VOLUME XI, ISSUE II
WINTER 2019 FREE
Former inmates of the country's largest women's prison are speaking out about abuse, p. 24
Who is the American Guard? Read part two in our series on the far-right, p. 32
from the EDITORIAL DESK
ur editor, Molly Minta, has assured me that I am not beholden to any rules concerning this season’s editor’s letter. She also texted me, in an effort to get this piece out the door (at the time of writing, it is very overdue), that “it doesn’t have to sentimental,” something that I had worried over. I also worry that she won’t appreciate me quoting her this way. As a result of this internal see-sawing — should this be sentimental, a plug or an anecdote about the first time I saw a Fine Print (Karma Cream, where else?) — I got to thinking about introductions. In my experience, it’s unlikely that anyone is reading this. Realistically, you could flip freely to any story, like pg. 26 for a roundup of hot chocolates or pg. 18 for a profile of Gainesville’s women tattoo artists and guilelessly toss this issue into the nearest recycling bin. A magazine doesn’t require the same linear commitment as a novel or film. In a bag full of assorted Starbursts or Skittles or Runts, intros are, in effect, the most unappetizing selection, which is to say that they are orange-flavored. If executed properly, however, intros set the tone for everything that follows, as in the crawling text of “Star Wars,” or the poem preceding “Human Flow,” a documentary by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei about the global refugee crisis: “I want the right of life/of the leopard at the spring, of the seed splitting open/I
want the right of the first man.” I happen to have liked the poem, but despite this, “Human Flow” is the only film I’ve ever walked out on. I’ve read the New York Times review of “Human Flow,” which, unsurprisingly, praises it as “bracing” and “strangely beautiful.” I’m not here to dispute the tenets of good documentary filmmaking, but this is all to say that my decision to leave “Human Flow” so abruptly was probably a miscalculation. You’re entitled to ask where I’m going with all of this. Working with The Fine Print is to be seated next to a group of people who will block your exit from the theatre. I hope that an article in The Fine Print will change your mind or at least intrigue you. I hope that you hate something we wrote. I hope that you hate it so much that you join the editorial board as a mole in some sort of heinous revenge plot. I’ve been humbled by this organization. Everything at The Fine Print is homemade, from the spot drawings, to the binding of our literary zine Prairie, to the punch at our benefit shows. It is more than news; it is locally grown, something approaching beauty and novelty in our small town. I am grateful for it. Nowhere else in this city would I be able to get away with writing an introduction such as this. •
Published with support from the Gainesville communtiy.
Marcelo Rondon Elizabeth Townsend
Sirene Dagher Vincent McDonald
Assistant Print Editors
Brianna Moye Edysmar Diaz-Cruz
Creative Writing Editor
Molly Minta Vanessa Vazquez Marissa Volk Janelys Camelo
Caroline Gaspich Molly Minta
Our mission is to serve the Gainesville community by providing an independent outlet for political, social and arts coverage through local, in-depth reporting.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Visit our site for more stories, blogs and weekly coverage. PLUS! Comment on stories, see photos from the printed issue (and more!) IN COLOR, flip through a digital version of the printed edition and much, much more, all updated throughout the month.
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F I N E P R I N T | thefineprintmag.org
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The Fine Print reserves the right to deny or accept the publication of articles or advertisements according to the decisions of its editorial board. The views of our writers do not necessarily express those of The Fine Print.
in this ISSUE
Cover art by Ken Farfan.
COLUMNS Monthly Manifesto, p. 05
Read Up, Chow Down, p. 08
Homestead, Instead, p. 12
Opinion, p. 06
For the Record, p. 10
Simply Science, p. 14
Free Store, p. 18
Thick Skin, p. 20
Not What You're Expecting, p. 29
Cultural Marks, p. 30
Central Florida Democratic Socialists of America. Why UF must divest from fossil fuels.
Come for the pizza, stay for the rolls at Leonardo's Pizza By The Slice. This issue, we talked to The Zeta, Velma & the Happy Campers and Stella Splendens.
Stay safe on the streets with DIY selfdefense. Me, you and the confounding JUUL.
SPOTLIGHTS Food For Thought, p. 16
Who's got the best hot chocolate in town?
Local actitvists organize a store each month where everything is free.
A look into the female artists in Gainesville's tattooing scene.
FEATURES Surviving Lowell, p. 24
Former inmates say the U.S.'s women's prison is also one of the worst.
Inside Gainesville's crisis pregnancy centers.
The American Guard, a national far-right group, is recruiting in Gainesville.
Poetry & Photography, p. 34
Poetry by Charles Ely. Photo by Mirjam Frosth.
FEATURED STAFFER Ken Farfan
Thick Skin, p. 06
Photo by Elizabeth Townsend.
Read Up, Chow Down, p. 06
Get Leondardo's recipe for chicken cordon bleu pizza.
Ken is fourth year marketing student at the University of Florida and a tube-sock enthusiast. There are few things he enjoys more than endlessly bopping to the various tunes pouring out of his non-Bluetooth headphones. He is a reader-turned-illustrator of The Fine Print and is liiiiivinnng every moment of it! Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 03
Ouch! That hurts, doesn’t it? Paper Cuts are our short, erratic and slightly painful updates on current, local and national events. See our website for more Paper Cuts at thefineprintmag.org.
REFUND ME in mid-december 2018, as the federal government spiralled toward the longest shutdown in U.S. history over how much money, if any, should be allocated to a border wall, one Florida man had an idea. In the American tradition of raising money for things our government won’t pay for, 37-year-old Brian Kolfage took to GoFundMe. But he was not joining the hundreds of thousands of Americans who use the platform each year to cover exorbitant medical bills. Instead, Kolfage wanted to help Trump build a border wall … by crowdfunding $1 billion. As Kolfage’s GoFundMe page went viral, questions began to emerge. How exactly did he plan to deliver the money to the U.S. government? Would he write a giant check? And who even is this guy? It turns out that the Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient and Panhandle resident has a storied past of manufacturing misinformation for profit through his now-deplatformed Facebook page, Right Wing News. In January 2019, BuzzFeed reported that, according to Kolfage’s former employees, he regularly directed his staff to write misleading headlines and Photoshop images. In one instance, a doctored image of an FBI agent arresting Hillary Clinton was paired with the headline, “breaking!!! trump's doj just did it!!! it's finally happening!” BuzzFeed also reported Kolfage used GoFundMe in 2015 to collect $16,246 for a veteran mentorship program at three military hospitals. But representatives of all three medical centers said they never received
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any donations from Kolfage. Sounds like that campaign was fake news! And it doesn’t seem like the U.S. is going to receive a donation from Kolfage, either. Though he’s raised more than $20 million as of Jan. 13, it’s likely every penny will be refunded to nearly 340,000 donors after Kolfage announced he now plans to direct the money to his recently created nonprofit “We Build The Wall, Inc.” — not, as he originally promised, to the federal government. This was a violation of GoFundMe’s rules. Kolfage also promised when he started the campaign that, “100% of your donations will go to the Trump Wall. If for ANY reason we don't reach our goal we will refund your donation.” $20 million is a lot of money, but it’s barely two percent of the campaign’s $1 billion goal. I guess you could say it looks like Kolfage has hit a wall. By Molly Minta.
CYNTOIA FREED in august 2004, 16-year-old Cyntoia Brown shot and killed a 43-year-old Nashville man who solicited her for sex while he was sleeping. She stole his money and fled. Brown told police and the court that she acted in self-defense after Allen took out his shotguns and grabbed her genitals. She testified she stole the money because she feared returning empty-handed to “Cut Throat,” her pimp. Yet prosecutors tried Brown as an adult, arguing she took the money as part of a robbery. She was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison. Nearly 15 years later, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted clemency in January to Brown,
who is now 30 years old. The pardon came after a lengthy campaign by Brown’s family and Tennessee organizers that was amplified by multiple celebrities. At one point, a request by a coalition of on-the-ground organizers for people to call Haslam to demand clemency for Brown resulted in the governor receiving over 1,500 calls an hour, the Daily Dot noted. “I think [her case] resonated with a lot of folks because everybody knows a Cyntoia,” said Brittany Paschall, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Nashville. “It was an intersection of a lot of different violences— sexual violence, gendered violence, the violence of mass incarceration in this country. I think that people were seeing themselves and their communities in Cyntoia and that compelled them to act.” Brown spent her adulthood behind bars, so she is a transformed woman. She’s been working on getting an education in prison, and in 2015 she earned an associate’s degree from Lipscomb University. Brown will be released on August 7. A GoFundMe for her life after prison has already been started. The fundraiser will also support a documentary that focuses on the fight for Brown’s freedom. “I think that’s a huge thing—that liberation is totally within our reach, that things like getting our people released from these cages is not utopian,” said AshLee Woodard Henderson, co-executive director of Highlander Center, which built visibility around Brown’s case. “It’s a thing that we can literally do and we have to keep fighting and continuing to use that energy to get more and more of our people free.” By Edysmar Diaz-Cruz.
DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS OF AMERICA
BY BARBARA BYRAM
emocratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a political and activist organization dedicated to the longterm goal of a society that is democratically run to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. DSA has an all-embracing moral vision, systemic social analysis and political praxis that are rooted in a quest for radical democracy, social freedom and individual liberties. It is entirely member-funded. A small group of activists began organizing Central Florida DSA, the local chapter based in Gainesville, in early 2016. We are committed to democracy as a means to restructure society to make it more free, participatory and humane. Local DSA chapters enjoy a high level of autonomy from the national organization, so we can accomplish the goals most important to our local community. CFDSA's work tends to focus on labor, immigration and prison reform, as well as Medicare For All, anti-fascism and socialist feminism. Because movements require long-term, grassroots base-building, CFDSA is committed to working with other local organizations in the area to raise awareness of and educate people on the current solutions to remedying injustice and effect positive change wherever possible. Members believe that although the greater goal is years in the future, the work toward that goal must be done now, even if the solutions available seem small or insignificant. One example is CFDSA's ongoing brake light clinic, modeled on a program started by the New Orleans DSA chapter, where members change broken or nonfunctioning taillights for free. These clinics support people in our community who are most at risk for a negative outcome during a police stop or who lack the means to cover the cost of a ticket.
Education on a broad basis is necessary for any movement's success, and CFDSA is looking to partner with other groups to provide the county library system with a comprehensive collection of literature on socialism. The current collection is pitiable, and a lack of information leaves people without a frame of reference for or understanding of the greater socialist movement today. As part of the goal to educate more people, CFDSA hosts The Leftorium the third Monday of every month at Third House Books. Open to everyone interested, this group explores readings and art on the broad spectrum of leftist political ideology, past and present.
Members believe that although the greater goal is years in the future, the work toward that goal must be done now, even if the solutions available seem small or insignificant. Members also have the opportunity to become involved in working groups on specific topics at the national level. CFDSA is currently represented on the Veterans, Immigration Rights and Socialist Feminist Working Groups. Information on the scope of opportunities, as well as national publications and blogs, can be accessed at dsausa.org. â€˘ To get involved locally, email email@example.com or find Central Florida DSA on Facebook or Twitter. Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 05
the ENDTH DEGREE Colleges and universities across the country are divesting from fossil fuels. Here's why the University of Florida should do the same.
BY JUAN ZAPATA ILLUSTRATION BY ASHRITA BUDHARAJU
n October 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report stating that we have only 32 years left to prevent the most severe effects of global warming. Even with current pledges to cut CO2 emissions, the report warned that without taking rapid action on a scale with “no documented historic precedent,” a warming of 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century is inevitable. This would be the “worst case” scenario. The Paris Climate Accord suggested we limit warming to a two-degree threshold to mitigate this. But the IPCC found that this not go far enough. A warming of 2 degrees will have catastrophic effects: 99 percent of all coral reefs, which are vital to global fisheries and tropical ecosystems, would be devastated; natural disasters like 2017’s Hurricane Maria, the second deadliest hurricane in 06 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | thefineprintmag.org
OPINION U.S. history, would multiply in intensity company by generation capacity and critics as a radical and impractical step and frequency; crop yields would decay the corporation behind the Sabal Trail toward addressing societal conflict, but and sea rise would create tens of millions Pipeline. Duke has been criticized for its it’s not a new idea: Divestment from of refugees. While some will be equipped manipulative lobbying, pollution caused South Africa, as a form of boycott, with the wealth and resources to endure, by malpractice, and its commitment to was a primary mechanism used by the the most vulnerable people on our planet coal — in fact, Norway’s wealth fund, the African National Congress that helped — the indigenous, agricultural and largest in the world at nearly $1 trillion, bring about the end of apartheid. But coastal-dependent communities, people no longer invests in the company for while Florida State University and the in the Arctic and Small Island Developing those reasons. University of Miami participated in the States — will be left to bear the harshest Yet UF hosts a Duke natural gas BDS movement of the eighties, UF chose outcomes. cogeneration plant on campus. This to support segregation and incarcerate The consequences will be grave, but is despite the fact that GRU offered in student organizers. choosing action and education above August 2016 to provide UF power at a But today, UF has the opportunity complicity will arm us with the tools to cheaper rate than Duke, which would to make the morally right choice. UF abate climate catastrophes. To achieve save the university would be the first school in the SEC to this, the IPCC report urges us to limit divest, it would join over 1,000 religious warming to 1.5 degrees. It is possible, but institutions, colleges, universities and “doing so would require unprecedented cities that have already pulled their changes”, said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of money from fossil fuels. According will IPCC Working Group III. to Bill McKibben in the Guardian, The primary cause of climate these institutions have divested continue to fund change is human activity over $8 trillion from the fossil that releases carbon into the fuel industry. atmosphere, like driving a Given the rate at which fossil fuels unless we car, generating electricity or we are reaching the IPCC’s manufacturing goods. We worst-case scenario, the students faculty can and should take steps moderate solutions are no to reduce our individual longer solutions. The IPCC carbon footprint, but if we report emphasized that if and staff as well as are to truly stop 2 degrees of we are to prevent the most warming, we must confront devastating effects of global citizens in ainesville the root of the problem: the warming, carbon emissions industry itself. much reach “net zero” by Our governments, universities 2050. This means that radical do something and other representative bodies modifications to our existing continue to unabashedly fund fossil infrastructure, energy production, about it fuels, the military industrial complex, agricultural systems, material deforestation and animal agriculture — all of consumption, and culture are now more which hasten our ascent towards 2 degrees. practical than not. UF is no exception. money As a symbolic gesture, divestment Dr. Win Phillips, Executive Chief of and increase its renewable energy alone will not stop 2 degrees, but it would Staff at UF and member of the Board of portfolio. Wouldn’t the land occupied by influence our community’s subsequent Trustees, told Divest UF that about three the cogeneration plant be better applied dialogue around climate change and percent of the university’s $1.92 billion toward UF students than an exploitive instill a cultural urgency into both climate endowment is invested in natural gas company? skeptics and climate reductionists across alone — that’s a whopping $57.6 million. You’d figure that UF, an institution that the country. It has the potential to do a And that doesn’t include figures from all boasts about its sustainability program, lot of good. But the truth is that UF will other sectors of the fossil fuel industry. would have already joined the growing continue to fund fossil fuels unless we — Furthermore, UF has direct movement of colleges, government and the students, faculty, and staff, as well as partnerships with toxic entities like Wells institutions that have divested from the citizens in Gainesville — do something Fargo, UF’s official banking partner, that fossil fuel industry. UF should materially about it. As the possibility of a future with has openly disregarded indigenous rights support its supposed ideals by selling its no food, mass human displacement, and by financing gas pipelines like the Dakota assets and severing direct connections to intensified natural disasters looms larger, Access Pipeline. organizations that prioritize profit over we must regain our collective power and UF also gets its power from Duke climate. demand that the University of Florida Energy, the biggest U.S. power Divestment is often dismissed by Board of Trustees divest UF. •
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PHOTO BY MARCELO RONDON
CHOW DOWN BY EDYSMAR DIAZ-CRUZ ILLUSTRATION BY ASHRITA BUDHARAJU
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READ UP, CHOW DOWN
eonardo’s By the Slice served its first pizza pie 45 years ago when Midtown wasn’t yet under the looming threat of luxury high-rises. A landmark of an older town, Leonardo’s sits in its inaugural spot at 1245 W University Ave, the aroma of fresh, cheesy pizza enticing unsuspecting passersby. Inside the pizzeria, the large, vertical windows cast natural light on the wooden booths and orange-and-green walls, which feature homages to the past like old skateboards used as punk art canvases and black-and-white prints of Gainesville’s music scene. Most likely, alternative rock band Marcy Playground is playing in the background. Even more likely, the cashier is singing along to Nirvana with her pink-haired co-worker: “You're face to face/With the man who sold the world.” Today, Leonardo’s existence is precarious. In Aug. 2016, the UF Foundation purchased the land under Leonardo’s and its joint business, Bistro 1245. Two years later, UF announced plans to demolish the restaurants, as well as the neighboring Kangaroo gas station, to construct a new building for its School of Music. But nothing fazes co-owner Brian Johnson, who started running the business in 2017 after working at the restaurant for 25 years. The 46-year-old takes a laid-back approach to his work, like sipping wine as he reviews a January day’s to-do list, which includes everything from signing checks and setting up cash drawers to making and serving pizza. Though the stress of running a restaurant can be overwhelming, Johnson still enjoys the art of pizza-making, especially tossing the dough. “When you’re spinning the dough and you see a kid smile, that’s a pleasure to me,” said Johnson, who discovered his passion for food when he got his first job at Burger King at 14 years old. You can expect classic pizzeria staples at Leonardo’s, like spinach and tomato, pepperoni and veggie pizza, steamy rolls and marinara sauce. But on “Wild Card” Tuesdays, Johnson and his employees like to experiment, offering creations like a cheeto-topped pizza that was popular among college students. “That’s the beauty of the Wild Card,” he said. “It keeps things interesting.” Yet in the past year, Johnson said revenue has decreased by 25 percent. He blames the changing culture of Gainesville. Students, he said, aren’t willing to cross the street beyond The Standard or explore outside their comfort zone. “We’re just a local place trying to make it,” Johnson said. “When they put [in] all these apartments, they also bring in a lot of corporate places, which takes business away from smaller local people. It’s such a shame to see the landscape change. It’s Gainesville, Florida — not ‘Any City, U.S.A.’” If he wants Leonardo’s to survive, Johnson will have to face the challenge of finding and purchasing a new location for the restaurant when its lease ends in 2020. When asked whether he thinks it’ll be worth it, Johnson shrugged and scanned the interior of the restaurant. “What else am I gonna do? Be a mailman?” he says before taking another sip of wine. •
LEONARDO'S BY THE SLICE presents
CHICKEN CORDON BLEU PIZZA INGREDIENTS • 12 ounces of pizza dough
• chicken breast • shredded cheese • • • •
(mozzarella and swiss) alfredo sauce italian breadcrumbs diced ham salt, pepper and rosemary
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday thru Thursday. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. @
1245 W University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601.
INSTRUCTIONS 1. Get 12 ounces of pizza dough (tip: you can buy it at Leonardo's). 2. Preheated your oven to 400°F. 3. Stretch that bad boy nice & thin. Use a rolling pin if you need to. If you can toss it, cool. Get it to 14 inches wide. 4. Place it on your favorite home pizza peel. In the meantime, bake some chicken with salt, pepper, & rosemary. Let it cool for the pizza. 5. Spread alfredo evenly for the base, pull the chicken & top that sauce with it. Then some shredded swiss, some diced ham & some shredded mozz. Remember!! Less is more. 6. Top with italian bread crumbs & slide onto your pizza stone in the oven. Cook until crisp on the bottom & enjoy.
IN SEASON AND FRESH Artichokes, avocado, basil, beets, broccoli, oranges, leeks, limes, parsnips, & sweet potatoes! Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 09
FOR THE RECORD Showcasing local bands, the next big thing and all your friends.
A.J. Herring of Velma & The Happy Campers. Photo by Hailey Birkin.
VELMA & THE HAPPY CAMPERS Permatemp
lo-fi Released TBA Recorded in Gainesville Sounds like Abner Jay Inspiration Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, The Breeders Key tracks “Hell,” “Work Related Incident” Where to get it Bandcamp or Floating Skull Tapes Upcoming shows TBA
It’s a college-town cliché that everyone is always coming, going or inbetween. But it’s equally true of real life that nothing is certain. Permatemp, the upcoming album from A.J. Herring’s usually oneman band Velma and the Happy Campers, seeks to explore the galaxy-brain realization that the only permanent thing about life is its impermanence. Herring began making music under the moniker Velma and the Happy Campers in 2009. As is typical of the lo-fi genre, music became Herring’s outlet to express his grievances with the mundanity of life. The project has followed him from Marianna to Gainesville and from a stint in air conditioning school to a job as an elementary school teacher. Permatemp came about because of previously permanent things becoming temporary. This theme is apparent from the opening song, “Temporary,” which tonally kicks off the album with fast-paced guitar strumming. “Can’t you see,” Herring intones on the chorus, “that life is so temporary.” Permatemp layers guitar-strumming over a loop of cassette tapes and audio recordings of found noise, a departure from Herring’s previous
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efforts that imbue If you'd like to the album with see your band or havoc. To your friend's band (or your create this mom's band) reviewed in our background next issue — or you want to be considered to play a benefit cacophony, show — email Herring firstname.lastname@example.org recorded anyfor more information. where he could — in a storage unit, his bathroom and multiple restaurants. “I’m constantly getting inspired by weird chaos and sadness,” Herring said. “Work Related Incident” is the best use of these recordings. Snippets of a conversation support the lyrics, which express a deep malaise with daily routines: “Blood on this building/ Outside the ‘burbs/ I hope I die/ Before I get to work,” Herring nasally sings. Then, as a guitar starts to play, a male voice shouts “Turn it on!” And the guitar swells. The effect is frustration and relief. • By Natalia Galicza.
STELLA SPLENDENS Self-titled release
Released 2018 Recorded in Gainesville Sounds like Hum, Swans Inspiration Cum, These Immortal Souls, Swirlies Key tracks Pegasus, No Flag Where to get it Bandcamp Upcoming shows February 20th (Gainesville, FL)
Push play on “Pegasus,” the first track on Stella Splendens first self-titled release, and you will be hit with a wall of emotional noise. Surging, crunchy guitar lines are punctuated by crashing cymbals. Leela Corman, Lexi Braun, Cory Young and Conor Mitchell — that is, Stella Splendens — are loud, and they want you to know it. The band got together last year when Corman and Young got together to write songs and sought out bass player Mitchell and drummer Braun to create rhythm. “Literally the one thing that ruins bands is that no one can find a drummer, so when we found Lexi, it made it into something real,” Corman said. From fake blood to belly dancing, from glitter to cage bras, there is nothing this band hasn’t dipped into. They get inspiration from alternative rock bands but simultaneously enjoy covering songs by artists like System of a Down. They try not to let their creativity get stunted by trying to stick too closely to one specific sound. The band’s synergy is palpable at live shows.
THE ZETA Magia Infinita
avant-punk Released October 28, 2018 Recorded in Estudios Noviembre Sounds like Your favorite punk band meets traditional Latin music Inspiration Afro-Caribbean music, Kin Chago Key tracks “Afrontar”, “Resignar”, “Magia Infinita” Where to get it Bandcamp Upcoming shows February 7th (Gainesville, FL), February 18th (Allston, MA)
Leela Corman (vocals), Lexi Braun (drums), Cory Young (guitar), Conor Mitchell (base) The guitar, heavy bass-lines and old-school drums wind together with the lilting siren call of Corman’s voice. “We come together to finish everything, and I feel like that’s where we get our sound from,” Braun said. You can hear how the individual talents of the band members come together in “Video,” the last track on the release. A solitary, yearning guitar riff opens the track, and is then joined by the percussive taps of drumsticks. Corman’s voice drips in reverb as she sings the opening lyrics, “You talk about the past/like it’s some piece of trash/you refuse to throw away/we do this every day.” The electric guitar exaggerates and the drums build as all the parts of the song swell at the chorus, then drop out completely. There’s a moment of silence, and, coming from a band known for its high volume, it’s easily the most powerful part of the song. “Lost sight of the view,” Corman sings in the repetition that serves as the final track’s chorus, “and what it could do for you.” • By Josephine Fuller.
Juan Chi (vocals), Juan Gonzaler (vocals, guitar, percussion), Daniel Hernandez (guitar players), Duque (bass)
Magia Infinita, the title of The Zeta’s latest release, translates to “unlimited magic.” The Venezuelan avant-punk group recorded the album in one take two years ago during a live session in Mexico City. With energy and rawness that saturates every lyric, riff and melody, the record truly captures, in their words, “the human part” of music. “We feel that sometimes when overproducing things, you lose a lot in the process,” said Gabriel Duque, who plays bass. “We composed this record just for the experience.” Magia Infinita was originally intended to be one full song, but the record was later split into six tracks that put sound to frustration and homesickness, emotions shared by Duque and his fellow band members, Juan Chi (singer), Juan Gonzalez and Daniel Hernandez (guitar player). All four band members immigrated from Venezuela to the United States, so home plays an important role in their process. Each song is infused with cacophony and reminders of the band’s cultural roots, like the tapping of a tambora before heavy guitars begin in “Sufrir,”
which translates to “suffer.” “We really wanted to try to express what we were living as immigrants in the moment,” Duque said. “There are many [immigrants] over the world, and we just want everyone to know that they are not alone, and it’s okay to feel like this.” The Zeta started experimenting with sound in 2003 in Puerto La Cruz, a port city in Venezuela with mountains on one side and beaches with translucent water on the other. There, Chi and Hernandez started the project when they were 12 years old as a way to share their passion and, of course, have a good time. In the years since, The Zeta has traveled around the world to share their sound and doit-yourself spirit. To them, DIY simply means believing in yourself and doing the things that you love without anyone’s approval. “We’re just trying to bring some culture, express ourselves, and create this big group of friends,” Duque said. “I hope it keeps getting bigger and bigger.” • By Alex De Luca.
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Defend It Yourself BY VANESSA HAN ILLUSTRATIONS BY MICHAEL MARTE & INGRID WU
of you after a late night spent in a Wikipedia hole about serial killers from the 70s. And during winter, when the sun sets earlier and the cold keeps people inside, a late-night walk home on an empty street can be frightening. Why risk becoming the subject of a true crime podcast when you can stay safe with your own self-defense kit? â€˘ paranoia might get the best
MILLWALL BRICK What You Need
approximately 30 sheets of paper (newspaper works best), water, rocks, coins or any small, heavy object, tape (optional for a more effective millwall brick)
1 2 Tip: Use a copy of The Fine Print! 12 | T H E
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of paper. To make your club more substantial, add any small but dense objects to the center of the stack, such as rocks or coins. get a stack
of papers as tightly as possible lengthwise. If you have water, it can help to slightly dampen the paper before rolling to add weight to the weapon. roll the stack
paper in half to create a small club. (Optional: tape the ends together to make it easier to wield.) fold the rolled
Tip: This type of weapon is best used in a downward motion so the force is more concentrated.
What You Need old pens(s), duct tape, keyring (optional)
than one pen, gather them into a bunch and stagger them to create a pointy, jagged end. A standard-issue Sharpie pen is best due to its size and pointed end. If that’s not available, you can use two to three pens instead to mimic a Sharpie’s size and weight. if you have more
You can also wrap several layers of electrical tape ar ound the pen to ensure a better grip.
cut off the pen clip(s),
then wrap the pen(s) in several layers of duct tape so they are covered completely. This will add more weight and create a better grip. If desired, use the tape to create a flap at the end, poke a hole in it and insert a keyring for easy access.
PEPPER SPRAY What You Need
vinegar, oil, spray bottle, chili flakes, cayenne pepper, black pepper or similar spices
1 2 Tip: DIY pepper spray is not as effective as store-bought, but it will still work to temporarily hinder an attacker.
in a bowl,
combine one part chili flakes, cayenne pepper and other spices. Pour in three parts vinegar.
into the vinegar. Stir in a spoonful of oil, which allows the mixture to stick to your target. crush flakes
for at least 30 minutes or up to a day. allow to sit
It’s best to spray at arm’s length an d in circular motions to encompass th e entire attacker.
pour into spray bottle. And remember: pepper spray is a legal method of defense in the state of Florida, but you are only permitted to carry 2 ounces at a time. strain and
Winter 2019 | T H E
PLANET OF THE VAPES Your latest party companion could be more destructive than you think. 14 | T H E
F I N E P R I N T | thefineprintmag.org
BY JULIA MITCHEN ILLUSTRATIONS BY MICHAEL MARTE
thin, pale wisp of smoke escapes from Jason Fabiano’s slightly parted lips after he takes a hit of his JUUL, a sleek gray e-cigarette that strongly resembles a harmless flash drive. Fabiano, a fifth-year journalism major from Pembroke Pines, started smoking cigarettes when he was around 16 years old to cope with the stress of working on his high school’s TV production program, which was nationally known. He continued smoking until around his sophomore year of college at the University of Florida, when he tried JUULing. JUULs are a type of e-cigarette that were developed in 2015 by a company called PAX Labs, which then broke off two years later and became JUUL Labs. Initially, they were thought to be safer than smoking cigarettes because the main mechanism — a cartridge full of oil that heats to create a vapor when you inhale — doesn’t expose users to the carcinogenic byproducts of combustion like cigarettes do. Many people, like Fabiano, started using e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking, but they won’t exactly kick your nicotine addiction. One JUUL pod is equal to about a pack of cigarettes. Many people — especially teenagers, who are more likely to try flavored e-cigarettes and less likely to think of them as harmful — don’t even realize they are addicted. Some even endearingly refer to themselves as “JUUL fiends” and happily pass their JUULs around at parties. The increased use among teenagers is at the center of how JUULs became a staple of modern life, a source of hysteria for Good Morning America and the subject of legitimate public health debate. With flavors like mint, mango and crème brûlée, JUUL Labs is purposefully trying to appeal to young people, critics say, even though the company claims it only targets adults in its marketing. Experts with Stanford University’s Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising maintain that the company’s campaigns have been “patently youth-oriented,” like a 2015 full-page ad in Vice magazine featuring a young white model wearing black skinny jeans, a white crop top and a gray varsity jacket, playfully blowing smoke. It wasn’t until June 2018 that the company’s advertisements featured anyone who was over 35 or had actually used JUULS to quit smoking. In September 2018, the Food and Drug Administration announced the largest coordinated enforcement effort in their history to address the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. More than 1,300 warning letters and fines were issued to retailers who had sold JUULs and other e-cigarettes illegally to minors across the country. JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns responded in kind, stating that the company is “committed to preventing underage use … we want to engage with FDA, lawmakers, public health advocates and others to keep JUUL out of the hands of young people.” The company also shut down its Facebook and Instagram pages. “It’s something that’s improved the quality of my life, but I could also see how it would decrease the quality of someone’s life,” Fabiano said. “There are literally teenagers out there who have never smoked a cigarette getting unnecessary nicotine addictions because it is so discreet and convenient.” Theoretically, JUULs could have a therapeutic purpose, said Roger Papke, a UF professor in the Department of Pharmacology
SCIENCE and Therapeutics and a nicotine specialist. If JUUL e-cigarettes were a prescription item that was proven to help stop a person smoking and were given only to people who were actually addicted to cigarettes, then they might be effective. “But to be so freely in the market, they’re a terrible opportunity,” Papke said. “The people producing those things are the people who are producing tobacco and promoting general addiction. Nicotine is one of the most insidious addictions that we have out there.” Papke is unsure if there are any good studies that show that JUULs are actually beneficial for people who are cigarette smokers, mainly because e-cigarettes are too new for research to be able to conclusively determine their true health liability. E-cigarettes have been around for about 15 years, and it will take at least 20 years of regular use for potential chronic health problems to appear. Short-term data, however, indicates that it is much more likely for a naïve user to pick up JUULs than a traditional cigarette, which suggests that JUULs are encouraging usage among adolescents. Papke said this could possibly lead to using cigarettes or other tobacco products. “Nicotine basically hijacks the natural reward system in the brain in a very subtle way,” Papke said. “It was tolerated in our society for hundreds of years because the overt effects are not intoxicating and people don’t act, in general, dangerously when they are under the influence of nicotine like they do with alcohol or other drugs.” Jackie Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Alachua County Public School System, said Alachua County public schools don’t draw distinctions between students who are caught with e-cigarettes or other tobacco-related products. She said the school system has no statistics available as of now about how much of an issue e-cigarettes and vaping have become, but one thing is for sure: vaping and e-cigarettes are not allowed in schools. “We knew years ago this was going to be an issue,” Johnson said. “As soon as they [vapes and e-cigarettes] started showing up, we included that in our policies.” JUULs are too new of an item for research to be able to conclusively determine their true health liability, but Papke said it seems that people are going to be less likely to get cancer from JUULs as opposed to traditional combustible cigarettes. However, he stresses that they should never use them in the first place. “It’s simply a pathway to an addiction which is going to take your money and control your life,” he said. Fabiano said that when it comes down to it, vaping is like choosing the lesser of two evils. “Smoking cigarettes for you is like certified terrible,” Fabiano said. “Whereas vaping is kind of like the jury is out. We don't know yet.” •
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Food for Thought:
h t chocolate ILLUSTRATIONS AND STORY BY CAROLINE GASPICH Sometimes a scarf and boots aren’t enough to fend off the cold, and what you need is a piping mug of hot, syrupy chocolate to hug your insides. But we recommend skipping packaged powder and dehydrated marshmallows that look a bit like teeth in favor of the array of hot chocolates served in Gainesville’s coffee and tea shops. From robust flavor to frothy sweetness, the perfect cup of comfort might be just around the corner.•
CYM COFFEE CO. HARPER’S CORNER Even without marshmallows or whipped cream, the hot cocoa at Harper’s Corner leaves a lasting impression. The drink’s strong, uniquely sweet flavor breaks the chocolate scale while still going down silky smooth. Complete with the quirky mustache mug it's served in, this sugary warm drink is enough to tempt even the strong willed into an early dessert.
1236 NW 21 Ave.
CYM’s hot chocolate arrives in a hefty mug practically spilling over with frothy goodness. Light, foamy and brimming with milk chocolate flavor, it’s a noteworthy contender for the best in town. No need to worry if cow’s milk isn’t your thing: CYM offers both soy and almond milk-based cocoa as well. Plus, it’s easy to relax among the snug bean bag chairs and cats that roam outside.
5404 NW 8th Ave.
KARMA CREAM Beloved for its vegan ice cream and savory sandwiches, Karma Cream also delivers on its hot chocolate. The drink’s rich flavor is nothing short of lavish; each cup tastes like it’s a packed stack of candy bars. Karma Cream’s cocoa is a treat for the eyes. You’ll want to keep your camera out for its professionally executed latte art. And between coconut milk whipped cream and a selection of dairy, oat, soy and almond milks to choose from, chances are that everyone in your friend group can enjoy a mug stress-free.
607 W University Ave.
$3.39 $3.92 $4.24 small
PASCAL’S COFFEEHOUSE Located just a short jaunt from Library West, Pascal’s is no stranger to University of Florida students. Its hot cocoa is noticeably less chocolate-y, but the drink’s flawlessly frothy consistency makes up for what it lacks in intensity. Each cup is presented with a latte-style heart whirl that matches the shop’s trendy, hipster-style interior.
112 NW 16th St.
43RD STREET DELI 3483 SW Williston Rd
43rd Street Deli’s warm and sweet hot chocolate pairs perfectly with fluffy pancakes and greasy sausages to stave off a hangover during Sunday brunch. The drink sparks childhood memories of tearing open packets of Swiss Miss. Though the deli’s humbly presented cocoa won’t wow you with its appearance, it’s significantly more affordable than others.
505 NW 13th St Sweetberries offers a decadent hot cocoa on the cheap. Overflowing with whipped cream and dusted with a touch of cinnamon, the sandwich shop’s version of the drink makes you question why you’ve ever settled for store bought. For the intensity of the flavor and the amount you receive, Sweetberries’ hot cocoa is worth spoiling yourself on.
VOLTA Volta’s flight of distinctive hot chocolates are adventurous twists on an old favorite. The Xocolate Maya puts a spicy spin on the drink, blending chocolate with cinnamon, cardamom, chiles and cornmeal. Despite its name, dark chocolate lovers will enjoy the shop’s “perfect milk chocolate,” for its frothy, deep bitterness and lingering aftertaste. If you’re feeling experimental, the spiced white chocolate completes the trio with a mix of white chocolate, white pepper, cocoa butter, lemon peel and nutmeg.
48 SW 2nd St.
WYATT’S 202 SE 2nd Ave.
Wyatt’s hot chocolate is beautiful enough to justify snapping a photo. Social media cynics be damned. The light and creamy cocoa gives off a subtle milk chocolate flavor and is topped with foam skillfully shaped into a heart surrounded by whirls. Reach the bottom of your cup, and you’ll be rewarded with a swig of chocolate syrup. If you want to spice up your Instagram with a wintry take on latte art, Wyatt’s is the place to go.
COFFEE CULTURE 2020 NW 13th St.
For a hot cocoa that’s not only time-efficient but downright delicious, check out Coffee Culture. As the only local coffee shop with a drivethru, it’s the place for when you’re on the go and need a quick pick-me-up. Tasting strongly of chocolate and finished with thick whipped cream, the cafe’s hot cocoa stands out among its fast food competitors. But if you’re in the mood for an authentic coffee shop experience, you can relax inside to enjoy the soothing sound of piano music as you sip. Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 17
FREE FOR ALL
STORY AND PHOTOS BY ELIZABETH TOWNSEND ILLUSTRATIONS BY TUCKY FUSSELL Community members band together to transform the Civic Media Center into a pop-up shop that provides free items.
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Carried by the November
breeze, the scent of fresh vegetable soup wafts through the threshold of the Civic Media Center. Inside, clothing, shoes, books, toiletries and toys spill from heaping stacks set on tables. People sift through the piles, eyeing garments and carefully refolding what they move as they scoot white plastic bags behind them. Kaithleen Hernandez, 23, one of the library’s coordinators, beams at each new visitor. “Take anything you need,” she says. The pop-up event known as Free Store transforms the Civic Media Center into a thrift shop on the third Saturday of each month. Between 2 and 5 p.m., anyone is welcome to gather from the stock of secondhand items and leave without spending a cent. Free Store was a project founded in 2014 by Trans Affairs, a community support group based at the nowclosed feminist bookstore, Wild Iris. The goal was to provide items such as chest binders, breast forms, makeup and clothing for free to trans and nonbinary people in need. “It was originally started by folks in the trans and queer community, locally, to try and get resources for trans and queer folks,” said Logan Marie Glitterbomb, 26, a Free Store organizer. “But it was always open to everyone.” Trans Affairs at Wild Iris ran the project for about three years through donations and contributions from events, such as Queer the Fest and fundraising by the University of Florida’s Pride Student Union. Then Wild Iris closed its doors in December 2017. Some leftover items were donated to a group that aids people who have recently been released from prison. Most remained in storage. In June 2018, Gainesville’s chapter of Redneck Revolt, a national organization dedicated to anti-racism and liberation of the working class, hosted their first Free Store at the CMC. Since then, the organization has maintained the store. The group uses its membership funds and monetary donations to cover the cost of the storage space. Volunteers haul the items to and from the storage space as needed. Glitterbomb, who volunteered with the Wild Iris crew, is one of the founding members of Gainesville’s chapter of the Revolt. She banded with her peers to revive Free Store, who figured it was the perfect project for the Gainesville Redneck Revolt to take on because it aligned with their
mission. The purpose of the Revolt on national and local levels is community defense and combating racism, capitalism and fascism, according to its website. “I started out going to Free Store, and ya know, still, I’m broke,” Glitterbomb said, gesturing at her grey fitted coat and floor-skimming skirt. “Most of the shit that I wear is from here. You always find cool stuff.” “It’s also cool because if you see something and you’re not sure if you like it, you take it anyways, you try it out, you don’t like it, you bring it back,” she added. Since he heard about Free Store from a high school friend five years ago, local musician Edward Dinardo, 23, has been a repeat visitor at the event. His favorite finds include a wooden recorder, an alternative comic book entitled "Kill Your Boyfriend" and some of his most prized T-shirts. But for Dinardo, the best part about the store is the environment. “It is set in areas that are pleasant, accepting and non-judgmental so you are always greeted by a sunny staff of volunteers,” he said. Those who would like to donate items to Free Store can drop them off at the Civic Media Center any time before noon on the day of the event, when set-up begins. Certain high-demand items are always helpful, such as menstrual products, toiletries, socks, boxers, makeup, plus-size clothing, chest binders, breast forms, home items and blankets. The Revolt is also accepting donations of sturdy clothes racks to alleviate space for other items. “If people want to donate money, that would help us run more long term,” Glitterbomb said. “We pay for the storage space out of pocket through our membership and most of us are pretty broke.” Those who would like to donate money are urged to message Redneck Revolt on Facebook or visit during Free Store. “When we are here for one another, it always results in abundance,” Hernandez said. “The people win. The landfills win. It’s a win-win situation whatever way you look at it.” •
Free Store patrons sift through clothing, books and personal items as Food Not Bomb serves a hot meal in the background
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thick Women artists in Gainesville are making a name for themselves in the historically maledominated tattoo industry.
STORY BY BRIANNA MOYE ILLUSTRATIONS BY MADISYN ALBERRY 20 | T H E
F I N E P R I N T | thefineprintmag.org
PHOTOS BY ELIZABETH TOWNSEND
Maria Arjona tattoos Kim Frazier, 21, who is getting a memorial tattoo for her late father.
he first tattoo Brittany Helm ever did was three years in the making. She devoted hours to designing complex tattoos, like a knotted, winding tree growing out of a field of lace, and would practice inking them by putting her pencil into a tattoo machine so she could get familiar with its weight. But this time, Helm gripped a tattoo machine that was primed with a needle. She flipped the machine on, and it whirred to life as she leaned over in her chair and began to ink a tiny skull on the shoulder of the artist who taught her. Before she could tattoo at all, Helm, like most artists looking to enter the industry, had to complete an apprenticeship. But this can be a challenge. You have to find an artist who is willing, skilled enough and able to take you on as an apprentice. This can often mean working for free for at least a year while you learn the tenets of tattooing, such as how to scale a design to a person’s body or pull a clean line, and pass an exam on health and safety standards. After all that work, you might not find a studio willing to hire you. The prospects can be even harder for women, who didn’t start entering the industry en masse until the late '90s. Though the tattooing scene in Gainesville — like the industry as whole — is no longer completely male-dominated, female artists are still a minority. Based on artist listings found on the websites and social media of Gainesville’s tattoo shops, there are about ten female artists in Gainesville, a third of the number of male artists. In 2017, Helm found work tattooing at Sacred Skin Studios, a local parlor. The 21-year-old said clients would walk in the door and seem to look right through her. After she got pregnant, it got even worse. One look at her belly and potential clients “just disregarded that I was even there,” she said. At Sacred Skin, clients would sometimes come into the studio with tattoo ideas that none of the artists were interested in. The responsibility for these designs usually fell on Helm, as the newest and youngest of the Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 21
FEATURE artists. In April 2018, the owner of the studio disagreed with Helm’s decision to take on one such tattoo, which she described as a dollar bill with an unusual face on it. Helm said she was fired as a result and that her boss told her he would make sure she never worked at another tattoo shop in Gainesville again. Afterward, Helm said, the artists at the studio began posting pictures of tattoos she had started while she was there with negative comments about them. “It hurt a lot when it ended,” she said, clutching her portfolio. Amidst whatever changes are taking place in the tattoo industry locally or at large, there’s a sense among the female artists in Gainesville that they want to be respected for their craft, not just because they’re women who tattoo. “I definitely didn’t want it to matter that I was a girl in a man’s world,” said Maria Arjona, an artist at Bodytech Tattooing & Piercing. “I wanted to show people that I could do what I do because I’m good at it and because I love it.” Arjona, who has the word “desire” inked across her throat, said she can’t remember if there was even one female artist at Bodytech when she started as a receptionist in 2014. When she filled out the application for the position, there was a caveat at the bottom that said getting the job in no way guaranteed an apprenticeship. At first, Arjona felt discouraged. “But I thought, at least if I was around it [tattooing], that’d be something,” she said. She worked as a receptionist at Bodytech for two and a half years when the owner Wayne Lessard took her on as an apprentice. “I kind of think I was always supposed to tattoo,” the 25-year-old artist said. “Really, nothing in life is permanent – like, feelings aren’t. But a tattoo is, and I like that.” Bodytech is now a notable example of gender parity in the local scene. There are now five women tattooing there, nearly equal to the number of men. In fact, Lizzie Barreto, another artist at Bodytech, said she came to Gainesville specifically to be around women tattoo artists. The 23-year-old got her start by hanging around tattoo shops in Inverness, Fla., during her sophomore year of high school. But she still feels like she faces some pushback from customers. “Sometimes guys come in and they say they ‘wound up with me,’” Barreto said. “Afterwards, they kinda apologize because they
Katie Ryan at Death or Glory Tattoo Parlour, where she's consistently booked.
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realize that I’m just as good as the next person." Barreto said she thinks the combination of barriers to entry regardless of gender, plus the few holdouts who are still opposed to female artists, is what’s keeping more women from pursuing tattooing. Arjona noted that the equality at Bodytech isn’t present everywhere in the world of tattooing or even in Gainesville’s tattooing scene. Most shops in town don’t have any women artists at all. “There’s still a lot of old schoolers who don’t think girls should be tattooing,” she said. Katie Ryan, who tattoos at Death or Glory Tattoo Parlour, said she’s never experienced sexism herself as a tattoo artist in Gainesville. But she pointed to a campaign started in 2015 by Salt Lake City tattoo artist Ashley Love called Still Not Asking For It, which aims to address the “lack of true sympathy for sexual assault and rape survivors” in the tattoo community, according to its website. Each year, the proceeds from tattoo flash fundraisers at parlors across the country go to organizations that help survivors of sexual assault. Ryan has a devoted following of nearly 7,000 on Instagram, where she posts tattoos she’s done, like a smiling Labrador framed by leaves and acorns, or a gravestone that says “dig me out.” She knew she wanted to become a tattoo artist since she started getting inked at 16 years old, and after she graduated high school in 2008, she apprenticed at Endless Summer Tattoo in Cocoa Beach. Now 28 years old, Ryan is consistently booked at Death or Glory. “Surround yourself with safe people,” Ryan said as advice to women interested in tattooing. “It always helps to work with other female artists.” Helm now takes art classes at Santa Fe College and continues to practice tattooing at home on fake skin. She currently works at a local restaurant making desserts and designing cakes, but she keeps an eye out for opportunities to get back in the game. “I have nothing but love and respect for the shops that I’ve worked at,” she said. “I appreciate all the opportunities I got along the way.” Following her experience, Helm advises women who are interested in tattooing to speak up and persevere. “Have a hard head,” she said. “My voice has changed a lot. I had to grow a backbone so that they knew I was there.” •
“There’s still a lot of old schoolers who don’t think girls should be tattooing,” Arjona said.
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Gwen Staples Gwen is 35 years old. She spent four months in the pregnancy dorm at Lowell. She said it was common for classifications officers to propose women put their babies up for adoption in exchange for commissary.
hen I left county jail, we were transported in a van to Lowell. I had a meal at 3 a.m. in the county jail. We arrived at Lowell compound [at] about 11 a.m. in the morning. The next time I had a meal from 3 a.m. was almost 7 p.m. I won't forget it because it was hot dogs and I was so excited because I was so hungry. And I'm like, oh, thank God, this is something I can eat. But before I even ate, they had us sitting in this intake area. You know, standard prison intake: you strip, you squat, you cough. You do paperwork, you do triage and blood work. It's standard procedure. Then we had to go back and forth to these buildings and do a psych evaluation and different things like that, all in the middle of a major thunderstorm, talking thunder and lightning. And it was me, and there was another pregnant girl and then a Y.O., which is a youth offender. I was six months pregnant, and the other girl was probably about the same, she was maybe a little further along, maybe about seven months. They had us running across the compound in the pouring rain and thunder and lightning. And I mean, it was like, oh, my gosh, what if I fall? And they said, if you fall or if you lag behind, you're gonna get shot. And I said what? And the sergeant that was escorting us around the compound, pointed up to the guard tower that sits right in the middle of the annex. And he said, ‘You see that tower? There's guards with guns, and if you lag behind or you fall, you're gonna get shot.’ And I'm like, ‘oh, my god. This is day one.’ … I remember laying down as I was sitting against the wall on a cement bench. And I'm like, I just need to lay down for a minute. And no sooner then I laid down, I heard a door shut and I didn't even think anything of it. I mean, it's almost a 16-hour day. I'm just, you know, I'm just laying down in medical waiting for count so we can go to our dorms still soaking wet and I mean, like dripping soaking wet. And a sergeant, and I don't remember his name, but he was tall and he was thin, and he came and stood over top of me, and he swung an umbrella, a soaking wet umbrella, so hard that I heard the whip of it right past my ear. It hit the wall behind my head and water flew all over me, and he said, ‘inmate, get the fuck up.’ Excuse my language. And he said, ‘if you don't get the f— up right now, you're going to confinement. You don't lay down in medical.’ And I looked at him and I said, ‘Are you serious?’ And he looked at me and pulled out his handcuffs. And so I sat up and he said, ‘Not a good way to start your stay, inmate’ and he walked away laughing. And I'm just like,’ oh boy, this is going to be awesome.’ You know, very sarcastically. This is not going to be awesome.”
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LOWELL Former inmates of the largest women’s prison in the country are speaking out about its inhumane conditions in their own words.
BY SIRENE DAGHER & MOLLY MINTA ILLUSTRATIONS BY INGRID WU
owell Correctional Institution, located 35 minutes south of Gainesville on a backcountry road in Marion County that runs parallel to Interstate 75, is the largest women’s prison in the country. In late 2018, after years of news reports that Lowell harbors a culture of sexual assault and abuse, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into possible constitutional violations at the prison. About 100 people — some former inmates wearing shirts with “I Survived Lowell” written in glitter — showed up to the DOJ’s first community meeting in Ocala. Many of the women are turning to advocacy after their experience at the prison. In conversations with The Fine Print, former inmates recounted details of systematic corruption and fraud, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, inadequate medical treatment and sanitation and lingering symptoms of PTSD. •
Debra is 47 years old. She spent early two decades years in prison, most of it at Lowell.
t’s probably wrong, but I make sure that everybody knows that I am right out of prison. It drives my mom crazy, but I think it’s really the only thing that explains me because I did so many years in prison. They say when you do drugs and stuff, it stunts your growth. Prison definitely stopped me from maturing like I would have if I were out here. I definitely feel like I am an immature 51-year-old person. I don’t feel like I’m 51 years old. I don’t feel like I’m on the same level as my friends from high school. I’m in touch with many, many, many of them, and I feel like I’m their little sister. Definitely stunted like mental growth, for sure, so I tell everybody that I’m right out of prison, so maybe they’ll understand me. If they know I just came from prison, they’re not gonna be mad if I tell them, listen: Don’t be mad about your job. At least you have one.’ Or ‘so what you got stuck in traffic?’ I didn’t see a car for so many years. I almost got hit by a car because I walked straight into the street because I don’t have to look for cars in prison. You forget so much stuff. If I don’t make it clear to everybody around me that I just got out of prison, they’re not gonna understand why I look at a flat-screen TV, and I’m in total awe because it’s hanging on a wall. Or if you tell me I can copy and paste all the stuff on the computer or ask the computer questions, and it’ll talk back to me, how I can either look dumbfounded because I have no idea what you’re talking about or I’m just in total awe. So that’s just the first thing I announce myself as. It might not be the right thing, but that’s the first thing that comes out of my mouth.
Diadenis Suarez Diadenis is 44 years old. She spent nearly 22 years in the Florida prison system. Today she’s an activist for criminal justice reform and works as an administrative coordinator at an ink manufacturing company.
Tammy Seely Tammy is 58 years old. She spent four years at Lowell.
ttorneys have absolutely no idea what goes on once you go behind the bars, once you go and become part of the DOC. I was still in a high level of pain from the accident that I was in, and they were like, ‘No, there's doctors, and you’ll be fine, and you'll get care. And you can deal with the death of this person,’ and all these different kinds of things, [which] again, they have no idea. What I walked into was, for lack of a better way to say it, a totalitarian government. They are their own government in there. Especially at Lowell. They do their own thing. They make their own rules. They polish a turd when the powers that be come around. When the people above them show up, they expect the very people that they've neglected or abused to help cover up the fact that they're not doing what's expected of them every single day. Abuse comes in so many different forms: older people were neglected. People with disabilities were ridiculed. If you happen to have been cute, then there was interest shown in you by one or two officers or sergeants. And then the other ones treated you like crap because of the interest the other ones were showing you. I don't think there's too many people that aren’t at risk in some capacity or another. You know, the military breaks you down in order to build you back up in their image. This doesn’t. This just breaks you down. There's no support system. There's no true help. Being a commonsense person, I realize that, you know, officers or not, I can tell you this — I'll never go back to prison again, ever, whether it be because I'm good, and I don't break the law, or because I'd probably kill myself first.
ne of my first DRs [disciplinary reports] was because an officer told me to take my clothes off for him, and I wouldn’t. And he wrote me a D.R. for disobeying a verbal order. If an officer gives you an order, you have to do it. It's rule No. 1 in the rulebook. You are to follow any verbal order given to you by a staff member. Well, there's such a thing as a lawful order, and then there's an unlawful order, and technically, if an officer gives you an unlawful order, which is like, ‘Okay, have sex with me,’ then you don't have to do that. Correct? But this was back in the early, you know, in the ‘90s, when I first went prison, and it was the ‘good ‘ol boy’ system. And I went in front of the captain, and I told the captain: ‘He's taking me to jail because I wouldn't take my clothes off in front of him.’ And the captain looked at me and said, ‘Did he tell you to change your clothes?’ And I said ‘Yes he did.’ And he was like, ‘And you didn't do it?’ And I said, ‘I told him to go get a female sergeant.’ If you want an officer to watch me, then get a female officer. He says, ‘He told you change and you refused to change, you’re going to jail.’ And so they sent me to [solitary] confinement. And I spent 65 days in confinement because they found other reasons to write me a D.R. because they were mad. And it was because I wouldn't take my clothes off in front of the officer.
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Kelly is 31 years old. She spent nearly five years at Lowell.
here was one time I was in [the] dorm on the main unit, and there was this older lady who I guess had Alzheimer's or something like that. She was probably in her 60s. She had came from the streets, and she was, I think, a streetwalker before going to prison. One morning she has missed pill line or something like that, and she ended up having a seizure. The officers didn't call medical for her; they just let her lay there in her bed after she had a seizure. She had urinated all over herself, and they just left her there. Women that have gone to prison before, they have C’s, D’s and F’s on their tags. And then they get to a point where they have all these medical issues. When it's time to help them, nobody does because all they see is a number, how many times they’ve been to prison. The first time you go to prison, you get a zero. The second time you get a A, and then it would be a slash and [inaudible] number. They don't treat you like you’re human when you go there. And then, you know, you're deprived of your basic needs. God forbid you ever need anything from them because it's just a mission to get anything from them — simple things, like a pack of Tylenol when you have a headache or sanitary napkins. Or just the way that some of the male officers will talk to you: They automatically assume that if you're in prison — you made one, simple mistake — that you’re trash. I have been called everything but my name over the my whole time there. I don't remember really ever being called Kelly. It was either Rowland or — excuse my language — bitch, slut, whore. Things like that. .
Amanda is 27 years old. She spent one year and a day at Lowell.
o, we were walking to lock and the officer was holding my sleeve. And he was kind of pushing me along, and he pulled my arm back, and his hand slipped from my sleeve. And so I didn't do anything. I just turned and looked at him because I already knew what was coming. And he grabs my shirt by my shoulder area and he grabbed my arm and he kicked my legs out. Handcuffs behind my back, kicked my legs out. And then I was still standing, so he was like, you know, ‘What the hell's going on?’ Like basically, wondering why I didn't drop. And I brought myself down to the ground, and I laid down. I got to my knees and he shoved me down. But he kicked me so hard that I have nerve damage in the front of my leg. There was an indent from his boot. I wrote statements. I wrote grievances. I wrote medical because when I came to prison, I had just gotten into a car accident in which I fractured my neck. And when he took me down to the ground, the first thing he did was put his knee in my back, and his arm, all his weight, into my neck. And I asked him, and I said, ‘Listen, I have a fractured neck. Could you shift your weight?’ And when the captain came out. I asked the captain, ‘Could you please have your officer shift his weight from my neck? I have a fractured neck. I was just in a car accident.’ And the captain told me to ‘stop resisting.’ Now, mind you, I’m handcuffed behind my back, and I’m lying on the ground. I'm not moving. I can't go anywhere. He says to stop resisting, or I'll be lucky if his officer doesn't snap it.
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Cory is 37 years old. She spent four and a half years at Lowell. She now works for a domestic violence nonprofit.
t's like going to war. We try to erase it as much as possible and move forward, but people, people don't understand. I got into a relationship, and he would roll over to cuddle in the middle of the night, and I would jump out of the bed and and start hyperventilating and crying, because it's hard, you know, to cope. You work it out, man. It's not easy when you're that damaged. I came home and I went immediately to my father's house, which was a bad idea. And I was standing in front of the kitchen cabinets, looking at the dishes, and he’s looking at me like, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I don't know which dish to use. I’ve been eating out of the same one for so many years.’ It's all these choices and it's hard. It was a big adjustment, going to the grocery store, or driving a car. I would pull into Publix and couldn't get out of the car. It's taking a long time and a little medication. There is hope. There is hope and there is a possibility for change. And some people let this define them, and that's where they make the mistake. It's very hard when you go into a job interview, and that question is right there: ‘Have you ever had adjudication withheld, have you ever been convicted of a felony and misdemeanor?’ That opens up an array of stuff that prohibits you from finding gainful employment. If you tell the truth, you’re a scumbag. If you lie, you’re a liar and a scumbag. I would really like to see that stricken off of employment applications. But I believe that we paid our debt to society by doing the time, but we still pay it out here, you know? Regardless of what people think, we still pay it. It’s very hard.
Crystal Chisholm Crystal is 27 years old. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison at the age of 17 before being re-sentenced and released after almost 10 years at Lowell. She’s now a leader in her community supporting people who struggle with addiction and is publishing an autobiography.
Jennifer Pinkney Jennifer is 35 years old. She spent four and a half years at Lowell.
used to mark my days down on the calendar, just like number down my days and how much I got left. They got down to 30 days. That's where the trouble really hit. They were telling me they could put me in confinement where I won’t go home on my release date. I did 30 days [in confinement] one time and I did three days one time… I’d rather done the rest of my time [in confinement]. The rest of my time until I went home. Because when you in confinement, it’s away from all the general population. When you’re in general population, they can really do anything to you. In confinement, they gotta ask permission from the warden to pop your doors if you’re not coming out with a child.
'm blessed I don't have to wake up to those people anymore. I mean, I'm so lucky to be out honestly, you know. It gets overwhelming. I still cry about it. But it makes me want to speak more about what's going on. Because now that I'm out here, because I grew up in the system, I knew nothing but prison. I've never lived a real life. Now I'm out here, and I'm learning how to really live, and how to have a real job and how to pay real bills and everything like that. It’s overwhelming. But it's also a wonderful feeling because I made it. I did it. I conquered the demons. That’s how I look at Lowell: It's nothing but a place full of demons. I mean, it's corrupted. Lowell is corruption. If a person is being sent to Lowell, and they don't have a strong mind, they're not going to make it in there. They're going to fall right into the system and into the hands of nasty officers. My thing is, is I would just tell people, you got to stay away from the officers. They’re just nasty. They’re cruel. They’re mean. They'll pick fights with you. They'll actually fight you. They don't care if you're a woman or not. It's not a system. Honestly, a lot of people, all of us felt like we were just human housing. This is just one big human warehouse where we were all kind of just subjected to being treated like trash. We were nothing. We were not even a part of the world.
Tracy is 47 years old. Tracy works as a hairstylist. She got her license in 2003 at the cosmetology program at Lowell.
y teacher Linda Thompson was the most amazing teacher. I didn't think so at the time. But now looking back, the things that I learned — her holding me back when she did and pushing me when she needed to — was probably the biggest blessing I ever had because she helped me get a career. Lowell fought me on it the whole way and fought her on it. We definitely had to keep the cosmetology program going, and to be able to go to our classes was a very big challenge because, as I said, they fought us on it. … They would say that we couldn't go to class because an inspection was coming, and they needed all inmates to clean up their mess and cover up the bad things that were happening. They’d have us scrubbing things and cleaning things on our hands and knees. There's been many times that we've had human feces all over us from cleaning up because they have a pipe burst. She would go to the higher-ups and the warden and say, ‘You know, my girls need to be in class. This is what they're there for’ — basically threatened to expose them if they didn't leave us out of their coverups and let us stay in class. She put herself out there to keep us in class and make us be able to take the state board. None of us appreciated it back then, but we appreciated it afterwards. Or at least I know I did. And like, when I took my state board, and she was getting ready to tell everybody — and I get choked up every time I think about it — our results, she called us all into the office, and she sat there for a minute. And then she looked at me first and said, ‘Tracy. I knew you could do it.’ I was the first one. Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 27
PRAIRIE A creative writing and arts journal brought to you by The Fine Print. Deadline: March 10 email@example.com
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Not What You're Expecting Behind-the-scenes at Gainesville's crisis pregnancy centers. BY ASHLEY LAZARSKI ILLUSTRATIONS BY ZACH GASPARINI
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ocated in an unassuming shopping plaza off SW 2nd Ave just before it becomes Newberry Road, is A Woman’s Answer Medical Center. Inside the brick storefront, angels stare unblinkingly from behind the reception desk. A miniature Noah’s ark perches on a table nearby. Two women who look to be mother-and-daughter sit in the waiting area. Despite its name, you won’t find any medical doctors at the center. That’s because A Woman’s Answer, which opened its doors 10 years ago, is a crisis pregnancy center (CPCs), a term for a usually faith-based clinic whose “mission is typically to prevent abortions by persuading women that adoption or parenting is a better option,” according to the American Medical Association. Since Roe v. Wade struck down criminalization of abortion in 1973, the number of CPCs in
operation across the U.S. has ballooned. In Florida for example, there are approximately 105 CPCs for 71 abortion clinics, according to the Guttmacher Institute. And A Woman’s Answer is not alone in Alachua County. National Women’s Liberation has identified two other centers: Catholic Charities — which runs a clinic called Caring Choices Pregnancy and Adoption Services located in its building at 1701 NE 9th Street — and Sira, which is next to Planned Parenthood on NW 13th Street. Activists say Sira and A Woman Answer both appear like they would offer abortions. The former advertises vague “pregnancy options,” the latter “life-affirming options.” Sira acknowledged it was a crisis pregnancy center, while A Woman’s Answer told The Fine Print [they weren’t familiar with the term “CPC,”] even though their website
A Woman's Answer Medical Center. Photos by Noah Davalos.
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states, “Please note we are a crisis pregnancy center, not an abortion clinic.” A Woman’s Answer contended they do not provide incorrect information about abortion. Caring Choices, on the other hand, is adamant they do not offer or appear to offer abortions. As well, explicit references to abortion are not made in any of their printed or online material. Instead, the center advertises “life-affirming choices.” “We tell them up front that we are not an abortion clinic, and we do not refer for abortions,” said Kayla Dever, a pregnancy counselor at Caring Choices. “But if they want information about it, we’re happy to talk to them about abortion. We do not intentionally spread misinformation about abortion.” A tour of Sira and A Woman’s Answer, as well as a review of its website, show the clinics do promulgate a range of misinformation, from incorrect information about abortion to spun facts that exaggerate the risks associated with the procedure. For instance, A Woman’s Answer claims on its website that abortion can cause a host of physical and psychological risks, such as “damage to the womb or cervix,” “excessive bleeding,” as well as alcohol and drug abuse, “relationship problems,” eating disorders and death. While these risks are exaggerated, it is possible for abortion to cause damage to the womb or excessive bleeding. But medical experts say the changes of health risks like these are incredibly rare. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “serious complications occur in fewer than 1 out of 100 first trimester abortions and approximately 1 out of every 50 late term abortions.” Activists say that to present the potential risks of abortion without this context is misleading. Erica Bales, who works on National Women’s Liberation’s Abortion and Birth Control Committee, said crisis pregnancy centers "are dangerous because they take away people's right to make fully informed health care decisions for themselves and their families." When asked about these claims, Carol Cullen, the office manager, said A Woman's Answer will provide information about abortion to anyone who is curious and that “we do not intentionally mislead anyone.” They view their mission as spreading the word about alternatives to abortion.
Sira is located next to the Planned Parenthood on NW 13th Street.
“We live in a world where not a lot of options are talked about,” Cullen said. “People are only brought up with abortion as an option and haven’t been taught about adoption, single parenting, married parenting. So we try to balance the scales a little bit.” Unlike legitimate abortion clinics, CPCs receive both direct and indirect funding from the state of Florida. For years, Bales said that proceeds from the bright yellow “Choose Life" license plates have gone to the crisis pregnancy centers across the state.
single parents receive ten credits that they can spend on baby clothes and supplies at the clinic’s on-site store. Parents who have a partner will receive twenty credits. After ultrasound appointments, Cullen said patients receive pictures of their baby, along with a blanket, hat and booties, if they choose to take them. Volunteers can also give patients tips like chewing ginger for nausea in lieu of medical advice. “I have a lot of grandma-wannabe volunteers,” said Shirley Lane, the executive
Erica Bales, who works on National Women’s Liberation’s Abortion and Birth Control Committee, said crisis pregnancy centers "are dangerous because they take away people's right to make fully informed health care decisions for themselves and their families." Then in March 2018, Rick Scott signed a bill into law which provided CPCs with statefunding through the Florida Department of Health. This funding is contingent on a few factors, such as policies that are supposed to prohibit CPC employees or volunteers from evangelizing or praying with clients, but activists who have gone to these clinics say this often happens anyway. A Woman’s Answer said they receive around $1,641 a month from the government. This funding goes to services such as “Earn While You Learn,” in which a volunteer will sit with an expecting client to watch videos about what the first two years of a child’s life might look like. In exchange,
director at A Woman’s Answer. ira was incorporated in 1974. The clinic, which is now located in a nondescript house right next to Planned Parenthood, calls itself Gainesville’s “compassionate pregnancy center.” Women at the clinic will be tended to by “client advocates” not medical professionals,] though Katherine Gratto, the director, said this depended on the client. Despite advertising “pregnancy options” on a signboard on NW 13th Street, Sira’s commitment of care states that “we do not offer, recommend, or refer for abortions or abortifacients, but are committed to offering accurate information about abortion procedures and risks.”
During an appointment, Sira — which is Arabic for “life” or “journey” — gives women seeking an abortion a variety of leaflets with information. One such leaflet, titled “Before You Decide,” walks clients through the stages of fetal development, and the side effects of emergency contraception and abortion at all terms, with an emphasis on the “risks” of each method. Pictures of baby toes and downtrodden women dot the pamphlet. In one instance, the pamphlet cites research that couples who choose abortion are at increased risk for problems in their relationship. This appears to be a case of chicken-and-egg: According to a 2013 article in BCM Womens Health, data from a five-year study found that a pre-existing relationship problem was one of the top three reasons women sought to terminate their pregnancy. When asked whether Sira misleads women about abortion, executive director Katherine Gratto pointed to the back of the pamphlet, which lists five pages of sources. “We can’t be everything to everybody,” she said. “But we try to do our best to help people with their needs.” In response to hearing stories from women who say they were provided with misinformation or felt pressured into continuing their pregnancies, NWL has held pickets outside Sira and hosted phone banks to spread the word. They’ve also created a protest kit so that other members in the community can organize their own event. Bales said if CPCs were straightforward about their mission, they might be less problematic. Instead, they often purport to offer healthcare when they really don't. Jennifer Boylan visited Sira multiple times when she was pregnant in 2018. Though she went for an ultrasound, she said her visit was more in the spirit of “we're really excited that you’re pregnant, and we want you to check it out with us for a while.” About halfway through her meeting, Boylan said a volunteer started counseling her on religion, even though she did not request it. “If I had to summarize my experience, I would describe it as very friendly older ladies with smiles that told me that if I got an abortion, which I never said I wanted to get, I would go to hell,” Boylan said. • Katie Frost, Molly Minta and Federic Pohls contributed writing and fact checking to this report. Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 31
C U LT U R A L M A R K S Part two in our series on the far-right looks at the American Guard, an SPLC-designated hate group with key members who live in Gainesvilleâ€™s backyard.
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From left to right: Ryan Ramsey, unknown, Brendan McCarthy and Ryan Hansen. Photos taken from the Florida chapter's Facebook page, 17 Florida, and member's social media.
t was June 12, 2017, and thousands in Orlando were commemorating the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting on a hot and overcast day. Among the familiar, middling milieu of run-of-the-mill Trump supporters, Tea Partiers and white supremacists, a new group was picketing on a street corner in the margins of the city. Members repped black shirts with a red, white and blue patch in the center and the words “come and take it” printed in white letters underneath. They were not there to mourn, but to warn each other and passersby about the “dangers of Islam.” A tall, heavily tattooed white man who was wearing dark sunglasses and a black shirt that shouted “Tribe Matters” in bold white letters gets ready for his speech. He had come from Starke, Florida, just 30 minutes north of Gainesville. As a man in front of him held up a megaphone, he brought the receiver to his mouth. “Well, uh, made it by the skin of my teeth,” he says, rocking on his heels and checking his notes. “Thanks everybody for showing up. My name is Ryan Ramsey, I’m the Florida vice president for the American Guard.” Just a few months prior, Ramsey and two other men, Brien James and Joshua Long, left the white nationalist movement to start the American Guard, a fraternal organization that advocates for “constitutional nationalism,” an “America First” ideology they claim is inclusive of race, sex and class. Despite their pasts, Ramsey and other members vehemently insist online and in conversations that they no longer believe in white nationalism. Their remaining ties to the hate groups are purely
strategic, Ramsey insisted, a way to help their friends leave the “toxic” movement. “We’re definitely not the alt-right, just for the record,” he said. But not everyone was convinced. In 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which documents extremist groups, included the Guard on its list of general hate groups, citing the histories of its founding members, particularly James, who was deeply involved with the skinhead movement in Indiana and has bragged about being charged for attempted murder and hate crimes. In Gainesville, during the race for the local soil and water conservation district last year, Mayor Lauren Poe endorsed Kaithleen Hernandez over Libertarian Chris Rose II, citing his ties to the Guard in North Floridaj. And researchers of the far-right are watching. They say the Guard is best thought of as an “alt-light” organization, an umbrella term for a patchwork of commentators and activists spanning the Proud Boys, InfoWars and Milo Yiannopoulos that lacks the ideological consistency and the extremist positions of the alt-right. “Yes, some of them are former Nazis, and they may still be white nationalists,” said Spencer Sunshine, an anti-fascist researcher who tracks the far-right. “But it’s a special kind of white nationalism that will work in a group with people of color. But why is this really any better?” What makes the Guard unique from other alt-light organizations is that it’s the only group that came out of the skinhead movement to end up in the alt-light. Its members Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 33
FEATURE tend to be older and therefore retain little semblance of Millennial culture. The Guard isn’t active on Twitter. They have accumulated tattoos of valknuts –– an old Norse symbol associated with the god Odin –– swastikas and Iron Crosses on their necks, shoulders and shaved heads. In the dead heat of Florida summer, they will still don thick blue jeans, heavy boots and leather jackets. “It’s a watered-down Nazi skinhead gang,” Sunshine said. “You can smell it off them.”
he American Guard traces its roots to one of the most vicious and well-organized Nazi groups that emerged from the ‘80s skinhead scene: the Hammerskins. When they formed in 1988, the Hammerskins immediately gained a reputation for violence. That year, its members chased and beat blacks and Hispanics to keep them out of Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, and vandalized a synagogue and Jewish community center by breaking its windows, smashing the doors and spraypainting swastikas, according to the Anti-Defamation League. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the group fire-bombed a minority-owned nightclub and assaulted its patrons. By the late 1990s, the Hammerskin Nation, as its members were collectively known, had racked up dozens of charges for attempted murder. Brien James, one of the founding members of the Guard, boasts about his part in the violence. In 2000, he allegedly punched and nearly stomped a man to death at a party for refusing to Sieg Heil. “I have been tried for attempted murder and multiple batteries and hate crimes,” he said. “My JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] file is a mile long.”
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The Hammerskins soon buckled under bankruptcy, and in 2003, James and a number of members and associates of the dwindling Nation started their own skinhead gang, the Vinlanders Social Club, a reference The crossedto the 11th century Viking cleavers on the colonists. In a 2007 post on the patch are a Vindlanders website, James wrote reference to Bill that the organization was created the Butcher. “because we were disappointed with the movement that we had dedicated our young lives to,” and that it aimed to “separate itself from the racist movement.” Yet the members of the organization continued to participate in racial violence. In 2010, two Vinlanders in Arizona were indicted for the drive-by slaying of a white woman who was walking at night with her African-American boyfriend, according to the SPLC. Like the Vinlanders, the American Guard does not bill itself as a racist organization. But perhaps unlike the Vinlanders, the founding members are adamant that the Guard — itself an offshoot of another group that James founded, a branch of a Finnish anti-immigration group called the Soldiers of Odin — is inclusive. Ramsey said he and James were in the process of becoming disillusioned with the skinhead movement when they met around 2013, and realized they no longer thought “white unity” was the solution. Ramsey and other members view the Guard as, “giving people a way to like, leave that shit and do something positive and productive,” he said. Instead of ethno-nationalism, the Guard advocates for “constitutional nationalism.” Anyone can join the Guard, so long as they are an American citizen, and pledge their allegiance and life to the “four pillars.” These include regarding the Constitution as “the highest authority in the land”; identifying as a “nationalist”; believing that any American citizen should be free to do whatever they like, except be a Marxist; and promising to spread these beliefs to every U.S. citizen as the “path to restoring America to a strong, functional and free society.” “The idea is to valorize this national identity and have it open to all the people in this country,” Ramsey said. “There are so many people I’ve met that believe in those four principals, even if they might have a different faith or a different kind of spinoff, like maybe you’re a car guy or I’m a motorcycle guy.” Furthermore, the Guard views itself as waging a war against “cultural Marxism,” a term that can refer to anything from anti-racism and “P.C. culture” to
Ryan Ramsey lives in Starke with his wife and children. An Odin's Cross is tattooed on his head, a valknut on his throat. globalization or that guy you just don’t like very much. Ramsey says this struck a chord with people. By the end of the first year, the Guard had chapters in 25 states. Today, it’s grown to 30 states with a couple hundred members. Members of the Guard long to return what they imagine was a simpler time in American history, when everybody left each other alone. Even the organization’s structure, inspired by the AntiFederalist papers, is steeped in an obsession with a country long gone. Each state has a cabinet, which is comprised of a president, vice president and sergeant-at-arms. Each state gets one vote in the Congress, but they are primarily autonomous. Potential members must last a six-month probationary period. Ramsey said this weeds out anyone who isn’t motivated to make a change in their community, which the Guard views as the main vehicle to deliver its beliefs to the masses. “A guardsman is basically a person who — I hate to use the word ‘community organizer’ because it invokes Obama or something — but that’s pretty much what the template would be,” Ramsey said. During the swearing-in ceremony, which takes place at night with torches, members take an oath of service on their patch and on steel. The patch itself is a red, white and blue shield with the slogan "Come and take it" emblazoned over two-crossed cleavers, a reference to William Poole, also known as “Bill the Butcher,” the founder of a violent 19th century street gang who led the nativist “Know Nothing” movement. In fact, the Guard even takes its name from Martin Scorsees's "Gangs of New York," a fictional retelling of Bill the Butcher's life. Toward the end of the movie, when the warring factions of the Five Points are gathered, one of the gangs announces themselves as the "American Guard." But Ramsey insists that people read into the reference too much. The Guard wasn’t trying to do anything but pull from pop culture. “It lends itself to good memes,” he said.
ack in Orlando, a stormcloud moves in behind Ramsey as he launches into his speech. He begins to rant about “a subhuman Muslim who committed mass murder at the Pulse nightclub.” He accuses “social justice warriors,” who he says are the “worshippers of the false gods of political correctness and cultural Marxism,” of being accomplices to Omar Mateen, the Pulse Nightclub shooter. “The militant followers of that pedophile
Mohammed yell ‘death to America’ in public,’” he said. “We know they hate us – at least they’re honest. But the left-wing P.C. crowd will do anything to apologize for the enemy.” (Someone in the crowd says, “boo.”) “They call us ignorant, but they haven’t bothered to read the Quran,” Ramsey added a few seconds later. “I happen to own one, and I haven’t even lit it on fire yet.” (“Burn it!” another man shouted.) The driving force behind the Guard’s Florida chapter, Ramsey is charismatic and surprisingly friendly for someone who is associated with alleged murderers. When he talks, the 41-year-old is often so eager, he interrupts his own sentences. Though his Facebook says he’s from the Faroe Islands, Ramsey grew up in Los Angeles in the 1990s. He graduated high school in 1995. A year later, radicalized by his impression of the L.A. riots, Waco and the arrest of Randy Weaver, he decided to join the Navy, which stationed him in Jacksonville. Over the next decade, Ramsey would become involved in Jacksonville open-carry organizations. This led him to the Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF), which he joined in 2015 when he moved to Starke, in Bradford County, with his wife, Brandi Hicks. A year later, Ramsey said, he was unanimously elected to the party’s executive committee. (Another Guardsman, Ryan Hansen, who lives in Palm Coast, chairs the Veterans Caucus.) Ramsey’s spare time goes to organizing the Guard and running his blog and Facebook page, the Libertarian Heathen, which he uses to recruit people to the Guard and spread right-wing conspiracy theories. Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 35
“Yes, some of them are former Nazis, and they may still be white
Spencer Sunshine, an anti-fascist researcher who tracks the far-right. “But it’s a special kind of white nationalism that will work in a group with people of color. But why is this really any better? He frequently writes of his Nordic roots and rails against Marxism. In June 2017, Ramsey conducted an interview with Dan Roodt, the author of a book called “The Scourge of the ANC” who has advocated for white separatism in South Africa. Roodt claimed on the Daily Show in 2010 that “black men have 20 percent more testosterone than white men” and “that 99 percent of all crime is committed by young, black men.” Then, a year later, he wrote a post that began: “Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela, you acheived [sic] your life’s goal of Communism and Genocide.” But Ramsey is hardly the most notable member of the Florida Guard. That honor is reserved for one of the founding members of the chapter, Austin Gillespie, also known as Augustus Sol Invictus, who ran in the LPF primary for U.S. Senate in 2016 and once made national headlines for having dismembered a goat.
t all started after a post on Invictus’ Senate campaign website, titled “A Declaration of the Failings of the US Government,” accused the federal government of abandoning “its eugenics program & elitist mindset in favor of a decadent ideology that rejects the beauty
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of strength and demands the exponential growth of the weakest, the least intelligent, and the most diseased.” Then, the SPLC uncovered a letter Invictus wrote in 2013 that some recipients allegedly found so disturbing, they contacted the FBI. In the letter, Invictus renounced his law degree, U.S. citizenship and all earthly possessions, and vowed to “disappear into the Wilderness.” “I will return bearing revolution, or I will not return at all,” he wrote. When he did return from a hitchhike across the country to Orlando, his hometown, Invictus filmed a video of himself drinking the blood of a dismembered goat. He claimed it was ritual sacrifice common of his religion, paganism, but the Ordo Templi Orientis in Orlando didn’t seem to agree, and he was kicked out. Once Invictus’s past was unearthed, the primary race imploded. Rank-and-file members of the party were horrified and outraged. The chairman, Adrian Wyllie, resigned in protest after the executive committee, including Ramsey, refused to remove Invictus from the party. Determined not to let a white supremacist represent him, Paul Stanton, a computer programmer and Iraq War veteran from DeLand, decided to run against Invictus. “That’s when I started to gain the instant ire of him and Ryan Ramsey and several other people who would be associated with the farright of the Libertarian Party,” he said. Though Stanton ended up winning the primary by 50 points, he said it was hard to campaign without the support of the state party apparatus, which wouldn’t give him money. And it was difficult to create excitement around the campaign when Invictus’ supporters would go on “crazy rants, conspiracy theories, cursing, all sorts of things,” like calling him “Kim Jong Un” because he is Asian. He said he started to receive threats like, “you’re gonna need a good dental plan.” “Then they’d say, ‘oh, I was just talking about how his teeth were messed up,” Stanton said. “There was always a backpedal involved.” In an August 2016 blog post titled “Who is Paul Stanton? Who is behind him?,” Ramsey claimed that Stanton’s father had been sent to federal prison in 2012 for racketeering. He also published addresses for Stanton’s sister and mother. “If this was your normal keyboard jockey, it wouldn’t be concerning,” Stanton said. “But this is the lieutenant of Brien James. This is a real hate group. … The Vinlanders have dozens of murders attributed to them. That’s not within the realm of acceptable.” Invictus would help Ramsey start the Florida Guard in early 2017, but he was kicked out less than a year later after
FEATURE An Iron Cross is tattooed on Brendan McCarthy's head. In the Facebook comments on this picture, McCarthy wrote, " I had a FBI file on me well before I turned 20. ... Labeled domestic terrorist before I had even heard the term domestic terrorist.”
the deadly Unite the Right rally, where he was a headline speaker. Two months after Charlottesville, Stanton resigned from the party after a motion to suspend Ramsey for advocating violence failed to reach a two-thirds majority. Nearly two years later, Ramsey insists still that Stanton was sent by “left-wing weirdos” to infiltrate the party. “That’s just common knowledge,” he said when asked for evidence. “He was an antifa person, and he was sent there.” Though the Guard may purport to be inclusive, Stanton pointed out that in practice their positions aren’t that different from their white nationalist associates. “Instead of overtly drawing the lines around certain ethnic groups that they don’t like, they more institutionally draw those lines,” he said. “They don’t hate Mexicans because they’re not white. They hate Mexicans because they were born in a different country.”
t’s late at night in mid-2016 in North Florida. Ramsey and another man stand face to face, holding hands, their profiles illuminated by a torch in between them. Cicadas can be heard in the background as the man on the right, Thor’s hammer around his neck gleaming in the fire, begins solemnly: . “I, Brendan McCarthy, enter into a voluntary period of probation and service to the American Guard,” he says. “I swear to do all that it asks of me and to support this brotherhood with my life if necessary in the hopes of becoming a made member. I take this oath on steel. May it never be broken.” He looks at the camera. The two men embrace. Ramsey says the past year and a half has been slow for the Florida Guard and rocky for him. Though the organization was active in attending rallies across the state, like the “March Against Sharia” and a rally for the Confederate statues in St. Augustine, between the Libertarian infighting, his newborn
son dying in late 2017 and a motorcycle wreck, it wasn’t really able to grow. Now, Ramsey says he’s making up for lost time. He anticipates that the Guard will see a significant amount of growth in the next six months, particularly in the largest cities in central and north Florida. In Gainesville, he expects to patch McCarthy, who has bragged on Facebook that he had “an FBI file on me well before I turned 20,” and two or three more members in the coming months. “In my experience, once you get a couple guys in a city, then you’ll have 10 or 12 the next year,” Ramsey said. In the coming year, the Florida Guard plans to protest in support of open-carry laws and to start working on community service projects, like repairing a boat ramp in Starke. They’re looking forward to the 2020 elections (Ramsey ran for state house last year) and beyond: Despite whatever baggage has dogged the organization the past few years, Ramsey sees the Guard existing 10 years into the future. But it frustrates him that outlets like the Southern Poverty Law Center continue to label the Guard as a hate group. “I’m being attacked for like, doing stuff that’s not racist — now,” he said. “They never wrote nothing about me when I was a skinhead.” “The idea that they would attack us for openly denouncing racial politics, that tells you that they’re fucking…,” he said, trailing off, in another interview with The Fine Print. Even if the American Guard does not have explicitly racist beliefs, researchers of the far-right say it’s not hard to see that hate lies beneath the surface. To Ramsey, Native Americans were “self-centered” for not uniting against European colonizers, Confederate monument removal is “cultural genocide,” Abraham Lincoln was the “real” racist, and the NAACP is bad because it’s Marxist. By waging an internet culture war against government programs like affirmative action and organizations like the NAACP, the American Guard implicitly works to increase white economic, social and political power. “Even if they have Latino or black members, they are still implicit white nationalists,” Sunshine said. “Their actions will result in continued white domination. “It looks colorblind,” he added. “In truth, it’s racially loaded.” Furthermore, Sunshine said it’s important to remember that the far-right can be multiracial. “When you stop thinking of ‘white nationalist’ and you start thinking of ‘far-right,’ you’ll find lots of multiracial far-right groups in the U.S.,” Sunshine said. “You can be a Nazi as a person of color. … It is a contradiction. It’s also a living reality.” • Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 37
ART & LITERATURE
38 | T H E
F I N E P R I N T | thefineprintmag.org
BY MIRJAM FROSTH
POETRY & PHOTOGRAPHY
Behind the Mirrored Windows of Skyscrapers BY CHARLES ELY
There's a shadow in the streets. They call him the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. In Marvel's New York, corruption has a name. If you have money you can afford a burger. You can afford a shirt on your back. Money puts a roof over your head. Money puts a cushion between you and death. Money will buy a nice dinner. Money will buy a suit. Money can make you look like money. Money will buy the cops. More money will buy the government. It takes a superhero to not be bought. He's beating up crooks in the street, holding them accountable by their collars over the ledge of a high rise. My villains don't have a face. How do you teach a lesson to paperwork? Some asshole filed employeesâ€™ taxes as K-1s so we have to pay like we're company partners and he owes nothing. What can you do to a man who has everything? The people who bought out all our protections with the promise of a tax break? How do you survive the system that creates us? The system that delineates our access to necessities in dollar signs. Even our lives have dollar values. We can't afford the dentist for my girlfriend's impacted wisdom tooth, but I can afford the booze to dull the pain which is how we end up trading out childish beliefs for a paycheck, for a compromise, for just one hour more. I want to fight my intangible villains in the night, punch bureaucracy square in the face a punch that will skip over clerks and secretaries, break the nose of his boss and catch our system in the nuts. Most of my conversations with the love of my life are about how we're going to afford to survive, and there is a better use for words. I want to say I love you like they're the only words left in the language, but I won't waste our food money on roses anymore. â€˘
Winter 2019 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 39
The Winter 2018 print edition of The Fine Print, an independent magazine in Gainesville, Florida.