2 years ago, I was doing my best to support the Occupy Movement in small town USA which was quite the endeavor since the people in this town are about as close minded as you can get. To them, life is perfect or their blindfolds are just tied way too tight. My husband and I met a few great friends with the same desire to change the world but finding people like that here is near impossible. Some of the people supporting the Occupy Movement locally were actually comical and we did our best to avoid the crazies. We made a video to show our support. It was our first attempt at a project like this but my husband and I had a fantastic time together working on it. You can see it here:https://vimeo.com/42167663.
In March, 2012 I saw news about the arrest of Jeremy Hammond who was accused of taking part of the hack of the private spying firm Stratfor. Because I knew this incredible young man on a personal level, this information stunned me beyond belief and I knew I had to do something to help a person who unknowingly did so much to help me. I started by writing a letter to Jeremy to send love and remind him of how much he had done for my life and to let him know that I wasn’t leaving him. I received a return letter from Jeremy in his usual humorous fashion stating he had no idea that our talks together meant so much to me. I laughed when I received that letter. Here was a young man sitting in jail, and the majority of his letter talked about helping others in the same situation as he found himself in. Clearly nothing about Jeremy regarding helping others had changed one bit. Because I had moved away from Chicago some years earlier, it had been a long time since I had seen or spoken to him and he still had this way of inspiring the hell out of me. After reading Jeremy’s letter, I knew the fight was on to free a person who had done so much for me on a personal level. I was going to do my best to publicly support Jeremy only I had no experience with such a project but my head was in the game and so my support for Jeremy Hammond began. I had no idea at the time how life altering this was going to be.
Fast forward to April or May, 2012. I found a support page on Facebook for Jeremy. I reached out to the person to find out if they knew Jeremy personally and if there was anything I could do to help. At first the person seemed very nice but I noticed more was posted about the person’s personal articles than were posted about Jeremy. I also became highly offended when the writer referred to Jeremy as “His Hotness” like something some juvenile groupie might say. Things happen for a reason though. While on that page, I began speaking to a man by the name of Larry Cumiskey. I knew Larry because he was the owner of Blastedrat.com and I used to order all kinds of Dan Bellini work from him. But we began to talk about Jeremy and the Facebook page that was in place for him. Larry went to the page Admin and asked if he could help admin the page to perhaps post more information about Jeremy and gather more support for him. At the time there was something like 120 people on the page. The Admin quickly refused the offer. Larry and I decided to make our own page for Jeremy and so began the Free Jeremy Hammond Support Network. The next person to join the network was Dominick. Now how do we make the story of Jeremy known to the public who seemed to know nothing about it? How could people not know about something as important as this? How could they not seem to care about this one of a kind person sitting in jail? We were going to fix that somehow! but I had no idea how.
Fast forward to June, 2012. I received a call from Jason Hammond asking that I go to NY and meet with Jeremy’s lawyers and speak with them about his case. Jason’s van had broken down and he was not going to be able to get there. So, we rented a van, piled the kids in it and off we went to NY. I had never been to NY so that was an experience in itself. I met with Liz Fink, one of Jeremy’s lawyers. She must have thought I was some kind of nut to be honest. I had no clue what I was doing! I had my mortgage papers in my hand and thought I could just go up there and get Jeremy out by handing over my documents. That wasn’t the case at all and it was at that moment that I realized how much trouble my friend was really in. Liz Fink explained all that needed to be done for Jeremy. She said she needed as many letters into that jail for Jeremy as possible. She explained that I needed to get his name out anywhere and everywhere. She said that since I was just a supporter, my words could not affect his case but that I should of course be careful not to say that Jeremy did something when I would have no knowledge of the case anyway. She said to me at that time…and I will never forget this…”You know, when people are arrested, you find supporters who come to their aide to help but they don’t stick around. Where will you be one year from now”? I was puzzled by the question but through my blubbering and dumfounded look on my face I responded “One year from now, I will be right here where I am right now”. In one way that was the truth but in another way, I had no idea just how far from the truth that really was. I was going to be so much further than I was on that day in June, 2012.
We returned home feeling rather defeated but I knew we had our Support Network and somehow, with Larry and Dom’s help, we were going to make the name Jeremy Hammond one that every activist would know and appreciate. I reached out to Wikileaks. That didn’t help. I sent requests to the media. That didn’t help. Nothing was working and I was feeling really discouraged but I was writing to Jeremy and I knew that was helping him. People were starting to come to the Support Network and starting to share information about Jeremy and that was a good thing but I needed to think bigger.
Without any notice at all, along came this person who quietly offered his help. I was confused by the offer but there was no way I intended to turn down anyone who would help me. Little did I know at the time just how important that offer to help really was. This part makes me smile and literally warms my heart but I’ll do my best to explain this. That person invited me to what I thought was the “Dark side” of the internet better known as IRC. I felt like I was sneaking in to some secret gang of hidden people! Well, these were people who knew all about Jeremy’s case and although they seemed very leery of this stranger using her real name, they welcomed me. Given the case against Jeremy and the involvement of the FBI, one can understand why they were edgy about having me in IRC but you have no idea how terrified I was about them! I thought of them as these super hackers who were going to take me off of the internet or something! lulz. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As we got to know each other and trust one another, those very special people would soon become the ones to provide me direction, art, love and hope for Jeremy. The name of those secret people on IRC is FreeAnons.
In July 23, 2012, I was back in NY for Jeremy. The NY ABC had hosted a noise rally shortly before and Jeremy was filled with excitement as were other inmates. There was a court date and that was the reason for my trip to NY. It was on that date that I met Margie Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler who were the rest of Jeremy’s legal team. Margie Kunstler is such a sweet and warm woman that I couldn’t help but want to hug her so I did. Sarah was a quiet one and Emily was the one who was visiting Jeremy in jail and giving him the moral support he so desperately needed. They were awesome. Jason Hammond was also there and it was nice to be able to hug him. Jason brought his girlfriend who is very sweet and another friend of Jeremy whom I had met some years back was also there. It was awesome to spend time and catch up with them. Jason Hammond stood in the park in Foley Square and gave a speech that was written by Jeremy as he was standing next to a beautiful banner of Jeremy. It was rather hard as the boys are identical twins. After the speech was given, we made our way in to the courtroom and took our seats. Jeremy walked into the courtroom in dark blue operating room style scrubs but he looked at the courtroom that contained his friends and family and he smiled one of those beautiful smiles of Jeremy and he said “power to the people” I was terrified that the courtroom was about to erupt into these loud cheers but we stayed quiet. Jeremy turned back to look at his friends there and he winked a hello my way. One of Jeremy’s friends who I will just call G was quietly teasing Jeremy about the length of his hair referring to it as a mullet. Jeremy was visibly thrilled to see support and love there. Given the circumstances, it was a good day. Following that court date, Jason entertained us all by blasting music through the streets of NY as we followed behind him dancing as if Jason were the pied piper. We walked about 4 blocks to Jeremy’s Ale House and spent some time together with other supporters. It was soon time to return home and, feeling more inspired than ever, all I could say was “Game on”!
On the way home, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy but I had found some new friends in FreeAnons and some friends on Facebook that seemed as engaged as I felt. Together, we were going to get Jeremy the support he needed. When I returned home, we started a massive letter writing event that we named Postcards for Jeremy Hammond and then renamed it Mail to the Jail. That event produced so many postcards and letters for Jeremy that the jail actually got mad that they had to sort all of it and bring it to Jeremy. One of the head guards went to Jeremy and asked what was going on with all of these letters. Jeremy laughed and said “I can’t control who writes to me”. The guard said he was only going to give Jeremy 25 letters a day and of course Jeremy reminded the guard of his right to get mail. In the end, I think Jeremy won that battle and he got his mail as it came in. The letter event eventually became the inspiration for our website MailToTheJail.org which was designed to do exactly what Jeremy asked and that was to support them all. Bam, the game had begun.
As usual, I come up with ideas before I think them through and our next idea was one of those things that you just say WTF were you thinking ! But, with the help of some really awesome people from FreeAnons we decided to produce a CD to provide financial support for Jeremy. Jeremy was told about it and was so excited because music is his life and although he probably had no idea what lengths we would go to for this cd, he was very excited. With the help of Rosie Howell, a personal friend of Jeremy who helped find us some musicians willing to donate a track or two, Jason Hammond who also was amazing in making this project come to light and with the help of a lady we will call Erin who actually went from Wisconsin to Minnesota to get Ytcracker to sign a consent to use one of his songs on our cd, the project was moving right along. An awesome artist from FreeAnons made the cover art, Jeremy wrote a personal letter for the insert of the CD and an inmate at the MCC with Jeremy drew this amazing art as a poster to go along with our project. It was a grueling project but it was finally released on October 17, 2012 and we could not have been more proud. We actually produced a 27 track CD! It felt amazing to put it mildly. We rolled out the CD project again on the one year anniversary of its release just yesterday. It was very special to all who helped with that project and brought so many people together that I’ll never forget how inspired we all felt on the day we actually put it up for sale.
The court date that was scheduled for September was postponed due to the hurricane in NY but that didn’t stop us! The night of the hurricane, some of us who shall all remain nameless (Except myself because I’m writing this) decided we should call the jail and ask how Jeremy was doing. We made multiple calls asking if he had clean socks, was the power on, could we speak to him to make sure he was OK lol. We laughed together although I’m quite sure the jail didn’t find it half as entertaining as we did but that was OK because we were all together and I would guarantee that Jeremy found out about our phone calls. You may be asking yourself if Jeremy ended up in trouble because of our behavior and the answer is no. It was just one of those things that we entertained ourselves with one night and together. We found something to finally have a little time to laugh about together.
The next hearing was in November and it was to be the bail hearing for Jeremy. Again our hopes to have Jeremy released were high. We rallied in Foley Square and we walked together to the courthouse ready to get our friend back. I met a personal friend of Jeremy’s that day and was sitting right next to him in court when Jeremy walked in. The look that was shared between Jeremy and this old friend will be forever etched in my heart. I’ll spare you the details of this hearing but needless to say, we were heartbroken when the judge would not grant Jeremy bail no matter how hard the lawyers fought. We walked away from the courthouse crying and feeling defeated. I drove back the state where I reside wondering what in the hell am I not doing right???! I was angry, hurt, feeling so overwhelmed by the words that the judge used to describe my peaceful friend!
The following evening, feeling ridiculously defeated, I sat online with some friends and literally cried my eyes out. Why couldn’t the judge see in Jeremy all that I see in him? Just like some gift, someone noted the judge’s husband had an email address that was part of the Stratfor leak and I felt this renewed sense of hope. I immediately called the lawyers the next day and with the help of my husband and a few other secret friends, we provided all that we could find to assist the lawyers in a motion to recuse the judge due to a conflict of interest. We literally relished in our accomplishments. The motion to recuse was submitted and denied by the judge. Her words “So What” has become our own sarcastic statement to so many things over the last 8 months.
What I have failed to explain during all of the activity in Jeremy’s case are the cases of Higinio Ochoa III aka W0rmer, the Nato boys, the Cleveland 4, the Paypal 14, The Tinley Park kids, Barrett Brown and Weev. I don’t necessarily mean that I intend to explain the cases themselves but what has happened over the last year and a half as a result of the case of Jeremy Hammond. Because of Jeremy Hammond, I met Rachel Allshiny, one of the people supporting the Nato boys. She will remain a lifelong friend and comrade to me. Because of the case against W0rmer, I met Kylie Ochoa, Hig’s wife and became a second “grandma” to their beautiful son Brody. Because of the Cleveland 4 boys, I have a new “daughter” whose name is Juss and I love her with all of my heart. Vince Kershaw is out there fighting for the Paypal 14 and all of the rest and I have the utmost respect for his hard work. Because of Weev and Barrett, I met Sara who was so quick to offer me housing when I go to NY on 11/15 for Jeremy’s sentencing hearing. Because of Jeremy Hammond, I have met Magpie, my hero in the art of tinfoil dancing but who has also organized so many events to bring attention to all of these cases. From boats to floats, she is my hero and I love her. Because of Jeremy Hammond, I have met my dear friends Michelle and Megs both of whom could crack you up or make you nuts depending on their moods and I love them both for the awesome people they are. Because of Jeremy Hammond, I have found an incredible respect for the collective known as FreeAnons. They have welcomed me, assisted me, cared for me and fought with me from the first day of our meeting. And to every single solitary person who cared to hit the share button about Jeremy Hammond, I owe you more than you can ever know. I know I am going to miss some people here and I don’t mean to. But to all 3 Brian’s, my 3 Sara’s, Natalie, Jahba (What would I ever do without you) Larry Cumiskey, Loki, Mitchell, Andrew (Both of you), Hempy, Arc, Nathan (my real sweety), Ray another awesome artist, Christy, Raymond my pirate friend, the awesome Jenny Baker, Karen, Dominick who has stuck by Jeremy and me since June, 2012, Rogie, Alison Cook whose art completely inspires me, William Wagner who has donated so much to assist our Anons, Cody who was willing to learn how to fly a helicopter by watching YouTube videos, Kyle, Bird, Maese with his awesome art, the NY ABC, The phenomenal NY OWS teams who I love so much and to the always incredible and patient Jerry Boyle who puts up with my whining and nearly out of control phone calls, I thank you for your desire to change the world. I thank you for your concern for Jeremy and for every bit of your love and kindness toward me.
To the FreeAnons Network: You guys have done more than you will ever completely understand. To my dear sister and friend, Nix: You are the voice of reason. The voice that makes these young boys want you to leave your husband and marry them. The voice that keeps us all sane. The one who is available 24 hours a day to offer a lending hand to all of the people facing prosecution, fighting for the ones that are being prosecuted and work to protect people from prosecution. It is truly an honor to know you and call you my friend.
The work that has been done for Jeremy could not have happened without everyone working together as the solidarity team that Jeremy would expect. I know I have forgotten some but the guys that put up with more crap from me than anyone should ever have to. You are the ones who have been life changing to me and you are my family. Lastly but most important, to my amazingly patient husband and children who have allowed me the time I need to help Jeremy for the last 18 months; I know you may not remember what I look like by now but I owe you more than I can ever repay you. And because of Jeremy Hammond, we have brought these cases and supporters together so that all may receive the love that they need and deserve. We are now truly Legion.
So, now the reason for this lengthy rant is this: With Jeremy’s sentencing approaching faster than I am ready to emotionally handle, I wondered to myself, where do I go from here? I was hoping that we can support each other during this time of what initially felt to me to be a failure but then I realized this is no failure! Jeremy has left a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten. Support of others is Jeremy’s legacy and I will do this for him. Of course I will always be there working for Jeremy but just on a different level. And as I wrote this, I realized, where I go from here hasn’t changed at all. I will fight like the stubborn Italian that I am for every single political prisoner who needs a voice and deserves to be returned to their families who love them! For the Grand Jury resisters who have chosen to remain silent and have been stripped of their freedom, I will fight for you. For Lynne Stewart, my very own hero, I will fight. For people all over this world that need a voice, count me in! And for those of you who think you just read all this for nothing, these little initials mean something to me: WWJD=What Would Jeremy Do. Jeremy would raise his fist in the air and say “power to the people”. With that in mind, my fist is raised and I stand with all of our prisoners and hope that you stand with me as I give to you my undying love and respect.