I asked Remington Alessi, one of the Gulf Port 7, to share his experience being arrested at the Port of Houston on December 12, 2011 and its continuing aftermath. For more on the anniversary of the Gulf Port Action, see yesterday’s post by Kit O’Connell. -MyFDL Editor
A year ago, I was arrested and put in jail, shivering, coughing, and frightened, and worried that I would miss a statistics exam. It’s funny to think about, because the past year has rushed by so quickly that I didn’t even realize it had been a full year until I logged onto Facebook and read a fellow occupier’s post.
Looking back, it’s been a wild ride. Since that time, I’ve run for sheriff to bring light to police abuses, played corporate tax dodge-ball in the headquarters of a corporate tax cheat, traveled to Baltimore as a Green Party delegate, registered countless people to vote in unlikely places, and participated with wonderful movements like the Tar Sands Blockade and the Peaceful Streets Project. I’ve had the privilege of meeting too many wonderful people to name and I’ve done all of this with the prospect of a felony charge hanging over my head.
In the meantime, my life has been peppered with purposeless court appearances that seem only to fulfill the function of reminding me (as though I could forget) that I may soon join the ranks of the most hated group in our society, felons. One of the things you don’t typically see or hear about is that people have to show up roughly once a month to simply appear in a courtroom, sign a paper, and leave. If you’re late or don’t show up, even though nothing important is actually happening, they issue a warrant for your arrest, revoke your bond, etc. If this weren’t so trying, I might get some amusement from the confused looks on professors’ faces when I tell them why I’ve missed the occasional class, since the enthusiastic student who always sits in the front row doesn’t “look like” a felon (not that felons really can ever be identified by looks, but I’ll save that discussion for another time).
As our trial date looms, I still have faith that somewhere, somehow, there is still a bit of hope that the absurd system of justice that allows police to manufacture PVC pipe devices in order to charge nonviolent protesters with felonies will come through in the end. Sadly, I know that even if my greatest personal hopes are realized, my friends and I will be the exceptions to the rule, as the oxymoron that is criminal justice will likely trudge on in its race warfare and class warfare, imprisoning shoplifters while white collar criminals remain comically underrepresented in prison populations.
When I was released from the Harris County Jail on the evening of December 14, 2011, I came out with bronchitis and pleurisy (you know, the stuff that killed Charlemagne). I felt broken. Somewhere between being berated by the guards, sleeping on concrete in the basement of a jail that was originally a cold storage warehouse in one thin layer of clothing, and knowing that my lovely and supporting wife Valerie was at home scared stiff with me unable to comfort her, there was something inside of me that died.
The next day, I turned into a puddle of tears in the school clinic’s office, unable to control my own sobbing. I stayed strong for my wife when I got home but, with ten dollars in my pocket, I was told that I needed to pay twenty-five dollars for my prescription. I just didn’t have the strength in me to hold myself together any more. I try to look back and have a sense of humor about all this, but very few people prior to me writing this know how damaged I was by this entire experience. It took a while for me to recover, and I never could have done it without my lovely Valerie, who was there to hold me when I woke up in tears from nightmares about the jail.
Throughout all of this, I still managed to make the dean’s list that semester and this semester I have straight A’s. I’ll be starting graduate school next fall and I hope that, after everything that has happened, I might find a nice place to work that cares more about the PhD behind my name than the felony.
I know that I stood up for something and I will hold my head high.
Blockade photo by Kit O’Connell, all rights reserved. Portrait of Remington from Remington for Sheriff.