2007, JANUARY 1ST - HAPPY NEW YEAR
It was about 7:00 a.m. I received a communiqué Comrade Simpson was on the outside rec-yard and Turner was in the dayroom. Neither of them was willingly going back to their cages. This is how the New Year should be brought in—with RESISTANCE! I was on the other side of the pod, so the only thing I could see was the 5-man assault team stomp into the pod, and into the areas where Simpson and Turner were. Somebody in B-section day room could see through the picket glass into E-section directly across from him, giving me a play-by-play. Turner did a sit-in and was carried back to his cage. Then the team positioned themselves by the outside rec-yard until this administration threw a grenade in on him. He then went through their dehumanizing strip-search and laid down forcing the team to carry him back to his cage. Might I add, Turner did a sit-in addition to his participation in Hunger Strike 2. This show of determination and sacrifice was so beautiful, I felt high. I salute these brothers.
I tried to get out my cage to go to rec during first shift, the shift during which Simpson and Turner protested, but the officers began to slack off, letting people stay in the dayrooms; they were either tired of the work they were being forced to do, or suspected somebody might be waiting to do something should they change out recs.
I had been up since 2:00 a.m., and it was about 5:00 p.m. Shift change was at 6:00 p.m. Once I saw they weren’t putting anybody else to rec, I took a nap. At about 7:00 p.m. I was awakened by the second shift.
“Blanton,” officer Tatum said, “you goin’ to rec?”
“Yes sir,” I answered, climbing out of my bunk, ready.
They put me on the outside rec-yard. It was cold and dark out, except for the orange light that exploded to life with brightness, with hope, before descending back into a dim despair. But beyond the despair, through the bars and net above, I saw a bright full face smiling love on me, love that was given to her. A lovely full moon, she seemed to understand why we are doing what we are doing, almost saying she was with me in that dark, cold silence. Or maybe I was wishing for someone that understood.
Finally, my hour of decompression time, cleverly disguised as “recreation” was over. When the floor officers came to escort me back to the cage, I told them I refused to leave the rec-yard. The Lt. then came to me asking if I was coming off the rec-yard. After I told him no, he left. He came back with 2 sergeants, the 37mm rifle, a grenade, and a 5-man assault team that marched in and stopped with the point man hitting the outside rec-yard gate with the shield he held—an intimidation tactic. The team was then told by the sergeant to back away from the gate and on into the pod.
I had already taken off my extra pair of socks, doubling them up and tying them over my nose. My other pair of socks I used to tie my shoes to my feet for traction. With the hood of my jacket pulled over my head, I crouched on the other side of the rec-yard facing the gate the team would run through. I wondered if they would just run in on me, to make an example out of me, since it was dark. I was anticipating a number of tactics they’ve been known to use; even tactics I’ve thought about they have yet to use.
After the Sergeant gave me my final order to “submit to a strip search or chemical agents and a five-man team will be utilized,” I shielded my face with my bicep and forearm, raising my fist above my head as if I was blocking a punch to the left side of my face, looking away from the direction the gas would be sprayed, but listening intently for either the gate to pop (signaling that the team was running in) or the type of chemical warfare they were using. Suddenly I heard “cling, cling, cling” as the sergeant dropped a grenade on my side of the rec-yard, and quickly stepped away from the gate, and back into the pod, closing the door to the outside rec-yard. I watched the silver looking canister erupt with sparks and flames before vomiting a thick, gray looking smoke, which slowly filled up both sides of the rec-yard. I remained in the crouching position, focusing on my breath. Then the canister released another little smoke bomb!
The outside yard was filled with smoke to the point I couldn’t see anything. I climbed the bars about two stories to the top for fresh air, but there was none. I climbed back down and adjusted the sock over my nose. The smoke was seeping in. It was strong and burned my nose and eyes. I finally walked toward the glass separating the rec-yard and pod, signaling to them I would strip out; but they didn’t want to come outside. They stood around on the other side of the glass before signaling me to strip naked. They were trying to break me, yet I never choked nor coughed, though after I took the sock off, I was breathing out gas as if I was exhaling cigarette smoke.
Completely naked, standing in the cold, dark night, my beloved moon hidden by the chemical cloud that engulfed me, the team finally came back outside to handcuff me. When they popped the gate I lay down on the frigid concrete and began to sing my favorite church hymn, “Pass me not”:
Pass me not o’gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
Yet, as they picked up my naked body and placed me on the gurney, I could hear members of the team coughing behind their facemasks. While they wheeled me to F-section, Level-3, the highest level of sensory deprivation, I sang my soul, cloaking myself like a robe, protecting myself from how they tried to dehumanize me naked before a throng of onlookers, including female staff.
When the gurney came to a halt in front of the cage they would place me in, the shield or point man stood over me, rocking back and forth toward me, then away from me, with his shield held up as if he was waiting to hit me with it! I told him he could calm down because I didn’t want to hurt him. I told him, “even though you are in a gray suit, you’re still my brother.” My enemies are oppressive modes of thought.
I was asked if I wished to decontaminate (take a shower to wash the gas off) and I refused. They finally threw a towel over my nakedness to cover their shame-then carrying me into the cage, laying me on the floor, then taking off my shackles and restraints before backing out the cage, slamming the door shut leaving me as if I was something they had just had their way with. Until WE are not seen as dispensable things, I will continue to fight. DRIVE!
Love and solidarity
from the trenches
Reginald "Omari Huduma" Blanton