Photograph by Steven Higgs
Activists associated with the Roadblock Earth First! group have been charged with felonies for their actions. Among the most serious charges are that they walked into INDOT offices and carried some files and furniture out to the parking lot. Another has spent two months in jail, and more than a dozen more face a variety of criminal charges.
Editor's note: Hugh Farrell is an I-69 activist who, along with Gina "Tiga" Wertz, has been charged by state officials with felony racketeering for their activism. Authorities executed another search warrant against another activist on July 9. Among the actions he is being investigated for is having allegedly lived with Farrell. Farrell and Wertz's first court appearances, scheduled for July 14 in Pike County, have been continued to Aug. 25.
To all my friends and companions,
In the eight weeks since our arrest, I've felt more overwhelmed by your solidarity than by the State's persecution. This is how it should be, and I often feel unable to express how grateful I am for the many different initiatives and fundraising efforts that so many of you have undertaken since then.
During some moments of isolation, times when repression is so palpable I can barely breathe, the actions of many have kept me strong and grounded: the letters, hugs, the intelligent and kind words that have been said or circulated. Despite the efforts of the authorities, I've remained a part of my communities.
"It's this potential for communication that is under attack, that the police call a "racket." When they say "conspiracy," they mean our capacity to breathe together."
We shouldn't forget that it's these communities, these relationships and connections that are really under attack, and in an ever-more coordinated way. The State has created a red herring when it claims that theatrical office demonstrations or civil disobedience are the biggest obstacles to the construction of I-69.
What the State really fears are collective dinners where many people can sit down together to begin, however awkwardly or painfully, making sense of a highway project that no layperson was ever meant to grasp. The State fears the moments when marginalized young people like me, from the cities or suburbs and seemingly disillusioned with everything, begin to break out of our imposed and self-imposed isolation. They fear it when we begin talking with people very different from ourselves, with farmers and others, about the different and similar ways I-69 will impact our lives.
It's this potential for communication that is under attack, that the police call a "racket." When they say "conspiracy," they mean our capacity to breathe together.
This is specifically why I'm so grateful to all of you, those of you whom I know and those I haven't met yet. I've experienced this capacity more intensely now than I did before my arrest.
Don't misunderstand me, repression has already exacted a high cost. Being legally ensnared has cut off many of my relationships, especially those with people most socially distant from me already, primarily because so much of my time is spent dealing with legal issues. This is, of course, one of the goals of repression, and is a problem I haven't addressed yet.
"The State has created a red herring when it claims that theatrical office demonstrations or civil disobedience are the biggest obstacles to the construction of I-69."
Further, others have been subject to persecution alongside myself -- Tiga of course, the 16 charged with actual blockades, Chad Frazier who was sentenced to two months for I-69 resistance (and who is now out again!), and many others, farther away and involved in "other" struggles but who are caught up in similar dragnets, surveillance and government harassment.
Let me also address some personal legal updates. I've retained the services of lawyers who I trust to handle the legal dimensions of my case. As of three weeks ago, Tiga had done the same, with a different firm.
This means that the vast bulk of money raised since we were bailed out has gone to legal expenses, a situation which will unfortunately remain the same for the next months or years since these costs will continue to increase. More generally, my bail conditions haven't been too onerous; that I require permission from the court to leave Indiana is the most challenging restriction, since it makes it that much more difficult to see people I love.
There has been a nearly complete news blackout on our case. So much so that I've encountered people who believe that the entire affair is just an internet rumor or a plea for attention. Apparently, regarding the media, "that which appears is real, that which is real must appear." This is an obvious departure from police strategy in other comparable cases, where arrests and raids were accompanied by a frenzy of journalistic attention. In these situations, media saturation and scrutiny were deployed as powerful weapons against the accused, so we can assume that there are specific reasons we've not suffered this, yet.
"There are many ways you can contribute to our defense."
Thus, I believe it's important to counter this deliberate silence by calling attention to the case, especially its most embarrassing elements.
It's possible to accomplish this in ways that cast a spotlight on repression as it appears in the wider Green Scare and prison system generally, not just in our case. And this could be accomplished with more creativity than just sending out press releases.
It's often forgotten that communication is itself a project. At this point, the extremes of silence and meaningless chatter are the preconditions for repression against Tiga and I and the basis for repression against entire social strata targeted for imprisonment. So then, the precondition for responding socially to repression must be a collective effort to create the space and capacity for real communication (and encounters with diverse others).
There are many ways you can contribute to our defense. Raising funds has been useful and will continue to be important. Beyond the necessary task of fundraising, a more important dimension of solidarity is to continue deepening and extending relationships and discussions, about this case but in every other direction too. The charges brought against me and Tiga are an attempt to spread silence and isolation. Let's avoid these at all costs. Breathing with you,