Hello,

finally you‘re holding the solidarity-sampler for the Strasbourg prisoners in your hands, the history of it’s genesis alone would fill this booklet, but we don‘t want to inflict this on you…
We‘re glad that it worked anyhow and we could contribute our part to take care that the high costs of antirepresssion and prison work can be covered. A lot of people were involved in the making of this CD, countless bands did send us their songs or gave the OK to use one of their tracks. Lots of thanks are going out to you !

This Booklet is filled with texts of people in prison of Strasbourg. The prisoners are telling us – who had the luck not to fall in the hands of state arbitrariness during the protests against the NATO summit 2009 and end up in an overcrowded prison – about their experiences, their feelings and their thoughts.

This CD is directed against the police state incidents in Strasbourg, against prisons in general and the system of gratification and punishment in which we all are being socialized.

But now let’s give the prisoners the chance to express themselves – we should listen carefully!
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Hey Ho friends,
we think it’s great that you still think of us. Since more than three months we are now sitting in this hole with the not very fine-sounding name “Maison d‘Arret de Strasbourg”. How long it can last till all of us finally are out of here is hard to guess and not to generalize. Some wait for their appeal, others accepted their judgement, others are on remand.
Especially for the last, it is hardly in sight how long they will have to stay here.

Even more important therefore is that your solidarity remains strong. Many people, many places – if sending letters, books, magazines and newspapers, subject-related info-desks or progressive roof-walks that make the whole prison-yard going wild- all that gives us fresh heart, everything helps, everything is important.
This row of important, encouraging and helpful things joins also the sampler in your hand.
On the one hand it makes our situation public and is therefore a kind of mouthpiece for us, the prisoners, on the other hand, such a creative-musical solidarity-project is always also a bridge between politics and (sub-)culture. Motivating force is apart from actuality of a certain topic a more or less popular abbreviation of three letters: DIY, so to speak Do It Yourself.
In contrary to what some may suspect, we are not dealing with a advertising slogan of one of these handymen-TVshows in the morning program of a TV-channel, no, the term we are talking about comes of the times of the early hardcore-movement.
Pissed by the balance of power, the untruthfulness of a political elite and their parents‘ lethargic, christian-conservative moral concept, many young people formed countless bands. Self-organized, radical and in the need to overthrow everything, they gave expression to their rage through music and life-style. Concerts were organized, records pressed, covers designed and labels founded, everything off their own bat. At that time a completely new phenomenon. Besides all negative side effects of this young movements like for example the homophobia in the manner of for example “Bad Brains”, many people became politicized and the idea of DIY began its global “triumphal march” and became soon an intersection between politics and counterculture. Like that, various activists connected and connect worldwide. The openness for many people and impulses, the base-orientation, as well as the anticapitalistic basics helped this counterculture to develop progressively which led to – at least partial or for a limited time – overcoming of everyday power excesses like racism, homophobia, sexism and antisemitism. After nearly 30 years DIY means still more than to have a particular tattoo, to sew a patch with an A in a circle on ones trousers, to drink as much alcohol as cheap as possible or to flash “isms” around. For us, DIY still means to be pissed off by the ruling circumstances and to feel a desire to organize our life ourselves. It is an element, a possibility to build up a counter- hegemony, an attempt to evade the disciplining of the capitalistic utilization machinery. Only a left that is able to combine its theoretical edifice with life, love, joy and (counter-) culture and that is remaining open to changes, will have a future.

With this in mind, we hope that you will enjoy listening to this sampler.
Against joy-hostility and for a completely other whole. Our creativity against repression…

The prison-collective 67
Strasbourg, 2009, 07, 02
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Music has always been an expression of protest. Generations were influenced by it in their fight against the ruling system to this day! It’s good that there are people who express criticism and dissent within their music and don‘t sell out their art to the mainstream in a profit orientated way. To some extent we also owe these people our power to get up and resist and not lie around on the couch doing nothing on friday evening.

Since the anti-NATO protest three months have passed now. It feels good to know that outside of our prison routine there’s (still) something happening. Here you often feel helpless and exposed to governmental repression. Not only the arbitrariness of the guards but also the arbitrariness of the perversion of justice in the whole system of punishment which we experience day by day. In fact we feel like being inside a big bubble with its own time, its own laws and bad habits.

For us, support from outside is like being a outside of these omnipresent walls for a few minutes . Lots of thanks to the people, be it families, friends or comrades, who took the time to support us with parcels and letters.

We consider the NATO as a criminal organisation which produces crisis‘ everywhere, destabilizes regions, lets people starve to death, takes away their dignity and murders directly and indirectly on a global scale.

Thanks to those who worked on this solidarity-CD and also to those who buy it. Everyone is strengthening the support of us in his/her own way.
Never give up the fight!
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Statement from the prison of Strasbourg PDF

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“I want to have control of my person and my life.”--Report from an Anti-Nato Prisoner in France

We are documenting a personal report from a prison inmate in France. He reports—without any claims to exhaustive analysis—on how he is dealing with it, the nature of the surveillance, from particular experiences, and about the power of both help and solidarity:

Sunday morning service. A large room named the “multi-purpose room” with no windows and green stuff on the carpet, which can barely be differentiated from the filth. Thick, angular pipes penetrate the room from all angles, and one quickly gets over the noise coming from the ventilation. On the wall, some naïve prisoner artwork—built, crafted, or painted— manage to bring some colour into the room. Three or four rows of chairs are arranged around the alter. About forty prisoners are here: at the front on the left side are the old white guys who are from the so-called “child fucker floor”, further the Blacks, the Russians, the Germans, the young Alsatians. Missing is the majority of the prisonersthruout this Christian ceremony; kids of the banlieu [suburbs], predominately coming from Arab backgrounds. It is one of the few opportunities to meet prisoners from others parts of the prison. Although there is never enough time to sit and chat, before or after the service. There are far more important things to talk about, especially for those who sit at the back. The first few times I got excited about the change of space: a new room, different people, listening to French and maybe learn a thing or two. But the more I understand and the more I sit in the windowless room with the neon pipes on the wall, the more it makes me sick. The fact alone that I have to sit and listen is bad enough. I could have stayed in the cell, but I spend already 20 hours a day there. The Pastor says that prison is a test which God has made for us, and that God is always with us during these times. As if it wasn‘t the work of people that brought us here: the agents of justice, who since Sarkozy, are even more repressive and racist, and a society which can think of nothing better than locking away tens of thousands of people instead of tackling real problems and their roots.

If were to sit and stew over this, I could really get myself going—thereby being unfair to a lot of Christians. But the fact is, I can only think that the role of the church is one of further ensuring the domination: it’s an embassy. You must accept everything here and pray for better times. God wants you to be poor. The main thing: do nothing forbidden, even if you don‘t get many chances to.

I want to have control of my person and my life. I don‘t want to be advised by a judge nor “tested” by a god. But are the opportunities here to take one’s life into one’s own hands. Here, where everything, even movement itself, is controlled so intensely?

Hunger strike? Leads most probably to forced feeding and weakens the body even more than the restrictions on movement. One can even lose control of basic body functions. Resistance? Recently in another prison, the prisoners refused to return to their cells after the end of their daily exercises. After a few hours, a special group of police arrived (ERIS) and beat everyone back into their cells. The apparent ringleaders were moved or place in the hole, or isolation custody. Break out? Walls, fences, barbed wires, cameras, watchtower—so many hindrances that it makes it look impossible.

Church service is over, and I am terrified by my thoughts. We chat a little more, but soon we have to get out. On the way back to the cell, there are four gates to go through. Before each door, one must stand in front and dance in front of cameras until someone in an invisible control center presses on a button and the doors open with a metallic sound. Reaching our floor, the guard of the day locks us in. At the beginning, I often said “Thanks” simply out of habit, as if someone held the door for me out of kindness. So quickly did it become “normal” to be locked up. Or, I perhaps wished so much for a certain kind of “normality” that it expressed itself in these gestures. To be on pare with someone, to stand beside someone as an equal—hold open the door-- “Thanks!”

Back in the cell. Two people in eight square meters: 20 hours a day, eating, toilette, exercise, reading, writing, laundry, sleeping, all of this in eight square meters. Two meters wide, four meters long. The door has a small window, where the eyes of a guard usually appear regularly at night. At the other end of the cell is the window, large and wide, with double bars. One coarse bar more or less how one would imagine it. In front of it is another very fine, very tight bar, through which one could barely put two fingers. When you enter the cell, there are two cupboards, on the left side a sink and a toilet. A wall made of glass bricks seperates them visually from the metal bunk bed. Two small tables, two chairs, a television. No more could fit into the cell. My cellmate is nice, I like him a lot. Often it’s really nice that there are two of us. Eating together, talking about all in the world and it’s brother, swapping news about letters or whatever, cursing the judge or just playing around…but 20 hours a day? The only time we don‘t see one another is when we are both in bed or when one of us is sitting on the toilet. One knows every move the other makes. One can barely look away, you have to almost always watch yourself. Only few times I am alone, and never longer than two hours. Only then do I remember something that I otherwise forget: one can never be certain of being alone here. Constantly listening to the sound of footsteps, the rattling of key in the corridor, or the squeak of the doors leading to the stairway. Suddenly, a guard shows up in the cell, to check on the bars or to hand out mail. We can write a little note with the word “Toilette” on it and send it under the door, then they will not come in, or at least they knock.

Needless to say, I don‘t think about the surveillance and the control measures the whole time. I simply forget it, it became a everyday thing, something “normal”. Then it doesn‘t feel so bad to be here. Actually, this forgetting is important for protecting oneself: should I think constantly about the surveillance, I would already be crazy.

How many other people who are set out to situations aside of their own control, I take comfort in the fact that it could be much worse. True, we do have enough to eat, a roof over our heads, more or less clean, somethings to do like sports and school. For a lot of people in the world, inside our outside of a jail, it’s actually much more fucked up than this. But that is of course no reason to accept those poor living conditions.

The most wonderful things are the letters. Often with pictures and photos—but above all the stories, with info, questions, full of support, trust, love. This helps out a lot, as does answering these letters. Thankfully, I have many wonderful memories, many people whom I enjoy thinking of. Ideas for the future.Books and newspaper are also important for me: many suggestions and ideas about “changing the world”, books that I have always wanted to read, and a theme that has only become interesting since being here: the locking up of human beings.

A cracky voice over the loudspeaker above the door: “For yard exercises, please press the button.” Often, the voice is barely sensible, but they are few other announcements. Both of us jump out of the bed and press the button, outside the door a red light swtiches on. We get ready quickly, we don‘t know how fast they will come. Often, we sit around for a while before anything gets going. In the hall, we have to wait at the doors on the wall. After a couple of minutes we hear “GO.” Handshakes with friends: “Hey how are you?” “yeah, okay. And you?” “I guess same as ever, normal.” Herding down the stairs, followed by a guard. Through a metal detector then – we‘re out! Between barb wired walls we enter the door to the courts. Left is “our” court. When everyone is inside, the doors are locked—after about an hour and a half, they are open again. Our court has a yard which is still green. Walking the gravel-filled square requires about 150 footsteps: 50, 25, 50, 25 then it repeats. Off to the side there is a tin roof to protect against the rain and sun, supported by concrete pillars. A water spigot drips at all times.

On the way towards the runoff-sink something nice originated: one stumbles above the “wetland,” as we have come to call it. Always a little change to step once per round over the little waterway. Newspapers lie about or float slowly in the water. There is no garbage.

The concrete wall around the court is a bit over two meters high, and on top of that are about two meters of fencing, with an overhang on our side. On this overhang, one finds the so-called “NATO Wire”--that is, barbwire of about 80 centimeter caliber. The metal tape is energized and are equipped with little blades and barbes. On three sides, the main prison building stretches over the walls. A five-floor chunk of concrete tower-block style (socialist prefabricated mass housing), which looks like a fort from the courtyard. Above the fourth part of the wall reigns a watchtower. Sometimes, the prisoners climb on top of each othesr to reach high enough to look into the other court. The guard in the tower ignores that mostly, but sometimes they are pulled down. The courts is stringed over with some steel webs to prevent liberations by helicopters.

It is often wonderful to see the sky: passing clouds, the sun, a couple of birds. And if it rains, it’s also a good feeling. It’s a proof that we‘re are still in the world. When I feel the raindrops, I notice that this spaceship, this prison complex cut us off from the outside world, but it is sill on earth. When I walk around the court, I feel as if I have fallen into a kind of pocket of time from when I arrived here.

The first days, three months ago, seem to be eons ago. On the flipside though, nothing much has changed. What happens, the little that unfolds during the course of a day, rarely changes: it could be yesterday, last week, or a month ago. And tomorrow, next week, or in the next months, not much will happen. The days pass by pretty quickly, as do the weeks. But this is only one of many weeks, some of which have passed, others to come…

In the courtyard, there are about 20 prisoners, sometimes 40. They stand around, smoke, chat, sit under the tine roof or on the grass, play chess or cards. Others still go around in circles, the 150 steps, always turning right. Only rarely someone goes in the other direction, and only when there are not many others moving along the wall, so not to have constantly avoiding the others. A group standing in the corner once approached me and told me, “Here, we go in this direction, you‘re doing it wrong.” I could barely believe it: “It’s good for the mind to change things up now and then,” I tried to explain to them. I don‘t know if they understood me.

Suddenly, in the middle of the afternoon, everything goes dark in our room (or so I call the cell often, in order to make it sound better to myself). We are on the top floor, and through the bars lots of light gets thru. A serious bank of black clouds gathered and suddenly burst. The rain patters in the court and crashes on the wall, accompanied by thunder and lightning. We push our noses up against the the bars in order to watch the spectacle. Hundred of cell windows look out over the same three sides of the court. Each window lies in a kinda niche, which makes the facade look like a huge honeycomb. Through this architecture, the windows are separated from each others, so one has to yell really loud to be able to be heard. The voices are distorted by the echoes and create a totally unique atmosphere. On this afternoon, the sky burst open and violent storm breaks out. A wild howling descends, becomes stronger and stronger, more and more prisoners join in on the fun and start screaming. Some sound like horses, bears, or wolves, some scream out “Ayayay!” or other unintelligible things.

Under different circumstances, I would have perhaps watched quietly feeling a bit embarrassed, when i would come to hear someone screaming like that. But this time, I most happily joined in to scream at the storm and that prison. So many other things come out in this scream: doubts, courage, lust for life, the wish to move around freely, the hatred from the prison, the judge, and everything that brought us here. The yearning to see people we are not allowed to see. Above all, I feel a connection, a feeling shared with other people, either screaming of silence who are in the same boat, who have to share the same destiny. To feel similar. The rain falls and slams against the walls, lighting, thunder, the voices come hard and fast, people beating on the bars on banging on the pipes.

A couple of friends, with whom you can talk to about everything, are something truly valuable, especially here in jail. Always being around the same people can really get on one’s nerves—that is no surprise. But to be without friends here, I don‘t even want to think about it. We chat a lot, crack cynical jokes about the judge and share news with one another. We play cards, chat with other prisoners, and share any sweets or stamps that might come our way. Often, we speak about plans for the future, a real joy: traveling to the mountains or to the see. Seeing friends again. To be able to walk through the city or through the forest—without walls or barb wire. And bigger plans also emerges: how can we create a society in which prisons are not needed? A society in which people can put forward and live out their interests and capabilities, a society where needs of everyone can be satisfied to the maximum? A society in which people can chose the form of their own lives and have a voice in what happens around them…
I could tell about a lot of other things, for example the first time outside on the yard after about one month in jail: to have a view again, the sky, the monstrous prison complex a hundred meters away, blooming flowers and high grass.
Or maybe about the ambivalence of having visitors: friends, excitement, connection to the outside world, power and courage, but also a yearning behind it, when everything that was so close two hours ago, is even further away.
When I read what I have written, I notice how much is missing. It is also clear that months in the prisons can not be described on a few pages. My voice comes and goes and along with it my thoughts and opinions. I can only give a peak into my personal experience. Above all, I am sure that I have made clear how important help, trust, and solidarity from the outside really is. It’s both good and important to know that I have not been forgotten, that we are not alone. Supported like this, one can already keep going…
Recently, a bunch of people showed up on a roof directly outside the prison wall. They called out to us, rolled out a banner and yelled chants. Suddenly there were people from the outside, not at all far from us and could be seen from the courts on this side of the prison. In the court, everyone was excited and tried to figure out what the banner said. After a quarter of an hour, the whole episode was over: the people on the roof waved one last time and went home. But the memory of it still lives on.
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