The systems of oppression operated by the 1% are vulnerable — they are unsustainable and they can be defeated — but they won’t crumble on their own. People just like us help with protests, riots, middle of the night missions and other acts of resistance. Affinity groups are small direct action cells — usually 4-8 people — who share attitudes about tactics and who organize themselves during actions for effectiveness and protection. Affinity groups can organize actions or make them better once they’re going down.
Many affinity groups choose a legal support person for each action who stays at another location to avoid possible arrest so they can handle things if members of the group are arrested. Jail aims to isolate and disempower us so we’ll sit down and shut up. But when we support each other, we can resist and return to the streets stronger. Here are very brief tips for being a jail support person.
Before the action
• Agree on a phone number that accepts collect calls to call if someone gets arrested and then be at that number.
• Make a list of the real full name, arrest history, outstanding warrants, emergency contacts, and other special needs of each member such as kids that need childcare, medical needs, doctor’s names, etc. Note if a person’s chosen name is different than the one on their ID and if there is a concern that they might be held in housing that does not match their gender identity.
• Discuss scenarios for bailing people out of jail if necessary. If bail is high, some people may want to use a bail bond which involves losing 10% of the bail. Other people might be okay waiting a while in jail to save money and because bail bond companies prey on the poor. Paying bail puts resources into the state and may incentivize arrests. Some people may have money available to pay bail in cash and the support person needs to know how to get the money. Groups can also prioritize people to get bailed out first based on who may be injured, gender non-conforming, have childcare responsibilities, risk losing their jobs or other factors.
During the action / if an arrestee calls
• Remind people that phones may be tapped and conversations in police cars or jail cells recorded so it is best to avoid discussion of the circumstances of anyone’s arrest.
• Write down arrested people’s booking and arrest numbers, jail #, charges, bail, expected release time, special needs, information about injuries, and upcoming court dates. It can help to keep a log and write down the time and date and all (non-incriminating) relevant information which can help if there is a lawsuit or criminal trial later. Write legibly!
• If someone is arrested you can notify loved ones and the other group members.
• If someone calls from jail, you can pass on messages form the outside which is a huge morale booster. Being in jail can be scary. Ask if they are okay and offer emotional support to arrestees (and their family and friends.)
• When you know someone has been arrested but they haven’t called, you (along with a lawyer in some cases) can call the jail to locate them so the system knows someone is looking out for them and so you can inform their family and friends and feed pets or pick kids up from school, etc. Lawyers may be able to invoke the right to remain silent / not be questioned without representation.
• Arrange travel home when people get released. Often the support person and other affinity group members wait outside jail for members to be released and greet them with donuts and hugs.
• In some cases a support person can help organize demands for prisoners to be released or notify the media and government officials about unlawful arrests and police violence.
• Once people are released, write down relevant information about the arrest, police misconduct and other relevant information while it is fresh in everyone’s mind.
Info from Midnight Special Law Collective (www.midnightspecial.net) gone but not forgotten