Joining dozens of similar demonstrations around North America and the world, on New Year’s Eve fifty or so comrades and several family members of inmates met up at 7:30 pm at the jail in downtown Durham to show our rage and hatred for the prison system, and our solidarity with prisoners on the inside. Armed with black flags, pots and pans, a drum corps, and numerous banners (“Against Prisons,” “Solidarity with Prisoners Everywhere,” “Total Liberation from Domination,” “Love for All Prison Rebels,”) we chanted, screamed, and directed a cacophonous melody of anger at the guards changing shifts. It was subtly amplified by the shouts and banging of prisoners from the small plexiglass windows of their cells, whose faces were visible as dark silhouettes standing out against the modernist architectural gloom of the building complex.
For many months now, prisoners at this specific jail have been waging a struggle against their conditions on different “Pods” of the facility, starting with two massively supported petition efforts that have been ignored by the Sheriff’s department. A new anti-authoritarian group on the outside, Amplify Voices Inside, has helped these efforts see the light of day with media work and constant communication.
Another struggle specific to this facility lies in the fight to free Durham native Carlos Riley, Jr., the cousin of known Bay-area activist and MC Boots Riley. Carlos was stopped by a cop mid morning on December 18th. During the stop, the cop shouted expletives, physically attacked Carlos, verbally threatened to kill him and attempted to draw his weapon to shoot at Carlos Riley. While attempting to draw his weapon, the cop shot himself in the leg. Fearing for his life, Carlos fled the scene in his car. According to the police, at this point he also allegedly took the cop’s weapon and badge away from him.
After a few hours, and after Durham Police savagely tore through 3 neighborhoods looking for him, Carlos called police and turned himself in. He is now charged with “assault on a law enforcement officer causing serious injury, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon”.
Efforts to free Carlos and get the charges dropped are under way. He was inside the jail during the demo, and family members were present and making noise for him on the outside. People took turns talking loudly into a bullhorn about these different struggles, and against prisons generally, to help make sure those inside could hear.
While the crowd marched around all sides of the jail with visible cells, to help the celebration we also let off “fire kites,” three-foot tall hot air “balloons” that rise into the air when lit.
We recognize that this demo was a small gesture, but we hope that it helped raise the spirits of those struggling inside the Durham jail, as it helped to increase our own morale and dedicate 2013 to a fierce fight against State and Capital. The jail was left standing, along with the undamaged (but spit-covered) police vehicles parked outside of it; we can only hope this oversight is temporary.