by Nube Brown and Matthew Sahagian
Aug. 19 at 11:00 a.m., courageous and loving folks in San Jose, Calif., joined with sister marches and rallies throughout the country in support of prisoners’ human rights and amending the 13th. Their courage is found in the rejection of an institution so prevalent and insidious that any criticism can bring a mountain of ridicule and judgment.
It is an institution shielded by a centuries old narrative that tells people, “They are not like us,” and consequently, “they” are undeserving of our humanity. It is the institution of legal slavery in the “land of the free.” And their love is revealed by their enthusiasm for a new society which reunites us in our common experience and affirms those rights which we call human to all members of our society regardless of the color of their skin, socio-economic status or past indiscretions.
The march launched at 11:45 a.m. with a speech from Amend the 13th’s founder, Joka Heshima Jinsai, recorded and blasted over a bullhorn to a crowd of hundreds. Troy Williams of the SF Bay View followed with a call to remember why we march, setting the tone for a purposeful and peaceful demonstration to the public.
As we progressed through the lively Japantown neighborhood, chants rang out: “Brick by brick, wall by wall, we will make your prisons fall” and “Human rights apply to all, even those behind the wall.” Onlookers enjoying a patio lunch stood and applauded, while those passing in cars or on foot honked and cheered as marchers proceeded with signs calling to end mass incarceration and recognize solitary confinement as torture.
Looping across from the county jail, marchers converged on James P. McEntee Plaza to be welcomed by Watani Stiner. Despite decades of imprisonment and dehumanization, his joyous introduction spread optimism as it reverberated throughout the crowd: “Welcome all of you beautiful and magnificent souls! Today is a good day to resist! Today is a beautiful day to rise up and say no more! Today is a wonderful day to say not in my name!” With that, the platform was set for voices to be heard and stories to be shared.
Riding a wave of solidarity, speakers shared painful truths about the U.S. prison system. Raymond Aguilar noted, “They incarcerated my body, they incarcerated part of my soul, but they did not incarcerate my mind,” as he spoke to his experience and on the issue of juvenile life without the possibility of parole. On behalf of Mianta McKnight, Julia Arroyo of the Young Women’s Freedom Center called out the realities of a system that lacks the necessary resources for girls and women of color returning home from prison.
But among the cheers and outbursts of encouragement, there were moments of sheer heartbreak and anger. We witnessed the pain and loss of a mother, Laurie Valdez, who shared the murder of Antonio Guzman Lopez, father to her young son, by SJSU police. Alongside her, the frustration of Ato Walker, whose life was interrupted by a racist police and unjust bail system simply because he was not listened to.
One by one, speakers rose to share their lived experiences. One by one the crowd was moved, not just to open their eyes, but also their hearts.
As history replays itself on the national stage through white supremacist and neo-nazi violence, we are called not merely to avoid the mistakes of our past, but to wholly re-imagine our future. “There is no room for slavery in humanity. There can be no exception for any group,” declared Mariposa McCall addressing the crowd.
Today, we must dare to create a new system – a system without slavery, without prisons. In the shared words of Cole Dorsey, organizer with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the IWW, “(W)hile we support this effort at reform as it was called for by prisoners, we also see it as only a strategy in the ongoing war against prisons … At the end of the day, we are prison abolitionists. We are revolutionaries.”
As the rally closed, and many participants sought to see every speaker through till the end, we concluded with a pledge: “We have set the stage for the real work to come. In unity we will become stronger, more committed and more resolved. We stand firm in our belief that all community members, caged and uncaged, deserve their human rights. We stand committed to the New Abolitionist Movement to end slavery in America once and for all.”
California Prison Focus (Oakland) and Rise Up for Justice (San Jose) would like to give additional thanks to all speakers and participants who made this march and rally possible. Special thanks to Dorsey Nunn with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None and his work to push forward AB 1008 and national efforts to ban the box, José Valle and SV De-Bug, Bato Talamantez, and all those fighting to see Prop 47 fully realized.
Let’s keep this movement growing, it’s up to us! Below is a Call to Action to stay involved…
Join or donate to an organization – suggestions:
- California Prison Focus
- Rise Up for Justice
- Justice Now
- Fathers and Families of San Joaquin
- Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
- SF Bay View
- Justice for Josiah
- IWW/IWOC, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
- All of Us or None
- Young Women’s Freedom Center
- National Lawyers Guild
- SV De-Bug
- Santa Clara Peace and Freedom Party
- San Jose Peace and Justice Center
- Santa Clara County Green Party
- SIREN (Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network)
- California Families Against Solitary Confinement
- South Bay Democratic Socialists of America
- South Bay Progressive Alliance
- Women’s March Bay Area
Bills and props – call your legislator!
- AB 1008 Fair Chance Act “Ban the Box”
- Prop 47 – downgrading felonies to misdemeanors, reallocation of savings
- Prop 57, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act 2016
Find your reps:
Nube Brown of California Prison Focus and Matthew Sahagian of Rise Up for Justice are the organizers of the San Jose march. Nube can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Matthew at email@example.com.
Riverside solidarity march calls for an end to legal slavery
by Marissa Garcia
The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Riverside was a call to action against legal socialized slavery. Numerous organizations came together to bury the inaccurate term “mass incarceration” and call it what it is, slavery.
Millions of Black, Brown and poor White bodies remain stacked in inhumane conditions where their constitutional rights are diminished and upheld by the 13th Amendment. California has housed and blatantly disregarded humans’ Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and inhumane conditions, through its Security Housing Units (SHU, California’s name for solitary confinement).
This travesty gave birth to the Amend the 13th movement, which is in complete solidarity with the now named Millions for Prisoners Human Rights Coalition. Each year California kidnaps thousands upon thousands of undocumented humans, enslaving them and leaving unaccompanied minors to navigate through life and obtain their basic human needs by themselves. Their parents in immigration centers are forced to work for pennies.
Families of the enslaved navigate through California’s prison system many times going broke to attempt to maintain relationships after their loved one is moved as far as 13 hours away. This is in a state which has been rocked by prosecutorial misconduct, evidence planting and a cash bail system that forces the poor to plea bargain.
The California Millions for Prisoners Human Rights Coalition is dedicated to abolishing slavery, bringing together all intersectional issues, such as police abuse, prosecutorial misconduct, court system cronyism, the war on the poor, prison conditions, legislation, parole boards, prison vendors, private prisons, immigration, the war on drugs, and cognitive and mental health needs.
All roads lead to the 13th and how you make a slave. The foundation has been laid, and we will not stop until the system is dismantled.
Organizations that showed up:
- All of Us or None Riverside
- Santa Barbara Prison Solidarity Network
- Starting Over Inc.
- Punks for Progress
- Wifey Yard
- SURJ SB: Showing Up for Racial Justice
- Santa Barbara Student Activist Network
Lead Organizers: Anna Murillo, Cecilia Moraga and Marissa Garcia
Marissa Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.