By Fight Toxic Prisons
The 2019 Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) Convergence, which was the fourth annual national gathering of activists working at the intersections of prison abolitionists and environmental justice, occurred in Gainesville. Through the course of four days, June 14 – 17, activists in town hosted several community functions, starting with the “No Borders Fest” event on Friday, which served as the weekend’s official kick-off. That entire day was swarming with activity, including simultaneous workshops on prisoner support and abolitionist organizing 101 (one occurring in the main space, while the other happened in the Stetson Kennedy Annex), music, a prisoner art show, speakers, and “silent dance party.” The day also included a national convening of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Courses on defending Amendment 4’s re-enfranchisement goals, prisoners’ rights and environmental justice in immigrant detention facilities. The sessions were packed with lawyers and activists eager to apply new skills and inspiration in their locales across the country.
Organizer and activists were present from all across Florida as well as Texas, California, Washington State, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Missouri, Georgia, North Carolina, D.C., and New York, to name a few places. The bulk of the weekend’s events occurred at the Gator Wesley Foundation building on University Ave. This included panels, plenaries, break-out groups, discussing over a dozen topics related to prisons, repression, alternatives to incarceration, supporting political prisoners, challenging white supremacy, abolishing borders, solidarity with queer and trans prisoners and more.
The event concluded Sunday with a Fathers’ Day themed BBQ dinner and presentation at the MLK Center in East Gainesville featuring recently released political prisoners of the Move Organization, Mike Davis Africa and Debbie Sims Africa, as well as their son Mike Africa Jr, who was born in prison in 1978.
Following that event, a dozen people reconvened at the Civic Media Center for an impromptu banner and sign making party, accompanied by a spontaneous karaoke session inspired by the radical entertainment experts of Connect the Dots. The next morning, over 30 activists from the convergence payed a surprise visit to the Florida Department of Transportation offices, disrupting work for the number one prison slave contractor in the state, before heading to the County Jail for a publicly planned rally against the money bail system. To see videos and photos of convergence go to www.fighttoxicprisons.org