Yesterday, for the first time in nearly three years, I got to see my mentor, close friend, and freedom fighter extraordinaire Marc Emery.
The last time I saw Marc was when he flew me to Vancouver to relax and participate in the 420 festivities in 2008 where I was subsequently filmed by CBC throwing huge joints to the crowd. I remember spending 3 days on the top floor of the BCMP rolling up that 7 pounds of weed into joints with loads of other activists. It was a great time.
I met Marc in 2002 on the Cannabis Culture forums. I flew to Vancouver a few months later to meet him and learn about activism and brought what I had learned back to Alabama and went to work. He was with me every step of the way after my arrest, hired me to write occasionally for CC magazine, sent staff down to cover my trial, hired me to anchor POT TV News and sent me jet setting all over North and South America covering horrific drug war stories. In short the man made me what I am and is responsible for the fact that there is even a movement in Alabama to bring about rational, sane drug policies. I owe him a great deal in terms of making shit happen and making him proud of his investment in me over the years. And it has been huge investment is you ask this poor country girl. I love Marc more than words can ever adequately convey.
Throughout his arrest by the DEA and all of his trials and tribulations we have remained very close, talking via phone and email often. I promised him that on the offhand chance he wound up in the South to serve his time that I would be Jodie’s escort and visit him every two weeks. I never thought they would send him here. But, in many ways it is a great thing (for him) that they did. Not so great for them….which they will soon realize. When they do they will have him on the first plane out of here and back to Canada. I will explain what I mean by that in a minute.
But, first, the visit.
We arrived at 8:30 which is when they begin allowing visitors in. And even though there are over 900 people imprisoned there there were only 6 visitors for three inmates yesterday. It was extremely sad. The reason for that is because most of the people imprisoned there are simply being held in prison because they are in the US illegally and are waiting to be deported. I assume most of them are probably very poor and their families can’t travel from Central and South America or even the West Coast of the US to visit.
We had to fill out a form swearing that we weren’t carrying anything illegal into the prison and surrender our keys and ID’s. As we were preparing to go through the metal detector a female guard told Jodie to stand back from the desk. Jodie stood back and the guard said, “I think your dress is too short” and she proceeds to call Captains and other higher ups on her radio. Hell I expected them to break out the damn ruler and measure. Jodie’s dress was sitting right on top of her knee cap and seemed plenty long enough to me. She told them that the BOP handbook states that dresses and skirts cannot be more than 1 inch above the knee and that she was within the limit. They broke out the rule book and she pointed out that specific rule to them. Two black male guard came in and looked her over and decided we could visit after all. I told her if she hadn’t been good looking we would have had to come back to the hotel and had her change. But, luckily, they were civilized enough to let us in.
We proceeded to the metal detector and although I had absolutely no metal on me anywhere I set the damn thing off. They said it was probably my shoes so I took them off and put them through the x-ray machine and went back through the metal detector and it was fine. Which is weird because the shoes were leather slip ons with no metal that I could see.
We were then led through a series of locked doors and concertina wire (which is very odd for a low security facility) and into the visitation room. A minute or so later Marc was led through another door and there was much hugging and kissing and a few tears…mostly from being so happy to finally see him with my own eyes, and lay my own hands on him and know that physically, at least, he is doing fine. He’s a little skinny, but has been able to get out and get some sun here in South Georgia so he no longer looks starving, pale, and gaunt like he did at Sea-Tac.
Visitation last from 8:30 to 3:30 and between the three of us we kept up a constant conversation about what is being done to get him home, what needs to still be done to get him home, what life is like for him inside prison etc. Jodie held one of his hands and I held the other for nearly the entire visit. Physical contact is so important to the human soul and being deprived of it does terrible things to ones mind. It was just really great to touch him.
If you know Marc than you know he is willing and able to keep up a rapid machine gun fire of conversation. It’s so funny when he calls me. When I see the number I grab a pen and paper and as soon as the call is connected He says “Hi Loretta” and then launches off into a 1 to 2 minute list of instructions of things he needs done. I rarely get to actually do much talking to him at all I was very pleased to see that prison has done absolutely nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for the love of gab. Nor has it cowed him in any way.
In fact, he has done just what I, and probably everyone who knows him at all, thought he would do….he’s taken the damn place over, has a devoted following of other inmates who have come to depend on him for help with their paperwork, lodging complaints against the prison, getting the library on order, counseling people when they are down and standing up for the little guy. Just being Marc in other words.
I think they really fucked up when they decided to send him to a prison that was only recently taken over from the state by GEO group. They really don’t have their shit together, ignore all the BOP rules, violate every policy and procedure, and are just plain unorganized. Marc hates disorganization and dirt. He is an organizer…perhaps the greatest organizer of our time (to me there is no question about that) and it is just his nature to make sure things are done right and according to established rules. Sending him to a place where that isn’t the case has allowed him to focus his incredible energy and determination of all of the things that need doing, that are done wrong, or not at all, and he stays extremely busy. He knows more about how the place is supposed to be run than the people they have hired off the street, with absolutely no training whatsoever, know about it and will likely ever know about it. He said the warden told him he is ‘tantalizing’ which is an extremely odd word to use. All of this channeling of energy has kept sadness and depression at bay. He has something to focus his considerable will upon and that makes him extremely dangerous….only the authorities inside the prison haven’t realized it yet. When they do you can bet they will figure out that transfer application process real quick and have his rabble rousing ass on the first flight back to Canada they can get him on. I can’t wait til that happens. I’ll have a good long laugh on that day.
He gets along well with all of the staff. they treat him with respect and he reciprocates in kind. All of the other prisoners look up to him. They’ve even started this chant when his huge stacks of mail come every day. They start chanting FREE MARC! FREE MARC! and he responds “THAT’S A GREAT IDEA”. If he doesn’t respond right away they get louder and louder until he either responds or one of them responds for him. It’s quite hilarious!
And while all of this is really great to know it is still imperative that we all continue to do everything we can to get him sent back to his home country to serve his time. He has absolutely no business in South Georgia. So, please don’t slack off just because he is coping well and doing all he can to make life behind bars tolerable for himself and the others who are suffering the same fate. Tomorrow or Tuesday when I have had a day to recover from this trip I will post a gargantuan list of all the things he needs done. I want all of you reading this to pick one thing…anything…and DO IT. Report your progress to me and I will keep him up to date on everything that is happening and who is doing what. In order to keep his spirits up we must let him know that we are all working on his behalf to rectify this terrible wrong that has been committed by our government in our goddamn name.
When our visiting time was over (and it seemed to fly by) we all embraced again and man I tell you it was difficult to walk away and leave him there. He saluted us and I told him to “Hang on Commander”, which is what I always used to call him and then we were led back to the free world. I’m so happy conditions weren’t deplorable and that there was no hint of violence. I am used to dealing with Alabama state prisons which are nothing but giant torture chambers and disease incubators and filled with extreme violence and danger. This prison leaves a great deal to be desired….but by God at least it ain’t state prison and for that we can be thankful.
A couple of announcements before I close this out. Yesterday, Marc and Jodie asked me to be the new ad sales manager for the CC website, which I am happy to do because I can sell matches to the devil (I used to sell cars after all) and because I could really use the extra cash. Marc also asked me to take over the Free Marc website and keep it updated by posting the letters he writes me and organizing the information on how to help him all in one place. I won’t be using the current website, because I am unfamiliar with the format. I will be transferring everything there to a blog format (like this one) because I am familiar with that and it is simple and easy to use.
So, be sure to check back in the coming days for the new website and for the huge list of things that need to be done to help Marc. There will be plenty to go around….and then some.