On August 25, forty people filled the small lobby of the Pike County Courthouse in Petersburg, Indiana expecting to sit in on Tiga and Hugh’s first court date. This group, made up of friends and family, as well as community organizers and landowners from along I-69’s route, grew more and more expectant as the original starting time of 9am slid further and further away. Eventually, an hour after court was to begin, word got out that the judge had called off work that day, and that the date was pushed back two months, to October 20. All was not lost, because most everyone went out to lunch afterwards, filling most of a small-town restaurant, a chance to eat, talk, and hang out.
This is only the most recent delay in a long process that’s designed to drag itself out and wear defendants and their communities down. But the turn-out reflects the ongoing strength of support for Tiga and Hugh, as well as new possibilities, as communication is strengthened between different communities touched by this repression.
To go back to the basics for a moment, Tiga and Hugh were arrested last April, after a multi-year investigation directed against the anti-I-69 movement. This movement has included hundreds of people from different backgrounds over the past two decades, but the past few years in particular saw an upsurge in anarchist and ecological opposition to the road. Much, but far from all, of the repression by Indiana State Police and the FBI has been directed against these younger opponents, but the effects have been felt more widely.
Tiga and Hugh are charged with felony racketeering (called “corrupt business influence” in Indiana) as well as several misdemeanors related to a specific office demonstration in 2007. The racketeering charge essentially alleges that all opposition to I-69 constitutes a “racket,” or mafia, that operated outside legitimate political channels and functioned to reduce profits through intimidation. The office demo in question happened in response to the eviction of the first rural families by the Department of Transportation (INDOT): In this demo, I-69 planning offices were calmly and non-destructively evicted in turn.
While there is a certain whiff of “eco-terrorism” allegations in the air, the actions the two are accused of were popular in Indiana, and the goal of the prosecution doesn’t seem to be one of isolating or marginalizing them. Instead, the repression is being used to intimidate a broad range of local opponents to the road, at a time when the I-69 project itself seems more fragile than ever. Local organizers believe that INDOT is trying to push through the last steps of the approval process for the road as they make a desperate bid for federal stimulus funds. At the same time, surveyors are moving to stake off the property of the next round of landowners/victims. Given the delicacy of their situation, it’s easy to see why, at this particular moment, INDOT would want to guarantee silence and the appearance of social peace through repression. And so far, in at least some way, it’s working: reports from section 1 of the proposed road (the first 10 miles near Evansville where opposition has been fierce) is that local landowners and farmers who’ve been vocal against the road for years are feeling scared and unwilling to speak up.
Going farther, after the aborted court date, Hugh’s lawyers stated their belief that the ongoing prosecution is directly tied to the health of the I-69 project. The more that the road looks like it has a chance, the more life the prosecution will have, as INDOT struggles to protect its project; while if the road falls apart completely, much of the local rationale for repression will disappear. The charges against Tiga and Hugh are linked socially and bureaucratically to the success or failure of the wider movement, locally and beyond. This is true not just for them either – over the past months, many I-69 opponents have been saddled with probation due to charges from the beginning of construction last summer, which obviously functions to discipline these activists and keep them quiet.
To act in solidarity with Hugh and Tiga, then, is to continue to organize (within social struggles, against I-69, other infrastructure projects, and elsewhere), to seek a deeper understanding of repression and extend that solidarity to yet others who’ve been targeted for their organizing or just for living, and to maintain and strengthen relationships with each other and with the communities in which we live. This is what we’ve tried to do locally- through events and fundraisers, going door-to-door, and in our daily lives. We’ve also been encouraged by the outpouring of support in other cities and communities, which has also been instrumental in allowing Tiga and Hugh to hire good lawyers. As of now, they are slated to go to trial on April 19. Should that happen, they will need all the support we can give them. Unfortunately, this will also probably include more financial support, so we’d love to hear about more fundraisers happening in other places. Please be in touch, and feel free to write us to ask questions or offer suggestions.
Mostlyeverything.net firstname.lastname@example.org Support Tiga and Hugh c/o the Future PO Box 3133 Bloomington IN 47404
Also, check out the new Solidarity With Hugh And Tiga zine available at the website (under resources).