The following is a statement from a Long Island, NY animal rights activist – Andy Stepanian – writing from the jail cell that he has be unjustly imprisoned in!
I spent most of the morning curled over, sick to my stomach from my meal, (or lack there of) of pickled cabbage I ate last night. Here in jail you loose many of the things you take for granted in the outside world. Here happiness is as rare a commodity as natural light. To see the sky out the jails West window you must kneel down and look u past 5 stories of concrete before you can get a glimpse of blue. In here you cannot see any vegetation, no trees, no flowers, no grass, just concrete, steel, and 50 or so heartbroken men that inhabit this unit.
I write this as a prisoner to my convictions, my personal ideological convictions, not my criminal convictions. My alleged charge of Obstruction of Governmental Administration is almost always a charge that does not carry any jail sentence, and is an amorphous charge given to political protestors when other charges cannot fit the prosecutable jigsaw puzzle. Upon my sentencing I was told by the judge that I participate in a level of activism not welcomed in our society, and due to this participation, particularly in the SHAC campaign, I was given the maximum sentence.
It is very hard to write this statement to my sisters and brothers in the struggle for liberation, and not feel heartbroken. In writing this I have to rehash many moments I have tried hard to repress, particularly being beaten and hospitalized at the hands of detectives Rotherwill and Barrone of the Garden City Police. My stomach sours I think that it is I and not them who sits in jail. At times I feel myself question my optimism, question if in fact I can take any more of this, I question if my spirit and mind has the strength to keep pushing the envelope onward, and each day my questions have answers. Those answers are always yes! Todays answer came as I looked out that same West window at the grey and black macadam and blacktop. The gray has been interrupted with a spot of green. With a closer look I can see that a dandelion has pushed its way upward through some 6 inches of pavement to greet the surface.
Dandelions and weeds have been labeled the vermin of plant species, much like mice and rodents have been labeled in the animal species, perceived as pests humans take measures to eradicate these species from their urban settings, weed killers, rat poisons, etc. Yet how come the humans never win? Where does their resilience come from? As I look at this dandelion I am amazed that it had found this flaw in the pavement, pushed with all its life upward, through the crack and towards the surface. I am amazed that it can live in what it must perceive to be an ocean of pavement, cold and devoid of life, nothing but black and gray. With the dandelions growth the crack will grow bigger and the seeds it will sow will yield a bloom of more.
See that dandelion prosper in such harsh elements, makes me realize that my current situation is jail pales in comparison. While I look at the dandelion a family in Hondouras endures far worse conditions making clothing garments in a starvation wage sweatshop. This family, is just one of thousands, guilty of no wrong doing, who are prisoners forever endebted to their employer. They do not run for fear their children will starve, they do not organize for fear of being lynched by union busters. These families are prisoners, slave laborers to capitalism.
While I stare at this dandelion the entire natural environment is being pillaged by capitalism. All life is being commodified, every resource, every plant, every animal, every humyn, the earth itself is an organism and global capital is consuming its very organs – eating the fragile biomes that pump life to larger ecosystems.
While I stare at this dandelion countless animals are help prisoner to capitalism, are tortured, enslaved, and murdered for profit.
Huntingdon Life Sciences is a prime example of capitalism’s wrath on the animal nations. As I write this 70,000 animals are listlessly confined to cages, wading in puddles of their own blood and vomit, no heat or enrichment, inadequate food and water, and no anesthetics to quelch their immense pain and suffering. All of these atrocities make up the reality for an animal imprisoned at HLS, a reality all in the name of toxicology and biotech testing.
When I see the suffering that capitalism inflicts on our world’s peoples, it’s enrichment and its animals I see that in comparison I am very lucky. My jailing will not serve t odeter my resistance to suffering, nor will it deter our movements resolve to abolish suffering.
When I visualize a beagle at HLS, the beautiful and docile creature she is, the immense pain and suffering in her expression or behind her eyes, or in the way she cries out to deaf ears when in pain, I realize that jail is a fucking joke. Jail is nothing more than a hurdle in our struggle for liberation, and I will exit here this summer with a resolve ten times as strong as before to battle HLS, that is if they are luck enough to remain open that long. That dandelion has taught me a valuable lesson. Never doubt the power one individual can have to conquer what appears to be unimaginable goals. I know that anyone who may read this is another person capable of bettering the world I they apply themselves.
Today’s current affairs of activist repression make us all feel like weeds beneath six inches of pavement, their repression is their attempt to suffocate our struggles for liberation. Our actions serve to break through the pavement they have laid down so we may breach surface. Once there, we may begin to sow the seeds of compassion and grow more corps through the broken preferations of pavement, much like the dandelion has. With time the lone weed can transform the black sea of pavement to a flowering garden.
Our actions breach the pavement and lead us towards liberation, but without action we will remain trapped under the pavement. Too often people are concerned about leaving their “comfort zone”, when taking actions for the Earth and its animals, but in order for their to be progress we must learn to feel uncomfortable with the things we do. A diversity of tactics will help our struggle advance and crumble this sea of pavement. I would encourage everyone to step up their involvement two times. If you only feel comfortable writing letters, then attend a protest or rally, fi you only feel comfortable attending demonstrations then take to the night and commit an act of non-violent economic sabotage or liberate an animal from torture.
To often I speak to friends an comrades who are enraged with my jailing and have prioritized my imprisonment as an issue they must take action against. Do not be enraged with my imprisonment, be enraged with the suffering in the world and take action against that suffering. I do not want to be viewed as a hero or a martyr to the movement, but rather as a regular kid who wants very much to accomplish his goals. Each night before I fall asleep I think of my heroes, the people who give me the strength to take on another day in jail. The Plowshares, the Black Panthers, Mumia Abu Jamal and the brothers and sisters of Move, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, the masked crusaders of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, the activists who penetrated HLS on April 1st 2001 and rescued 14 beagles, SHAC, the MTC, Anti-Capitalist Convergence, the ADL, my best friend, and my beloved girlfriend, and most of all the heroes who broke into Marshal Farms delivering thirty pups and ten ferrets to freedom; they are all my heroes, they by their very existence are acting to tear apart the vast dead sea of pavement to sow the seeds of compassion and cultivate the garden of a better tomorrow.
Love, Andy Stepanian.
You can write to Andy at: Andrew Stepanian B1A1, NCC 0200 1777, C/O Nassau County Corrections, 100 Carman Avenue, East Meadow, NY 11554-1160. Check out www.freeandy.org for more information!