On the evening of Prisoners Justice Day, August 10th 2019, a small group of prison hating folks gathered in Hamilton, Ontario at Beasley park for a noise demo. HPS (Hamilton Police Sevices) observed the rally with excessive numbers including bike cops, a cop van, a supervisor suv and two cruisers. As our numbers grew we gathered to listen to a small introduction by the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project explaining how PJD started and why it continues. The BPSP is a newly developed organization that seeks to thin the prison walls by building connections and magnifying the voices of those inside, while simultaneously working to smash those walls altogether by asking bigger questions about what a world without prisons would look like and figuring out how to get there.
Gathered behind a Yellow banner that read “Against Prisons & Their World: In Solidarity With Prisoners at Barton Jail and Everywhere” we moved north towards the jail followed by the slow police procession. As we moved down Cannon Street we edged out several of the police vehicles while chanting anti-cop and anti-prison slogans, handing flyers to people passing by, and blasting radical hip-hop for the neighbourhood to enjoy. Several of the people we talked to along the route had family or friends in Barton and expressed delight and surprise at what was happening.
When we reached the jail we met with two women, both of whom have lost family members to the lethal conditions of prison. We gathered in front of an installment of memorial crosses that were set up earlier this summer outside of the jail to commemorate people who have died inside and listened to the women speak. They reminded us of the devastation and trauma that jail causes to entire communities, and spoke of the horrid and frustrating conditions inmates and their supporters are forced to deal with. Their stories emphasized the basic truth that whether from overdose, medical neglect, or brute violence, every death in prison is a murder caused by the institution of prison itself. They expressed solidarity with our struggles and a great deal of gratitude for the anarchists who have showed up to support their own efforts to make change.
After observing a minute of silence for those who’ve died inside, we filled the city with the sounds of fireworks, hollering and chanting, ensuring that those inside knew they aren’t forgotten. As always we paused for a moment to hear the riotous sounds of inmates pounding on plexiglass windows, and let it fill our hearts with hope and determination to one day see this prison emptied and overgrown with sumac.
Happy Prisoners Justice Day!
Text From Our Flyer:
“Tonight we march for all those imprisoned by the state! All those locked up away from their families. All those behind bars instead of sleeping in their own beds. Tonight we march for all of those that lost years of their life because they were trying to survive in a world that wasn’t made for them. For all of those who lost their lives inside of prison because of violence, abuse, or the drugs they used to escape.
August 10th is International Prisoner Justice Day. This tradition started in 1975 in Millhaven Institution in memory of Edward Nalon. Edward completed suicide with a razor blade after being kept in solitary confinement for 51 days. Outraged at the inhumane treatment of prisoners, the inmates took on a vigil and continued it year after year, spreading it to other prisons and around the world. Often times prisoners will refuse to eat and work on this day in respect for fallen comrades. Those of us on the outside gather in remembrance, to shoot fireworks and make noise to let those inside know they are not forgotten!
We march for a world without prisons or the police that put us inside of them. This demonstration was organized by the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project. We are a group of prison abolitionists who seek to lessen the hardship of prison for all of those going through the system and those affected by their incarceration through solidarity projects and educational campaigns.”