Join the Bay Area rally 12-3 p.m. at San Quentin’s East Gate by getting or giving a ride at 10 a.m. at either 1) Oscar Grant Plaza, 14th and Broadway, Oakland, or 2) 1540 Market St., San Francisco
Update Feb. 18: At least 20 prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary, Ohio’s Supermax prison, will refuse food on Monday, Feb. 20, in solidarity with the National Occupy for Prisoners Day of Action. The fast was called by Siddique Abdullah Hasan, a Muslim imam on death row at OSP for his alleged involvement in the 1993 Lucasville Uprising. In January of 2011, Hasan and other death row prisoners wrongfully convicted in relation to the Lucasville Uprising staged a successful hunger strike, winning their demands for improved conditions and access to legal resources.
Outside supporters in Columbus, Ohio, will be staging a demonstration downtown, delivering symbolic letters to politicians and officials involved in maintaining, managing and expanding the prison system in Columbus, in Ohio and across America. They will demand increased state pay and reduced commissary and telephone prices in Ohio prisons. The continuous rise of commissary and telephone prices, while prisoner pay remains the same, creates an artificial economy and living conditions akin to modern slavery. More information about the protest can be found online at RedBird Prison Abolition.
On Monday, Feb. 20, over a dozen rallies and demonstrations will be held throughout the U.S. for a “National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners,” including in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Fresno, Austin, Columbus, Denver, Durham, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia and New York – even the smaller towns of Eureka and Indio, Calif. Family and community members of prisoners, former prisoners and people directly affected by the prison industrial complex will speak out against the destructive impacts of imprisonment by sharing their own experiences and reading statements from their loved ones inside prison.
The call for an “Occupy for Prisoners” National Day of Solidarity having originated from Occupy Oakland, a large crowd and good media coverage is expected on Monday, Feb. 20, 12-3 p.m., at the East Gate of San Quentin State Prison. Because of strict parking constraints, everyone is urged to get a ride or give a ride at 10 a.m. at either 1) Oscar Grant Plaza, 14th and Broadway, Oakland, or 2) 1540 Market St., San Francisco.
Since the fall of 2011, a surge of people power has been growing in the U.S. and worldwide, as thousands of people have been mobilizing protests against gross social and economic inequality. At the same time the Occupy movement gained steam in October of last year, 12,000 prisoners were participating in the second wave of a massive hunger strike against California’s notorious prison system.
At the same time the Occupy movement gained steam in October of last year, 12,000 prisoners were participating in the second wave of a massive hunger strike against California’s notorious prison system.
Strike actions continue inside California prisons, with dozens of prisoners at Corcoran State Prison’s Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) refusing food in protest to the conditions of their confinement again. One participant at Corcoran recently wrote, “The struggle that is being fought in this prison is only a small part of a bigger struggle that is being fought, and that will be continuously fought, against the oppression that is evident in all parts of the world today.”
California hunger strike representatives imprisoned in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, who launched the historic hunger strike in July, have written a statement of solidarity which Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity will read at Occupy 4 Prisoners on Feb. 20 outside San Quentin:
“Corporate Amerika has coalesced its efforts around the exploitation of human beings, while using the political apparatus of the U.S. government – federal, state and local – to institute policies that set in motion the creation of a corporate police state, which has targeted the poor as a surplus for incarceration and exploitation.
“Those of us housed in solitary confinement throughout California and Amerika support ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and understand the necessity to resist corporate greed. We will no longer willingly accept the subjugation, oppression and exploitation of humanity.
“Banks and the prison industrial complex are corporate empires that prey on the souls of humanity. Therefore, we officially join you all in Struggle. One Love, One Struggle!”
Prisoners in the forefront of the struggle against imprisonment have continuously braved abuse, torture and retaliation by prison officials and have reminded us of how necessary support outside of prison truly is. Let’s match this courage and amplify the voices of prisoners and their loved ones – those who have been systematically denied a voice for far too long – to further struggles against imprisonment, the loss of jobs, racism and the denial of good education and decent healthcare.
Prisoners in the forefront of the struggle against imprisonment have continuously braved abuse, torture and retaliation by prison officials and have reminded us of how necessary support outside of prison truly is. Let’s match this courage and amplify the voices of prisoners and their loved ones.
“Thousands and thousands of people have been coming out into the street as part of the Occupy Movement to protest terrible social and economic inequality in this country. There are very few people who feel the brunt of these problems more than prisoners and their families,” says Manuel La Fontaine, a former prisoner and one of the organizers of Monday’s action. “Occupy 4 Prisoners gives us a powerful opportunity to amplify the voices of prisoners and their loved ones to help understand the connections between imprisonment and the loss of jobs, racism, the denial of good education and decent healthcare. This will be all the more important because those making these connections are those who have been systematically denied a voice for far too long.”
Organizers of the event will be busing and carpooling community members from all over the Bay Area to the East Gate of San Quentin Prison, where a three-hour program will include music, a variety of speakers, and letters and recorded messages from prisoners across the country. “The last historic protest at San Quentin was the night of the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams on Dec. 13, 2005,” says Barbara Becnel, one of the organizers of Monday’s demonstration. “I was in the death chamber with Stan that night. It was a tragic day. But now, from the ashes of that horrific experience and so much other sacrifice and work against the prison system, thousands of our loved ones, coworkers and neighbors will return to San Quentin and join people from all over the country, inside prisons and out, to say enough is enough.”
The U.S. has the world’s largest prison population with nearly 2.5 million people locked behind bars.
For updates and more information, visit occupy4prisoners.org.
Souls on ice
by Mumia Abu-Jamal
When I heard of the call raised In Oakland, California, to “Occupy the Prisons,” I gasped. It was not an especially radical call, but it was right on time.
For prisons have become a metaphor – the shadow-side, if you will, of America. With oceans of words about freedom – and the reality that the U.S. is the world’s leader of the incarceration industry – it’s more than time for the focused attention of the Occupy Movement. It’s past time.
For the U.S. is the world’s largest imprisoner for decades, much wrought by the insidious effects of the so-called “drug war” – what I call “the war on the poor.”
And Occupy, now an international movement, certainly has no shortage of prisons to choose from. Every state, every rural district, every hamlet in America has a prison, a place where the Constitution doesn’t exist and where slavery is all but legalized.
When law professor Michelle Alexander took on the topic, her book, “The New Jim Crow,” took off like hotcakes, selling over 100,000 in just a few months.
And where there are prisons, there is torture: brutal beatings, grave humiliations, perverse censorship – and even murders – all under a legal system that is as blind as that statue of a woman holding aloft a scale, her eyes covered by a frigid fold of cloth.
So, what Is Occupy to do? Initially, it must support movements such as those calling for the freedom of Lakota brother Leonard Peltier, the MOVE veterans of Aug. 8, 1978, the remaining two members of the Angola 3, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, and Sundiata Acoli, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz and sisters who’ve spent lifetimes in steel and brick hellholes.
But the Occupy Movement must do more. As it shifted the discussion and paradigm on economic issues, it must turn the wheel of the so-called “criminal justice system” in America, which is, in fact, a destructive, counter-productive, annual $69 billion boondoggle of repression, better known by activists as the Prison Industrial Complex.
That means more than a one-day event, no matter how massive or impressive. It means building a mass movement that demands and fights for real change, and eventually the abolition of structures that do far more social damage than good.
It means the abolition of solitary confinement, for it is no more than modern-day torture chambers for the poor.
It means the repeal of repressive laws that support such structures.
It means social change – or it means nothing.
So, let us begin: Down with the Prison Industrial Complex!
© Copyright 2012 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America,” co-authored by Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill, available from Third World Press, TWPBooks.com. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.
Let’s make 150,000 calls on the legislature supporting the hunger strike – a call for every California prisoner
Stand with prisoners! Support the hunger strikers in winning their demands!
California imprisons about 150,000 people. While hunger strikers recover from two rounds of the historic strike in the summer and fall of 2011, supporters outside need to send a clear message of support to the California legislature and continue building pressure to fully implement the five core demands.
Let’s jam the California legislature’s communication system with overwhelming support for the hunger strike. A call or letter for every California prisoner! Here’s how:
• Look up your state representative, and call, write, email and fax him or her today.
• Download the open letter and mail or fax it to your representatives.
• Call using this suggested phone script.
• Email using this suggested email script.
The Truth Mob is a creative outreach action by Oakland-based Occupy 4 Prisoners organizers. Participants appear in public places throughout the San Francisco Bay Area with bullhorns, speaking truth about mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex. Each action ends with outreach for the Feb. 20 National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners.
Speakers communicate in two ways about what’s going on with the U.S. prison system: stating some basic facts and then reading the words of current and former imprisoned people, including political prisoners. The fundamental principle is from the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Solidarity Committee: amplifying the voices of imprisoned people.