Lansing, Michigan – Community members, formerly incarcerated people and anti-prison activists marched today through downtown Lansing to raise awareness about the beginning of a nationwide prisoner strike. They met at Durant Park at 3 p.m. and marched to the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) building, where they held a rally in the street. The march was organized to coincide with the first week of a nationwide prisoner strike, and march participants stress the importance of paying attention to the demands of the prisoners.
“Prisoners around the country are putting a lot at risk to organize this strike, and we’re here to make sure that their demands can’t be ignored,” says Alejo Stark, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan and the spokesperson for Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity (MAPS).
Additionally, the group has compared this strike to the September 2016 rebellion at Kinross Correctional Facility, an action that the MDOC repeatedly lied about, misleading reporters and family members of those incarcerated. If it had not been for the few inmates who were able to provide a prisoner perspective on the rebellion, the MDOC would have gotten away with lying about the nature and scope of the protest.
“At Kinross you saw a situation where prisoners peacefully presented a set of extremely reasonable demands, but the prison officials, instead of engaging in dialogue, called in a tactical team that started a riot and cost the state almost $1 million,” Stark continued. “This August we have another opportunity to listen to what prisoners are saying about why prisons do not solve our society’s problems.”
“Prisoners around the country are putting a lot at risk to organize this strike, and we’re here to make sure that their demands can’t be ignored,” says Alejo Stark, spokesperson for Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity.
The 2018 national prisoner strike began two days ago on Aug. 21, and will continue through Sept. 9. The national action is organized and led by prisoners around the country who have already begun engaging in hunger strikes, work stoppages and other actions to protest their inhumane living conditions. Their demands include “an immediate end to prison slavery” as well as various other demands related to sentencing reform and racism. The full list of demands is here: http://sfbayview.com/2018/07/national-prison-strike/.
Organizers of the march describe this action as a “celebration of the kick-off of the nationwide prisoner strike” and they created huge banners and balloons as well as other props. There was also a small flotilla of canoes holding signs on the river.
In addition to meeting the immediate demands of the prison strikers, some marchers hope that the strike will spark more significant changes in society. “We want a world in which prisons do not act as catch-all solutions to our society’s problems, a society that perpetuates violence with more violence – by putting people in cages,” says Stark.
“And prisoners are going to keep rebelling against confinement, so we can’t help but ask, can we imagine a society without prisons? Michigan spends just over $2 billion on the MDOC. Imagine what we can do with that money in a state where Flint still does not have clean water and Detroit is closing down schools to its students.”
“We want a world in which prisons do not act as catch-all solutions to our society’s problems, a society that perpetuates violence with more violence – by putting people in cages,” says Stark.
You can read more about the protest march at the Facebook event, here, and about the organization at their website, https://michiganabolition.org/. You can reach out to us on our Facebook here or find us on Twitter at @MI_Abolition.
Chicago 1968 and 2018: Unite against war and police violence! Rally Aug. 25
Editor’s note: Although this march – expected to be huge – is not specifically connected with the National Prison Strike, signs and banners adding prison abolition and resistance would no doubt be welcome and the opportunity to recruit more prison abolitionists should not be overlooked.
Fifty years ago, growing numbers of Americans rose up against the twin evils of war and racism. Outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968, peaceful protestors were savagely attacked by the police minions of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley while Party bosses inside were busy crushing the hopes of peace candidates whom the majority of Democratic primary voters had supported.
We intend to commemorate this event. But more than that, we intend to highlight the sobering lessons of 1968 for today’s world, where both parties support unending wars, huge military spending that starves urgently needed social services of funds, and a brutal police and prison apparatus that targets people of color.
In many respects things are worse today than in 1968. The U.S. government is still at war – only now it’s not one war in Vietnam but MANY wars. Today, however, we barely know they’re happening. Yet these wars cost trillions of dollars and people here pay for them by doing without decent schools, good jobs, decent services, health care – even safe drinking water. We are still plagued by persistent war, racism, poverty, and police violence.
We need a revived and unified movement for peace and social justice TODAY – one that links the struggles against racism, poverty and police violence in the United States to our government’s unending wars and military domination abroad. We call on peace, anti-poverty, anti-racist, immigrant rights and other progressive organizations, and all persons of conscience:
Join us for a rally and march, starting at Chicago’s Daley Plaza, at noon, on Saturday, Aug. 25, the anniversary of the Chicago police riot 50 years ago! We demand:
- No more war! No more police violence! No more racism!
- Fund human needs, not destruction and death!
- Respect human rights at home and abroad!
Rally at noon, Richard J. Daley Plaza, and march at 1 p.m. to Grant Park and the Gen. John Logan Statue, scene of the most iconic protest at the 1968 convention.
To learn more, visit Chicago Committee Against War and Racism on Facebook.