The FreeSpook Movement
Michael “Esé Spook” Armendariz was incarcerated in 2002 in the state of New Mexico for defending himself against attack by off-duty, intoxicated police and correctional officers. The State tampered with and excluded evidence, incarcerated and intimidated eyewitnesses, and saddled Michael with an incompetent public defender. A farcical trial concluded with Michael sentenced to life plus thirteen years, a 43-year prison sentence for defending his life and the lives of his friends. The FreeSpook Movement is raising funds to help Michael hire legal counsel for a habeas corpus and fight for his freedom.
Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo – obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.
– Angela Davis
The Prison-Industrial Complex is the 21st century manifestation of systemic racism. This network of State institutions, corporations and the criminal justice system has caused and is causing deep and long-lasting damage to people and communities of color. We, the organizers and activists in The FreeSpook Movement, share a common opposition to the Prison-Industrial Complex and come together to fight with Spook for his freedom. We come from varied backgrounds. Some of us are prison abolitionists who reject prisons and punitive justice as a premise, while others strongly believe in radical reforms to humanize the criminal punishment system.
Another closely tied anti-social phenomena that is plaguing our communities is that of Police Violence. The effects of this institutionalized violence are well documented in alternative grassroots media sources. Police brutality and unaccountability are evident in Michael’s case, as well, given who attacked him and his friend, given who botched his trial. Combating the Prison-Industrial Complex also requires a firm stand against police brutality.
We recognize that Michael is only a single victim of this racist network of oppression. So does Michael. However, in the struggle against the larger problem, where often the systems we are resisting become abstract entities, organizing and resisting along with actual victims of the system foregrounds explicitly the human cost of systemic racism, economic inequality, policing and punitive justice. Working with Spook transforms the Prison-Industrial Complex and the Police State from abstract entities to real dehumanizing, oppressive, anti-social forces.
The FreeSpook Movement is working with Michael and his family members to raise funds for legal counsel. While we recognize that fundraising is not a solution towards dismantling the Prison-Industrial Complex, Michael’s chance at freedom and justice hinges on it.
Michael was wrongly convicted of 1st Degree Murder in a highly politicized case that should have been recognized as self-defense, had the criminal punishment system any relation to justice. Throughout the investigation and prosecution, the State disregarded its own policies and statutes, as it naturally does when the facts refute the charges. His case calls for a critical conversation about the two-tiered “justice” system, police brutality, and prison abolition. Michael’s sense of self, understanding of his own position within oppressive systems, and commitment to struggling against injustice in all of its pervasive permutations, makes it imperative that we struggle for his “freedom” so that he may join us in all the work and resistance that liberation, justice, and peace requires. FreeSpook! All the power to the people.
Having read Michael’s words, I am confronted with the many layers of injustice people of color and people of poverty experience on a daily basis. Having met Michael’s friends, family and supporters, I am driven with a sense of justice that is rooted in humanity and community, not in elite systems of law and righteousness. Working with them, and with Michael, is a challenging and enriching experience. Michael was wrongly convicted, and he is paying an unjust price for an act of self preservation. He is brave enough to reach out for help in his fight for freedom. Yet, at the same time, Michael is honest in placing his struggle within a larger, more radical, context. I want to be able stand beside him, in the streets, and struggle to end all systems of oppression. We have nothing to lose but our chains. We have a world to win. FreeSpook!
Free Michael because self-defense should not be an exclusive right to people of privilege. Michael’s case highlights the systemic dysfunction of our judicial system; a system more concerned with punishment than justice, that often ends with the restriction of a human being’s basic right to freely exist. As fellow members of the community, we should all question ourselves on whether or not prisons should exist, if they serve any useful function, and if we trust any authority to coerce human beings into their walls. In Michael’s case, it’s apparent that the system is not concerned with justice or fairness, and it’s absolutely unacceptable for us to be silent and complacent to such institutions. FreeSpook.
I want Michael free because I want all people free, because I want to be free. I know that I am not free in a world where such clear delineations exist between the powerful (the badge-toting, trigger happy armed extension of the state) and the powerless (the rest of us). I know that I am not free while Michael and ~2 million other people in the United States alone are locked in cages, deprived of love, and brutalized daily while billionaires wage war and inflict poverty on the world’s masses. I want Michael free so he can better join us in the struggle for a more sane, more dignified way of life – the one we all deserve. FreeSpook – free the father, free the poet, free the artist, free the good thing that he is.