FOR OVER A DECADE, June 11th has been a day of action in solidarity with environmentalists and anarchists imprisoned for their actions in defense of the Earth. The day has its origins in an international outcry over the extreme and unprecedented sentencing of Jeffrey Luers to 22 years in prison for damaging several SUV’s at a car dealership. Since its inception in 2004, the June 11th day of action and other acts of solidarity have been instrumental in winning shorter sentences or early release for eco-prisoners, including Luers himself as well as Eric McDavid, who was entrapped by an informant. Yet committed earth defenders such as Marius Mason, targeted in the FBI’s “Green Scare,” are still serving harsh sentences in maximum security prisons for taking direct action against earth destroying industries.
MEANWHILE IN APPALACHIA, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) plans to build a massive maximum security prison, on top of a former mountaintop removal coal mine in Letcher County, Eastern Kentucky, surrounded by sludge ponds and coal processing and transport operations. This amounts to an environmental justice nightmare, where prisoners who are disproportionately low-income and people of color face toxic conditions behind bars.
It also happens that this prison site is about a mile as the crow flies from a rare and very biodiverse pocket of Eastern old-growth called the Lilley Cornett Woods. Learn more in the December 2105 issue of the Earth First! Journal.
As of December 2015, the BOP got over $400 million approved for the prison’s construction. The newly-formed Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) is organizing to stop it, and looking to grow a coalition of opposition.
STOPPING ONE PRISON IS NOT A MAGIC BULLET to ending the U.S. police state, the one that gave way to world’s largest prison nation and in turn serves as the apparatus of repression that keeps the planet shackled to industrial capitalism…
But it’s a pretty good place to build from. In particular, it is a powerful place that the environmental movement can express solidarity with the growing rage over the racist criminal justice system.
The goal of gathering in D.C. is to converge for a series of actions that can put dual pressure on both the BOP and the EPA regarding this proposed prison, and environmental justice issues related to prisoners in general, while continuing to fight for the release of eco-prisoners in the spirit of June 11th. We also hope to see this effort build stronger bonds between the eco-defense movement and the movements against police and mass incarceration.
We envision a gathering June 11th to 12th for networking, strategizing and organizing, culminating with a mass action on Monday the 13th.
FOR THOSE WHO LIKE THE IDEA, but can’t make it to D.C., there are other options. For example, the BOP has regional offices in 5 other locations.
Additionally, the PR company that is contracted to produce the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the BOP’s Letcher prison is called Cardno, and has offices in most every U.S. city, and other cities all over the world. This is the same firm that was contracted by the U.S. State Department to produce an EIS for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
In many ways, the prison experiences of activists like Luers, Mason, McDavid, and others such as Daniel McGowan, Rebecca Rubin and Tim DeChristopher, have provided courage and inspiration rather than the desired effect of intimidation. They also gave the environmental movement an inside look at the prison epidemic in the U.S. With the steady stream of urban uprisings against the police state, there has never been a better time to organize at this intersection of ecology and incarceration. We hope you’ll join us.
Get in touch if you are interested in helping to organize this J11/FTP convergence or if you are part of a group who wants to co-sponsor it. More details are forthcoming. Please get in touch if you can help translate this call into other languages. Contact: FightToxicPrisons@gmail.com
Co-sponsoring groups include Earth First! Prisoner Support, Rising Tide North America, Appalachia Resist!, Jericho D.C., Prison Ecology Project and others TBA.