Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

July 25, 2023

Free Victor: Imprisoned Water and Land Protector in Georgia: In Defense of Tortuguita

 "It was not a crime to join my voice with the voices of many asking for justice for a mother grieving her child — Tortuguita."
By Victor
Censored News

“After three months of incarceration in one of the most dilapidated jails in the South — a place famous for its violence and for multiple cases of human rights abuse — I wish to speak out as the carceral state that took my freedom away continues its oppression. After finally being released on bond from DeKalb County, I was immediately detained by ICE and driven to Stewart Detention Center, a jail for migrants and refugee people. Georgia has not criminally indicted me at any point, but I still sit in a cage. Although it’s a new cell I’m in, the conditions are the same. The degradation, the 23 hours of lockdown, the complete lack of freedom and agency, the constant surveillance, and in this place, the perpetual threat of deportation from my home and my family hanging over my head.

I am a sundancer, an Indigenous person, a brother, a son, a human being in community with the earth and all of the beings that call this place home. My family is here on Turtle Island; I have called this land home since I was young. I have long advocated for the earth; protesting lies at the foundation of a just society. Civil disobedience is a part of the rich history of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta. It was not a crime to join my voice with the voices of many asking for justice for a mother grieving her child — Tortuguita. I have done nothing wrong. I was brutalized, falsely charged, and forced to sit inside a cell for months without indictment.

First the state labeled me a domestic terrorist. Now the state has labeled me illegal. They have decided my existence is a crime, my life and my humanity outlawed. I am facing an enormous machine, an extremely complicated system that crushes people’s lives and is designed to set people up to fail. A system most people agree you cannot navigate alone — the immigration system.

After months of captivity and possibly many more ahead, I want to say to everyone that I am still resisting this ridiculous narrative and fighting to be free once again. Fighting for the right to be back with my loved ones, to be back to the land that nurtures my spirit and supports my heart. And to not be separated from love in my life.

To my family — my relatives, old friends, new friends, comrades — to all of you that have reached out and shown support in different ways, to all of you who have sent postcard letters, messages, words of inspiration and solidarity in struggle. To all of you who have stood by my side since the beginning, through all these months: I see you, I salute you, and I am deeply grateful for your presence in my life. I embrace all of you in my heart and spirit, and I am so grateful. I take courage in knowing that in detention I am not alone. I am with the ancestors and all of you.

May these walls of concrete, steel, and hate stand down with the power of the people and the growth of forest returning. May all of us who are not Indigenous to this land acknowledge our responsibility to be accountable for our lives, intentions, and actions on occupied Indigenous lands and territories and to stand with Indigenous people protecting their water, lives, and all things sacred. May all of us stand in solidarity with the most marginalized and vulnerable among us. Migrant and refugee relatives face persecution and detention in massive numbers across the land. Long live Tortuguita! May all of us embrace and honor their memory. From Stewart Detention Center, unit B6: Freedom to exist! Freedom to move and the right to return! Free us all!”

- Victor

Victor is an Indigenous land defender who has spent much of his adult life caring for the water, for the land, for his elders.

On March 5, 2023, Victor was arrested at the South River Music Festival. Victor was unloading camping equipment from his truck with his dog inside when heavily armed police charged at him from the woods, violently assaulted him, and hauled him to jail. After spending months inside DeKalb County without bail set or being indicted for a crime, he has now been transferred to an ICE facility where he again sits without bail.

Victor has given so much to so many throughout his life — please stand with him and demand his freedom!

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