By Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com)
It’s been nearly 7 years since Rob "los Ricos" Thaxton was arrested in Eugene, Or. during a "Reclaim the Streets" celebration, on June 16, 1999. In what has now become identifiable as a serious political war on activists in the Pacific Northwest, Rob was one of the first comrades to fall, and be used as some sort of judicial example, to try to quell political dissent in the United States, not just the Pacific Northwest. Later that same year Rob was jailed, activist activity would boil over at the WTO protests in the streets of Seattle. The war on political activism in the Pacific NW continues today, 7 years later, with fallen comrades left and right, trapped in the quicksand of high-priced legal representation and erratic governmental prosecutions backed by new federal laws that directly conflict with the U.S. Constitution.
In a recent public statement from Jeff Luers (http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/04/337543.shtml), he says, "The FBI devotes more time and energy to activists than it does Al-Qaeda." It sure does seem that way. And what is even more odd, is Eugene courts sentenced an "anarchist" who destroyed 3 SUV’s and threatened no human life, to a longer prison term than the U.S. Federal Courts gave the "American Taliban" (http://users.resist.ca/ kirstena/pageamericantaliban.html). In the case of John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban," he was found armed, hiding with a group of Taliban fighters, in a fight against U.S. military, that killed a CIA agent in Afghanistan. In 2002, he was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his part in that fight. His attorney is now arguing that sentencing is excessive because "another American citizen Yaser Hamdi who was also captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, taken into American custody at the same time under the same conditions" was "freed after less than three years." Compare that to the sentencing of an environmental activist labeled an "eco-terrorist" by the government, Jeff Luers. Jeff is accused of and sentenced to prison for destroying property, 3 SUVs. No human life was threatened. The property damage was not even that great. He was sentenced to 22 years due to his allegiance to the philosophy of environmental defense, basically. Rob Thaxton defended himself against a riot officer, and was sentenced to 7 years in Oregon prisons. Rob received 4 MORE years in jail than an "American Taliban" caught fighting in an armed struggle against American soldiers ! There is no logic to these huge chasms in judicial discretion going on in American courts nationwide. Talk about Blind Justice ! Someone needs to get American Justice a walking cane !
Prisoners like Jeff Luers and Rob Thaxton have been used by the U.S. government to try to strike FEAR into the hearts of activists who are concerned with issues such as fair trade versus "free" trade, sustainable ecosystems, police accountability, cooperative living versus corporate slavery, biodiversity, clean air and water, old growth protection, and other noble and necessary causes. The idea was Jeff got 22 years, Rob got 7 years ; you better THINK before you get involved with activists in Eugene or you could end up like them. But Rob made it through the 7 years in prison with his integrity and political beliefs intact. He was one of the first to fall. When Jeff Luers fell, Rob was there already to help him inside and Rob *did* give friendship to Jeff and other fallen comrades as they trickled into prison after Rob. Now Rob is one of the first to come back out alive to us, and this is A CALL TO ACTION FOR ROCK SOLID SUPPORT OF ROB "los Ricos" THAXTON FOR HIS JUNE 29, 2006 RELEASE FROM PRISON.
Prisoner support is not just about supporting prisoners during arrests, arraignments and sentencing. It is not just about writing letters or sending books while people are imprisoned. Prisoner support MUST also incorporate support for RELEASE. If these political prisoners are abandoned in prison along the way, their release can turn into a frightening event, rather than a celebratory one. Fears of homelessness, poverty, social stigma, return to prison, and more, haunt prisoners with no support upon release. You may think a prisoner’s release date would be the happiest day of their life. But for many without proper support, the day of release can end up as frightening as the day of conviction. We MUST NOT let that happen to our activist comrades in the Pacific NW. The Pacific NW corridor can do better than that. I KNOW we can learn how to create a proper support net for our own as they emerge from prison after serving long sentences. And right now, that safety net is pretty ragged and not very safe. We need to make that a solid safety net.
I visited Rob on April 15, 2006, in a Salem prison, and his soul is still intact. He has kept his vision and strength for 7 years trapped, wings cut, by the state, and even when he is released on June 29, 2006, he is not really free yet. Upon release, Rob will be under very tight state supervision and his Parole Officer (P.O.) can say where he can live, who he can socialize with, etc. Rob will be on a leash, in many ways, still, after 7 full years time served, and community support could at least make that leash seem less claustrophobic. What the state really seems to respond to is money ; either in high-paid attorneys, high rents paid before getting out, family with money, or other forms of class privilege displayed for more freedom, is how it seems to me. Somehow money is equated with "responsibility" in the jail system. Rob has no family money and while Rob was in prison, he did work jobs constantly but his pay was so below the minimum wage as to completely laughable. Thus, it seems a Catch-22. They keep you in prison, make you work, yet take most of your pay, and then release you with no provisions and basically DARE YOU to not end up back in jail quickly.
Additionally, they are forcing Rob into Lane County, which is one of the poorer counties in the Pacific NW, in comparison to say Seattle, or Portland, where the State of Oregon will not let Rob go, as of now. Rob has housing in Seattle, he has a job in Portland, yet they are forcing him to live in Lane County, or Eugene, upon release. Rob has never lived in Eugene before. He was passing through when arrested. Lane County has little to no readily identifiable provisions to accommodate prisoners coming out of its prison system. To land prisoners with little community ties onto the streets of Eugene with no provisions should outrage Eugene citizens as much as the prisoners themselves, to be honest. That is a COMMUNITY issue in many ways, and on many levels.
Rob is supposed to find housing, with a very limited income, as a convicted felon, from within jail, before his release, with no access to phones or computers. He can use snail mail only. Could you pull that off after 7 years in jail ? I don’t think I could. I think that would be a ticket to homelessness, then criminalization, then back to jail, if that was me. Or at least that would be *my* overwhelming nagging fear prior to release. All the joy of release would be preempted by that fear, I believe. Thus, let’s make sure Rob does not suffer thusly upon release from prison.
Please consider helping out in one or more ways suggested below. He needs to see he has support BEFORE release *for* his release. He has a little over two months left in prison. NOW is the time to send money, cards, support and help with housing. The way we support Rob upon his release will also be a signal to other NW activists jailed after him, that we can also support them on their release. Let’s begin to embrace POST-PRISON support as part of "Prisoner Support." All donated money and items can be sent to Rob Thaxton, POBox 9038, Seattle, Wa. 98109 or contact email@example.com and your messages will be given to Rob within one week.
I am asking our community to show emotional and material support of Rob’s release in the following ways...
1. HOUSING : Do you have housing you can offer Rob in Lane County or Eugene, starting June 29, 2006 ? He needs his NAME ON A LEASE and Rob can pay rent PRIOR to June 29 via money he has from fundraising efforts on his behalf. The lease needs to be signed and paid for in early June, so that all the paperwork can get to his PO early so he can be released on his release date to HIS OWN HOME. (We have people to facilitate the actual signing and exchange of money on his behalf prior to release). He would like housing with some privacy as he just spent years in close quarters and some quiet and space would be nice, but he could live in a room in a cooperative housing situation as well. As this is Rob’s pressing concern right now, ANY tips regarding housing are appreciated and needed.
2. MONEY : Rob needs money for reentry. He needs rent money, he needs clothing money, he needs to buy ID, and all kinds of things you and I would take for granted. Please consider sending a donation today (make checks, MO’s, out to Rob Thaxton) to Rob Thaxton, POBox 9038, Seattle, Wa 98109. He needs money PRIOR to release in June 2006 to pay rent and alleviate worries at the time of release. Rob has asked I collect these funds for him, thus I am facilitating that.
3. MAKING A HOUSE A HOME : Do you have any DIY/homemade art that would help make a new housing situation feel like a HOME ? Send such accoutrements and we will use them to decorate his new living space to make him feel at home once out.
4. CLOTHING : Rob needs clothing. Sounds crazy, but it is true. Do you have any unusual/cool clothing you could send his way so he can begin a life out of the uniform he has lived in for 7 years ? He likes dark colors, such as deep greens. He says he never wants to wear a button collar on a shirt again, if possible.
5. WISHLIST : Some of the things Rob has wished for are : Camping equipment such as tent, sleeping bag..., laptop and/or computer equipment, musical equipment such as guitar and amp, podcasting equipment and software, a vehicle.
6. FUNDRAISERS : In the coming months, any fundraisers that can be promoted and facilitated to benefit Rob’s release would be greatly appreciated. Contact us and we can help you promote the events.
7. MEDIA : Rob is an eloquent writer and if any media is interested in buying freelance articles from Rob on his release and time served for "rioting" in Eugene, he can use the money and would be willing to write such pieces.
8. WELCOME HOME CARDS : I am collecting "Welcome Home" cards to give Rob on the day of his release. Send them to Rob Thaxton/ "Secret Project" at the POBox above. I will give them to him on the day of his release (so do not tell him about this secret project if you write or see him) ! More updates will follow.