by Panagioti Tsolkas
This June, between June 14-17, Gainesville will be home to the fourth annual national gathering of a growing movement aimed at merging environmental justice and prison abolition into a unified force for shaping the world to come. In previous years, the Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) Convergence succeeded in drawing several hundred participants from across the country. Previous locations included Washington DC, Texas and Pennsylvania.
The intersections of these two movements can be seen in a variety of ways, from a warming climate intensifying heat behind bars to dangerous levels and rising sea levels threatening coastal prisons with floods to land use issues including prisons being built on or near landfills, mining sites and listed EPA Superfund projects.
FTP’s first campaign focused on stopping a $444 million federal prisons from being built on a former mountaintop removal coal mine site. Today a similar battle is unfolding in North/Central Florida, where a proposed phosphate strip mine is seeking to operate approximately 10,000 acres of mining surrounding the Lake Butler Medical and Reception Center, also known as RMC. The RMC is already to home to ill prisoners. Operating a mine of this type could expose prisoners to increase air and water contamination.
As such, the topic of rural economy’s duel dependency on prisons and resource extraction will be among the discussions occurring over the weekend.
This year participants will have a full program of workshops, panels, music, networking and actions focused on ending toxic prison slavery. It will be a chance for Alachua County locals to hear from activists all over the country, including recently released political prisoners Debbie and Michael Africa of the MOVE Organization.
Along with highlighting the voices of former prisoners, the convergence hosts call-ins from current prisoners who want to participate.
The weekend of events will coincide with local plans for celebrating Juneteenth, and build from local victories in cutting City and County ties to FDOC prison slave labor.
Friday of the Convergence weekend will kick off with a collaborative event at the Civic Media Center featuring a variety of musical genres as well as tabling and socializing to welcome visiting activists.
Organizers of the event are still welcoming proposals for speakers, panelists and workshops. Send them to FightToxicPrisons@gmail.com
To register for the Convergence, and learn about other FTP efforts around the country, check out: FightToxicPrisons.org D