Li Onesto interviews Joey Johnson right after his release from jail after being arrested on Monday night, August 18, in Ferguson

August 20, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On August 18, the Missouri police singled out and arrested RCP members and supporters Carl Dix, Travis Morales, and Joey Johnson (see the RCP statement on their arrests). I talked with Joey Johnson after he was released from jail.


Tell me about the night you were arrested and your conversations with the other protesters in the paddy wagon and in jail.

Left to right, Carl Dix, Joey Johnson with bullhorn and Travis Morales with Indict the Killer Cop sign. Photo: Li Onesto/

Carl Dix, Travis and I were in the paddy wagon with three Black men who were arrested out there. This one guy had a photo of himself throwing back one of those damn tear gas canisters to defend himself and others from that shit. He was an amazing character—kind of like a Houdini because he was able to take his handcuffed hands from his back to the front. So that was very entertaining. For example there was this other guy in there and he wanted to smoke a cigarette in the paddy wagon and so they switched places. The guy who was like a Houdini took the cigarettes out of his pocket for him and then they switched places again—and remember this is in a paddy wagon that is no bigger than this dining table here—so they could get the lighter out of his other pocket. They lighted the cigarette and the guy took a few drags. It was just really funny. People were just laughing at this and people’s spirits in general were high.

Then we got down to the jail and they take us and we were like some of the first arrested that night. They put us in this cell and this pig one came and saw the photo on this guy’s t-shirt and said, hey is that you on there? And the guy said, “What just because he has dreads? You think we all look alike?” And the pig got all defensive and said, “No I’m not saying that, I just saw the dreadlocks.”

Feguson, August 17. Photo: Li Onesto/

I heard from people in jail that the masses had together managed to move the big concrete road dividers that the police had put in the street to block cars and protesters. I also heard about how people put broken pieces of concrete across the street on Florissant to try defend people—to make it more difficult for the big police vehicles to go up the street.

When I got into the main day room, a big open space with benches, these guys waved to me and said, “My man, what’s up?” and I walk over there. I didn’t know these guys. There’s one seat open among them, I just sat down right in the middle of them. I been in jail a lot over the years and lot of times when you go to jail you’re careful about who you sit among, who you talk to. But this was a whole different vibe. It gets back to that thing about when people rise up there’s a whole different mind set, a whole different thinking, openness, where before there might have been a wall there.

So I sat down with these guys and they were so appreciative that we had come from so far to support the rebellion. It was really moving. I just want to say, given all this bullshit being spewed in the media about “outsiders coming to Ferguson” that with these guy that were in jail with me and with virtually everyone else I’ve talked to out in the street, when I tell them I came from Oakland and that other comrades came from Chicago and New York—we got nothing but love back from the masses.

These guys also talked with me about how fucked up things have been for so long as far as what the police do to people, what they get away with. And they really felt a sense of pride over what they had accomplished. They kept talking about the possibility of it spreading.

Did they know about the fact that protests in support of people in Ferguson had gone on all over the country?

Yeah. There were different degrees to which people knew this.

There was a TV in the day room but all they showed was sports and people were joking saying, they ain’t going to show the rebellion in here, that will just set people off in here.

People were also telling me about how the law—the police, courts, prisons are really fucked up in Missouri. They talked about how people get killed in the jails and prisons, how the COs are brutal. This too is not really talked about in the media coverage, there are years and decades of suffering and humiliation by the police and overall oppression of Black people that has been pent up and then unleashed in this rebellion.

One guy reminded me of a cornerback in football because of his athleticism. He came into jail with a glove on one hand because when you pick up tear gas canisters to throw them back to defend yourself, you need protection. And he showed me a big burn on his hand. My favorite part of the evening was sitting talking with these guys for about 4-5 hours about the rebellion in Ferguson and about revolution.

When you told them about the movement for revolution and how revolutionaries have come to Ferguson to stand with “the defiant ones,” what was their response?

Photo: AP

They were really excited. They wanted to know more about it. They were really hungry to hear about this and we were really trying to figure out how to hook up afterwards. We couldn’t get a pencil to write down phone numbers so some guys gave me their Facebook monikers.

The other thing is there was a good number of white people that night who got swooped up and arrested. This is the only jail room I’ve been to that was co-ed so there were Black and white women in there too.

Did you talk to any of the women who were arrested out on Florissant?

Joey Johnson, holding bullhorn for fellow protestors.
Photo: Li Onesto/

Yeah. I talked to this one white woman who worked in a bar and took the night off to come down to Florissant to protest. She and her boyfriend came down and then after the police attacked people they put a whole lot of people in their truck to try and get away and the police stopped them, busted everybody in the truck and then took the truck.

Also, I talked to this one white guy from Austin, Texas who drove 13 hours to get to Ferguson. With this guy and another white man I talked to one of the things that really attracted them to come was this thing about the militarization of the police. They see this shit as ominous and that it has to be stopped NOW! I’m not saying they weren’t outraged about the murder of Michael Brown but this was really pronounced for them. Black people have been the driving force of this rebellion but the multinational unity has been really important.


And still no justice for Michael Brown.

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