The 'Friends of Marcia Powell' are autonomous groups and individuals engaging in prisoner outreach, informal advocacy, and organized protest and direct actions in a sustained campaign to: promote prisoner rights and welfare in America; engage the Arizona public in a creative and thoughtful critique of our system of "justice;” deconstruct the prison industrial complex; and dismantle this racist, classist patriarchy...

Retiring "Free Marcia Powell"

As of December 2, 2010 (with occasional exceptions) I'm retiring this blog to direct more of my time and energy into prisoner rights and my other blogs; I just can't do anyone justice when spread so thin. I'll keep the site open so folks can search the archives and use the links, but won't be updating it with new posts. If you're looking for the latest, try Arizona Prison Watch. Most of the pieces posted here were cross-posted to one or both of those sites already.

Thanks for visiting. Peace out - Peg.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Marcia's Friends' Direct Action Gear.

Hey All:

Am trying to set up here an overview of the Friends' direct action gear bag, so you know what we have in case you ever need to borrow it, and you have an idea of how to put one together yourself.

One of the more important tips we've learned this fall is to never take more than you can carry - at a quick clip, if necessary - in just one trip, if you can help it. Jackets and vests with deep pockets help keep hands free and may eliminate the need for a back pack. The rolling gear bag we've assembled below is one you can either pull along behind you or grab a few things out of and leave in the car.

If you think of something we should add, drop us a line - or better yet, drop it off at my place (this is Peg writing, of course). Some incriminating and all-too-tempting things have been excluded - like spray paint. I go for removable solutions lest anyone gets nailed for "criminal damage". You'll have to provide your own supplies and ideas for civil disobedience, at this point, anyway. I'm still coloring within the lines, for the most part.

Be patient, please, if I have any technical difficulties with these photos...

Direct Action Gear Bag and Supplies:

Posters (carried within a flattened moving box, which can be set up to tape posters on the sides of, use as a tabletop to display literature, throw belongings inside, etc. The box has a handle made from a bandanna, which can be detached and used for other purposes.) Messages include the following:

Free Marcia Powell.
Too Many Prisoners.
Arizona: Your Prison System Kills.
Protect Human Rights: End State Violence.
Prisoners Have Families, Too.
Remember Veterans in Prison.
Will Work for Prison Abolition.
I could have been Marcia Powell.
Governor Brewer: Free Marcia Powell.
Terry Goddard: Free Marcia Powell.
No Private Prisons.
Hear the Prisoner's Voice.
Unconvicted Criminal.

We also have more clean poster board and a couple of foam boards for stiff signs. There's a large tri-fold cardboard display board that's waiting for someone to do something brilliant with - maybe a set-up we can use all year for tabling at First Fridays, on Hayden Lawn, and at shopping malls or something.

I'm thinking we may get some kind of petition going when school resumes in January to support the demands listed by the Sex Workers Outreach Project - one for campus and community groups to sign off on, and one to circulate in the public as a way of generating and demonstrating resistance to the law-and-order rhetoric of the 2010 campaign season. Between the work the SWOP women have done and our own respective efforts, we should come up with a good inclusive community-generated vision for abolitionist-oriented criminal justice processes and reforms to propose for political platforms. A coherant portable display on the prison industrial complex in Arizona that visibly connects the dots for people (and follows the money) would be very useful for outreach efforts.

Anyway, back to the gear - here's the bigger picture (it all really packs in well!). Note how your car can be a canvas as well (it says "Prisoners Have Rights", but this week it will say "Free Marcia Powell", with a red would be nice to see other rear windows thus decorated as well.).

Loose Items:
Camera Tripod
3 Red Umbrellas (please collect them for the event Friday)

Direct Action Gear Bag:

Outermost pocket (sharps and wipes): lighter, box cutter, scissors, kleenex, handiwipes, windex wipes, hand warmers.

Second pocket in (fastening and sticky things): glue, spray adhesive, clear packing tape,  red electrical tape (tape is not only a fastener, but can be used to make lettering on plastic sheeting, or written on with permanent markers to make for instant, removable stickers/signs; the clear tape can create the appearance of permanence, if well-placed),  Loctite blue putty (best for temporarily hanging posters on irregular surfaces) stapler (need a staple gun donated to the cause), tablecloth clips (for large banners), hole reinforcements (to prevent tears in banners or posters needing holes for hanging), shoelaces, pipe cleaners.

(See that little website address on the sign? That's a sharpie and clear tape - it came off after I took the picture with no problem. Maybe they'll come after me for technical littering doing that kind of thing, but how can that be criminal damage? Make sure you take pictures of your work, so it can be saved and seen again forever)

Third pocket in (Overflow from 2nd pocket: white duct tape, blue painter's tape, disposable camera). Printing and painting things: Sharpies and poster markers, window paint, water-based poster paint (brush in cap), sidewalk chalk (about 7 baggies already packed for rapid deployment, and plenty more as back-up), sponge & bottle of water (for easy chalk/window paint clean-up if needed).  I also have a guide to the 2007 legislature (keep forgetting to ask for an updated one).

A few notes about chalking: as far as I can make out, it's illegal to do everywhere, and it's legal to do anywhere but private property. I know that doesn't help much. Regardless, it's at the discretion of the police officer who comes upon you to decide how to handle it - you could possibly be taken in overnight and face a judge before finding out if charges will stick, or what they may cost you.

So, be forwarned.

If you do chalk outside the lines, there are a few things you can try to keep yourself out of trouble:

Try to carry red/pink, white and blue chalk with you - you may wiggle out of an arrest by wrapping your message up in Old Glory and expressing your sincere incredulity that the First Amendment doesn't protect sidewalk chalking.

I've questioned why it would even be called sidewalk chalk and marketed to children if it was just a gateway to criminal activity.

I've also suggested that it wasn't my chalk but my message that got the police to interrupt me - if I'd been writing "Soldiers have families, too." to remind the legislature of their duties to people in uniform right before Thanksgiving, I think I would have received a lot more thumbs up, even from the cops. That can backfire, though - it was at that point that the officer with the Capitol Police stopped engaging with me about the First Amendment and - apparently at a sudden loss for words - called back-up and went off to see who he could find to press criminal charges against me.

So, maybe I'm not the best one to take advice from on that count.

Besides, now that all our photos are up and our secrets are out, they'll be on to us and may have a zero-tolerance policy towards chalk: so be prepared to be more creative in your sign-making and thoughtful about how to negotiate your way out of a ticket or arrest. The ACLU advises Copwatchers to write critical phone numbers (like one for an attorney) on our upper arm in case we're taken in when we go out on patrol; not bad advice for anyone protesting the status quo in this town.

The cops have actually been nice about it so far, though, all things considered, and no one seems to know for sure if "criminal damage" with chalk would really stand up in court - but the process of finding out can be a big hassle and expense.

Anyway, my experience has been that ASU campus police and maintenance tolerate chalking, and other students I saw chalking on Tempe's campus told me they even asked permission and got the okay, so if you keep it clean and on the ground (not on walls, benches, etc or highly porous surfaces), it should be alright. That was why I figured we'd be safe breaking out the chalk at the Cronkite Event (apart from how silly ASU would look arresting a bunch of young people protesting Arpaio in chalk at a First Amendment-themed anti-racist action.)

If you're chalking the parking lot or sidewalks around Wes Bolin Park (by the Capitol buildings and across W. Jefferson from the AZ Department of Corrections), the maintenance staff  may not be thrilled with any mess you leave, but the prisoners in orange will be happy to come across evidence that there are people out here in solidarity with them and their families - so don't feel bad that they're the ones most likely to have to clean it up. The guy that originally called the Capitol Police on me turned out to be real nice, and his boss had no interest in pressing charges, so long as I stopped (I'd already done what I came to do: that was my "Prisoners have families, too" photo with my buddy smiling at the message he was preparing to erase).

On the legislature side of the street, though, look out for those guys in suits double-timing it out of the Senate building towards you carrying walkie talkies with their assistants in tow. The security staff are pretty uptight about chalk (though when I challenged their assertion that my conduct was illegal, they had to run off and find someone who could affirm what I might be charged with - "criminal damage". Whatever happened to plain old vandalism?).

I wonder if Marcia's Friends would be considered a gang and get hit by Thomas' office with sentencing enhancements for tagging ? We would be if we were a bunch of young people of color, of course. On that note, I should add that my freedom and lack of hefty fines for all this criminal damage that I've supposedly done are evidence of not only my white privilege at work, but the combined advantage I have of being an Anglo, forty-something, well-educated female - one in red high tops, no less, usually doing something rather unexpected. It seems kind of startling to some people, actually. Me, I can't figure out why more of us don't just stop everything else we're doing and kick the bums out of the legislature this week - we could have a People's Occupation of the Senate building or Governor's office...

Okay, back to earth. I know folks have bills to pay and kids to feed, and not everyone can run around agitating, nor is that necessarily everyone's thing. In any event, whatever your reason for being at the Capitol this week, and however you settle on additional strategies you employ, if you happen to have painted your car window then please remember to park strategically where your message will be noticed by the most people (especially when you come to the ADC demonstration Friday). Keep in mind that if your message is really antagonizing, though, you'll get  a moving violation once you're away from the media for sure...

So, chalk alternatives: The plastic tablecloths have limits in terms of what you can paint with, but they can still be used as indicated below. I've found that rolls of solid-color wrapping paper (and rolls of brown paper packaging material) make for great banners, and even a long one can be carried easily. One which hangs over a wall should be weighted down at the bottom end and have sturdy attachments,or it'll curl and fall. Think of ways you can fasten one between trees or signposts (hole reinforcements and shoelaces or pipe cleaners might come in handy here) - get it up high enough that it's a hassle for anyone to take down...

Now, by my logic that shouldn't be illegal, but leaving water in the desert for dying people is considered "littering" of such grave proportion in Arizona than it can draw jail time - as can transporting a sick or wounded undocumented migrant  to the hospital - so just keep in mind that if you're resisting the dominant culture here, even to save lives, you're going out on a limb no matter how legal or ethical you may think you're keeping it.

Main Compartment (literature and miscellaneous): Real Cost of Prison Comic books, Anarchist Zines, Thomas' book of detailed maps of the valley (pictured above with the sticky stuff), progressive and thematic bumper stickers/ buttons (good attention- grabbers at ASU - I have an overabundance of such things, so I give them away for free for a few minutes of conversation or a solidarity photo), flashlight, red and pink plastic tablecloths (for banners, but not good for paint or markers - try making block letters with the colored tape. Remember not to dangle things precariously over traffic lanes).

There's still room in the main compartment for a laptop, lunch for two, tons of water, a sweatshirt - whatever else you may want to bring along. I usually stick the tripod in the bag when I hit the street with it - it pokes out the top, but everything can be transported easily that way, pulling the gear bag with one hand and swinging the box with posters in the other hand.

Both the gear bag, with the arm extended, and the tripod (with or without a camera on it) double as poster stands, by the way, to set up several signs at once. The tripod also seems to buy a little more time before getting police attention, if it's set up someplace that seems appropriate for taking pictures. I guess it also defies the "rule" they have at the Capitol that signs have to be held - they can't be put up anywhere. Propping a foam board sign up on the tripod and gear bag (use some puty to keep it in place) respects the law about not affixing things to state property, while it brings the message to eye level. That also keeps hands free to distribute literature or work on a petition - just keep the gear in your periphery so it doesn't disappear.

We still need to produce some literature about the Free Marcia Powell campaign to distribute, as well as business cards or bookmarks to more easily disseminate website addresses. I'm still at a loss at times for good sound bytes - maybe I'll just print some stuff up from the site to keep on hand for people to refer to if questioned by media. The safest thing would be to say that we all speak and account for ourselves instead of each other (so feel free to talk about your personal reasons for taking action, and how you see your own involvement in the campaign for CJ/prison reforms, so to speak, but tell them that the info they need about the history or purpose of the Friends of Marcia Powell is all on the website - we'll give consistent info then.)

Wow. Been working on that for awhile. Have a ton more stuff to catch up with in order to be ready this week. Let me know if there are questions. Will need help this evening  planning for the week, and again Wednesday making sure everything is in place for Friday. I'm thinking of having some folks over at about 6 or 7pm both nights. Maybe we can come up with some good street theater, too. I'm flat broke now, so since that's dinner time, please bring whatever you may want to eat or drink. Email me for directions.

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