Slaying the giant — A story of survival

Arroyo, Bryant

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Slaying the Giant -- A Story of Survival col.writ.10/10 Copyright 2014 Bryant Arroyo Bryant Arroyo* Convicted under a gross 'miscarriage of justice' and sentenced to life imprisonment. I had settled to fight the legal system, as I had been doing for twelve years. However, as if that wasn't enough. I would soon have to wage war on two fronts, one for my freedom and the second for my very life. On July 30, 2006, it was announced that antracite baron, John W. Rich, Jr., intended to build a chemical plant, i.e., a coalgasification plant some 300 ft. from SCI-Mahanoy where I and 2,267 other inmates are housed, Not being a scientist, I cannot say I was fully aware of the potentially hazardous impact of the proposed project but I've watched enough environmental documentaries to at least be circumspect. I immediately reached out to a few alliances and had them send me information from the websites (www.ultradirtyfuels.com) and contacted several environmental agencies and educated myself about chemicals involved running such a plant. I also got ahold of the Environmental Impact Statement-Report which read like an apocalyptic horror novel. In September, 1993, former Governor Tom Ridge took eastern Pennsylvania's anthracite mining baron, John W. Rich, Jr., on a trade mission to South Africa, where Rich teamed up with SASOL to bring a coal-to-oil refinery to Schuylkill County, Penna., now calling themselves "WMPI Pty., LLC" they formed a team that now included Rich's Waste Management fit Processors, Inc., SASOL, Uhde Ghmb, Bechtel, Shell and Chevron Texaco. Eastman Chemical was named as the company that may operate the plant, John W. Rich, Jr.'s main financial support were backed up by the world's corporate elite, Morgan Stanley and the United Bank of Switzerland were co-managing the financing $612 million coal-to-diesel project in Frackville, and undertaking subsidized with $47 million in state tax credits and $100 million in federal grants. * Bryant Arroyo, is a Jailhouse lawyer; a 'bona fide' envirotmental activist; and a Certified bilingual interpreter /translator. I'd like to especially give thanks to the Community Environmental legal Defense Field's Lawyers, Thomas A. Linzey, Esq., Project Mgr., Benjamin Price and entire staff (CEUF), Special heartfelt thanks to Penna. State Corrections Officer Association; Advocates For Justice, Sdreen I. Parsons (Environmental Connunity Organizer); Michael Abrante; Craig Vfalker; Craig Jacobs; and all of the 902 prisoners that committed to signing the individual 'formal objection letters' which Incessantly, I pondered over what C.O.1 Teltow had stated in the newspaper. The Dept, of Corrections had a rule in place that discouraged inmates from mobilizing or signing any typed- formed petition. I was aware that the rules of the Dept, of Corrections had a very strict policy prohibiting the circulation of any form of a petition, although, the formal objection letter that was drafted was engineered to overcome the parameters of the Dept, of Corrections policy and guidelines. As this formal objection letter was being designed to accomadate everyone, I kept this in mind, about not crossing the fine line to avoid violating this rule; especially, involving two or more signatures on one piece of paper would he interpreted as a petition and anyone who signed the petition would be placed under administrative custody--segregated from the general population. Many prisoners were afraid to sign the formal objection letter fearing that by signing it would affect their chances of parole-release, or feared reprisal by the outside political influences. On August 9, 2006, I received a letter from the Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Inc., Thomas A. Linzey, Esq., acknowledging our efforts, wherein, The Pottsville Repulican &_Morning Herald featured and highlighted our protest in the amount of 402 inmates opposing the proposed "coal to Diesel’’ plant scheduled to be built only 300 ft. from the prison. Finally, we had made head way and garnered the attention of environmental lawyers who would even the playing field, against the corporate giants. On September 25, 2006, I met with Legal Organizer, Benjamin Price and Environmental Lawyer and Executive Director, Thomas A. Linzey, Esq., to review and discuss the local ordinance, that would prohibit the construction and operation of the plant. The proposed Coal to Diesel plant posed serious potential dangers to the natural environment and public health. We believed that the plant posed the most explicit dangers to persons who live and work adjacent to the plant’s operation. Those dangers had been outlined in detail in both the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared for the plant, as well as by the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center's extensive comments on the environment and public health dangers associated with such facilities. advanced us to defeat the coal-to-diesel corporate giants. Na changed the world! Kudos to everyone dedicated to our plight for the fight of our lives, as well as the surrounding connunity organizations... + This accomplishment is humbly dedicated in honor of my Dad, Ramon A. Fernandez; Uncle, Negron Cartagena Garda; and Son, Jordan A. Shenk. -2- Given the complexity and depth of the official documents that have been prepared dealing with potential dangers that would eminate from this facility. I made numerous requests and suggested to the Environmental Legal Defense lawyers to have them come to our prison and hold several forums which would give us all info in a discussion format that everyone could easily access and digest. The follow-up request by Thomas A. Linzey, Esq., to the Superintendent, Edward J. Klem to host an educational forum within SCI-Mahanoy were outright denied for us inmates/staff to be educated about the detrimental aspects of this coal-plant. This would have been presented by either Benjamin Price, the Project Director of the Community Environmental legal Defense, Michael Fiorentino, Esq., the Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center (MAELC) and or Bill Smedley, a Project Director of the Pennsylvania Environmental Network (PEN). The other situation that existed was to get the guard’s local union and inmates on the same page to push the Township Supervisors for Mahanoy Township to adopt the Sustainable Energy Ordinance. There were outside supporters who were in citizen groups in the Township which were pushing for its passage. Once the Township Board Supervisors adopted the Ordinance and were challenged by John W. Rich, Jr., where then, the Environmental lawyers would enforce and defend the ordinance, In a bitter-sweet moment, in my life, as I found myself engulfed in the on-going battle to preserve the lives of many against the corporate raiders who endorsed the building of the coal-plant, adjacent three-hundred feet from the center of the SCI-Mahanoy, prison. I received an unexpected visit from my Dad. As, I approached and embraced my Dad’s presence, immediately, impacted by the dim light, in his eyes, and weakened posture, exhibited by a sullen countenance obviously traumatized by the insidious and devastating cancerous diagnosis that unforseenly befell him. Conflicted and burdened by this disease which reared its nefarious head—Dad tided relentlessly to withhold this daunting information during the commencement of our initial visit. As if, there was anymore room for something else to go wrong to exacerbate my current circumstances. It’s been sometime since, I'd seen my Dad and had slot to catch-up on. So, I decided to lighten the load by updating him about my new vocation on becoming the first 'jailhouse environmentalist' to take on the corporate raiders from this vantage point, in an unprecedented legal-endeavor to bring the building of the coal-plant to a complete hault. Dad was elated about this major development, gestured by a simple smile compounded by his inner-pain. My Dad was devastated, at the -3- same time was compelled to reveal the unsettling and unspeakable news about his diagnosis. Experiencing a cold chill inside the visiting-room, as tny Pad exposed the true cuplrit behind his visit--revealing the silent but deadly monster--cancer which literally truncated every waking day/night of his life... It was like a dark cloud enveloped over my spirit, pummeled by the blow that imminently transitioned ray Dad’s life—knowing he had very little time to live. Ironically, here, I am fighting to preserve and protect the lives of citizens in and abroad the surrounding communities, but yet, was confronted with not being able to save ray own Dad’s life... Through the vale of tears we cried together recognizing the eleventh-hour was nigh and there was absolutely nothing we could do to slow or suspend the arch-enemy of time to extend our Last precious moments, as the unceasing pendulum worked against us, together, we were faced with the inescapable—Dad’s demise. At this juncture, I had to summit my reservoir of unexpected strength and put on my best face, in one of the most critical moments that surpassed the wars I was engaged fighting on several fronts without resigning under the forces aligned against us. Prior to Dad's departure, I was relieved with a sense of accomplishment that provided us with the opportunity for Dad to validate and acknowledge my plight by his overwhelming joy to discover that amidst our circumstances I became a ’bona-fide’ 'jailhouse environmentalist' and an advocate of justice, in the interest of mankind, A unique sense of peace dovetailed upon me, knowing that, my Dad would be leaving this visit into the world accepting this incontrovertable fact, that his smallest son was being utilized as an instrument of justice to literally save the many unsuspecting lives and future progenies from serious illness and death produced by the threatening coal-gasification plant, if, it would've been built 300ft from the prison yard. I mentioned and reassured my Dad I would continue fighting for both my freedom and the anthracite baron, John W. Rich, Jr., with the rest of his corporate cronies to conquer their efforts, at all costs... This was accomplished without any financial means—and just by doing the right thing by the law. All law is beneficial, but not necessarily advantageous. The survival of this movement was based on constantly growing numbers and changing with whatever we confronted, at the time, I knew, that if, our numbers weren’t growing, it could potentially stagnate our efforts; especially, without the support of the prisoners, this protest wouldn’t have existed, no matter how correct our analysis of the situation was. That’s why I strongly believe selfless, conscientious work and organizing are so important. Unless, you are addressing the issues people are concerned about and contributing positive direction, they’ll never support you. People believe what it is that you do--not say! -4- After completing our first batch of 402 formal objection letters slamming the plant in protest. The political forces made an anemic attempt to isolate and besmirch my character for mobilizing/organizing on behalf of the inmate/staff-members. They attempted to disuade and sabotage our efforts by publicizing my criminal case, which they anticipated would have taken the ' wind out of my sail,' only to discrouage other inmates from joining our initial protest. In turn, I revved-up our efforts and got 500 more signatures totalling 902 formal objection letters. This was an unprecedented feat and we made our protest known by acting as a collective, mobilized unit. Life is stranger than fiction. Who would have ever thought I would become the first ’jailhouse environmentalist' in the globe borne from the 'miscarriage of justice' I was convicted of during this period of time?. One may ask themselves, how could anyone have fathomed to find an environmental solution inside the nation of prisons to resolve their social problem which would have affected the lives of many human-beings, elders and children across the surrounding communities. The size of any problem doesn’t determine the outcome. Never be intimidated by the size of your problem because everyone of them has a solution. Nothing is impossible. Solidarity is essential in life. Keep in mind, the resistance we (prisoners) received was a confirmation that we were moving towards the detour of victory. Obviously, the local ordinance was adopted and John W, Rich, Jr.'s, plans were shattered beyond hope--defeated. We were up against impossible odds, but, yet, conquered the impossible. From SCI-Frackvllle The Voice and Face Inside the Nation of Prisoners Submitted For BLU Magazine/Publishing Respectfully Submitted, Bryant Arroyo P.S. I'd suggest for you to look me up--I was featured on both PrisonRadio.Org and The Socialist Viewpoint magazine. I'd greatly appreciate you providing me with some sort of correspondence to let me know whether or not you have determined to publish this compelling piece in your non-mainstream magazine?... Get back to me! -5-

Author: Arroyo, Bryant

Author Location: Pennsylvania

Date: October 10, 2014

Genre: Essay

Extent: 5 pages

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