The Forge recently corresponded with Cakes of the Knoxville Radical Alliance about the recent protest in Nashville against Corecivic. The views expressed in this interview do not represent any organizations, including Knoxville Radical Alliance or Resist ICE Nashville.
Why was there a protest at Corecivic?
Corecivic was targeted because private, for-profit prisons are modern day slave traders. Companies like Corecivic and Geo Group profit from human suffering. This suffering is experienced disproportionately by black, brown, indigenous, trans and economically disadvantaged folx. These companies lobby politicians to cage as many human beings as possible. As of December 2016, Corecivic estimated that it “owned” 58% of all prison beds, and “managed” 48% of all prison beds (http://investigate.afsc.org/company/corecivic-inc).
Contracts with state and federal governments often guarantee minimum capacities of inmates. Corecivic has even stated in its second quarter of 2018 earnings report to the SEC (http://ir.corecivic.com/news-releases/news-release-details/corecivic-reports-second-quarter-2018-financial-results) that immigration and prison reform are among the top future earnings risks (see “Future-Looking Statements” in report).
Corecivic’s cost cutting methods have also resulted in multiple deaths due to medical neglect. The reasons to target Corecivic stack up the more one learns about their inhumane and deadly operations. If the goal is to destroy capitalism, private prisons seem like a great place to start.
How many people were there?
The initial occupation was around 40 folx, but at its peak was probably closer to 60. Most occupiers were from the Nashville area, but comrades from around the South East joined us in the action as well. Many protestors outside of the police lines were visible, but I could not estimate a number from inside the occupation.
How many people were arrested and are they free?
A total of 20 comrades were arrested during the dismantling of the occupation. Police used pain compliance techniques to remove “soft” blockades (linking arms with no locks attached) and spent hours removing folks from lock-boxes and weighted barrels.
The removal and arrest of the brave tripod climber resulted in them sustaining a shoulder injury and endangered their life by attempting to destabilize the tripod. The blockaders at the Corecivic action successfully shut down their HQ for the entirety of the business day. Everyone was released as of early morning on Tuesday, the day after the action. Trans and non-binary folx reportedly experienced especially harsh treatment while in custody, including being locked in confinement cells away from the general population of the jail and physical/verbal abuse from police and guards. The Police and Nashville City government released a statement doxxing all those arrested before anyone was released.
This was outside their typical protocal, presumably to intimidate other protestors and build public sentiment against the action (see Resist ICE Nashville’s statement https://www.facebook.com/400977847092460/posts/418529722003939/). It should be noted that the legal and jail support crews were outstanding for this action. Protestors released from jail were greeted by a group of 15+ comrades with pizza, snacks, love and solidarity.
What is Corecivic’s connection to ICE?
Corecivic manages 9 ICE detention facilities. These facilities account for 28% of their revenue as of 2016. That revenue doubled from 14% in 2014 and is continuing to rise under 45’s administration. The action Monday was intended to become a part of the Occupy ICE movement taking place across the country, from Tacoma, WA to Tampa, FL. Although the occupation only lasted around 9 hours, we successfully disrupted operations at their offices for the whole business day (reports that no emplyees entered the building until Monday evening after business hours, but not confirmed).
I hope others will draw inspiration from this occupation. Actions against the inhumane treatment of undocumented folx don’t have to be as large as the occupation in Portland, OR, for example. Small groups of folx can successfully disrupt the operations of the state and their private partners like Corecivic and Geo Group to defend our immigrant communities and the dignity of all humanity.
What do people who aren’t aware of these issues need to know?
It can be difficult to explain the severity of these issues to people who are generally unaware of prison abolition and immigration issues. Shocking facts, such as: slavery was never abolished as private companies are profiting off slavery from “so called” citizens and immigrants often doesn’t connect with your typical conservative or even liberal. Often, more concrete narratives can help people empathize with the lived experience of incarcerated folx. The incarcerated minors currently risking their lives fighting fires in Calfornia for $2/hour is a good example of visible exploitation of prisoners. Direct action, big or small, also opens up this conversation to everyday people.
I believe feeling out the most effective and targeted messaging for different groups and individuals is crucial. All I can recommend is to learn about these issues the best one can and have a multitude of responses and ideas ready for the people you interact with regularly.
Notes on Knoxville Radical Alliance
I cannot speak on behalf of all affiliated with Knoxville Radical Alliance (KRA) but will offer my personal understanding. KRA is not explicitly or exclusively Anarchist, Communist, Marxist, Leninist, Maoist, reformist or anti-fascist, but an alliance of pan-left comrades with the intent to promote direct action against all forms of oppression. All actions are based on affinity and are horizontally organized. Leaders and ideologies are better left aside to fight for common goals, especially in a small(ish) Appalachian city.