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Sean Swain on slavery, Nat Turner, John Brown, and drones: A statement for June 11

In previous years, I have used the occasion of June 11 to roll out what I thought were pretty big ideas.

Originally published by June 11. Written by anarchist prisoner Sean Swain.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

Sean Swain on slavery, Nat Turner, John Brown, and drones: A statement for June 11

In previous years, I have used the occasion of June 11 to roll out what I thought were pretty big ideas. In 2015, for example, I described how blastblog.noblogs.org had posted the home addresses of Ohio prison officials, including those who had orchestrated the torture regimen I endured at Mansfield. In that statement, opposing torture, I suggested that we collectively adopt a policy of self-defense against state terrorists, that when they torture us, we burn their cars and houses down; that when they stop the torture, we stop the burning.

The ODRC claimed that what I said constituted a threat to every single employee of the ODRC and their families. As what I wrote was a statement opposing torture, to me, it seems like something of an admission that every single employee of the ODRC was threatened. This means that even the ODRC recognizes that all of its employees participate in torture.

At any rate, as fate will have it, in 2017 when I undertook at 50-day hungerstrike, those home addresses were still posted. I have it on good authority that prison officials received death threats at their homes, at all hours of the night and day, phoned in from “exotic area codes.” I have also heard a rumor that, at one of those state terrorist’s residences, an item of property of significant value somehow ended up getting torched. I don’t know whose home, and I don’t know whether the significantly-valued property was a house or a car or even a barbecue grill, but I know this: After that piece of property got torched, state terrorists began negotiating an end to my hungerstrike and I got all of my communications restored.

As a side note, I have also heard a rumor – no telling how true this is – that blood evidence was found at the state terrorist’s residence where property was torched; the state tested it and discovered the DNA was mine. Not sure how something like that could happen, as I clearly have an alibi. I think it would take a pretty elaborate and complicated plan for anyone to have gotten my blood out of a maximum security prison to smear it around at a crime scene.

But that’s the rumor.

Every year, state terrorists retaliate against me for the content of my June 11 statements, usually through their kangaroo disciplinary process. I have come to think of my June 11 statements as a kind of “heart attack delivery system,” a weaponized form of communication designed to cause cardiac distress for state terrorists who ponder all the doom and disaster that confronts them if what I’m saying inspires you.

Please let this inspire you.

This year, there’s virtually nothing the state terrorists can do to me. I already have all of my communications suspended and I have been essentially kicked out of every single prison of higher security than this one.

I have to wonder what will get torched next… and where authorities will find my blood smeared.

With my mail monitored by federal authorities, this statement still made it to its destination. I think we can all agree that we really don’t feel safe with these geniuses protecting the public, right? I know I don’t.

So, at any rate, to the topic of this year’s statement…

When pondering what I might be able to do for the cause of freedom – true freedom, what anarchy really represents – I often ask myself, “What would Nat Turner do? What would John Brown do?” These are the questions that come to mind because we are all facing a system of slavery.

My enslavement is maybe a bit more obvious than yours, but yours is just as real as mine. Perhaps my experience is more analogous to the struggle of field hands during plantation days and perhaps your experience is more akin to the house servants. You have slightly more amenities that I do, a bigger pile of toys, but ask yourself: what would happen if you didn’t smile at your boss’s stale jokes? What would happen if you told that cop what you really thought of him and his authority? Never mind overt behaviors like waving fists, let’s just consider things as harmless as facial expressions. We live in a society so unfree that a boss can fire you or a cop can kill you, not for violent behavior or aggressive gestures, but for the look on your face.

Cops in Nevada had an intoxicated man sobbing and crawling around on the carpet in a hotel hallway for twenty minutes, playing some demented version of “Simon Says,” before pumping him full of slugs and killing him… for adjusting his pants that were falling down. The difference between that guy and you? You happened to not be in that hotel hallway. That’s all.

So, if you really think you’re free, you’re not paying attention.

And anyone who is not free is a slave.

I’m a slave. So are you. Our common enemy enslaves us.

So, I look to Nat Turner and John Brown as role models. They both sought to instigate slave rebellions. And just to demonstrate to you that I have no illusions about what those two figures really represent… After Nat Turner killed his slave-owner with a hatchet, and after he likewise killed that slave-owner’s wife and older children, Nat Turner left that plantation and permitted the slave-owner’s infant son to live. But, later on, he sent two rebels back to kill the child, as he came to realize that as long as that child was left alive, that child was his owner. That baby would inherit Nat Turner as a piece of property.

To be free, Nat Turner had to kill that infant. In the aftermath of that slave rebellion, that infant child was found headless in the fireplace. Its skull had been repeatedly dashed against the bricks.

So, just to be clear, I am fully aware of the unmitigated violence unleashed by Nat Turner in that famous slave rebellion, and I still consider Nat Turner a role model. If you enslave me and you have an infant son that will inherit me, and if you have a tasteful, brick fireplace, then you will probably want to make sure my fellow slaves and I never find a way to get our hands on some hatchets.

You really won’t like the outcome.

In the case of John Brown, he intended to raid the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry and distribute the firearms and ammunition to slaves, arming them in full knowledge that those slaves would utterly slaughter the plantation aristocracy of the South. Rather than fomenting rebellion with hatchets, leaving rebel slaves to dash infant brains against stone fireplaces, John Brown sought to provide guns that would make the bloodbath more efficient and much quicker.

You might outrun rebel slaves with hatchets.

You won’t outrun bullets.

At any rate, when I say I’m a big fan of Nat Turner and John Brown, just to be clear, I’m not talking about the polished portraits that the government may place on commemorative postage stamps. No, I’m referring to the enemies of the state who struggled for the wholesale destruction of the slave-owning class as a means for obtaining liberation, the rebels who were hung with nooses placed around their necks by that very same government that now issues commemorative postage stamps.

Most of my role models have been executed.

Go figure.

So, as I said, I often ask myself: What would Nat Turner do? What would John Brown do? Often, I find my mind drifting to technological advances like drones. It seems to me that if John Brown were alive today, he would likely be amassing a fleet of drones – for delivery of weapons and bolt cutters into prisons. If Nat Turner were alive today, he would be conspiring with underground resistance to arrange delivery of guns and ammunition, machetes and hatchets.

Consider this: The larger system reducing all of us to slavery relies on a few essential components to maintain control. One of those central components is the criminal justice complex, the courts and prisons, the capacity of the state to punish. This capacity to punish not only neutralizes those who rebel, like Marius Mason or Jeremy Hammond, the Cleveland 4 and the NATO 5, but the threat that this complex represents keeps the rest of us in our assigned seats, obeying, complying, following orders, maintaining the program.

If that capacity to punish was suddenly suspended or greatly impeded, not only would you have angry savages spilling out into the world, creating a real mess of things, but you would have a population emboldened, more and more, to wild out. So, the destruction of the prison complex is also the destruction of hierarchical disorder, the unraveling of the existent system, the collapse of the global slavocracy.

Drone deliveries of weapons and ammunition into the prison complex would be a great contribution to that collapse.

Consider, in Ohio prisons for example, on the inside of the prison fences, there are two operable firearms. One pistol remains in a safe in the warden’s office while the other remains in a safe in the office of the chief of security, the major. No one else inside the perimeter is armed with anything more than pepper spray or billy clubs, which can easily be appropriated by rebel prisoners with rifles. In such a scenario, agents of control would attempt to re-take the prison, but the same conditions that keep prisoners from getting out would also work to keep those agents from easily getting in. There exists no contingency plan for attempting to re-take a prison complex from armed rebels with assault rifles and perhaps hundreds of captured government forces.

None.

So, imagine how the government might respond to two or three or a dozen slave rebellions occurring at the same time, all involving armed rebels holding the prison hostage… and thereby holding the government hostage… and thereby holding the hierarch model hostage. A dozen Attica or Lucasville Uprisings… where prisoners are locked and loaded.

We’re not just talking about spectacle – although it would certainly be a spectacle – we’re talking about a critical disjuncture, an event so cataclysmic and so utterly devastating to both the reality and the myth of hierarchy that generations would understand existence in such a way that there was the “world before” and the “world after” these rebellions. It would be the Titanic, the Hindenburg, 911, and Columbine, all wrapped up into one event.

So, given this great potential, we have to ask: Why hasn’t this happened yet? As far as I can tell, there are two reasons. First, the cost of drones and weapons. Second, the penalties for getting caught. I’d like to address these issues in that order.

The cost of a drone that can carry a decent payload might be a few grand. I remember a few years back, the top-of-the-line drone was $2,500. No doubt, drones have advanced and costs have increased.

But, I would point out that after the initial pay-out in purchasing a drone, this is a project that can more than pay for itself. With a drone, you can generate a great deal of revenue. Here at Warren Correctional, for instance, five founds of tobacco can get you roughly $4,000, and if the prisoner on the receiving end is willing to go to the troubles of breaking up that bulk amount into packages for sale to the consumers, it could get you up to as a much as $10,000.

We’re talking tobacco here, not cocaine or meth. One delivery per month of five pounds of tobacco would generate a minimum of $48,000 per year – just from this prison.

But consider: There are a number of other prisons with cell blocks where drone deliveries of tobacco can be effectively made. So, with one drone, someone could conceivably generate more than half a million dollars per year in drone deliveries of tobacco just to Ohio prisons with cell blocks. That doesn’t include deliveries of cell phones, which can go for as much as $500 a piece, or pot, or hard drugs, or specialty items like bottles of vodka or cigars or Penthouse magazines; rope ladders, explosives, or bolt cutters.

Half a million dollars a year from twelve deliveries across Ohio per month. That could fund a lot of radical activity. We’re talking about becoming the “professional anarchists” that Donald Trump predicted right after his inauguration.

Now, if anyone feels badly about delivering over-priced lung cancer to prisoners, you should know that five pounds of tobacco will flow into this prison and guards will pocket the profits unless you cut them out and monopolize the tobacco deliveries. Somebody will deliver high-priced lung cancer to prisoners. The question is whose pockets will get filled. Will it be opportunists who hate prisoners, or will it be rebels who use that money to liberate prisoners?

I think that probably covers the economic aspect. As to the penalties for getting caught, when you move from tobacco to dropping off dufflebags full of AR-15 rifles, you’re facing some really serious penalties. If you get caught, state terrorists are going to bury you.

I would suggest not getting caught.

There are folks who have already gotten caught making drone deliveries into prisons. You can probably look at the mistakes they made in order to avoid repeating them. Things I would suggest in order to avoid getting caught:

  • Do not have drones registered in your name. Buy a used drone from before registration was mandatory, or send in someone to buy the drone for you and then report it as stolen.
  • Do not deliver during daylight hours. As all deliveries are done at night during limited visibility, you will need more planning and advance coordination.
  • Do not deliver to dormitories. In prisons with dorms, you have hundreds of witnesses. You want to deliver to cell blocks so that you can deliver to a specific cell window where a maximum of two occupants are aware of what happened.
  • Do not attach the payload to the drone itself. You want a few hundred feet of high-test fishing line that you use to connect the payload to the drone, or some metal cable spray-painted black. That way, the drone can remain at a much higher altitude where it cannot be seen or heard while the payload arrives at the proper cell window.
  • Fly the drone at maximum altitude until it is directly over the delivery point. Once you make the first delivery and establish the drone’s position, you can program the drone to stop at that exact point every single time.
  • Coordinate deliveries in advance. That means the prisoner receiving the delivery should have a cell phone or some other method of communicating so that monitored phones and emails aren’t used. Coordinated deliveries guarantee that the drone will be present over the prison for the shortest amount of time. In and out. Zoom, zoom. Then, gone.

If anarchists and prison abolitionists across the country begin drone deliveries in state prisons, collectives in all fifty states could generate millions of dollars that provide anarchists the luxury of making rebellion their full-time jobs. It would also provide massive funds for proxies to take to gun shows for purchasing stockpiles of weapons and ammunition. Then, whenever prison riots or disturbances begin, or wherever prisoner rebels are planning on getting started, a drone delivery of weapons could be on the way.

Advances in drone technology have already evolved so that drones can now carry a payload of hundreds of pounds, making it possible to transport a human being by drone. It could be that, by this time next year, I will be writing about how rebels can use the commercially-available high-end drones to conduct selective extractions from prisons. And, perhaps, by then, prison abolitionists will have already generated millions of dollars and will already have the drone-delivery experience to start those extractions.

What would Nat Turner and John Brown think about our current era and the possibilities of slave uprisings?

Interesting times.

Sean Swain, May 2018.


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