On Wednesday June 11th the city of Seattle held an open house at The King
County Juvenile Detention Center. This open house occurs annually in order to
provide a space for the state to show that ‘the community’ is involved in
the process of building a new jail. Inside the jail surrounded by free
mini-sandwiches and science fair-style tri-fold boards the usual do-gooders
spoke passionately of the need to develop ever more subtle means of
controlling people and preserving existing structures of domination.
Outside a small group milled about and traded glances with the six or seven
bicycle cops and prison guards who were stationed there to thwart a call that
had been put out to disrupt the open house. Roughly ten to fifteen people
went inside, ate a bunch of free food, held signs and yelled at the people
who were presenting. After everyone exited the building a group of about
twenty-five to thirty people marched to the south side of the jail and held a
small noise demo. People seemed generally unprepared and uninspired – only
one or two people had any noise makers, pots or pans. Despite this, people
picked up rocks and sticks and hit them against the walls of the jail,
parking signs, and abandoned furniture that had been left on the sidewalk.
After a while it didn’t really seem to matter that people were unprepared,
and in fact at points this made the short noise-demo more interesting.
Instead of standing and banging pots and pans, one person casually pulled a
couch into the street and started building a small barricade made from
furniture and large chunks of concrete, which eventually mostly blocked off
the street. Another person played handball on the side of the jail, while
someone else set off roman candles. The police kept their distance and
eventually people left.
It is hard to say whether this somewhat confused combination of a disruption
and a noise demo was a ‘success’ because it is unclear what a
‘success’ would have looked like in this context and after all, in this
and many other situations it makes more sense to appraise our actions more
qualitatively. Most people we talked to felt pretty disappointed as we walked
away from the front of the jail towards the south wall. However, during the
noise demo it seemed that people made the best of the situation and in the
end it felt like people had made more of the noise demo than those of us
writing this report back had expected.