We are the 99% Gang
In my last update on Chicago’s political prisoners, I reported how Mark “Migs” Neiweem (pronounced Nye-wame) faces continued repression and torture in jail. First he was placed in solitary confinement with just months remaining in his sentence at Pontiac Correctional Center. When members of Operation PenPal started a campaign demanding his return to general population, prison officials moved him to an even worse solitary cell infested with rats and roaches and where he is denied even the brief human contact solitary victims expect at feeding time.
This week, Rachel Unterman of #OpPenPal called me to share the latest news.
Though he’s due to be freed in November, prison officials are bringing additional charges that could add to Migs’ sentence and endanger not just his freedom but that of future Occupy-associated political prisoners as well. “They accuse him of being an anarchist, which he is.” says Unterman. That’s not against the law — “but this is prison, so they are using it as a gang charge. The gang charges are worded so that you can apply it to almost anything.”
One of his charges is being in possession of symbols and insignia that are unauthorized — ‘gang signs’ — but here the ones they specify are Circle-A and Circle-E.
Similar to the Circle-A, the internationally famous symbol of anarchism, the Circle-E is a newer symbol which represents radical equality. In defining this symbol in prison intelligence documents pertaining to Migs’ case, officials specifically cite that it represents “the 99%.”
Migs is also being charged with possessing “unauthorized literature,” even though these books were allowed through the mail room. Migs’ own writings against the prison-industrial complex are being used in claims he has plans to undermine prison security. Prison officials are claiming, despite Migs denials, that he and another avowed anarchist in the prison are organizing for an uprising. According to Unterman, all Migs wants to do is keep his head down and get free in a few months.
He’ll hear the formal results of these new charges within about a week. Officials are considering transfering him to Menard Correctional Center, a prison with a dangerous reputation that is an almost six hour drive from his Chicago support network. They could also take away his “good time” — meaning he’d spend almost two additional years behind bars instead of getting released this year. Once the charges are formalized, his legal team will begin filing appeals.
Prison officials were holding his mail for over a week but, when she visited on Wednesday, he’d started receiving it again. “He’s taking it better than I am,” she told me. “He was very positive and optimistic but also realistic. He knows that they are out to get him but he said ‘they can take all these aggressive measures on me and I could take it passively, but it’s not going to make me treated any better.’”
Migs wants people on the outside to keep fighting for him by sending mail until it overwhelms the prison with support. “He wants to fight the charges, to fight for better treatment, and to make sure he’s released in November.”
We need to keep in mind that this is very much political. They don’t like him because he’s an anarchist. We have a lot of people in the system who are anarchists or support the 99%. If they can make us into gangsters, as far as the system is concerned, it’s going to be harder on everybody who’s going to jail.
We know they don’t like the 99%, but to put it under gang intelligence and to say that they’re somehow a threat to the prison population just for their political views, without any evidence that they intend to act violently — it’s a bad precedent to set.
How to Send Photos to Migs
Because Migs is being held in solitary, he’s requested photos of the outside world. Postcards are great for any political prisoner, both because of the glimpse they provide of normal life and because their short content is harder for prison censors to justify withholding. An iPhone and website app called FlikShop offers one simple way to send photo postcards to Migs or other prisoners if you don’t want to mail one yourself; Unterman says she’s used FlikShop successfully for several months now. If you print photos at home, you should use regular printer paper and not photo paper.
Write to Migs at:
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764
Photo by John Drake released under a Creative Commons No Derivatives license.