Case Closed

Wednesday the 11th of March, four years since the beginning of the Fukushima meltdown, I was found ‘not responsible’ in a disorderly conduct charge that I was branded with during an arrest on November 30th marking 6 days of protesting the no indictment finding in the case of Darren Wilson.

For those who don’t know, on August 9th, 2014 white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown who was due to start college the next week. Since then, Darren Wilson has enjoyed his time as a retired celebrity millionaire by giving motivational talks to his supporters. Mike Brown is still dead.

This assassination was the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back. After leaving his body to lay in the street for 4 1/2 hours the rage of St. Louis Black youth shook the world. From that night forward they marched, rallied, organized, and brought back the culture of resistance, that culture that is in the Black tradition. Their grief and resilience inspired youth across the country to stand up and fight back against the monstrosity that is police violence, against the violence that allows for a black person to be killed every 22 hours and a trans person to be killed every 32 hours.

These extrajudicial killings are nothing new.
During the Jim Crow era in the south Lynchings were public affairs, after which time the bodies were left hanging to intimidate other Black people from rebelling, existing peacefully, or even daring to imagine ourselves as equal human beings.
The non-violent response following the death of Michael Brown has done what non-violent movements often do, in exposing the horrors of oppression and shattering, again, the silence around the taboo subject of white supremacy that upholds the quiet comfy myth of equality in American society.

This is another slave rebellion.
This is another time when those of us who have always lived under captivity, in poverty, with the threat of death or encagement always looming nearby have gathered our strength, gathered our communities and said, as our fallen brother Eric Garner said before the NYPD choked him to death, ‘This ends today’.

We are fighting back.
In our fight we have disrupted shopping, traffic and diners, shut down highways and malls, airports, and done all we can to peacefully to demand justice and transparency from these police who act as an occupying force in our community. But still, every day, black people are shot and killed. Black people are incarcerated. Black people are silenced. And our murderers walk free.

So the struggle continues.
On November 30th, following six nights of protest in the streets of Western Mass where we shut down traffic and demanded justice for Mike Brown and all others killed by police in the United States, I was arrested.

I’m not exactly sure why I was arrested, probably because that night we had less numbers. I had the bullhorn so I guess that made me an obvious target, but instead of being charged with the usual, “refusal to disperse” I was charged with “Disorderly Conduct”. The charge was a strange attempt to criminalize and vilify me, an attempt to make me look like some kind of dangerous citizen and of course, to discourage me from future actions.

I was arraigned on January 23rd, when over 50 organizers, allies, supporters and comrades came out to the Holyoke Court House with me early in the morning. The court had over compensated with police officers, extra security personnel and state troopers. They opened the court early, decriminalized the charge, and I sat before a judge before most of the organizers had a chance to get through security to enter the courthouse. They wanted to shut us up and get us out of the way of their work of another day of seamlessly feeding people of color into the criminal justice system. The prosecution offered me a deal to close the case if I paid $150.00. I refused. It was like a Mafia scene actually – my lawyer pulled out a pen and paper and slid it over and it was amazing to me that these court officials after harassing us, arresting me in a way that I’m pretty sure was illegal and mocking me in booking for chanting, ‘no racist police’ wanted me to pay them $150.00 to sweep it under the rug.


My next court date was set for March 11th and was set to be held in a closed courtroom. We were expecting to go before a clerk, and so I didn’t ask anyone to come out because I thought they wouldn’t have been allowed inside.
This was my mistake and a correct move on their part to isolate me for the proceeding.When I arrived with none of my comrades they had changed the hearing to an open courtroom in front of the judge with one of the arresting officers inside to represent the city of Holyoke.

After reading the police report (a moment that had some satisfaction because the officer who had mocked the, “no Justice, no peace, no racist police” chant had to read aloud that we were chanting “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “FTP, Fuck The Police” to a courtroom full of black and brown people) my attorney, Luke Ryan did an excellent job of of representing me with what’s called the Necessity Defense. It states that someone may have broken the law, but if they did it for a reason after trying all legal means and still failing then it is justified. It is an action born of necessity.
I was ready to speak to the judge. But so quickly, it seemed, after months of this court date weighing on me, she said I was found “not responsible, case closed.” The officer left the courtroom before I had turned around and went back to work. After months of having this open case I still didn’t have a chance to speak to the judge directly. Still there’s no justice. After my quick hearing the system got right back to work. At least I don’t have to pay them, at least I’m not in jail.

But I’ve been thinking.
What are the implications of this judge finding me not responsible for acting with Black Lives Matter?
It seems to me like she has just legally legitimized the actions of Black Lives Matter movement nationally, internationally, and transnationally.
What does it mean that even if we have broken the law, we are still fighting because all legal avenues have failed us?
We watched petitions, marches, sit ins, rallies, occupations, a trip to Geneva and a visit with President Obama and saw that not only did Darren Wilson get away with killing Mike Brown, but the Detroit police officer who broke into her home and killed 7 year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones while she was sleeping is going to receive no repercussions. Nor will Daniel Pantaleo or the other NYPD officers who we have on camera putting Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold and tightening while he said, “I can’t breathe” over 11 times until he died face any punishment. Our family is still dead. These officers are still walking around armed in our communities! And they have just been reminded that they can get away with the murder of black people.
We have seen these “no indictments” roll down again and again and in the meantime, black people are still getting shot! Jerame Reid, Vonderrit Myers Jr., Lamia Beard, Antonio Martin, Anthony Hill, brother Africa… while I have been writing this I am certain that somewhere in this country, somewhere in the world, another black person has been shot, harassed, incarcerated, pulled over, beat, displaced or otherwise discriminated against simply because of the color of their skin.

If a judge, a party recognized by the power of the state, in the small town of Holyoke found me not responsible for disorderly conduct while acting under the auspices of “Black Lives Matter” does that mean that the state has just given legitimacy to our work? Does it mean that she also just legalized our movement?

It certainly looks that way.

I’ll see you on the streets or wherever else it takes to be heard until we see justice, “and if we don’t get it…”
in solidarity

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