I have a confession to make: I’m an antifascist, and I’m going to jail for it. It’s a long, complicated story. In a nutshell, I was arrested at a protest against the alt-right in NYC last year. A brawl broke out, and I got caught up in it. A cop tackled me from behind, broke my leg, and lied about it. Tabloids smeared me as a thug and the DA charged me with gang assault, a vague and draconian law. It legally makes any group of 3 or more people engaged in a fight a gang, and makes them all legally responsible for each others’ actions, and carries a 3.5 year mandatory minimum. If I go to trial and lose, I do at least 3.5 years in an upstate prison, with Nazi gangs and inmates serving decades, and then at least 5 years parole. The Manhattan DA wants desperately to shoehorn me into the Antifa Bogeyman category and make an example of me. They can probably do it. My superb lawyers at NDS Harlem and the other dozen lawyers I consulted all agreed: short of going to trial and rolling the dice, there’s nothing I can do. The Manhattan DA simply doesn’t want to let this go. My lawyers generally put my odds at trial around 50-50 at best. I took a terrible plea to cut my losses.
I’ll serve 12 months of an 18-month sentence at Rikers starting October 23rd. There will be no Nazis, and no one will be there for longer than 2 years, and I will have no parole. A shit deal, but the least shit we could get.
The past 19 months have honestly been the worst of my life. I’m sentenced to 18 more, and I’m so very ready to begin my sentence. The uncertainty of not knowing has been by far the worst aspect of this whole process. Doing 12 more months with a definite ending will be comparatively easy. I’ve tried to enjoy my freedom in the face of this carceral deadline and to be grateful for what I have. And indeed, I’ve had it really good compared to most people who have to do time. Many, many people can’t make bail. I had friends step up and plop down a fat wad of cash to secure my release. Thanks to them, I’ve spent the past 19 months free, and I’ve tried to live my life to the fullest, despite the psychological torture. I’ve cooked good food and enjoyed it with family and friends, celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and my birthday with people who matter to me. I lived in France for three months with a person that I care deeply about. I adopted a cat and it has given me so much daily pleasure to be kind to a furry little creature, and to see it become kinder and more affectionate in return. I’ve been hiking and backpacking, I’ve had trips and bike rides and drinking binges and visits to museums and theaters whose work still leaves me breathless in retrospect. I circumnavigated the globe with a single backpack to remind myself that it is so much bigger and richer than the box into which they’re going to put me. I have taken exactly none of this for granted. Of course, I’m sad to go away, but many have been through much worse for much less.
I’ve had ample time to prepare for my imprisonment, and I’ve got a solid group of friends that have been there for me every step of the way with everything I’ve needed—support, security, research, legal aid, connecting me with therapists, self-defense experts, and other activists who have done time. Above all, I have a reason to do time, even if it isn’t right that I do it, and that’s a very strange but comforting thing, because I’ll know while I’m in there that a) it’s for a cause I believe in, and b) it’s bullshit.
I will miss good food, fresh air, my bed, my friends and family, my cat, art, theater, music, nature, privacy, kindness, cuddling, sex, and of course the freedom to make my own decisions. I will not miss paying rent, social media, the frenetic New York life, the FOMO anxiety that comes with it, or the MTA.
If you’re reading this, I’m already in a cage. Contact with the outside world is one of the biggest predictors for good recovery from incarceration. I don’t care if we haven’t talked in years. Write me, visit me. freedavidcampbell.com has all the info you need.
It’s doubtful that any amount of public pressure can get me out of jail, but no matter what happens to me, the precedent for responding to this sort of repression needs to be set. Trump is stacking the courts, both high and low, with unqualified right-wing judges. Legislation proposing penalties in excess of 10 years in prison for those deemed antifascists, often simply defined as protesting while wearing a mask, is being regularly advanced in both state and federal legislatures. If this is what they do to me, a nerdy, normal-ish young everyday antifascist in 2019, then you can be sure that much, much worse is coming, and possibly for you—unless you make it clear now that this is unacceptable behavior from any government agency in an ostensibly free and fair society. Call bullshit on this. Even if you don’t like me, agree with me, or approve of my tactics, call bullshit on this case, for all our sakes.
I’ll be writing more about this, and there will be an article coming out soon. In the meantime, write me, visit me, petition for my early release, and keep the faith against the fash. I’ll try to take this time to better myself, and to come out without PTSD or a giant facial scar. The only way out is through.
Love and solidarity.
See you soon.