Authors: Aisha Mansour, Marii Herlinger (WPJC Interns)
On Sunday May 31st, WWU’s Shred the Contract (STC) organized a community caravan which was co-hosted by Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER), and the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center (WPJC). The goal of this caravan was to take direct action to show up for people at the Whatcom Jail and to demand that WWU’s administration stand on the side of justice and shred its contract with Aramark. The decision whether to renew Aramark’s contract with Western is two months overdue. In order to hold the university accountable, STC demanded a response from WWU President Sabah Randhawa within a week from the action.
The caravan commenced at the Whatcom Jail. Students and community members sang songs of protest in solidarity with incarcerated folx, many of whom showed their support for the action by drumming on the windows. The caravan then continued on to President Sabah’s mansion. This is where activists chanted from their cars to demand a response regarding the decision to renew the contract with Aramark. Sabah emerged from his home to watch the protest take place and students communicated clearly with him what STC’s demands were. The caravan then concluded at Western Washington University, in order to make a statement about how the university profits off of a direct flow of resources from the prison industrial complex. Representatives from SUPER and YDSA gave speeches at this location, and, in an unplanned moment, a survivor of sexual violence spoke up to draw attention to an immediate injustice that had just occurred in Bellingham. The speaker announced that a community organizer and trans woman named Nadelyn had been illegally arrested after police invaded her home. Although this arrest took place during the time of the caravan, it was unrelated to the student-led direct action. Nonetheless, student organizers and community members realized the intimate relationship between the abolitionist caravan and Nadelyn’s violent detainment, so they quickly mobilized everyone to the jail while simultaneously starting a GoFundMe for Nadelyn’s bail and legal fees.
The community gathered at the jail in support of Nadelyn and her family, in a spontaneous solidarity vigil. The GoFundMe campaign exceeded its goal of $5,000. Nadelyn was released at 6 p.m. after a few hours’ delay, despite her bail having been paid earlier that afternoon.
Although the organizers had not planned for the caravan to end at the Whatcom Jail, especially under such circumstances, Nadelyn’s detainment was strong and immediate evidence of the way in which the carceral system punishes folks with marginalized identities. The organizers of the caravan recognized that fighting for prison abolition at a macro-level requires also showing up for individuals and community members impacted by incarceration at the local level. During one of the biggest uprisings of many of our lives as young organizers, this connection must be at the forefront of our efforts while we fight for racial justice.
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