On December 31st around 6 pm in New Orleans, LA a group of 30 or so people came together for a second time in months to protest the existence of Orleans Parish Prison and usher in a new year of resistance. With saxophones, clarinets, buckets and bass drums, the band took position at the entrance to OPP's main holding facility, the House of Detention, where prisoners could be seen through the windowless facade of the building. Like a penal colony from times of creole imperialism, the 10 floors of HOD holds its inhabitants captive with nothing but steel fencing to protect them from the biting cold and scorching heat of New Orleans' weather.
On this night, however, the exposed insides of HOD worked to everyone's advantage, as prisoners and protesters were able to ring in the new year in open jubilation. Fiery footage of the London riots was projected two stories tall onto an adjacent building for the inmates' viewing pleasure. Banners were displayed with the messages, "Fuck OPP", and, "Abolish prison", along with some chants to that same effect. With fists raised high we yelled and hollered across the fences until we were hoarse, as the pigs looked on dumbfounded. Prisoners even began lighting toilet paper on fire and throwing it from the windows!
Eventually the guards got control of the prisoners’ party and they were taken out of sight, presumably to be locked up. The band marched around OPP, continuing to make noise in hopes that prisoners were still listening and feeling the solidarity from inside their cells.
Undeniable was the meaningfulness of wresting from the state an opportunity to communicate freely with the very people that it most wants us to forget. This new years’ noise demonstration was testament to how little it takes to reconnect with those held captive by the state, and to the power of just a few people's well-directed audacity. If we take the same action and put it on a larger scale, the implications are clear. In a city that is so small, but yet has such an enormous hatred for its prison, OPP doesn’t have nearly as much power as it suggests.
For now at least our insufficient numbers require that we settle on making whatever warm gestures of solidarity we can to help the prisoners get through the cold winter—but may we keep stoking the fire until the day when we are all warmed by the prisons’ cinders!