Message from Kevin Zeese
Day Three: The Journey for Justice Takes a Federal Prison for Women
September 24, 2000
The Journey's goal on its third day was to march through the residential neighborhood outside of Bryan Prison and then demonstrate there for the afternoon.
Before being turned into a prison Bryan was a boys school, the Allen Academy. As a result of it being an old school this is the best looking structure for a prison we have seen so far. It is a classic looking building with a play area for the children who come to visit out front, no guard tower and no barbed wire. As with most US prisons the inmates seem to be mostly African Americans.
When we arrived near Bryan we disembarked about a mile from the prison so we could march through the neighborhood to the prison. It was a middle class Latin American neighborhood where we handed out a lot of literature in Spanish.
When we were about a quarter of the way into the march to the prison, flashing lights of the police could be seen behind us. Jodi James and I approached them. I stood closely in the background (doing my best to look like a lawyer in my shorts, sun glasses and tee-shirt). The police asked for our parade permit. Jodi explained we did not have one because the officer we told about the event one week ago did not tell us we needed one. He seemed skeptical and said he would have to check with his superior. (Actually we sent a fax asking them to respond if we needed a permit -- they didn't respond.) Jodi kept talking, explaining that it would take as long to get the permit as it would for us to finish the march, that the two-dozen demonstrators were all experienced and would not do anything dangerous. The officer quickly figured out his alternatives. He could spend his afternoon getting into a First Amendment battle with protesters who were obviously trained, united and would not take no for an answer. Or, he could make his life, and our life, easier by cooperating. He decided to become our escort. So, we welcomed him to the Journey.
At the prison we gave a lot of literature away to prisoner families. One brother of an inmate who had traveled from Waco, TX -- about two hours away -- was not allowed in to see his sister because he had not brought any Texas identification with him. While his other sister was inside visiting he came to talk with us. Not only is his sister incarcerated on a drug conspiracy charge but also her three children are going to be divided up and put into foster homes because the family is unable to take them in. We offered him an opportunity to speak to his sister through our sound system. He made a heartfelt plea, told his sister he loved her and said he wanted her released.
The local newspaper and the CBS affiliate came to the Bryan vigil. The CBS report was the lead story on the news and not only did the reporter get out our message concerning over use of prisons and medical marijuana but also promoted our forum at Texas A&M and our grand finale in Austin on Friday. The Bryan Eagle reporter spent well over an hour talking with the Journeyers.
During the day we developed a friendly relationship with our police escorts. One officer expressed sympathy to a medical marijuana patient after hearing her story and told us he was glad we were demonstrating. They told us early in the afternoon that since we did not have a permit we would have to obey all traffic signals (often difficult in a long-line of vehicles) and that he could not be our escort. But, by the end of the afternoon they turned on the yellow flashers and served as our escorts, blocking traffic and making sure we got to our next destination -- dinner -- quickly, safely and in-style.
The next two days will be at Texas A&M University. Tomorrow will be a day flyering the campus about a forum we are holding the next night. I'll probably not be providing a report tomorrow so you'll hear from me next after our visit to Texas A&M.
There is still time for you to check with Southwest Airlines or on the Internet for inexpensive tickets so you can join us in Austin!
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