Author Jill Nelson arrested for writing ‘Trump = Plague’ in chalk

The 'Volunteer Slavery' writer says Trump doesn't mind people dying in the name of capitalism

Jill Nelson
(Credit: screenshot)

Black scholar Jill Nelson, who also calls herself the “Graffiti Grandma,” was arrested for writing in chalk that President Donald Trump was the “plague.”

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The 67-year-old author was arrested on April 16 after she wrote “Trump = Plague” in an abandoned building in her Washington Heights neighborhood. She was held for five hours before being released and now is expanding on her actions in an interview with Democracy Now.

Trump is, “telling us that as people of color, and older people, we should just die,” Nelson said. “It’s ridiculous.”

The author of “Volunteer Slavery” and sister of documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, explained that she went to the drugstore and market for essential items. She then had the inspired idea to make her feelings known about 45.

“I was walking from the drugstore down to Broadway to go to the supermarket when I saw a green boarded-up, empty, for-rent building. It was covered with plywood. And I wrote — had a piece of chalk in my pocket, and I wrote “Trump = Plague.”

Nelson continued by stating that police immediately cornered and placed her under arrest. They asked if she had weapons and searched her and then “frisked me, shoved me into a police car and took me to the 33rd Precinct, where they put me in a cell and left me there for five-and-a-half hours. I took my shoes off. I had had a mask, a fabric mask I had made, on, but I demanded that they give me one of their more professional masks. They didn’t allow me to make any phone calls. I was never read my rights.”

Nelson found the entire encounter to be a “waste of time.” Given that the Black community has some of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases, the journalist felt that the authorities could have provided a more meaningful presence in the area.

READ MORE: Is policing COVID-19 the new stop and frisk? Activists chime in

“There’s something the police could have been doing besides attacking me for writing the truth. I have yet to have anyone disagree with what I said,” she continued.

Nelson says she feels Trump doesn’t care about people of color and that he’s willing to let older people die on the backs of financial priorities.

“Trump = Plague,” yes. I mean, it sums it up, to me, what’s going on, how it is, what’s happening in this country and in the world. And we have a president who is aiding and abetting and telling us that as people of color, and older people, we should just die, get out there and die for capitalism. It’s ridiculous. There are so many disparities in healthcare, in treatment, in coverage,” she said.

Nelson also criticized New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. She felt he offered cover to the police who have been accused of disproportionately policing Black and Brown bodies, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Nelson felt that he only cared about his 23-year-old son, Dante.

“This notion that it’s only a few bad apples and that this isn’t policy and that the police are there to serve and protect, I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it. I don’t see it. I can’t see how arresting me or rushing down those young men in Brooklyn serves any purpose. It doesn’t make us safer,” she said.

“And I frankly feel that COVID-19 has been racialized, really, and it’s now being used as a way to further oppress people of color. It’s just absolutely wrong.”

Watch the full interview below.


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