I just came home from court this morning, and finally had a chance to get my police report, detailing what I'm being charged with and what evidence is against me. I already gave them most of it in letters, blogs, and postcards about my protest. I was relieved I didn't have to actually enter a "not guilty" plea this morning, because after all that, it would seem pretty dishonest. I may have a defense against some of this, though, so I'm going to speak to the attorney they gave me at the public defender's office before digging a much deeper hole. But I still have amends to make to my neighbors, since I made such a thoughtless public display of vandalizing them. I even seemed to make light of it in the process.
See, this is all about me throwing that red paint down in an alley already covered in paint during the First Friday June Artwalk. I openly admitted doing that, and committed my act of resistance in front of the graffiti detectives themselves. In the process, though, my paint splattered a few inches up the wall of the building next door, an art studio/ collective that it turns out does work with people involved in mental health programs. I'm so clueless about some of my neighbors that I had no idea they were doing that kind of work, or I would have talked to them about this all in advance, even though I had no intention of hitting the alley side of their studio wall. Instead, I learned about my neighbors from my own criminal report, listing them as my victim. I feel pretty crummy about that.
In my police report, the manager of the place said she wanted to prosecute because what I'd done would have been so upsetting for some folks participating in the programs - which I inferred was of particular concern for those folks with pre-existing psychiatric conditions. I get that - and can see it upsetting others as well. That explains to me why it was important to clean it up, without messing around with my offer to re-paint it myself - even I would have called Graffiti Busters to clean up after myself if I thought it through. It really was unintended - that doesn't mean I'm not responsible, though. I acted out without much thought for the neighbors over there, or their members and guests. That's not very excusable, given what I could have brought out for some folks with images of bloodshed across the alley, as well as the names of the dead. That's me acting out my own unresolved trauma, in part - they don't need my help with theirs.
So, this blog post will no doubt be added to the evidence they use against me in the end, but I'm truly deeply sorry for having dragged you all into the middle of my protest. You're already doing your part to protect our people from ending up in prison in the first place. I hope that if my activities ever trouble you that way - criminal or not - you feel okay contacting me.
Most people with mental illness, by the time we're my age, have already been through too much. I'm dually-recovering myself, survived a horrible, violent suicide of a loved one, and the last thing I would want to do is traumatize someone else further. We all need to feel safe in order to grow, and I undermined that for some folks, I suspect, by all my agitation and graffiti - which invited others to contribute more. I was also wrong to define the terms of resistance by my own standards without talking to others living and working around there that night, outside of what I call my own community.
I thought this protest would be all about getting my message out about the state's violence, not mine. It still is, in a way, but not how I thought it would be. It's been said that the work of a true revolutionary begins in the our own communities, taking care of others. Despite all I preach about the importance of doing so if we're to really hold each other accountable and not rely on the criminal justice system for amends to be made in cases like this, when it came down to it I didn't practice that. I think this is the bigger lesson in all this - it's for me, not for the cops. I understand why people get upset about graffiti, now. My total lack of concern for the effect of my actions that Artwalk on the people right next door is my real crime, though - even if I hadn't even touched their property.
But an apology alone is not an amends. I'm inclined to think that only those folks - and perhaps the participants they were concerned about - can say what they feel justice would be, having been harmed in some way by me - and I respect it if they feel the criminal justice system is the way to get that, and to restore their own sense of safety and order in their community. I'd have a pretty hard time pleading not guilty to that charge, after all this. The charges filed about city property, though, I'll probably fight.
I think I just threw myself at the mercy of the court - or my victims, I'm not sure which. I guess now I should wait until I talk to an attorney before commenting much further on all this. Thanks to my friends for showing their support today.
Arizona Prison Watch
P.O. Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036
"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories..."
- Arundhati Roy
Arizona Prison Watch
Arizona Juvenile Prison Watch
Hard Time Alliance - AZ
Survivors of Prison Violence