Occupy Des Moines protester, jailed for 30 days, pens letter

One of the Occupy Des Moines protesters who’s been arrested several times in the past three months has written a letter from the Polk County Jail.  It was distributed via email by one of his “Occupy” colleagues this morning.  Read (nearly all of) it below (I left off the request for donations to the commissary/inmate funds for Frank Cordaro, author of the letter, and Eddie Bloomer, Cordaro’s “Occupy” jail-mate):


by Frank Cordaro, February 2, 2012

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  A person can’t keep collecting trespassing convictions, get fined plus court costs and refuse to pay any fines before a judge will eventually send you to jail.  My arrest at the state capitol Sunday night was my fifth arrest with Occupy Des Moines.  I already plead guilty to two of those charges and was fined (which I will not pay in solidarity with the poor, who cannot).  So after a long night in the Polk County Jail “fish bowl”, Des Moines Catholic Worker and fellow Occupy Des Moines member Eddie Bloomer and I decided to take our chances when the jail court judge, who offered to roll all of our 3 outstanding trespass charges into one guilty plea.  After reviewing our past records, the judge sentenced Ed to 15 days and me to 30 days in jail.

Just before sentencing, I told the judge it was a great honor and a privilege to be arrested at the state capitol standing up for free speech and everyday she gave me in jail only helped to enhance that honor and privilege…and I meant it.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a social movement.  And like all social movements, our ideas follow our bodies, whether we are occupying public space to exercise our free speech rights, or protesting in the streets at the G8/NATO, or risking arrest at presidential candidate offices.  We lead with our bodies, willing to put a little human equity and personal sacrifice on the line for what we believe.  We are what democracy looks like in a political system completely bought, owned, and scripted by the corporate elites – the 1 percent.

Not everyone who occupies or protests need risk arrest.  And not everyone who risks arrest need go to jail.  However, some of us do need to take our Occupy Wall Street movement into our jails and prisons. 

Why?  Because some of us need to embrace going to jail willingly to show we are not deterred by the state’s treat of imprisonment.  Because some of us need to stand in solidarity with the 2 million Americans caught up in our criminal justice system, the vast majority of whom are poor and people of color.  Because some of us need to resist the criminal justice system that not only locks people up but also makes them pay for it too!  The jail fee here at Polk County jail is $60 a day!  Most criminal court cases never go to trial.  They are little more than collection agencies for the state. 

And we need to bring our spirit of occupation into the jails not as victims of the system, but as the able organizers that we are, leading with our bodies for the cause we believe in, the concerns of the 99 percent over the ill-got  gails of the 1 percent.


P.S.  5 days into this 30 day sentence and I’m in a jail pod with 64 other inmates, most of them Hispanics awaiting deportation.  By my lights, I’m serving easy time with good and decent souls.  I’m here more or less by choice, and the system is far more severe to the very poor, blacks, and immigrants than it is to me…

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.