Prison Abolitionists Target Architectural Firm

St. Louis Park, MN – Red paint and posters reading “No new jails” were plastered on the door of architectural firm Klein McCarthy at the beginning of the work day on September 9. Responding to a nationwide call-out for #ShutEmDown2021 actions on the anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion, autonomous prison abolitionist groups took part in the action which also featured graffiti and a banner drop over Highway 100.

Unicorn Riot received a statement from anonymous participants in the action who said they targeted Klein McCarthy Architects because their contract “to design a new $28-million jail” in Winona.

Headquartered in St. Louis Park, Klein McCarthy is one of the top “justice architecture and public facility design” firms in the Midwest.

The Winona County Jail was given a deadline of September 30, 2021, by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, to update their facility or downgrade to a 72-hour holding facility, after a 2018 inspection. Planning for a new jail has taken Winona County years and the proposed projects have faced plenty of community opposition.

Klein McCarthy has designed the proposed jail with updated security features and the county has another ‘jail design and construction committee meeting‘ on September 30 at 9:00 a.m.

Construction on the new jail is slated to be finished sometime in 2023. Until then, Winona County Jail can’t house inmates for more than 72 hours starting at the end of September. Inmates will be transported into Winona County Jail for court in the county and will be sent to Wabasha and Houston County jails for longer terms. Winona County laid off 13 of its detention deputies on September 7 in preparation of the downgrade.

“Klein cages kill” and “Avenge Attica” graffiti on a semitrailer near the firm of Klein McCarthy Architects
“Klein McCarthy: Architects of White Supremacy” banner dropped over Hwy 100 on September 9, 2021

Last month, Unicorn Riot heard from community members involved in Abolition Is a Practice, a bi-monthly abolitionist working group based in South Minneapolis. They told us about efforts to halt the new jail while building connections to the Winona-based Community Not Cages.

Midwest Connections: A Regional Fight For Abolition

After the September 9 morning action at Klein McCarthy, anonymous participants sent us the following statement revealing their reasoning behind the action:

“On the morning of Thursday, September 9, 2021, in response to Jailhouse Lawyers Speak’s call for #ShutEmDown2021 actions, autonomous crews crashed the offices of a key player in the vast prison-slavery complex. 

Operating out of so-called St. Louis Park (occupied Dakota land), Klein McCarthy Architects is a white-collar architecture firm that has designed much of the upper Midwest’s brick-and-mortar infrastructure of genocidal white supremacy. They’ve been in business since 1977. We believe it’s time they face the people’s wrath.

The firm has recently been contracted by Winona County, in the southern part of so-called Minnesota, to design a new $28-million jail, in the face of mounting grassroots resistance. We saw an opportunity to strike back against a parasitic firm that has had a significant behind-the-scenes role in imprisoning working people. 

We took direct action in solidarity with Community Not Cages, a group leading the fight in Winona against the proposed jail and all carceral institutions.

Employees driving in to work saw the large words ‘Klein Cages Kill’ and ‘Avenge Attica’ graffitied on the road and across a semitrailer directly opposite the office park driveway.

We greeted workers coming into the building and made conversation with them about the architects of white supremacy who share their office building, as well as distributing literature about the struggle for abolition. Our message was clear: your neighbors have profited from the construction of nearly 100 jails, courts, and police stations on this land, and continue to grow rich from the capture of working-class, overwhelmingly colonized people.

Most workers were receptive to the information, glad to talk, and happily took the literature—a small stack of zines we had carefully bound in twine—on the Attica Rebellion, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak’s Shut ‘Em Down, Racial Capitalism and Prison Abolition, Winona communities’ opposition to the proposed jail and what abolition means to us.

Separately, Klein McCarthy employees arriving to their 4th-floor office suite found their door, window and entryway slathered in red paint with posters reading “No new jails” and “Quit your job to wash the blood from your hands”—letting them know that their complicity in the murderous system of modern-day slavery can no longer be obscured by a dreary suburban office park.

An employee of Colliers International, the commercial real-estate giant that owns the building, called the pigs. Eight of them showed up quick, but we evaded arrests.

We parted ways with Klein McCarthy, but not before making sure every car and neighborhood passerby had information on the quiet, routine planning of new concentration camps happening down the hall or down the street.

Soon after, another crew dropped a banner over the nearby highway, displaying boldly ‘Klein McCarthy: Architects Of White Supremacy.’

In memory of the prisoners who rose up at Attica 50 years ago today, and in solidarity with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, we stand with imprisoned revolutionaries everywhere, from Turtle Island to Palestine and beyond. This #ShutEmDown action is just a start, we all must continue to reveal the many ‘respectable’ cogs in the blood-soaked carceral-capitalist machine. Onward to Abolition!

Fire to the prisons, free them all!”

Related coverage:

Midwest Connections: A Regional Fight For Abolition [August 2021]

Prison Abolition Advocates Rally Outside Federal Prison on NYE [December 2020]

Harsh Conditions, Violent Repression: Stoking the Flame of the 2018 Prison Strike [September 2018]

MCF-Stillwater: Prison Officials Create “Humanitarian Crisis” [September 2018]

Prison Slave Labor: A Driving Force in 2018 Prison Strike [August 2018]

Prison Strike 2018: Tipping the Scale of the Conversation [August 2018]

Fighting Youth Incarceration in Minnesota & Creating Alternatives [June 2017]

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