The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), a jail run by the Trump administration in Brooklyn, New York, reportedly lost power about a week ago, leaving the people locked inside — many of whom have yet to be convicted of a crime — without heat and light in their cells as temperatures plummeted amid a polar vortex.
As soon as word got out about conditions inside the jail, family members and activists quickly organized and gathered to protest outside the facility on Friday, demanding that jail officials provide the incarcerated with heat, hot meals and means for contacting their families and attorneys. Since then, they have maintained a presence outside the jail day and night, making noise and holding banners showing their support the people watching from the windows of their cells.
When protesters attempted to enter the jail over the weekend, guards used pepper spray to beat them back. People held inside the jail reported retaliation as well.
Sam Johnson, an organizer with No New Jails NYC, told Truthout that jail officers were “irate” when activists began “making noise they didn’t want to hear” and releasing footage on social media of family members who had not heard from their loved ones inside for a week. Officers were still carrying rifles and pepper spray as a small group of activists gathered in a tent outside the jail Wednesday morning.
“This is not a one-off thing, this has been going [on] for centuries with oppressing people and making it look like they are creating safety,” Johnson said in an interview, adding that activists are also organizing therapeutic spaces for family members of the incarcerated.
Power was finally restored at the jail on Monday after the facility came under pressure from prominent politicians who sent officials to investigate and provide aid. But reports of deteriorating conditions inside the federal facility cast a grim shadow over President Trump as he prepared to make his State of the Union speech.