Gerald Koch Hasn’t Been Charged with a Crime, but He’s in Jail Anyway
A New York anarchist has been jailed for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury about his political beliefs, his friends, and the legal support he provided to Occupy Wall Street.
Gerald “Jerry” Koch, 24, was subpoenaed before a grand jury that is believed to be investigating the 2008 explosion outside a military recruitment center in Times Square. The blast damaged the front door of the center and injured no one, but the FBI began a “terrorism” investigation of local anarchists.
Koch isn’t accused of this crime—or any other crime. Prosecutors told his lawyers that they think he was at a bar in 2008 or 2009, after the bombing, and that someone else at the bar knew about another person who was involved. Koch was subpoenaed to a grand jury in 2009—when he was only 19—and publicly stated that he didn’t know anything about it and wouldn’t cooperate.
On May 21, he appeared before the grand jury again, refused to answer any questions, and remained silent the entire time. More than a hundred supporters yelled out to him as he was taken to jail.
"By the time you read this," Koch said in a statement released after the hearing, "I will be in the custody of the United States government for continuing my refusal to cooperate with a federal grand jury. This is the right thing to do."
The Snowman Vs. the Cops
Photo by Danny Ghitis
There’s a rumor on the internet that this photo of longtime MMA heavyweight and avowed anarchist Jeff “The Snowman” Monson squaring off with members of the St. Paul Police Department is actually a picture of Monson conducting a grappling clinic for members of the St. Paul Police Department. To Monson, the rumor is ridiculous, not only because he was there, outside the Target Center during the 2008 Republican National Convention, when the picture was taken but also because police don’t show up for grappling lessons in full riot gear. Also, if you look closely, you can see the cop in the middle has his hand on his Taser, another thing police in seminars don’t do. Monson says the cop was ready to use it, too.
“We were basically blockading the street,” Monson remembers. “And when the busloads of Republican delegates were being unloaded we just wanted to prevent them from going in the Target Center, basically making a human wall. The riot police swept us up and pushed us into a park and then arrested us for a) trespassing, which was strange because we were on a public street, and b) inciting a riot, which was strange because there wasn’t any riot. They had arrested the group of us and I was coming up to the front saying, ‘I’m coming through; you can arrest me.’ I was confronted by the cops saying, ‘No, you’re not coming through.’ I was saying, ‘What right do you have? There’s nobody here rioting. It’s peaceful. Nobody’s throwing rocks, nobody’s doing anything.’ They said, ‘You’re threatening us,’ and I said, ‘How am I threatening you? I’m unarmed. I’m in a tank top. We don’t have any weapons. We’re not doing anything.’ And I said, ‘How can we be trespassing? These delegates have no more right—it’s a public street. How can they walk on the street and we can’t walk on the street?’ That’s when the one police officer put his hand on his Taser and said he was going to Tase me if I tried to go through. I said, ‘It’s not going to look very good if I’m just talking to you and you just Taser me because there are a lot of people with cameras filming everything.’ Literally at that moment, one of the guys got a call on his cell phone saying everyone’s released. Basically, they arrested us long enough for the delegates to get off the bus and get into the Target Center, and then they said, ‘We’re dropping the charges. You guys can go.’”
In the spirit of ideological accuracy, it needs to be mentioned that Monson is really more of an anarchist/socialist than a pure anarchist. Don’t be fooled by the criminal mischief charge he picked up in 2009 for spray-painting an anarchy symbol on the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. He’s a card-carrying member of the International Workers of the World, otherwise known as the Wobblies. Following his loss last November to Fedor Emelianenko, Monson met with anti-fascist groups in Russia and Poland that were made up of anarchists, socialists, and anyone else uncomfortable with the rise of racist nationalism in those countries. One of the dozens of tattoos he has is the hammer and sickle. Unlike most people in the anarchy movement, he sees some value in the state.
American Boys in Tijuana
Last month, while at the New York Art Book Fair, Los Angeles-native Michael Ray-Von was asked to help build and curate a modest, contemporary gallery in Tijuana, Mexico. Without a second thought, he told Todd Patrick (who offered him the position), he would do it and within a week had dropped everything to move across the boarder. The first exhibit was set to premiere during two of Tijuana’s most interesting musical festivals Notre Sonoro and All My Friends Festival. Patrick and Ray-Von had a month to rebuild an old hair salon into a gallery and get an exhibit happening.
Ray-Von and Patrick called upon the work of New York-artist Jesse Hlebo to team up with Mexican City artist Joaquín Segura to create a collaborative exhibit. Hlebo runs his own record and print label, Swill Children, and his work has been displayed at MoMA Library, MoMA PS1, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Museum of Arts and Design, Printed Matter, Inc., Clocktower Gallery, and The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in NYC, the Khyber Center for Contemporary Art and NSCAD in Halifax, Nova Scotia, among others. Hlebo was recently named one of “The Best of Young Brooklyn” by L Magazine. Needless to say, the guy is around.
I went down for the opening of Hlebo and Segura’s exhibit, To Preserve Disorder. It was cold, interesting, perceptive and the after-party was super fun.
I decided to follow-up up with my two friends about their gallery in Tijuana, and why they crossed the boarder in the first place.
VICE: You’ve been living in Tijuana for a while now. Can you talk about your adjustment?
Michael Ray-Von: Tijuana is a density of ideas. And they’re all pronouncing themselves at once. Because this is a very busy border town, you have a complex of translations and exchanges occurring everywhere, all the time — totally dynamic. Translation and exchange, representation and value systems, are areas that interest me very much, so I’m really turned on by this place. Plus, the space is located in Centro (downtown), where a substantial part of the economy is focused on bars and nightclubs (facilitating wildness). So I’m occasionally confronted by a new version of “the craziest shit I’ve ever seen”.
Are you bilingual or was language an issue?
I spoke very little Spanish prior to coming here, so that’s been a substantial hurdle for me initially. Fortunately 60 percent of Tijuanenses speak English. Everyone has been very generous and patient in the language area. There is also a good deal of customs or cultural paradigms that were completely unexpected and will occasionally turn my world upside down. I would tell you about it, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun for foreigners who might visit.
How did you manage to re-make an entire gallery in less than a month?
We’ve been really lucky to have the support of a number of artists and musicians in the area early on. I’m also super stoked to have had three talented people join our team in the last few weeks, You Schaffner (who plays music as Dani Shivers), Luisito Noctámbulo (who studies art at ESAV), and Andrea Noel, (who posts photos atVinyl Revolver), all living in TJ. They’ve been instrumental to facilitating this endeavor.
Why set up in Tijuana?
Tijuana is in segue, socioeconomically speaking. Through a concerted effort stemming from the youth and the universities (as far as I can tell), the hegemonies of Tijuana, which have consisted since its inception are beginning to splinter. These being the things you’ve likely heard about the place. It’s actually a surprisingly unique and exciting time to be here!