[AKidsRight.Org] Albany LEAD, May 29/ NonViolent Action & Jail - background

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From: John Murtari (jmurtari@akidsright.org)
Date: Thu May 24 2007 - 12:41:50 EDT

Good People & People of Faith,

[NOTE - a quick reminder of LEAD Day in Albany, NY.  Tuesday, May
29th, 9am-4pm, Hearing room "C" of the LOB, more details at
http://www.fafny.org/.  Questions - contact Randy Dickinson
<randy_fafny@yahoo.com> or Greg Fischer <perfect100@hotmail.com>
Directions: http://assembly.state.ny.us/directions
Senate Bill S1349:  http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menuf.cgi

I plan on being there, hope to see many of you! ]

I'm coordinator for AKidsRight.Org, our method is NonViolent
Action. It's based on the conviction that parents willing to
demonstrate loving self-sacrifice are a key force for reform. We try
to demonstrate to skeptical observers that the method works.  For more
background see: http://www.AKidsRight.Org/civil.htm

The Rest of the Story
Most of the newspaper and TV stories about my noncooperation during my
4 months of jail time last year were wrong with some major facts.
While the web site had the complete rational,
http://www.AKidsRight.Org/support_jm.htm -- most people didn't read
the details.

In the next few list messages I want to share personal thoughts on my
experience. Everything else has been second hand and there were some
crucial things missed.  I want to avoid any false impressions.

Since then several people have contacted me, a few said they were
going to 'hunger strike' if jailed (but I didn't hear any more from
them). One person tried to follow through when in jail, told the
guards he would not eat. They asked him if he was trying to hurt
himself, he said, "yes". They stripped him naked and put him in a
padded cell.  He changed his mind in about a day.

As you read the messages of how things unfolded, some stupid things I
did in jail -- my actions should also appear pretty 'regular'.

NOT an 11th hour conversion
This was not a snap decision on my part.  It was something I had
prepared for years in advance.  NonViolent action is voluntary
sacrifice, not an act of desperation.  We have background on it above,
we even have a preparation checklist,
http://www.AKidsRight.Org/checklist.htm -- it may surprise you!

NOT a Hunger Strike
This was the biggest conceptual problem.  The classic 'hunger strike'
is someone who refuses to eat (but continues to take fluids) while
waiting for a demand to be met.  I'll starve myself if you don't do what
I want.... it can be effective in drawing public attention.  

In jails it is not uncommon for prisoners to strike and the medical
staff usually has a hunger strike protocol they follow to monitor the
person.  You can survive a very long time without eating, as long as
you drink, but you can destroy your body as it consumes itself in
search of energy.  Canada:

As many of you know I'm a graduate of our Air Force Academy and a
former Air Force Instructor Pilot.  I have been through some
challenging training and difficult environments.  A simulated POW camp
where I ended up naked, blind-folded, slammed against a wall, and a
guard with his dirty boot between my 'cheeks' and pressing my 'jewels'
against the wall -- asking, "Will you sign the confession now
criminal!?" I told him how many copies did he want. Don't squeeze!

I had been jailed locally many time before, I knew the environment,
knew many of the guards, and I had a good reputation with them.

Non Cooperation with Jail
In my other actions, http://www.AKidsRIght.Org/events.htm, my
'sacrifice' has been my freedom.  I'm normally a 'model' prisoner and
just do my time.  But how to respond when the 'system' pulls you off
the street and puts you in jail against your will?

I had no desire to hurt myself.  I'm a parent.  I have a child to live
for, but ... how do I call attention to the grave injustice/indignity
done to me when I am thrown in jail and labeled a 'dead beat'?  Also,
what is the proper response for a person of Faith?

My thought was to make myself a burden to the system.  I would not
follow the 'commands' of the guards, refuse to eat, and also refuse to
drink voluntarily, until I was fed/hydrated by 'tubes' in a medical
setting.  I knew a hunger strike could easily last longer than a
month, but by refusing water a crisis would result.  I also relied on
the fact the system had to take care of me as a prisoner.  I was NOT
trying to hurt myself, but I wanted them to feed me.  I was NOT
refusing care.

I did some research myself.  The greatest danger from lack of water is
kidney failure (a serious problem).  In an 'optimal' environment a
healthy person could go 5 days without any serious trouble.

Preparation and Planning
>From my prior visits to jail and watching other problem prisoners I knew
two things:

1)  I could expect to be without communication with the outside world.
No phone 'privileges'.

2)  There would be an attempt to intimidate me and/or label me as some
type of 'crazy'.  I knew that no matter what I actually said, it could
be distorted to fit their desire.

I was fortunate to have a week to prepare myself for the jail
sentence.  I wrote a detailed letter to the Jail 'warden',
http://www.AKidsRight.Org/support/cowin1.pdf and also to the Judge
explaining exactly what I was going to do and why.  I would bring a
copy of the letter into the jail and gave it to staff.

I talked to my son and explained to him what I had planed, not to
worry, and that with Faith, everything would be okay. I contacted a
few friends, local attorneys, who knew what I was planning and asked
them to visit me during that crucial first week.  It was important the
jail know that this person's activities are being monitored from the

Lastly, I also made everyone aware via the group and some press releases
were prepared.

Sacrifice & Support & Faith
We are a Civil Rights movement attempting to follow the peaceful &
effective techniques of the past used by Gandhi & Martin Luther King.
Those three concepts are crucial to success:

Sacrifice - no GREAT CIVIL RIGHT has been won by talk alone, nor with
a guarantee of success.  In the 50's a Black who peacefully
participated in a rally against segregation stood a good chance his
home could be burned down by the Klan.  At a recent parent's meeting I
asked those assembled if they would attend a Rally for Family Rights,
if it meant a chance they would lose their homes/job -- not one hand
went up.....

Support - for all the Black's who lived down South during the battle
against segregation, very few actually participated actively and risked
personal disaster. While some parents are willing to make a sacrifice,
there are many, many more of us who can help by providing support to
those individuals.  Letters, contributions, public demonstrations are

Faith - provides the confidence that justice will prevail.  That there
is a loving God who takes note of our actions and our pain.  That we
are struggling "FOR" our rights and dignity -- not fighting "AGAINST"
other people who are our brothers and sisters.

Do you have to talk about Faith & God stuff - it's distracting!
We are not trying to 'convert' anyone as part of this mailing list.
But we do talk about a historical reality and experiences with
NonViolent Action -- the 'bottom line' is those earlier movements
carried a strong element of Faith in a loving God.

>From this experience I can very easily state that I would not have
gone longer than about 3-4 days if I had not had my Faith.  It is
essential to anyone actually wanting to practice NonViolent Action.

Probably the closest thing that might resonate with some modern
spirituality is Stoicism, we have some excerpts from the writings of
the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius that place a strong emphasis on
civic duty: http://www.AKidsRight.Org/civil_back.htm

Next Message
Will have some snippets of what went on inside the jail.

                                       John Murtari
Coordinator                            AKidsRight.Org
jmurtari@AKidsRight.Org                "A Kid's Right to BOTH parents"
Toll Free (877) 635-1968(x-211)        http://www.AKidsRight.Org/
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