Protest Demands the Release of Prisoners

from a member of the Revolution Club, Chicago



On Monday we learned that 101 prisoners at the Cook County Jail had tested positive for the coronavirus. Members of the Revolution Club here (almost all of us “sheltering in place” in different places, and not having physically seen each other for over two weeks) began calling each other to discuss this and figure out what should we do.

The Cook County Jail is the largest single site jail in the country. There are currently 4,600 people imprisoned in this hell hole which is notorious for its brutal conditions. Lawyers, religious leaders and community activists have been pushing to get prisoners released since the first prisoner tested positive last month. Several hundred prisoners have been released, but thousands must be released or this could become a death camp.

We decided to organize a “COVID-19 safe” car caravan to demand the release of prisoners from the jail. Organizing a protest in the midst of the pandemic was challenging. We could not all come together, make posters and plans like in the past. We decided that each of us would make our own signs and posters with whatever materials we had on hand which wasn't much. One member had a great idea. He suggested that we could fly our club shirts from our car windows to let people know who was doing this. The shirts are iconic and widely recognized here, especially by youth on the South Side where we do a lot of our work, many of whom are among those locked up in this jail.

One club member wrote a call which we used as the basis for a press release and sent out in an email.

Here is what she wrote:

101 people. 101 lives that hang in a balance of a completely preventable force. Trump did not create this virus but he sure as hell has made it worse.

Chicago has a special place in the fabric of the United States past and present with the brutal torturing and framing innocent Black men and others. Now they have taken an already deadly natural virus, easily spread, and subjugated those very prisoners to be needlessly and preventably infected by COVID 19. To allow the cramped conditions and unsafe hygienic practices of such a scourge upon these Men and women behind bars is a sentiment that rightly revokes your humanity.

We, the Revolution Club are calling on you to demand that our people behind bars be treated with dignity and respect for their lives. We stand with Refuse Fascism, and anyone whose rocked by this, "[to] demand the Government, ...4. Ensure health and safety from the virus of all those in jail, prison or ICE detention camps; immediate release of everyone not convicted of violent crime, and asylum seekers and families."

To show how much we'd like to make this known, be part of showing out at Cook County Court on 26th and California, Wednesday April 1st at 1PM. We call on all people with a conscience to bring your car, decked out with signage to display protesting that prisoners be released. We are taking this virus seriously thus why we are abiding by the social distancing measures recommended by the CDC. By no means does that mean that what will be doing literally taking the streets is something unachievable; Because we are under such measures to quarantine our action will reverberate even louder. Measures we know are not being and were not taken in the Cook County Jail leading to the infections of 110 inmates and more yet to be tested. What we do and don't do matter.

Let's use this time under quarantine, to call out, struggle with family and friends and put the truly putrid system of Capitalism Imperialism on its most deserved blast. To learn more about how we are tackling that follow us on social media, watch "The RNL Show: The Revolution Nothing less Show" on YouTube and take initiative to report and suggest ideas to have this really reach hundreds and thousands now.

Two TV stations showed up with cameras, and a club member (in mask and gloves) who doesn’t drive came to film us. We couldn’t do a standard press conference. We agreed in advance not to leave our cars and to have only one person per vehicle unless people already sheltered together. We got our message out to the press via our sound system on top of the lead vehicle. (Unfortunately, we are not sure the coverage made it on the news.)

We had three cars from the club committed in advance and were really pleased when five more cars joined us—one another club member, one from Refuse Fascism, one a supporter of the club responding to our text, another a well-known activist who must have gotten the text and finally an unknown car and driver who may simply have bumped into our action and joined for one circle around the jail.

While our visual presence left something to be desired, we got our message out loudly and in a new way. The driver of the lead van positioned the club’s half mile hailer on the roof with the mic inside. A club member also in the van could speak over the mic but also called the drivers of other cars and held his phone to the mic enabling everyone who wanted to have their voice heard. Tio Hardiman of the Violence Interrupters, who was not able to make it to the protest, phoned in and conveyed a message of support over the loudspeaker as we circled the jail.

We felt this was a successful, if beginning, action in the midst of the pandemic.

The Revolution Club, Chicago, protested at Cook County Jail, April 1, 2020

Cook County Jail, April 1, 2020

Cook County Jail, April 1, 2020




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