Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Report Back From Jail Support For The 9 Incarcerated Members Of BIW Arrest Group #Inouye22

The No Bail Nine after their release June 24, 2019
Yesterday Mark and I spent the afternoon witnessing the Kafkaesque incarceration of nine of our friends who refused to pay a $60 bail commissioner's fee following arrest at Bath Iron Works on Saturday, June 22. All were calling for conversion of General Dynamics' BIW shipyard to building climate solutions rather than making the climate emergency worse by building yet another carbon belching war ship.

Our first stop was the district court in West Bath where we met up with jail support coordinator Peter Morgan. He had been there at 8am only to learn that the hearing would occur at 1pm. 

Our nine defendants -- Jim Freeman, Sadie Fulton, Bruce Gagnon,  Ken Jones, Natasha Mayers, George Ostensen, Dixie Searway, Mary Beth Sullivan, and Russell Wray -- appeared via video feed from the Two Bridges Jail Facility, a private for-profit jail used by Sagadahoc County.

Probably the presiding judge and the assistant district attorney could see them clearly, but from our vantage point in the front rows they appeared as nearly unrecognizable distant figures in jail-issued clothing. It was an alienating experience for us and, they later reported, for them. It was also the first time the men and women had seen each other since Saturday.

We could hear their voices pretty clearly through the video feed. After Jim Freeman entered his "not guilty" plea for the charge of obstructing a public way, Judge Matthews asked the assistant DA: if the charges were going to be dropped anyway couldn't they agree to just dismiss the charges right then and there? (Charges were dropped after a similar arrest of 25 people on April 27 at BIW).

South Gate of BIW, June 22, 2019 just before some arrests for obstructing a public way. Photo credit: Mike Donnelly

The assistant DA said that his boss, DA Natasha Irving, did intend to prosecute some of those arrested on June 22.

More on that later. (Our stellar attorney, Logan Perkins, advises that we should know in a week whom the DA intends to prosecute.)

So, the assembly line hearing rolled on. George Ostensen attempted to state what he was pleading not guilty to, but was silenced by Judge Matthews and threatened with contempt of court if he did more than enter his plea. 

All were released on personal recognizance with no bail fee required -- which is what all of us had asked for in the first place, before the State of Maine ran up a big bill incarcerating nine people for three days.

Next we were off to Two Bridges which is about 9 miles away in Wiscasset. The facility seemed quite new as Mark, Peter and I sat in an entirely empty waiting room with no human beings visible. All the workers were behind one way mirrors which we could see through only by pressing our noses up against the glass.

Eventually we were told the prisoners would exit from an outside door, so we moved to a picnic table in sight of the door. By now we numbered five having been joined by Martha Spiess and Melody Shank.

Many happy reunions then occurred up until 5pm or so when the last prisoner was finally released. 

The No Bail Nine had spent their time well, connecting with prisoners mostly in for drug and alcohol related offenses they could not afford the bail fee for, mixed in with a few accused murderers both male and female.

The Nine reported that they were greeted warmly by the other prisoners who had read of their arrests the Portland Press Herald article (a reprint of the Times Record's weekend story). "Are you these guys?" they asked holding up a copy of the PPH.

Natasha did art with many of the women, and managed to slip a copy of our Conversion Campaign literature into the reading room (see it here: front side & back side). She signed up to volunteer to teach art at the jail in the future. Many of the Nine emerged questioning why the state pays $150 a day to a for-profit facility with horrible mattresses and bad food -- which the other prisoners said had improved "since you all got here."

As we drove back over the bridge above BIW to return home, Sadie showed her feelings toward Maine's largest weapons manufacturer and major contributor to climate catastrophe bearing down on everyone.

Some compare organizing peace and justice types to herding cats. Certainly we are a strong-willed group who tend to think independently and come to our own conclusions. But, we are also an amazing team centered here in Maine with much appreciated folks "from away" joining in when they feel the spirit. Throughout yesterday I was on the phone and email with many supporters who were helping us connect the No Bail Nine with their vehicles or rides home. A lot of love was in the air!

We came home to find the good news that Bath's local newspaper, the Times Record, had updated their weekend story on the arrests and included lots of information from our Conversion Campaign news conference the day prior to the BIW civil resistance. They quoted BIW worker Patsy Messier who had sent a statement for me to read at the news conference: 

"BIW has the capacity with all the equipment and people who are already there for the conversion to happen pretty easily. All it would take is the will by the people."

Amen to that, sister.

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