Susan Walker’s Thoughts from Jail

Dear friends,

It’s been three months since Jeremy Alderson, Gary Judson, and Susan Walker were arrested on September 6, 2012, for peacefully protesting at the Inergy Compressor Station, a fossil-fuel abomination on the shores of beautiful Seneca Lake.

Jeremy pleaded not guilty and will be tried in court (date still TBA). Gary pleaded guilty and was fined on September 19; a collection was taken up in the court from his supporters to pay the fine. Susan was fined but refused to pay into a system she said she cannot support, and was harshly sentenced to 15 days in jail.

During the eight days she served in jail, nightly vigils were held outside the jailhouse by many fellow antifracktivists and those who believe in justice, democracy, and environmental sensibility. Susan could not, of course, see or hear them, but she was told of the vigils by jail guards and the few visitors she was permitted, and she read of them in the newspapers that were delivered to her in jail. Since her release, Susan has been elected to our Leadership Council.

Susan has kindly offered to share some of her writings (addressed to her 23-year-old son, “Z”) from the time she spent in jail. They are excerpted here. If you’d like to write Susan, please send an email to info@coalitiontoprotectnewyork.org, and we’ll see that she gets it.

Susan Walker
Arrest: Thurs morning, 09/06/2012
Hearing: Wed 7pm, 09/19/2012
Jailed: Wed pm, 09/19/2012
Released: Thurs 12:01am, 09/27/2012

Coalition to Protect New York

September 30, 2012

Hi Neighbors –

Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and meditations during our recent time in Chemung County Jail, Elmira! I do so, now more than ever, know that we are all connected in some wonderful way, as I felt your meditations even before I heard that the news had gone so far and wide, and before I knew there were “vigils” outside the jail… I had felt a love-ness – coming from where, I didn’t know, curious, incredible feeling, and I considered, no, it HADN’T come from my self, from my “speaking out” – it was from someplace, someone else. It was a wonderful feeling, a constant wrapping in love, like the incredible feelings I had when my now 23 year-old son, “Z”, was born!! Total joy, total love – and this time, it turned out, from people never met! Whatever causes this, whatever god, whatever science, whatever combination of the two, it’s proved to me, yet again, that there IS an IS.

Thank you again for having been there with Gary, Jeremy and me, and as we all continue This Odyssey, Together!

Susan

Letter to 23-yr-old son, “Z”, written Fri 09/21/12-Mon pm, 09/24/2012

Dear Z-

Hi Love! How is all with you in Victor?

Surprise, but not such a surprise, eh? I’m so glad that we got to march in Painted Post together, before court! Jail IS what I wanted to happen (uh – not that I plan to be spending any MORE time in here (in the near future, at least) – it’s not horrible, – though certainly not a “vacation spot”!

The inmates and “COs” – corrections officers – are by and large OK – people are people, wherever, with same hopes and dislikes – on the other hand, we all have constructive and destructive ways to work with those forces ( -:

I hope that you picked up the g-mail from Jack Ossont – if not – check your g-mail? – it asks for your phone # … I swear I’ll learn it now!!…(but first…. what is it??? – your number is on my cell, the darned thing, or I surely would have learned it – after a while…..!)

Right now I can only make calls, one minute each, to phone #s I have. Which is good, I suppose – I CAN be less verbose when there is a limit! ( -:

I got a hold of a phone book but, being a much-used prison phone book – it contained only the As and Bs – torn up and all. Luckily, two fellow activists are “A” and “B,” so I was able to call them (“B” has a different # than was listed) and compact a long conversation into one minute.

Z, you ought to have seen what happened in the courtroom in Reading!! It was SO BEAUTIFUL! We were “The Seneca Three” being tried – Jeremy, Gary, and me.

The courtroom was filled with fellow activists, there from all over, to witness, and to give us support. The large room outside the courtroom was also filled, and people were outside looking in through the courtroom window – including wild and wonderful Spike (who I went to the State Fair with, along with Jack and David, your filmmaker pal) and P (who you met with his wife at the dulcimer concert early in the summer.)

Jeremy (No Frack Almanac), his wife Ellen, Gary, and I sat up front.

Jeremy presented the JP with a document showing that the JP held a (gas) lease up until two years ago. There was back and forth discussion on that matter, between Jeremy and the JP. Jeremy had his hearing put off until October, when he will have an attorney.

(Jeremy pointed out that he had two years as a JP – Justice of the Peace, not a full judge, nor lawyer. The man was not amused.

Gary was up after Jeremy (he’s the retired minister). He pled guilty: JP then ordered a fine of $250…. the courtroom was SILENT. All of a sudden a voice from the “audience” asked, “May I pay his fine, Your Honor?” The JP said he didn’t care who the payment came from. Then another voice “I would like to pay his fine, too.” The JP SEETHED disgust! Then everyone in the courtroom was handing cash up to the front, or bringing cash to the front and laying it all in a neat pile on the defendant table!!! It was JUST SO INCREDIBLE to watch that, Z!! So much LOVE!! One of the activists counted, and handed the $$ to the court clerk, and said “There is more than enough here for the next person, Sir.” The JP said, CURTLY “We’ll WAIT for the next person!”

Then it was moi’s turn. I pled guilty, JP announced fine $ amount (the same $250). I said “Sir, I refuse to pay the fine.” He said, “What??! Did I hear you correctly, Ms. Walker, that you are refusing to pay the fine?” I said “Yes, sir, I refuse to pay the fine.” He asked me to explain why. I started with “Because corporations…….” He cut me off and said, “I didn’t ask about corporations! I asked why YOU refuse.” I said, “Sir, you did ask me to explain why I refuse to pay the fine, and corporations are a part of that explanation.” He said, “Proceed, then.”

I said something like “because corporations are being allowed to violate people’s health, safety, and lands….What amount of penalty can correct that?”

He looked at me, shook his head (funny – did he look to me like a very disappointed authoritarian parent, or was that just projection??), and said, “And you are absolutely certain?” I said, “Yes, Sir, I am.” Then he gave me the sentence of 15 days.

The courtroom was silent. I went back to my seat, then was told to go over to the guard. When I got to him I held out my hands to be cuffed – he said he wouldn’t cuff me in the courtroom – hey, how is one s’posed to know these things?

Oh, Z, you should have HEARD the courtroom!! Cheers and clapping, then I heard it coming from outside, too. The officer walked me out and all along the way I heard the cheers of people I know and the blur of those I don’t know yet. It was a wall of sound and movement. Then I saw K at a corner of the hallway, eyes met and she gave a silent, reassuring look and arm-out. It was good to see her there in the middle of all the sound and motion! The officer walked me out the exterior room and then outdoors, where there were even more people. As I was walked to the police car people came out and were cheering. I gave our 3-finger I Love You sign from your school bus days while I was in the car driving off. What a FEELING, Darling!

Then the car got to Schuyler jail, where they told me i’d be transferred to Yates or Chemung, as Schuyler doesn’t have women’s facilities.

It was decided it’d be Chemung (i’m thinking it’s because it’s so far away from Inergy and my core group of activists – but as you know from the Painted Post and Horseheads marches, there are activists all over, and will travel for a cause!! ( -: I heard one officer say to another that they were going to take me out the back, side entrance because the other two entrances had protesters at them!! Oh, my GOOD GOD I thought – never, ever alone! (-: – it was a warm feeling to know that, and I was not scared. Really, wasn’t scared through any of this – just the hallway and clapping, but you know, that’s really not a “scared” feeling – just the “wall-of noise and movement” feeling . . .

- At Steuben County Jail – Elmira

“Oh I got them Fulsom Prison Blues!” Now, after a few days here, I can see how exciting that concert must have been for the inmates!

- That was Wednesday night, I didn’t know your phone number and there was no phonebook here – so – no contact until Friday, when there was visiting!! That was rough, but doable (strip search…to be continued……)

They called me down for a visitor Friday evening. I got to the large room where there were about 40 people on stools, sitting across a foot-plus tall plank from each other. Jack was there!! What a welcome sight he was! He gave all the news – that there was a vigil outside the jail that day (it was in the newspaper next day, along with two photos of the group and my “mug” shot! One of the ladies in the photo was the older woman with the beautiful face I had marched alongside at Painted Post – the woman who had told me that she had marched with Spike during the Allegheny nuclear waste storage activities. It was so good to see her in the photo there! At the march she had struck me as quite a wonderful, strong lady, like your great-grandmom, and I felt so blessed to see her in the photo, taken from right outside the jail!)

Saturday (Grandpa’s birthday)
The guard on the floor woke us up at the usual time (5am) and had the newspaper. She handed it to me and said, “Ms. Walker you’re famous.”, and smiled – it was the article with the photos I mentioned. There was also a GOOD anti-frack Op/Ed by Ellen Goodman that particular day, too! Then came mail, and I had seven cards to read – SOOO beautiful – unanticipated – it made me teary. BEAUTIFUL words, with beautiful art to brighten a gray cell!

I thought of your grandpa, and that he’d be proud, like he was with his mis-appropriated near liver biopsy – the rest of the family was so angry, that I was trying to find out how that happened, and then I went in to see your grandpa… he was so sick, but he was smiling, said that he had heard that I was going to sue the hospital…..no, no, Dad, not sue the hospital – just find out how he happened to be taken and prepped for a liver biopsy when due to be released next day for pneumonia – just so it wouldn’t happen again. I thought maybe he was having a good 112th birthday . . . and that Mom and Ruthie would be saying “What’s that Susan done NOW??!!!”, and that maybe Aunt Hannah would like to come join me in all this. It was funny, to be thinking those things . . .

Monday
The Saturday news article said that they’re also protesting the 15-day sentence, as being very harsh (i hear from my fellow inmates now that the 15 days is), that Joseph, Jeremy, and Sandra Steingraber gave speeches. Jack described how it had drawn a lot of attention to the cause. It was SUCH good news, and SO comforting, SUCH a warm feeling of being hugged constantly – hah, even with just that little bit of a jail blanket Jack said they’d try to have people out there every day to hold vigil until i’m released. Jack’s eyes moved over and past. I asked what was wrong. He nodded his head in a direction, said that there was a little one over there that they won’t allow contact with his father. I glanced over, and the mom was holding a 9-11 month old up to see her dad, the little one’s arms were outreached and she was squirming for a hug from her dad, but over-the-plank contact isn’t allowed – from ANYONE, apparently, until hi’s and bye’s are done. It was a punch in the stomach, for sure.

New inmates coming in say they’ve seen the protestors, and come up to meet me – then start telling me about themselves – like they feel comfortable – it’s TOTALLY COOL!

The girls/women on my unit (there are six of us) got so excited when they saw the story in the paper. I saw it later, and it REALLY freaked me out, to see the familiar faces, and to see my name on a poster… like it was somebody else…. like I just did what I did…. little thing, something that just felt right, without question and second-guessing – and to see this . . . need to think about it – A LOT – and to come to an understanding of it. All the swimming this summer didn’t prepare me for this part of things . . . I suppose that’s good – gotta keep testing that mettle, eh?

Jack gave me G’s phone #, but my wonderful recall of phone #s, plus not allowed to have pen/pencil/paper in Visiting, I couldn’t write it down, and – uh- didn’t remember it.

He asked if there was anything he could do – I needed your phone # – but again – darned cell phones – there’s no way he could look your number up, so – I thought – gmail – hey, there IS a use for technology !

I hope you got Jack’s email OK – he’ll be asking for your phone # -

I think of you and Turtle Hill, the marches with your guitar, the hikes, the during and after the Tommy Emmanual concert when you got to talk with everyone, and the “Queen” concert this summer (uh – forget Pickin’ in The Pasture — i’m opting out of that one for next year, thanks!).

I also think of all the wonderful people who’ve come together for one cause, plus being in a place where I was able to stand up for myself (and others it turns out).

Well, word from my roomies (but not guards – still waiting on an official word) is that Schuyler County picks me up in a sheriff’s car around 9 or 10pm Thursday, then [I’ll be] released.

11:30 am – Just finished lunch – crisco peanut butter, grape jelly in a plastic cup, with white bread, potato salad, and an orange. Certain to do a nose dive in an hour blood sugar-wise! Breakfast was unfrosted vanilla cake and a kool-aid packet. How I miss your Chinese suppers!

Well, I need to wind this up so as not to miss the mail this evening. I’ll see you this weekend?

Enjoy the rest of this week – good work, learn a lot, play a lot? If all goes well, iIll be able to call you this week (er, uh – once I recall your phone # – go figure!).

Much love and admiration to you, Z!

Love,
mom

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