S1E105 – Eric King on Surviving Prison

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Eric King talks to Margaret about navigating and surviving prison after spending nine and half years in a federal prison after firebombing a congress person’s office during the Ferguson Uprising.

Guest Info

Eric King (he/him) is an anarchist, a father, a poet, a brutal scrabble player, an adoring Swiftie and an undying anti-fascist.  You can support Eric on IG @supportericking and @rattlingcagesbook as well as at https://supportericking.org/ Eric also co-edited the book Rattling Cages, which can be found at http://rattlingthecages.com/

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.


Live Like the World is Dying: Eric King on Surviving Prison

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast where it feels like the end times. And this week—I’m really excited about this week—I get to talk to someone that I wanted to talk to you for a very long time, but I wasn’t able to because he was in prison. And that’s not a good place to talk to people if you don’t know them. But what we’re going to talk about this week is how to survive prison with Eric King, the recently released anarchist prisoner who spent way too fucking long in a cage. And so we’re gonna talk about how to survive being in a cage because it’s a thing that we should all be aware of, even if we try to avoid it. But first, this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero etwork of Anarchists Podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. 

**Margaret ** 01:41
Okay, we’re back. So, Eric, if you could introduce yourself with your name, which I already said, and your pronouns, and then why you know something about surviving prison. 

**Eric King ** 01:51
Hello, happy to be here. My name is Eric King. I go by he and him. And I spent just about nine—nine and a half years in federal prison after firebombing a congress person’s office in Missouri during the Ferguson uprising.

**Margaret ** 02:10
Okay, so, which is I mean, I don’t want to… It is good when people act in solidarity, I will just say that. So I think a lot of people are nervous around—I mean, I’ll say I’m nervous around incarceration, right. I’ve only spent two nights total in lockup, and I’ve never been in general population. And I think it’s a kind of a black box. It’s sort of a mystery. And I was wondering if you had any advice for people who, whether they’re, like currently facing incarceration, or whether they’re making decisions based on their ethics that put them at risk of incarceration. I’m wondering if you have, like, and it was a big topic, but like, how do you get ready to go to jail?

**Margaret ** 03:01

**Eric King ** 03:02
So I wasn’t ready. I’m going to tell you that right now. Um, I got picked up on the streets, just the cops rolled up on me with their machine guns and everything like that. And so I wasn’t ready one bit. I didn’t have a support team ready, I didn’t have funds ready. And honestly, even though I had read books and I watched documentaries, I didn’t know how to behave in prison at all. Um, so when I showed up, I was—I got myself in a lot of trouble with both other prisoners and guards, because I was doing a lot of reckless shit. Um, and so if I were to tell people to get ready, my first advice would be, like, to understand where you’re at. Like, you’re in a county jail, most likely. 

**Eric King ** 03:48
And depending on what state you’re in, like, that’s gonna depend on like the politics of that jail. And there’s ways to survive in county jails and there’s ways to survive and low security prison, medium security prison, maximum security. And you can get yourself ready for that stuff. You can be ready. 

**Margaret ** 04:06
Yeah. Okay, so what kind of prisons were you in?

**Eric King ** 04:11
So I was at a—I started off in a federal pre trial place. It was a it was one ran by CCA, which was just a nightmare because that’s one of the private companies. And then, I’m one of the few people ever in the feds have gone to a low, a medium, a USP, and the supermax—the ADX. So I worked my way up, yeah, I did all four custody levels. And so I’ve seen like how the survival, like, how you have to move and behave. It’s 100% different in each one of those. So it takes time to learn to like it’s weird.

**Margaret ** 04:49
So what are some of those ways—like, what are some examples of like how you behaved incorrectly when you first found yourself in lockup.

**Eric King ** 04:58
Sure. So when I first got to CCA, I’m on full insurrectionist anarchist time. And I’m refusing to play by the politics of that jail. And that meant that I sat and ate with the black bros. I let ,the gay and trans people, I always worked out with them, you can come work out with me. I watched the Mexican TV—when the Sureños and the Paisas are watching the Spanish channels, I sat with them. And those are things that I got away with because I can fight. If I wasn’t ready to throw hands I got destroyed. And so I had a bunch of fights. I’ve fought all the time. 

**Margaret ** 05:41

**Eric King ** 05:41
And then eventually the other races talk to me. They’re like, bro, look, you’re causing problems for all of us. Like, your behavior—it’s cool, we appreciate the solidarity, we saw you on the news, respect. But you’re gonna get us in a race war because we’re letting you do things that like other people aren’t allowed. So you got to cut that shit out. 

**Margaret ** 06:02

**Eric King ** 06:03
Um, so I was still able to gamble with other races. And I was still able to run my boxing class. And so, like, the LGBT people could always we’re still involved in the boxing class, because that’s from every race. But like, once that was over, I wasn’t—I couldn’t sit with the black dudes anymore. I couldn’t watch the Spanish channel anymore. Just simple shit like that, that people in prison would say, like, duh, duh you idiot. But like, I didn’t get that early on.

**Margaret ** 06:33
That makes sense to me. One of the first friends of mine that I talked to about dealing with jail—a white anarchist who spent a bunch of time in jail, about a year or something, I guess prison more than jail. And one—and yeah, he tells me these stories about how, you know, he did the exact same thing. He went and he sat with—he was like, very consciously, he’s like, I’m not hanging out with the white supremacists. You know, right? And he was like, alright, I’m gonna go sit with black folks. And, you know, and he grew up on a primarily black neighborhood, and—

**Margaret ** 07:06
And eventually he—eventually he threw this, like birthday party that had everyone come together. But then immediately afterwards, someone tried to kill him. 

**Eric King ** 07:06

**Eric King ** 07:18

**Margaret ** 07:21
And it was because—they were like, they were like, well, we think you’re trying to unite everyone, like, under you. You know, we think you’re trying to, like, form this, like, you know—

**Eric King ** 07:33
What gang are you trying to form?

**Margaret ** 07:35
Yeah, exactly. And he ended up being put in solitary, like, ostensibly for his own protection. And, you know, and I think he’s spent the rest of his time in prison in solitary as a result of that. And that was like a—okay, so—but that brings up a question that I think that a lot of listeners would have, especially any white listeners, is then, how do you navigate that while still not joining the Nazi gang? And while indicating solidarity with people of other races without—even if you’re, like, not trying to disrupt the structure of what’s happening inside the jail? 

**Eric King ** 08:18
Sure. So the people listening online can’t see me. But I have the word "Antifa" tattooed on my face. I made it clear—I made it clear early on, I’m not fucking with these Nazis. I don’t care about you dudes. I’m not going to be your friend, I’m not gonna play like I’m your friend. If you come talking around me with that n-word stuff, that race lover stuff, miss me. You can do whatever you want to do, but like, I’m not doing it. And so, to navigate that, you have to be—you have to be willing to fight. Once again, like, you have to show them—and this is important for people, it’s important for anyone coming to prison. If you’re willing to stand on your beliefs, you can have those beliefs. What they don’t respect in any jail, any prison, any custody level, is talk. 

**Margaret ** 09:09

**Eric King ** 09:09
So if you if you show up in jail, and you’re like, trans people are equal, don’t be mean to them. But then you watch them bully a trans person. You’re a bitch now, like, your word means nothing. 

**Margaret ** 09:23
Oh, interesting.

**Eric King ** 09:24
So you don’t get to have an opinion anymore. 

**Margaret ** 09:26

**Eric King ** 09:26
But if instead, like a Florence Medium for example, we had a person in their name Crazy Pete. That’s what—that was what she chose to go by. And some of the wannabe tough guys tried to bulldog her and saying like, oh, you can’t—

**Margaret ** 09:43
What’s bulldoging?

**Eric King ** 09:44
Oh, I’m sorry. They tried to—

**Margaret ** 09:47
No it’s okay. You can use that slang, but you’re gonna have to explain it to me. 

**Eric King ** 09:50
Okay. Yeah. So they uh—their agenda was to force her out of the unit or to rob her, one of the two. And I said no. Absolutely not. You’re not doing this. Ah, my wife and I had already raised money to essentially buy a gay guy out of debt so they wouldn’t be sold by the—by some of the other races. And so people already knew like, this is what EK is standing on.

**Margaret ** 10:17

**Eric King ** 10:18
Um, and so when it came time for the Crazy Pete shit, like, you just show up, and you show up with your weapons, and you show up with your hands, and you stand on it and you say this is not happening. 

**Margaret ** 10:29

**Eric King ** 10:30
We can do whatever you guys want to do. And when you take that stand and they know you’re serious, it can defuse the entire situation. Um, but if I just spoke from my little chair, no, don’t do it be nice… 

**Margaret ** 10:45

**Eric King ** 10:46
Pete would have got fucked up, and I would have got fucked up. 

**Margaret ** 10:49

**Eric King ** 10:50
So that’s, that’s the first like, I don’t want to make prisons seem like it’s only violence, but the first way to get people to understand, like, what you’re about is to show them what you’re about. 

**Margaret ** 11:04

**Eric King ** 11:04
And sometimes that means, like, just telling like some racist dude next to you, like, man cut that shit out. Cut it out. I’m not trying to hear that shit. 

**Margaret ** 11:12

**Eric King ** 11:13
Or like, I would not let people say the f-word around me—like the homosexual slur. 

**Margaret ** 11:19

**Eric King ** 11:20
You couldn’t say it around. If you said around me, I’m calling you out or we’re fighting. 

**Margaret ** 11:23

**Eric King ** 11:24
And that was, like, these are stances I took. And sometimes you put me in harm’s way and sometimes I had to pay the price for that for real. 

**Margaret ** 11:32

**Eric King ** 11:32
But a lot of times it just let me live as me as, oh that’s Eric, he’s fucking weird. But, you know, he’s not a punk. That sort of stuff. If that makes sense.

**Margaret ** 11:44
No, that—that does make sense. The whole kind of, like, so you need to basically not be weak. You need to be—like you need to like—So. Okay, so—

**Eric King ** 11:59
This isn’t about winning the fights either just so you know. It’s not about, like, being tough. It’s about being brave more than anything. 

**Margaret ** 12:06
Okay. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 12:07
You have to show up on your—on what you believe in. Not other people’s, but what you believe in.

**Margaret ** 12:14
How much does, for example, being antifascist alienate you from the rest of the white population? Like are you, lik,e eating alone as a result? Like or like—

**Eric King ** 12:24
No, you can’t eat alone. There is no—so like, in the feds when—if people go to federal prison, like, people very likely to catch RICO charges in the next couple of years. Like it happens. 

**Margaret ** 12:33

**Eric King ** 12:34
Um, like that dude whoe just bomdb the abortion clinic in Wisconsin. He’s going to the feds.

**Margaret ** 12:38

**Eric King ** 12:39
Or not the abortion clinic, the anti-abortion clinic.

**Margaret ** 12:42
Oh, yeah, that makes okay. Yeah, uh huh.

**Eric King ** 12:44
I was like, oh my god. 

**Margaret ** 12:45
Yeah, all right. Yeah,

**Eric King ** 12:49
But that dude stood on pro-women’s rights stuff. 

**Margaret ** 12:53

**Eric King ** 12:54
Um, and so, I’m going to pretend like he’s white. So he’s gonna go to the feds and he has to eat with the white guys. You either sitting with white guys, or you’re gonna get fucked off the yard. 

**Margaret ** 13:05

**Eric King ** 13:06
And that means—that means beat up, put in PC, and shipped to somewhere else. 

**Margaret ** 13:09
Okay, what’s PC? 

**Eric King ** 13:10
Oh, PC means protective custody. And you can go in there if you’re—if you ask to, or they understand that you’re going to get hurt.

**Margaret ** 13:19
Okay, so this is what my friend was put in. 

**Eric King ** 13:22
Yeah, like your friend. Like they most likely understood this dude’s about to get hurt. 

**Margaret ** 13:25

**Eric King ** 13:26
Let’s get him out of there. 

**Margaret ** 13:27

**Eric King ** 13:28
And so, you’re gonna sit with the white guys. And most likely, like the gang dudes will have like their own little—because whites will have their own separate tables, they’ll have like five or six tables. 

**Margaret ** 13:38

**Eric King ** 13:39
And that’s where you eat. And in the federal system, you eat and sit with your state. Like where—what you represent. So I’m from Kansas City, Missouri. I sat at the Missouri table. It was us, Kansas, Oklahoma, and sometimes Chicago—it’s like a Midwest table, basically. 

**Margaret ** 13:55

**Eric King ** 13:56
And the gang guys—[laughing] might as well. So the gang bros, they would say,, like they have they’re like, that’s the SAC section, or that’s the ABT section. SAC is Soldiers of Aryan Culture. ABT is Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. 

**Margaret ** 14:13

**Eric King ** 14:13
Um, and so I don’t have to fuck with those guys at all. I don’t have to associate with you. But like, if they see me doing something they don’t like, like for—I taught the yoga class that Florence and I allowed all racists and sexualities, you’re coming to this yoga class. 

**Margaret ** 14:31

**Eric King ** 14:31
So sometimes some of the—some of the dudes would come to me and be like, hey, man why do you got this n-word in your class? Or why do you got this gay dude in your class? And then you just have to tell them, like, you’re not my fucking boss. Get out my face. 

**Margaret ** 14:45

**Eric King ** 14:45
I don’t answer to you. I’m not in your gang. 

**Margaret ** 14:47

**Eric King ** 14:48
Um, and so sometimes they go to your rep. Each car has a rep. 

**Margaret ** 14:55
What’s a car?

**Eric King ** 14:56
Okay, yeah, my bad.

**Margaret ** 14:58
No, it’s okay. Yeah, I’m just gonna say it for the audience.

**Eric King ** 15:02
I’m from Missouri, so that’s called the Missouri car. It’s like our group. 

**Margaret ** 15:06

**Eric King ** 15:06
You’re in that car.

**Margaret ** 15:07
Okay, which is separate from a gang. 

**Eric King ** 15:10
Yeah. Because we’re not trying to make money. 

**Margaret ** 15:14
Ah, okay. 

**Eric King ** 15:15
Like, if someone attacked a member of my car unprovoked, like, without us knowing about it, I could then be called to have to go and retaliate against that person. 

**Margaret ** 15:25

**Eric King ** 15:25
Even though it’s not a gang. 

**Margaret ** 15:27

**Eric King ** 15:27
You still assaulted our group, and so—it’s a group with our money making scheme. 

**Margaret ** 15:33
Right, okay. 

**Eric King ** 15:34
And so, I—if that gang had a problem with me, they would then have to go to the head of my car, someone who had a lot of respect, been down for a minute, and tell them like, we want EK, to shape up or we want EK off the yard. My car would then decide to either talk to me, fuck me up, or tell the gang did kick rocks. Like leave us alone. 

**Margaret ** 15:56

**Eric King ** 15:57
And so, depending on how that went, depends on how far it goes. But I never got fucked off yard, so.

**Margaret ** 16:06
So it worked, but it was a it was a tricky situation to do. 

**Eric King ** 16:09
It’s so tricky, because  one wrong move—and this is what I hope anyone going to prison in the future always understands—you have to always be respectful, even if you hate someone. 

**Margaret ** 16:19

**Eric King ** 16:20
So if somebody with a swastika on his face comes up and tells me to do something, I can’t say like, fuck you Nazi bitch—Nazi jerk.

**Margaret ** 16:28
That’s fine. Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 16:29
Okay, but I can’t say that to them. I will get stabbed. 

**Margaret ** 16:32

**Eric King ** 16:33
And not hypothetically, like literally. 

**Margaret ** 16:35

**Eric King ** 16:36
So I have to say to them, like, hey, man, I understand, you have your beliefs. I get that. But I’m doing me right now, and I’d appreciate you just let me do my time. Stuff like that. That’s how you have to talk, until it’s done talking.

**Margaret ** 16:49
Okay, and is that kind of how you would like—okay, another anecdote that’s not mine. Another one of my friends who spent about half a year in prison for a while and is—he told me that his cellmate was the tattooist for the Nazi gang in the jail. 

**Eric King ** 17:06
That sucks.

**Margaret ** 17:07
Yeah. And so the Nazi kept being like, hey, you got to join us. And my friend kept being like—the way that my friend handled this, and I’m curious, your take on this. Basically, he was like, he was like, no, I can’t. I’m already in a gang. I’m an anarchist. 

**Eric King ** 17:23

**Margaret ** 17:24
And it—and then the the cellmate didn’t really buy it until there was a noise demo outside for my friend. And so then there’s all these people with circle A’s and fireworks outside. And it was just like—yeah, so now th cellmate’s like, oh, I get it. You’re already in a gang. They just, it’s fine. And then they like stop trying to recruit him at that point and they were able to live in peace, which is an awkward—it seems like the things that we assume about how to interact with people and how to carry ourselves on the outside don’t relate to how we have to do it on the inside. Is that kind of—

**Eric King ** 18:00
Hell no they don’t. 

**Margaret ** 18:02

**Eric King ** 18:03
But so your friends situation worked because it was a jail. 

**Margaret ** 18:07
Yeah, uh huh.

**Eric King ** 18:09
Like in a jail—jails are so different than prison. 

**Margaret ** 18:12

**Eric King ** 18:13
Because it’s short term. All custody levels are mixed in there. 

**Margaret ** 18:18

**Eric King ** 18:18
There’s not going to be as much racial like—the dynamics aren’t as aggressive because you’re all from the same place. You’re all from Kansas City or New York or whatever. 

**Margaret ** 18:29
Uh huh.

**Eric King ** 18:30
Um, so the—it’s not split up like that. So if I was in a jail and some dude told me to join his gang, I’d probably laugh in his face. 

**Margaret ** 18:38

**Eric King ** 18:39
Like unless he was seriously dangerous, like your friend did the right thing. Just got the attention to, look how I had this over here. 

**Margaret ** 18:46

**Eric King ** 18:47
Because apparently that dude, that gang dude thought like, that’s what you respected. He respected someone that was—that stood on something. Basically, you already stand for something.

**Margaret ** 18:55

**Eric King ** 18:56
Um, but also if you—if you go to a lower custody federal prison, like let’s say you go to a low—I started out low. 

**Margaret ** 19:03

**Eric King ** 19:03
There’s no gang members there. No gang is going to recruit you there. 

**Margaret ** 19:07

**Eric King ** 19:07
Those dudes, they can’t do anything there. So like, that—you don’t have to worry about that in a lower custody level. Some dude tried to press you at a federal low, you could laugh right in their face. 

**Margaret ** 19:22

**Eric King ** 19:23
You soft mother fucker. Get away from me.

**Margaret ** 19:25
Because it’s not—the lows are not run by gangs as much. Is that the—or at all? 

**Eric King ** 19:31
No. Yeah, they’re run by sex offenders. 

**Margaret ** 19:34
Oh, interesting. 

**Eric King ** 19:35
Those security federal prisons, that’s where they put the vast—the nonviolent sex offenders, the first time—first time nonviolent offenders, like I started low. I’m a first time offender with a college education. I’m not a threat to them. So even though I have this charge, they don’t care. I go to low. Um, and so that’s where, like, white collar people, they go to lows.

**Margaret ** 19:59

**Eric King ** 19:59
Um, big time rats in informants go to lows. 

**Margaret ** 20:04

**Eric King ** 20:05
So if you see a gang member there trying to push that line, or some racial dude trying to push that line with you—and push that line means trying to force his agenda on you—you can basically tell him, like, if you want to do that shit, go pop yourself up to a higher custody level. 

**Margaret ** 20:19

**Eric King ** 20:20
If that’s where you want to be, go be there, but I like walking outside and playing tennis. So leave me alone. 

**Margaret ** 20:26
Right. Okay but then—

**Eric King ** 20:27
Lower custody levels are sweet. 

**Margaret ** 20:29
Okay, so then this brings up the question, because it seems like one of the other things that one would hope to not do is have what happened to you happen, where you got escalated up.

**Eric King ** 20:38
Oh shit. It was crazy! I’ve never seen nothing like it since I’ve been in.

**Margaret ** 20:41
Was it your behavior? Or was it some decisions that they made around your politics or like what—what caused you to end up escalated?

**Eric King ** 20:47
So, and this is something that all activists and radicals, especially white ones, need to worry about. Because like, honestly, like the white guards don’t really bother the other races about their politics. They just assume you have bad politics in their eyes. 

**Margaret ** 21:00

**Eric King ** 21:00
But so for white guys, they see you as a race traitor. 

**Eric King ** 21:04
So when I got to Englewoo I was doing fine, but the cops there would harass me relentlessly. So I’d get called to SIS almost on a daily basis. SIS is like the FBI inside the prison system. Special Investigative Services. 

**Margaret ** 21:04

**Margaret ** 21:21

**Eric King ** 21:22
And so they had—if you’re an activist, or you have one of our charges, they have to read it approve your mail, they have to live listen to your phone calls, like, they make it a burden. 

**Margaret ** 21:31

**Eric King ** 21:31
And so these pigs would call me to their office every other day, like, what do you mean in this email, what do you mean in this email? And then I would have my books confiscated on a seemingly weekly basis, they would just coming to my cell, take all my literature, all my writing materials, keep them for a week until—until I filed to region, and then they’d give them back. Um, and so I got bumped up in custody level because one day I was in the—I had a beef with these guards at visiting because they kept harassing my kids. They kept trying to get my kids by the sex offenders. 

**Margaret ** 22:06
Oh, god. 

**Eric King ** 22:06
I was like, just stop it. Like, leave us alone. I don’t bother you. 

**Margaret ** 22:10

**Eric King ** 22:12
And so, well I got an argument was one of them in the bathroom, and you’re not gonna believe me when I tell you this, but this officer had the gall to tell me he was gonna have his little boys beat up my daughter’s in their school.

**Margaret ** 22:23

**Eric King ** 22:24
I reported it right then. I had one of the other guards go call the lieutenant. The lieutenant remove that guard from visiting. Well, the next day, I had gone to psych because I was so angry with being in prison and they told me, like, write down your anger in a poem. Write it down in writing form. 

**Margaret ** 22:26

**Eric King ** 22:26
So I did. And I mailed to my wife. Well, SIS takes that letter and accuses me of threatening staff. 

**Margaret ** 22:50
All right. Yep. 

**Eric King ** 22:52
So they chained me up and that day drive me to Florence medium and put me right in the SHU. That day.

**Margaret ** 22:57
Yeah. And SHU is solitary. That’s one I do know. 

**Eric King ** 23:00
Yeah. Yeah. Special Housing Unit is what they try to—try to call it in Orwellian speak. 

**Margaret ** 23:06

**Eric King ** 23:06
Nothing special about it.

**Margaret ** 23:08
Yeah, well, it’s—it’s certainly not normal to spend all your time alone. 

**Eric King ** 23:12
[Laughing] Fair enough. 

**Margaret ** 23:13
And not like in a fun hermit way where, like, you’re Thoreau and your mom brings you your lunch.

**Eric King ** 23:22
[Laughing] Then then I just kept progressively, like—I don’t know if you know what happened me at Florence medium to where my politics pissed off food because I—Oh, go ahead. Sorry.

**Margaret ** 23:31
No, no, I’m—you should tell the story. I’ve—I’ve read a version of it, but you should tell me and the audience what is safe for you to tell?

**Margaret ** 23:40

**Eric King ** 23:40
Yeah, I was—I was politically active as hell on Florence medium. Um, like I told you I ride with Crazy Pete, do my yoga class. 

**Eric King ** 23:42
Um, and I made—I had good friends there. There’s people that accepted me there for me. I had tons of fights with uh, with the bigots, but that is just what happens. But so the staff there hated me. I would write articles calling them out. I would, I would put it in calling campaigns about their, how they treated vegan meals, how they treated the Muslims, how they treated the gay—the gay folks. So I beefed them all the time. And then one day I—a lieutenant got beat up. And I sent my wife an email laughing about it. Yeah, cuz I know they have to read my email. So it’s not—

**Margaret ** 24:24
Yeah, it’s a bad idea. But I understand—

**Eric King ** 24:26
Yeah, yeah. If you go to prison, don’t do this. Don’t instigate them. They will give you what you want. 

**Eric King ** 24:31
They’ll show you how real they are. So they call me lieutenant’s office, dude throws his big hissy fit, starts calling me a terrorist and all sorts of crazy shit. I laugh in his face because it’s so uncomfortable. He pushes me—punches me, and I dog walk him. A dog walking means, it means you beat someone’s ass. 

**Margaret ** 24:31

**Eric King ** 24:52
Um, so after I got punched twice by this cat, I dog walk him. And then the guards proceed to, you know, beat me half to death, strangle me, choke me, and then put me in four point restraints for seven hours. And those are when you are handcuffed on a steel bed, stretched as far as your body can go, left arm at this corner, right arm at that corner, your legs spread doing the same thing. And they leave you there. I was mostly naked, sometimes in my underwear. Um, and sometimes, like, the captain would come in and bring in a plastic shield—like a riot shield—and strangle—he put it over my face and pushed on it. So they’d choke me. 

**Margaret ** 24:52
Oh my god. Uh huh. 

**Margaret ** 24:52

**Eric King ** 24:56
And other times he’d come in and just put his hand over my mouth. He’d tell me, like, we’re gonna get you fucked up. We’re gonna rape you. We’re gonna get you raped.

**Margaret ** 25:14

**Eric King ** 25:15
You wanna be a tough guy. 

**Margaret ** 25:26

**Eric King ** 25:28
So that’s what got me moved up to the USP system from Florence. That’s how I went from medium to high. And then when I—they prosecuted me for that. They said, I assaulted him. 

**Margaret ** 25:52

**Eric King ** 25:53
So I had—I took him to trial, I refused to take a plea deal. I took it to trial. And when I won, that’s when they moved me up to the supermax, the ADX were El Chapo is and the Unibomber, all those guys.

**Margaret ** 26:04
Punish—that—I mean, all of them were just punishment, but that one was like extra punishment. You got found innocent of assaulting a guard so they put you in supermax. Is that pretty much—?

**Eric King ** 26:13
So, I don’t want to minimize but, like, you know,you—we just talked about noise demos.

**Margaret ** 26:18

**Eric King ** 26:19
A second ago—your friend, like, you know what they are? 

**Margaret ** 26:21

**Eric King ** 26:22
Um, when I was pre trial, they held me in the Englewood SHU for two and a half years. And I was there—and this will happen other activists if you use your voice—they took away my mail, my phone, my email, my visits. I had no communication. I could only write my wife. And people I don’t know, I don’t know these people, but they didn’t always demo New Year’s for me one year, and they record it—like it was on live stream. So they had banners and bull horns and fireworks. 

**Margaret ** 26:49

**Eric King ** 26:50
And one of them I think busted up a cop car. 

**Margaret ** 26:53
All right. 

**Eric King ** 26:53
And so they accused me of organizing and Antifa riot. And so I gotta rioting shot. That’s one of the most serious shots you can get.

**Margaret ** 27:02
Yeah, even though what happened outside the jail and you had no—

**Eric King ** 27:04
I had nothing to do with it.

**Margaret ** 27:06

**Eric King ** 27:06
Um, so that noise demo was listed on my ADX referral—you have to have a referral and it has to—you have to have an interview. And under the thing it said, like, Mr. King planned and organized an Antifa protest and Antifa threats against staff. So that’s what happened, like, when Trump became president. [Laughing] Things got real ugly for antifascists. 

**Margaret ** 27:27
Yeah. Okay. Well—god, that brings up so many questions. So one of them is, like—

**Eric King ** 27:32
What about noise demo. 

**Margaret ** 27:35
Yeah, exactly. That’s kind of my question is, like, should people—there’s probably not a right answer, but it’s like, when do we have noise demos? Like, when is it useful to a prisoner and when does it interfere with the prisoner’s ability to get by in jail?

**Eric King ** 27:53
So before this happened, if you would have asked me, EK, do you want a noise demo and people to show up at a prison and go crazy for you? My answer would have been enthusiastically yes. Because, especially a jail too, like, jails are different. Always. They do not have the same—it’s not the same. 

**Margaret ** 28:09

**Eric King ** 28:10
So visibility can keep people alive. That’s something that supporters and you know. Like, you letting the jail know that, like, I see what you’re doing to my loved one, my friend, my comrade. Ee’re watching you. We’re recording you…

**Margaret ** 28:22

**Eric King ** 28:23
That helps. I’m not kidding. That can save someone’s life. 

**Eric King ** 28:26
In a federal prison, um, I wouldn’t recommend doing noise demos at federal prisons anymore, honestly. I don’t know—I don’t know the—I just think there’s better ways to support federal prisoners going—this is gonna sound, you know, stupid and anti-anarchist. But like, we can pressure them using administrators, using politicians, using these people at higher institutions, higher levels of government, because like Cory—Cory Bush, like they were calling the bureau for me. The congressperson from Ferguson? 

**Margaret ** 28:26

**Margaret ** 29:04

**Eric King ** 29:05
Different congresspeople from Denver, were calling from me saying, like, why are you guys doing this to this dude, what is going on?

**Margaret ** 29:13
So—go ahead, go ahead.

**Eric King ** 29:14
I was just gonna say, like, we can put pressure without putting boots on our own necks.

**Margaret ** 29:20
No, that makes sense to me. And I think that—I think that we do well when we stay tied into the larger movements that we’re part of, and when w,e like, when we show—when we ask for solidarity from groups that we’ve been showing solidarity with, you know, like, like, because like, you were in jail for solidarity action. And so then folks calling and being like, well what the hell are you doing to him? Make sense to me, you know?

**Eric King ** 29:47
Yeah. And it worked. Like, that’s the only thing that’s worked for me.

**Margaret ** 29:52
Yeah. Well did you spend the rest of your time in maximum at that point? 

**Eric King ** 29:55
So after doing the two and a half years in the SHU for pre trial, they, they sent me to some other prisons to do my ADX referral. Because it’s a big like legal referral process. And then when I finally got accepted and approved, they flew me right back to Colorado. So I went from Virginia, all the way back to Colorado, and then I spent the last year and five months at the supermax and ADX, yeah.

**Margaret ** 30:23

**Eric King ** 30:24
They did not like me there. 

**Margaret ** 30:26

**Eric King ** 30:27
And those—Nazis. They are Nazis. If you look on their Facebook pages, they are full throttle white power, you know, patriot—we’re patriots, they’re their cry baby, like, Nazis. 

**Margaret ** 30:42

**Eric King ** 30:43
It is stunning what they’re about. 

**Margaret ** 30:46
That doesn’t surprise me. 

**Eric King ** 30:47

**Margaret ** 30:50
All right. How do you—you spent two and a half years in solitary. 

**Eric King ** 30:55
I spent seven and a half years in solitary. 

**Margaret ** 30:58
Oh, Jesus. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 30:59
Two and a half just on this pretrial.

**Margaret ** 31:01

**Eric King ** 31:01
It was a part of a five and a half year stretch.

**Margaret ** 31:04
So obviously that is a very different thing to survive than general population. 

**Eric King ** 31:08
Yes. It’s hard. 

**Margaret ** 31:10
How do you do it? I obviously since, I spent one night alone in jail, I obviously understand it completely, because I did one night, but you did seven and a half years. 

**Eric King ** 31:20
You are the expert.

**Margaret ** 31:20
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But how’d you do it?

**Eric King ** 31:28
I can break it down. So I didn’t realize—when I first came to jail, like when I was in the county, like pretrial the first time, I didn’t nine and a half months straight because I fucked up a lieutenant. Because I thought it was, like, serving the revolution. I thought I was like being a good anarchist. And so, once again, SHU in county jail is different. Anyone can survive that. You get visits, you get phone calls, you get food you get sometimes even TV and tablet. But when you get to the feds, or probably the state too, it’s different. And when you do long stretches, um, for me, it came in waves were like, I’d be doing really good for like three months, I’d be working out every day, I have a routine. You have to have a routine, do your burpees, do your push ups, do your abs and calisthenics and yoga. Make it—set a time where I’m going to write letters from this time to this time. Like make it, like, if you make a routine, it becomes an important part of your day. And then when you finish doing it, you feel like you accomplished something. Now your day wasn’t worthless. 

**Margaret ** 32:15

**Eric King ** 32:24
Now you have purpose to your day. But also, like for me, like, I’m not gonna lie, I went through a lot of depression—like depressive periods. 

**Margaret ** 32:34

**Eric King ** 32:35
And when that happens, you really have to check in with yourself and you have to be vulnerable with the people that love you. If, like, my wife would write me sometimes I write or some bullshit letter and she’d have to call me out being like, dude, like, you’re hurting and you’re not talking about it and it’s not helping. 

**Margaret ** 32:52

**Eric King ** 32:52
Let us be there for you. 

**Margaret ** 32:54

**Eric King ** 32:55
And when I was finally able to do that, like Josh Davidson, the guy that I wrote Rattling the Cages with, I met him in the SHU right after this happened. And because I was able to keep myself vulnerable and open s a human, I was then able to develop a real relationship with him and then work on a project. We develop that whole book from the SHU because I—I was able to do it, and he cared enough to work with me. 

**Margaret ** 33:23
Okay, but wait, how are you communicating in the SHU? Is it like, like, are you like writing a little notes and sending them down the… yeah, how do you do it? 

**Eric King ** 33:32
Kinda. So when I—when I got my—if you’re just normally, like, let’s say you stab someone and your in the SHU, or you fuck someone up and you’re in the SHU, you still can write letters. You get a pad of paper, you get pens, you get stamps. You have to buy them, but you get it. When I was on my mail ban, I would have to pay the guys in the other cells. So I would shoot a kite to some bro three cells down—

**Margaret ** 33:53
Which is where you send a, like a paper football with a note on it basically, or like what’s a…? Okay.

**Eric King ** 33:58
Yeah, we would make—we would make a rope, like, tearing up sheets or the elastic band in your underwear and tying—tying a rope. And then I would shoot it, I would flick it or throw it against the wall so it tried to bounce in front of the cell. And then he would shoot out his, like throw it under his door cell, and pull it—like try to connect with mine and pull it in. And when he would do it—would be like, I’d be asked him, like, hey, I got this letter. I’ll give you five bucks if you write it and send it. So then that guy would have to rewrite the letter in his own handwriting and then send it out to Josh.

**Margaret ** 34:33
Oh Josh wasn’t in the SHU with you. I see. 

**Eric King ** 34:36
No Josh is—Josh is a free world supporter. 

**Margaret ** 34:39
I see. I thought—you were saying you met him in the SHU and I thought you meant—okay.

**Eric King ** 34:42
No, my bad. Josh is a member of the Certain Days Collective and he wrote me. 

**Margaret ** 34:46
Yeah, yeah. Cool. Okay.

**Eric King ** 34:47
Yeah, it’s my bad. I misunderstood the whole question. 

**Margaret ** 34:50
No, no, but I mean, this is still very useful. This is very useful. 

**Eric King ** 34:54
So for the most part of our friendship, like, we were able to write normally, but for like two and a half years I was paying creeps to mail letters for me. 

**Margaret ** 35:03
Yeah, no. Okay. All right, so many more questions. How—you know, you said that you spent a lot of time, like, standing up for LGBT folks in prison, right? 

**Eric King ** 35:15
It was the main priority in my life. 

**Margaret ** 35:17
And, so what did you—from being friends with folks, how did they get by? Or what was like for them? I assume it was different at different levels and things like that. But like, is it_

**Eric King ** 35:29
It’s sort of just really tricky.

**Margaret ** 35:30
Yeah. Did they get outed ahead of time? Like, you know.

**Eric King ** 35:34
Ah, you’re out, You’re out. When you’re low security for—for LGBT people—um, you are, you’re not a victim at low securities from other prisoners. 

**Margaret ** 35:48

**Eric King ** 35:48
You might be from your own car, because, like, they have their own little section. 

**Margaret ** 35:53

**Eric King ** 35:53
Um, and so—

**Margaret ** 35:54
Oh so there would be an LGBT car.

**Eric King ** 35:58
Basically, yeah, it might not be organized like that. But they have, they have a structure. And so they—I don’t wanna say they run those prisons, but like, they control the kitchen, and rec, and like, the different jobs. And so their problem is staff. Especially for trans prisoners. 

**Margaret ** 36:17

**Eric King ** 36:17
Because staff and medical treat these people so bad. 

**Margaret ** 36:21

**Eric King ** 36:21
Even at low securities where, like, there’s no need. There’s no threat, like, but so I feel like all of them—are the ones I met were getting black and pink and stuff like that, I still don’t feel as if they were supported properly. But maybe they were. Maybe I just interpreted that way. Um, but their main problem is staff. They’re not going to get beat up by other prisoners that are low security unless it’s a personal thing. It’s not going to be because of, because of who you are. 

**Margaret ** 36:48

**Eric King ** 36:49
Um, but like, I’ve seen people get denied medication, denied their shots, denied access to the doctor. Um, Marius is a rare example of someone who was able to, like, put enough pressure to force the change. 

**Margaret ** 37:02

**Eric King ** 37:03
But most people do not have like that sort of visibility, or that sort of courage to constantly fight. Like it wears on you, you know, I mean—

**Eric King ** 37:12
You know. So at a medium—at most mediums, that’s where you can have problems. Especially if it’s an active yard, like a gang, an active gang yard. Because like, let’s say you’re at a medium on the east Coast. Let’s say you’re in New York and you fuck up and you go to Otisville or some medium out there. You’re gonna have like a safe place just for queer folks, people that are gay or trans. And they’re gonna be—you’re gonna be isolated, basically, but you can still live in exist, you just have to exist within your own friends. The further West Coast you get, and the further south you get, the more bigoted it becomes. 

**Margaret ** 37:12

**Margaret ** 37:51
,Oh, interesting. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 37:52
And so like, in the yard at let’s say Florence medium, there was one table where gay people were allowed to sit and eat. That’s it. If that table is full, you don’t eat. You’re not going to sit with anyone else, because you will get hurt. If you—if you were able to get a cell—if someone else needed it, they were gonna fight you or just kick you out. That’s why I fought so hard for—yeah, like, let’s say you’re in my unit. I was in OA. And there’s a gay person in cell 305. It’s a two man cell. But then the bus—like a new transport bus comes in. And there’s a—there’s a decently respected duse from California, and he gets put in the unit. Well, he’s taken that cell. You’re not going to keep a good cell from this guy.

**Margaret ** 38:36
Okay, I see. And so then the gay folks will be the first kicked out of this given cell.

**Eric King ** 38:41
Yeah, and your options will be, check in—which is go to PC, go say you need help—fight me—which, which is a death sentence. Or go tell staff that you no longer have a house and you need to get moved to a different unit. 

**Margaret ** 38:55

**Eric King ** 38:57
Because prisoners still have a lot of power in prison. And at the bottom of that totem pole is, is gay people and trans people. 

**Margaret ** 39:03

**Eric King ** 39:04
And then at a USP, you’re not gay. You’re not trans. You will be murdered. 

**Margaret ** 39:08
Yeah, oka. 

**Eric King ** 39:09
If they say, if they—if you’re listening to this and you’re gay or trans and they send you to a penitentiary you’re checking in right away. You tell SIS that you cannot be—I don’t care if it’s considered snitching, I don’t care if it’s considered ratting, because if you go to that yard, you will get killed or sold.

**Margaret ** 39:28
Why would it be snitching or ratting to tell yourself as—are you saying go and be like, they’re gonna murder me or whatever?

**Eric King ** 39:35
No no, you don’t even—so in prison culture in the feds, it’s so goddamn stupid. Um, checking in—checking in is where you go tell staff you’re in danger and you need to help. If you do that, you are now considered a snitch. Even if you don’t say who’s gonna hurt you. And so even if staff says to you—because like let’s say you get off the bus and you have to interview before you go to the yard and stuff will ask you, do you identify as gay or trans, and if you say yes, even if they offer to put you in PC—which they won’t because they want to see you hurt—u,m, but even if they do and you accept, you are then now considered a snitch or a check in—

**Margaret ** 40:13
Just literally for being in PC even I haven’t even met anyone yet. 

**Eric King ** 40:16
Yeah. Exactly, yeah. 

**Margaret ** 40:17
Okay, so you like—so then you have to stay in PC forever while you’re there because you’re now known as a snitch?

**Eric King ** 40:24
Well, in the feds, they have PC yards. They’re called drop out yards. And so those, like—let’s say you’re a sex offender but you raped eight kids, you are a violent sex offender, you will go to a drop out yard for violent sex offenders. Like Tucson USP, Terre Haute USP, and Coleman 2 where Whitey Bulger was at. And so, if you’re a gay or trans person who has been at a USP yard and you couldn’t walk there obviously, they will either drop your custody after a certain period of time, usually a year of sitting in the SHU, they’ll drop your custody and send you to a safe medium, or they’ll send you to a drop out penitentiary. But you will sit in the SHU for a long time. And they will put people in there to try to scare you, they’ll put rats in there to snitch on you, they will put straight prisoners in there—because that’s straight prisoner, if he is put in a cell with a gay person, if he doesn’t attack that gay person, he’s now considered gay. 

**Margaret ** 41:29
All right.

**Eric King ** 41:29
And the other white guys will attack them.

**Margaret ** 41:31
All right. Yeah.

**Eric King ** 41:33
It is so disgusting and stupid. And staff sets that up. Like that’s intentional.

**Margaret ** 41:38
Yeah, I mean, that’s like one of the things that—you ever hear about the whole, like, how the whole alpha wolf thing is a lie. You’ve heard this?

**Eric King ** 41:48
I never heard that it was a lie but I’m very interested and I trust your experience on this.

**Margaret ** 41:51
I don’t have the—I don’t have the guy’s name in front of me. The guy who developed the concept of the alpha wolf, right? The alpha male of the wolf pack that dominates everyone else or whatever, right? He quickly learnedhe wrote a whole book about it, and then he was like, oh I was wrong. That’s only true of wolves in captivity. Wolves in the wild—

**Eric King ** 42:10

**Margaret ** 42:12
Yeah! So he has spent the—wolves in the wild don’t have—they have dominance games, but it’s almost entirely the oldest male in the family, right, and they have family units instead. But then, if you put them in captivity, you start getting aggressive dominance and all this violence. And wolf packs do fight each other over territory and stuff like that. It’s not like a utopian thing. But he spent the rest of his career running around being like, hey, I was wrong! Alpha wolf thing, not a thing. But instead, everyone’s taken it and run with this and you have all of these like fucking alpha male idiots: who are running around being like, I’m an alpha male. And it’s funny to me, because every time someone says I’m an alpha male, what I hear is: you’re in captivity. Right? 

**Eric King ** 42:57

**Margaret ** 42:58
Because—and I would argue—you can like make arguments, like, civilization being a form of captivity and—

**Eric King ** 43:02
Here we go, here we go. 

**Margaret ** 43:04
But, so prison to me, from the outside, seems like a clear encapsulation, where it doesn’t reveal human nature, it reveals what humans in captivity do. Which is entirely separate from what humans outside of captivity do, in the same way that it’s true with wolves. That’s my, like, general takeaway, and it—the thing that you’re describing about prison, really, all of these like wild dominance games and things like that seem like—

**Eric King ** 43:36
The whole thing is a wild dominance game. 

**Margaret ** 43:38
Yeah. How do you—okay, so it seems like in low you would have an easier time just kind of keeping your head down and staying and out—just fucking do what—there’s like the doing your own time or whatever—

**Eric King ** 43:54
In low custody you can fly under the radar and do whatever you want. 

**Margaret ** 43:57

**Eric King ** 43:58
I’m not—it’s still prison. You can still get in trouble, there’s still fights, there’s still restrictions. But if you’re going to be in prison, and you’re an activist, you won’t be in a camp, you can’t go to a camp. So if you’re going to be in prison as an activist, you want to be in a low. 

**Margaret ** 44:13
Camp is a step lower than like—

**Eric King ** 44:15
Camps don’t have like fences on them, like you can go out into the world and stuff like that. It’s basically like an aggressive halfway house.

**Margaret ** 44:21
I once—the first political prisoner I ever wrote was a Catholic Worker woman named Helen Woodson who had like—

**Eric King ** 44:28
I love Helen. 

**Margaret ** 44:29
Yeah, cool. 

**Eric King ** 44:30

**Margaret ** 44:31
Yeah. And she told me about how she was, like, in a—in a low. And she didn’t feel like it was right for her because she, nothing was keeping her from walking out. So she kept us like walking out of jail, you know, so that she could go like do—commit more crimes in the name of, like, Christ or whatever. 

**Eric King ** 44:48
[Laughing] Yeah.

**Margaret ** 44:49
I think she’s great. I’m not trying to talk shit.

**Eric King ** 44:51
Those Catholic Workers are hilareous. 

**Margaret ** 44:53
Yeah, no, and it’s really interesting. 

**Eric King ** 44:55
In a good way.

**Margaret ** 44:56
Okay, so actually, that ties into, like, how does—like how does being a political prisoner impact how you are treated by other prisoners? And then also, how would someone like a prisoner of conscience—like, like someone who was like super Catholic Worker, someone who is like, I’m a pacifist and I’m 60 or whatever. Like, like, how would—I assume everyone’s going to have a slightly different experience based on—okay, and to tie into it, I wonder whether older prisoners are given less shit. Okay, and then I wonder whether—I’ve heard from a lot of people that like their experience of going in and already being, like, a tattooed person who’s like lived on the street some or whatever, like, is like wildly impactful. But like, how different is it if someone comes in and is like—like, how does someone who’s just like, I’m a 23 year old activist who’s out of college, I’m from the middle class, I’m white, I’m not tattooed, etc, etc. Like, how do they handle it? And then also how do like prisoners of conscience handle it? Sorry, it’s a big question. 

**Eric King ** 46:00
So I’m going to talk about the, first like, let’s say you’re just some college kid and you—you get picked—let’s say, a Palestine protest. And you get picked up and you catch a year—you broke a cop’s window, you catch a year. You need to adapt. Like, most likely, people aren’t going to press—you’re not going to have like a violent experience with such a year—like with such a short amount of time. But you need to… How do I say this? I want to say this in a way that—

**Margaret ** 46:28
Toughen up?

**Eric King ** 46:30
Yeah, like kind of. You, you need to understand that—and this where I failed—you are no longer on the streets. Like, what you felt about how you should hold yourself out there doesn’t apply. Like, you need to, without jeopardizing your ethics as much as possible, adapt to the world around you. Like if I lived with apes in the wild and I was still trying to talk on my phone, like, it’s not how it works. Like you have to adapt to them. 

**Margaret ** 46:56

**Eric King ** 46:56
Um, and I’m not—oh, my god, I’m not calling prisoners apes. But like, you understand what I’m saying? 

**Margaret ** 47:02
No, we were using—we’re using wolves and shit like that. 

**Eric King ** 47:04
Right, right. 

**Margaret ** 47:05
No, we’re not—

**Eric King ** 47:05
Yeah. So like, that person needs to understand that, this is where you’re at. And you’re around people that are not going to share your socio economic background, most likely. There’s going to be lots of different races, lots of different perspectives. Most likely, people are not going to agree with you. And they don’t have to. Like, I don’t view the role of the political prisoner, especially a short timer, as a recruitment specialist. Like, if anything, use your time there and whatever perspective you have to learn. Like, get their stories. Figure out how you get other people. 

**Margaret ** 47:40

**Eric King ** 47:40
Um, and so for prisoners of conscience, like most—those, those people almost always go to lower custodies. Unless you’re like Dan Berrigan or whatever his name was in the 70s, or 80s. And those dudes got into USP Lee and one of his friends, I think, violently assaulted. Because that consciousness shit at the higher custody levels is dead. 

**Margaret ** 48:05
Yeah, okay. 

**Eric King ** 48:07
If you need to go put in violent work, if they tell you do it, you do it or you get destroyed. So there’s no—there’s no consciousness at that point. But if you’re at a low o medium and you’re there for throwing paint on a nuclear submarine or something, there’s going to be a Christian car, there’s going to be a Muslim car, there’s going to be people that will let you be who you are as long as you’re not this pedantic annoying piece of shit. 

**Margaret ** 48:35
Yeah yeah. 

**Eric King ** 48:36
Like, if you treat people with respect and like are kind and—kind and understanding of them while also sticking up yourself and not letting yourself be seen as weak, you can be fine. Like, you will do—you will do fine. And the cops will most likely leave you under the radar unless you’re trying to organize. Um, or unless you’re getting crazy support. So it’s all about, you know, don’t let yourself be a victim, and don’t let yourself be an asshole. And I failed—there was times I failed at both those things.

**Margaret ** 49:09
[Laughing] Yeah, I mean, there’s no perfect, you know.

**Eric King ** 49:13
I had a tough learning curve for a while. 

**Margaret ** 49:16

**Eric King ** 49:17
Because I was both an asshole, and then also like, we’re prisoners, we didn’t want to fight each other! 

**Margaret ** 49:22

**Eric King ** 49:22
Well, yes, we do. We hate you. You’re annoying.

**Margaret ** 49:25
I talked to one guy once who—and I—I had this conversation 10–15 years ago. I don’t remember where he was in jail or how long he did or what level it was—where there was, he managed to stop a race riot by—

**Eric King ** 49:43
[Laughing] Wow.

**Margaret ** 49:45
There was like a race riot that was like being planned. And he will be like stole enough—yeah, there was like, the gangs were like planning to fight each other. Right? And they were planning to have this big conflict. 

**Eric King ** 49:57
Okay okay okay.

**Margaret ** 49:57
And so he like stole—he and another guy stole enough stationery to, like, make a publication about how in here the only colors that matter are —and as the colors the uniforms, I don’t remember, it’s like orange and blue or something like that. And then he spent the rest of his time in solitary because—

**Eric King ** 50:13

**Margaret ** 50:17
But he considered it completely worth it, where he was like, well, I—I stopped a race, you know, I stopped a race riot and then went to solitary. 

**Eric King ** 50:26

**Margaret ** 50:26
But I have a feeling this is a random, exceptional, you know, like—or also just a lie. I don’t know. I, you know, I don’t—I didn’t know this guy incredibly well, you know.

**Eric King ** 50:36
Where’s this at?

**Margaret ** 50:39
My money is on Colorado, but I couldn’t promise.

**Eric King ** 50:44
Ah, if he’s trying to say he stopped the race riot in a prison, I don’t believe him. I don’t believe him.

**Margaret ** 50:50
Okay. Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 50:51
I really don’t because like, that’s—that can get you killed. And also, who’s gonna listen to you? No one gives a shit about you. 

**Margaret ** 50:58

**Eric King ** 51:00
I’m not disrespecting this person. 

**Eric King ** 51:02
No, and I’m not trying to advocate people do this. And it’s literally a conversation I had, like, drunk late at night once, you know. 

**Margaret ** 51:09
Don’t do it!

**Eric King ** 51:09
I’m telling people right now that if you’re ever in prison, and you see gangs organizing in a race riot, you mind your own fucking business. 

**Margaret ** 51:15

**Eric King ** 51:16
You don’t get involved. Their business is not your business. If they want to fight each other, go ahead. If they want to sell drugs to whoever, that’s their business. But we don’t—we don’t tell people—you don’t tell other prisoners how to live, good or bad. 

**Margaret ** 51:33
Yeah, yeah that makes sense. 

**Eric King ** 51:34
I saw—if I saw some people organizing race riot, I’m buying coffee, I’m buying stamps, I’m going to the store, man, and I’m getting ready for the lockdown. 

**Margaret ** 51:43

**Eric King ** 51:43
That’s what’s happening. I’m staying out of the way. 

**Margaret ** 51:45
Yeah. No, that’s that’s—

**Eric King ** 51:48
Put your life on the line for some other people? You’ve lost your mind. 

**Margaret ** 51:51
Yeah. Okay, so my last question—for now—

**Eric King ** 51:57

**Margaret ** 51:58
Is—it’s at least the last one I’ve written down. How did these dynamics, all the stuff we’re talking about and all the stuff you witnessed You know, you talk about how like you came in kind of, um, let’s say a starry eyed anarchist, right? And like—and it’s like, even on the outside, I’m like, man, I don’t do everything that my conscience tells me to do or I would be in prison, you know? [Laughing] And that’s actually almost a problem is that I think a lot of people don’t act on their conscience because we don’t want to go to prison. But how has this experience, this whole fucking long, crazy shit—and also just specifically the experience of watching all these power dynamics within prison—how has it influenced your anarchism, or your philosophical outlook, or your spiritual outlook, or like, how has it influenced you personally about how you perceive the world? 

**Eric King ** 52:51
Um, yes. It’s came—and it’s not a one—like, at one point in time in my life, like, in my prison bid, I would have had a different answer for you then like ight now. But so I, nine years and however many months later, and seven of those was in, you know, 24 hour lockdown. Um, my anarchism is tougher than ever. 

**Margaret ** 53:14
Yeah, believe it. 

**Eric King ** 53:15
Like, I feel like I’ve grown. I feel like I became more empathetic. I became more accountable to the people I love. I saw what, like—I saw a mutual aid really is. Um, when I needed help, people would help me. When I wanted to help others. I could put it, like that dude at Florence, the gay dude. We needed to buy him, basically. My wife got that money in about 22 minutes. 

**Margaret ** 53:41
Fuck yeah.

**Eric King ** 53:41
She put out a request, we need to help somebody. And so, like, my job right now—my job is Bread and Roses right now—this came out of mutual aid. They wanted to help me as a person first, and then it developed into something else. So prison gave me the—I gave myself the opportunity to grow while in prison. Because you can do the opposite. You can choose to do drugs, fight, rape, stab, get involved in politics, become racist, become homophobic, fall in line with this bullshit. So prison, I chose to use it as a chance to sharpen these knives of my mind and my heart,, to be a kinder person. So when I came out, I was ready to love, man—or, friend. I was ready to dive into sympathy and dive into help. 

**Margaret ** 54:31

**Margaret ** 54:32
Cuz I watched for the last ten years, people do the opposite and try to crush and hurt and take. And so I never want to take from someone again. I never want to hurt somebody again. But if I can help you, if I can do something to make your life just a little bit easier, that’s what I want because I just spent nine years watching people go out of their way to help me. Yeah.

**Eric King ** 54:53
I didn’t have shit and I’m not sure I deserve shit. But people said I did, and because of that my life got to be easier. My wife’s life got to be a little easier, all due to other people loving me. So that’s what—my anarchism right now is built around: how can I make someone’s life easier without—without jeopardizing my ethics? How can I not be someone else’s warden? 

**Margaret ** 55:19

**Eric King ** 55:20
I never want to be someone else’s guard or warden where I say: you can’t do that, you shouldn’t do that, you’re bad, you live wrong. That’s not my job. Unless you’re a fascist, then it is my job and fuck you. I that makes sense. 

**Margaret ** 55:35
Yeah, no, that makes total sense. Like, I—okay, wait, then the the actual last question then, eh?

**Eric King ** 55:43
I hope there’s 50 more questions.

**Margaret ** 55:45
Tell me about this book, Rattling the Cages. Just for anyone who’s listening, Eric has a book that he is co-editor of called Rattling the Cages that came out in December 2023 from AK Press and it’s—I haven’t read yet. It’s sitting on my shelf.  

**Eric King ** 55:50
You better read it! 

**Margaret ** 55:56
It’s stories from political prisoners. Is that?—I mean, like, tell—sell us on this book. 

**Eric King ** 56:05

**Margaret ** 56:06
I mean, I’m gonna read it anyway, but. You could tell me it’s the worst book ever written and I’m still gonna end up reading it.

**Margaret ** 56:09

**Eric King ** 56:09
Um, because I, tthat’s when I was going into my empathy stage. And so I brought this idea to Josh of like, what if we just interviewed ten elders. Like just a handful of our elders. That way we get their story, their history, before they die.

**Eric King ** 56:09
Um, so this book came about, it was me and Josh Davidson, Josh and I—Josh is a long term—I told you he started writing me when I was at Leavenworth about six years ago. I was being—I was there in holdover status in the SHU when this assault first happened. And so Josh started writing me. And we, we hit it off based off of, like, our love of political prisoner history, like Sundiata, and Kuwasi and those, like, the elders, basically. And when I was—a couple of years later, I’m going through just like a really hard time. And like, me and Josh were reading different books together about political prisoners in other countries. And like it—people—like Thomas Manning also died. And like, I thought, like, all his stories, the history this man led, died with him. We don’t get to know what his life was like inside prison. We know what his writings were like, and what his paintings were like, but what did he feel? What did he experience? What did he think? Like, what were his hopes? 

**Margaret ** 57:31

**Eric King ** 57:31
Because like, Thomas Manning—Tommy dying really affected me. It made me sad. It hurt me even though I never knew him. And so then Josh, being Josh, turn into, like, well, what about instead of ten we did kike fifty? What if we did every political prisoner still alive? I was like, well, that’s fuckin awesome. And then we—my wife decided, like, she helped us think it out, like, what if instead of it being a zine, it was a book. 

**Margaret ** 57:58
Yeah yeah yeah. 

**Eric King ** 57:59
And so then from there, like, it came down to, I wrote a bunch of questions out. Like, what would I want to know from Susan, or Linda, or Laura? What would I want to know if I got to talk to Maroon, you know what I mean? 

**Margaret ** 58:13

**Eric King ** 58:15
Or Marius, or whoever. And so I wrote these questions out, and then Josh, god bless him, like this dude cares. And so he got to work getting a hold of essentially everybody on earth that’s ever been, like, even stepped foot into a jail or prison. And he put in the time and work to interview them. And then he would mail me back edits, and we were talk about it, we’d write questions back and forth to each other. And then Josh hounded AK Press relentlessly until they finally agreed to work with us. And even then, like, I’m not taking any work away from Josh. He edited it, he did the bibliography, he did everything. And then I asked Sarah Falconer to write and ,intro, we got, ah—we got Angela Davis to write an intro—,I almost forgot her name, Jesus. But like, people, people cared because the questions were all about not—what’s the revolutionary spirit inside prison. It’s, how did your heart feel inside prison? What was your actual life like? Because that’s what I was saying, like, these Cop City dudes are gonna go into jail, um, and like this might—they might want to know, like, that it hurts. That it makes you sad. That it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not want to hurt somebody. You don’t have to do this, this tough, like, posturing basically. You can if that’s who you are. But like, you can be hurt too, and you can be vulnerable, and you can be—you can also be happy. You can make friends. You can get hobbies. You can fall in love with somebody. You can get a partner. 

**Margaret ** 59:57

**Eric King ** 59:58
As long as you’re not hurting someone, ah, and that includes spiritually and emotionally, there’s no wrong way to do prison. Just don’t become a racist bigot rat. So if you want to just sit in your cell and cry and write books, like, that’s fine. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:17
That’s mroe or less my plan, I gotta admit,

**Eric King ** 1:00:18
[Laughing] What you do right now in your daily life is just sit and write several books a day.

**Margaret ** 1:00:24
Yeah, I’ll just keep doing that. That’s my plan,

**Eric King ** 1:00:27
You would do just fine. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:29

**Eric King ** 1:00:30
But like, it’s okay just to be a normal human with feelings. And it’s also okay to organize your ass off, you can do both. And like, we wanted to show that, that like, the heart doesn’t die in prison. Neither does the revolutionary spirit. And there’s not just one—it’s not a cookie cutter sheet of how to be a prisoner. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:46

**Eric King ** 1:00:47
And if I had known that, I would have started very differently.

**Margaret ** 1:00:51
Okay, I know I keep promising last question. What would you have done differently? 

**Eric King ** 1:00:55
To start with or to end with?

**Margaret ** 1:00:57
To prepare? Like, let’s say you knew you were going to jail. 

**Eric King ** 1:01:00
Oh okay. Yeah. 

**Margaret ** 1:01:00
And you—and you’re not you now where you’ve been to jail for ten years. You’re like, you’re someone who is out on bail and thinks is very likely that you’re gonna go to federal prison, since that’s what you’ve experience with what. What would you do? 

**Eric King ** 1:01:15
First things first, rob a bank so you have money for commissary. [Laughing] Put that money away. But no, like, I would make sure I have funds going in. Find a way, fundraise for yourself, ask other people to fundraise for you because prison is expensive. This might not be the answer you expected, like the first thing to do. But the more you have going in, the less you have to be a burden to your community while you’re there. 

**Margaret ** 1:01:38

**Eric King ** 1:01:38
Um, and I—I regret that. People had to do like crazy fundraisers for me because I didn’t have shit. I’m a dirt ball kid from the streets of Kansas City, you know what I mean? Yeah, so that’s what I would do. I would also—and this might sound stupid, too. I would start building relationships. I will let the people that I love around me know, this is what I need. But also, what do you need? Like, what can I do to ensure that we maintain this friendship or this love and this connection? Because people throw throw away relationships, they get in prison and think that the world stops, that their loved ones lives stop. But like, just because we’re inside doesn’t mean that, like, we’re not selling an asset to the people we love. We still need to be there for them.

**Margaret ** 1:02:21
Yeah. Okay. Uh huh. 

**Eric King ** 1:02:22
That’s important to me. And I wish I’d known that because I went through some selfish periods where, like, my world was the only world that mattered. Meanwhile, people have bills and depression and domestic abuse and shit like that. It’s not all about these knives I’m carving in my cell all day. 

**Margaret ** 1:02:38

**Eric King ** 1:02:40
I would also, I mean, real talk, I would probably learnt how to make some weapons.

**Margaret ** 1:02:44
Yeah, no, I mean—

**Eric King ** 1:02:45
I’m not joking.

**Margaret ** 1:02:46
Yeah, like, I mean, I remember having this conversation with someone years ago, where some people were considering whether or not jail was in their future or whatever. And I remember being like, I think if I was about to go jail, I would just like really focus on learning how to fight. And my friend was like, no, I would only focus on meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy. For anyone who’s not, who can’t see: Eric King has presented a middle finger to the ladder suggestion.

**Eric King ** 1:03:17
Take that sits somewhere else, man. You’re not going to retreat. 

**Margaret ** 1:03:21

**Eric King ** 1:03:22
And that’s—like, I’m joking, of course. But—

**Margaret ** 1:03:24
I mean, it’s to not lose your mind. I think it’s the purpose there.

**Eric King ** 1:03:26
Yeah. So real talk, I’d learn how to make like plexiglass knives, or learn how to carve steel using fingernail clippers or something. Because you may be in that opportunity where you need that and you don’t want to be without it. You don’t want to have to ask someone for that resource. 

**Margaret ** 1:03:42

**Eric King ** 1:03:43
Ah, and so that sucks. We’re not above that, though. This is something where I failed. I thought I was above that. I’m aboveI don’t need to participate in that stuff. And now I’m getting my face kicked off. I’m like, well, maybe I wish I’d known how to do that. So learn how to fight, for real. That’s not stupid. Take MMA classes—not karate. But like, learn how to kick, punch, run. Ah, because like the whole—the whole point in prison, the only way you win in prison is if you leave prison. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:12

**Eric King ** 1:04:12
If you die in prison, if these motherfuckers kill you, you lose. Like, they got you and I hate that. And so do not let yourself be a victim. That’s something I would tell myself, I would tell you, I would tell anyone: never let yourself be a victim. Don’t be above, don’t pull this whole I’m a pacifist shit when someone’s coming at you with a lock in a sock. Because that lock doesn’t care that you—that you study Dan Berrigan or whoever. They don’t care that you’re—that you love animals. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:42
Berrigan? Dan Berrigan? 

**Eric King ** 1:04:43
,Yeah, thank you. Yeah, great guy, RIP. But so, we have to be real. Like if you try to meditate with a lion, it’s going to eat you. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:54

**Eric King ** 1:04:54
So fight the lion, and then use your skills that you were practicing at home of calming yourself, centering yourself, meditating, you can do that as long as you’re safe. 

**Margaret ** 1:05:04

**Eric King ** 1:05:05
You’re safe? Do that. And I will teach myself that—like, yoga and meditation are great. And please use them when you’re safe in your cell, or when you’re a rec and you don’t have enemies. But know how to protect yourself. The old timers will tell you that too. That’s the first thing they tell you. You know how to fight? You know how to make a knife? You have to.

**Margaret ** 1:05:26
That make sense. 

**Eric King ** 1:05:27
Be safe. Be safe always. 

**Margaret ** 1:05:29

**Eric King ** 1:05:31
If I were a gay prisoner—real quick. If I was a gay person or a trans prisoner, I’m  fucking somebody up. I’m going in there. Learn how to fight. I don’t care—I don’t care how opposed to it or how—if you think you’re weak, if you—like physically weak, not mentally. But you’ve never worked out before? Work out. Get yourself in shape. And the second someone calls you a name, fuck them. Get them. Hit them. Hit them hard. The cops will break it up in 20 seconds, I guarantee it. Even if you lose, set that tone right away: I will not be disrespected for who I am. 

**Margaret ** 1:06:05

**Eric King ** 1:06:06
It’s dang—if you’re going too low, it doesn’t matter. But anywhere else, you have to set that tone, and I wish I had done that earlier too. Because people started thinking I was this soft anarchist kid and bullying problems where I had to fight more to defend myself later. PNrotect now to be safe later. Sorry for rambling.

**Margaret ** 1:06:21
No no, it makes sense. And we’re just kind of out of time, but I’m gonna probably have you on more to talk more about this stuff because I think that—I don’t know, there’s so much more to talk about.

**Eric King ** 1:06:33
I could’ve talked for another like seven hours. 

**Margaret ** 1:06:35

**Eric King ** 1:06:36
[Laughing] For real.

**Margaret ** 1:06:38
Well, okay, so if folks want to check out your work, they can check out Rattling the Cages from AK Press. Is there anyone else—any other, like, group or anything you want to direct people towards? 

**Eric King ** 1:06:48
So I—we were posting a lot of good stuff on Instagram as well and Twitter from @supportericking. Um, I always tagged my bosses Z and Erica, these people gave me a life your Bread and Roses. They gave me a career and that started with mutual aid and started with friendship. Um, Sandra Freeman, she’s my civil lawyer, that started from mutual aid and friendship. And now we’re fighting the system together. And then always represent Fire Ant, anarchist prisoners and anarchist journal out of Maine and Bloomington. That’s by anarchist for anarchist. Just really great people involved in that. And thank you so much. This is a real blessing, real treat. 

**Margaret ** 1:07:25
Yeah, thank you.

**Eric King ** 1:07:26
And I love my wife. I love my wife Rochelle.

**Margaret ** 1:07:28
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’ll be another thing. We’ll just do a whole thing on maintaining relationships in jail at some point.

**Eric King ** 1:07:33
It is so hard, but so worth it.

**Margaret ** 1:07:35
I—I believe it. Thank you so all much for listening. If you enjoyed this content, avoid going to jail, but help—but don’t do it at the expense of your ethics. Don’t avoid it so hard that you never do anything. And help people who are in jail, and, I don’t know, do stuff. You can also support this podcast by supporting Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness which is the publisher of this podcast. We’re on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. Don’t feel that financial support is the only way to support us. But we do pay our audio engineer and our transcriber, because that’s the most thankless work involved in podcasting. And at some point, we might pay the podcasters and our guests and that’ll be cool thing too. We send out ziens every single month to our backers. And in particular, I want to thank Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’Dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Mic Aiah, And, of course, we would never forget Hoss the dog, our longest standing Patron backer. I think. And I hope everyone is as well as you can with everything that’s happening. And we will talk to you soon.

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