Reflections from a MCP-OC cadre in Philadelphia who was recently arrested during a Wetʼsuwetʼen solidarity action. Along with organizers and activists from other organizations, including Indigenous 215, they managed to keep a Chase Bank locked down for an hour and a half of its operating hours. All charges have been dropped.
The process of being booked into the roundhouse is one that quickly strips you of all autonomy, of ownership of your own body, and of any shred of freedom you had prior to having your hands locked together in cuffs too tight for your blood to even circulate. You are told to sit, so you sit. You are told to spread your legs, so you do. Your body is groped and searched and any action that the officer or CO takes is justified because of their status as “an officer of the law”. I remember a woman five cells down from me. She wept and retched and cried for her mother. She was withdrawing from drugs and should have been in a hospital receiving treatment. Instead she was locked in a cell being taunted and maligned by these officers of the law. She begged and begged to be seen by a nurse or taken to a hospital. Finally, after what felt like hours, a nurse came to her.
“Where is the pain?”
“Someone threw me on the ground and hit me.”
The now concerned nurse asked, “who hurt you?”
This response left the nurse and the guard laughing. The moment they found out that the perpetrator was a cop they walked away laughing.
I think a lot about the women I have met the two times I’ve seen the peach-painted inside of the roundhouse. I think about their stories. Those women locked up for small crimes who were transferred to the county jail just because they could not afford their bail. The woman who was charged with assault with a deadly weapon because she fought back against the man who was raping her. The woman who was charged with trespassing simply because she was homeless in a public transit station. These women occupy the space between my conscious and subconscious.
I know why the state locks organizers up. They think that in holding us in cells, in taking away our small freedoms, in forcing us into encounter with the people that are victims of this violent system, we will choose to leave the fight. But if anything it has made my resolve stronger. In my own life and in those cells I have seen the face of the US government without a veil, and it has made this rage burn even brighter and more militantly within me.
In those moments when I shared space and stories with these women who were locked up, I was just as helpless as them. I couldn’t bail them out on my own. I couldn’t represent them in court. I couldn’t break them out just as I couldn’t break myself out of that jail. But I can—no, we can—continue to fight to destroy this system that chains us and holds us captive.
The tools that the state uses to silence us are the same tools that radicalize us even further—if we let them. And we must let them. We must feel the pain. We must let our rage burn within us. We must bring that hurt together as a collective to wield it as a mighty weapon against the united states.
We are fighting to win back what has been taken. We are fighting to gain more than just those tiny freedoms we have now. We are fighting so that not one more sister or brother or sibling is taken from us. We are fighting for a world we have not yet seen. But when we fight together, we win, and we will win. We have no other option than to keep going.