Report back from the 10th annual prisoner solidarity demo in Hamilton (and Milton!) Ontario

Anonymous Submission to North Shore Counter-Info.

The end of 2018 marks the 10th year that anarchists in Hamilton have been doing prisoner solidarity demos. Shit, eh? It’s tradition for folks to travel to another city, usually to a prison that a friend is being held captive at, then return home to end the night at Barton Street Jail. This year folks decided to go to Vanier Center for Women, because 9 years later… our dear pal Cedar is inside.

About 30 gathered at a nearby parking lot and crossed the rainy streets to collect at the disgusting compound of buildings that make up the super-jail Maplehurst Correctional Complex. Together with Vanier, close to 1800 people are imprisoned there. Gross! Folks chose to walk around the long way, passing by Vanier first. As soon as the first block of cells was approached, the celebrations began: fireworks, roman candles, beats from the samba band, and loud, passionate chants. It was cold and rainy, but that didn’t seem to matter. A last minute decision was made to not go all the way around to the men’s side of the facilities because a very large fence was recently installed, preventing access. So after a good long pause, sharing sweet moments with people inside and with each other, folks turned around and marched back out. And just in the nick of time! As people were packing it in and driving away, flashing lights and screeches of rubber on pavement could be seen and heard from rear view mirrors. Not this time, fuckers!

After a narrow escape from the pigs, and some amount of time later, folks gathered at a park in the north end of Hamilton, near Barton St Jail. A jail that is right beside the discount grocery store with an abundance of rotting produce, a block west of the hospital that doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the traumas of poverty, and surrounded by a handful of tent cities that have only been growing since the attack of gentrification. A jail that is in plain site, in the heart of central Hamilton, but somehow overlooked by developers and real estate vultures who are pitching the neighborhood as a blank slate.

It’s 10pm, and about 50 people are masked up and ready to celebrate. Words written by a friend inside were read aloud, while the jail loomed behind against a black sky; a stark reminder of social conflict that often seems so insidious in our daily lives. Folks marched along the usual route, stopping at the Ferguson St bridge. As usual, a few pig vehicles flanked the group on either side. Every year the Ferguson St bridge is taken, and every year on that bridge time races to a halt. For a few fleeting moments its as if those walls don’t exist. The jail doesn’t loom over us from this angle. As fireworks exploded in unison with paint splattering, the beat of the band carried cheers through the windows of the giant cage and into the ears of the people locked up inside, a few of which could be seen dancing, jumping, and waving back to us. Folks continued to the other side, stopping one last time for a finale of celebration. For a few moments it seemed like the pigs were going to get confrontational, but most people left the scene unharmed, except for 2 people who were needlessly harassed. (They are okay, and seemed to have had a great night despite power tripping pigs).

2018 was a hell of a year for a lot of folks. It’s bittersweet. A time to reflect, a time to celebrate, a time to rage (but when is it not a time to rage?) and a time to remember: the state never gives us freedom, it only takes it away. I’d like to end with words from a pal inside, “there are no easy wins against such a powerful institution, [but] there is value in the fight through the clarity it brings to our struggles and the courage it gives us in facing repression.” So here’s to 2019, and to a world without prisons!