125 Newsletters Mailed out to Rebellious Prisoners: Special Prison Strike Issue

Every month, Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross sends out a newsletter to about 125 prisoners who have expressed an interest in getting it. This month, in honor of the nationwide prison strike, we sent the issue out a bit early to give updates and encouragement. The newsletter goes to over a dozen prisons, mostly in Georgia. It contains news and updates about ways that prisoners are resisting the unjust conditions of their confinement, from protests and hunger strikes to legal actions. Prisoners write contributions, everything from poetry and art to social commentary and opinion pieces and updates about their own struggles for resistance. By responding to pieces from previous months, they are able to set up a sort of dialogue and express support and solidarity with each other.

The newsletter gets passed around from prisoner to prisoner, and each issue contains a note saying to write us if you want to get added to the mailing list. So the list of prisoners who receive it grows slightly each month. We have contact with several prisoners who are particularly down for the struggle and well connected with others in their prisons, so we get several new requests for the newsletter each month from them alone.

All told, each letter costs about $0.55 to mail, including stamps, envelopes, paper, and toner. We are only restricted in how many we can mail out by the amount of money we are able to fundraise. Each time we have a mailing, we pass the hat, and each attendee throws in a couple bucks. So far that has been enough to float our mailing each month, but money is tight for Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross.

How You Can Help

If you want to contribute content to the newsletter to update prisoners about things relevant to them, like struggles going on in other prisons, you can send us a piece and we will get it into the next newsletter. You can write it yourself or find it on the Internet.

You can follow Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross on Facebook and get updates about when the mailings go out, and come help us fold, stamp and seal the envelopes.

We always need money; you can contribute or hold a fundraiser, and get in touch via ATLblackcross.org.

Another huge need is pen pals for prisoners. It can be very isolating and disheartening to be in prison, and knowing that someone on the outside remembers them and cares can be a literal lifesaver. Each letter they receive means so much, far more than the effort that it takes you to write. You can set up an account at jpay.com and exchange emails with some prisoners (in some prisons they have access to tablets so they can email). If you would like to write one of the prisoners on our mailing list who expressed interest in having a penpal or need help with tasks from someone on the outside, get in touch via the website. There is a guide to writing prisoners on the website to get you started.

However you choose to contribute, your support is vital for prisoners who are brave enough to put everything on the line for their rights.

Gentrification of Edgewood is Out of Control — Time to Fight Back

Edgewood, one of the first black suburbs of Atlanta, has been home to many poor and black families for generations. But now the neighborhood has been identified as valuable real estate, and wealthier, whiter people have begun grabbing up property to develop in hopes of making a great deal of money. In the past couple years, just on the five-block stretch of Mayson Avenue where the Teardown is located, about a dozen new, expensive properties have sprung up; meanwhile smaller, lower income housing is demolished to make way. The face of the neighborhood has been changing as property values skyrocket and the low-income neighbors of color have found it harder to afford to stay.

Aggressive Policing: A Tool of Gentrification

Along with increasing housing taxes and rent prices, gentrification has been driven by an increased police presence, and enforcement of certain laws against certain people. Neighbors of color report having difficulty walking 6 blocks to the MARTA station without facing detention and harassment by police. Black kids, some as young as 11 and 14, have been stopped and frisked by police under suspicions of drug or gang activity with very flimsy support. Roadblocks are a common sight in the neighborhood, with unclear explanations for what they are looking for why they are needed. Sometimes police do presence patrols, parking or standing in a visible area to show a police presence and communicate a message that the neighborhood is being heavily policed.

Police Answer to Gentrifiers

This increase in police presence and activity is no mistake; it is no coincidence with the rising property values and developing high-income properties. Wealthy property owners and developers communicate closely with police departments and zone 6 police and demand ever-increasing police pressure on the poor people of color in the neighborhood. They believe that people of color being visible in their day-to-day activities drives down property values, so they pressure police to make it more difficult for black neighbors to be out and about. Police commonly disrupt community events put on by black people, for example a community barbecue that has been an Edgewood tradition for decades, Edgewood day, was met with heavy police harassment. The next day another neighborhood event aimed at giving backpacks to school children was disrupted by police.

Police release a young boy from handcuffs shortly after Copwatch arrives. No reason for handcuffing him was provided.

Gentrifiers are very clear on what their purpose is in the neighborhood and who they need to get rid of two enact it. Police are one of their most important tools in bringing this vision about. Members of the Teardown and Copwatch of East Atlanta and our friends attend “neighborhood planning unit” and “Organized Neighbors of Edgewood” meetings, so we are privy to conversations between wealthy property owners and police that are not usually made public. We have heard meeting attendees ask the police why we can’t build a wall around the low income housing complex called Edgewood Court. They frequently demand more security cameras in public spaces and other law enforcement technology such as license plate readers on cars. Police encourage attendees to call 911 on gatherings of people in yards and on street corners. They talk about use of databases that help them predict crimes, and they were port on the ways in which they are meeting the demands of the gentrifiers to crack down on community activities by black people. For example a house that frequently posted barbecues in the yard was discussed as being a problem area, and police explained how they were using city ordinances and quality of life crimes to repeatedly cite and arrest attendees of these events. Copwatch documented some of these efforts, for example baseless searches, and arrests and detentions based on flimsy reasoning like jaywalking. We also documented when the house was raided by about 50 masked SWAT team officers, who searched the entire place but found nothing illegal in the house.

Gentrifiers have a lot of power and influence over the police, and they know it and are not afraid to use it. Police know it too; these are the people they answer to.

So what are we going to do?

One way to combat this is to attend the community meetings where they are making these demands and push back against them. We can help facilitate attendance by the people most affected and targeted by the police, by offering rides, information about time and location, and support when the meetings are demoralizing or threatening.

Copwatch is another tactic used to push back against unfair an overzealous policing. Filming the police limits their ability to break the law and get away with it. Documenting and establishing patterns of harassment against poor people of color that are not applied against wealthy and white members of the same neighborhood can help us to make legal challenges. But more importantly, it can help us to inform ourselves about the ways in which our neighborhoods are under attack so that we can coordinate to fight back.

Our Community Ties Make Us Strong

One of the most important things that we can do is to form bonds with our neighbors so that we know how and when we need to support each other. If a landlord is not taking care of a mold problem, or is suddenly jacking up the rent, we need to be able to come together and figure out ways to help keep each other from being pushed out of the neighborhood. Dealing with increased rents can be overwhelming when you are isolated, but we can offer projects such as the free store and the food distro to offset some of those costs. The friendships that we build with our neighbors allows us to reach out to each other in times of need and conflict so that we can help each other keep fighting–so we can all keep living.

Newnan anti-Nazi protest arrestees still need our support!

Nazis from the “National Socialist Movement” staged a hate rally in the Metro Atlanta area on April 21st.

A diverse coalition of anti-racist activists protested the rally, but police violently repressed these protesters. Cops attacked and arrested people with absolutely no justification – particularly people of color and other marginalized individuals – who are still facing state repression. Of the 10 arrests, one has had his charges dropped, two have taken pleas and paid fines, five still face misdemeanor charges ranging from pedestrian in roadway to mask-wearing to obstruction, and two face felony obstruction of an officer.

The defendants facing charges have not all been able to hire lawyers yet, so we are still fundraising for them. Other likely costs include travel, fines, and court fees. Please contribute what you can and spread the word!

Any funds remaining after the Newnan defendants’ needs are met will go towards supporting ongoing legal defense for Atlanta protesters.

DONATE HERE.  For more information visit the Atlanta Solidarity Fund

Support Autonomous Food Distribution in Atlanta

People are hungry in our city

Food stamps have been drastically cut in Georgia this year.  Trump is hoping to cut even further, leaving more people in a position of choosing between paying rent and buying groceries.

Traditional religious and NGO charities are finding themselves overwhelmed by growing poverty, unable to keep pace as the government abandons social welfare programs.

We need a new model for fighting hunger

One that doesn’t depend on unreliable government grants or foundation money. One that can’t be eliminated by Trump or any other politician signing a bill.  We need survival programs: networks of ordinary people organized to collect and distribute food. The powerful may abandon us, but we can help each other.

We are helping to build this network in Atlanta!  A loosely organized collection of farmers, restaurant and grocery workers, neighbors, activists, volunteers and organizations like Food Not Bombs and the South Bend Commons are cooperating to distribute approximately 1.5 tons of food to hungry people throughout Atlanta every week.

This food makes a major difference to the people who get it. For many, it’s the main reason they have fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets at all.  But it’s not nearly enough compared to the need.

As long as there are hungry people, our network is not big enough.

You can help it grow! The network is mainly limited by labor capacity.  The more volunteers we have, the more food we can distribute.  Contact the Teardown or Atlanta Food Not Bombs to volunteer.  Here are a few ways we need help:

  • Arrange to donate excess food from your store, restaurant, farm, or anywhere else.
  • Volunteer to pick up weekly donations and transport them to distribution points
  • Donate food infrastructure equipment like a walk-in fridge or box truck.  Or raise funds to help us purchase them.

There’s already enough for everyone, it’s just waiting to be shared