Atlanta Wants a Free Town: Pre-Valentine's Day Noise Demonstration 02.12.12
On February 12th, 30 hooligans descended on DeKalb County Jail. We came to scream and cry out in solidarity with a jailed comrade who's bond had been posted the previous day but who was, nonetheless, still incarcerated; all of this in the face of the general asphyxiation which characterizes the prevailing Social Peace.
- At first there were only a few of us...
Upon approaching the Jail, we were met immediately with the waving of just a few inmates. The faint knocking on the glass was exciting. The large bass drum picked up a beat as the 15 of us began chanting.
"Burn this fucker down, Atlanta wants a free town!"
This went on for some time and we were pleased to see more faces perk up. The day was cold and we had only just prepared this noise demonstration a few hours earlier. We were uncertain of ourselves and not sure how best to proceed, so we continued chanting as loudly as we could. Before long, the crowd size had doubled and we began to make our way out toward the main intersection in front of the facility.
- "Fuck the jails, we don't need 'em/all we want is total freedom!"
As is common in these events, some participants took to slamming sticks, stones, and pots into the steel transformers, street signs, and lamp-posts which only forces one to scream louder over the growing cacophony of the situation (and perhaps to strike out in a fashion which is not typically accepted).
By now, the sun had started to sink back but the inmates had just started to rise up. All three buildings, housing hundreds of inmates each, were becoming visibly overjoyed. What was once quiet knocking from just a few windows had become a dull roar of pounding and slapping. Jumping and waving sillhouettes filled almost every window, many with more then one person. From half a block away, the ruckus from inside was clearly audible, let alone the disaster happening on the sidewalk out front.
- "Cops, Pigs, Murderers"
By now, the demonstration (which featured some hooded fanatics, some middle-aged rabble rousers, and a grade-school rebel) was noticed by the police who were very eager to stop the it. The first officer who approached was flicked off and shouted at. Ten minutes later several squad cars rode up from behind the jail with their lights on. 1,2,3,4 cars and cops with riot helmets and body armor. "What the hell must be going on inside?" I wondered. "None of the noise demos we ever do attract this much attention."
A quick "mic-check" gathered the crowd into a circle and the demonstration promptly decided that it needed to support the imprisoned comrade and should end before the police could mobilize any further.
The inmates, however, continued pounding...
We laughed and skipped our way back to the abandoned lot where we were parked. It was hard to even remember that it was freezing cold outside.
- "Come on! They're letting him out!"
I didn't hear them yell it, and I don't know who did, but I started running back when everyone else did. The bulk of us had just made it to the cars but two had gone in to check on the status of our friend: they were letting him out.
This was incredibly shocking because they don't process any bonds or release anyone on Sundays.
We did the noise demo because our friend requested it but we never imagined it would help him get released.
Later, we would dance and sing in that same parking lot with our newly-freed friend. A few of us tore up chunks of asphalt and threw them at the nearest billboard in another gesture of subtraction from the boring nights that we were accustomed to just a few months ago. I recall a feeling of total elation. It wasn't a confrontation like we had scene so often recently and nothing groundbreaking was happening. Still, I couldn't help but think that this was exactly where I was supposed to be. One could still faintly hear the noise of the inmates in the distance behind the cackling circle of friends.
Two days later, on Valentine's Day, another anti-prison noise demonstration was set to coincide with the demos in Chicago and elsewhere. I wasn't there, but I've heard great things from friends who were.
- A Gateway to Rebellion?
Our friend would tell us after he was released that the jail had transformed into a madhouse before his eyes. As soon as our screams became audible through the small windows, all of "general population" rushed to the wall to see what was happening. Our friend had been spreading the word that their was gonna be a protest outside and everyone wanted to see what that would look like.
Immediately the cries of "No Justice, No Peace/Fuck the Police" filled the jail. Inmates jumped on tables and ran around their cells. The guards panicked to maintain order.
I wasn't on the inside that day so I don't want to go into much detail about the situation inside. Hopefully, a report back from-the-inside is on its way.
What is different about the anti-prison demonstrations?
In Atlanta, it is often remarked that the noise demonstrations feel distinct from any other protest. The activity which might be quantitatively measured as almost completely symbolic (screaming at sillhouettes from the sidewalk with some banners and drums) leaves the crowd with a sense of intense possibility. Could it be that there is something affectively significant about this type of activity? Screaming has been called the oldest coping mechanism and it's the case the with each subsequent demonstration that participants come closer and closer to throwing full-on tantrums - slamming onto walls, storefronts, and street signs; screaming out-of-tempo and cursing wildly; dancing out-of-step and laughing lucidly.
And what about in light of the February 12th demo? An inmate population, with almost no prior connection to us on the outside except for the announcement from our friends, nearly erupts in small-scale riot? What could we accomplish by deepening our connections with inmates? Some of us are writing letters to "political prisoners" already; is there a way to get ahold of long-term jail inmates? The Atlanta City Detention Center also incarcertes soon-to-be deportees. Surely many of these folks have family on the outside. What if we did the demos during visitation hours? Could the potential for rebellion on the outside produce the same type of feeling on the inside? What if we had 100 people with family members inside?
Maybe we'll never know the answers to these questions, but it's hard not to dream.
-an Atlanta anarchist