1 Year Later: Resistance continues: Solidarity from J18 arrestees to Grand Jury Resisters

A year ago today, four of thirteen arrestees turned ourselves in at the Richmond city jail to serve our sentences for blocking traffic on July 18th, 2016 in the I-95/I-64 corridor that cuts through Jackson Ward in Richmond.

Activists block traffic on July 18, 2016 in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name

One year later, resistance against repression continues as we find that a grand jury process is underway in the wake of this summer’s racist violence in Charlottesville. Back in July 2016, the group of resistors standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name released the following statement:

“Sage Smith has been missing from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia since November 2012. Less than a year following Sage’s disappearance, Amari Hill was murdered in Richmond. And in January 2015, Lamia Beard was found murdered in Norfolk. As in the rest of the country and the rest of the world, Virginia does too little to love and protect Black trans women from harm. We say their names.
In just the past year alone, India Kager was killed by police in Virginia Beach while she slept in her parked car with her infant in the backseat; Natasha McKenna was murdered while in the custody of police at the Fairfax County jail. We say their names.
During this same time period, Kionte Spencer, Angelo Perry, William Chapman, Dyzhawn Perkins, and Dominick Wise were all murdered by police in Roanoke, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Buckingham County, and Culpeper. We say their names.
Today, white and non-black people of color stand on lands violently stolen from the Powhatan, Monacan, Cherokee, and other indigenous peoples, of what is now known as the Commonwealth of Virginia. We take this section of interstates 64 and 95 in Richmond as part of our commitment to the call from Black trans communities to honor the missing and murdered, while we also fight like hell for the living.
Jackson Ward is significant as a historically Black neighborhood, where the construction of the I-64/95 corridor in the 1950s divided the neighborhood in half, to its detriment and impoverishment. Non-black Virginians need to recognize that Richmond and Virginia were built by enslaved Black laborers, and that systemic violence lives on today in our state’s prisons. With such a crisis at hand, we cannot let business go on as usual.
We support the national Black Lives Matter movement’s demands to disarm the police, divest from prisons, and ensure safe and clean housing for Black communities.”

The systemic issues named in this statement remain alive today. In fact, a wave of explicit white supremacist activity has picked up since our time in jail, as the fascists have been emboldened with Trump’s presidency. Resistance to this wave is just as active as it was then. But so is the heavy hand of the state, which seeks to declaw and silence any movements that demonstrate effective strategies against the surge of white supremacist activity and everyday anti-black violence.

The latest local manifestations of state repression are the grand jury subpoenas served to victims of James Alex Fields Jr.’s car attack on August 12. They are obligated to appear before a secretive jury on December 13th, 2017. This jury is, ostensibly, investigating further charges against James. However, we know first-hand that the state has used and continues to use grand juries as a tool for silencing resistance movements, as they have done so against anarchists, water protectors, and many poor people of color who are caught in the crossfires of the so-called “Drug War” and the “War on Terror”.

We recognize that resistance to state repression is soul-crushing and we call upon our communities to stand with those who have chosen to resist the grand jury process. In the spirit of self-defense against all fascism, we offer solidarity to any who are choosing to resist grand juries.

For more information on the Virginia grand jury process, and basics on resistance, read “Virginia is for Grand Jury Resisters! What You Need to Know” from It’s Going Down: https://itsgoingdown.org/virginia-is-for-grand-jury-resisters/