Solidarity with Incarcerated Protestors in St. Louis Jail

Protestors in a St. Louis jail

Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) abolitionists’ politics and organizing must always be informed by what incarcerated people are experiencing and working toward, so it’s important to support protests inside like the one that just took place yesterday at the St. Louis City Justice Center. Yesterday morning at around 2:30 a.m., over 100 incarcerated people in the St. Louis jail took control of the fourth floor following a clash between one person and a correctional officer, which eventually became violent. As more people joined the person in the conflict, multiple others jimmied the locks on their cages and gathered to help. According to an article by the Riverfront Times (I highly recommend disregarding the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story on day’s events unless you only want to read what the city’s director of public safety had to say), the incarcerated people—about 117 altogether—took over at least two units in the facility for 6 hours where they broke multiple windows, threw objects through the openings, and set small fires while calling out to supporters on the ground. Two of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s photos of the incarcerated protestors are shown above and I believe the second one is a perfect illustration of what America is like (white man freely traveling through the city, unbothered, while imprisoned Black men yell for help from their cages). In the Riverfront Times article, Michael Milton, advocacy and policy manager for the Bail Project in Missouri said “Since the middle of December, we’ve been receiving emails and reports from families and people who are incarcerated about the constant mistreatment of inmates inside of the jail. From how they’ve handled COVID, from how they’ve handled even food and nutrition, [inmates] have had several different demands about the treatment inside of CJC.” Milton also said that family members of the people inside have repeatedly shared how correctional officers retaliate against their loved ones who have tried to help “visibly sick” people and have even gone so far as to change “housing assignments to force them to share cells with the ill inmates in question.” COVID has rapidly spread through St. Louis facilities just as it has in every other state’s jails and prisons and over 80 people have been diagnosed with COVID in the city’s two facilities since the start of the pandemic. Blake Strode, executive director of the nonprofit law firm ArchCity Defenders shared that incarcerated people contacted him with COVID worries as well and that they had concerns over “freezing temperatures, harsh treatment by officers and inadequate access to medical care.” Once the protest was shut down, 55 of the people were relocated to a segregated unit on a different floor and 65 other ones were sent to the Workhouse (Medium Security Institution)—a notoriously dangerous and brutal facility with a history of complaints and violence. Standing in solidarity with these incarcerated protestors and every other person locked in a cage is of utmost importance if abolition is our end goal. COVID in jails and prisons isn’t the public health problem; any type of incarceration is inherently barbaric and abhorrent and threatens the health and safety of us all, incarcerated or not.