and in struggle. Some attacks during Black December (an international call for action and communication in remembrance of dead anarchists) were accompanied by communiques that explicitly reference anarchists internationally who have passed away. How can our sense of memory and time be used to further struggle? How can we avoid the trap of longing for the past while remaining immobilized in the present?

Like 2017, 2018 saw consistent clandestine attacks and sabotage throughout the year, reminding us that breaking the social peace is still possible. Attacks were one way that people were able to practice and deepen their skills, experiment with what does or does not work, and figure out what it will take to fight against domination as this global shitshow gets even worse.

This year, the timing of various attacks has been more lined up with the directions of local events and social struggles. During Occupy ICE, attacks took place against collaborating companies and banks; during the prison strike, prison profiteers like Starbucks and UPS were struck; and in the lead-up to fascist and far-right gatherings, symbols and people involved were attacked.

In the spring, an underground campaign against Amazon, during which most notably an Amazon Treasure Truck was set on fire overnight in the parking lot of a West Philly Amazon warehouse, was probably a major reason that the corporation ultimately decided to place its second headquarters elsewhere. Prior to the campaign, Philadelphia had been within Amazon’s top three choices for HQ2.

In the fall, anti-fascists waged a concerted campaign to stop Keystone United (a state-wide white supremacist bonehead crew) from holding its annual Leif Erikson Day celebration at the Thorfinn Karlsefni statue in Philadelphia. After 30 days of impressively doxxing seemingly everyone who has ever purposely hung out with KU members, including detailed information on the housing, employment and cars of some key regional members, KU members and associates were scared and panicking. When vandals in the night took down the Thorfinn statue itself and threw it in the Schuykill River, the conditions for KU’s event were completely destroyed. This is the first time in recent memory that anti-authoritarians have succeeded in completely preventing a fascist or far-right event from occurring here, rather than from simply disrupting it — this can point us in the direction of further success.

2018 saw some escalation in terms of attacks. Attacks aimed at individuals responsible for domination (a prison guard’s car and a far-right organizers home), attacks using fire (the burning of a cell phone tower and an Amazon truck), and attacks during Black December (against police cars and ATMs) indicated more frequent use of more intense methods than in previous years.

The last year has seen the continuation of many anarchist practices based in time and continuity. May Day, June 11th, International Week of Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners in August, the days surrounding Thanksgiving and Columbus Day, Black December, and New Year’s Eve have all been accompanied by intentional anarchic activities. What would it look like to extend this calendar to encompass the whole year? What can we do in the time in between these rituals? How can we continue to maintain them and also extend our activity beyond them?

LESS GOOD STUFF

We still haven’t figured out how to completely prevent or even disrupt major public fascist and far-right demos in Philly. A major effort was made to push back against the Proud Boys’ rally here on November 17th, which got a great turnout for the opposition, but the rally itself still happened as planned. As with the protest against the MAGA march in 2017, counter-demonstrations this year like the anti-Blue Lives Matter march in August have been confrontational, but not pointed. They gave us some valuable practice acting together in the streets, but did not complete their original goal of stopping the right-wing from marching. If we want to make sure the far right does not assert themselves in the streets, we need more people to show up to counter their street presence, and we also need to experiment with new strategies to prevent them from getting there in the first place.

Aside from some Philly anarchists’ ongoing support of local political prisoners and recent support of the Vaughn 17, anarchists still mostly don’t have connections with prisoners in the region. Developing better connections to prisoners would help us have an ear to what’s happening inside, and would enable us to intervene more directly in prison struggles, in addition to supporting actions like the prison strike through outside solidarity actions.

As with almost everything else, we are generally nowhere near in skills, resources, or capacity to effectively take on the energy industry’s ever-growing encroachments on the region’s land and water, much less to move towards destroying forever the infrastructure that makes global capitalism and American settler civilization possible. Daily news reminds us of the massive extinction events, climate catastrophes, and human migration and suffering that is already resulting from climate change. We were glad to see people take up sabotage tactics against pipeline construction this year, as well as blockades against the Mariner East 2 and other pipelines, and we encourage more imagination and exploration of concerted action this year as new infrastructure continues to be built. For more socially oriented anarchists, imagining and spreading resources that could provide new means of survival, to show what else is possible as well as provide in case others do succeed in destroying the current infrastructure, could be a crucial contribution.

The insurrectionary milieu still experiences people moving relatively quickly in and out of activity, as people figure out what they are or are not into, and struggle with fear, life under capitalism, and feelings of exclusion. We would welcome more initiatives that create the feelings of community and acceptance that many of us are looking for. The lack of it is an ongoing issue for people trying to remain active in the scene, and as usual we encourage people who perceive a problem to offer their critique through action – in this case, this could look like helping correct the problem by organizing a potluck, a game, a demo, etc.

Death, illness, and sadness have weighed heavily on the anarchist space this year, and we have found friendship and care to be ever more important, and at times life-saving.

Philly Turns Up the Heat for Mumia Abu-Jamal

from It’s Going Down

The following press release about continued action in support of Black Liberation prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal was sent to It’s Going Down, which we reprint below.

A community delegation delivered thousands of petitions to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner on January 7th, asking him to not stand in the way of justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal and to not appeal a December 27, 2018 court decision by Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker.

Wayne Alexander Cook (nephew of Mumia Abu-Jamal) handed the 4,227 signed petitions to Krasner’s assistant as they entered the DA’s lobby. The thick manila envelope also contained letters from Tadashi Seto (Doro-Chiba, Japanese rail workers’ union), Edwin R Ferris (International Secretary-Treasurer of International Longshore & Warehouse Union) and other labor statements in support of Abu-Jamal’s quest for freedom after 37 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

The DA refused to talk with the group that included Michael Africa, Jr (MOVE Organization), Sandy Joy (Rowen University professor) and other members of the umbrella group Mobilization4Mumia. The DA’s Director of Communications Ben Waxman did meet soon after, but revealed no new information when asked whether or not Krasner will appeal. “That’s above my paygrade,” he said.

The online petitions were gathered in ten days from thousands of people in the US and from around the world by Roots Action and Mobilization4Mumia.

The petitions are part of an effort to persuade Philadelphia DA Krasner to refuse an appeal of Tucker’s ruling. Such an appeal would lead to years of court proceedings and further postpone Abu-Jamal’s chance to prove his innocence. After almost four decades in prison and suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and related ailments, years of court delays will be nothing less than a death sentence and a denial of justice.

On January 5th, 2019 almost 200 people marched in the rain with signs and banners in front of the DA’s office with demands of: “Justice Now! Krasner: Don’t Appeal! Free Mumia! ”

Mumia Abu-Jamal won the significant victory before Judge Leon Tucker in a decision granting Abu-Jamal new rights to re-open appeals. The ruling could impact other prisoners whose appeals were similarly denied by biased judges.

Tucker ruled that former PA Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille denied Abu-Jamal fair and impartial hearings by not recusing himself from the defendant’s appeals between 1998 and 2012.  The ruling referenced Castille’s public statements of being a “law and order” prosecutor, responsible for 45 men on death row, the support of the Fraternal Order of Police, and new evidence supporting the claim that Castille singled out men convicted as “police killers.” Tucker cited all the above because they created the appearance of bias and impropriety in the appeal process.

Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence in the fatal shooting of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Judge Tucker’s ruling means that Abu-Jamal’s appeals of his 1982 convictions are restored. Abu-Jamal has argued through his past appeals that he was framed by police and that the prosecution manufactured evidence of guilt and suppressed the proof of his innocence, in addition to other violations of his due process rights.

After decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Abu-Jamal’s supporters are demanding that the charges should be dismissed and he should be freed.