The Speech I Got Arrested For (but not really)

Originally published 13 November 2016

As some of you may have heard, I’ve recently been released from being locked up in the men’s processing center of the Marion County Jail. Which, as a non-binary trans person with gender non-conforming proclivities, would not have boded well had I not had the company of good comrades nearby, and the knowledge that people were still fighting for us on the outside. Also, there were neo-nazis. So there’s that. And to top it all off, I’ve been repeatedly deadnamed in the media. So, please, don’t read the names of the arrests, out of respect for me as your friend and as a person. But, in its full, uncut glory, I present to you the call-to-arms I issued last night:

Good evening. My name is Cambria. I organise locally in several Leftist, Labour, and Trans liberation circles, and tonight I am speaking on behalf of the Michiana and Central Indiana IWW’s General Defence Committee. The mission of the GDC is to provide defense and relief to members of the working class who are being persecuted for their activity in the class struggle, and to aid those who find themselves persecuted by the powers that be in their struggle for justice and freedom. This aid may include bail, bond, or legal aid, and may take the form of a grant or a no interest loan. Members may also rest assured of solidarity from the organization, including motions of support, letters writing, and public education as to the case (or cases) in question. Such gestures of solidarity are offered to political prisoners, regardless of membership in the IWW or GDC.
Past labour struggles have learned that the lack of adequate defence has resulted in many of the most active fighters for labour being arrested and imprisoned for long periods of time, or being legally or extralegally murdered, by the employing class which seeks to utterly crush all opposition and free thought from below. If you would like more information on the GDC, please go to IWW dot org, forward-slash projects, forward-slash GDC. If you would like to get involved locally, information on how to contact our local and regional branches are available online. I am not here solely to promote our efforts, rather, to encourage you all to begin your own. Eugene Debs, a proud Hoosier, a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, and the 1918 Socialist Party presidential candidate, addressed the courtroom trying him for protesting the First World War with “while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
98 years later these words still ring true for many of us whose hearts beat with solidarity and empathy for any who struggle against the violent systems which seek to destroy them. Seek to destroy us. And are we not all prisoners? Are we not being held hostage and repressed in the name of “freedom”? But whose freedom? Certainly nobody who knows it in this country’s borders. And certainly none for whom I speak a case for this evening: I speak the case of black, brown, and indigenous people of colour. I speak the case of trans people and queer people. I speak the case of the victims of violence perpetrated by their state, their society, their culture, their families, their partners, and themselves. I speak the case of the physically disabled. I speak the case of the homeless. I speak the case of the mentally ill. I speak the case of the undocumented. I speak the case of those who die of preventable illnesses. I speak the case of those who starve. I speak the case of all who are alienated from the fruits of their labours. I speak the case of all whose existence is a perpetual struggle under an unrelenting regime of white supremacy, cis-heteronormativity, patriarchy, class antagonisms, capitalism, religious bigotry, and xenophobia! It is a system we are all of us complicit in, but it is also one that we have the power to cripple.
For this reason, I urge all of us, on the 20th of January, 2017, Inauguration Day, to engage in a general strike and bring the nation to a screeching halt.
Americans, I urge you to organise and strike against those who would see you isolated and fighting among each other! Refuse to work, refuse to consume, refuse to pay loans or rent, refuse to contribute one ounce of energy more to the beastly machine which seeks to drain you of all life and happiness!
Artists of all stripes, I urge you to organise and strike against a system which repeatedly demands the world of you, and yet refuses to acknowledge the worth of your labours – I urge you to fan the flames of revolt through the eloquence of your crafts! You hold in your hands the soul of the beast, don’t let them forget it!
Students, I urge you to organise and strike against a public school system which stopped having relevant tutoring value for y’all over a century ago, and a university system which sees you only as potential profit margins rather than an investment in society! You are the future, damn it! Own it!
Teachers, I urge you to organise and strike against the very same system which would see you underpaid, undervalued, and overworked! Sow the seeds of revolution in your pedagogy, and your students will rally to your aid!
Service industry workers – whether you are retail, food, hospitality, or otherwise – , I urge you to organise and strike against those who would see you live in abject squalor and accept being treated day in, day out, as the meanest of slaves! Not one more burger flipped, nor soy latte served; not one more backbreaking shelving; not one more bed made; not one more pair of hands scalded by dishwashing, until victory is in sight!
Sex workers, I urge you to organise and strike against those who would see you criminalised, imprisoned, shamed, and ostracised from society! I urge you to let not one more chat line go live, nor one massage given, nor one more lashing delivered, until victory is in sight!
Clerical workers, I urge you to organise and strike against systems which inherently favour the vastly wealthy over the vastly poor! I urge you to slow or cease processing of bills, “lose” records, slow and stop work! Sabotage computers! Not one more corporate profit even after victory is in sight!
Transportation workers, I urge you to organise and strike against that which uses and abuses you as the jockey’s of our infrastructure; I urge you to budge your freight not one inch; nor one more passenger taxied; nor one more plane off the runway until victory is in sight! Remind all that you are deep in the veins of the beast, and you have the power to clog them utterly!
Energy workers, I urge you to organise and strike against those who would continue to poison our world! I urge you to let the coal plants cease their simmering, let the windfarm turbines slow, let the solar batteries fill up, and allow brownouts to send the stern message that you are at the heart of the beast and control its pulse!
Miners and stonecutters, I urge you to organise and strike against those who blacken your lungs and destroy your limbs! I urge you to not let one more slab of limestone leave your quarries, not one more lump of coal leave your mines, not one more inch of soil moved, not one more ounce of precious metals or stones be weighed or seen until victory is in sight!
Construction and public works workers, I urge you to organise and strike against a system which demands of you broken bodies and risks you are poorly compensated for! I urge you to cease production of their shimmering towers, and have not one more floor built, not one more pillar raised, not one more road re-paved, not one more development made until victory is in sight!
Manufacturing workers, I urge you to organise and strike against those who would just see you as but one more dispensable cog in an ever-churning machine! I urge you to sabotage and cease production – not one more stamp press, not one more distillation, not one more fabrication until victory is in sight!
Soldiers, I urge you to organise, lay down your arms, and refuse to fight one day more for an empire which is so hungry for you to die, and do not care for you if you survive, and return home in need of help – if your hearts beat for love of your country, be complicit no more in its continue rape of the world, and help radically change it – I urge you to strike against your continued presence in sovereign and occupied nations, and refuse complicity in modern day colonialism through military occupation! I urge you to join the people as they retake their society, and help them achieve their victory!
Police, I urge you to organise, lay down your weapons, throw away your badges, and join us to strike against a system which has so thoroughly manipulated your love for community and being protectors, that they have come to expect you as tools to protect private property and capitalist, white supremacist, imperialist interests, and does not care whether you live or die, and actively encourages your corruption. I urge you to cease your genocide of black and indigenous Americans! I urge you to free all those wrongfully imprisoned in your jails and penitentiaries, and to accept responsibility for the lives you have claimed in the name of so-called law and order! I urge you to reject, resist, and rebel against your white supremacist, transphobic, queerphobic, and violent colleagues, and I urge you to join the people as they retake their society, and help us reach our victory!
But more than the general strike, I urge each and every one of us to do their part, for we are entering a time in which solidarity – not just the sentiment, but actions of solidarity – are more important than ever before. I urge you all to do what you can, and to be your sibling’s keeper. Harbour undocumented people, away from immigration and customs enforcement. Harbour queer and trans youth who are endangered by the tortures otherwise known as “conversion therapy.” Become a foster parent! Donate to the fundraisers of marginalised people whose basic rights and dignities are being robbed of them by the day. Fund and transport people seeking abortions. Aid underground abortionists and reproductive healthcare providers. Assist trans people in the acquisition of necessary hormonal treatments. Give no quarter to fascism, racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, and islamophobia! White people, I urge you to give no quarter to neo-nazis, the ku klux klan, the aryan brotherhood, sons of odin, or anyone who claims to be on your side at the cost of all others! Support your local antifascists, and do not shy away from the good fight! Support your local Leftists, and distance yourselves from reactionaries and liberals alike, who have none of your interests in common! Do not trust in the Republican party, whose claims for economic prosperity and opportunity fall flat on their faces! Do not trust in the Democratic party, who claim to be for the people and yet pardon acts of violence at home and commit them abroad! Do not trust in the Libertarian party, whose laissez-faire capitalism will lead to further injustices! Do not trust in the Green party, whose white feminism and anti-science stances will only further the violence they claim to fight against! Support your local Labour organisers, and fight for the justice of the working class! Support black, indigenous, latinx, queer, trans, and working class liberation. Allies, now is the time to become accomplices: join us, or get out of our way.
Again, I urge all of us, on the 20th of January, 2017, Inauguration Day, to engage in a general strike and bring the nation to a screeching halt: This has to be an action done by we, the masses, to say that we will not be cowed! We will not play by rules which were constructed against our interests! We will no longer be complicit in a game which was rigged from its conception! This cannot be a movement acted upon by any one union – and I speak as a Wobbly, – for modern trade unions are deeply entrenched in the neoliberal establishment, and they are bound by rules and laws, thus making sympathy strikes illegal. Well, the good news is that this isn’t a sympathy strike. And it’s not any given union. We put ourselves in danger by not having official protection, yes, but when the state fails, and it has, it is left to the people to defend themselves, and for us to defend ourselves. And as any other marginalised person could tell you, we exist in a perpetual state of danger. The state is failing us, as it has failed us time and time again. We must forge ahead from the ground up.
Lucy Parsons once said, “Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth,” and I urge you to reflect on her words! When someone tells you they got rich through hard work, ask them “whose?” Trust not in the lie of “make America great again,” for it was never great to begin with! But we have the power to make it so, and for us, the many, not the ruling elite who grant us the illusion of choice every four years. Your bosses needs you, but you don’t need your bosses! The powers that be have a greater need of us than we do of them, and we can no longer afford to expect them to reform, but instead, we must rebel and grasp at a future worthy of our dreams! You cannot afford to trust in another Clinton, or a Sanders, or a Trump, or a Stein, or a Johnson, but you can afford to trust in yourselves and each other! Liberation does not flow from the pens of politicians, nor from the guns of their retainers!
Be not afraid of ruins, for we can build and rebuild, as we always have, and always will! We have nothing to lose but our chains, but we have everything to gain by being for each other! People of colour, indigenous folks, queer and transgender people, women, disabled folks, undocumented immigrants, and workers of the world unite! Solidarity forever!
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