Report from Daniele and Miriam after visiting with Mark!
This morning 3 of us met to take the bus to Rikers, around the crack of dawn.
Austin came with us, but was denied entry. He had multiple forms of ID, but his photo ID was expired and he was turned away. Lesson learned. For
Mark, we brought envelopes, paper, 3 books and some radical zines, the last of which we were told to mail because they are not books. We’re thinking about binding them into a book.
It was a long, tedious security process to get to the visiting room; we had to take our shoes off three times. Seeing Mark walk in made that completely worthwhile. We hugged and we all cried. Mark was happy to see visitors- he had not been aware that he only gets 2 visits a week and wondered why no one was there on Friday. He has also been getting visits from our legal worker community.
Mark is definitely feeling depressed and withdrawn. He feels like he can’t be himself there- that he left his outgoing, bouncy self on the outside. Mark cheered up significantly halfway though our visit – started feeding on our energy and even laughing at our lame jokes. Daniele told him about her experience with The People’s Puppet and Rude Mechanical Orchestra at the Mermaid Parade. The Coney Island crowd has cheered in solidarity with the Occupy Wall St Banner, and that seemed to lift his spirits a lot. Letters also seem to really make him happy; he told us about receiving some from people all over the country, including oklahoma, and from people hasn’t met, and drawings by children.
He doesn’t feel up to writing back but wants everyone to know he appreciates the letter and knowing that people are thinking of him. He mentioned the freedom party we threw for him right before he had to go. He spoke really fondly of seeing everyone, and of dancing to Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and Miley Cyrus. He said that he thinks about that night many times a day, this happy memory he returns to. We hope to have another party to welcome him out.
Mark discussed the doctors he seeing, and life in Rikers. He has seen violence (especially in the hot weather) but inmates and COs leave him alone. He mostly hangs out and reads.
Some of the doctors have been sympathetic, and Mark has been using his regular visits with them (due to his hunger strike) to talk to them about his politics and the reason he’s in jail.
We spoke about his hunger strike, and he seems committed to it, but not at the expense of his long term well being. He joked that he is having an easy time keeping up with his Veganism. He is drinking liquids, and Miriam discussed the health risks of what he’s doing with him.
On the last (first visit) Mark said he couldn’t believe how the community was organizing to support him. How much love and solidarity there is. He called us his family not his friends, and send his love.
Keep the letters coming! You can also send him books; true to the caring personality we know and love, he’s been sharing them with the other inmates.