CALL TODAY AND TOMORROW (9/9 and 9/10)
Charles Egeler Reception & Guidance Center (RGC)
Warden Scott Yokom
(Press 1 for Charles Egeler RGC, then 3 for main menu, then 0 for operator and ask for the warden’s office.)
Michigan Department of Corrections
Director Heidi Washington
[Remember, you do not have to give your real name, number, or address if you don’t want to.]
I’m calling about Harold Gonzales, #194496. He is a political prisoner at Egeler RGC after being arrested on a false charge of being a parole absconder, when in reality he was on an ankle monitor, saw his parole officer last week, and his only violation in over a year was one curfew violation. This is retaliation for his advocacy for the impoverished and racialized children in his community, is an abuse of power, and violates the public health need to reduce the number of people in prison during the COVID pandemic. Gonzales has had recent symptoms pointing to heart trouble which makes him more vulnerable to COVID. No one should be imprisoned on a technical violation, especially not a false one, and especially not during COVID. I demand that Gonzales be freed immediately and that his parole be ended so he can never again be imprisoned on false, political charges.
The campaign began June 22. Five households in Sycamore Meadows, a HUD housing complex in the Green (a neighborhood in Superior Township, Ypsilanti) were served notices threatening eviction for bogus “community disturbance” property violations. This came in retaliatory fashion after community members peacefully challenged harassment by Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputies who collude with management to repress, surveil, harass, and destroy lives without protecting or serving anyone except the millionaire property owner in Houston, John Barineau III.
Community organizer Harold “HH” Gonzales didn’t let his parole status prevent him from advocating for his friends and family in the Green, where he grew up. The same day the notices were served, he got the story out about people being criminalized for “living while Black.” Residents told HH they didn’t believe anyone in the outside world would give a sh** about them. But instead the story went viral. The community repelled the eviction notices, and a corrupt manager was let go.
FREE THE GREEN
Through HH’s organizing work trust slowly began building between the residents and the community groups in solidarity with the cause. This led to a series of Free the Green events over the summer combining community, cultural enrichment, basic needs, political consciousness raising, and tenant rights organizing
Soon HH began facing escalating retaliatory treatment by the state, including being put on an ankle monitor for a mere curfew violation. When he told his parole officer it seemed like they wanted to stop him from protesting, she replied, we are. Then, at the behest of Sycamore Meadows management, sheriff’s deputies issued a bogus trespass ticket to keep him out of the Green altogether.
Then on September 8, he was arrested on a false charge of being a “parole absconder” since March 28, 2020. How he could be an absconder while wearing an ankle monitor and having seen his parole officer the week before, is truly shady. He was taken to Egeler RGC in Jackson, where he is unable to make phone calls because of COVID quarantine.
HH knew something like this could happen to him, but he refused to cower in fear and continued the campaign. If this happened, he wanted us to use it to shine a public light on the parole system itself, because it is wide open to corruption and abuse of power with even less accountability than the rest of the criminal justice system.
Black and Brown people are put back in prison on technical parole violations far more often than white people. HH is being punished for loving and helping his community. He stood up to a HUD millionaire, local politicians, county staffers, racist sheriff’s deputies, and other outsiders who bring exploitation, violence, and misery to the residents of the Green. Let’s stand up for HH so he can continue his work in solidarity with the Green, for love of the children trying to live, grow, and find joy there.