On June 4th the people won a decisive Boycott Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) victory! The volans, a boat from the israeli shipping line zim, was unable to unload its cargo at the Port of Oakland. The combination of a vigorous determined 1000-person picket and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 refusing to cross the picket line, in solidarity with Palestine, forced the volans to leave the port having lost vast amounts of money in time and unloaded cargo.
zim shipping line has not been to the Port of Oakland since 2014 when a coalition of Palestine solidarity groups in concert with ILWU local 10 kept up a three day continuous picket line preventing zim from unloading cargo. zim left after the three day action but a few days later tried to sneak back to the port to a different berth. The activists caught them in the act and prevailed by rushing back to the port to the new gate and the shipping line left, never coming back to Oakland until now.
Why did zim return at this historical juncture after such a resounding defeat seven years ago? It cannot be coincidence that this provocative capitalist shipping foray was made only two weeks after the vicious Israeli attack on Gaza, which murdered more than 300 hundred Palestinians and destroyed whole apartment buildings, hospitals, schools refugee camps, infrastructure, and internally displaced hundreds of thousands. Clearly the israeli government thought this would be a good time to try to challenge the ever-growing boycott divest and sanctions movement by sending their ships to Oakland. The bay area was already mobilized in response to the israeli bombing, having had a number of big demonstrations, the largest a 10,000 person strong march in conjunction with a beautiful street mural painting in the Mission to commemorate the Nakba.
Zim, the largest israeli shipping line, is a Haifa based business founded in 1945 by the israeli maritime league and the Jewish agency histadarut labor federation to transport immigrants to Palestine after WWII as part of the settler-colonial project that became the state of israel in 1948. zim is fond of saying to the press that it is now a privately held company and that the majority of stockholders are not israelis (so really no need for a pesky boycott). However if you look closely at the website, you see that the Israeli government retains the last word on major decision making, because zim is so important to its “security” and “defense.”
The activist community has some mysterious way to track zim ships all over the globe. In mid-May of this year, the call went out from Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), which leads the Palestine Action Network (PAN). PAN is an ongoing coalition of groups doing Palestine solidarity work in the bay area of which QUIT! is a member. The call alerted the community that a zim ship was coming towards Oakland and that a new Block the Boat campaign was forming. Five thousand people signed up for a text message alert system.
The zim ship lurked out in the Bay for a week or so. ILWU Local 10 put out a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people decrying the bombing of Gaza. Local 10 was responding to a call from the Palestine federation of Labor in Gaza, asking US unions not to unload cargo from israel This union has a long history of activism, participating in the boycott of south africa’s apartheid state by refusing to unload their ships coming to the Port Oakland. The AROC campaign was boosted on social media far and wide with the promise to arrive at the port as soon as word came that the zim ship was docking. Interestingly zim remembered the events of 2014 and on May 17th, at the mere mention of a mobilization of activists to the port, they rerouted to Los Angeles. AROC called this a victory but urged more people to sign up to the text alert system and to stay ready because the ship would likely try again.
AROC called for a week of international action against the zim shipping line, asking other ports to boycott of the apartheid state of israel’s shipping line. AROC said: “We have sent a powerful message that the Bay Area will stand strong against Zionism, apartheid, and any business that is complicit with Israel’s colonization of Palestine.” This call was amplified on social media. Seattle set an alert system, as did New York and New Jersey. zim was paying attention. They stayed away from Oakland for 12 days. The radical Palestine solidarity community waited on pins and needles, checking our phones for alerts constantly.
On June 4th the emergency text alert to mobilize went out, the zim boat was docking, flexing its corporate zionist muscle. The people just weren’t having it and a thousand activists converged on the Port of Oakland at 6 am ready for the first shift of workers. Six gates were picketed blocking all entrances to the berth, a riotous sea of banners, Palestinian flags, drumming contingents, bicycles, and chants of FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA PALESTINE WILL BE FREE. QUIT! (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism!) members arrived with our BDS, Right of Return queer banner and a stack of Queers for Palestine stickers to distribute, made for us by Gay Shame. Lines of truckers honked in solidarity trying to get into the completely blocked port. Longshore workers hung out in groups NOT crossing the picket line. Some joined the line.
The ILWU has a provision in their contract that says that they don’t have to cross a picket line if they feel endangered while still getting a day’s pay. At about 8 am the contract arbiter arrived and pronounced that ILWU would not work that shift. AROC called it a victory for the morning shift, but said we would return for the 4 pm shift. Social media took up the call for continuing the pressure by showing up for the 4 pm shift. QUIT! members arrived for the afternoon shift, a QUIT! bicyclist joining a bike blockade of recalcitrant truckers. Again the ILWU did not cross the picket line in solidarity with Palestinian workers. At about 6 pm the community watched the israeli apartheid profiteering zim ship leave the port without unloading ANY cargo. It was a spectacular victory!
As I write this activists are blocking a zim ship in the port of New York/New Jersey.
Elias Al-Jelda, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) in Gaza, stated:
“It warms our hearts in the besieged occupied Gaza Strip and the rest of occupied Palestine that our comrades led by AROC, and with the solidarity of our fellow workers in ILWU Local 10, achieved this great #BlockTheBoat victory against ZIM in Oakland. We call upon all dockworkers worldwide to intensify the boycott campaign against ZIM ships and all business profiting from apartheid Israel, in solidarity with our people’s struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine.”
“Pretend that…” My niece had a favorite game when she was 4 that started with the words, “pretend that…” and usually ended up in some version of playing school or family. So let’s say you want to leave the Bay Area and go to another country. Pretend that in order to go you must present yourself to a government authority in that country. At the border you encounter untrained officers, tons of forms that need to be filled out, and eventually you will need to see a judge in order to get permission to stay. It can take a long time to complete all the steps. So in the meantime, with no due process, you are placed in a facility that operates very much like a prison. This prison is mismanaged in every way. Food, bedding, climate control, medical aid, space, anything you may need to function daily is scarce or not available at all. You may be housed here for weeks, months or even years.
This is the reality of more than 50,000 people a day seeking asylum in the US thanks to the policies of the department of Homeland Security which includes ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) manages the largest immigration detention system in the world and spends more on immigration enforcement than on all other federal enforcement agencies combined. The detention system captures and holds up to 500,000 immigrants a year.
Immigrants in detention are undocumented or documented, including people whose immigration status is not current, is expired or is under review. The US locks up survivors of torture, people seeking asylum, visa holders, people who have been granted the permanent right to live here, people who have lived here for years and may have American citizen spouses and children, individuals with mental health and medical conditions and other vulnerable groups including LGBTQ people, pregnant women and children.
Detention is not necessary to the immigration process. But according to ICE, over 70 percent of immigrants in detention are mandatorily detained, meaning their incarceration is automatic, without any kind of individualized assessment. There over 200 detention facilities in the US contracted by ICE, including state and local government-run jails and for-profit, private prisons owned and operated by US corporations, the biggest being GEO Group and CORE Civic. Over 81% of immigrant detainees are housed in private prisons. It is a corrupt web of inhumane, arbitrary treatment of people and profiteering. ICE routinely fails to provide adequate oversight and exercise meaningful consequences for facility failures to even meet ICE’s minimal detention standards. Meanwhile, ICE has failed to invest in far more humane, effective, and cost-efficient community-based alternatives to detention.
California has 7 private, for-profit prisons that house more than 4000 immigrants. 95% are asylum seekers. GEO Group donates tons of money to candidates in local campaigns. In the southern California city of Adelanto, GEO convinced the city manager in a backroom deal to terminate a contract that allowed for local government to have oversight rights in the private prison. There were many inconsistencies in putting the new contract through. The planning commissioner who attempted to point out the problems and failures to follow procedures was removed from office. Only one city council member opposed the new contract.
California began doing business with private prison companies in the 1980’s. (The feds already had contracted with private prisons in southern California). It was a failed experiment. In an attempt to end the use of private, for-profit detention, the CA legislature passed AB32 in 2019. The law was due to go into effect in January, 2020. Its main purpose is to put extreme limits on contracting with private prisons or housing people in private, for-profit prisons. In December 2019, ICE entered long-term contracts worth billions to them, just days before AB 32 was set to be enacted. The 15-year contracts included Adelanto and Mesa Verde, run by GEO Group; the Otay Mesa Detention Center, run by CoreCivic; and the Imperial Regional Detention Center, run by Management and Training Corporation (MTC).
GEO Group and the previous federal administration sued the state of California over AB32 in October 2020. A judge was not sympathetic and dismissed most of the lawsuit but Geo Group and the DOJ (Department of Justice) appealed to the 9th Circuit court. So far, the Biden administration has not committed to dropping the DOJ lawsuit. If dropped, this would greatly weaken the strength of GEO Group’s appeal and ability to pursue the lawsuit. The appeal is scheduled to be heard on June 7, 2021. Meanwhile the private prisons are still in operation.
Under the state sanctuary law passed in 2017, police and sheriffs can voluntarily turn people over to ICE but it is not required. ICE depends on this collaboration for the majority of their arrests. In June of this year, the VISION Act passed the CA Assembly by a large majority. The VISION Act will make it illegal for local and state law enforcement to collaborate with ICE. It now needs to pass the senate.
People in detention are leading the fight to abolish ICE. Prisoners held 49 hunger strikes across the country and organized work stoppages. Closing detentions centers has been shown to decrease ICE arrests. The federal government has cut contracts with for profit facilities in Georgia and Massachusetts.
Dignity Not Detention is a coalition of multiple organizations working to abolish immigrant prisons to free criminalized communities from incarceration in the state of California. They are calling for closures and an end to contracts with ICE. They want to see an economic transition from a carceral economy to a support system that invests in helping people who want to immigrate or stay in the US.
The US has for far too long held the record for the most people incarcerated in the world. Efforts to end immigrant detention, abolish ICE and ban for profit prison are just a small piece of this problem. Ruthie Wilson Gilmore, professor of geology and longtime prison abolitionist reminds us that ninety-two percent of people locked inside American prisons are held in publicly run, publicly funded facilities, and 99 percent of those in jail are in public jails. Abolition is a long-term goal and a practical policy program, calling for jobs, education, housing, health care elements required for a productive and violence-free life. Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the establishment of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how can we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”
It’s been almost twenty years since I played “Pretend that…” with my niece. It’s a good game. Pretend that there are no public prisons , no private prisons, no borders, no ICE, and no police. And make it so.
Queer radicals have been fighting for years to kick the cops out of Pride. From a 2019 “Cops and Corps Out of Pride” article in UltraViolet : “Gay Shame has put out a call to end all police participation in pride; all of it, NO police marching cutely in pride contingents, and particularly NO military style policing of the march in the name of protecting the queers. The police are not our friends and they don’t give a flying fuck about us…. LAGAI Queer Insurrection in the early 90’s carried a banner of a burning police car with the slogan IT’S RIGHT TO REBEL directly behind the police contingent marching in pride.” A few years ago, local activists crashed the front of the SF parade with “Cops, Barricades, Corporations Out of our Parade” signs.
Nationally, San Diego Pride and Denver Pride are both prohibiting the police from marching. Sacramento and St. Louis banned the police but then reversed their decision. In Seattle, which has two different Pride parades, the Capitol Hill Pride organizers banned police participation but the more mainstream Seattle pride group is still deciding. In 2017, Minneapolis/Twin Cities anti-violence program director Eva Wood at the Twin Cities LGBTQ-rights group OutFront, said she supported the organizers’ decision to ask police not to march after charges were dismissed against the cop who murdered Philando Castile. “I personally think they made the right call,” Wood said. “Specifically, the queer and trans people of color reached out to us saying cops in uniform at Pride might make white people feel safe, but not us.” Since the cop murder of George Floyd and international uprisings against that, Minneapolis Pride organizers decided to ban cops but then the lesbian Chief of Police pushed to meet with the committee and it was decided to eliminate the police squad car at the beginning of the parade but allow uniformed police officers to participate in the parade. (Whaaaat? Go figure.)
This year, NYC’s Pride announced in May that cops and “corrections officers,” including the Gay Officers Action League, can’t participate in the march until at least 2025, and for all NYPD to stay a block away from any in-person events, including the march. In San Francisco (still no official parade this year due to COVID), the “Pride Alliance” of the SFPD which marches in uniform has been banned from the parade just for this year and still might have booths.
The Aurora Colorado lesbian police chief was very distressed by the NY Pride decision and in a REALLY unclear on the concept statement said, “I look back at the Stonewall riots where the LGBTQ community stood up to the police for the treatment they were receiving at the time. How powerful it is now to see an officer march in a pride parade holding the hand of their partner, spouse, and significant other saying that was then, this is now. We are here to protect you.” Yeah, that would be the same Aurora PD that in August 2020 handcuffed and held a Black family at gunpoint due to cops’ mistake about a stolen car. In January, it was announced that no charges were being filed against these cops. But it’s probably good enough that the police chief said at the time that she was “heartbroken” about the incident. Oh, and she’s managed to maintain support from the Aurora cop union…
The New York Times was SO upset by the decision to kick the cops out of NY Pride that they even wrote an editorial against it, saying that it was politicizing the Pride celebration. In a response, J. Bryan Lowder in Slate said: “The Times editorial board believes that banning queer cops from marching in uniform is political, that tying police violence to actual police is a politicized move detached from the harm that actual victims have endured. And this is inappropriate, you see, because Pride is a “celebration,” a joyful party where “politics” are in poor taste. I’ll allow that that’s what Pride is for some—many, even. A mere celebration. But for others, Pride is meaningless without politics. Pride is political.”
UV readers know well the Stonewall origins of queers fighting back against the cops. CNN’s article about Pride/cops quoted Miss Majors, Stonewall trans activist, about why she is historically against cops at Pride events: “At the time, just to be transgender was against the law. Wear a dress — go straight to jail. Or, ‘You’re crazy,’ so we’re going to take you to the mental hospital,” Miss Major writes in an excerpt shared with CNN. “They’ve been beating us the f*** up, and continue to do so. And showing everybody else how to beat us up and kill us. That’s where their loyalty lies.”
Referring back to 2017 when Columbus, Ohio protesters were beaten and arrested for blocking the parade for a moment of silence against the murder of Philando Castile and violence against trans women of color, Andrea Ritchie, lawyer and author of “Invisible No More: Police Violence against Black Women and Women of Color” said, “Literally you’re having a protest against police violence at which police are committing violence.” Ritchie was on-call legal support at NYC Pride for 10 years, and she said she’s witnessed police violence — such as arrests, macing or beatings — at Pride every single year. “It doesn’t matter whether the cop that’s administering that violence is queer, or Black, or brown,” Ritchie told CNN. “No one should be experiencing that violence.”
In SF, the Pride decision was spurred on by the 2019 cop attack against anti-police and anti-corporate protesters who blocked the parade route for almost an hour. One of those protesters, Taryn Saldivar, has filed a federal lawsuit against SF and law enforcement officers for the SFPD actions. In a statement to the BAR newspaper, Alex U. Inn, longtime community activist and community parade grand marshal in 2017 said the Pride organization is “FINALLY! ‘LISTENING TO BLACK VOICES!” Inn wrote, “It took them long enough. Carolyn [Wysinger, SF Pride board president] is trying to make it look like it’s her idea and something new that they’ve come up with when many of us REAL activists, especially our BIPOC activists, have been saying this for many, many, many years. No police presence at PEOPLE’S MARCH 2020 was the answer to SF Pride’s ignorance and their continuation of putting Black lives at harm.”
Inn has said that the 2nd annual People’s March and Rally down Polk Street to City Hall (following the route of the first “gay-in” in 1970 that grew to become the official San Francisco Pride parade), would be held on Sunday, June 27. You can be sure the cops are not welcome there. But definitely bring your radical politics!
While the COVID pandemic locked us in our homes this past year, it did not stop the police terror or victimization of Black, Brown and Indigenous people in the U.S. We witnessed the police murder of Breonna Taylor, a Black women EMT at the beginning of the pandemic and have just commemorated the one-year anniversary of the assassination of George Floyd, a Black man, by the Minneapolis police. Tony McDade, a transgender Black man, was killed by the Tallahassee shortly after Floyd was killed. The police terror of Black and Brown people continues at an alarming rate as we enter this year’s Pride month.
The US government, not content with its war at home against Black and Brown people, exports police terror abroad. We are sickened by the continued occupation of Palestine by Israel, which is armed and supported by the U.S. In fact, while Israel was bombing the West Bank and Gaza (during the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid, two Muslim holidays), the U.S. Congress was approving over $700 million in arms to Israel, which is widely recognized as a settler apartheid state. Over 243 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed by Israeli police actions and terrorism.
This year’s Pride marks the 52nd anniversary of the great Stonewall Rebellion which in reality was a militant demonstration, led by working class transgender youth and drag queens, against police brutality and oppression. The most marginalized and oppressed of the LGBTQ+ community came together on June 28, 1969, to rebel against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The transgender community in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco had already protested similar police oppression and raids in August 1966 in what has come to be known as the “Compton Cafeteria Riots.” The LGBTQ+ movement was born out of the movement against police terror.
In 2015 it was reported by the Williams Institute that 48 percent of LGBTQ+ victims of violence experienced police violence. In 2015, the same institute reported that 58 percent of trans people said they were victims of verbal harassment, persistent misgendering, physical and sexual assault and forced to perform sexual acts to avoid being arrested. Of course the groups most affected by police violence within the community are Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people. Unarmed Black people are 3.49 times more likely to be killed by the police compared to their white counterparts.
It is critical that we live up to our heritage and stop police violence against our community. It is high time that all cops be kicked out of Pride whether Pride events are virtual or in person. No police of any kind, including police officers, members of the FBI or other federal police agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or prison guards, should be allowed to participate in Pride activities. We applaud the actions of New York City’s Heritage of Pride organizer who banned uniformed police and security from all events this year and through 2025. We challenge all Pride organizers to ban any participation of these purveyors of racist violence.
Additionally, we urge all Pride organizers to terminate any connection with colonizers including the Israeli Consulate, and to take a strong stand against US support for the continued occupation of Palestine. LGBTQ+ Pride should fully embrace the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel. Additionally, Pride should call upon the US government to stop military aid to all governments oppressing its people including Haiti, the Philippines, Yemen, and Korea.
This year, let us demand an end to racist police terror not only in the U.S. but across the globe. Stonewall must once again commemorate and inspire the continued rebellion against US racism and oppression everywhere.
graphic by Toni Love Valenzela #3144589, Lacy Facility, 51 City Dr. South, Orange, CA 92868
Making a Change
I read your newsletter every time it glides under my door and I read it again and again. It amazes me how out of touch this prison is when it comes to most of the things you all talk about.
Yes, I am a Lesbian. I was when on the streets as well as now. I have been the queen of many drag shows even though I am a woman. I have been dubbed by our Mother herself out of Modesto CA. I have been here for 18 years, doing a double life sentence. Although I love to read about our community, I’m afraid not a lot of the women nor trans are as educated as I wished them to be. The C.O.s still address them as ‘mam’ or ‘she’ even though it’s clear they are in transition. We have a small amount of what we call the “real deal” (-: A lot of these girls come in here looking for a quick fix for love [for the] rest of us this is a life style.
The ‘Finally a Change” and “Prison is Still Prison” articles brought tears to my eyes. It still blows me away how ignorant people still are after all this time. I haven’t been out for a while but when I see the TV and there is a Vera Wang wedding ring being advertised and you see 2 women or the Black girl with freckles or big white girls in clothing ads or the Asian girl on the make-up ads … even the ones where we are all united looks like a step forward. I mean, come on, that’s what United States means, right? Coming together. This next generation, man, everyone better watch out. It could go many ways. My heart and my soul are into making a change. If anyone can help me do that here in this prison, please write me. Oh and all you that are coming, welcome. Please look me up, I am in IAC. Hopefully we won’t be locked down for quarantine, I can show you around.
Darlene R Fouse #X17951, CA Institute for Women/WA-860L, 16756 Chino-Corona Rd. Corona CA 92880
Expose the Unjust Justice System
First off, I want to shoot a recognized shout out to my LGBT Family! You are the only family I have and I cherish that to the fullest extent. However, my intentions of writing this article is not based on sentiment. It’s all love though! Now down to business. Our family here at Jefferson City C.C. in Missouri is facing oppression that we should not have to face. As well as the rest of the population that inhabits this prison. We are all being denied adequate Health Care.
The medical staff tell us we must fill out Health Services Request forms (HSRs) whenever we have a complaint. Well, there’s two major problems with that declaration. The first being they do not provide us with sufficient access to those forms that they insist we fill out. Secondly, when we are able to obtain one of these nearly extinct “proper medical forms” and we fill it out with our professed complaints and we turn them in, we do not receive any kind of notification or response that our request has been received let alone acknowledged. This is blatantly denying us all the right (as human beings) to access to adequate medical care. That is also a direct violation of our constitutional rights under the 8th Amendment: the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot obtain relief even when we seek it through the “proper channels” that they call protocol!
As I am a Transgender woman currently undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy, this is a more personal issue. This does not change the fact that I am NOT the only one affected by this deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Being placed on HRT puts me into a special medical category called “chronic care. Any person placed in “chronic care” is supposed to be monitored and assessed every 90 days by a medical team and on an ‘as needed’ basis. I am going to expose the fact that they have not followed that protocol either. This is the scariest part of all these evil wrong doings (at least from my point of view speaking specifically HRT). Estrogen has high risks especially when taking it in high doses. One of the risks is cancer. How do I know that these lumps that are forming in my breast aren’t cancer cells instead of growing buds, if I can’t get medical staff to assess me?
Due to the severity of the danger presented to the LGBT people of this prison as well as others, I am calling out in despair for action against these evil tormentors especially during a time of crisis such as the Corona Virus Pandemic!! Please anybody that is on the outside, and inside, that is willing to help, that would be greatly appreciated! This oppression needs to come to an end! Let’s expose this unjust so called ‘justice system’. Much love and respect from the United Homosexual Family here in Missouri and from Tequila AKA Seaneal. Ms Sease Beard #1251289, Jefferson City C.C./8-B-108, 8200 No More Victims Rd. Jefferson City MO 65101
It’s Gotten Out of Hand
We can’t even exist amongst anything without giving it a damn title. Today, more than ever before, critics are compelled to push labels onto other human beings as if we’re some canned food on the shelf. At one point, and of course currently in many places, I was exclusively identified as: Blacky, Africano, Negroid, Hood, Ghetto dweller, Thugg, Drug Dealer, Gangster, Gang banger, Pimp, Convicted felon turned Crime Novelist.
Each of those rather hard core attributes fit for some [that] Society will aim to keep in the most darkest place of misfortune – Prison. Would any names be softened if the target was of the LGBTQ+? Nope! To my discomfort, I’ve stood in pain while listening to my former circle call Trannies “fag” or “punk”. The pain came from wanting to safeguard my own secret from the verbal abuse. Yet I wish those Trannies could stand next to me now because while they were taking those jabs, not once did they consider to expose me. I’ve partied with them and they chose to let the experience stand as a lesson of what I’d face eventually.
In the 90’s era of hip hop, the rapper (Nore) called people like me Homo-Thuggz in his song ‘What-what’. Wendy Williams was a radio host at Hot-97 during that same time and used a game called “Guess the Gay rapper” to expose a rapper from Jersey City. But on the whole, we were all subjected to the tag of “on the down low”.
Wow! Can I please just be considered me? Why has that been so hard to understand? For so long, society has made it difficult even for myself to accept my own truth.
Crazy love to my entire LGBTQ+ Fam! I was amazed at all those who recognized my short comment in the previous issue. I just want to add, it’s not over. Keep that mask on! Stay safe! Robert A (the Boogie Mann) Thompson #AN7958, CTF/north RB#326, PO Box 705, Soledad CA 93960
Survival: My Only Option
As a Trans-woman who is 110% out and proud, I get my fair share of hate coming my way. We as LGBTQIA+ have been hated on since the dawn of time. Where do you think that has led us? It has led us to be the highest group of people to commit suicide! LGBT+ people are twice as likely to commit suicide compared to the general population with Trans people being four times likely. I have tried to commit suicide on multiple occasions: OD-ing on pain pills, cutting my wrists and/or jumping off roofs. I did these suicide attempts because people were not accepting me as the woman I am, instead of the man I NEVER was. The main people that caused me pain were my parents and siblings once I told them I was Trans and they kicked me out of their life.
It has been 11 years since I spoke with my family but I’m proud to say I am doing good despite not having them in my life. In fact, I’m doing GREAT. The last time I tried committing suicide I was 24 years old. I’m 29 now so it’s been almost 5 years since that time. Since that time, I have come to realize in prison that survival is my only option. I have been sexually assaulted, physically assaulted and verbally assaulted dozens of times in the past 5 years that I’ve been here in prison but it has not changed me. There are going to be times when you feel like killing yourself over another person hating you for who you are and there may be times you got assaulted. I want you to know you CAN be a survivor like me. I am proof that just because you are hurt, does not mean it should take control of your life. I am living proof that you can survive as long as you put your mind to it! I may not have family support but I still have family in the LGBTQ+ Community. All you folks who think you are alone, you need to know you are loved by your brothers and sisters.
Having LAGAI, the Transgender Law Center, The TGI Justice Project, The Utah Pride Center, The Utah Equality Center, Black and Pink and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (just to name a few) has really helped me survive! Please take advantage of the many resources that are available to in our community. You are LOVED. You are important. And you CAN survive!
Feel free to write me any time and I will write back. Please only use lined/blank paper or postcards when you write me. Also: only blue or black ink. Utah state rules.
Daisy Mae Ross/David Torrey #228565, Utah S.P. PO Box 250, Draper UT 84020
Shorts from Inside
When was the last time someone was hurt by equality? #erasehate. AC, Cheshire CT
Since 2015 I’ve been struggling as a transwoman on all male units. For the past three and a half years I’ve struggled to not only gain recognition of my gender identity – but trying to obtain medical care as well. Through the encouragement I received from so many readers of UV, I kept trying. I’m so excited to announce that my efforts have not only helped change policy, but that on March 23 I had my first appointment (via zoom) with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sexual Health to begin medical transition. My legal transition was completed in 2017. To my brothers, sisters and other beautiful people I want to share the words that have, and still continue to, move me forward: “All we can do is try, if we make an attempt, then we didn’t fail. So far I haven’t failed and neither will you.” – Lisa Strawn. Kendra-Michelle Lovejoy, Moose Lake MN
I am a 30 year old trans-woman half white-half Filipino, serving 12 at an Arizona Men’s Prison! I’ve been on Hormone-therapy for 2 years, 5 months and am allowed to order women’s clothing (bras, panties), make-up and other items like curlers and barrettes. I am currently trying to legally change my name through my county’s Superior Court (Maricopa County). I’ve been denied two times for my sex-reassignment surgery because the AZ DOC said they weren’t going to pay for it! I get released in 2025 and am trying to prepare for my surgery as much as I can before release. I think about GASS and suicide everyday in here and have attempted both several times. God bless UV and hello to all my sisters! Amy Rose Vehmeier, Florence AZ
It’s 2021 and runaway kids are still unable to get a proper education. In fact, runaways are part of the Ultra Violet Prism. I think it’s time for a change. It’s 2021 and we should provide more resources for all youth. We as a people can do that. In and outside the LGBTQ Community, people are miseducated or not educated at all. (On so many levels.) Runaways have it even harder because the youth don’t have access to the things most people have. Prison, Death or Addiction is very likely to be in a runaway’s future. White Raven, Florence AZ
I especially enjoyed your March/April edition. I appreciate the way you present such colorful perspective, and the perseverance and grit that always fills your pages. I was moved to read about the legends you lost this year. The smiles they carried were incredibly telling. I’m smiling myself after a recent accomplishment and hoping you might share the moment with me. I was a guest speaker yesterday for a university law symposium. They booked me from Ad-Seg; I’ve never heard of anything like that. A lot of tears were shared … Cissy Lovey, Boise ID
Please support and promote #GONELONGENOUGH on all your social media. #GONELONGENOUGH stands for a number of criminal justice and prison reform issues, including: lowering sentences and abolishing mandatory minimums. We’ve made the first step. Without a second step, there’s no real progress being made. Let’s move together in criminal justice and prison reform. Make #GONELONGENOUGH that second step. Kelly Jones, betweenthebars.org/blogs/747
Hello out there. I want to express that I worked 7 long months to create a LGBTQ bookshelf on my unit. I’m a big reader and got tired of not seeing anything related to the LGBTQ [community] so I got to work. We are one in all LGBTQ prison communities and we need to stand together. Alexander Williams, Navasota TX
To all my trans family, I know it’s been a tough year dealing with COVID-19, but we made it. We as trans people have to stick together, we need each other, we lift each other up. It’s bad enuff we have to deal with CDCR and their BS, we don’t need the hate amongst us, between us. Because at the end of the day, who understands you? Your trans fam. C’mon y’all. Love one another! Punkin Pie, Mule Creek, CA
Hello UV and LAGAI! I just now received my very first UV issue and I am already hooked! I am a proud member and advocate of the LGBTQ community and have been openly gay since 2012. When I was arrested and sentenced to FCI Elkton where I currently am, I felt abandoned and shunned by those on the outside [that] I thought were my friends and family. But now since I have been down over 3 years I have found a stronger, closer family: all of you in the LGBTQ family! Because of you all I have become more comfortable and accepting of myself, and no hate or evil in this world is going to change that! I hope everyone is staying safe throughout this COVID crisis. Let us all stay strong and united and spread all the love we can in this world. Jamie AKA “Spark”, Lisbon OH
Hello to all you kings, queens and royals in between. I’m Dominic, a 25 year old transgender and currently incarcerated. I have 12 years left! Reading UV has had a big impact on me. I enjoy reading about out LGBTQ Community and of course the inside short stories from other people like myself. UV family, you give me hope that I will make it out of this horrible place. I’m so proud to be a subscriber. To all my LGBTQ Family across the world, remember we must stick together, together we can make a change. DH, Taber City NC
This is Ms Foxie B, founder of the Rainbow Coalition of Arkansas. This has been a great year so far even while the sky is fallin. Bowels of this prison, the walls rise twenty feet, blocking out the sun, creating a cement and steel tomb for the living whose life of hell is never done. No quiet or solitude yet always alone, trying to keep sanity in place. A hard task for any person who has to wear a mask to cover all emotion. Within the dark bowels of this prison, the animal instinct needed to survive exists in each prisoner’s heart and mind, as he continues his lone fight to stay alive. I just want you all to read and understand life. Girls, stay out of the SuperMax 18 month program. It’s harsh time. Ms Malakhen Asar Maakheru, Grady AR
I am super excited to now be a part of an amazing newsletter I’ve heard so much about. I have to admit, after receiving my first ever newsletter, March 2021, some of the articles brought tears to my eyes. UltraViolet has put forth a tremendous platform for each one of us to be able to come together. I look forward to all of my future issues and hope to learn more. To all, keep up the great work and never stop fighting for what’s right! Stay beautiful. TV, Orange, CA
I’d like to give a shout out to all the great, hardworking staff of UV and all UV readers. Special shout out to Joe Rouse in MI, Tara Belcher in AL, Chantee Haywood in TX, Mia Rosal, Lindsey Heiman, Brianna Harding, Jodi Arias in AZ, Eva Contreas in CA. And any others I might’ve missed. You are all beautiful women worth fighting for. I’ve been locked up 16 years with 1 more to go. I promise to keep in touch with all you! Please have faith. Adrien Espinoza, Phoenix AZ
The Process for My Change
I have recently begun the process of getting the prison to recognize my trans-gender identity. The process is a little involved I’m sure you know. In New Hampshire it starts with a visit to Mental Health (MH) sick call. As I was a scared, confused person, working with a MH counselor was a good idea. The MH counselor meets with you four or five times over the course of a month or two. It’s a process designed to “weed out” the insincere or those who are not actually trans (their words, not mine).
After this rigorous screening, the MH counselor puts in an official request to the “GD Committee”. This committee is made up of relevant department heads and they decide if you are actually trans or not. If you are found to be transgender, you are given the MH diagnosis of Gender Dysmorphia. A mental disorder or illness. So, there are some things about this process that should alarm us. Like the fact that I need ‘authorization’ to be transgender! I just don’t understand the thinking. It’s demeaning, disgusting and degrading. I realize that in prison security is important and that the costs of treatment can be expensive. So, stop locking us up!! To tell someone that the essence of their being is wrong or invalid is just plain evil.
I guess out there [in the streets] you only need to state you are trans and that’s that. In here, it’s a punishable offense to wear make-up if you’re not an official trans-girl. I have a skirt that I made, that’s a huge no-no. A bra or feminine underwear? Absolutely not. I have been in for fifteen years now. I’m not a young and pretty girl any more (to be fair, I was never that pretty). I would never have opened myself up to the abuse and drama that every trans-girl gets from both prisoners and staff, if I was not a transgender. Being queer is invisible, wearing make-up is like wearing a target on my face. Survival is heavily dependent on staying under the radar. I have not yet been ‘approved’ to be transgender but I’m already getting the negative attention. I’m ok with that. I’m trying to learn to use it to my advantage. So far, not so well.
But the thing that really bothers me, and it should bother all of us, is that being trangender is a “disorder”. WTF? There is nothing wrong with me (not in that regard at least). This feels like some sort of concession to the morality Nazis who insist that if you’re not a straight heterosexual, you are an abomination, a sinning SOB destined for whatever Candyland Hell they believe in. If I am not hetero then I am not normal? If I am not born the biological gender of my soul then I have a mental disorder? Wouldn’t that be a physical disorder? Oh no! That is not possible because god doesn’t make mistakes. Oh alright, that makes it all make sense!!??
I am a Native two spirit. I am a Heathen who honors the God and Goddess, Odin and Freyja. Every aspect of who I am has been attacked and destroyed by the ‘dominant culture’. I am in the minority, I know, but I wish others would feel the rage I feel and fight back against the systemic disrespect and oppression leveled at us all. I mean no disrespect to those of you who are part of the ‘dominant culture’. It’s not the people of the culture I hate, it’s the culture of the people. And I do mean hate! For over a thousand years that culture has been killing my people, my religion and my identity with the assurance that they were doing good. If their beliefs could co-exist with other beliefs and not try to convert, save or fix everyone else, I’d be fine. Live and let live. But they can’t. They believe we are doomed and they want to save us. It’s a real tragedy, good people doing evil things believing it’s good.
I want to contribute to UV. I want to get into the fight, effect change, motivate others and shed light on the secret lies of our society. Especially the prisons and ‘criminal justice’ system.
Your ally, Amber AKA Gregory LaVallee #79373, PO Box 14, Concord NH 03301
Last month, a multiday hearing was held in marin county in a lawsuit filed by the sf and marin county public defenders office on behalf of 300 incarcerated people at San Quentin (sq). The lawsuit is based on the failure of the prison administration and the california department of corrections and rehabilitation (cdcr) to take even basic public health measures to protect imprisoned people from COVID.
In May of 2020, 122 people were transferred from the california institute for men in Chino to sq. They had not been recently tested for COVID prior to the transfer, and some of them were infected. The transport from Chino to sq was a perfect opportunity to spread the virus. The people were then placed in a building that also houses people on california’s death row. On learning of this transfer, the marin county health officer tried to get the prison to test the transferred people and separate them from the rest of the population until the results came in. A letter from the health officer described the response:
This placed all inmates and staff working in that unit at risk, and MCPH recommended mandatory mask wearing and preventing staff who had been exposed from working in other units. MCPH was informed by CDCR that local health officers lack the authority to mandate measures in state-run prisons.
Cdcr also denied requests from local health departments for other prisons. The Prison Law Office has had to go to federal court repeatedly over the past 14 months to get cdcr to require screening, testing, and masking of guards and employees, and to establish functional medical facilities that could separate out infected and non-infected employees and incarcerated people. The letter from marin county details how inadequate the prison’s response was, even after the state set up an “incident command” at the end of June 2020. Cal/OSHA has also issued citations to cdcr at san quentin and other prisons. Cdcr has appealed all of the citations thus blocking enforcement of these requirements.
California has been one of the states that has offered COVID vaccines to people incarcerated in state prisons, starting in February 2021. As of June 1, cdcr reports that out of the 97 thousand people in its prisons, 68 thousand are fully vaccinated, and 2300 people are partially vaccinated. California’s prisons remain under intense restrictions. However, less than half of california’s 65 thousand prison employees are vaccinated, and remain the main way that COVID is brought into the facilities, which imprison many immune compromised and otherwise vulnerable people.
The COVID Behind Bars Project at the UCLA Law School reports that nationwide less than half of people incarcerated in state and federal prisons are vaccinated, with the lowest rates in utah, south carolina, and alabama. (florida and wyoming haven’t released any prison vaccination information.) cdcr is now offering gift cards and a lottery to encourage employees to accept the vaccines.
Meanwhile, many other countries are struggling to get access to vaccines. India has been struggling with a massive outbreak and has been able to vaccinate less than five percent of its people. Vaccine producing countries, yielding to pressure from pharmaceutical companies, still have not suspended patents and have not required companies such as pfizer, moderna, and astrazeneca to provide manufacturing information.
Building Better Pathogens?
There are new investigations about whether the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2 (SARS2) was developed in a laboratory, as compared to emerging through natural evolution. Although this initially seemed like the conspiracy “china virus” xenophobic sloganeering of the trump administration, some progressive scientists are now considering whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology developed the virus, as “gain of function” research, at least partly funded by the u.s. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the national institutes of health (NIH).
Gain of function, GoF, is the rather bland name given to the intentional enhancement of viruses (or other pathogens) to make them easier to transmit, or make them capable of causing more serious disease, or spreading to other species. GoF research may involve creating resistance to antivirals, and immunity to existing vaccines to study how the virus gains these functions. In other words, the scientists help the virus or other pathogen to “gain function” at our expense. And apparently with our money.
Is this biological weapons research? Of course not, because biological weapons were banned in 1969 by a treaty signed by 160 nations including the u.s. All, or mostly all, u.s. biological weapons were “destroyed” in 1972. So, what are they doing in GoF? They claim to be “doing basic research” to gain knowledge on how to identify and combat more dangerous bugs that could emerge.
A lot of people don’t really see the point of creating more dangerous viruses, and in 2014 the Cambridge Working Group formed to address the risks of research into “potential pandemic pathogens”. In September 2014, the NIH agreed to a “pause” in funding GoF research and hired gryfon scientific to prepare a “risk-benefit” analysis, which of course concluded there weren’t many significant risks and lots of benefits. I was one of the people contacted by the Cambridge Group to support a permanent end to this funding.
One of the major concerns is the likelihood of accidental releases. Although laboratories are supposed to have biosafety procedures, these procedures are not uniform, and often don’t exist in practice. In the u.s. biosafety level 1 protocols are for non-pathogenic viruses and other agents, that are defined as not causing significant disease to healthy people. Level 4, on the other hand, are safety precautions for pathogens that cause serious illness and/or death and for which there are no effective vaccines or treatment. Levels 3 and 4 are considered “high containment” labs because they require dedicated ventilation systems and other means of preventing pathogens from escaping (secondary containment).
Laboratories that work with certain “select agents” (pathogens like anthrax that are listed as having bioterrorism potential) are required to register with either the CDC or the USDA. There is no unified inspection program even for the registered labs. There are only, depending on how you count, 7-12 level 4 labs in the u.s., most run by the military or government, and there are hundreds of level 3 labs. Many laboratories get around the high containment requirements by defining their research as “lower risk”. For example, when I was working at a Cal/OSHA district office, a company representative told us they were planning to handle a “risk group 3” pathogen at “biosafety level 2+.” Even the dedicated ventilation systems on high containment labs don’t prevent the pathogen from infecting an employee, who could then spread it in the community. Labs are supposed to use biosafety cabinets and personal protective equipment to protect employees, but there are few actual legal requirements.
NIH grants include requirements for biosafety practices, but some research at the Wuhan Virology Institute was reportedly funded through a grantee in New York State. Even if it had been in the u.s. that’s no guarantee the Wuhan labs would take appropriate precautions when developing new and potentially dangerous pathogens. The u.s. general accounting office has reported that its investigations over the past two decades found that although there has been an increase in laboratories at biosafety level 3 and 4, there is no coordinated oversight of these labs.
There have been many incidents in which workers were exposed, injured or sickened through the mishandling or accidental release of biological agents. For example, in 2004, workers at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute had to take antibiotics because they had been exposed to a shipment of live anthrax that they had been told was deactivated. In 2015 the u.s. department of defense sent live anthrax spores to labs in all 50 states and nine countries. In 2004 nine laboratory workers in China contracted SARS, and one died. This was the last of 3 reported laboratory infections with SARS in China after community transmission had stopped. In California, a worker in a clinical laboratory contracted brucellosis twice. In 2014 six vials of live smallpox were found in a box in the NIH. (Although smallpox is considered “eradicated” both the u.s. and Russia still keep stocks of the virus, despite international pressure to destroy them.)
An article published by the Union of Atomic Scientists (the same people who do the “doomsday clock”) makes a strong case that SARS2 may have been created in GoF research, and accidentally released into the population when lab workers contracted the virus, possibly due to weak biosafety protocols. The article also points out that the “pause” in funding for GoF, which expired in 2017, had a number of loopholes that permitted funding for GoF projects to continue during the “pause” period.
Despite the new investigations, we may never learn the origins of SARS2. The virus may have emerged naturally as it moved through different species. But whatever the origins of SARS2, it seems like a mistake to be intentionally creating more deadly viruses. Nature is working hard enough on its own to kill us.
June is in the air and LGBTQII+ Pride abounds in the media. Most of it is about how “acceptable” it is to be us now— you can be “colorful” or a bit “edgy” so long as ultimately you act “just like everyone else” and don’t try to undermine the dominant cultural norms. Indeed, now it’s acceptable for us to have our own nuclear families with just as many dysfunctional family dynamics as anyone else. As my friend Deeg reminded me we used to say, “nuclear families are the most dangerous place.”
Truthfully, reporting on environmental and social disasters can get depressing. I sometimes ask myself why can’t I just write about happy things like butterflies and bunnies? Well, the honey bees are in big trouble and so are some of the bunnies like pygmy rabbits … maybe that’s why fictional beings like unicorns have become so popular? But narwhals which are the prototype for the “unicorn” are also in trouble with a warming artic. OK back to our everyday disasters.
Those of you in Florida may have heard of a phosphogypsum “stack” (one started collapsing recently near Tampa) but to most people it’s a “new” type of disaster. Phosphogypsum is a waste product from mining and processing phosphorus for fertilizers. The process creates a lot of waste – 5 tons of waste for each ton of fertilizer on average. And it’s radioactive waste with concentrated heavy metals including Radium-226 which has a 1,600-year radioactive decay half-life, and significant amounts of sulfur, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, fluoride, lead, and/or zinc. It’s waste with nowhere to go. Billions of tons are stored in mountainous stacks, often referred to as “gypstacks,” that are hundreds of acres wide and hundreds of feet tall—in Florida, Louisiana and other states across the country.
Well here is an idea, let’s use it in road construction! In 1992 EPA said it was too radioactive for use in construction of roads or elsewhere, because using it on roads or any other construction will expose workers, the environment and the general public to otherwise avoidable radiation and toxic chemicals. But in 2020 the Trump EPA suddenly found road use is fine! The October 2020 decision was a gift to the fertilizer industry which is liable for all that waste. The decision was challenged in court but is in effect now.
And in Sri Lanka a slow-speed disaster is underway. caused by a sinking cargo ship loaded with chemicals that had been burning for 12 days. Efforts to tow the ship into deeper water failed and unsurprisingly a fishing ban was put in place and consumers fear chemical contamination, a very rational fear I’d say. On the good news front (sort of) during the covid pandemic when the zoos in Sri Lanka were closed to visitors, births among animals rose 25%. I guess that shows that zoos without people staring at the animals are better than zoos with them? I’m not a fan of zoos in either case.
Since 2017, May 5th has been observed in the u.s. as the National Day of Awareness and Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. Or something like that. Some events highlight awareness, others emphasize action, some are centered around Missing and Murdered Women and Girls, Stolen Sisters, or Stolen Sisters and Brothers. Some organizations now promote April 29-May 5 as an international week of awareness and solidarity.
May 5th is the birthday of Hanna Harris, a 21-year-old Northern Cheyenne woman who was found murdered on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 2013. Hanna’s killers were found, but four out of five cases involving Indigenous women in North America who go missing are never solved. Combing through databases of local and state law enforcement, media and community agencies, the Seattle-based Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) identified over 5700 cases nationally, of which only 116 made it into the national database compiled by the u.s. department of (in)justice.
The numbers are probably higher, says the UIHI report: “[I]f a woman or girl was killed during the time their tribe was terminated, her citizenship may have never been restored when her nation was re-recognized, and she may have been falsely classified as white—or not racially classified at all—in documentation regarding her case….This is an issue that still impacts contemporary cases involving victims from tribes that are not federally recognized, and lack of recognition is an issue that disproportionately affects urban Indian communities.”
Homicide is the third most common cause of death among Native American girls and women ages 10-24, and the fifth for women 24-35.
A few weeks ago, the u.s. supreme kkkourt ruled that tribal law enforcement can detain non-Native people on highways which run through reservations. “Previously, tribal law enforcement could only detain and search fellow Native Americans, which the Court acknowledged has limited tribal officers’ response to ongoing threats,” according to the San Jose Mercury News. “Native American women are murdered at 10 times the national average and most of the perpetrators are non-Native men,” including the two men who killed Hanna Harris.
Of the cases that UIHI looked at, 95% had not been covered by national or international media. According to Connie Walker, a Cree from Saskatchewan and host of the popular new podcast “Stolen: The Search for Jermain,” most cases of missing indigenous women and girls are not even covered by local media. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Walker recounted pitching a story when she was working for a national current affairs radio show in Toronto. The story was about a young indigenous woman she knew, who was missing, and whose case was not being covered at all, while at the same time, a white Toronto woman who was missing was on the front page of the local paper every day. Her editor held up her hand in the middle of the pitch and said, “This isn’t another poor Indian story, is it?”
I started hearing Canadian feminists of color talking about missing and murdered Indigenous women over fifteen years ago. Between 2000 and 2008, women and girls of First Nations/Aboriginal ancestry represented approximately 10% of all female homicides in Canada, while making up only 3% of the population. In some western provinces, though, the proportions were even higher: 59% of missing and murdered women and girls in Saskatchewan were First Nations – nearly four times their representation in the province.
The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, popularized by the #MMIWG hashtag, has been gaining visibility in the u.s. in the last few years. In 2020, the president who shall remain nameless issued Executive Order 13898, aptly named “Operation Lady Justice,” creating a “task force for missing and murdered AI/AN peoples that will address the concerns of Indigenous communities in the U.S., such as data collection, policies, establish cold-case teams, and improve investigative responses.” Last month, in conjunction with president biden’s May 5 proclamation on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Day, Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), the first Native American secretary of the interior, announced the formation of the Missing and Murdered Unit that will focus on analyzing and solving missing and murdered Indigenous peoples (MMIP) cases.
Neither of these law enforcement-oriented solutions would likely be much comfort to the friends and families of Jackie Salyers (Puyallup), who was killed by a Tacoma, Washington police officer in January 2016, or Renee Davis (Muckleshoot), killed by two King County, Washington sheriffs during a “wellness check” later that year. Both women were pregnant.
Much less forthcoming has been any analysis of the roots of the problem in the history of white settler colonialism on this continent. “Pocahontas,” sanitized as a Disney heroine and used as a derogatory nickname by the Big Orange, “is the name of a young woman who, according to the oral histories of her people, was imprisoned in Jamestown, Virginia, by English colonists who killed her husband, took her baby from her, and then raped her in captivity,” writes Jacqueline Keeler (Diné/Ihanktonwan Dakota) in Yes magazine.
Many non-Native activists have learned about the Missing and Murdered from long-time feminist and National/Tribal organizers who are now leading the fights against pipelines in the Midwest. These include Dawn Goodwin, White Earth Band of Ojibwe tribal citizen and a founder of RISE – Resilient Indigenous Sisters Engaging Minnesotas, Lakota water protector Wasté Win Young, who held a prayer vigil for #MMIW at Standing Rock, and Winona LaDuke (White Earth Ojibwe), best known as the 2000 Green Party vice presidential candidate, who cofounded Honor the Earth with the Indigo Girls (and did you know she’s an economist? I didn’t.). This isn’t a coincidence; the epidemic of violence targeting Indigenous women and girls is directly linked to the acceleration of “extractive, male-dominated industries near Native communities” (Sicangu CDC, newsletter from the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota).
Fossil fuel development projects bring hundreds of men, mostly non-Native, to “man camps” near reservations and pipelines, writes Kristen Grable in an article for Greenpeace. “In North Dakota, the Bakken ‘oil boom’ and resulting arrival of thousands of workers to the area brought with it a surge in rates of violent crime and aggravated assault. The state had at least 125 cases of missing Indigenous women during this time,” Grable reported.
When Montana attorney general tim fox intervened to stop a lawsuit against the Keystone XL pipeline in 2019, tribal representatives of the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations resigned in protest from the state’s Missing Indigenous Persons task force. “When our tribal members are at risk due to the pipeline / man camp situations I can’t side with this,” wrote Jestin Dupree, one of the two who resigned.
In Seattle, where I now live, environmental activists with 350.org were recruited to help provide security for a May 5 prayer walk honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in South Seattle. The event was led by Roxanne White (Nez Perce, Yakama, Nooksack, Gros Ventre) who has dedicated her life to supporting the families of missing and murdered people. Everyone was asked to wear red, which created a striking image as the crowd of over 500 people snaked through the narrow streets – a virtual red river. Before the march, the gathering began with a number of traditional practices including a blanket ceremony, in which the family of each missing or murdered person was presented a blanket to honor her individual qualities. It was not short. When Roxanne asked the family members of MMIP to make a circle within the larger circle, the inner circle included at least 100 people, all of whom held a poster or banner adorned with a picture of their loved one. It reminded me of the tent protests in Palestine, where every family carried pictures of their people in prison.
Organizers of the prayer walk also made the connection with the struggle in Palestine, seeing the similarity between the expropriation of their own land and the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land. “We see what’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah, Haiti, East Africa, Columbia, and South America and what’s happening in our communities right now here in Seattle … everything’s connected,” South Seattle artist and activist Jerrell Davis told Chloe Collyer, a reporter for the South Seattle Emerald. (Ironically, the park where the gathering began is known as “Be’er Sheva Park,” renamed in 1977 for the israeli city with which Seattle had established a sister city program. In this era of renaming colonial monuments, maybe a campaign on the horizon?)
Of the 71 cities surveyed in the UIHI study of violence among urban Indians, Seattle had the highest rate of missing and murdered. In a 2010 survey, 94% of women who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native living in Seattle reported they had been raped or coerced into sex at least once.
The #MMIWG/MMIP has adopted a red handprint, reminiscent of the one Gran Fury designed in 1988 to remind the world about the AIDS crisis, as its logo. Rosalie Fish, a 20-year-old member of the Cowlitz tribe in Washington, got an agreement from the coaches at the University of Washington that she can wear the bloody handprint logo and other symbols when she competes for the university in track. According to an article in Runner’s World, “Fish was inspired to raise awareness through running after watching Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel run the 2019 Boston Marathon with a red handprint and MMIW painted on her body. The Kul Wičasa Lakota runner marked each of the 26.2 miles with a prayer for an Indigenous woman who was a victim of violence, which gave Fish hope when she needed a boost.”
In Canada, artivists recently hung red dresses outside a former residential school, to remind people of the brutal colonialist practice of stealing children.
Follow #MMIWG and #MMIP to find out about actions and organizing in your area to stop the violence.