Those are the words shouted by an opponent of juvenile incarceration while being arrested for protesting against the new $210 Million Dollar Juvenile Detention Facility on New Years Eve. Surprisingly, KOMO TV aired this statement in addition to their typical narrative of “purposeless troublemakers arrested by valiant SPD officers”. (See their interpretation of the events here at KOMOnews.com)On New Years Eve, a group of over 100 protesters and activists met for a “Noise Demo” at the Juvenile Detention Center on 12th and Alder. The purpose of a noise demo is to show those locked inside that not everyone is willing to let them be brushed under the rug. The assembled group wanted the children locked inside to know that people outside were thinking about them and were willing to risk police intimidation, brutality, and even arrest in order to challenge the current system of youth incarceration.
From the outset, the event was festive, with a cacophony of pots and pans, 5 gallon drums, metal plates and spoons, a marching band, and even a light show!! Unfortunately, the Seattle Police chose to escalate and harass the crowd. At one point, SPD officers repeatedly charged their vehicles directly at protesters, ironically attempting to run over people holding a sign stating “COPS KILL”. (Note that 6 of the 29 shooting deaths in 2013 were by SPD officers.) Although garbage cans were carefully positioned to help protect the marchers from the menacing police vehicles, the continued police harassment of the crowd eventually resulted in the arrest of several individuals.
Beyond the police/protester narrative there are two points that are critical to framing this incident:
Target Audience: The primary audience for this action was not the typical white, upper middle-class, “liberal democrat” that would likely judge this action as “too radical”. This was a message that was aimed at the children that are currently being incarcerated as well as those that have been and those that are statistically likely to be. It has been confirmed directly that these types of events create a genuine emotional response and positive social connection. It means something to them to know there are people out there who really care about what is happening to them and want to stop it.
Focus on Youth Incarceration: The purpose of the action was to draw attention to the MASSIVE $210 million dollar CHILD PRISON that is being built with our tax dollars at 12th and Alder. Every one of those dollars could be spent on education and prevention programs, but instead they are creating a facility that will TRIPLE the existing capacity. Our city is investing heavily in continuing the school to prison pipeline rather than disrupting or dismantling it.
While this type of action might not be a tactic that everyone actively participates in, we are ALL responsible for not letting the issue of Youth Incarceration be swept under the rug.
We will post more on this over time, and encourage others to contribute articles on this subject. In the meantime, here is a brief history of youth incarceration from a fellow comrade:
Juvenile detention was invented in this country in 1899 which was soon following the time society invented the concept of a childhood. Children were just small adults getting skills together before that. When the juvie was first invented it had a Progressive theme to it for the times, i.e. it was slightly on the compassionate side and used the new sciences like sociology, weak as they were, to give kids a rehabilitative chance. Or at least they thought they were. So things got progressively worse for kids caught up in the system, and precipitously worse in the past ten or 20 years with respect to the new consensus of punitive moralizing, micro-managing probation, harsher sentencing, and most of all eliminating consideration of root causes for behaviors. However, especially here in the NW, the numbers being incarcerated have been going down. Only 50 to 75 are inmates at any one time. King County has voted to build, for $210 million, a new juvie center that will house 154 children. This plan has not taken into consideration further reducing the population through other programs. They want to be prepared for doubling and tripling incarceration. They do callously say that if there are excess “living halls” that they will house “homeless” children in them. There is an organization called Washington Incarceration Stops Here that is organizing to stop the building. (Facebook page)