Introducing… #OpValentine 2014!

#OpValentine wall art

As many of you know, #OpPenPal began as #OpValentine approximately one year ago, when a group of activists banded together to encourage the people of the interwebz to send love via snail mail to our imprisoned comrades for Valentine’s day. (Not to buy in to the corporate holiday, but to use it as an excuse to shed light on those who most need our love and support.) We were amazed at the enthusiastic response and decided to keep the project going year-round.

Through the past year we’ve seen friends arrested, convicted, and sentenced – but also some who had charges dropped, won cases and, when very lucky, have been freed. It’s been an incredible journey and we appreciate everyone who has joined us along the way.

We have great plans for expanding our prisoner support efforts in 2014 and we hope everyone reading this will continue to play an active role. In the meantime: the next month is dedicated to #OpValentine!

opval013

Being a part of #OpValentine is easy:

1) To find a prisoner (or multiple prisoners) to write to, simply take a look at our mailing list, or check out lists posted by other groups such as the Denver ABC or Black and Pink.

2) Send your selected prisoner(s) a postcard, valentine, or letter. Keep in mind that fun things like stickers, glitter, and glue/tape are considered contraband in many facilities. Be creative and find ways to make your cards and letters bright and cheerful without such add-ons.

3) Some suggestions: Prisoners love hearing news, local updates, funny stories, or pretty much anything interesting. They also love photos, so feel free to include some (printed on regular computer paper), or use an approved service like FlikShop or FotoPigeon.

4) Tweet photos of your valentines to us at @OpPenPal using the hashtag #OpValentine to help us build a photo gallery. (See last year’s badass gallery here.) All photos will be reposted anonymously and without attribution.

5) Tell all your friends!

So much love!

Think of this as a backward compatible interweb solidarity action. A snail mail DDoS of prison mail rooms across the country, if you will. For the next month let us commit to flooding these soulless facilities with messages of love, hope, support and solidarity. Every letter makes a difference. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

We do not forgive injustice.
We do not forget our imprisoned comrades.
Expect Mail. Lots of it.

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URGENT: Funds Needed For Migs’ (NATO 5) Early Prison Release

This weekend we received word that Mark Neiweem (aka Migs) of the NATO 5 has had 30 days good time restored and will be released from prison this week, instead of mid-January. While this is welcome and exciting news, it also means his support team has only a few days to prepare for his return home instead of several weeks.

Funds are urgently needed to buy clothing, shoes, hygiene products, food, and other basic necessities for Migs upon his release. Donations are being accepted here: https://www.wepay.com/donations/migs-prison-release-fund

BACKGROUND:

Migs is one of the NATO 5, a group of Occupy activists arrested in the days leading up to the May 2012 NATO summit protests in Chicago as the result of undercover law enforcement infiltration. Migs was arrested in a spectacular snatch-and-grab as he was leaving a restaurant. He was charged with attempted possession and solicitation of an incendiary device and was facing up to 30 years in prison as well as a consecutive sentence for a probation violation charge. The state alleged that he attempted to get undercover Chicago police officer “Mo” to buy materials for him for constructing a PVC pipe bomb.

On April 11, 2013, Migs accepted a non-cooperating plea deal to the probation violation charge and to solicitation and attempted possession of an explosive or incendiary device. (You can read about his decision to accept the plea agreement here.) He was sentenced to a 3 years in a state prison and received credit for time served and other reductions in the duration of his incarceration for good behavior, ultimately reducing his sentence to 18 months with 11 months served.

Migs is no stranger to the Chicago cops, as he has been prominent in the Chicago-area anarchist community for some years now. In addition to being targeted for preemptive arrest, he was initially denied vital medical treatment after being arrested and, later was forced to choose between going to the hospital and talking with his attorney. During his time in Cook County Jail, he was singled out by the guards and beaten severely, requiring hospitalization. Early on in his incarceration, he was cornered in his cell by guards who took pictures of his anarchist tattoos and tried to force him to sign an admission of being part of the “black bloc anarchists” gang. He steadfastly refused to sign. Migs’ attorney complained about the ongoing harassment and targeting of him in open court, but the harassment continued.

Migs has continued to experience harassment and abuse because of his politics while at Pontiac Correctional Center, where he has served the remainder of his sentence. Prison officials wrote him up for disciplinary infractions for possessing literature with anarchist information and symbols. They subsequently revoked several months of his “good time” (time credited to his sentence for good behavior) and have held him in solitary confinement since July 13, 2013.

Activists, supporters, and other concerned community members joined together this summer to put pressure on the state to release Migs on time and not penalize him for reading and writing about a political ideology. The campaigns on his behalf, paired with legal appeals, have now resulted in Migs being released only one month later than originally expected. The final victory this past week means Migs will serve only 19 months total, instead of the full three years prison officials had threatened him with.

Migs has been steadfast in his convictions throughout this ordeal, and we have been steadfast in our support. Help us bring him home on wonderfully short notice: https://www.wepay.com/donations/migs-prison-release-fund

Bitcoins accepted here: 1Aq8pFMcNfZqBYQ2jNhnYgwoME3o3buRYi

Send a welcome home card to Migs:
OpPenPal
PO Box 409220
Chicago IL 60640

Write to Yuri, an anarchist still being held in solitary at Pontiac:
Patrick Owens M36667
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac IL 61764

READ MORE ABOUT MIGS:
Prisoner Sent to Solitary for Having “Copious Amounts of Anarchist Publications” (via Vice magazine)
Open Communiqué by Mark Neiweem (via NATO5support)
Prisoner Support: Every Moment A Crisis, Every Moment A Gift (via Suicide Girls blog)

Animal Rights Activist on Hunger Strike After IL Jail Bans All Books

Via Support Kevin & Tyler:

Kevin Olliff is on hunger strike until the Woodford County Jail book ban is reversed.

It has been over 6 weeks since Michael Waterworth banned all books from entering the Woodford County Jail. The psychological toll of life in a cell without any way to pass the time has been nearly insufferable, as they are forced to waste away without even the most basic form of mental stimulation.

Today Kevin announced that he is prepared to go without food until the book ban is lifted. The hunger strike is effective as of midnight, Wednesday night.

What you can do

Continue to call Michael Waterworth and the jail repeatedly, this time with the added word of caution that they will soon have a sick and dying prisoner if they do not undo the ban. Kevin is prepared to go the distance and not eat until the jail allows prisoners access to books.

  • Jail: 309-467-2116
  • Sheriff Pierceall: 309-467-2375

If you prefer to write, a sample letter to IL Governor Pat Quinn and Eureka Mayor Scott Punke is available here. Continue reading

UPDATE: Mark of the NATO 5 To Spend Six Months in Solitary for Anarchism

Mark “Migs” Neiweem of the NATO 5 has been in solitary confinement for nearly two months. Why? For being in possession of Anarchist symbols (including the Anarchist Black Cross logo) and Anarchist literature. Please call or write in today to demand these politically-motivated disciplinary actions be reversed.

Anarchism!

Since our previous call-in campaign, Mark has been found guilty on two disciplinary violations:

  • Gang or Unauthorized Organization Activity, for his possession of “unauthorized” Anarchist symbols and friendship with another Anarchist in the prison
  • Dangerous Written Material, for his possession of “unauthorized” Anarchist literature

These rules exist to limit gang activity within the prison but are being used in this case to target Anarchists and label them as an imminent threat to the facility. He is still being held in the most restrictive type of cell within solitary, behind a solid steel door. Continue reading

August FlikShop Drive for Weev – SPECIAL BIRTHDAY EDITION!!

It’s the last week of August and you know what that means – time to FlikShop Weev! Also, his birthday is September 1st, so this is a great way to send birthday greetings. Be creative!

Birthday Boy Weev

Background: we have learned is that Weev is not receiving most of his mail or books. The most reliable way to contact him is through FlikShop, a service that allows you to create customized postcards on your computer or phone that are then printed and sent to inmates – all for under a dollar apiece, postage included.

As such we will be hosting a FlikShop drive for Weev the last week of each month. We ask you to send him at least one card during this week (although feel free to send as many as you like). Just for fun, we’ll choose a photo theme each month.

If you prefer to send a regular postcard or letter, those are always appreciated, we just can’t promise he will ever see them. We also encourage you to write to him during other times of the month, but thought it might be useful to have a structured recurring event.

WHAT: August FlikShop Drive for Weev **SPECIAL BIRTHDAY EDITION**

WHEN: August 24-31

WHERE: https://flikshop.com/

WHO: The entire Internet – tell your friends!

PHOTO THEME: BIRTHDAY!!

MAILING ADDRESS:
Andrew Auernheimer
#10378-010
FCI Allenwood Low
Federal Correctional Institution
PO Box 1000
White Deer PA 17887

If you buy FlikShop credits in bulk, each individual card is cheaper. Please feel free to send cards to other prisoners on our mailing list while you’re at it!

P.S. You can tweet out the photo(s) you are sending to us @OpPenPal as well as @flikshop.

Photo Drive for Mark of the NATO 5, Held in Solitary for Being an Anarchist

Mark “Migs” Neiweem of the NATO 5 has been in solitary for over a month. Please send him letters and photos (printed on plain computer paper) to give him something to look at in his cramped cell.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Prison officials have responded to the call-in campaign we hosted to demand that Mark be released from solitary confinement by bringing two charges against him. These charges are inherently political, claiming that Mark’s reading, writing, and speaking with others about Anarchism, as well as being in possession of Anarchist symbols, is dangerous to the facility. Although Mark is due to be released in November, if these charges are upheld he faces up to two more years at Pontiac – all of it in solitary confinement.

For an example of Mark’s political writing, please see the Open Communiqué we published on his behalf.

Now that charges have been brought against Mark, his legal team is working to defend him against them. In the meantime, Mark is in the worst part of the prison with virtually no human contact. He describes his cell as “a tiny box”:

I reach my arms out and touch both walls with room to spare. I don’t know the dimensions but it’s by far the smallest cell I’ve ever been in. The front is steel plates with some holes drilled in them and the tiny view is of a brick wall 8 feet away. No light but the one they leave on nearly 24 hours a day.

I’ve got my head rested up against a pillow on one wall and my legs straight out, elevated and kicked up on the other wall. My ‘man cave’ has shrunk to a ‘man hole.’

Please send pictures of people, places, and things. These walls are ugly.

While Mark and his lawyers fight these charges, please join us in sending letters and photos to brighten up his ugly little cell. Photos should be printed on regular computer paper, not photo paper.

You can also send a customized postcard with a picture of your own via FlikShop.

Mark Neiweem
M36200
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764

Thanks for your support and check back next week for updates.

UPDATE: Call/Write-In Campaign – Get Mark Out of Solitary!

Mark “Migs” Neiweem (of the NATO 5) has been in solitary since July 13th – without being charged with any violation and without a chance to defend himself. We continue to request that you call, e-mail or write the Director of the Department of Corrections to demand that he release Mark from solitary immediately.

Love in a hopeless place

Earlier this week we posted a call to action asking activists and supporters to call and write in to Director Godinez of the Illinois Department of Corrections and Governor Quinn after Mark Neiweem, one of the NATO 5, was unjustly thrown into solitary confinement. He is “under investigation” by the gang intelligence unit for his political speech and an open communiqué he published from behind bars. Continue reading