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Sat, 13 Aug 2022 04:00
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Hey everybody, Robert Evans here and I wanted to let you know this is a compilation episode, so every episode of the week. That just happened is here in one convenient and with somewhat less ADS package for you to listen to in a long stretch if you want. If you've been listening to the episodes every day this week, there's going to be nothing new here for you, but you can make your own decisions. Welcome to Canaan here, a podcast about fighting your bosses. This is this is your host, Christopher Wong, and with me today to talk about fighting bosses and bosses doing incredibly illegal stuff. Boss is doing incredibly shady stuff and why you should fight them more is Terry Tambellini, who was a partner organizer from Pittsburgh Starbucks workers United, and was fired from Starbucks. Like, very illegally under, very sketchy. Circumstances. Natori, welcome to the show. Thanks so much. I'm excited to be here. Yeah, I'm really, really happy to have you here. OK, so I I guess, I guess we should start with the whole idea. You were denied. You were, you were, you were denied your legal rights and then fired, presumably for union organizing thing. So starting from the beginning, and there was like I was so a month ago, my store manager sat me down and I like he asked me to come downstairs for a conversation. So I brought a witness with me and we went downstairs and I found out that I was being investigated because there was one day that I had written down my weekday start time instead of my weekend start time. They just recently changed things at my store so that we open at. We start opening shifts at 5:30 on the weekends and five on the weekdays. And this is a recent change after I've been there for three years. So I out of habit, one day I had written five in the book instead of 530. A couple months later, it seems like everything has blown over. They accepted the fact that it was just an innocent mistake. I really wasn't trying to steal 30 minutes of time, which comes out to like, what, $6 after that? Like, yeah, really desperate for that $6. So I I figured they just they knew it was an innocent. Stake, and it wasn't going to be a further issue until I saw two managers in my store. One of them was my store manager. The other one was her name is Brittany. And what Starbucks has done recently is that they they've created this new position in the company. From my understanding, it's called support manager, and they're basically like an assistant district manager and they go around to stores where there's any sort of union activity and they try to talk about strategies to squash it. So it's like basically the store manager that did the most. Irish Union busting at their own store gets promoted to this position. So in my district the person's name is Brittany and I saw her in my store, which is always a bad sign, and at one point they asked me to have a seat for a conversation. So I sit down and I well, before I sit down, I say is this a disciplinary conversation? And the manager said, the one manager said to me, yes, this is solely a disciplinary conversation and I said I would like to invoke my winegarten rights. I'm going to go out to the floor and bring somebody back as a witness. And they said, you can't do that today. And basically what they did is they like, held up a piece of paper, like, with a wall of text on it like this far from my face. They're like, it says right here that we can't, we don't have to do that for you. And I was like, that's really illegal. And I'm not comfortable having this conversation right now at all. And they said, well, we're going to hand this to you anyway and handed me a notice of termination. Yeah, so I walked out and walked back to the front of house and I said a little bit loudly. Definitely not like shouting, but kind of loudly. I said I just got fired and is it OK if I swear to quote my friend? Please. OK, cool. So my best friend Kim was working at the time and she loudly said right in front of our new store manager, what the ****? And I just kept walking because I was so upset. I didn't want the managers to see me cry so I walked to the front of house or walk outside. And Kim follows me, and she was like, we're going to fix this. I'm going to go ask to leave early, and I'll drive you home and we'll talk about this. Kim goes back inside, looks at my assistant manager and says I'm requesting permission to leave early. And the assistant manager literally couldn't even look her in the eye and told her, Kim, go have a seat in the back. And they fired Kim as well. Jesus. Yeah, and and I think. One everything about the story I think is worth talking about is that like, when when it comes to union busting, it literally does not matter how good of an employee you are unless like you not being there will literally cause everything to collapse. Yeah, but yeah, I don't talk about like you were really good at this and they were still just like, no, **** you. Yeah, so I was voted by everybody at my store. I was voted partner of the quarter in spring of 2021. I was also promoted to shift supervisor within that. Every week and later that year, I participated in a barista competition for my store and I won barista champion for my store level and I also tied at at the district level for barista champion for the district. So and then in addition to that, I had dealt with a situation where somebody like leaning against the front of my store had overdosed on heroin and I gave him Narcan and basically saved the guy's life and then like a month or two. Bitter. They fired me. So yeah, which is like, I'm trying to think of if like, any other way you can possibly go, like, above and beyond what anyone could reasonably require you. That is more than I saved a dude's life. It's like, yeah, OK. You're welcome, guys. Someone would have died inside your store if I wasn't there, but OK, bye, I guess, yeah. And I, I wanted to talk a little bit about, about that specifically and about sort of the conditions of the store. Because one of the things that seems really clear from from listening to you talk about it and from reading stuff about it is that it's not just, I mean, even even if you were just like, you know, doing kind of regular ish service like service worker stuff, this would be unacceptable. But it's also. Like, there, there's there's this way in which you and your coworkers have sort of been turned into social workers and are being sort of are being forced to, like, deal with just all of the people who sort of capitalism to say just, like, spat out. Absolutely, yeah. And sort of, like, fill in the gaps of of just the collapse of American social services. And yeah, I wonder. Yeah. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the stuff that you've been having to do and what that's like. Yeah, absolutely. So something I've noticed. In Market Square is that it feels like there were some sort of resources for the unhoused community that existed before the pandemic that straight up just don't exist anymore. So a lot of that that work to be done like falls on the Starbucks employees. Most of us are completely unqualified for that. Like I have a degree in psychology, but sometimes that's just not really enough. Most of us are film students at Point Park, so none of us are at all equipped to deal with any situations where somebody. Is under the influence of something and maybe becoming aggressive or some of these having a mental health crisis. Or there are people that are sleeping in the cafe and we're asked to pick them out if they're sleeping. But that feels really, really bad because there's not a ton of other resources, especially during the day. I know the shelters closed, so when it's like winter or it's like 90 degrees outside and someone is just trying to get like a tiny little bit of sleep, it feels really bad to kick them out. So we dealt with a lot of situations that we were just completely unequipped to handle, and Starbucks would send us deescalation training, but most of the de escalation training revolved around if a customer isn't happy with their drink and they're shouting at you, so it doesn't even begin to cover. Like any of the stuff that we deal with at Market Square, we had like we've we've seen a lot of customers having mental health crises in the cafe like what do you do like don't want to call the police, that's definitely not going to help. And the situation where I had to Narcan somebody, the we had called for an ambulance and 20 minutes later the ambulance still wasn't there and there were even managers at the surrounding businesses calling and calling and calling, trying to get an ambulance to Market Square and it ended up like being me that had to give them an Narcan. Overall, like something that we were pushing for with the Union, the main thing that we were pushing for was better training. Like we want Narcan to keep in the stores and we want all the shifts to be trained on how to use that. And that doesn't have to be through Starbucks. There are, I know of a lot of organizations throughout Pittsburgh that would be happy to train our staff on that. We need like better resources. I know at one point we were falsely promised a social worker that would sit in our cafe for at least one day every two weeks. Never got that. And yeah, I. I feel like myself just deserves better. Community deserves better, and it shouldn't be Starbucks's job. But until we have something better, I think that we should be a little bit more equipped to handle situations that, frankly, we do have to deal with at some point, just by the nature of our work and our location. I also think something really funny to mention here is that we got a new store manager at the. I want to say the beginning, like mid June, we got this new store manager. Her name was Sarah and she has already transferred to a different store because she felt so unsafe working at Market Square. She got her first Market Square death threat and was like, I'm out. So even the store manager can't deny that our working conditions are bad. So the fact that they're still fighting against the Union even though management is well aware of how terrible our conditions are, just like baffles be, yeah, OK, I want to, I want to take a second and go back to something that you said. Which is your first Market Square death threat? How how common is this? I think I received a total of four to five, and then I received my very last one the day that my store went on strike and I was sitting at the picket line and I was like, wow, it's just like the good old days before I was fired. Gosh. Yeah, Market Square is a lot less land. Yeah. And I mean, like, I don't know, like, I feel like this is like, every time I I do this is like a recurring thing. Every time I do a labor story. It's like, oh, this is a labor service, like, no. But it's also the story of a bunch of, like, a bunch of people whose job this, like, isn't who just wind up having to deal with all of the **** that the state doesn't want to do that corporations don't want to do. And it's like the the, the fact that Starbucks employees have to be the. Like the Starbucks Union has to be the group in like in this place that is trying to get people to get dark end training is nuts. Like just just audio, like just like sort of just macro taking a step back level like what on Earth is going on in this society? Have been thinking a lot about lately. Like I think a lot of journalists and reporters have asked me like, why do you think that the younger generation is the one like leading this? Like why are unions making a comeback now and why is this younger generations like so? Ready to lead this? I think it's because we've spent our entire lives watching politicians on TV make all these promises and then continuing to do absolutely nothing, and we're all sick and tired of it. We are already to take it into our own hands and fix it in any way that we see that we can. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, like, I my, you know, my, my first ball case, my first political member was the Iraq war. But like, I was like a little baby child. But like, like, you know, like, I remember like the the the thing I grew up on was like, yeah, it was Obama, it was, it was hope, it was changed. And then it was like, you look at the world now and it's like, it's like, oh, it's it's even bleaker than it was in 2008, which is like, yeah. Yeah. And absolutely crazy. Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense. And I think also just like. Like the last two years have been so brutal. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I was wondering. Yeah. I'm wondering if you could talk about, like what effects the what effect the pandemic had on yellows workers and what effect they had on union organizing. Yeah, absolutely so. I think that it really pulled the mask off the company, which ironically, while everyone was putting their masks on and mask off, was coming up for Starbucks because they always really pretended to be this really awesome, progressive company. And it really revealed how performative the company is, because they gave us all these COVID benefits for like two or three months and then took them right away from us like before. Obviously the pandemic isn't even over now. It definitely wasn't over back in, I think it was October. They took away like, our that's right. Spikes too, exactly. And right around that time we were also watching our CEO, now former CEO Kevin Johnson, get like a $40 million raise while they had just taken away our hazard pay and our free food benefits, even though we were all still struggling. So then I think that us seeing those benefits being taken away and realizing that the company doesn't care about us in that sense made us start looking harder at everything, like the company doesn't want to increase our pay. They don't want to give us credit card tipping. They don't want to make our stores safer. And every other reason that any store could see to unionize, like it really highlighted all those reasons and all the ways the company doesn't care about us as much as they should and how they really do just see us as a number. So I think that's what really, really pushed us all towards unionizing. It's like if the company doesn't care about us and the people in our stores, then we're going to rely on each other to care about us and push for unions so that we can take matters into our own hands. And yeah, I mean, I think there's, there's a lot of the stuff that you've been talking about that highlights how important that is, which is that like, you know, you have this combination of management either like did the management immediately above understanding what's happening and being like, I'll just throw you guys at it, we'll just literally bail and run away from how bad it is. And then you have the layer of management like above you, which is it's a bunch of bureaucrats who like, couldn't find their *** if you drew a map and you know, or like, oh, hey, here's your escalation training. It's about person mad about drink. And it's like I am getting multiple. Death threats, it's like it's, I don't know, we literally had a like someone from I think you're either regional management or maybe a level higher than that like area management, human doors or the other day like as a customer and there was something going on. I'm not sure if it was like somebody shouting in the cafe or like 2 customers were fighting. But this like upper level manager who should know about our store said to one of my briefs does so is this like a high incidence store? And we were like, I don't know dude. Isn't it your job? Yeah. Like, really? Like, wow. Yikes. Yeah, that's something that like, you know, it's not like I learned, like. Like something like you learned intellectually and then you just see. Like, and then yeah, it's you learn intellectually and then you just sort of viscerally begin to understand when you know you're doing work and you're watching what your managers do. It is it's that like, yeah, like the people who actually knows how the production process works and how the stuff actually goes and what's happening on the shop floor, like are the people, are the workers there. And it's like everyone above them is just doing some other **** to just making everyone's lives worse. And it's just infuriating that nobody the reason we need a union. And I tell people this all the time whenever I'm going into new stores. Nobody knows your store better than you. Nobody knows, like the inner workings of it, how busy you are, what the needs of the store are better than the people that are there 40 hours a week. And so another thing we talked about a lot in like our like our citywide meetings is like, what did the managers even do all day? Like, what is their job doing? What are they working on? Like, what does Michelle District manager do all day? And her cushy little corporate office? But I guess she just union busting now. Although even that they're delegating to another manager below them so. Apparently, yeah. Did you ever see the fake tweets? The fake workers United tweets that Starbucks published? No? Ohh, I'd missed this e-mail. Oh my God, copy of them. But they literally made this handout with a list of fake tweets from workers United and like the companies responses to them. But if you look up the company's Twitter account, it just doesn't exist. And the tweets from workers united that they printed out on these handouts. So don't exist and I think maybe 3 copies of that got handed out to my store before we all made so much fun of my boss that he stopped so I guess that's my boss 's job, I will I can show these to you. I keep them on hand? Amazing. This is this is like, it's the biggest energy of like, oh, I thought of the perfect argument 7 hours later, except I didn't even the arguments. Not even real. Like they're they're just making up a guy to argue with. Yeah, and they didn't even try that hard because these were handed to me back in April. It says that these all of these tweets were posted on June 1st. So the day that they claimed that this was tweeted hadn't even happened whenever I received the send out. If y'all have access to a time machine, I I have some work I need to do, yeah. Yeah, they say things like in collective bargaining, you start with everything you have and negotiate for more from there, from Starbucks, workers United right there. And then the company's response was, you know. And then the we are one Starbucks account set in collective bargaining. Everything is up for negotiations if you have more of the same or less. And once you negotiate a contract, you're locked in, which is also funny because it's like, like, OK, you are looking at that. Like, you think that that is actually like a thing that makes you look good and not like a super villain. It's like, no, no, no. If you try to negotiate with us, we will make everything worse for you. It's like really? She looks good. You know, they try so hard to Union bus and they just kind of suck at it. Yeah. So it's been, it's been comical to watch. It's like very funny, which is really funny because like, I I remember like. I didn't know Super Bowl, but like I remember I knew some people who were doing Starbucks Union organizing like. Way about like, like 2000 like 6 or something. Yeah. And they were like, you know, and it was like they were kind of better at it. Like they they they were willing to just, like throw resources at it in a way that, like, they don't seem to be able to now. I think maybe just because, like, there there's so many organizations, so many organizing efforts happening at once that it's harder to sort of just, like throw all of their stuff at one store. But yeah, it is just it's like incredibly funny watching them just sort of like. Flail and like, you know, I mean, I guess like all, all, all, all corporations that you need must eventually resort to breaking the law because you know the law. Yeah, it's designed for rich people. The district manager came into my store, screwdriver in hand, to personally make repairs at my store. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen. It's probably my favorite union busting story. But she was like, yeah, I'm here to cover up the electrical outlets in your bathroom. And we were like, cool. Why? And she was like, so that the homeless people can't, like, plug in their electric shavers and shave in there. We were like, wow. We've seen, we've seen people do a lot of weird things in that bathroom. And that's like, not even one of them. Yeah, you are so out of touch. Oh my gosh, it's been hilarious to watch. Like, wow, that was really some effort. But really, no, absolutely not immediately. No. There's nothing I want to talk about that Starbucks is. You talked a bit about earlier about Starbucks sort of like having this image as like a like progressive organization. And OK, like, one of the things they've been big on sort of recently is like, portraying themselves as this, like, Pro LGBTQA plus, like thing and. And I think, like, OK, so there's something that, like, traditional media has finally discovered because they haven't covered labor organizing in 40 years. And they suddenly started doing it again. And they were like, Oh my God, all of the union organizers are queer. And it was like, anyone who's ever organized a union or anyone who knows anyone who's ever been in a union could have told you this like 30 years ago. Incredible stuff is like, wow, congratulations, you've discovered this. But yeah, I I wanted to ask about sort of. I I don't know. This kind of binds that like, I I feel like we're people doing organizing or in right now which is that like, OK so on the one hand you have like in you know in the last sort of year or so this like incredible increase in sort of rapid homophobia. But then simultaneously like so you know you have to fight that fight and then simultaneously you have these corporations who are trying to, you know like yeah they're like nominally on our side and that they're not. Well I mean they are, they are they are funding the rampant. Homophobes. But like, publicly they don't. You know, publicly they're supportive, but also you know that, like, they're supportive because trying to sell our identity as a brand. And then, you know, when queer people are like, hey, can we like, have stuff that lets us live? They're like, no. And I was wondering how you've been sort of navigating that. Yeah. So that's been really tough because a lot of our queer partners in Pittsburgh get get their health insurance through Starbucks and get gender affirming care through Starbucks. And one of the biggest union busting tactics is our cuts. And if you cut someone's hours, then they're not eligible for healthcare. So they're really just like. Dangling the carrot on the stick in front of our faces like, oh, if you unionize, then we're gonna cut your hours and then you can't get your gender affirming healthcare. So that's like, that's really, really sucked. And in addition to that, there have been now four people about to be five. We think one of one person is going to be fired when he's back from vacation. But out of all of us that are fired or about to be fired, we are all clear people. So I think that really shows how much Starbucks carries. Their partners. And since I've started organizing, in addition to like homophobia and like discrimination against like the community, I've also heard just rampant stories about microaggressions and racism. I actually met a a partner that was fired from a store in Virginia. I want to say she was, I believe from my understanding, she was the only black woman that worked at her store and she was fired for aggressive behavior. And when I heard that. I was like, yeah, geez. Singing. So just like. And also that support manager that I was talking about, I've heard rumors that, like, she was transferred from one store to another because she was like caught being racist at the first store. So instead of being fired, she was transferred and now she got, she was promoted to store manager and then she fired a trans partner at her store and now she's our support manager and fired me. So it's like it's it's it's the, it's the homophobia. It's like it's it's the Catholic Church for racist homophobes. Well, OK, the Catholic Church for racist homophobes. But corporate and well, OK, I I I I am not going to make a claim on the air that they're not also doing this with sexual assault, because I. They they had like, there's no way that they're not. But yeah, that is yeah, that that that's incredibly bleak. And. I wanna go back a second to sort of the gender affirming care stuff because like, yeah, that stuff it's like. Like, OK, the thing that they are doing is just like we we are holding the genocide button over you. It's like, yeah, if you, if you don't comply with us and you don't like, accept the, like, absolute **** and scraps that we give you, we are going to try to kill you. And that is. Just indescribably horrific. Absolutely. Yeah, I know. It's something that partners. There's at least one partner at my store that's dealing with that right now. She's 25, about 2:26, and she is trans, and I know that she's on her parents insurance at the moment, but in less than a year she'll have to find insurance elsewhere, most likely through Starbucks, and it's something that really got her into organizing. I know that for sure. Yeah, it's it's been a really scary moment for her. Definitely something she's worried about. Yeah. Yeah, just the risk of being fired, the risk of having your hours cut and stop being eligible for benefits. That's awful. And, like, she doesn't feel like she can get a job like anywhere else just because Starbucks is one of the like. Starbucks offers, like decent health insurance. So it's like I'm kind of trapped here until I can get out, until I can get another job with insurance benefits. Yeah. And, you know, that's incredibly, that's incredibly hard, especially right now. I mean, yeah, I don't know. It's. I mean, it it it's not really surprising that they're doing this, but it's yeah, it's it's really depressing and it sucks. And absolutely the fact that they're, you know, like sending, sending racist to do homophobia is like, it's it's like dystopian, like, watch this happen and been like. Is this real life like, this is crazy? And they just fired another black clear organizer in Pittsburgh just yesterday and they're trying to make it look like he resigned. But really they gave him like a couple like options like you need to have at least one weekend day available or you need to demote yourself, or you need to transfer to a different store. And they were like, I can't really do any of those options. Like none of those work for me and then the company. I said like, Oh yeah, Jimmy resigned. Like we totally didn't fire them, but they just resigned and sorry, you can't appeal it because you resigned by. Yeah, it's a real we didn't fire you, we simply forced you out by making utterly impossible demands. Yeah, but it's like, it really reminds me of like it's the kind of stuff a country does when they want to go to war, where it's like, yeah, we're gonna we're gonna give you a bunch of demands that it is literally physically impossible for you to comply with and then because you don't comply with and getting invade. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Although I did just find out some good news today. So there's this one bar where most of the union organizers hang out all the time and they message us on Twitter today and they want to throw a queer dance party at a fundraiser for like, our solidarity and and strike fund. I was like, it's literally the most US thing I can possibly think of. Like a a queer dance party fundraiser at our favorite bar. There was a dent from the bar like showed up to our strike at my store and friends are like the bartender there. It was like the best Twitter do you ever. It was like, that's so funny. I'm literally going there with the other person that got fired from my sore like tonight. Stop. But we're very excited for that. Yeah. And I guess I'll bring something else I wanted to talk about, which is. Yeah. Do you want to talk a little bit about, like, what happened after you got fired and the support you've been getting and the, like the, the backing from other unions that you've been getting? Oh, totally. Yeah. So my store is actually just like a block away from the United Steel Workers Headquarters, which is incredible because anytime we have any sort of direct action, we get like 40 steel workers. Rules yeah. The day after I was fired, I I have this very funny picture that's on my Twitter of me just standing like with like 40 steel workers sitting behind me. They found like the two biggest dudes on each side of me. Saffron and protest is deep. This is my new favorite picture of myself. So good. So that was day one. We had a rally. We had a really good turn out with all the steel workers and a bunch of other Community allies are Symphony. Symphony musicians have a have a labor union here to the library workers. They all came out for the first day of the rally at Market Square and my citywide organizing committee was actually able to pull together a total of four strikes. That happened within the course of two days. The planning happened in like basically under 24 hours. This is that's incredible insane. Wow. So yeah, I got fired Wednesday. Thursday was the rally at my store with all the steel workers. Friday, the E Carson store on the Southside of Pittsburgh went on strike. The east side store in the Bloomfield Store all went on strike for the full day. The South Side Store continued their strike into Saturday and then. On Sunday, my store went on strike finally, so it was incredible. We had, we have a labor choir in Pittsburgh, which is incredible. It's just like a a dude with a guitar. He's he's my favorite person ever. So we had the labor choir out at all of our events and we had, like I said, the library workers, the steel workers, the Symphony Union. We have UE, we have DSA, which is democratic Socialists of America. Give the party for socialism and liberation or really strong allies to us. And we had like a lot of the regular, my, my favorite customer showed up at my store, of course, which made me cry. One of my customers, one of my favorite customers who comes in multiple times a day, said you shouldn't be standing out here on the on the sidewalk. You should be back there behind the counter making coffee. And I was like, I know, thank you. Create a couple of our regulars. Change their mobile order name to Tori and Kim so that every time he orders a drink to my store, they have to call out the name Tori and Kim. Amazing. That's great. And how we set up a go fund me and we received way more donations than we thought that we would get. So for all the workers at my store that went on strike, in addition to the 70% pay that we received from the Union for the day, we were able to pledge $20 to each of them. To try to make their paychecks whole and cover some of their lost tips, that was incredible and really just a a demonstration of how much support we have in our area. You know, they say Pittsburgh is a union town. Really is, it turns out. Yeah, and it's really cool to see. I don't know, I. They're like one of the things that I keep seeing is this sort of like. Like one of the sort of right wing tactics that have been like just inundated with in the last like couple of years has been like trying to separate out like, oh, here are these people who are workers. Like, oh, they're not workers because they're like, oh, they're like doing cultural stuff. Or they're like, oh, they just like, serve drinks and like, you know, you look at actual labor. It's like, that's no, like none of this, none of this, none of these divisions are real. Like people show up for each other. It's all ******** that people will be, like, judgmental about that. I'm always kind of like surprised when the steel workers show up. I'm like, I know I'm not a steel worker. I don't make steel, I don't work in a factory or anything. I just make coffee. But everyone's so supportive and they are always so willing to stand in solidarity with us, which is really cool, but it's something I always, like, worried about. Like, I I know it doesn't feel like I'm a real worker, but like for a union. Podcast union so like we're talking about. Yeah, like I I I have, I have. Like arguably. Like if, if if if if if you're gonna use the really silly like like. I don't know. Sort of like cultural analysis of what a worker is like. A podcast unit is like, the silliest unit ever, and it's great. No, it rules. It turns out we're workers. We go fight for other people, too. Other people fight for like the the when. When we when we were trying to get union recognition like the NFL Players Association was like, hey, you guys need to recognize this. We were like. Yeah, that is awesome. Yeah. We just, we've been going to a lot of rallies for the Planned Parenthood Union, and I didn't, I didn't actually know that they existed. That was yeah, I actually, well, it wasn't Pittsburgh, but I I was just talking, actually, probably, I don't know what these are going to air in, but like, yeah, I just talked to two people from that. Oh my gosh. Yeah. They were cool to see the labor choir there again. Yeah. Solidarity all around. Love to see it. So. Yeah, that that's really cool. Yeah, lots of unions in Pittsburgh. A good time. Lot of really cool people, like, all the people I've met since I've been involved with union stuff have been like, really cool. Yeah, the first time I, like, talked anywhere, it was at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention. And whenever I was told that whenever I talk, my speech was supposed to end with brothers and sisters. Can I count on your support? Because they were passing a resolution for us. But one of my barristas told me it would be funnier if I said. Can I get a hell? Yeah. So I said some very serious words to this room full of serious looking people. And then I said, on behalf of all of our partners at the Market Square, Starbucks, can I get a hell yeah. And they all. So happy. And I was like, cool. I found my people. Yeah, that was like the first time I talked to anywhere. That was funny. That's awesome. Yeah, this is another reason to unionize. You get to beat a bunch of really cool people, and then they show up for you. And it's a incredible experience. Yeah. On my last canvassing trip, we went out in teams of two. And then when we reconvened at the end of the night for dinner, we were like, oh, we should stop at our one store that we visited again, like, all four of us. And I was like, yeah, we should, like, go in and be like, look, guys are joined the Union and I made three whole friends. Look at them. Yeah. Also, just talking at the I was on a panel at a women's labor school, which was really awesome. It was at Penn State University, and that was a really, really cool experience. I met all the all the female union leaders is a really great event. So overall, it's really cool. People involved here. Hell yeah, love unions. Good stuff. Absolutely. I got a cool pin that says labor, women get in good trouble. And I was like, yeah, that's what I'm doing. Hell yeah, absolutely. Hell yeah. Yeah. So these days I'm just working with some other stores in the greater Pittsburgh area helping get them filed. I won't be too specific about this, but we are going to see some stores picking up in DC, which is really exciting. We've been doing some canvassing trips out there. Well, at Starbucks, workers united, we call it a clean play because in Starbucks what a clean play is, is that one day a week, all the closing crew is scheduled for an extra 2 hours at the end of their shift, deep clean the store and they call that a clean fly. So we like to take Starbucks language and throw it. So nice, your little canvassing blitzes, clean players. So for the DC clean player we've been, I've been out there twice. We visited a ton of stores. Definitely some interest there. Seems like the Union busting has been really tough, but we have. We have one store that's making this and you'll see it in the news soon. Well, yeah, I'm very proud. It was like 1 of it was one of my DC leads. They'd reached out to us on our website for an organizing request, and they've just been like super strong leaders and they've been incredible. And union busting really hasn't faced them at all. And they're going to be very proud of them, a little bit proud of myself, but they think they can have all the credit for that. They. You really like stay strong through the Union, busting, doing good stuff. It's scary to be the first store in your area to to actually make moves like my friend Jake Welch. He was the first store in Pittsburgh. His store was the 1st in Pittsburgh. And I know that's like really scary and. I'm glad that it's happening because it feels like once the one store goes, then the dominoes start to fall. So once we see that one store in DC filed for the Union election, we're going to see a lot more go down there. Are you able to talk at all about what the sort of organizing process has been like? And you know, if you can't talk about, like what it's been like as an organizer, just like what it was like at your store and what it's been like going to other stores totally. So at my store we started, we had heard a little bit about. Buffalo was doing and we started very casually talking about it at my store. Like, yeah, if any store needs a union, it is the store like we are. It is an absolute **** show here so we could definitely unionized. That would be awesome. Really had no idea how to get started though until a couple weeks later I get a panicked phone call from one of my baristas and she was like, Tori. This weird guy came into the store when I was on register today and he started asking me questions about unions and I know he was in a barista and I think he was a corporate. Hi. And we were like, ohh OK, so we googled the guy start to like like get some information we found like his LinkedIn or his coworkers LinkedIn account and we were like OK, they seem trustworthy. We're still not sure. So we emailed the guy from a burner e-mail account with a fake name. I think the fake name was like Darren or something. You know, like our names are like Tori and Kelly and Kayla. So we emailed them from a fake name and a burner account and eventually got in contact with Daisy Pickens who. Is now our national campaign director, but at the time she was working mainly in Pittsburgh, and from there she she taught us everything we know about organizing. We built an organizing committee consisting of me, Kelly, and Kayla because, like three of us were pretty good friends and we got card signed. We were able to get 100% of the people at my store to sign a card, and we filed unanimously. Yeah. So something that stores do right before they file is they write a deer Howard letter. And you might have seen these on Twitter if you haven't. You didn't find them on the Starbucks workers united, like national, like official Twitter. They always post those there. So we wrote our dear Howard. We turned in our cards to the NLRB office. And right after I finished turning in the cards to the NLRB, I walked right back to my store and I printed out a physical copy of our deer Howard, and I handed it to my store manager. I wanted you to hear it from me. And he was like, OK, from there, the Union busting started. We had captive audience meetings, which I believe to my understanding, the company has stopped doing because they were kind of declared illegal. Or maybe it was just that the information they were sharing was so misleading that it was declared illegal. But they handed us like a bunch of. Really, really misleading handouts, saying things like withdrawn petitions. If workers United thinks that you're going to lose your Union election, they will withdraw your petition and abandon you, which is crazy. Another thing was that, like if if the Union thinks that you're going to vote no, they're going to try to talk you out of voting. But Starbucks is the one that really cares about your voice, and we want to make sure everyone has a voice. We were like, literally, you can look objectively at this. You can see what Starbucks has done to try to prevent you from voting. Like they were pushing for in person stores or in person elections. In stores where most of the partners don't have cars, are busy with other things, have second jobs, and just couldn't feasibly vote in person. They challenge ballots left and right. They think. I think they challenge the total of nine ballots at my store, including Kelly's ballot. Even though Kelly was literally like working at the time of our ballot count, she was literally behind the counter and like you. And see her like in the zoom call when she when she came out to watch the ballot count on her break, they tried to challenge her ballot, claiming that she didn't work there. So there's just like hard evidence that the company is the one that doesn't want people to vote. So we got through the Union busting. It was it was tough. It was an uphill battle and. Eventually we won our election 8 to one on May 26th. So after that I became an intern with workers United for the summer Solidarity Internship program and that's when I started really getting into helping other stores file. So there was one out in out in the Pittsburgh suburbs like Greater Pittsburgh area. Peters Township was the first store like my first really solid lead that I ever took on. They filed, I helped them write their dear Howard. Letter. We were interviewed by the Washington Post a super cool. So they have their ballot count on August 18th. Very excited for them to have my stores in DC that I'm working with and a lot of other stores throughout Pittsburgh and going on a lot of clean play trips whether it's a big one to Washington DC or smaller local one but without in teams of two visit as many stores as we can possibly get to in one day and we wear our Starbucks workers United shirts so immediately people know why we're there. We basically just go up as if we're going to order a drink and be like hey so like. You heard about what we're doing and like downtown Pittsburgh, we're like the stores in Buffalo that unionized. Yeah. So, like, what do you guys think of that? And typically, our approach is to find the gayest looking person. Yeah, we gotta try to find, like, the young, like maybe like 20 something person with, like, dyed hair and a septum piercing. It's always the septum piercings. Let me tell you, they're always the leader, the ring leaders at their store. I don't know why, but it's been funny. So, yeah, try to find the gayest person and be like, hey, So what do you think about unions? And that's how we brought in new stores. Yeah, and we've been pretty successful with it. A lot of people either don't know what a union is or they really like their boss, and that seems to be the company's best union tactic. Union busting tactic is by having good bosses, because we always say that. The sometimes the best organizer is the boss, so sometimes the store is where they're like, we love our boss. Our boss takes such good care of us. I'm like, darn it. It's good for you guys, but you should do guys anyway. Yeah. Which, yeah, I would also. Yeah. Like, like I would say, like, I I really like my boss. And I am also still in Union because, yeah, totally explain to them too. Yeah, sometimes those stories where they say that they're hard to talk into it, but I always tell them what happened at my store. And what happened is that we had the same store manager for, I believe like five years. He was great. We loved him. He was cool. And when we unionized, it wasn't about him. It was about the working conditions at our store and that upper management. Have been giving us false promises and the things that needed to be changed at our store was kind of out of my store manager's hands. Like that was like above his pay grade so he couldn't do much about it and we made it clear like Joe was not about you. You're great. We love you. Got to do it to you though. Sorry buddy. Then we got even though we love Joe, we got a new store manager in mid June and she was a little bit less awesome. And you know, you never know when things at your store can change and even if you love the store manager you have now, they could they could leave tomorrow. So you got to like the only thing that's guaranteed your store manager isn't guaranteed to be at your store forever, but is guaranteed is a contract, and that's something really important. Sometimes it's hard to get people to see the long term of it, though. Otherwise we're normally pretty successful. The. Typically we try to get like phone numbers at every store, reach out to them within the next two days, and then we'll hold like an intake meeting. So whenever we have an intake meeting, we tell them, make a spreadsheet of every partner at your store, what shift they work, what their job is like, if they're ship supervisor or barista, and assign one person on your organizing committee to talk to that person. So every person at your store should have a organizing committee member assigned to them. From there, once they have a plan for who's going to talk to who, we get cards to them, and they can be either physical cards. My store did or digital cards. And then they start getting signatures, having little conversations like, hey, here's what you need is here's why we're doing this. If you agree sign this card. Once they have 70% of cards signed, then we take it to the NLRB and say Hello, we would like to do a union please. And then hopefully they get a ballot count date and the the company always pushes for in person elections. We always push back. We pretty much always win and we always want mail in ballots. Because we do like, really, genuinely want everybody to be able to vote. I whenever I was organizing at my store, I told everyone my best possible outcome. Best case scenario is that every single person here votes and votes yes. My second best possible outcome is that everyone here votes and some of you vote no. Like I I want everyone to vote. I want every single person here to vote. I don't want to be like. There is one store in my district that did end up winning their union election, but out of their, I think, 50 to 60 partners, only 12 people voted. And although they won like that is not the way we wanted to get there. We want everyone to have a say. So yeah, which I think is interesting on sort of two levels. One, it's like, you can see the exact moment at which corporations start caring about, like start pretending to care about democracy, which is like, oh wait, hold on, our workers are doing stuff, Oh no, we have to care about. Yeah. Suddenly we're like this incredible pro democratic force. We want everyone to have their say. It's like. That OK? Yeah. Funny, they actually just came out with. This happened after I got fired. This happened in the past two weeks, but they came out with, I believe it's an app where partners can share their feedback and share their experiences. So they they're trying to be so democratic. Like, look at them. It's really listening to us. Wow. Yeah, they also did this really fun thing where even though ours are being cut across the company, people are having their hours drastically cut because this poor little billion dollar corporation can't afford to schedule us anymore hours or properly staffed their stores. We were all scheduled an extra hour for one of our shifts during the week so that we could sit down and watch an hour long speech by Howard Joel and do a survey about how much we like our job, which was funny. That. Wow. That was like a kind of a new low for Starbucks. Like, wow, there's two people working on the floor right now, one person like making drinks and one person on register and they're getting slammed out there. But so glad you guys had the had the labor hours to be able to schedule me to sit here and watch this Howard Schultz speech. Great. Thanks. And like, I think like just the scheduling stuff and like everyone being consistently understaffed, it's like. This is something I was talking to the Planned Parenthood people about too, which is that like, like there too, it's like you get, you get these managers who are like, well, OK, we're going to cost cutting we're doing and you know, the, the, the, the price of cost cutting is we're going to just make all of our people work impossibly hard because we refused to put enough people in the store. And then. You know, we're we're we're not going to let you work long enough. Like we're not gonna let you work long enough to actually get benefits. And then yeah, it's like the worst combination. Yeah. But it's like, you know, OK, like like they have the money they they can schedule you. It's like, yeah. I mean like, you know, I think like in it ideally in a society that wasn't just like. Like, not even, not even like a perfect society. In a society that was not, like, entirely based on cruelty and violence, they wouldn't be able to do this at all. Everyone would just have a fixed schedule. Yeah, just like, exactly. But it's so it sucks so much because it's like I barely get to go to work even though I ask for full time. I'm scheduled 17 hours a week when I am there. I'm like so freaking stressed because there's just not enough people to make the number of drinks that need made. And all the customers are super ****** *** because they've been waiting 10 minutes for their drink. And like corporates just watching this happen, I'm sure they're they have to be getting bad reviews. Like there's no way people aren't calling corporate to complain about the wait times because there's only two of us working on a Sunday morning and like, they're really just shooting themselves in the foot, just all around, all around shooting themselves in the foot. But I think also like there's a part of this which is just like. Like they they are insulated from this. Like, you know, I don't know, it's like the managers don't have to ******* deal with this ****. And it's like, yeah, they're gonna they're just gonna throw all of the angry customers. Like people who are angry because of decisions of management through you. And it's like, this is this is ******* ********. Like, it's yeah, like, here's a coupon for a free drink. Go bully the baristas again. Yeah, fun. Yeah. It's like Michelle, my district manager, doesn't have to come in and deal with like 40 angry customers staring at her while she tries to frantically make drinks. Like, yeah, it's like. I don't know, like. There there is definitely a part of me that is like. I mean, OK, like, I I know on the one hand, this isn't true because there have been a lot of terrible corporate people there, but a lot of, like, I don't know, like terrible world leaders who actually had to work real jobs, but like, OK, like. Like some part of my soul still holds on to the belief that if like, these people actually had to work in these conditions, like consistently, that it wouldn't be like this because they they wouldn't be completely insulated from just the absolute horror infecting anyone. And it's yeah, you can see whenever my store manager is scheduled to, like, be on the floor, like scheduled for a coverage shift, which means that they are like required to be out on the floor making drinks and doing register. They were always very fully staffed whenever, whenever your manager is scheduled for coverage. There's always at least five. Other people on the floor, but whenever it's like me on a Sunday morning opening the store and there's like a Steelers game and a convention in town on it, and everyone, like, the city is packed and all the hotels around around my store are packed. Everyone's going to want coffee. There's like three of us. So which is just like, it's really frustrating to sort of. Like, on a political level, it's like every job that I've ever worked, it's like if it was literally just us running this and there was no management, everything would work 100 times better. Yeah. And it's like, yeah, that's just, yeah, yeah. It's like, OK, like, at a certain point you have to just be like. Right. Of these people like, what? Why? Why? Why are we doing this? Yeah. Our new new store manager since our recent new one quit because working conditions are so bad. Our new new one is an outside hire who doesn't know how to ring in drinks, doesn't know how to make drinks, doesn't know anything, and they just put them in my store as a store manager. And my roommate is also a barista, and she's been like having to coach him every day, which is a really awkward situation because she's not even a supervisor. She's like a a barista and she has to be like, hey, there's a difference between Nitro Cold brew. Regular cold brew. Like keep hitting the wrong button. Very frustrating. And they sent this guy in to run my store meanwhile. Like he'd probably knows less than everybody else that works there. Yeah, he definitely knows than you do. Like, yeah. See, it's so funny. Since I've been fired, I still like, every time there's an emergency at my store, my baristas call me. It's wild. Like I got a call at 5:00 in the morning the other day from one of my favorite baristas, and he was like, hey, Tori, I know you don't work here anymore, but Sal was supposed to open and he's not here yet, and I'm locked out of the store. What do I do? Or like another brista called me when I was in DC, and he was like, Tori, I just showed up for work and the store is closed. What do I do? I was like. I don't know guys like I I can do my best to help you, but I. There's not much I can physically do. I don't have keys anymore, sorry. So yeah and it's it's really like, you know, one of the things that I mean I guess you get this in both sort of like like when I when I was like. So I went to the University of Chicago and, you know, I was like, OK, so these are the people who infamously produced all of the terrible economics that make the world suck, right? And it's like, OK, well, you take ECON classes there and it's like, everything is about sort of like, I like you. You're doing all this because I like, OK, so, like, the the. You're doing all of this under the assumption that if you let corporations run into a free market, they will do everything optimally and they will produce the lowest prices and they will produce everything as efficiently as possible. It's funny because you see this in like, Marxist theory too, and then it's like you look at like any store place and it's like, no, no, they're firing their most competent workers and hiring people who are incompetent because like the because the thing that they actually like care the most about, even more than efficiency, even more than like making more money, is maintaining their power. And. It's like, yeah, it's something that like. Is really obvious when you're working, but somehow like. The people who write about this stuff have like deluded themselves into not being able to understand. Yeah, absolutely no idea. It's like, it feels like they almost don't want the experienced workers to stay. I've seen like so part of my internship project is keeping a database of the fire and partners in the anti Union firings, which is kind of ironic because I was like, well God had myself to this spreadsheet now. No, but I've seen, I seen people in the spreadsheet who worked the company for five years. There's one person on there who worked for the company for 17 years. But we don't get raises or anything for seniority or anything like that. There's actually a cap on how much you can make in each state from Starbucks because they don't they don't want you to work there forever because then the frustrations start to come through and then you then you unionize and it feels like they the high turnover feels really intentional. Sometimes. I I think it is like I I think that that's that's like a pretty common like Amazon does this too or it's like their whole their whole business strategy is intentionally on. Working at one so hard if they quit so they can get a new group of people and so people can organize and it's yeah. Yeah, it's really brutal and horrific and I hate these people. Yeah, same. It's like if I keep this person here for 10 years and make this look like it's a sustainable career, then then we have to make it a sustainable career and don't want to do that so that to force people out after like two or three. So very frustrating, which I think I guess also helps them with the sort of like, like the, the way that people look at like, I mean, minimum wage workers and also just service workers in general where they're like, Oh well, yeah, you know, we don't need to raise minimum wage as much as teenagers like these people don't need like good wages because this is like, you know, you're not supposed to be doing this. This is like. A transition thing. It's like, that's not how any of this works. Like, it's just not. It's just you're making excuses for corporations doing exploitation. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And it also seems like another thing they're doing is that we've seen a lot of really high manager turnover, too. And I think that also is really intentional because. They had to. Even though the store manager that ultimately fired me was new like she could, she didn't even have the heart to like, do that. She had to bring in. They had to bring in a support manager to like, actually say the words like, you're fired, here's your termination notice. And it feels like the reason they're making the manager turnover so high is so that the managers don't like form those relationships with the staff at their store because it doesn't feel as bad to fire them. Like, I don't think this ever would have happened to me if my original store manager who had been there for five years. And like new me personally was still at my store. I don't think this would have happened and I think that's why they're doing this big manager shuffle right now at least. I mean, I'm sure it's happening in other places. It's definitely happening a lot in Pittsburgh. I think there are very few stores in my district that have the same manager that they had three months ago. So it feels like they're intentionally shuffling them around so they don't form like personal relationships or any sort of emotional tie to the partners at their store and they don't feel guilty firing them. Yeah, it's it's community is really dangerous to them. Absolutely. Like I I think I talked about this like. Some number of episodes ago, but like, yeah, like, this is this is the thing that's really common with like. Yeah, I'm just, I'm just gonna straight up called Starbucks dictatorial organization because it is like, it is just a dictatorship. It's like dictatorships do this a lot where like, yeah, like communities are really dangerous to them. Communities with any kind of strong bonds with each other, really dangerous because people will fight for each other and you know, you can't. For example, like, I don't know, it's it's really, really hard to deport someone who has a strong community around them that will fight back. But if you can isolate those people, if you can, like. Like, physically isolate them if you can. Like, socially isolate them if you can make sure that they don't have the support networks, then you could. Then you can, you know, do whatever you want to them. And absolutely that seems yeah, it seems like it's a very deliberate. Like? Anything like, you know, this also like this just makes everyone's life worse, right? Like, yeah. Did you see what happened in Seattle with the, the new Starbucks Heritage District? I think I vaguely heard about it, but yeah, so in Seattle, the three, like originally, I believe it's the three original Starbucks stores, like first ever Starbucks stores to open the three in Seattle, they've made it so that you don't. The partners there don't have a specific store that they're assigned to. They're assigned to the district. And can be scheduled at any store at any time. So you're not working with the same people all the time and you're not forming those relationships. And if you were to somehow form a relationships to start organizing, you wouldn't be able to vote as a story. You'd have to vote as a district, which is just a lot more logistically difficult. And there was a lot of pushback that happened. But unfortunately those stores hadn't filed for an election yet and weren't really able to do much about it. But we're definitely scared of that. And then like in Pittsburgh and like at other Starbucks stores around the country that they're gonna make it so that you work for the district on the specific store. And that's kind of terrifying. So yeah, I mean, and I think that that's not a real thing where it's like, OK, they have, they have to weigh efficiency versus like their own power and they're going to choose their own power every time. And it's also like, there's just like an aspect of that, too, where it's like the just incredible dehumanization of it. Yeah, this is like, totally. It's like, really careless. Like, you don't know what someone's transportation situation looks like. You don't know, like, if they feel comfortable working with, like, different groups of people. Like, I don't know. I know that. Like a lot of people. So this is just reminding me of something that happened at a store in my area. So at Penn Center East, the PEN Center East, Starbucks there union store, they decided they were closing and center east for like a for an entire week and give them the option to work at three stores that were like an hour away from them. And of course like they were only given the option to work at other stores that were unionized. They weren't going to send the Union people into the non unionized stores, potentially influence them. So one of the partners, the one that was actually fired yesterday, it was like. I do not feel comfortable working at this store because I worked at the store at one time and I faced a lot of discrimination from the from the manager there, from the partners there, and I don't want to be put in that situation again. There was like a customer at this other store that said or that called me a racial slur and I don't want to be in this area. I don't. I don't want to go out to these stores. And just like exposes partners to like a lot more like situations that they're potentially not comfortable with there, with new managers that they don't have like a good rapport with yet. And it makes everything just more difficult, like just let everyone work at their own store. Like we all have friends. All the partners that like my store at least were very, very close. I know a lot of the stores are the same way and just makes work worse to not be working with your friends. I don't think anyone would work in Market Square if we weren't all really close with each other. From. Yeah, overall worse situation, yeah. And I don't know, hopefully they're not able to do that on a large scale because. Yeah, yeah, that would be it just feels like a disaster, especially since, I mean, there's a lot of Starbucks stores, like concentrated in cities. But I know like the pen Center East Starbucks was kind of out there in the suburbs. And another big issue that they faced was that, like, we don't have, some of us don't have cars and we just can't get to like the city Starbucks stores because our parents drive us to work to. Our parents drive us to work every day because we're in high school and we just don't have like a means of transportation. There's nowhere to park. There and just puts them, it just makes them face a lot of issues that they weren't really planning on dealing with, planning on dealing with and aren't really prepared to. And they probably chose the sort they currently work at because of like they didn't just pick it at random, they picked it so it was convenient to get to. They like vibes there and it was like a a good fit for them and forcing them to work at others other stores where there are a lot less comfortable. Not a good decision. Just feels shady. Very dehumanizing for sure. Yeah, and so I I guess I I do have one last thing to ask, which is if people want to support you and if people want to find you in places, where can they do that? Oh yeah, so my Twitter is Tori under score Tambellini, and that's my personal Twitter. We also have a Pittsburgh Starbucks workers united Twitter account. If you want to support me and Kim specifically. There is a link to our GO fund me there, and there's a link in my bio and somewhere in the Pittsburgh account as well. We also just released. A National Solidarity Fund through coworker, but I'm actually not quite clear on how people can donate to that yet. I can. It's very new, so I can send you an e-mail with a link to that. Cool. Yeah, we'll put all the links in the show notes. Awesome. Thank you so much. Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for joining us is. Yeah. It was really good. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing my story. I, I feel like there's a lot of fired partners, fired partners across the country. And, like, we all kind of need to stand together. And I like people hear my story and hear about how, like, the Union has supported us. And there's been a lot of community support. And, you know, as soon as I was fired, I was immediately hired by workers United. You know, they're really willing to take care of us. And if I had like anything to. Kind of like. And like any advice to give to partners who are trying to organize, like the Union has your back, don't worry too much about losing your job. Probably won't happen. If it does, the Union has your back, and all the other firefighters have your back as well. Hell yeah, yeah. And on that note, yeah, fight your bosses together. You could beat them. Yeah, go out into the world and make havoc for people who do bad stuff, cause problems on purpose. Football is back, and bet MGM is inviting new customers to join the huddle and enjoy the action like never before. Sign up today using bonus code champion and your first wager is risk free up to $1000. You'll also have instant access to a variety of parlay selection features, player props, and boosted odd specials. Just download the bet MGM app today or go to betmgm.com and enter bonus code champion. And place your first wager risk free up to $1000. The bet MGM app is the perfect way to experience the excitement of wagering on live sports now in more markets than ever. Visitbetmgm.com for terms and conditions must be 21 years of age or older to wager Virginia only new customer offer. All promotions are subject to qualification and eligibility requirements. 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So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on Tiktok. You maybe even heard the rumors from your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade we hear at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions. Sometimes their answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research with you for the first time ever in a book format you can pre-order stuff they don't want you to know. Now it's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read books.com or wherever you find your favorite books. Welcome to it could happen. Here, a podcast that I've cooed and I. Yeah, well, welcome. Welcome to the inaugural podcast, where it's just Christopher and Andrew. I'm your host, Christopher Wong and I got, I got Andrew with with me today to cast the pod. OK, yes, I have. Thank you for that. I had to sacrifice you for that one because I was not going to do it myself. Welcome to the first in a two-part exploration of the new African revolutionary known as Quasi Balagoon. He is one of the most recognizable black anarchic radicals of the whole black anarchic radical tradition, recognized for his constant struggle, for his political journey, and for his insights in the cause of, you know, black freedom in the US. And so I think his his are you learned journey is one I believe that more people should explore and I hope that more people would come away with this episode and the following episode, the the second part. With a recognition of. What an inspiring person he is on what? We can can learn from his life. Hell yeah, I'm excited. He he's super cool. Yeah, yeah, for many reasons. As I think we will start at the very beginning, as most humans do. I don't think we know of anybody who just kind of plopped onto the Earth fully formed. His quasi Balagoon was not his original name was his true son name. He was born Donald Williams in the majority black community of Lakeland in Prince Georges County, Maryland on December 22nd, 1946. So I'm sure he got like his Christmas presents and his birthday presents like combined. You're allowed to laugh. Just thinking my one of my. Oh, I think it's. My my uncle or something has his birthday. Is the 20th, is yeah December 23rd. Yeah, one of my uncles birthday is the 26, I think, and my girlfriend's birthday is the 20th. So it's like, yeah, that's that's some that is some rip stuff there. Yeah. I mean, I try not to like add to that. So I try and get two separate gifts, but, you know, it's a it's a challenge, yeah. And then on top of that, like you can't really do much for your birthday because everybody's always been like last minute stuff. Yep, Yep. Thankfully, I was born in the best month. So anyway, well, the experiences prepared the young Donald Williams to become an activist who would militantly resist white supremacy and unjust authority. He was particularly inspired by his own parents struggle during the Cambridge protest of 1963. You see, his dad worked in US printing office and. His mom had worked at Fort Meade in Maryland. And so they. He and his sister were very much cared for. He and his two sisters rather were very much cared for. He, I think he was the youngest of the family and loved and they really. Should. That sort of drive to provide and and care for for for their children. Umm. In those work environments they would have seen. He observed, and he watched it. He observed his parents observing the effort that they put in and the fact that they. Surpassed these skill and experience of a lot of the white folks who came into their type of work. But then there was said white folks were just going ahead and and climb the ladder and you know, get these promotions and get these raises while they themselves had to like slowly and painfully drag themselves forward and fight to get ahead. Also that their children could have their food and clothes and everything that they needed. So the Cambridge riots of 1963 were led by. A young woman by the name of Gloria Richardson, who was a key figure in the civil rights movement. They're struggle. How do you merge as part of, you know, civil rights movements and the local chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that was fighting against segregation? In the area organizing citizens and so on and so forth. But after they had organized against the a movie theater there was expanding its discriminatory practices. The movement started to push back and they marched and their demands were unmet and the police were called and Richardson and others were arrested for disorderly conduct. And there was a whole pattern of protests and arrests and boycotts and harassment. They just went on and on and on. After some youths, both 15 years old, were charged with disorderly conduct for being arrested and were arrested for pre and peacefully outside of a segregated facility, even more marches were organized and. Eventually the protests escalated and some white owned businesses. We sat on fire, then gunfire was being exchanged. Routine whites and African Americans. And of course, martial law is declared and National Guard was deployed. And. Eventually, a treaty had to be negotiated between Gloria Richardson and the white power structure. The Cambridge Movement is recognized by the Nation of Islam as one of the and by Malcolm X as one of the examples of a developing black revolution. And so that militancy in that movement is what inspired and impressed the young Donald Williams who would later become quasi baliku. Another formative point in his in his life was when he had joined the US Army after graduating high school and was stationed in Germany after receiving some basic Trina. Of course, like most black people in the military, he experienced a lot of racism and physical attacks from white officers. And eventually, he and others formed a association known as the legislators. Basically based on like. Messing up resists and making sure that they couldn't like. Interfere with them any longer. That pack Donald? Yeah. He prided himself in his ability to exact revenge on racist war switches. While in Europe, he was in London at one point and he connected with Africans and African descendants. And. He saw his his experience and one that is basically like. A natural tonic, like it's something like clicked in his head and he realized. The interconnections between African descendants across the globe. As he grounded himself more in in black consciousness and culture, he stopped processing his hair Walters natural hair style and became basically more committed to black liberation than he had been before. After being honorably, honorably discharged in 1967 after three years of seven, primarily in Germany. You're tuned home to Lakeland. And then he moved to New York City, where sister Diane had lived. And in New York, he got involved in wrench strikes and became parts of a tenant organizers and movement for the Community Council of Housing. When the principal leaders of this of this movement, was a Harlem wrench strike organizer called Jesse Green, and he used the rhetoric of like militant black nationalism to recruit lieutenants for his activist campaigns. Is is militancy. When he, you know, pull it back and you connect it with the militancy that Donald was already feeling drawn to is what really pushed him to get into that cause. And so I think it makes me think as I'm, you know, going through his journey about like. I mean, his commitment to the struggle began from very early on, from seeing his parents and the things they had to do with, from seeing the Cambridge riots, from CNN, his experience in the army from connecting with. With black folks in London front with his tenant organizer. It makes me think of the. Political journeys of people today and. How? All these little points and larger points in a persons life kind of combined to create the sort of tapestry of a person that they are on, a tapestry of political beliefs that they hold. I think a lot more people have been drawn to like. Militant radical politics left radical politics then, and we give them credit for they want people have that basis then. We necessarily. Once except. I think the issue is we just don't have the. Outreach and please. Do you know help them? Get across the finish line and get to a place where they are actively, you know, working for these courses. Yeah, it seems like there's a lot of, I mean, partially burned out and partially just sort of. I don't know. You. You get these, you get periods where sort of just like specific movements ends and a bunch of people just kind of fall out and it's like, it's not that they haven't. Done this stuff, it's that they just sort of. I don't know. The movement to the thing they were in is over and now they're sort of just off doing something else and. Yeah, and that reminds me of, well, Ryan have a script that I was working on the other day about demands and one of the arguments people had made against making demands. You know, as a movement is a once demands are met, it's sort of. Of concessions even made. It's sops the momentum out of a movement at a. Subs its potential because if you, you know, accept concessions, if you accept that you know whatever you receive and you know you go back in loyalty, you don't. Reach the climax of what you could have achieved as a movement compared to if you had just kept going. Of course I have. Critiques of the anti demand position, but. It's something that they frequently consider when I look at a lot of these social movements that have based on specific. Projects based on specific. Focuses on what happens when these movements get, you know, coopted. When these movements get compromised. And. The way that. The potential by the sheer manpower of some of these movements. Compared to like, what they've actually achieved, there's a massive discrepancy, you know? Yeah, and this I was thinking about. I did. It was suddenly in a ******* episode I did a long time ago about. Take the name of the choose is ampio. She's like, there's this huge mobilization in Japan in. The the 60s, to stop this treaty with the US military treaty, they're doing all they had a whole bunch of stuff in it. Like I think there was a clause that let the US like invade Japan if there was like a civil disturbance or something, stuff like that. And then, you know, they had this huge movement like people, people stormed the parliament like multiple times, like. You know, I I think. I think. I think afterwards the the historians determined that like 1/3 of the total population of Japan had been involved in this movement. And then they lost because the whole movement had been about stopping this treaty and the Treaty gets signed. They can't do anything about it and then it just sort of. Like fizzles, it kind of becomes the Japanese new left, but like. You know you have this like incredible high watermark of like. Like you, you, you have you, you have so many people and the and even the Japanese new left like dissipate. Yeah. Yeah. And they they it implodes like, yeah. You go from like like Nixon like was it wasn't Nixon tried to visit. I think that there's been a couple of US presidents tried to, he tried to visit Japan and couldn't leave the airport because the job was too large outside of it. And he's like it went from that to. You know everything sort of once, once, once, once. They're sort of like immediate rallying like here is our demand, here is our goal like. Like disappears. Everything just sort of splinters into these, like weird fragment groups and you get like a bunch of Japanese Marxists just like shooting each other over nothing in the mountains and the whole thing sort of just implodes. And yeah, I mean even if you look at like like say Fridays for futures, another example like extension rebellion or not. George Floyd protests. And you consider you just sit and you think about the chant numbers involved in those movements. The potential of that large mobilization, mobilization effort. Compared to what comes out of them. You know, like what? Other than a few minor policy changes, what has? You know, see Extinction, rebellion or arthritis for future achieved. When you know these massive corporations as to actively fight and every step of the way. And these movements? I'm not yet willing to do what it takes to, you know, accomplish what needs to be accomplished. I'm not even talking about violence. I'm not talking about violence. I am not talking about violence. What I'm talking about is. The efforts involved. The work that goes into social revolution, that goes beyond the sort of flashy, easily recognizable March on the street kind of activities, because there's a lot of stuff that goes behind the scenes. A lot of institutions need to be built from the bottom up. A lot of institutions need to be transformed from the inside out. And you know, with all that basis in place, we're just spinning on top and mud. But back to Weems. Like many in his generation, he was raised to join an uncompromising movement for black freedom and human rights. He joined Jesse Grady and protesting the conditions in New York housing, particularly the infestation of rats in public housing. In fact, and this is probably one of my favorite stories of his entire you know, like. Lifetime. As an activist, as an organizer. In 1967. Jesse Green. Donald Weems, his sister Diane, and two other tenant activists were arrested for disorderly conduct in Washington DC when they, unannounced and uninvited, attended a session of Congress and brought a cage of rats to the assembly to highlight the urban housing condition. Hell yeah. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall or something to to have witnessed that. Yeah. It's like, I mean if it's it's it's such an impressive thing even just on a sort of like just like a logistical level of where did they get this cage of rats from? Like, I mean clearly they got the rats from the house in the house and was so bad they had rats running around everywhere imagining like the oh we're, we're, we're, we're we're not gonna use kill trash. We're gonna use like capture traps specifically so we could drop these rats on Congress like this rules. Perfect. It's perfect. Is that sort of energy that, you know, helped him to create that group to legislators while he was in the army, you know? But anyway, because they, you know, dropped some rats in the Congress and they got arrested. The CCH. Lost its for the community can't learn how was in, lost its funding and Jesse Green lost his ability to peers, organisers and just said lying alone just kind of stood out to me. That moment that is. Because. These movements, you know, back in the day they were serious about getting change done and they recognized that they get changed done. You need to have people who are full time involved and getting that change done. It can be a part time thing. And so, you know, these movements had these groups, they had like staff that, you know, were paid to like put in the work who could focus all their efforts and energy in it. And of course, that took fundraising, that took donations, that took support from their local communities to get that sort of. Support that they needed to get things done. I think right now what we have is a lot of groups that. Often fizzle out or burnout before they could even get started because. They don't have the resources. To support the kind of effort that they will need to get things done when everybody is working 123 jobs. Everybody's boon told every stressed out. And this was my organizing experience at least. It's very hard to get stuff done when everybody's tired all the time. Yeah, it's very hard to get things off the ground when everybody's busy all the time. I think there's another kind of interesting thing here too, which is like it's like, well, OK, so like now we do have organizations where you can get paid to be full time staff, but it's it's. It's NGF, yeah, it's NGO stuff and and the thing I think is it's, it's. It it became this question of sort of, I mean a partially it's about legal structures of how you could have like. Part, part of I think is, yeah, it's about the sort of legal requirements about who can actually have and what kinds of organizations and what you have to do like. Have an organization that has a bank account, for example. And then also I think there's this, there's just kind of traffic that people fill into where. OK, so you need funding, right? And you know the places you can get funding from. Usually tend to be either you're spending your entire time doing donation drives, or you're doing these this grant stuff and it's like, well OK, the problem with like both of these basically have giant strings attached to them. And so you like it sort of falls away from the like, hey, we are, you know, sort of like paid revolutionary organizations and just degrades and some more NGO stuff. Exactly, exactly. And any incentive structure completely changes. And of course they also power dynamics involved in, you know, paid versus unpaid organizers and that sort of thing, but. I mean, if if if the, you know, these these liberal organizations are getting all this funding, getting all these support, they're able to sustain themselves and and keep pushing their cords and all radical movements and militant movements are floundering. Again, where we going with this? You know? Yeah. But afterwards, with the loss of funding, Weems left C and then he joined the Central Harlem Committee for self-defense in Solidarity with the student protests in Columbia University. That committee would bring food and water to the students who occupy the buildings in the Columbia campus. That's another important thing to point out. When I was talking about the less flashy work that goes into it, because people are talking about general strike, because they have this vision of this general strike that everybody is, you know, standing out in the streets and this big crowd out in the streets, me over a fuse to work on its roof. And it's wonderful. But a general strike? Could only be pulled off if there's a strike fund in place, if there's a strike bank in place where resources are available for people to draw from. Doesn't strike. Contrary to some perspective, so I guess some misled approaches is not when you tell your boss, hey, let me get a day off so I could go on strike real quick. A strike? Is that your refusal to work? It is unpaid. It is a risky endeavor. You don't just walk out without. Organized support from your fellow coup because the very least. And part of what makes the strike successful, part of what makes a protester a sit in or any kind of movement successful, is having. In network. Of keywork instituted. So you see that the central hall and community for self-defense in solidarity with another movement. Brought food and water, so the students were occupying the buildings. And because they brought food and water, those students are able to continue occupy, occupying those buildings and continue struggling. For the courses they were struggling for. I don't think there are enough people. And not to discount people that are. If it doesn't fall in your garden, you don't have to watch it. I think there needs to be more people who are. Going into that care work which is marginalized because it's associated with women and non men really, but it's. It's something that we need to account for something. It needs to be one of the principal. Arms of our strategy, yeah, like when I was doing tenant organizing is like I did. So it's like, what did I do? The tenant or judge was like, well, OK, so I went around and put signs up and move chairs around. I took care of people's kids. Like that was like, really most of it. There's just a lot of like. I don't know. I mean stuff like childcare like that, that kind of stuff. Like, is a vital part of any of you. If is is a vital part of any political movement that's actually going to succeed, that you're trying to run and nobody wants to talk about or do it because it's not the like exciting. Like we're throwing a brick at a cop or whatever stuff. Yeah, exactly. I said on a more personal note, and this is the part where he changes his name. Not only teams with associated himself with the Yoruba temple in Harlem, just organized by Nana or Sir Jiman Adefemi, the Detroit born Adefemi was initiated in Cuba in the Lukumi right to the Ruby Ridge. And he saw the West African religious and cultural heritage as a means of cultural self-determination and people who had African insurance. United States. Recently, there was a Netflix documentary about the. We use that Yoruba traditions have been kept alive across the quote UN quote New World, and so you will see. In Cuba and in Brazil and in trying to be good and in the US, Yoruba. Practices and cultural components of just. And Justine? And so when I did for me established the Rubber temple in New York, sorry, in Detroit. Was the Detroit New York? In Detroit. Let's see the tree. He saw it as an institution to a nationalistic institution. Meant to advance the the cause of the civil rights movement of liberation black liberation movement. He sought to africanisms everything, you know, names and hats and clues and clubs and churches and so a lot of people in in Weems generation. And so you see people like like Malcolm X adopting a new Monica. They rejected, you know, these European names and adopted African or Arabic names. So when we discussed with the Europa Temple, he would no longer be Donald Weems. He took an arid denim, quasi meaning male, born on a Sunday and the Yoruba name Balogun, meaning warlord. And so. That again ties into his whole passion for militancy, because he is. Basically. A warlord ***** ***** Sunday. I don't know what you would as a kind of a metal, yeah. It's like down, ready to fight. Fresh out the room, all kind of thing, but it's pretty sick. Exactly. But, you know, along with fine and his cultural beer and the Yoruba temple, he got his black power politics of in revolutionary black nationalism from the black Power movement. The 1960s Black Paul movement. They realize that, you know. Black Liberation is not possible without the overthrow of the US constitutional order and capitalist economic system. And they also recognized, and a significant number of black militants in 1960s black Power movement recognized that the classical Marxism Leninism was not a framework that they identified with. It is something that all of them did adopt and adapt, but it's not something that they just. Consumed wholesale. And I think that's honestly some nuance that is often obscured when people take this sort of. Blindly nostalgic approach to to past, you know, movements. Because even even back then, even in the early stages of black power movement, there was, you know, political diversity in terms of the aims and intentions and beliefs, different perspectives even within the same political philosophy, different approaches. The the West Coast Black Panthers and the East Coast Black Panthers took different approaches. the US schools Black Panthers were more class focused, whereas the East Coast map Panthers were more panafrican and their approach and that honestly caused a lot of tension between the two of them. Many of them were inspired, you know, across the board by the influence of Marxism, the Chinese and Cuban revolutions, by other National Liberation movements in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Because this was a time, of course, where a lot of movements, a lot of countries with creating independence from Britain and France and all the other colonizers. This is also a time where more and more people will be, will, you know, building their criticisms of the racism present in the old left. And so they wanted a atheoretical vehicle that that gave them the self determination, the ideological self-determination that they needed. Like they were with the whole civil rights move when they were fighting within, but they wanted more than what the civil rights movement was offering. They wanted more than just civil rights, which we within a settler colonial state. And they would not going to sit back and just be satisfied with nonviolence as a way of life. All of them solicit rights, movement, as well as as something integrationist or something pro assimilationist, whereas they want to something more insurgent, more revolutionary. And so that, you know, they brought together all these different things. Black nationalism and substitute Anisha and Marxian critiques of capitalism and a direct action approach that was, you know, in the civil rights went from the beginning. And so. By lagoon. Became a revolutionary. He began to read literature like the autobiography of Malcolm X and Robert F Williams spoke ******* with guns and. He also learned from the leaders that surrounded him. I believe the SNCC and the leaders of of of you know the Black Panthers. When he recognized. As someone long inspired by militancy. Is it black liberation only come about through protracted guerrilla warfare? I don't think I have to go over like the origins of Black Panthers in detail, but just to summarize, the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, CA in response to the abuses of the police. Upon, you know, residents of Auckland. And so after Huey Newton and the founders of Black Panther Party and one of his comrades got in a shootout with the Oakland Police Department and survived. I wanted the officers actually got fatally wounded. Newton basically became a national hero. It's the only urban black youth. Who you know like? Couldn't even conceive that. This guy fought the state and won. He had like a small win, but he won and so that's when you see like. The whole Free Huey movement kick off because you know he was charged with freeze murder. Freeze named cop. He shot and. Free Huey was the rallying cry, black Paul and left circles. Eventually BP came to New York in summer of 1968. And I mean, people had tried to kick off Black Panther Party to New York beforehand in 1966, but it didn't work out. So this new Black Panther Party in New York? Kicked off and. Began to build support in the hundreds. The same month that Doctor King was assassinated, he had a lot of members of the BP. Coming together to. Sort of figure out a direction because although they may have been critical of the civil rights movement, the loss Doctor King was in major blue. To everyone, because even if they disagreed with him, he was still an inspiration. So Bobby Seale and Kathleen Cleaver came to New York and they appointed 18 year old, 18 year old, yeah, SNCC member Jordan Ford as actor and captain of defense of the BP. And another thing a lot of people forget, like these people young, like really young. Fred Hamilton died when he was 21. Assas needs it, of course. And so it's like. And inspiration, honestly. And also like a a rallying cry for all young people who feel disempowered and disenchanted, disheartened by. All the different aspects of collapse that are surrounding us, you know, like we can stand up and and and fight back. But anyway, so John Ford became the acting captain defence of the BP of the East Coast and he was soon joined by David Brothers and they found the DPP in Brooklyn in 1968. National leadership of the DPP also send Ron Pennywell to give directions to New York chapter. And so Pennywell was there and he was involved and he became a captain in the ranks and. He was very grassroots in his approach. The Harlem branch of the New York chapter will be founded by Lumumba Shakur, who was the son of Malcolm X Associates Saladin Shakur. And that seemed Saladin Shakur was he served as a mentor and a surrogate father for many of the members of the New York of New York's Black Panther Party. And, you know, all these different people and all these different groups and stuff, we're mixing and molding and melding and getting together. And eventually the New York chapter, the BP would grow to become among the largest, if not the largest in the entire organization, but approximately 500 members. So when Balagoon found out that BP was organized in New York, he wins and he joined. He felt, you know, like empowered by the Black Panther parties 10 point program. And for those who don't know, the 10 point program. Was, you know, pretty straightforward. One you want freedom. 21 full employment three, you want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black community. Four, we want decent housing. Five, we want education. That exposes the true nature of this decline in American Society, teaches us a true history and our rule in present day society. 6 You want black men to be exempt from military service. Seven, we want an immediate end to police brutality and mood of black people. Eat. You want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county, and city. Prisons in jails 9 you want all black people to be brought to child to be tried in a court by a jury of their peers of from black communities. Because at the time I mean still exists today and even affected the rain to Evan. You being tried for these things and some of the single black face in the entire jury, it's entirely white. Middle class, upper class crew members. And lastly, 10 we want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And so probably gun was drawn to this. He's he identified with the organizations Maoist. Axiom that political power comes from the barrel of the gun. And was inspired by, you know, the. We is that the Chinese revolution inspired the Black Panther Party. However, the structure from the beginning, the structure of the Black Panther Party Deadpool was some challenges for balagoon and it really only got worse from there. To the Black Panther Party was structured with the National Central Committee, the NCC as the highest decision making body in the entire organization, across the entire country. Even though the New York chapter was the largest in in the entire. Party. The ANC was concentrated in Auckland, which is where, you know, the party was founded. And so most of the body was associated with people who knew Huey Newton. There was a whole chain of command and. Like I said, that whole style and structure of governance, Speaking of fact and balagoon's attraction to anti authoritarian politics. And of course he was not alone in being critical of the structure of the party. Don Cox, Ashanti Alliston, Lorenzo Combo, Arvid and many others were also developed similar critiques, drawing them from a similar direction. Because Paul had this experience organized and beforehand and. He recognized. The good that you know the party was doing, but he also had taken issue with how the party was structured. So when you got involved, you know, he was ready to participate and work with the press, black communities and on these basic issues, for example in September 1968. Black Panther Party members participated in a community takeover of Lincoln Hospital, which at the time was dilapidated and Disinvested. And was not able to soothe the predominantly black and Latino residents of South Bronx. I said the BPP in New York would work with the Puerto Rican Young Lords and the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa to take over and reform the detox program at Lincoln Hospital. And that boldness again so inspirational because how many of us are are willing today to just like so boldly just walk in and take over these broken institutions. To put them in the hands of the community, to make them whole, powerful institutions for the people. I think we need more of that boldness. So the New York Panthers were very much involved in tenant organizing as well, which is right up balloons Alley. Umm. Well, I guess we could call them ratcatcher. And. They were also involved in fights for community control over the school system and the police. Eventually. While the goon and another Panther, Richard Harris, would be arrested in February 1969 on bank robbery charges in Newark, NJ. When he first second 1969, less than one year after the founding of the New York chapter, the BPP 21 Panther leaders and organizers, including Balogun and Harris, were indicted, 12 arrest and conspiracy charges and a 30 count indictment. And of course, this case became known as New York Panther 21. The charges included conspiracy to bomb the New York Botanical Gardens and police stations and to assassinate police officers. And after their arrest, mostly defendants were released on $100,000 bail, but Balagoon was held without bail. So they would be in charge for this like. Clean, but they were going to ambush New York Police. Based on the testimony of 119 year Old Panther member Joanne Bird. Who had been beaten by the police in order to, you know, make a statement that was favorable to the prosecution? Like beaten. As in, her mom pulled up to the police station to hear her daughter screaming. Visibly beaten with a black eye, swollen lip, bruises on her face, everything. And so probably goonan while the other person who was being charged with this. Attempt to ambush the police was a guy named Odinga. And he had escaped and went on the ground. But. Arguing the dot. Putting gun it up when fleeing the United States, settling down in Algeria, and all that jazz but balagoon. Not only was he charged with what the others were charged with, but he was separated from the others and. Fees charges in New Jersey while the others were in New York. I said he was splitting but behind bars for two years. Yeah, the defendants were acquitted. And. As a result. Of, you know, all this legal battle and maneuvering. Since a lot of the key organizers and leaders, as in New York Black Panther Party, were incarcerated. The organization was pretty badly crippled. And as with you know activities and general momentum. I think that's. That's that's something that they planned the party had to struggle with very often, having its its key members, its leaders, and and and. And members incarcerated and charged and. Fees and trial and so as a result. Upon the party was almost, for almost his entire existence was basically fighting charges and trying to get its members out of jail and this, that and the other. And so a lot of its efforts ended up drilling towards that. So I think seeing now the New York Panther Party was crippled, I think it highlights the importance of of distribution and decentralization when it comes to organizing. It highlights the importance of as the future establishments of the Americas see moving like my currency. My porzio basically a mutual relationship. Between fungi and plant roots. So they move nutrients in plants they're connected to and they basically create this kind of fungal network. That that spreads across an ecosystem, and it prevents researchers from basically able to see where they begin, where they end. You know, they grow slowly. Sometimes they pop up above ground as like mushrooms and stuff, but primarily they exist underground. And So what the our future establishments are talking about is basically creating a movement that is primarily underground, that spreads and is interconnected. Cannot be pinned on. With such a clear pindown or easily infiltrated like how the party was able to with such a clear, you know. Structure and and chain of command. So basically move like mccort my Cortez, work from the ground or underground and work for the roots, work from the roots. Eventually, after most of his comrades were acquitted, Balagoon pleaded guilty to the charges that he and somebody else did attempt to shoot the police officers. Then he became the only one of 21 original defendants who was actually convicted. So while that was going on, you know, while the New York Panther turnaround case was being played out. By lagoons, politics or something to shift. Revolutionary nationalism and Democratic and the democratic centralism of the party were. Beginning to. Reviewed, healthy critique, I'd say. And Balagoon starting to shift more towards anti authoritarian politics. At the same time about humans going through that political journey. More generally speaking, the New York Black Panther Party was getting to feel disenchanted with how the national leadership was handling things like the tension had already existed because of the differences in focus, you know, with the New York Panthers, female, Pan African, and the. Oakland Panthers being more class focused. But. One of the after one of the leaders. Of the Panther party. Drawn and move Pratt had been pooched from leadership. For his quote UN quote counter revolutionary behavior. Umm. Tension sorry to build, because Pratt was seen as a hero to a lot of the members of the New York party because he had been very much parliamentary. He had been very much power militarily organized, and he had taken it up upon himself, the tree in front of members in paramilitary tactics. Until after he was, you know, pushing the leadership. And a few other leaders were also purged. The New York Panthers began to feel. Disconnected from the from the national. Because the whole reason they were attracted to the Panther Party is because of this this image of armed Panthers for trolling against the police of, you know, underground guerrilla warfare. So, you know, the New York contact movement was very much associated with that. But. Once they saw the sort of poojas that were taken place, some of which they they looked up to. When they saw that. The national leadership sent these other guys, Robert B and Thomas Jolley, to New York to assume leadership of the chapter. To to basically import leaders from outside movement rather than sort of bring up new ones you know from within the local community. It basically. Worked to destabilize what the New York Panthers we're working for. Because when these guys ruled up, they had a very autocratic, hierarchical style of leadership, unlike, you know, the pennywell guy who was very much grassroots in his approach. And. I mean even Assata Shakur had like. Basically critiqued the quality of the West Coast leaders sent to New York when she spoke about how Robert B and and Charlie, who were from the West Coast, had a very aggressive and. She said, belligerent. We have talking and dealing with people. And so that really is what builds up towards from simple initial differences of opinions and misunderstanding leading towards the disillusion. Of the connection between the national leadership and the New York chapter. The New York chapter wanted to. Focus on things of a more national orientation. They wanted to. Work on the tenant issues that they had started with. In the first place. But the nationally appointed leadership? Was not interested in tenant issues and did not want to place so much. Focus on. On on, you know, nationalist oriented issues, panafrican issues. And so when you know these groups were reassigned from their tenant organizing to the CEO of the people programs that we're working in the West Coast that was also resented by the New York Panthers. Because New York Panthers they were you know working on certain things. They had like tenant organizing behind their belt and they had like these different mutually projects and stuff going on these. You know, sort of support and solidarity, things going on. And to be told from the outside, hey, stop doing this tenant organizing stuff, do these things as we can, where we are coming from. It didn't play out well. Yeah. I mean, I think the last time an org told me to do that, I left. Like literally had this happen to me. But it's just like, no. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It it it doesn't work out. Not to mention, and I mean this was a criticism I mentioned earlier about how a lot of the focus ended up being toward getting people out of jail and, you know, dealing with legal defense. One thing about Lagoon criticized was the fact that the national leadership selectively determined who would be released from Bill. Like it didn't matter, you know, what the rank and file or fellow prisoners of war, or who had the lowest bill or whatever. What about to do is what the leadership, who the leadership wanted to be chosen to be allowed? And of course it shows we notice that parts of what was built in these tensions and building these divisions. Quintal crew and you know, the FBI's working at every step of the way to ferment divisions and to fire up divisions within the national leadership, within the New York chapter, even within the New York plant, the 21 defendants. So you can't, you can't resell aspect of it like, yes, we couldn't. We can criticize these organizations and these movements for their missteps. We also have to keep in mind the the context that they were in detention they were facing and the fact that they were being openly assaulted and clandestinely assaulted by the US government. On all, you know angles at all corners. I think sometimes it's like they both kind of fit together in that. Like if if you look at what the US intelligence. Services were good at, right. The, the, the very, the very specific thing they'd become incredibly good at because they've been doing it for, you know, like basically since the end of World War Two is that they were really, really good at hammering down these, like these sort of like centralized party apparatuses. Like that's how they basically turned CPUSA from like a genuinely really powerful political movement in the 30s to like by the 50s, it's entirely run by like the FBI. And so yeah, it's like, this is kind of a mismatch here because it's like. On the one hand, you're suffering incredibly heavy repression, but then also it's like the the political form that you're taking is a form that the US state has gotten really, really good at fighting. So the two issues are sort of like compound each other exactly exactly. And so of course, like, it's not like the rank and file necessarily just going to roll over and that these things happen, right. So they were trying their best to like submit these criticisms to the national leadership. Through the like Black Panther newspaper. But. Eventually. The new account, 21 defendants took a public position. They were seen as critical. Of the national leadership. When they sent an open letter to the Weather Underground, which they published on the 19th of January 1971. Those who don't know the weather on the ground is basically a bunch of white radicals who basically were trying to fight the US government by doing a bunch of bombings and fighting solidarity with National Liberation movements like in Vietnam. Yeah, this stuff ranges from like, pretty funny. Like they they kept blowing up the the statue for the Haymarket cops to like, what are you guys doing? It was a very weird organization. Yeah, yeah, quite, quite, quite the characters. And to the the open letter applauded the insurgent actions because keep in mind New York party was very much intact, militant sort of stuff. So the open letter applauded the insurgent actions of the Weather Underground and acknowledge them as part of the vanguard of the revolutionary movements United States. They never mentioned the national leadership of the BPP, but they were also critiqued like kind of like a. A subtle sort of. Unspoken kind of thing. Shady. They kind of threw shade. Basically. They were like critical of self-proclaimed vanguard parties that abandoned the actions of the radical and the ground struggle and the political prisoners. I mean, that's as open as you could be without actually saying. But yeah, so of course, and balagoon was, you know, he agreed with his criticism. And. So you because the national leadership had you know, wasn't you know, actually attacking the occupational forces of the settler clinical state anymore? And because, you know, a lot of the money being collected was going towards Bill and a lot of people also criticizing the fact that some of the leaders were beginning to. Live pretty. Comfortably by a lot of the rank and file was because we were sitting all Ng. Once the letter went out, you turned basically expelled upon the 21. I'm basically declared the Panther 21, enemies of the People Jesus. Yeah. A lot of them and not just found the 21. But also the New York BPP leaders in general, just all of them branded enemies of the people. Some of the defendants like Richard Garuba Moore and Setau Tabor. And a few others also ended up going to Algeria. He's in the month members of the New York Black Panther Party with all the press conference and basically called for the purge of Huey Newton and the Panther Party chief of Staff David Hilliard and the formation of a new National Central Committee. And basically, like I said, officially split from the National organization. What I find interesting about that approach to it is they basically fought fire with fire for one. So you're like, oh, you want to call us and meet the people we were going to call you, enemies of the people. And then on top of that. You also have to deal with the fact that their solution to the problem of the National Central Committee. Being too big for their britches and interfering with their grassroots politics was like, you know, we need a new National Central Committee. You know what? This reminds me of a lot. It reminds me of a lot of the stuff that happens in the sort of early culture revolution where it's like you have a bunch of people, well be OK. The big difference is really culture revolution is it like every single group is like claiming that their loyal to Mao. But like you get a lot of these things where you know people, people will be like, hey the party has been becoming incredibly overbearing and then you get like most of them are just like OK like our solution to this is we are now the party but then you you get these sort of like ultra left groups who are making sort of like. Not exactly anarchist, but are making sort of structural critiques of it. And those guys just get like. Purged and killed. I don't know it the the the dynamics and the critiques remind me of it. Yeah. I think it's something we see. Just in general in politics, honestly. It's a sort of. Limitation of the imagination. Wait, people aren't conceiving of things like outside of what has already been done? I mean, I'm myself. I'm guilty of this because a lot of my inspirations are like pretty colonial cultures and and and, you know, societies and stuff. But. Still, I try to like bring those into a new context and think of ways that can be applied differently. I just when you think about this approach here, where you have the issues with the National Central Committee, your solution is to create a new central committee rather than consider an approach that does not involve a National Central committee. I think it's something we see all too all too often, or even like just. Nostalgia politics in general, where people still approach to politics, is trying to replicate past movements, yeah. But anyway, so. As you see in Balagoon's involvement, you know well as a child with his parents, you know, with the Cambridge protests, with the Army and his involvement in that, with the New York tenant organizing. The Panther Party, with the Yoruba temple. All these things help to inform his political development. It inspired him to be part of Technomic revolutionary movements. That he respected and he loved and he trusted. But it also. Helped him to question. The decision making and the nature of organizations and how the structure of organizations. Relates to state repression. So many and you tend to have a lot lot of time to to think and consider. And so Balogun wanted to sit and think and and basically correct all these ideological weaknesses that just stir it in his head. That basically compromised. The militant liberation movements that he wanted to see liberate his people. So. I conclude by saying that we must learn from the past. In this, you know, short story and it's about lagoon's life. We've ended up coming to a lot of different conversations about the nature of movements today and I think that sort of critical approach to, you know, people's history, something we should be doing more often. In our modern discussions of the past, the good, the bad and the ugly. Anyway. Join us for Part 2. A father who's journey. As we explore his path toward new African anarchism. You can find me Andrew on youtube.com/andresson. And on Twitter at under score centre. This has been. It could happen here. Yeah, Chris was here too. Yeah, you can find us at happened here pod on Twitter and Instagram at follows at the cool zone. Yeah, see you next time. Football is back, and better GM is inviting new customers to join the huddle and enjoy the action like never before. Sign up today using bonus code champion and your first wager is risk free up to $1000. You'll also have instant access to a variety of parlay selection features, player props, and boosted odd specials. Just download the bet MGM app today or go to bedmgm.com and enter a bonus. Vote champion and place your first wager risk free up to $1000. The bet MGM app is the perfect way to experience the excitement of wagering on live sports now in more markets than ever. Visitbetmgm.com for terms and conditions must be 21 years of age or older to wager Virginia only new customer offer. All promotions are subject to qualification and eligibility requirements. Rewards issued as non withdrawable free bets or site credit free bets expire 7 days from issuance. Please gamble responsibly. Gambling problem call 188853235. 100. Your mirabar matte courage already runs in your blood. He needs to be stopped. We've been silent and complacent for far too long. Sisters of the Underground is a new scripted series about fearless women exploring the life and legacy of the Mirabal sisters, Dominican women who were brave enough to challenge decades of oppression. Together, they led their country toward a revolution against Rafael Trujillo, the brutal dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic for 30 years. No, please, please help us. Do you has blood on his hands? From executive producers Dania Ramirez and Eva Longoria. That's me comes the powerful retelling of this all too relevant narrative. Listen to sisters of the underground as part of Michael Toura podcast network, available on the iHeartRadio App, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on tick tock. You maybe even heard the rumors, your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade, we here at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions. Sometimes their answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research with you for the first time ever in a book format you can pre-order stuff they don't want you to know. Now it's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read books.com or wherever you find your favorite books. Welcome to it could happen here, the podcast about stuff falling apart and how we can maybe put some of it back together. Today, I'm your host, Garrison Davis. Though this episode is going to be more of an it did happen here sort of thing, as this is part one of a special three-part series made in collaboration with the Atlantic Community Press about the history of the old Atlanta prison farm. If you haven't listened to my super sized 3 hour two-part series on the defend the Atlanta Forest movement from last May, I'd recommend you check that out just for you know, extra context. But it's not strictly necessary as we'll be mostly going over history for these next few episodes. Although I will sprinkle and updates about what's been happening in Atlanta related to these top cop city movement throughout this series at the end of this episode. There will be a summary about the most recent week of action. Now, for this series, not only did the Atlantic Community press provide the vast majority of the historical research and format for these episodes, I was also able to record with two members of the collective, Sam and Laura. So you'll hear snippets of our conversations over the course of these next few episodes as well. Last year in the lead up to the Atlantic City Council signing over hundreds of acres of forest to the Atlanta Police Foundation to build a state-of-the-art militarized police training facility, complete with a large mock city. Around that same time, a group of people decided to look into the history of the land in question, famed for being the site of an old federal prison honor farm. This was also around the same time last year when more atrocities of the residential school systems were being unearthed, and with the Atlanta Police Foundation's plans to bulldoze large sections of forest that were once used as an old labor prison, the possibility of disturbing forgotten grave sites seems to be worth considering. I'm Sam I help out with. I do research for the Atlantic Community press collective. So that means I file open records requests. I accidentally I helped accidentally write 17 page history report in the summer of 2021 and I listened to fun things like community stakeholders committee meetings and City Council meetings. The inception for the Atlantic Community Press Collective. So at the beginning it was me, Laura, and another friend of ours, and we were all just kind of involved on the periphery of the movement. Laura, please feel free to correct me if her direct me also. But just as part of the general movement and resistance to Cobb City, one of us raised the question I based on when the prison farm was an operation, one of us asked. I wonder if there are unmarked graves there because given the era in which the prison farm was an operation. It's not unrealistic that people were just buried on site especially. Poor prisoners who didn't have families to claim them, but just horrible. But there you go. That was sort of the genesis of our history report. And then I guess naturally as an extension of that, we started asking questions of city government and county government about the, I guess, construction process of comp city throughout the development of COP city concerns regarding environmental racism, police violence and land stewardship in in. Era of climate change have all been discussed, if not by local government or the Atlanta Police Foundation, but at least by community members, some local press, and national media. Despite this, very little is actually publicly known about the actual history of the land that Atlanta Police Foundation wants to build Cop city on and the history of the prison farm itself. The most often cited histories suggest that the land was the site of a federal prison farm that was later taken over by the city and then soon abandoned. Archival research into the site on key Rd, conducted by volunteers with the Atlantic Community Press, tell a different story. Months of archival research revealed that not only was it never run federally, it was run as a city prison farm, uninterrupted from about 1920 to the early 1990s and doing considerable harm to those incarcerated throughout, despite claims of reform made at every stage through the gathering of old legal notices, old newspaper articles, letters from nurses, legislative and inspection records. An oral histories of a forgotten legacy of torture, overcrowding, slave conditions, quote UN quote, the lack of healthcare, labor strikes, death and unmarked paupers graves have slowly been rediscovered through Atlanta's radical scene. And this just barely scratches the surface. As the Atlantic Community Press conducted their research, 2 conflicting surprises arose, 1 being that there was just so much available historical documentation that seemingly very few people had dug into and put together correctly in the past. And two, that there was so much information that was just missing entirely. Records that were either just missing, destroyed, misfiled, or possibly were never. Kept in the first place. The nature of this kind of archival research is pulling on one question and then finding dozens more with limited time and resources, you can find yourself with more questions than definitive answers. These episodes are meant to just be a brief overview of the broad strokes of this history, while also serving as a survey of the possible directions that further research can take. Many people, including an individual on the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, AKA Copp City, have advocated that there must be responsible, in-depth investigations into the history of this land and many of its current physical attributes before any further development could take place. Catherine Nichols already laid the groundwork for such research in her 2015 thesis on the unmarked graves and burial grounds of the Brandon Indian Residential School system and the history of what took place during its operation. A3 pronged approach includes archival research, field research, and qualitative interviews with effective members of the community. This type of research will be discussed more in the third episode. However, this research would take time, and with construction and deforestation attempts proceeding at an increasing rate, the opportunity to do further on the ground historical research is quickly vanishing. The same policing institutions that caused so much harm are increasingly. Trying to physically bulldoze away centuries of history. We did not set out to write this report. We did not, we did not know literally when we started writing this that. The Wilton report and the Save the old Atlanta Prison farm campaigns proved an incorrect history. We didn't know there were two more than two, frankly, prison farms. No one's wrong for not knowing about this, but we've emailed this to City Council repeatedly. Laura has. Laura has done amazing, tenacious work and just making sure that every single government official involved in this project knows. Exactly what kind of violence they're perpetuating. The cop city is bad enough on its own, but when you have an accurate historical understanding of not just what they are building, but where they are building it, it's beyond the pale. It's beyond belief. It's it's disgusting. They want to build this on stolen indigenous land. They want to build this on a slave plantation. Are you kidding me? But were we out on the streets for? What are people still out on the streets for? I know they know what we're saying. I know they know who we are. I know they're listening. It's just disgusting. It's disgusting to me. Before we continue, let's talk a little bit about the idea of history. I think for a lot of people, especially white people, our engagement with history is often so distant. We keep ourselves othered, conceptualizing history as some abstract narrative instead of the direct flesh and blood we ourselves and our systemic relations grew out of. History should be the tales and songs of joy and sorrow and pain, generational wisdom and trauma told by the people who lived it, not just a list of names and the numerical record keeping of the structures that caused ongoing suffering which still benefit from this abstraction. Preserving history for its own sake is all fine and good, but doing preservation with an explicit ecological and intersectional Dr can be much more insightful, not to mention respectful, for those who it literally happened to in the past. This perspective argues for the preservation on the basis of its material effects on people both past and present. And to demonstrate the direct continuity of control of these structures over the people they affect and the repeating patterns of rhetoric used to justify it. Similarly, Catherine Nichols points out in her residential school thesis that it's essential to view this type of history and these records within a full living context. Obviously, a complete consideration of context is outside the small scope of this podcast and could probably make up multiple volumes of books. The time period will be diving into roughly the 1920s to present day has been home to an unceasing trend of the criminalization of many marginalized peoples, especially black, indigenous, poor, disabled, and mentally ill people, which we'll see demonstrated throughout the story told here and on into the present. This criminalization of marginalized peoples coincides with institutions of power engaging in what Lauren Berlant calls the slow death. The phrase slow death refers to the physical wearing out of a population and the deterioration of people in that population. That is very nearly a defining condition of their experience and historical existence. It's like a mass phenomenon of material and metaphysical restriction that's typically already marginalized people face when living under capitalist or authoritative governing structures. The slow death manifests by intentionally and repeatedly subjugating people to events and conditions known to contribute to suffering, resulting in early death of those deemed less valuable by capital interests, sometimes even at their own expense, other times for the sake of profit. All that gets passed down through generations, with the corresponding generational trauma that becomes a defining feature of personal and cultural identity. In the case of the prison farm, we see the slow death and living history in many forms. A swastika found in one of the bedrooms white inmates going on strike shortly after. The prison farm is racially integrated. Stokely Carmichael is held at the farm for several days on the charge of loitering at the height of the civil rights era. After Martin Luther King's assassination, donkeys from the prison farm pull his casket through town. Nurses beg for more tuberculosis tests for overcrowded prisoners. Homeless Alcoholics are repeatedly cycled in and out of the system. All of these instances are similar to others both at the time and now in present day and reflect the racial and class dynamics at the heart of the carceral system. These same sociopolitical forces continue to shape the social landscape of Atlanta, whether that be through the criminalization of Atlanta's waterboys black teenagers who sell ice cold drinks to motorists. We also see it in the ongoing eviction and housing crisis, the lack of resources in the midst of a pandemic, the continued cycling of homeless people through the prison system instead of providing humane housing. The squashing of anti state protests but allowance of white supremacist and anti VAX protests. All these highlight the further need for this history to be told by the people it affects, rather than the institutions responsible which are already seeking to take hold and control the narrative surrounding this piece of land and their own history. The police Foundation has announced its intention to build separate museums on the site dedicated to police officers, firefighters and the labor prison that was once located there. The museum idea has been framed as a concession to last year's anti cop city Colin Campaigns, a concession that will result in land being paved over and a sanitized, police approved history to be built over top. The offending institutions, like the Atlanta Police Department, the Atlanta Police Foundation, City Council and the mayor's office and the media organizations which support them, try to pay lip service to the atrocities of the past as quickly as possible, while retaining all of the power and then bulldozing over the forgotten history. As we'll discuss, vague gestures towards the harms of the past without material accountability for the harm done, have been used throughout the prison farm's history to justify continued control of physical and narrative space, and is simply vapid virtue signaling. Now, before we deep dive into the prison farm itself. As a part of the intent to place the history in its full living context, it's necessary to state the land that the prison farm was built on was a thriving trade hub for Native Americans throughout the continent. Every story that takes place in quote UN quote America has grown from genocide, colonialism, broken treaties, and the division of interconnected land into individual parcels for ownership. This is part of the history and needs to be reckoned with and fully reconciled before anyone can truly be free. That extensive history is outside the scope of this episode, but we are trying to get such topics discussed on this platform with more qualified people. The most frequently cited history about this piece of land is a historical analysis of the Atlanta prison farm by Jillian Wooten of the City Planning Department, written in 1999. In it, we are told that the key Rd property was purchased in 1918 by the Bureau of Prisons and the United States Federal Government. It was called the Honor Farm, and federal presidents grew crops and raised livestock to feed the population of the nearby. Federal penitentiary. The piece claims that the site operated until 1965, when it was then purchased by the Atlanta City government and shut down soon after, at which point the history becomes murky, as a single report of a labor strike on the land seems to contradict claims of the 1960s closing if you just Google Old Antiprism Farm. There's two things that are going to come up. There's a campaign called Save the Old Atlanta Prison Farm. And this website tells you the story. Of how in the early to mid 20th century, the federal government operated a prison farm in Atlanta. And then sometime in the 50s, the city of Atlanta took it over and it links to a document written in 1999 by. A person named Jillian Wooten, who I think was probably doing the best she could in 1999 given the difficulty we had in researching this in 2021. And what this commonly cited felt history, the same wheel, only prison farm campaign and this more official report written by Julian Luton tell you is again that. Sometime in the 50s, the city bought this present form territory. We found nothing to support that, or if our initial question was where are the graves where the bodies buried? The question we ended up asking was, well when did the city take over the prison farm from the federal government? And we kept going back and back and back further into the historical record. Until we eventually got to around 1911. When the city itself bought the property that would become cop city and operated their own prison farm and Long story short, the conclusion we came to was. The federal prison farm was a completely separate property, a completely separate prison system. And sometime, even though this prison farm really only shut down sometime around the early 1990s and the course of just a few decades, we've forgotten the story of the people who were incarcerated there and the story of the prison farm to the point where we don't even understand that it was its own thing. Which is it's it just makes me angry. Like every abuse possible you can imagine happened at the prison farm, and we can't even. We've just completed it with another prison farm where horrible things happened, like that's how poor custodians have been of of this history. A lot of people don't know that there were actually three prison farms running. All in Atlanta, essentially. Once technically, technically two of them are in DeKalb. There was the US prison farm #1 federally run. That's the one that most people know now as an apartment complex. Sorry I don't remember it off the top of my head. Then there is #2, which is what people know as the quote UN quote on our farm out near Panthersville. Then we have the city of Atlanta Prison Farm. So there are three running. At the exact same time. All within a fairly short distance from each other. This isn't something that was unique to Georgia by any means, but the history of it is largely ignored. Convict lease labor was incredibly common. The Yeah archive Atlanta sorry did a podcast specifically on the convict lease labor that was done to build the Atlanta streets. Basically every street in Atlanta was built by convict lease labor, and a lot of that labor came from the Atlanta prison farm as well as some of the other prison farms around. There's also the Chattahoochee Brickworks company. That was recently turned into a public park, and it was historically acknowledged by our mayor, Mayor Dickens. Or it's horrific atrocities of slave labor, or building or creating these bricks at the company where many people died. So there's just this hypocrisy of. Hey, we're using slave labor at this location and it is horrific and we are going to acknowledge that. And we are going to put a plaque out there and do a ribbon cutting ceremony and truly acknowledge this atrocity. Whereas here, because they want the land, they're just going to cover it up. And oh hey, are acknowledgement from this is we're going to utilize some marble library stones in our copaganda entrance to the force barracks. That's pretty much what they're going to do. The Atlantic Community Press research found that the Wootton history report actually conflates 3 different properties property #1A Prison farm. On the property of the federal penitentiary, where the penitentiary still exists today, accusations that the farm was losing the city money, coupled with the ongoing scandals at the city jail stockade in Glenwood, opened up debates within the city government, ranging from 1915 to 1920 about closing the old stockade and moving prisoners to the Municipal dairy farm. The stockade was overcrowded and unprofitable, and expanding it would cost the city too much money. Meanwhile, the area it was in was developing quickly and quote filling up with small property owners and the presence of the stockade is an hindrance to further development. UN quote. The proposed building a park or a golf course or a school or all three on the land to cater to new residents. Meanwhile, the Superintendent of Prisons TB Langford, who had also inexplicably be put in control of the municipal dairy in 1918, was the subject of a 1920 Atlantic constitution piece that examined Atlanta Humane Society claims of women stockade prisoners being tied to a chair. Known as the bucking chair and whipped with a strap for disobedience, he at first denied these claims, saying that white women at the stockade were never whipped to his knowledge, and quote, ***** women only seldom so UN quote. An investigation apparently disproved this, and he was ordered to stop the corporal punishment, which he argued was both good and necessary. And it should not be stopped, because changing the course would be an admission of having done something wrong. He argued that work shy prisoners would need to be motivated somehow. So by the end of January 1920, Atlanta City Council passed a law banning whippings and offering a new form of punishment. Instead. Quote solitary confinement on a diet of bread and water, UN quote. Complaints of the stockade losing money continued into April 1920 and TB Langford suggested moving the whole operation to the dairy farm, which he also controlled. Conveniently, Prohibition had started earlier that year, so it was suggested that the city could save a lot of money by making a new influx of prisoners work the city dairy. Moving prisoners to the dairy farm had one problem. It was not legal to build prison facilities on land outside city limits, and the key Rd property was located in unincorporated de Kalb County, despite being owned by the city of Atlanta. This problem was easily solved by City Council, who simply passed a bill making it legal to build city prison facilities on land outside the city, even outside of Fulton County. By November, the proposal to close the stockade and move the prisoners to the dairy farm was agreed upon, and from that point forward, the key road and municipal dairy farm became the Atlanta City prison and Dairy farm, later simplified to the Atlanta City Prison farm. By 1925, council members were being praised for bringing in the quote, largest number of prisoners at any one time in the past ten years, saving the city $20 a day on the cost of feeding prisoners, and increasing dairy production by 250 gallons a week, UN quote. It was seen as a win win, win for the new property owners, City government and police, but it was a huge loss for the most vulnerable citizens of the city and for the residents of the surrounding de Kalb County area who had no way of consenting to this deal. Just like how modern day de Kalb County residents have no say whatsoever in Atlanta's goals of building a militarized police training compound with a gun range and explosives testing. Section in what would formally be their forested backyard. I mean building cup sitting here is just a continuation of the violence that has been done to this land since the earliest since time immemorial. Like this was, this was first of all this was stolen Muscogee land and then it was a plantation. Then it was a prison farm, which is just an extension of being a plantation when it stopped being a prison farm and just started being mostly a prison. Horrible, horrible things were done to people and the solitary confinement cells. This mostly happened in the 80s. Then we the prison and the farming stopped. It just became a commercial dumping ground in an area of the city that already has some of the worst water quality and air quality standards, and in the whole metro area. The South River Forest Coalition and the South River Watershed Alliance are the best sources for that. But. This was stolen land from the beach at the store. The start of the story was stolen land. And then? I guess the last historical record is social and environmental injustice, and now you want to give it to the police. In this day and age, I guess you could say like it's just compounding violence upon violence upon violence. OK, now it's time for the update that I promised on the week of action that recently took place in Atlanta. So near the end of this past July from the 23rd to the 30th, there was another week of action as a part of the movement to defend the Atlanta Forest and Stop Cop City before things even kicked off Ryan Millsap of Black Hole Movie Studios just days before the July Week of Action. Put up concrete barricades around the section of forest that currently operates as a public park that protests had previously gathered in. He later made an appearance alongside some bulldozers in Entrenchment Creek Park, where then said bulldozers seemingly accidentally? Damaged a park gazebo. So great work, Ryan. We just wrapped up our week of action. Obviously we did. A whole bunch of really awesome events, writers, workshops. We had multiple music festivals, daily AA meetings, medic trainings. We did Narcan training and distribution, daily meals. I personally had the fortune to attend a talk by John Lash, who was incarcerated at what is now called Metro Reentry Center, but at the time was called Metro State Prison, which is just across the street from the South end of the. Child prison that's on the South end of the prison farm property. This was the most well attended week of action there has been so far, especially on the 1st Saturday with the first music festival. Like as some as folks were leaving, like people not at all affiliated with the forest. Movement beforehand were like heard about the music, like this cool music festival in the woods. They were brought in by the music festival, but then we were able to educate them on the fight to defend this forest in their neighborhood, which is like, that is the goal. That was an amazing experience. There were three different instances of arrests during this most recent week of action. On July 28th in Cobb County on the North End of the Metro Atlanta area, four people were arrested at a noise demo outside of a contractors residence. Police scanner audio has cops discussing charges for the people who are standing outside on public property to include criminal trespass and also discussed was quote with the eco terrorists happening in the county's possible domestic terrorist charges. UN quote. Criminal trespass? Will be wrong with the ecoterrorist happening in the county. 1000 years of domestic terrorism as well as possible domestic terrorism as well 301. For every negative on the message terrorism, that last cop there called a negative on domestic terrorism. This was not the first instance of law enforcement referring to defend the Atlanta Forest protesters as eco terrorists. On July 26th, six people were arrested near the ruins of the old prison farm for criminal trespassing, seemingly just for hanging out in the prison farm area, which has been a well known urban exploration hangout spot for decades. These people were just taken to jail for being there. In the bail hearing the judge said that he didn't even know why they got arrested. They were soon released with signature bonds for all. And then on Friday, July 29th, seven people were arrested at a noise demo at a brassfield and gory construction site. Currently, Brassfield and Gory is the lead contractor for the Cop City project. The site was on Georgia State University property. The Atlanta Police Department responded as well. Unicorn riot footage shows people making a loop through the building and chanting before a construction worker aggressively shoves 1 protester out of the doorway. Here's some police scanner Audio Unit 3. They're saying that no one in the building. Now, protests are wise, but they were inside the building, so they all need to be ID's. Advise on a number of approximately 157349. If you still got eyes on the people walking away, can you snap some pictures? I'm on the way up there in case they're gone before I get there, mirror inside the building. So I mean that's that's around for CT so we can talk instead of just taking pictures. Affirmative, but we can stop and detain police coughing. A PD Homeland and Zone 3 is in route to provide support at that location. Coming up on the location now. On a police stated that no property damage was done beyond a bucket being kicked, and yet seven people are facing a slate of felony charges. Yeah, the major says. Homelands and route, so no property disruption, nobody assaulted, nothing. They walked in and kicked over a bucket, but there was something that. How can they kick the bucket? Thank you, Sir. One person was hospitalized due to broken ribs sustained during their arrest. For the first nine hours after the arrests, police refused to give jail support, the location or contact info for where the arrestees were being sent. The following Tuesday night, everyone was finally released on posted bond. And with that, that wraps up part one of the three-part series for the history of the old Atlanta Prison farm. Before I close out, I do want to plug the Atlanta Solidarity Fund at ATL solidarity.org that helps protesters with bail and legal stuff. So donate to that if you have the means also in the description. I'm going to leave that link also the link for the Atlantic Community Press. History report that they published last year that will also be in the description below. Thanks for listening. Check out Atlanta Community Press on Twitter or their website. See you on the other side. Football is back, and bet MGM is inviting new customers to join the huddle and enjoy the action like never before. 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I need to find new buyers every day, so I promote my listings using radio commercials from iheartadbuilder.com. Now every time I have an open house, it's a full house. A custom radio ad from iheart AD builder is the fast, affordable way to drive customers to your business. Put the power of radio to work for you. Get started now at iheart advrider.com. More than a movie, American Me is a new podcast that digs into the history and mystery of American Me, a film directed by and starring Edward James Olmos that had a huge impact on Latino cinema and culture. I'm your host, Alex Fumero, and I'll be diving into the behind the scenes controversy, including an alleged backlash from the Mexican mafia. Several people who worked on the movie have been murdered and even today people are still scared to talk about the film. Everything else, I mean, you know? I don't want to speak about it. And we had to sign a paper saying that if we were taken hostage that they would not bargain for us. Eddie, I know he said that he had permission to do the bill, so I don't know where it got lost in translation. Learn about what really went down from the people that were there. Listen to more than a movie American me, that's part of the mic without a podcast network available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome to it could happen here. Today I'm your host, Garrison Davis, and this is part two of our three-part series on the history of the old Atlanta Prison farm, made in collaboration with the Atlanta Community Press Collective last episode I. Talked about how one of the initial motivations for running a city prison farm was to save money on the project of incarceration, or perhaps even start generating money. This remained the case throughout its existence, though exactly how well it performed at that was often questioned. Use of prison or slave labor for government projects was not a new concept in Atlanta, though, around the time of its incorporation in the mid 19th century, the city of Atlanta's. Population was around 1/5 in slaved persons. City Hall itself, along with many other iconic buildings and roads, was built using convict lease labor from the Chattahoochee Brickworks, notorious for its brutal conditions, and was owned by a former Atlanta mayor. The city prison farm produced various crops, livestock and dairy, but it also provided workers for other city projects. In 1946, Superintendent H Gibson bragged that he was cutting the city prison food budget in half, as well as, quote, furnishing the city 11,961 man days of work on city streets by prisoners, UN quote, within a 6th month. In 1939, they began saving further money on incarceration by getting the women prisoners to make the new uniforms, adding that quote, the city can buy better materials because the labor is free, UN quote. They attempted to incentivize overtime work by offering quote extra credit for each hour of overtime worked for reduced sentences. The prisoners were forced to build some of their own cages as well. In 1944, one of the older prison buildings was designated for use as a hospital for people with venereal diseases. That meant that prisoners would need a new building and they had to build it themselves. Quote most of the work was done with prison labor, with the city providing the materials, UN quote. They were also responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the buildings in order to pass health inspection. According to an Atlanta Constitution article quote, the dormitory scrubbed daily by men and women whose drunkenness and traffic violations placed them behind a MOP or a tractor for an average 15 day stay 194 health rating. In 1958, prisoners were even made to rescue a guards furniture from a fire. By the 1970s, the farm provided more than half the food and dairy products for inmates in city detention centers. By the 1980s, the prison farm had stopped growing crops, but still provided 42% of the pork and beef eaten by the prisoners both at the farm and at the city jail. The work heavily subsidized city operations and was considered crucial. H Gibson, the head of the prison farm in 1945, said quote, idleness is the root of all evil in prison management. To be completely exempt from work, a prisoner should be minus both arms and both legs, UN quote. In the Courier journal article where he makes those claims, the publication also accepts Gibson's claims that he, quote, took care to see the guards do not overwork prisoners and that the guards are not permitted to strike or even curse prisoners. UN quote. And this would of course be later proven very much untrue. White guards were known to send black woman to a less occupied area, supposedly to do extra work, but upon arrival the prisoners would be raped by the guards. If they refused, they were, quote, given a hard way to go UN quote. These same guards had the power to assign extra work to prisoners. This was supposed to have been fixed several years earlier with the hiring of a black woman guard, but according to the Pittsburgh Courier, she was, quote, only a matron in name. The White Guards continued to supervise the colored women inmates, UN quote. The same statement details a beating with a broom handle. It claims that black women were forced to farm in the rain, while white women were allowed to stay inside and read newspapers and called. For further investigations. Since the banning of the bucking chair used for whippings, solitary confinement, in quote, the whole UN quote was the official punishment for not working at the standards set by the prison Guards and wardens. We know little about the conditions of the whole in earlier years, but in 1965 a new administrator named Ralph Hulsey took over operations of the prison farm. A scathing report from journalist **** Herbert, who went undercover as a prisoner, alleged, among many other things, that the whole was, quote, where men were starved and degraded. UN quote. His report drew much negative attention to the conditions on the farm, the whole being one of them. At the time, Holsey said that he was, quote, not happy with it as it is, but it is necessary for discipline. UN quote. The whole was described as an 8 foot by 4 foot windowless room where troublesome inmates are kept in solitary confinement. It's described as quote furnishings now include a pale and two buckets. No bed, no mattress or plumbing. Hulsey allegedly planned to fit such cells with an iron lattice, bunk, and toilet facilities, but we have no indication that this was ever followed through on and the whole continued to be used regularly up until the mid 80s. Leadership of the prison farm changed hands many times throughout its history, and at each passing of the torch there were claims of improvement, the dawn of a new, better era. Bleak and cruel conditions remained no matter who was in charge. Archival research shows that for over half a century, life on the farm was subject to hard labor, long days, harsh punishments, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and constantly lacking healthcare. JD Hudson, the Superintendent of the prison farm in later years, who was hyped up by press as a sort of humanitarian reformer, described the previous conditions of the prison farm as slave labor. He bragged frequently of his intention to give prisoners, quote, a measure of self-respect so they could lead decent lives again. Upon being instated, he announced his intention to empty solitary confinement and forbid guards from hitting or abusing inmates, something which we must point out had been declared many times before already. He also made statements saying that inmates are, quote, ridden with guilt about their lives and they want to be mistreated and abused, and they want to be denigrated as some sort of atonement for their sins, UN quote. So this might explain why. The great reformer himself was still in charge when the ACLU sued the city in 1982 for conditions on the farm, citing quote, illegal and unconstitutional punishments such as leg irons and excessive time in solitary confinement, UN quote, along with the long track record of unsanitary conditions. Mayor Andrew Young said of the suit quote. It's simply a problem the city hasn't gotten around to handling yet. UN quote. At that point the whole was still in use as solitary confinement and described as a room 7 feet long by 4 feet wide, that is virtually without heat in the winter and without cooling in the summer. Prisoners were held there 23 hours a day, with an hour out for baths, often held for many days at a time. The suit was settled in 1985 with a $4500 settlement split between three former prisoners, but the city never actually admitted guilt. Prison farm staff were also ordered to avoid using isolation cells like the whole, and told to build 20 new individual cells. The ACLU and those supporting the suit hoped that this lawsuit would push the city to make changes. But in 1987, just two years later, the city tried to build 20 more solitary confinement cells at the prison farm. And this project only fell through because white contractors they hired were caught taking job contracts slated for minority run businesses by using a front. And hopefully you don't need me to tell you that solitary confinement is still used as punishment in most prisons. Today it's been. It's been ages since I looked at this newspaper quotes document and just. There's so much Atlanta may well take pride in the fact that it's City Prison farm has won such recognition as a model, progressive institution that is cited as a model in other metropolitan areas where municipal penal systems need improvement. I mean, that's the same thing they're trying to do with cough city. Yeah, and this is this is from 1945. That that was one of the surprising things that that we found was that. So many aspects of like the specific fights that are being had about cops city. Have happened 5060 years ago, like they were trying to expand the prison farm, I think eastward more into the Kalb County in the 40s and the de Kalb County residents were like, no, you can't do this to our county. But it was because they didn't want the black prisoners near the White Elementary school. And like that was the 1944 that like wasn't long after when they like formally disallowed whipping. Like that's like it's there's like obviously it's they're still doing brutal stuff in terms of like solitary and other forms of torture and rape. But like. Posing it as this like model facility is like you just got in trouble like a few years previous for like whipping all of your prisoners, tying people down to a chair. Like then one of my favorites guards shoot two women prisoners while firing vainly at each other. I can't remember if we put that one in the article or not, but to prison guards were shooting at each other because they were, I don't know, cranky or whatever. And ended up just like shooting to prisoners and stuff. Inside the report from last year on the history of the prison farm, there's like almost like 100 citations and a whole bunch of background stuff. How? Once you kind of had this question of like, is there unmarked graves at this site? How can we go about researching it? What were the kind of techniques and things you used to gather all of this? Information. And then let alone like, how did you start sorting through all that to pick out you know which which seems more credible than others. You know, there's a lot of there's a lot of conflicting history in in in some regards. So how? What was like the whole entire research process like? Because looking at just the list of citations, it is a little overwhelming. Yes, it's very overwhelming. So. Our other co-author and Laura they did. So much of the research, like I have to give enormous props to them like they even made a couple trips to. Uh, things like the state archives, which are slightly South of the city, I think. Kind of snuck into a university library because a lot of. A lot of these, like in person resources, were. Still closed at the time due to COVID restrictions. A lot of them are open now, unfortunately. So like we have a huge document of just like newspaper quotes, a big, big source for us were historical newspaper articles. Mostly because because we we initially started looking for official documents. Yeah, this this is a pub, this was a a public entity. The city is required to keep records, and what we found was just a huge dearth of them. And most of the articles that are not articles, but like official documents that are still around, are housed in a really great collection at Georgia State University in downtown. But a lot of those things are, they're just fairly limited or if they're like year to year reports. It's like a person from the 50s, there's one from the 60s. There's no consistent. Documentation available. So then we went to public record, which was newspaper articles and. Oh my God, there are so many newspaper articles about the prison farm. I never want to read a newspaper again. And we kind of used things that happened at the prison farm that were noteworthy enough to make it into the newspaper to. I guess you could say guide. What the biggest beats in the history of the present farm were. And that kind of. Let us to what was something that we didn't know when we started our research, which was. Just how poorly, or just how mangled? The history of the prison farm has become. This land at approximately 1975 started becoming a police training Academy. So there has been some sort of police training facility on this land since approximately 1975. There was even a slight version of a mock city in the 80s. They had an intersection that was for training, for urban encounters, if you will. So this is the kind of information that we're digging to try to find the history. We're literally seeing legal notices in the newspaper so advertisements. And this is how we're piercing this information together. When the pandemic hit in 2020, for the first time in recent memory there was a large scale public discussion on how the structure of the prison system is detrimental to the health of incarcerated persons. Public health experts advocated that the best way to limit the spread of disease is simply to have less people in prison. We'll talk more about covid's impact on prison populations in a bit, but first, let's note how overcrowding and lack of medical treatment in prisons, leading to disastrous and deadly health outcomes, is no new issue. When **** Herbert went into the Atlanta prison farm undercover for the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 1965, one of his main findings was, quote, nonexistent medical treatment. He reported quote tubercular, coughing, sickly men waiting to die, societies discards herded into an unwashed stockade, only to be turned out again without even a smattering of help. UN quote. This was the case from the early days of the prison farm, and remained the case for long after already. By 1938, the prison farm was described by Mayor Hartsfield as an ungodly mess and was likely facing issues with communicable diseases, as evidenced by a call for, quote, separate hospital wards for diseased prisoners, UN quote. But it took City Council until 1941 to even, quote, study a proposal to equip. The new building nearing completion for A500 Bed emergency hospital, UN quote. The completed building was still not furnished by 1943, and in 1944, instead of making the new building into a health facility, they moved the prisoners into the new building and fitted the 20 year old prison building out to be a city detention hospital for treatment of those infected with venereal disease. And then, rather than be used as a hospital ward for the prison farm, it was then used to treat the material diseased patients from throughout the city. This was expected to quote meet demand for years to come, but by 1945 there were already calls to close the entire prison farm and convert the whole thing into a venereal disease quarantine clinic due to an increasing load. Obviously, those calls were never adopted and the personal farm remained in operation. In a grossly recursive mirror of the present, in an October 1st, 1957 edition of the Atlantic Constitution, a quote Asian flu outbreak prompted the immediate release of quote any person who is ill and who has a home to return to, UN quote. Even this was qualified, though H Gibson, who was heading to prison at the time, said that only some of those who had been convicted of just light infractions. It would be released. He also said that older men with a history of tuberculosis would be released due to the risk of their contracting pneumonia. Quoting Gibson quote, none of the men who had temperatures of 101 or more were released. Some of these older men have no places to go, and if we release them with a possible case of flu and higher temperature, chances are we would find them dead in the woods or somewhere a day later, UN quote. There was no mention of efforts to mitigate spread within the percent of farm facility, and the fate of those who were forced to stay is unknown to us at the present moment. In December of 1957, the de Kalb County grand jury presented findings from an investigation that found that the prison farm was severely lacking in healthcare. They advised that a building should be provided so that prisoners who are ill can be held aside from the ones who are not sick, meaning that. In the 20 years since this was first proposed, it had still not been implemented. They recommended that prisoners who were sick be given examinations and a record to be kept of those prisoners, and the prison farm should, quote, employ a proper nursing staff, UN quote. Their final recommendation was that quote, some sort of sick quarters should be put into effect so the prisoners who are ill can be held aside from the ones who are not sick. UN quote. The implication from these recommendations, of course, is that none of these practices were in place at the time of investigation. A year later, in November of 1958, a second DeKalb grand jury quote found fault with its medical facilities, along with the lack of fire safeguards in the prison farm. Of course, thanks to **** Herbert's undercover investigation for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, we now know that by 1965, nearly ten years later, medical treatment. Was still found to be nonexistent at the prison farm, and by 1967 a prisoner quote with a record of hospitalization for tuberculosis and heart trouble collapsed and died. UN quote. Despite the order that medical records for sick patients be kept, there was no record on file that this patient had ever seen the doctor. Recorded sections from a meeting between the prison farm and the Department of Prisons indicate that they planned to hire a full time registered nurse in 1972 to assist the on-site Dr. Other plans included tests for tuberculosis, PAP tests for female prisoners and basic height, weight and blood tests. They also indicated that they were not currently providing vision, hearing or dental care. In Atlanta Voice article from 1973 claims there are quote UN quote new improvements in this area with the quote employment of a physician and two nurses, a detoxification program for Alcoholics, health tests, and a humane approach to prisoner problems, UN quote. But by 1976 we still see such things being raised as simply proposals. And Inter office communication at Grady Memorial Hospital states the need for, quote, a nurse clinician to be hired by Grady and paid by the state under contract to provide screening and triage services on-site and referral when appropriate to Grady Hospital. One of them suggests entering this contract for reasons that it will generate $125,000 in income and, quote, minimized public criticisms of inadequate healthcare for prisoners. UN quote. It also states that currently prisoners quote get only crisis oriented emergency care. I mean, 1976 Community Relations Commission report indicates that many of the healthcare issues are caused by the reluctance of guards to respond to prisoner complaints and quote brutality at Grady Hospital by Atlanta police officers, UN quote. Another proposal from Grady one month later suggests that rather than hiring a nurse specifically for the prison farm, they use a nurse from the Central Referral Office to act as a liaison with non clinical personnel at each of the eight detention centers in the city and give recommendations over the phone. They note that this would save the prison thousands of dollars a year. A 1977 letter from Shirley Millwood Interset Grady Hospital indicates that prisoners were still being transported to Grady for the administration of medication and that even that was not often done. One of her patients was supposed to be brought in every day for medication, but Millwood claimed quote the jail personnel have not complied. The patient had been experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath all afternoon, but was not brought in until 10:30 PM. Quote I feel that this is negligent on their part, and it is certainly detrimental to our patients. If something happens to this patient, will the jail be liable for the problems that result from him not being properly medicated, UN quote. In an undated document entitled health Program City of Atlanta Prison Farm pulled from the same archival collection as the other Grady Hospital Records does indicate that since 1971, a doctor is on-site 5 days a week for one hour each day, and a nurse is on duty 24 hours a day. It states that wherever feasible, treatment should be done on the prison farm property, but lays out several procedures to follow for serious medical emergencies, usually involving transportation to Grady Hospital. However, it points out that quote unattended heart attacks, poison or suicide overdose cases, and heroin withdrawal in jail frequently occur. The report also says that in the case of public intoxication, quote, minor medical skill and routine capacity in easing interpersonal tensions can reduce difficulty for arresting officers, reduce the arrests needed, and initiate more constructive rooting than directly to jail, UN quote. The report points out that in diabetic patients, their convulsions and the similar smell of their breath to acetone can lead to incorrect conclusions. With permanent health effects, it also mentions that delirium tremens, a condition associated with withdrawal of alcohol and other substances, can quote endanger and inmates life, and more than one has died, UN quote. Without proper health care or separation of sick and healthy prisoners, and in the midst of a decades long tuberculosis epidemic, overcrowding would certainly be a major contributing factor to sickness and death in prison scenarios. Archival research found that overcrowding was a recurring complaint throughout the over half century of the prison farms existence, despite frequent expansions often motivated by the overcrowding in the first place. Overcrowding is a common occurrence in prisons and jails throughout the country. A longitudinal study by the Vera Institute of Justice found that, quote as jail populations have exceeded capacity, county policymakers have turned to jail expansion rather than alternatives to incarceration in some cases. The decision makers also argue that replacing older facilities will provide safer living and working conditions for the increasing numbers of people in the jail. UN quote. However, Institute researchers note that quote larger jails built to accommodate an overcrowded population often see their populations continue to increase. This is because expansion alone fails to address the root causes of overcrowding, leaving in place the very policies and practices that drove the jail's population increase in the first place. Indeed, there is a risk that the existence of a larger jail with more beds may reduce the incentive to make policy changes that address the factors driving overcrowding due to the temporary relief expansion provides, UN quote. This is precisely what we see play out here in the case of the old prison farm, and in fact is still an ongoing issue in Atlanta area incarceration systems today. Since early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, it's been made clear that the most effective way to mitigate the devastation of endemic COVID-19 in prisons and jails is to reduce the number of people behind bars and wow, perhaps that would be a good idea in general, not even related to this specific pandemic. The United States locks up a larger portion of its population than any other nation in the world, and just the state of Georgia has the 4th largest incarceration rate in the entire world if you compare individual U.S. states to all other entire countries. Throughout 2020, only three states, New Jersey, California, and North Carolina, released a significant number of incarcerated people from prisons. Parole boards also approved fewer releases in the first year of the pandemic compared to the year prior. The response of governments was so bad that, in total, 10% fewer people were released in prisons and jails in 2020 compared to 2019. As a result, at the end of the first year of the pandemic, 19 state prison systems were at 90% capacity or higher. Incarcerated people are infected by the coronavirus at a rate more than five times higher than the nation's overall rate, according to research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association from July of 2020. The reported death rate of inmates 39 deaths per 100,000 is also much higher than the national rate of 29 deaths per 100,000. As of April 16, 2021, more than 661,000 incarcerated people and staff have been infected with coronavirus and at least 2990 have died, according to the New York Times. And getting data more recent than that is actually almost impossible because many carceral agencies have simply stopped collecting and releasing information. The number of infections and deaths is likely even higher than the reported number because jails and prisons are conducting limited testing on incarcerated people. Many facilities won't test incarcerated people who die after showing symptoms of the COVID-19. A lack of data reporting by carceral agencies has prevented the public from being able to understand the full impact of the pandemic on incarcerated persons. Organizations like the UCLA Law COVID-19 behind bars project, the Marshall Project and the COVID Prison project have been working to collect data and information as there's been a lack of transparency from agencies in providing adequate or correct data on the number of cases, safety protocols and deaths within their jails and prisons. Many states the Department of Corrections rolled back or stopped reporting their COVID-19 data altogether in the summer of 2021 during the Delta variant surge and way before the opener Cron Wave that hit last winter. For example, in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Corrections has not reported any new COVID deaths since March 14th, 2021, and last year halted all public reporting data. Among all the correctional systems in the United States, the Georgia Department of Corrections has the second highest case fatality rate, or percentage of those people who have reported infections and later die. So this has been a problem in Georgia for a long time, whether that be with the old Atlanta prison farm or the current day jails, prisons and penitentiaries. I'm going to close out this episode with this little tidbit from one of the conversations I had with members of the Atlanta Community Press Collective. I think just something that's continuously not addressed. I know a lot of people like to focus on positive things or more inspiring things, I guess as far as prison stuff goes. Because I know I've had people repeatedly ask like, hey, were there strikes, were there uprisings, which is really inspirational. I agree. But there's also a really, really sad history that a lot of people aren't addressing. And how many people died by suicide here or? Attempted to die by suicide, and it's really sad that no one seems to care about that aspect. That there were horrific atrocities. There were frequent rapes and beatings. There's a photo from the A JC that literally says black woman. I think it's like from the 40s. And they are moving around chemically infused sludge. It literally says sludge as fertilizer. We have proof of these atrocities, and people just like to focus on things of like, oh, hey, there was arsenic in a lake. I've never been able to find anything about that. I have no idea where that came from. I'm not saying it didn't happen, but there are so many. Concrete examples of horrific things that happened here. We don't need to make up stories. They exist and they're here. You just have to pay attention and read about it. There's literally a woman. Who attempted suicide six times. Because she hated being in the whole so bad the isolated confinement so labeled the whole like 6 times. And nobody addresses this kind of stuff. Even as forest defenders like, we owe it to ourselves to educate. Our community about. Exactly what happened here? Even the worst of it. And then we'll get ******* raped in the woods, because you got to take care of yourself too. But. Even as we acknowledge this land, we need to know the history of it too. That does it for us today. In the next episode, we'll be going over the details of possible grave sites and how further research into the prison farm could be done. As well as more updates on the happenings in the fight to defend the Atlanta Forest. See you on the other side. Football is back, and better GM is inviting new customers to join the huddle and enjoy the action like never before. Sign up today using bonus code champion and your first wager is risk free up to $1000. You'll also have instant access to a variety of parlay selection features, player props, and boosted odd specials. Just download the bet MGM app today. 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Get started now at iheart adbuilder.com. More than a movie, American Me is a new podcast that digs into the history and mystery of American Me, a film directed by and starring Edward James Olmos that had a huge impact on Latino cinema and culture. I'm your host, Alex Fumero, and I'll be diving into the behind the scenes controversy, including an alleged backlash from the Mexican mafia. Several people who worked on the movie have been murdered and even today people are still scared to talk about the film. Everything else, I mean. You know, I don't want to speak about it. And we had to sign a paper saying that if we were taken hostage that they would not bargain for us. Eddie, I know he said that he had permission to do the bill, so I don't know where it got lost in translation. Learn about what really went down from the people that were there. Listen to more than a movie American me, that's part of the Michael Duda podcast network, available on the iHeartRadio app Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome. This is it could happen here, the podcast about how it feels like everything is kind of falling apart, and maybe what we can do to put stuff back together. I'm Garrison Davis, your host for this episode, and this is the third and final part of our miniseries on the history of the old Atlanta Prison Farm, produced in collaboration with the Atlanta Community Press Collective. We're actually going to start this episode with a little update on what's been going on in Atlanta as a part of the defend the Atlanta Forest and Stop Cops City movement. Considering the Atlanta Police foundations Cop City project is very much a direct continuation of the authoritarian and carceral oppression of the prison farm that occupied the very same section of land. Here's an audio clip of one of my conversations with members of the Atlantic Community Press Collective from right before the recent July 2022 week of Action. And this is about the status of construction on the South River or Willani forest, so for the past month or so. It's kind of been a waiting game. Like if you refer to the construction timeline that whenever open Records request revealed, like construction really should have started in earnest by now, like they last time I. So I figured they want to have this open by fall of next year and they are not on that timeline and that's not all necessarily due to the movement. So I think between just the general supply chain havoc that's happening across different industries right now, definitely the construction industry, I think they did. Mention this during one of the recent Community stakeholders committee meetings where they're like, Oh yeah, by the way, we are kind of having some supply chain issues in addition to I don't think a PD and the police foundation really expected to have any kind of continued resistance on the ground. Or any kind of continued public bad press. I don't think they could. I think they thought they passed the legislation on the public would kind of move on because that's frankly what. Usually happens when people when people, when movements that criticize the police happen, they usually get repressed or people's attention turns. Turns to other things pretty quickly. We know that they have a permit. For it's what exactly is it is a permit for. It's kind of complicated, but one way or another it's enables the police foundation, their contractors and their vendors to. Construct a basically like a temporary construction fence like you would see around the construction site. But and that permit I believe expires in August of this year because that's a temporary permit. But that fence does not seem to have gone up. So it's it's kind of a stalemate right now. Just five days after the July Week of Action wrapped on early Wednesday morning on August 3rd, dozens of work vehicles and police amassed around the forest, staging heavy machinery, setting up roadblocks, and started dismantling barricades in the forest. Sounds of tree cutting could be heard near the occupied stop cops city Tree sets. Police were initially stalled by the burning of tire. Barricades near roads. But around 7:00 AM, heavy machinery breached the proposed site for cops city and entered on the north side of the forest. Excavators cleared barricades and trees were felled near trails making wider paths into the forest. De Kalb County police officers accompanied gas pipeline workers who were on the ground adjacent to Entrenchment Creek Park. One arrest was reported. The arrestee was originally being taken straight to jail and then got diverted to police headquarters for questioning, and it was confirmed that FBI was also on the scene. There were no attempts at extraction of tree sitters and no additional arrests reported that day. The Atlanta Police Foundation's contract workers did substantial forest clearing in an area of the woods near the entrance gate on Key Rd, directly adjacent to the existing power line clearing. Much of the surrounding neighborhood was blocked off by the Atlanta Police Department for most of the day, with no warning given to local residents, many of whom have stopped. Up city yard signs. The work being done along the power line cut is assumed to be either for installing sewer lines and or drilling holes. The presence of Georgia Power suggests that they could have been trying to bore holes to install power lines. The next morning, around 20 cops, some mounted on ATV's, patrolled throughout the forest, possibly looking for rebuilt barricades or to ****** up anyone they found in the area. Ever since then, there has been cops, sometimes on ATV's, spotted multiple times a week in the forest, usually during early in the morning. How much grounds clearing and pre construction work was done recently in the forest was slightly surprising considering the land disturbance permit has not yet been issued, though it is possible that the recent work was covered by existing utility easements or the temporary construction permit that expires later this month that was mainly issued around the goal of putting up a security fence around the forest. And with that, now let's get back to the history of the prison farm. As discussed last episode, overcrowding was one of the initial motivations for proposing to move the Glenwood Stockade prisoners to the dairy farm site, though it was not the final decisive factor because at the time, populations there were dwindling. Several years later, though, Councilman Chosewood was being praised for increasing the incarcerated population because it brought in more revenue, and several years after that, in 1929. Overcrowding at the second stockade on Decatur and Hillard prompted discussions on expanding the prison farm by bringing in portable buildings from the school board and expanding the woman's prison by 100 feet, a police report from 1936 says. Quote we find that all prisoners have separate quarters which are in sanitary condition but overcrowded. We recommend that another unit be constructed for white female prisoners as well as white male. Prisoners, UN quote. And by 1938 a new wing was completed housing 75 more prisoners, and another edition of the same size was expected to be added to the main building. But only five months later the prison farms own Superintendent again described the conditions there as overcrowded and recommended another expansion and separate ward for quote UN quote diseased prisoners. In 1939, a proposal to extend the land by 184 acres was protested by de Kalb residents on the basis that it was directly next to a white school and that, quote, further development of penal institutions in that section would destroy the value of surrounding property and preclude the development of a Civic Center which citizens seek near the West side school grounds, UN quote. The plan was abandoned, but later brought up with a compromise in that they would instead only take 134 acres, leaving A50 acre buffer between the prison farm and the school. In 1944 a new building originally slated to be a medical ward was built, and as we saw in the healthcare section, this ended up becoming a new prison building and the old building became the Venereal disease hospital. The new building could quote House 725 prisoners without crowding them, UN quote, and was said to be able to quote eliminate longstanding criticism of nearby residents because of escapes from the old, overcrowded and ill arranged structure, UN quote. In 1946 the city took possession of an additional 89 acres of land for the prison farm, but still overcrowding was again raised as an issue in 1952, but this time. Certain sentences were reduced from 20 days to 10 days to address this problem, constituting the first time a slightly decarceration approach was used. But despite this, and yet another new wing being built in 1958, a grand jury in 1960 found that the prison farm was quote UN quote, exceedingly overcrowded. And quote. As a result, the health of prisoners is jeopardized, UN quote. They suggested building a quote UN quote work camp to alleviate crowding. ****. Herbert's undercover investigation in 1965 found that men were sleeping on the floor and tables because there was still not enough beds, a quote from Herbert says. So closely packed are the 300 bunks that they are alternated head to foot. In 1967, Atlanta started talking about chronic alcoholism as a health problem rather than one of criminality. However, the assumption was that this was still to be treated by those in charge of the prisons quote. The prison is already crowded up against its 600 person capacity, said the Atlanta Journal Constitution. But according to Superintendent Halsey, the conversion to a rehabilitation center would mean longer stays and thus higher populations stating quote. They likely will have to build a whole new city prison farm, UN quote. A 1976 article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution says that in 1970 a 1000 prisoners were packed in the old building. Inmates slept in rickety beds. 3 high health inspectors and judges cut the population for humanity's sake. It further claimed that the facility was now, quote, well below its comfortable capacity of 400 prisoners, UN quote. In 1974, the uniform Alcohol Treatment Act was passed, although never fully funded, which effectively decriminalized alcoholism, this Act was said to reduce the population of the prison farm from 500 and 1972 to 200 in 1983, although new laws were passed further criminalizing certain actions while intoxicated at the behest of the business community who, quote, demanded drunks and winos. You removed from the streets, UN quote. This era marks the last time the Atlantic Community Press research found complaints of overcrowding. The lack of further complaints strongly suggests that decriminalization is a better answer to the problem of overcrowding rather than prison expansion. It's also necessary to mention that alleviating the problem 50 years into the project does not make up for the unnecessary harm and death likely caused by these conditions over the years. As we went over last episode, overcrowding of jails remains a problem in our modern jails and prisons, currently the Fulton County Sheriff. Wants the Atlanta city government to abandon their promise of closing a city jail and instead rent the jail to Fulton County to alleviate overcrowding in their system. This is billed as a humanitarian move, but as we've discussed in the past three episodes, history suggests otherwise, and the most successful way at reducing harm was D carceral approaches. Complaints about poor sanitation and malnutrition also span. The prison farms history combined with the previously detailed conditions, these would further increase the likelihood of sickness and death within the prison farm walls. Prisoners in 1938 complained that, quote, a silver dollar would cover each particle of food given to prisoners, and asked for, quote, more vegetables and less sorghum, UN quote. In 1941, during a tense meeting in which De Kalb tried unsuccessfully to prevent Atlanta from expanding the prison farm, a De Kalb resident said that the farm was without sanitary facilities, despite frequent assurances that the facility was clean, however. Work was temporarily abandoned on that expansion after de Kalb County citizens sought and obtained an injunction against the city of Atlanta for dumping untreated sewage into Entrenchment Creek. There is a large gap in reporting on these particular conditions, but there's evidence that they persisted because in 1960, the DeKalb ground jury found that, quote restrooms were deplorable in both white and ***** wards, UN quote, and that the kitchen floor was quote UN quote in a deplorable state and should be replaced. The Atlanta Journal Constitution's own inspection curiously concluded that the farm was, quote, operated very efficiently and with good sanitary conditions, UN quote. But just two years later, **** Herbert's undercover work as a prisoner showed quite the contrary. He found puddles of spit at drainage grills, wondered if many of the men had tuberculosis, and said that, quote, it was not uncommon to find dead bugs or hair. And food the rusty dirty tins we drank out of should be replaced, UN quote. Herbert also mentioned that quote the food was almost entirely a thin and liquid diet, and also said that inmates often complained that the best of the farms, produce and meats are reserved for the guards and hired help and just a reminder that they themselves worked to grow all that produce, a prisoner named Carl H, sent to the prison farm in 1968 on a public drunkenness charge, said after five days at the facility. Quote I've had 1/2 of a meal since I've been here, UN quote. Apparently by this time local court rulings had determined that chronic Alcoholics could no longer be arrested on these charges. But the judge claimed, quote, I'm doing it from a humanitarian standpoint, whether it's legal or not, UN quote, Karl said of that matter. That the judge, quote, told me that he was going to save my life. I told him he can't save my life out there at the stockade. I told him he can send me anywhere, but not the stockade. He can't save my life out there. UN quote. This was three years after Superintendent Hosey was praised for his reforms and interviewed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution saying, quote, I'm just trying to make this place sanitary and livable for these people, UN quote. On 2 occasions in 1969, the vast majority of prisoners went on strike due to poor food. The first time they demanded a raise for the cook and the hiring of a new cook, but four months later these conditions, which were agreed to to end the strike, had still not been met. Prison farm administrators once again promised to raise cook wages and hire A new cook to end the strike, but we have no indication that they ever followed through on that. An Atlanta Journal Constitution article from 1970 states that prisoners were working in the kitchen while infected with tuberculosis. Quote One man was sent to Batty State Hospital after it was found his tuberculosis was so advanced that he started hemorrhaging. He had worked in the kitchen the night before, UN quote. When asked about this, the prison term administrator RF Jordan said that some prisoners do have tuberculosis. And yes, quote, some of them work in the kitchen, but only if their case. Was arrested. UN quote. Employees protesting discrimination against black employees at the farm and unfair and illegal incarceration of Alcoholics also said that quote there are rats and roaches and filth that you wouldn't believe UN quote. In 1971 the prison farm was found to be serving food illegally without a license, but health officials complained that there were only two of them for the entire multi county district and they had no means of actually enforcing licenses. Or food safety. Just one month later, prisoners again went on strike due to being served watered down gravy and being unjustly incarcerated for alcoholism. Reports on conditions are few and far between after this. But the 1982 ACLU lawsuit claimed, among other things, that the conditions at the facility are unsanitary. There is most likely more information to find between these years, as one person farm worker said quote. We used to have strikes out here about every month, sometimes two or three a month, UN quote. In 1983, Superintendent Hudson, once hailed as the great humanitarian reformer, was replaced after quote complaints from employees and city politicians about his handling of the city jail, its employees and prisoners. Hudson said of the criticism quote. I get bored when there aren't any problems. Serenity is not my thing. UN quote. A big focus of the research that the Atlantic Community Press did was on the question of unmarked graves at the prison farm site. There are persistent folk stories about these that may be tempting for some to write off as unfounded rumors. However, oral histories and qualitative interviews need to be taken seriously and considered alongside other forms of evidence. Some stories have already been substantiated, and for others, the evidence found so far. Certainly places them within the realm of possibility. This episode I'm not gonna try to prove without a shadow of a doubt that there are unmarked graves on the property that is slated to become a cop city, but I will discuss documentation that shows that there is a strong possibility that needs to be carefully and fully investigated, regardless of how long it takes to do so properly. To start, there is this quote from an Atlanta Journal Constitution piece from 1976. Quote Maude, the deceased elephant and 280 inmates rest in peace at the city of Atlanta Prison Farm, UN quote. Now I'm going to unpack that one at a time, because there's a there's a lot there. The Elephant Mod was the former zoo elephant that died and whose corpse was dumped at the prison farm property by the city. And As for the line? About 280 buried inmates. There's no other details given in the article, and some researchers suspect that this is some kind of sick, sarcastic joke on the newspapers part, as the rest of the article attempts to paint life at the prison farm as one of leisure and respite, according to local folk historian Scott Peterson. There is, however, a known burial ground off of Boulder Crest and Key Rd that contains both marked. An unmarked graves that was once owned and operated by the prison farm. Now, to be perfectly clear, this burial ground is not on the current property slated to become Cop city. The section of land that was originally the prison farm has been divided up into many smaller pieces, a few 100 acres of which the Atlanta Police Foundation is trying to turn into the new militarized police training compound. However, the burial site that Scott Peterson talks about does tell us that a. That there is some truth behind at least some of the folk stories, and B the prison farm as a whole contained at least some unmarked graves, which leads us to believe that there could be others throughout the property, and that other claims are at least worth taking seriously. When the Atlanta Community press was doing the bulk of their historical research last year, they attempted to find death and burial records for inmates that died while incarcerated at the prison farm. Through archival digging, select inmate death and burial records were found simply via public reporting. We know for certain that at least several deaths occurred in very close time spans. One man was sprayed with an insecticide, which the warden denies. But which the attending nurse and those who sprayed the man corroborate. Samuel Bains, a 36 year old black man quote UN quote dropped dead shortly after a patrolman woke him up to get dressed. Mark Isaiah William died after quote UN quote becoming sick, an Atlanta daily world headline reads. Quote coroners jury will probe death of prisoner Brown urges full investigation. That's dated from 1953 on April 14th. Robert Reynolds, a 49 year old black man, died from head injuries, prompting an investigation, and in reference to Reynolds, Charlie Brown, a 1953 mayoral candidate, declared, quote, approximately 10 prisoners have died in the jail in the last four years under mysterious circumstances, UN quote. Despite these known deaths, finding official records listing either deaths or burials at the site was much more difficult. On top of searching through several archives, researchers sent Georgia Open Records Act requests to the Police Department, the Department of Corrections, and the Atlanta City Council. The Police Department said that the records would be in the custody of the Department of Corrections. However, the Department of Corrections stated that they are not and never were the custodians of such. Records the Atlanta City Council replied to requests by sending the inaccurate Gillian Wooten history report, but also connected researchers with a historian. Serena McCracken of the Atlanta History Center has said that there's a possibility such records simply do not exist, either that they were never kept in the 1st place due to laws at the time, or that they were destroyed at some point, either due to negligence or an expiring period of retention. There is also the possibility that these records do exist and simply have not been yet found. They could have been misfiled, or requests could have been sent to the wrong agency. Or they could just be sitting in a box of mill doing records still on the land today, as so many other records were when the city finally shut down the site, many of which are now lost forever in the ensuing fires and other ravages of time. In the Georgia Archives file on the prison farm, a memo was discovered describing procedures for the death of inmates. The memo says that upon a prisoner's death, their nearest kin should be notified. If the body is not claimed quote, then the body shall be given a paupers burial, not to exceed $50.00 UN quote. Such burials don't always include a headstone, but rather a marker or a burial flag which can easily erode away or become invisible over time. Not all unmarked graves on the site necessarily exist within a traditional grave plot, according to Scott Peterson, who's collected folk stories and oral histories about the land for 20 years. There is another plot next to an old oak tree and sunken in structure that was once used to shade the warden during lynchings. This would, of course, be not legal. But as we've talked about, legality does not always dictate the behaviors of prison farm wardens, and there are records of cases of runaways at other prison farms that were later discovered to have been killed and buried on site. As such, these claims are not outside the bounds of possibility and if anything are highly likely. There are also many similarities between the conditions at the prison farm and those of the Brandon Indian Residential School that would lead to the need to bury many bodies without necessarily keeping tight records. Katherine and Nicole's thesis details a history of airborne diseases, aggravated by factors such as poor sanitation and ventilation, lack of medical attention, malnutrition, violence and abuse, overwork and accidents, and harsh punishment. Of runaways, all of which are also seen throughout the prison farms history. I don't want to draw too tight a comparison between the prison farm and other places and other events. It is worth looking at other similar situations as something that shows that the question of unmarked graves is not unfounded nor uncharacteristic of the institutions of the time. There have been several other instances where institutions with similar conditions were later found to have unmarked graves, burial grounds or other human remains. Human remains in Sugar Land, TX, near the old Imperial prison farm there were found to have, quote, belong to prisoners who worked on the land once used as a sugar plantation, UN quote. An article from the Tyler Morning Telegraph describes life of physical abuse, forced labor, and poor nutrition, much like the prison farm in Atlanta. Similarly to Atlanta, quote, it wasn't until it became clear that these abuses were widespread and affecting white prisoners that public opinion started to shift. UN quote. In Arkansas in 1968, a reformist Superintendent of Cummins Prison Farm discovered the remains of three former prisoners. His discovery quote made international news, embarrassed Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, and infuriated conservative politicians. It also led to merchants firing and banishment from the field of prison management. UN quote. Finally, although the Brandon Indian Residential School was not a prison farm, archival research points to conditions for the prisoners held at the Atlanta prison farm that are not dissimilar from the conditions of the children held at the Brandon Indian Residential School. We see lacking healthcare, poor sanitation and ventilation, malnutrition, violence, and abuse. The heavy workload, accidents, and harsh punishments all contributed to the deaths there and each of those factors. Has been demonstrated via archival research to have existed on the prison farm in Atlanta. As mentioned at the beginning of the first episode, this is not an exhaustive or comprehensive history. A further research is necessary and hopefully, as explained by the past few episodes, is extremely warranted. However, what's laid out here and in the Atlantic Community presses other work already changes our fundamental understanding of the Atlanta prison farm. Far from a federal program ending in the 60s before being essentially abandoned, we saw that the Atlanta prison farm on Key Rd was a city run from the very beginning and the direct continuation of the already cruel stockade. Contrary to popular belief, it was run continuously from the early 20s. Up into the 1990s, it was a completely different property than the Honor Farm, despite many, including the Atlanta Police Foundation, continuing to use that phrase when referring to the site. At the city Run prison farm, atrocious conditions persisted across the better part of a century and ongoing into what we would consider the modern era, despite claims at each stage that the bad times were behind us and a new era lay ahead. There is a documented history of the city prioritizing its ability to cut costs with prison labor, essentially extending slavery, extensive records of physical and emotional abuse, torture, forced labor, overwork, a lack of healthcare, poor sanitation, overcrowding, and poor nutrition ranging throughout the entire history of the site. Nearly every stage of leadership has gotten caught breaking rules and laws while avoiding the same carceral fate as the prisoners, as well as a reluctance by city officials to enact policies that would truly alleviate these harms and attempt to make up for them. Rather ensuring that power remains continuous. As is the case with Cops city, this history demonstrates how Atlanta city government is perfectly fine with over ruling rights of the residents of De Kalb County who are disenfranchised from the city. With the Atlanta Police Foundation and the city getting closer and closer to deforestation and facility construction, the window of opportunity is shrinking for further on the ground historical research. The fact that they've yet to meet the requirements for the full environmental assessments, let alone the careful historical analysis necessary considering the history of the land, means that the city is not only physically erasing the history of the lives it's destroyed, but also risking the possibility. Of desecrating their graves in the process. A guest column in the supporter report by Lily Ponents, an environmental engineer and now former member of the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, AKA Cop City, gave us an inside look at how the development of Cobb City is knowingly and willingly refusing to do their due diligence assessments and pave over decades of carceral history. Quote since joining the Community Stakeholder Advisory committee. For the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, I've observed the developers from da Vinci Development Collaborative, along with the Atlanta Police Foundation, mislead the community into believing that they are following a legitimate, regulated environmental due diligence process. In reality, they are doing less than the minimum to meet the legally defined standards for environmental site assessment reporting and are breaking the trust of stakeholders and the terms of their ground lease agreement with the City of Atlanta. Given the historical operation as a prison farm and plantation prior to that conditions, violence, abuse, accidents, and harsh punishments, it is reasonable to believe that areas of the property could contain human remains in unmarked graves. This was never investigated. Comments and professional input from myself and others on the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee were brushed off and no additional site investigations were considered beyond the limited. Site investigation. To remedy this, the city of Atlanta must force the development team to act responsibly by requiring a proper phase two environmental site assessment. If they fail to do so, taxpayers are likely to foot the bill for the remediation that is being ignored, or for the complicated litigation that will arise when this development team disturbs human remains on this site. UN quote. A few months ago, Lilly Ponens was kicked off the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee after writing this column. Both the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee and COP City have repeatedly been made aware that the assessments they've done fail to meet environmental requirements, and the reports that they are using to base decisions off of and green light proposals have been shown to be inaccurate. As far as responding to City Council, a PF. Enlisted Terracon to write a cultural report. This report was highly inaccurate due to relying on the Jillian Wooten report. I personally emailed City Council. As Atlanta Community Press Collective and. As I've repeatedly told them, hey, this is incorrect. This is why. Here's proof this is really disgusting and sad that you refuse to acknowledge any of this history. And ironically, month or two later another report comes out that's slightly better, slightly revised, but still has that whitewashed aspect that the original 1 did. I had the misfortune to recently need to reread the Terracon report. And I don't believe they they address when. The city supposedly took over the prison, the federal farm at all. I don't think they discussed that date in the slightest. But the gluten report that they draw from, I think she just says sometime in the 50s, which was how we figured out because we were trying to nail down the date in the 50s, and then we had to go back and back and back and back and back. We found out when the city purchased the land by literally just going to the DeKalb history archives. At the courthouse and looking them up. That's a fairly quick process in terms of research that a PF obviously didn't care or bother. To look into at all, obviously the city of Atlanta didn't either. Yeah. In her residential school thesis, Catherine Nicholes lays out a robust process for unobtrusively examining possibilities of human remains while respecting the communities affected. Her process involves thorough archival research, including the use of oral histories and unconfirmed local knowledge to generate leads for deeper investigation. This archival research is then situated alongside the currently existing literature on the subject. She then conducts qualitative interviews with local community members and family members of those affected. She stresses that this qualitative information is not to be written off just because it does not align with records that the state institutions. Considered to be legitimate. And finally, she lays out a method for field research, including site reconnaissance, field walking and probing, site preparation, controlled burns mapping, aerial photography, soil profiles, metal detector surveys, ground penetrating radar and ground conductivity surveys, all checked against controls to ensure that they align with the results of the same methods on previously known unmarked grave sites. Crucially, all of this is done. With the consent of the relevant communities, and is done unobtrusively as to not disturb the graves. Now that the construction process has ostensibly started. How does that factor into like, you know, disturbing the grounds where there could be, you know, all of this history that is being unearthed and kind of paved over top of how does that kind of impact the ability to do? Ethical research going forward into the history of this land. So for one thing, we've talked on and off with a handful of like archaeologists and anthropologists and related fields about. If we were going to go onto the prison farm property and. Conduct a search for grave sites or other historical information like. We have no legal way to do that. It would be trespassing and we also know that from the quote UN quote cultural report that the police Foundation had done. They didn't really do that kind of search. They were mostly searching for evidence of, I guess you could say, indigenous artifacts, not let's say bodies buried in the 1920s. So the ability to do on site historical research is it, it kind of depends on, hey, how willing are you to get picked up for felony trespassing because that's a charge they can put on you. It it definitely feels like we're up against a clock. I'm just going to add on to that. I feel like one of the issues that we've definitely come across as far as looking for. Graves that are related to the prison farm. Your options are pretty much ground penetrating radar or what they call cadaver dogs. Could ever dogs theoretically can sniff? Up to 100 years from what I've read. How many people have connections to cadaver dogs, honestly? And then also the just logistics of attempting to get ground penetrating radar in a forest? Is definitely difficult. Are you worried as construction continues, that even if stuff is discovered, whether that be unmarked graves or you know other other various other things that? Do you have any, any level of confidence that if things are found they'll even go public? Or are you worried that if they find things, they'll just? Cover it up, basically. I have absolutely 0 faith. I mean to me that I have absolutely 0 faith. To directly answer your question, I have absolutely 0 faith that anything that is found will be preserved. We also have it on fairly good authority that the issuing of construction permits is imminent. DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry is. Our our best legal ally, if you will, our best government ally, he last week during the week of action introduced. A resolution that would ask. DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, to basically make a series of, asks himself of the city of Atlanta. This is basically legally the most the County Commission can do and it is all incumbent upon the CEO of the county to actually do these things. Hope is not great for the county CEO to do any of these things, but Ted Terry among other things asked for additional environmental studies, which by the way they are required to do in the lease. He asked for additional historical research and Full disclosure. He actually cited the press collectives history report we did last summer in the legislation, which was both. He's a state actor, but also, you got to admit, that's kind of cool. It was gratifying to see our work receive. A fairly high level of recognition. Additional environmental studies, historical research, noise studies, and ultimately he asks that the CEO asked the city to consider just relocating the site completely. I think something that we need to take into consideration throughout this entire research process is that a lot of the records that we have access to. Our newspaper, the primary newspaper source we have access to is the A JC, which we have. A. Clear. We have clear proof that JC continues to be racist, continues to focus on the narrative that they would like to project. As far as being. Accomplices to the police and to a PF and how that correlates to the cities. History and mishandling of this. Piece of land. When we were looking through older articles. There are a handful of newspapers. There's the great speckled bird, which is a G so it's a student run newspaper. This one. I'm assuming just based on the 60s and 70s timeframe that there's a decent chance that it was primarily written by white people. I do not have proof of that. I'm just. Going on with gut feeling with that. So there is a probably a bit of bias. But it really does start to give a different picture of the people that were sent to. The prison from there were several GSU students who were sent there and they were put in the hole. One was put in the hole just because he had long hair and he refused to cut his hair. So they said, you know what, you're going into isolation, have fun, and he was there for a little bit. It's important to reiterate that throughout much of the archival research that produced these findings, the bulk of the articles discovered were from the Atlanta Journal, the Atlanta Constitution, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution after the two merged. Though these papers reported on bad conditions once they had become public and in two cases were responsible for investigative work that made these conditions public, these white run papers, much like many major newspapers, have a known history of racism and support for the police state and carceral institutions. We therefore believe that a thorough search through archives of Black run newspapers such as the Atlanta Daily, World Magazines, and other publications. Is necessary to gain a more complete understanding of the history. Both myself and the researchers that put this history together are furthermore white, and so it is possible that our own biases and blind spots could be present in this reporting. We strongly believe that a more complete accounting of this history could be undertaken by people who have been more directly affected and hope that these episodes and the research they're based on is not taken as the. End of the story, but just a beginning and an invitation to further scrutiny. Is there really any way to continue the research that would be necessary to? Actually reserve the history and keep people knowledgeable about the atrocities that's happened. But the past 100 plus years? Like with if construction continues, is there even a way to do this now or is the clock really just running out? So I think one of the biggest hurdles as far as preserving the history is honestly just getting people to care about it. Because it's not sexy. It's not. People in tree houses? It's sitting on a computer just skimming through thousands of articles. No one cares that in 1982 the ACLU sued the city because they were using illegal and unconstitutional punishments. Nobody really cares about that kind of stuff. It's not that exciting in the grand scheme of things. But it's part of the history, and it's part of what has LED us to where we are now with COP City. And with that, that wraps up our miniseries on the very much incomplete history of the old Atlanta prison farm. The fact that there's seemingly little to no original official records to learn from because they were either trashed or never kept in the 1st place is itself a cover up and denial of history and gross denial of the experiences of trauma and oppression of those who are subjected to the horrors of the prison farm. It's bad enough that the city couldn't be bothered to remember the history, but crucially, they're bulldozed over police endorsed narrative in whatever museum or plaque. I want to create cannot be allowed to become the story of the prison farm and its many atrocities that we are still rediscovering. There is still a long way to go and we have barely scratched the surface. Hopefully this is just the start of more people paying attention to the forgotten histories like this and then going out and doing further digging. You can check out the Atlantic Community Press Collective and their great reporting at ATL press, collective.com or Atlanta under score press on Twitter. See you all on the other side. Hey, we'll be back Monday with more episodes every week from now until the heat death of the universe. It could happen here as a production of cool zone media. For more podcasts and cool Zone Media, visit our website coolzonemedia.com, or check us out on the iHeartRadio App Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts you can find sources for. It could happen here, updated monthly at coolzonemedia.com/sources. Thanks for listening. Hey there. 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