New Year’s Eve is pushed as a time of year to go out and let your hair down, usually by going to some horribly overpriced, overcrowded club and drinking in an effort to forget the last 12 months. But for many, including anarchist and anti-fascist prisoners around the world, and the many victims of police racism and misrule, the turn of the year will be spent away from loved ones, locked behind steel doors.
The situation is bad and getting worse for prisoners in Britain, as vast overcrowding and resource cuts have pushed the system into near meltdown — provoking the massive Birmingham prison riot which rocked the establishment on December 16th and seems to set to continue to simmer for the foreseeable.
It is a difficult time for prisoners and their friends and families on the outside, and every year anarchists show solidarity with protests outside the prisons, making noise and letting everyone inside know they are not forgotten.
The organisers note:
HMP Hindley has been branded “the very worst prison ever seen” by a watchdog, with prisoners often banged up in their cells for days at a time, and very high levels of violence. Right now a prisoner takes their own life every three days, and many more harm themselves, at the highest rate since records began. “IPP” prisoners, trapped inside without a release date, are the most likely to kill and harm themselves.
The second and third, on New Years Eve itself, will be the annual Noise Solidarity Demos at Brixton and Pentonville. Hosted by London Campaign Against Police and State Violence, South East London Sisters Uncut, Black Lives Matter UK and the NUS Black Students’ Campaign, these are always a raucous affair. Supporters are asked to bring banners and something to make noise with (pots, pans, kitchen utensils, drums, sirens, speakers, megaphones, horns, your voices).
Black people are killed by the state on the streets, but they are also killed under incarceration. Jimmy Mubenga was suffocated by racist G4S security guards on an aeroplane. Sean Rigg was asphyxiated in Brixton police station. Ricky Bishop was also killed in police custody at Brixton police station. Sarah Campbell died within hours of arriving at Styal Prison. 15 year old Garthe Myatt was killed by security guards at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre. Between 1990 – 2016 over 5,600 people have died in prison and police custody. Few have ever received justice.
Where they don’t kill you outright, prisons take time from you, isolate you from your community and your family and do the same to your loved ones on the outside. This is not done at random, but is systematically racist in its intent and practice. It is another side of state racism that is elsewhere seen in the racist application of stop and search, immigration law, and extra-judicial killings.
The proportion of people of African-Caribbean and African descent incarcerated here is almost seven times greater to their share of the population. In the United States, the proportion of black prisoners to population is about four times greater.
Incarceration is not only destructive of the lives of black men and women, but also the men, women and children who make up their families, their friends, their lovers and their lives. Every life destroyed inside prison includes many other lives destroyed outside of it.
Noise demos outside of prisons are a continuing tradition across the world. A way of expressing solidarity for people imprisoned during the New Year, remembering those held captive by the state. A noise demo breaks the isolation and alienation of the cells our enemies create, but it does not have to stop at that. It is time to imagine a world without incarceration, without detention, without racism and injustice.
In the US meanwhile, prisonbooks.info put together the following notice:
We want to extend a message of solidarity to folks inside, and wish them a happy new year. Although, a truly happy new year would be one without prisons and the world that needs them.” Here’s a list of events we were able to find, but check in with the prison abolition group in your area to see where you can get plugged in:
They’ve also done a wonderful PDF with birthdays and notes for January prison support.