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Imprisoned With a White Supremacist (Migs Update)

3:39 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Migs Latest Oppressions (Could Be Worse)

The only surprise from an internal decision by officials at Pontiac Correctional Center about the imprisonment of Mark “Migs” Neiweem, a member of the NATO 5, is that it could have been worse.

A racist skinhead

In the latest form of state provocation, Migs of the NATO 5 must share a prison cell with a white supremacist.

In my last update, I detailed how Migs — one of the five activists arrested and charged with “terrorism” based on entrapment by undercover Chicago Police in the build up to NATO protests — faced new obstacles in his quest for freedom. Though originally scheduled to be released in November, prison officials brought politically-motivated “gang intelligence” charges against him. They claimed, based on letters and books received in the mail (already approved by prison censors) as well as sparse communication with another imprisoned anarchist, that he was plotting to cause unrest.

Officials charged him with two disciplinary violations – Gang or Unauthorized Organization Activity and Dangerous Written Material — then, to no one’s surprise, convicted him of both charges. The one relief is that they did not carry through on all their threats, such as adding more months or transferring Migs to a much worse prison far from his Chicago support network. But the consequences still put freedom that much farther off for this political prisoner.

From Operation Pen Pal: 

Mark’s punishment for being found guilty of Anarchism is: 6 months in solitary confinement; 2 months of yard restriction (no time outside); 6 months restricted visits; and he is losing 3 months time off for good behavior, which will see him released next February instead of mid-November.

Migs denies that he planned to cause any trouble — he only wants to keep his head down and get out. His legal team plans to appeal the decisions but, with the prison-industrial complex being what it is, it may be February already before they make any headway.

I spoke again with Rachel Unterman after her visit to Migs on Tuesday. “Our actions have made a difference,” she said of the relatively lenient punishment. “They know we’re watching and we’re unhappy and they can’t really get away with coming down on him full force.”

Imprisoned with a White Supremacist

Migs is being moved repeatedly within the segregated housing unit at Pontiac for unknown reasons, and his access to the commissary is heavily restricted. He can only visit once a month, greatly limiting his access to supplies like stamps, and he’s not allowed to buy food at all while in segregation. Unterman said he’s not getting enough to eat as a consequence, and they are working to get him access to a vegetarian diet. There’s precedent for this, usually by prisoners claiming that vegetarianism is based on their spiritual path.

His cells are tiny — some as small as six feet by nine feet — and in one of the most restrictive parts of the prison. Even so, Migs now has a cell mate. In the latest attempt to orchestrate further disciplinary infractions, Neiweem is now forced to share this tiny space with a white supremacist. “They’ve had to call a bit of a truce, they just have to live together. They both just want to get out.” Placed together in the hopes that they’ll fight, their only hope for mutual freedom is to temporarily overlook their differences. “It’s not against just him. The whole system is vindictive,” she said.

That the best we can say is that while Migs suffers he could have been faced with even worse torture is, to this reporter, a glimpse of the entire US “justice” system in microcosm. Still, on her last visit Unterman found him in surprisingly good spirits:

He’s talking about all the books he’s reading. He’s working on doing some writing of his own. Even though he doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to write out right now, he’s getting a lot of mail and it’s making him feel connected to the outside world. Their goal was to remove easy access to his support crew and they have not accomplished that.

I can tell how well he’s handling this. He’s determined to not only get through it, but to use it to make himself even stronger intellectually. … He’s allowed to buy a TV now, a small portable TV, and he won’t because he’s afraid it will eat into his reading and writing time. Which for someone who’s in a cell for twenty-four hours a day is saying something. … He’s determined to take whatever they throw at him and turn it into a positive.

Call and Write to Support Migs & #OpPenPal

Migs is just one of many political prisoners who need our support. Operation PenPal maintains an extensive list of political prisoners and guidelines for how to write and what to send.

Rachel Unterman and Operation PenPal are asking that we put continued pressure on his jailers:

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99% Gang Signs: An Update on Migs

3:09 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

We are the 99% Gang

99 Percent Wheatpaste

Is the 99% a gang? Pontiac Correctional Center seems to think so.

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.”

She adds:

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

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#OpValentine: Show A Prisoner Revolutionary Love

4:28 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Valentine’s Day: some people love the romance, others decry it as an obligatory expression of love or lament the misery of being single on a day devoted to coupledom. If being single on February 14 seems unbearable, imagine if you were not just alone but locked away from everything — your family, your friends, the outside world.

Vintage Valentine Card: Do you cat-ch on? I want you for my Valentine.

This Valentine's Day, tell a prisoner: "I choo-choo-choose you!"

Such is the plight of our nation’s political prisoners. Some, like Leonard Peltier, have spent decades behind bars. Others, like the NATO 5 are victims of a new wave of political repression. To bring comfort to these victims of the system, Anonymous, occupiers, Anarchist Black Cross groups and other activists have come together to create Operation Valentine (#OpValentine):

Where will we be on Valentine’s day? With whom? One thing is certain, most of us will have the freedom to tell whom we care ‘I love you’ and shower them with hugs. Separated from their friends, their family, all of their love ones, many of our brothers and sisters will be deprived of this most basic human right. They have sacrificed their freedom to expose corruption and human rights violations. And as would say Che: ‘At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.’

It’s easy to participate in #OpValentine. Just pick a prisoner (or more than one), write or make a note or postcard, and send it in the mail. Valentine’s Day is less than a week away as of this writing and our postal service is being gutted, but I guarantee you’ll brighten someone’s dreary day no matter when you send your mail.

When you’re writing to a political prisoner, it’s best to share your love and daily life. These are regular people who need our support, not heroes to worship. It’s also important not to discuss a case with pre-trial prisoners or to write anything you wouldn’t want read by police, the government, or the media. The New York Anarchist Black Cross has a great guide to writing political prisoners:

For the first letter, it’s best to offer an introduction, how you heard about the prisoner, a little about yourself. Tell stories, write about anything you are passionate about–movement work and community work are great topics until you have a sense of the prisoner’s interests outside of political organizing.

And what we hear from prisoners time and time again is to include detail. Prison is so total that the details of life on the outside become distant memories. Smells, textures, sounds of the street all get grayed out behind bars. That’s not to say that you should pen a stream-of-consciousness novel.

Remember, even the simplest of notes is a potentially life- or sanity-saving connection to the outside world.

I’m going to include the complete #OpValentine document below, but an updated list can be found in this pastebin.

[Editor's Note: See the comments for more political prisoners who need our love. -MyFDL Editor]

#OpValentine

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VIDEO: Mark Neiweem Beaten by Cook County Guards, Placed in Solitary (#NATO5)

6:08 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell


I’ve written before about political prisoners of the Occupy movement and Kevin Gosztola of The Dissenter has also written about this case, but the latest development is an especially disturbing one. Mark Neiweem is one of 5 activists charged preemptively in the lead-up to May’s NATO protests in Chicago; he is accused of “felony offense of solicitation for possession of explosives or explosive or incendiary devices,” in part based on the testimony of two police infiltrators. According to new reports from Occupy Chicago, Neiweem, better known as ‘Migs,’ was beaten by Cook County Guards and, after his release from the hospital, immediately placed in solitary confinement:

Mark Neiweem, (pronounced Nye-wame) one of the NATO5, was badly beaten by Cook County Jail Guards and placed in solitary confinement, “the hole,” for 20+ days. His lawyer confirmed that Mark spent the night in Cermak Hospital. He has stitches, his face is swollen and bruised. his ribs are sore but not broken. We, his activists and friends, cannot let this atrocity of state abuse stand.

I am in Chicago, so I asked Rachel Unterman, an occupier who has been heavily involved in supporting these political prisoners, to speak with me about the incident. According to Rachel, Migs has spent his time inside educating fellow prisoners, but it is unclear what, if anything, could have triggered this horrible attack.

Occupy Chicago has gone public with the story today, and is asking people to take action:

We are calling on every person around the world to telephone Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart at (312) 603-6444 and ask to speak with him, demanding:

What happened to Mark Neiweem?
Why was Mark Neiweem beaten so severely that he was admitted to Cermak hospital overnight?
Remove Mark from the hole now!

As Rachel points out, a great way to support the NATO 5 is by writing letters and sending pictures. OChi’s Free the NATO 5 website has a guide to writing letters to these prisoners. Occupy Austin’s Braettie Ledezma has led an effort to write to political prisoners worldwide, including Migs and other members of the NATO 5. She told me:

It’s been a cathartic experience writing to prisoners in general, but writing to Migs has been different in the way that he manages to make a strong  but very warm personality light up his letters from his first reply. He has a willingness to share things with an unapologetic honesty, and I found that delightful. He shows a determination to not allow his circumstances to defeat him and even though he has grim struggles; he takes a genuine interest in the welfare of others. The courage of these guys who write to me is amazing, and Migs has no shortage of courage.

Free the NATO5!

Mark Adams’ Hunger Strike (Occupy’s Political Prisoners Update)

6:00 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Earlier this week I wrote about Occupy’s Political Prisoners, specifically Mark Adams (shown in the video to the right) and the NATO 5. There have been new developments in both cases.

Hunger Strike

Mark Adams, sentenced to 45 days (of which he is expected to serve 28 at Rikers Island) for his involvement in the December 17 reoccupation attempt, has reportedly begun a hunger strike.

Support Mark Adams quotes a statement by Adams:

Yesterday, Trinity Wall Street “Church,” the NYPD and the State of New York sentenced me to forty five days in jail for my political beliefs and actions. … On [December 17], my intention was to facilitate the on-going efforts to convince Trinity Church that our use of the space was consistent with their principles and mission. I wanted the unused and deserted lot to the community within Occupy Wall Street and beyond, so that through collective grassroots effort we would build an alternative society built on mutual aid, solidarity and anti-oppression.

For those intentions, I am now serving a forty-five day sentence on Riker’s Island. In response I have taken my protest out of the streets and into the jails. As of 2pm June 18, 2012 … I have been on a hunger strike. I will continue the hunger strike until I am released, to draw attention to the political nature of my arrest, sentencing and the greater themes and goals of the occupy wall street movement. This punishment has further strengthened my resolve to build a society, alongside my comrades, that does not further the corporate agenda of the prison industrial complex, compassion for all, community, solidarity, and mutual aid for all. Everything for everybody.

11 Indictments for the NATO 3

Brian Church, Jared Chase, and Brent Betterly, the three activists charged with terrorism (and arrested with FDL’s TarheelDem in the same terrifying raid) were indicted by a grand jury on July 12, but the defense was not allowed to know their charges! The National Lawyers Guild finally obtained this information June 20.

From an NLG note on the Occupy Chicago Press Relations Facebook page:

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Occupy’s Political Prisoners

12:18 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Among the many signs of the profound threat that the Occupy movement poses to the status quo has been the coordinated effort by local and state police together with the Department of Homeland Security to suppress the rights of protesters. The United Nations recently criticized the United States for its violent police attacks on the movement.

In the month since the pre-NATO arrests, a new tool in the arsenal is becoming clear: turning dedicated activists into political prisoners.

Occupy Wall Street, Trinity Wall Street, and the December 17 Trial

Sign: Mark Adams is Bearded, Selfless, Defends the Poor, Persecuted. Remind you of Anyone?

Photo: @SubVerzo via Twitter, used with permission.

On December 17, Occupy Wall Street attempted a reoccuptation — not of Liberty Square, but of a new space. Climbing a fence on livestream, occupiers poured into a fenced-in space owned by Trinity Wall Street, a church-run business that is historically one of New York City’s oldest landlords. The trial of 8 of these occupiers, including a retired bishop and active clergy members, concluded on June 18. Seven of the defendants, including the clergy, were convicted of trespassing and sentenced to four days of community service. But one man, Mark Adams, was singled out for especially harsh treatment.

The Village Voice quotes Judge Sciarrino’s justification for his harshness:

He issued his his ruling immediately after closing arguments, finding all eight defendants guilty of trespassing and further finding one of them, Mark Adams, guilty of attempted criminal mischief and attempted criminal possession of burglar’s tools. Adams was seen on surveillance video using what appeared to be bolt cutters to open the fence.

“This was the use of siege equipment to storm a castle,” Sciarrino said in his ruling, adding that political demonstrations are no excuse for violating property rights. “This nation is founded on the right of private property, and that right is no less important than the first amendment.”

Though the district attorney asked for a mere 30 days, the judge instead chose to charge Adams with 45 days in New York’s dangerous Rikers’ Island! Although activists who practice civil disobedience must expect to face legal consequences from time to time, occupiers are surprised by the harsh treatment from Trinity Wall Street, a business theoretically built on Christian values. The Episcopal News Service quotes Bishop George Packard:

In a June telephone interview, Packard had expressed surprise at the trespassing charges and the manner of his arrest. When he entered the property Dec. 17, he said, “I felt that we were entering into a protected area and that it was closed for the season. I had visited hunger strikers on the perimeter of that space … three or four times. …”

“Trespass is a word that I’m not used to hearing as it’s related to church property,” Packard said. “I hear expressions like ‘refuge’ and ‘sanctuary,’ and even … in the Trinity newsletter they talk about ‘radical hospitality.’”

The Continuing Plight of the NATO 5

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