Noise Report: Fireworks and Rage Light Up the Youth Jail in Minneapolis

Anonymous submission to Conflict MN

A noise demo was called to take place in Minneapolis on the 21st of August at the start of the nationwide prison strike coordinated across at least seventeen different states. We joined hundreds of others, clanking and screaming down the walls of various jails and prisons across the country, building upon a tradition of militant solidarity with those on the inside. Beyond simply holding people captive and forcing them to work, reducing them to a body that labors, the function of prison is also fundamentally to separate, isolate and reduce life to cells of confinement. If we are yet too weak to tear down the walls that separate us we will let the thud and murmur of our noise break down this isolation. We have heard their call and we will amplify it.

A little after eight o’clock, as the sun was going down, people started trickling into Elliot park. A cop car drove across the lawn and parked in the direction of the soccer field, seemingly not paying us any attention. As groups of more and more people arrived, someone got up with a megaphone and told everyone that the plan was to march to the youth jail a small number of blocks away. They talked about why people would want to wear masks and that we were not there to police each other’s behavior. Another few quick speeches gave people context for the strike and connected it to the struggles taking place in Minnesota prisons and jails. Some not already masked up donned masks and people with banners moved to face in the direction of the street. As the brass marching band played we moved into the street and started marching. Flares were lit and anti prison and anti police chants reverberated off the buildings through nearly empty downtown streets.

This march, however, was not for the downtown pedestrian going to and from work or bar. It’s a weird almost foolish feeling of yelling for ourselves in that emptiness. But when we got to the jail and we saw all the faces and fists held up, some banging on the glass it dispelled any feelings of foolishness. What felt like moments after we arrived to the side of the jail a mortar of fireworks shot a burst of color and a loud boom right above the jail. Someone sprayed “fire to the prisons” onto the ground facing the windows of the cells. Roman candles were passed out to the crowd and shot at the jail as we alternated between chants, the band playing and anti police songs on a mobile boom box. The demands that have circulated along with the call for the strike were read through a megaphone, communicating them to those in the jail as well as everyone else there.

Here again we felt the strange lack of interest in us by the police. Only one squad car and a few cops walking around during our time at the jail. They came and they left. Only a passing interaction—disinterest or disengagement. Who knows really. We did not press our luck. We remind ourselves that we are not validated by our repression. However, next time may we also be more prepared to take advantage of such an opportunity.

Even without the police presence the chants on the return from the jail focused almost exclusively on the police. This is no surprise as they are slavers of the modern day plantation that is prison and violent enforcers of the racial order that is the USA. As we marched back the noise we made was for ourselves, to really feel powerful enough to fight—against a world which produces and fills prisons. We ended with everyone safe in the park. A few short statements were made about the strike and relevant upcoming events, materially supporting repressed comrades in prison who participate in the strike as it progresses. Then we went our separate ways.

During this demo, a little less than half of the people participating wore all black and covered their faces. Some merely covered distinguishing marks and their faces. Masks were handed out. Some took them and some didn’t. Previous noise demos here had increasingly tended toward all black everything as well as dwindling numbers corresponding with the isolation of the group. Given this, the militant composition of the crowd has an important strategic value that we must take seriously. When we ask the question of how to ensure that we as a crowd are both unruly and safe, both combative and joinable, it must be answered situation by situation but in such a way that opens us toward others and others toward the crowd. This noise demo itself comes closer to answering this problem posed by the previous three noise demos here, providing multiple layers of activity, involving multiple social groupings and subjectivities. How we give the multiple space to flourish in common is how we give strength to our movements.

The Strike has just started.

Let’s make sure it stays lit af.

Because fuck a prison and its world.

– a group of friends