Eric King is an antifascist, antiracist, anarchist activist who is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for throwing Molotov cocktails into an empty government office in Kansas City, Missouri, in solidarity with the 2014 uprisings after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. From the beginning of his imprisonment, King and his advocates say he has been targeted and “tortured” by the state, including assaults from prison guards and white supremacist gangs, solitary confinement, communication bans, and unexplained transports to different private and federal prison facilities. Now, even though he does not qualify for maximum security designation, King has been transferred to USP Lee, a maximum security prison in Virginia where his life has been threatened, and advocacy groups, including Amnesty International, are sounding the alarm. In this episode of Rattling the Bars, Mansa Musa speaks with Josh Davidson, a member of Eric King’s support crew, about King’s case, his treatment while serving out his sentence, and what is known about his current condition.
Josh Davidson is an activist focusing on prisoner support and the abolition of the carceral state. He is involved in numerous social justice projects, including the Certain Days collective and the Children’s Art Project, and also works in communications with the Zinn Education Project.
Pre-Production/Studio/Post-Production: Cameron Granadino
Additional resources/info provided by the Support Eric King collective…
Eric’s mailing address:
Eric King #27090-045
PO Box 305
Jonesville, VA 24263
Eric has a wishlist for books.
For updates on Eric’s case, follow the Support Eric King collective:
Facebook page: Support Eric King
Twitter page: https://twitter.com/SupportEricKing
Mansa Musa: Welcome to this edition of Rattling the Bars. I’m Mansa Musa, co-hosting with Eddie Conway. We thank everyone for your well wishes as Eddie recovers, and ask you to continue to support Rattling the Bars and The Real News. We also thank you for respecting the family’s wishes that Eddie have privacy as he recovers. This show is dedicated to Malcolm X. Malcolm X was born March the 19th, 1925. Eric King is a political prisoner. And Eric King was locked up August the 10th, 2014. Eric King was a part of the Ferguson uprising, and because of this, Eric King is being subjected to the most harsh, cruel, and unusual punishment. And here to join me to talk about this, I have a guest, Josh, who will introduce himself.
Josh Davidson: Thank you, Musa. My name’s Josh. I live in Baltimore, Maryland, and I am a member of Eric King’s support crew. In addition to that, I work with the Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar Collective. We raise awareness and funds for political prisoners. I also work with political prisoner Oso Blanco, an Indigenous political prisoner. And I work at the Zinn Education Project, where we promote radical history for teachers and educators.
Mansa Musa: So, let’s pick up on, first of all, how is Eric doing today?
Josh Davidson: So, communication has been sparse, to say the least. He has not been allowed any visits. I’ve not gotten any letters from him and I don’t think any of his supporters have, and we don’t know that he is necessarily getting the mail that we are sending to him either. We are trying to get legal visits in to him and get him all the support he needs.
Mansa Musa: Okay. Let’s go and start looking at what exactly did Eric King do, as we travel down this road of this abuse and torture that he’s being subjected to. Now, August 9th, Michael Brown, The Ferguson uprising occurred, Darren Wilson, the racist police that killed Michael Brown. Eric King was a part of this uprising. The following day, he was arrested and charged. What was he charged with?
Josh Davidson: So Eric was charged… He basically had a politically motivated act of property destruction where he threw two Molotov cocktails into a congressman’s office in the middle of the night. No one was around, but he was charged with that. And he received 10 years in prison for that.
Mansa Musa: Okay. And once he received the 10 years, he received 10 years for what they were saying, what, Act of Sedition?
Josh Davidson: Yeah. Like any radical, any political prisoner, they’re going to throw the books at them and throw as much as they can at them. He made it clear from the start – And his sentencing statement and everything is out there, is available – He made it clear from the start that his actions were politically motivated and were done in solidarity with those protesting in Ferguson after the police murder of Michael Brown.
Mansa Musa: Now, since he’s been incarcerated, as I was reviewing and researching for this interview, Eric has been sent to mainly federal correctional institutions, medium security, but more lately, he’s been sent to USP federal prison penitentiaries. Explain why they are subjecting him to moving him into maximum security prisons as opposed to him being… Even according to the bureau of prison, he does not qualify to be put into maximum security. He does not qualify, really, to be in medium security, but he’s really qualified to be in a minimum, and probably pre-released. So explain why they’re keeping him in maximum security prison, why they’ve been constantly subjecting to maximum security environments.
Josh Davidson: Yeah. So in that decade that he’s been in prison so far, he’s been given as much diesel therapy as possible. He’s been shipped around the country from private prisons to federal penitentiaries and usually placed in the SHU, in the hole, no matter where he’s sent. There have been specific instances where he has been put in places and positions with white supremacists, where he’s been forced to defend himself in physical confrontations where his life has been threatened. And that continues to happen now. That’s one of the fears moving forward in his last year in prison. He’s scheduled to be released at the end of 2023, so there’s about a year and a half left. And we’re really just trying to keep him alive in the same sense that we have the whole time he’s been in prison. Like I said, he’s been put in with white supremacists, with Nazi type people who have been twice the size of him, but he’s fought back and he’s survived. But yeah, he’s been going through that for a decade now.
Mansa Musa: And we know that when he was in Florence, FCI Florence, federal correctional institution in Florence, he was assaulted by a correctional officer, is that correct?
Josh Davidson: He was. He was assaulted by a correctional officer. He took it to court, which is fairly unprecedented, and even more unprecedented, he won the case. A jury of his peers decided that he was correct and that the law enforcement guards were not to be believed in that case. And this happened in March, about two months ago. So even in winning his case, he’s still in danger. It needs to be kept in mind that he’s being imprisoned by the same people that he won the case against.
Mansa Musa: And to show you how brutal they’re subjecting him to, this was because he expressed his views about a confrontation between an officer and a prisoner, is that correct? That’s what led to him being assaulted by the officers in Florence?
Josh Davidson: Yes, I think that was part of it. He made a comment either in a letter or in some sort of communication to someone outside and the guards took offense to that. But just in general they’ve tried to attack him and make his life as unbearable as possible the entirety of his time inside.
Mansa Musa: And also, I was reading where in terms of… You made mention of the diesel tour they’ve been taking him for. For our listeners, this is when they just put you on a plane or a bus or a car and just move you around the country randomly if you are in the federal prison system, it’s much like being on slave ship. But I read, I was looking at some of the treatment, or the mistreatment, or the harsh treatment he was receiving in some of these institutions that he’s been in, such as they had a mask that they put on you, strap you to the chair, restrain you, and had him restrained in three pieces, and had him chained to the bed. Can you speak on these things?
Josh Davidson: Yeah.Yeah, he has. He’s been mistreated the whole time. The one instance you were talking about was after the assault, after the guard assaulted him, he was put in a six point restraint and held that way for hours, unable to really move at all. Besides that he’s been, like I said, assaulted by guards, picked up and dropped on his head, assaulted by Nazis, and just kept in deplorable conditions wherever they’ve sent him around the country. Eric is a vegan. He’s never really gotten the food he’s been able to eat inside. So he is always on the very verge of being very unhealthy, but he also practices yoga so he keeps himself in as much shape as possible, which has helped him in all the assaults that he’s faced throughout the years.
Mansa Musa: Has he incurred any chronic ailments as a result of his torture that he’s undergoing by these bloodsuckers?
Josh Davidson: I’m sure he has. To be honest, communications have been so few and so sparse that I don’t think we’re really seeing at this point the long term effects of what his confinement and his torture will have on him. But I will say that his determination and his radical outlook on life has not changed at all. If anything it has hardened during his time inside.
Mansa Musa: And is he in a USP, United States prison, or is he at a federal correctional institution as we speak today?
Josh Davidson: He is currently at USP, United States Penitentiary Lee in Southwest Virginia.
Mansa Musa: Right. And while he was there, was he assaulted?
Josh Davidson: He was assaulted there years ago, yes. And the fear was, even before he was sent to USP Lee, that he would be sent there in order to be assaulted again. At the moment, I believe he’s being kept in the SHU, but communications have been very difficult, but I’m not really sure. Go ahead.
Mansa Musa: Go ahead. No, go ahead.
Josh Davidson: I don’t know really what the plan is, where they plan to send him. He thinks possibly an ADX, which is, as you know, probably the highest level of confinement. But I’m really not sure at this point where they’re planning to send him.
Mansa Musa: And what are their justifications for continuing to subject him to not only the torture, but more importantly, what are their justifications for continue to subject him to this arbitrary security classification?
Josh Davidson: Yeah, they’re basically saying he’s a threat, and almost ignoring the fact that he won the case, that he was not guilty in the case of assaulting a guard. They’re basically still holding that against him and using that as leverage to exact more torture upon him.
Mansa Musa: And we know from history that the prison-industrial complex and the fascist, racist correctional officers, we know that they get allies from different prison groups to do their bidding in terms of assaulting political prisoners or subjugating political prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment. So in this regard, where is the defense committee positioned in terms like… Because of all the restrictions and because of, as you mentioned, the communication restrictions, what are the defense committee and the attorneys doing to try to unjam this situation he finds himself in, or that they are subjecting him to?
Josh Davidson: Yeah. Yeah. There are a lot of people acting in a lot of different capacities. I’m not a lawyer, but several different lawyers are working on his behalf to get him out of USP Lee and to make sure that while he is there he is as safe as possible and not mistreated and not given a classification level that is not deserved. We do encourage everyone to go to his website supportericking.org and also follow him on social media. His website has the most up-to-date information, so that’s the best place to go to find out how you can help and what you can do.
Mansa Musa: And we recognize that when we’re dealing with political prisoners and the conditions that they’re subjected to, we know it’s primarily because of their politics, that they’re being subjected to the cruel and unusual punishment that they’re subjected to. How is Eric, in terms of his relationship with other prisoners outside the racist Nazis or the collaborators of the administration, how is he with the prison population, or do you have access to other prisoners, to your knowledge?
Josh Davidson: Yeah, absolutely. That’s one thing that Eric’s been really great at. For him it’s difficult because he literally wears the politics on his sleeve. He has the word “Antifa” tattooed down the side of his face and similar type tattoos like that. But he’s always related well with prisoners and organizing them and helping them understand their place in the class struggle and in the struggle in general, and the larger place of mass incarceration in society. From what I’ve found, he’s always told me and other supporters to write to people that he does time with. His interests and the people he’s communicated with and built relationships with have been vast and far and wide as far as race and ethnicity and things like that go. Eric also communicates with former political prisoners, several of them that did years and decades in prison, and faced some of the harshest torture that the state has to offer. And he’s always gained inspiration from people that he’s served alongside or that have served time before him and talked about that and shared how they lived through those experiences.
Mansa Musa: Are they offering any reason why they’re subjecting them to this, or are they just being the bloodsuckers that they are and ignoring the wills of the people and ignoring the cause for him to have justice? Or are they just ignoring the fact that he hasn’t done anything to merit this type of mistreatment?
Josh Davidson: For the most part, it’s exactly as you described. It’s people passing the buck, it’s people not answering the phone, it’s people saying it’s because of the abuse of the guard and it’s not something they can handle. We are hopeful that the attorneys are able to have better luck than those of us who call during the calling campaigns. We’re still trying on every front we possibly can. I do think it’s important to point out that I think it’s on the government’s part, more of a threat of what will happen to you if you act like Eric, what will happen to anti-fascist people who are willing to stand up against the state and strike back when possible. That this is what you have to face. This is what you have to look forward to. So I think that that’s worth pointing out as well.
Mansa Musa: Right. And both me and Eddie served close to a century in prison collectively, so we’re both aware of the arbitrary and capricious behavior of the fascists and the arm of fascism. But it’s [crosstalk]
Josh Davidson: Yeah, it’s-
Mansa Musa: So, we’re well aware of that. And how is his family doing?
Josh Davidson: His family is doing about as well as can be expected. They’re supporting him as much as they possibly can and trying to create the best world possible for him to come home to. They’re looking forward to him coming home in about a year and a half, and hope that whatever happens between now and then does not lead to him having to do any more time in prison than absolutely necessary. They welcome any support as people are able to offer.
Mansa Musa: And we want to remind our listeners and our viewers that we’re talking about no more than a property crime at best. We’re talking about civil disobedience. And we’re talking about on the heels of where a racist police killed Michael Brown. Eric did not come out with a semiautomatic weapon or automatic weapon and walk down the street and just gun down protestors. He did not publish a diatribe of racist views and then went on to kill people. He basically has been subjected to this primarily because of his political views. Would that be a correct view on that?
Josh Davidson: That’s absolutely correct. And I think it’s probably safe to say that had Eric been out here, he’d be the one attacking the one with the automatic weapon shooting people.
Mansa Musa: Right. And so we want to remind our viewers and our listeners on how they can support Eric. So can you offer some more information on how our viewers and listeners can support Eric King?
Josh Davidson: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. He appreciates any love and solidarity that he can get, that his family can get. The best place to go is supportericking.org. You can follow him on all those social media handles as well. He’s got YouTube playlists of his favorite music. He and I are currently working on a book of interviews with current and former political prisoners. So he’s well attuned to the current political climate and the history surrounding that. And yeah, just go to his website, offer support as much as possible. There’s a current calling campaign, and you can find out all those numbers and information on his website as well, supportericking.org.
Mansa Musa: And in terms of what do you want our people to know about Eric? What would you want our takeaway to be when it comes to Eric King?
Josh Davidson: Really that he’s just a loving, young guy. He’s in his early 30s, he’s a father, he’s got a wife and two kids. He doesn’t deserve to be where he is, not that anyone deserves to be in prisons anywhere. But he’s a guy that’s trying to do good things in life and prison is not helping him do that. He would do a lot better on the outside, as would everyone else inside. And I can honestly say, I correspond with dozens of political prisoners and prisoners in general, but every letter I get from Eric, I feel like I learn something. And I feel like I grow in some way and get to know him better. So I can honestly say that I learn more from him than I’m able to give in this relationship. So that’s always a good feeling. So, yeah, just write to him. Yeah, that’s about it.
Mansa Musa: Okay. There you have it, the real news about Eric King, political prisoner being tortured daily, all because he was in solidarity with the Ferguson uprising, where Michael Brown was killed by the racist police. And because of this, Eric King is being subjected to the most inhumane torture, the most inhumane treatment, that’s been going on for a minute. Over five years now. And we’re hoping that you get behind and support Eric King, because he’s supposed to be releasing 2023, where the rate that the fascists are going and the racist police, and those that they’re using to instigate trouble with him, at the rate that they’re going, we hope that Eric King can survive, and we know that he can if everyone comes out and supports him. Thank you very much for coming on today.
Josh Davidson: Thank you so much, Musa.
Mansa Musa: All right. And I’m Mansa Musa, reminding you to continue to support Rattling the Bars and continue to support The Real News. You can learn more about both by going to our website. Thank you very much for allowing us to be able to express our views on Eric King, and thank you very much for joining us today.