Sunday, December 20, 2009

The "Get Shanked!" Redemption

David Graeber, Direct Action:

In Philadelphia, [2000 Republican National Convention] activists were constantly being threatened with being distributed among the "general population," regular inmates who, guards explained in often graphic terms, would terrorize and brutalize and rape them. When the authorities, at one point, made good on their threats, the ploy completely backfired. The general population proved quite sympathetic, and above all, extremely interested in learning activist tactics. Ordinary prisoners rapidly began giving each other action names, refusing cooperation, and coordinating collective demands -- so quickly, in fact, that within twenty-four hours the activists had been taken out and segregated once again. Almost all of the arrestees, however, came out with long stories of inmates they had met among the "general population" who had been picked up for minor or harmless nonviolent offenses (marijuana possession, trespassing for taking a short-cut through a deserted lot) and, like them, subjected to continual violence and brutality. For that moment, anyway, there was the recognition of an analogous situation: the fact that the laws operate entirely differently for certain categories of people, whether these be poor African Americans, or (at least during an action) political idealists who dare to take to the streets.

I recently attended a benefit for Palestinian unions where I encountered someone who had formerly been active with Marxist groups in pre-revolutionary Iran. One of the points he made was that the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East were very careful to separate "political" prisoners from the "general population," precisely for this reason.


BroadSnark said...

Between this and all the Gandhi and MLK stuff I have been reading lately, I'm thinking a lot more of us need to start going to prison...on purpose.

Anonymous said...

"we'll soon need all this [prison] space for the purely political prisoners," minister of the interior, kubrick's clockwork orange.