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Victory for the Nashville 5 – Interview with Michael Sampson

By Fern

The Nashville 5

Fight Back! reporter Fernando Figueroa sat down with Michael Sampson, one of the Nashville 5 arrested on July 12, to discuss what happened, how he was released from jail and what's next for the movement. Fight Back!: Can you tell us what happened?

Michael Sampson: On Saturday, July 12, the Freedom Side collective held an action outside of the National Governor's Association [NGA]. Freedom Side is a network of different Black and Latino organizations addressing immigrant rights, the school to prison pipeline and fighting for fair wages and against voter suppression. I was there representing the Dream Defenders. We had activists from all over the country converge on the NGA meeting, talking about the issues that matter to us the most. Members of organizations like United We Dream, the Ohio Students Association, Baltimore Algebra Project, Fight for 15 and the Nashville Put Peoples First coalition where on hand.

We marched a mile to the Omni hotel in downtown Nashville, site of the NGA, and where greeted by state troopers and hotel security who initially prevented us from walking on the public sidewalk in front of the hotel. However, we told them we have a right to public space and we kept on marching to in front of the hotel.

Our plan was to enter the hotel and demand a meeting with a representative of the NGA to talk to us about our issues. However, we were met with even more security and police who formed a half circle, around the hotel, blocking us from entering. We proceeded to rally outside the hotel, hearing passionate speeches from those in the crowd.

A delegation from members of the Ohio Student Association and Dream Defenders were told from a hotel representative that they would talk to the NGA about them sending someone out to talk to us. However, we knew it was lies on their part and we told them we were staying until we met with someone.

Their plan was to wait us out however and we decided collectively as a group that we would drop our banner in front of us and in front of the state troopers. However, the Tennessee Highway Patrol immediately approached those trying to drop the banner. They grabbed them and started turning them around attempting to cuff them. Malayla Lynch from the Ohio Students Association was the first to get taken by the troopers. Marshawn and Aaron from OSA were next with James Hayes being arrested after. It all happened fast. When I saw this I went forward to ascertain what was happening and I was arrested as well.

Fight Back!: What role did racism and national oppression play in getting arrested and put in jail?

Sampson: Our arrests were a direct result of police and state troopers who were on edge because Black and Latino youth, wearing mostly black, were protesting. Our chants were militant. We were chanting and speaking about racism in our own states and how the NGA should stop being scared of activists and meet with us. We told the police that we weren’t leaving until we got a meeting. It was just another example of the police abusing Black and Latino youth, just like they do across the country, especially in the South for Black youth and in the Southwest for Chicano youth.

Fight Back!: Do you think public pressure played a role in getting free?

Sampson: Definitely. Public pressure always makes the difference. People’s support and knowing we had our comrades on the outside fighting to get us out kept our spirits high when we were detained and knowing how quickly our folks organized an outside campaign for us is powerful. Many thanks go out to all those who called in or took action to defend the Nashville 5, including myself.

Fight Back!: Were the charges dropped? What's next for you and the Nashville 5?

Sampson: The charges were dropped. The judges threw them out saying the state troopers were too overzealous in arresting us. They didn't give ample enough warning and we weren't even mirandized by our arresting officers.

What's next is simple – keep taking action and organizing. It's important for us to unite around fighting against racism and national oppression while building organization necessary to challenge the system. We have to build power to take power for Black and Brown communities. Freedom Side Collective is about action and challenging those like the NGA who continuously support oppressive policies in their states as well as my organization Dream Defenders. There is a lot in store planned for us. The struggle continues!

Michael Sampson is an organizer with Dream Defenders, a organization of black and brown youth in Florida confronting racism and fighting for the liberation of all oppressed peoples. For more information visit You can find Michael on twitter @brotherflourish

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