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On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the first day of the historic National Prison Strike, Democracy Now interviewed Amani Sawari. The segment began with an excellent interview with Cole Dorsey of IWOC and then suddenly the bright, brilliant, radiant face of 23-year-old Amani filled the screen and a voice of eloquence, inspiration and power filled the room. All it took was host Amy Goodman saying she’s a journalist, and, involuntarily, spontaneously, I pointed at the screen and shouted, “There’s the new Bay View editor!” Amani and I have been talking ever since, and she came to visit Oct. 8-12. What fun we had.
It is well known among staff and prisoners that if we file a grievance without any physical evidence, their failure to admit the allegations results in our claims being dismissed. Simply enough, they lie during any investigation. Outside pressure and exposure is one aspect that can counter this, which is what Rashid has been doing for years. Staff are now realizing this, too, and are retaliating to cause disruption and preserve their practices.
The fact that these rules were noticed as “Obscene Materials” indicates an intention of CDCR to attempt to fly below the radar so as to not draw attention to the fact that much of the material under these proposed regulations could be so broad as to cover newspaper articles and a multitude of other written materials that do nothing to promote prison safety and security and do everything to violate and infringe on the First Amendment rights of California’s prisoners.
Since some 30,000 California prisoners launched a hunger strike July 8 against the practice of long-term solitary confinement and other abuses, participants have faced punitive retaliation and censorship of newspapers and other media that backed their fight. Abuses continued after prisoners suspended the strike Sept. 5.
I found out Sept. 30, 2013, that she was in San Francisco General Hospital with lung cancer. She’d been going into emergency for chest pain and problems breathing, but they treated the symptoms and didn’t notice the spots until recently when they kept her. I didn’t know it was as serious as it was, so imagine my surprise when I get a text, two texts that she is gone. Genevieve Bayan, my big sister – gone. I hope she wasn’t alone.
On Aug. 14 we signed an engagement letter with Bryan Cave, one of the largest law firms in the world, to represent the Bay View in our fight against censorship at Pelican Bay. This miracle was set in motion by an amazing little law office, Bayview Hunters Point Community Legal, that some young, idealistic lawyers opened in a storefront in our hood to help the many of us here who can’t afford legal help.
Sadly, things haven’t gotten any better as far as this prison giving us your newspaper. I never did receive your April or May issue. On Aug. 1, they gave me your June and July issues. Now they’re also holding your August issue. Out of frustration about this and CDCR’s refusal to negotiate with the representatives, I went back on hunger strike for the second time on Aug. 12 and went through all kinds of madness.
Prisoners at Green Hill juvenile prison in Chehalis have announced that they will go on strike on July 8. Their strike in solidarity with prisoners in California and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may take the form of a work stoppage, although a planned hunger strike was previously reported. The Green Hill prisoners have also issued their own demands; some of their demands focus on conditions inside the prison, while some seek justice for ex-prisoners on the outside.
The Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement First Amendment Campaign stands in solidarity with the Stop the Torture Campaign, as our goals and objectives are mutual. We aim to eliminate torture in all of its many forms. In 2006, the CDCR created a Communications Management Unit at PBSP that literally reinforces their totalitarian rule by dehumanizing prisoners through social deprivations.
As one contemplates whether to volunteer or not, just remember all the psychological torture and personal loss that each of us in these solitary confinement torture cells have already experienced for the past 20-30 years. And, more importantly, think of all those youngsters, maybe young relatives, who will take our places after we’re gone – for another 20-30 years – if this system is not changed at this time.
The Clean Lounge, a clean and sober space located in Bayview Hunters Point in San Francisco, was full of Fired Up! women and supporters, family and friends.There was so much collective healing wisdom in the room. Fired Up! is an insider-outsider grassroots network founded by CCWP former prisoners that meets weekly in the San Francisco County Jail.