by Bruce Reilly
A proposal passed Jan. 10 by the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland is to generate a national day of action that will call attention to prisons across America. While presidential candidates take to their stumps, one might be unaware that America is the international leader in incarceration with no competition in sight. Monday, Feb. 20, amidst American Black History Month, has also been declared by the United Nations as “World Day of Social Justice.”
The call coincides with a recent call to action by supporters of Mumia Abu Jamal to condemn solitary confinement as a means of torture. Mumia had been transferred to solitary for seven weeks after leaving Death Row. The call also comes amidst growing awareness of the relationship between Wall Street, prisons, prison labor and paid lobbyists pushing policies that create more prisoners.
The call for a National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners comes amidst growing awareness of the relationship between Wall Street, prisons, prison labor and paid lobbyists pushing policies that create more prisoners.
We are calling for Feb. 20, 2012, to be a National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners. In the Bay Area we will Occupy San Quentin to stand in solidarity with the people confined within its walls and to demand the end of the incarceration as a means of containing those dispossessed by unjust social policies.
Prisons have become a central institution in American society, integral to our politics, economy and culture.
Between 1976 and 2000, the United States built on average a new prison each week and the number of imprisoned Americans increased tenfold.
Prison has made the threat of torture part of everyday life for millions of individuals in the United States, especially the 7.3 million people – who are disproportionately people of color – currently incarcerated or under correctional supervision.
Imprisonment itself is a form of torture. The typical American prison, juvenile hall and detainment camp is designed to maximize degradation, brutalization and dehumanization.
Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow. Between 1970 and 1995, the incarceration of African Americans increased 7 times. Currently African Americans make up 12 percent of the population in the U.S. but 53 percent of the nation’s prison population. There are more African Americans under correctional control today – in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow. There are more African Americans under correctional control today – in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
The prison system is the most visible example of policies of punitive containment of the most marginalized and oppressed in our society. Prior to incarceration, two thirds of all prisoners lived in conditions of economic hardship – while the perpetrators of white-collar crime largely go free.
In addition, the Center for Economic and Policy Research estimated that in 2008 alone there was a loss in economic input associated with people released from prison equal to $57 billion to $65 billion.
We call on Occupies across the country to support:
1. Abolishing unjust sentences, such as the death penalty, life without the possibility of parole, three strikes, juvenile life without parole, and the practice of trying children as adults.
2. Standing in solidarity with movements initiated by prisoners and taking action to support prisoner demands, including the Georgia Prison Strike and the Pelican Bay/California Prisoners Hunger Strikes.
4. Demanding an end to the repression of activists, specifically the targeting of African Americans and those with histories of incarceration, such as Khali of Occupy Oakland, who could now face a life sentence on trumped-up charges, and many others being falsely charged after only exercising their First Amendment rights.
5. Demanding an end to the brutality of the current system, including the torture of those who have lived for many years in Security Housing Units (SHUs) or in other forms of solitary confinement.
6. Demanding that our tax money spent on isolating, harming and killing prisoners instead be invested in improving the quality of life for all and be spent on education, housing, health care, mental health care and other human services which contribute to the public good.
On Feb. 20, 12 noon-3 p.m., we will organize in front of San Quentin, where male death row prisoners are housed, where Stanley Tookie Williams was immorally executed by the state of California in 2005 and where Kevin Cooper, an innocent man on death row, is currently imprisoned.
At this demonstration, through prisoners’ writings and other artistic and political expressions, we will express the voices of the people who have been inside the walls. The organizers of this action will reach out to the community for support and participation. We will contact social service organizations, faith institutions, labor organizations, schools, prisoners, former prisoners and their family members.
Get a ride or give a ride at 10 a.m. at either Oscar Grant Plaza, 14th and Broadway, Oakland, or 1540 Market St., San Francisco.
National and international outreach
We will reach out to Occupies across the country to have similar demonstrations outside of prisons, jails, juvenile halls and detainment facilities or other actions as such groups deem appropriate. We will also reach out to Occupies outside of the United States and will seek to attract international attention and support.
Endorsers include Angela Davis, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Jack Bryson, Kevin Cooper Defense Committee, Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu Jamal, Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu Jamal, National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, Occupied Oakland Tribune, Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and State Repression, Prison Activist Resource Center, Prison Watch Network, San Francisco Bay View newspaper, All of Us or None, Critical Resistance, Michelle Alexander, Occupy SF and the Stanley Tookie Williams Legacy Network.
“Social justice is more than an ethical imperative, it is a foundation for national stability and global prosperity. Equal opportunity, solidarity and respect for human rights – these are essential to unlocking the full productive potential of nations and peoples.” – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Occupy Death Row
by Kevin Cooper
One cannot live on this planet and not know the bed capitalism lays here within this country. The roots from the tree of greed have spread to damn near every part of this world. They have had an impact, directly or indirectly, on every person in this world, to one degree or another.
Capitalism and the capitalists who run and control it need very important ingredients to make it work. They need “The Haves” and “The Have Nots”!
These days, as it once was when this country was first formed, it is very easy to tell the difference between the two. Some of the people, who for most of their lives considered themselves the “Haves,” are finding out that they were living a lie. That now they are part of the “Have Nots.” This reality is causing them, or at least some of them, to become part of this Occupy movement, and understandably so.
I have never considered myself to be a “Have” nor has this country ever treated me as a “Have”! No man or woman on death row in this state or any other state is a “Have.” We are also the “Have Nots.” We are the bottom 1 percent, who damn near everyone shits on. We are scapegoated, ignored, humiliated, disowned and ritually tortured and murdered by and at the hands of the top 1 percent – and some of the 99 percent as well!
It seems that the 1 percent are immune from the sentence of death, even when their policies in war – or peace – have killed untold numbers of people around the world. The bottom 1 percent is not immune and seems to be used as part of entertainment, from the media to the politicians.
While these truths must be known to the 99 percent who are now saying that they are the “Have Nots,” these truths are not acknowledged by the majority of them. We who are the bottom 1 percent, the historical “Have Nots,” the ones who are paraded before the public and humiliated, strapped to a gurney, tortured and murdered by the powers that be – we ask, “Why aren’t we included in this Occupy movement?”
While people are, and should be, occupying Wall Street and every other money street in the country, as well as occupying every city that they can, I ain’t hearing no one say, “Occupy Death Row!”
Nonetheless, I have been doing so since 1985. And death row itself has been occupying this country since even before this land became a country. Executions and the various ways that poor people have been executed throughout the years proves that executions are part of this country’s DNA.
I respectfully ask the Occupy movement: Will you please not make the same mistake that was made by previous movements seeking civil or any other type of rights? That mistake was not to include the ending of capital punishment.
Our fight and our plight from here on death row is just as important to us as your fight and your plight is to you! We understand this and respect this. All we ask, and all we have the right to ask is that you not leave us behind and/or out of the conversation. Any house, even a house full of “Have Nots,” divided upon itself cannot and will not stand. We must unite!
In Struggle and Solidarity
From Death Row at San Quentin Prison,