Statement from the Pelikan Bay Human Rights Movement First Amendment Campaign
by Abdul Olugbala Shakur, Sondai Kamdibe Dumisani, Abasi Ganda, Ifoma Modibo Kambon, Dadisi Yero, Askari Joka, Mutope Duguma, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Baridi Yero, Kijana Tashiri Askari, Yafeu I-Yapo
Preamble: Fascist repression can only flourish when the voices of its victims have been brutally silenced and isolated within the concrete confines of a man-made construct where the scrutiny of the media cannot transcend the walls. Those walls are erected by legislative venality and deprive humanity of an eyewitness account of how captured human minds, spirits and bodies are being disfigured by the instrument of officially sanctioned evil that plagues this vortex of torture they call Pelikan Bay.
But contrary to the fascist intent, the voices of resistance reverberated within the depths of this concrete hell as New Afrikan revolutionary prisoners since our arrival have refused to remain silent and have waged a continuous campaign to put an end to this racial injustice. And for over 20 years the San Francisco Bay View has played a critical role in allowing our voices to be heard.
As a result they themselves have become a target for the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) agents of repression, such as the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS), Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) and Investigations Services Unit (ISU). The confiscation of the March [and, since this was written on April 5, also the April] issue of the Bay View is a clear indication of the agents of fascist repression escalating their attacks against the Bay View.
It is imperative for all of us to understand that the Bay View is part of us. Mary and Willie Ratcliff is our sista and brotha and they have sacrificed much to help us and serve our communities. We must now go beyond rhetoric and lip service in support for the Bay View.
We now present the following statement: The San Francisco Bay View is a national Black newspaper that serves the interests of the New Afrikan communities inside Amerikkka. Its objective is to always bring attention to the injustice that occurs against New Afrikan people by speaking out against the injustices handed down by the state and federal government, who systematically abuse their authority in order to suppress the voices of the oppressed.
For over 20 years the San Francisco Bay View has played a critical role in allowing our voices to be heard.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is supposed to protect our freedom of speech, but time after time we see that the state officials tend to resort back to the Dred Scott v. Stanford Supreme Court case, where it was said that New Afrikan people “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
These are the words that Warden G.D. Lewis, C.D.W. Ducart, A.W. Swift, ISU Capt. Barneburg, IGI Lt. Frisk and their subordinates live by when it comes to New Afrikans’ freedom of speech – even after several court victories in respect to our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, in which the court clearly stipulated in their many rulings that the prison officials were in violation of our First Amendment rights.
These same officials continue to defy the courts in order to violate our First Amendment rights. These officials have chosen a course of action where they themselves have not only violated our First Amendment rights continuously but have conspired to use their positions as state officials with the power to deprive us prisoners of our procedural due process rights. The March issue, Vol. 38, No. 3, of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, of which Mary Ratcliff and Willie Ratcliff are editor and publisher, was denied [to subscribers at Pelican Bay] per CCR Title15, Section 3006(c)(3): “Except as authorized by the institution head, inmates shall not possess or have under their control any matter which contains or concerns any of the following: … (3) Plans to disrupt the order or breach the security of any facility” and CCR Title 15, Section 3315(a)(2)(C): A serious disruption of facility operations. Yet the officials chose not to provide us a clear 1819 form per CCR Title 15 3136(a), disapproval of inmate mail per each mail item incoming or outgoing.
The officials’ actions are calculating and malicious because they deliberately withheld the Bay View paper from the prisoners who actually had been consistent in their litigation against the blatant violations of our First Amendment rights. It was each of us who were not provided the CDCR 1819 forms which we have to have in order to file a 602 appeal grievance form for that which is having an adverse effect on us. In this case, it’s our First Amendment violation governing our incoming mail.
By not issuing us our CDCR 1819 form, the CDCR/PBSP (Pelican Bay State Prison) officials are not only denying us our procedural due process but our right to file a civil lawsuit and petition of writ of habeas corpus to the courts for violations of our First Amendment rights. So the CDCR/PBSP official actions are arbitrarily insidious racist attacks on New Afrikan prisoners exclusively and the only New Afrikan newspaper that has chosen to stand up against the CDCR/PBSP’s deliberate threats and power in the interest of the oppressed prison class held in CDCR custody.
We also want to say that CDCR/PBSP officials literally ran a test run when they confiscated the 25 Bay View issues in January 2013 from those lone subscribers while giving everyone else their subscription. Only through progressive litigation can we beat back these arbitrarily insidious racist attacks by prison officials who should have never been given authority to run no prison, let alone human beings.
We will aggressively continue to attack these actions against our freedom of speech! It is worth noting we have over 15 lawsuits pending in the federal court. Brotha Abdul Shakur has a lawsuit pending specifically pertaining to the confiscation of an article he had attempted to send to the Bay View. The judge in this matter recently ordered the defendants, IGI and ISU, via the attorney general to respond to Brotha Abdul’s lawsuit. He also has a similar petition being reviewed by the California Supreme Court, so we are aggressively challenging the CDCR/PBSP campaign of repression.
People, we are all in this battle together. We cannot fight this battle by ourselves, especially from within solitary confinement. We must launch a coordinated effort in our endeavors to protect our First Amendment rights and defend the Bay View against any and all attempts to sabotage its functional capacity and impede their free speech.
We will aggressively continue to attack these actions against our freedom of speech! Your support is imperative to our success.
Our First Amendment campaign is calling on all people, especially the prison rights movement, to do the following:
- contact Warden Greg Lewis via email or phone and demand that IGI and ISU put an end to censoring the Bay View and release the March issue [and April issue] of the Bay View to the prisoners housed within the PBSP Security Housing Unit;
- contact Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell. Inform her how Pelican Bay State Prison Institutional Gang Investigation Unit (IGI) and Investigative Services Unit (ISU) are attempting to censor the Bay View newspaper because of their reporting on the hunger strikes, the five core demands, end to hostilities, sensory deprivation, torture and long-term solitary confinement;
- actively help to organize support for the Bay View. This will discourage the fascist agents of repression in their endeavors to ban and isolate the Bay View. Subscriptions are imperative towards the Bay View’s longevity and stability. Brotha Abdul Shakur suggested that activists should organize a Bay View subscribers’ party where attendants pledge to subscribe to the Bay View in support of our ongoing campaign to defend and protect our free speech;
- establish communication with the primary coordinators for our First Amendment campaign. We are all involved in litigation. Brotha Abdul Shakur has seven active cases presently pending, five Section 1983 civil suits in the federal courts, one in the local superior court, and one under review in the California Supreme Court.
Your support is imperative to our success.
Send our brothers some love and light:
- Abdul Olugbala Shakur (s/n J. Harvey) C-48884, D1-119 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (s/n R. Dewberry) C-35671, D1-117 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Mutope Duguma (s/n J. Crawford) D-05996, D1-117 (SHU) , P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Sondai Kamdibe Dumisani (s/n R. Elllis) C-68764, D1-223 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Baridi Yero (s/n J. Williamson) D-34288, D4-107 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Ifoma Modibo Kambon (s/n D. Burnett) B-60892, D4-103 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Kijana Tashiri Askari (s/n M. Harrison) H-54077, D3-123 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Yafeu I-Yapo (s/n L. Alexander) B-72288, D3-119 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Abasi Ganda (s/n E. Jackson) C-33559, D2-107 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532;
- Dadisi Yero (s/n L. Benton) B-85066, D1-101 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
- Askari Joka (s/n J. Franklin) C-08543, D2-207 (SHU), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
Response from the Bay View
We are deeply grateful to the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement First Amendment Campaign and will do all in our power to support them in defending the First Amendment rights of us all. “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” wrote the Russian revolutionary Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who served four years hard labor in Siberia. That truth is beginning to manifest to the U.S. public nationwide and especially in California in a recent flood of mainstream news stories critical of prison policy and practice and the politicians responsible for it.
Pelican Bay is on the wrong side of history. Its officials’ fear of the upcoming July 8 hunger strike and work stoppage, a reaction to their refusal to negotiate in good faith over the prisoners’ Five Core Demands issued two years ago, is apparent in their current violations of the laws and regulations that are supposed to govern them.
The Bay View has yet to receive any official notification from Pelican Bay State Prison saying why and from whom the March and April issues were withheld. Numerous subscribers, however, have written to say they did not receive their papers. All but one had not been issued the 1819 mail disapproval form, which is prerequisite to their filing a 602 appeal.
We want to thank those prisoners who did receive their papers for sharing them with those who did not. If any subscriber who was denied his paper is not located where he can share another subscriber’s paper, write to us and we will send a copy with the pages cited by Pelican Bay officials removed. – Willie and Mary Ratcliff
Prisoner cancels subscription for fear of retaliation
The following letter was written April 10 by a prisoner whose name must be withheld:
“I am a subscriber to your publication and have been for approximately eight years and it truly pains me to have to write this correspondence to you at this time to ask that you remove me from your subscriber list and no longer ship your publication to me due to the prison’s view of your publication.
“While I truly enjoy your publication, it would prove to be detrimental to me to continue to receive your publication. It is my hope and sincere prayer that the prison would change its view towards your publication.
“For me, your publication has been very informative and educational and it has helped me become a better person. I truly do not understand the position of the prison.
“I am aging and cannot deal with any potential fallout as a result of my receiving your publication. It is very sad that men are not allowed to educate themselves.
“I suffer from mental health conditions that would be exacerbated by being a target of the prison’s affection as a result of my receiving your publication. I just learned of the potential problem today while reading someone else’s March edition.
“I hope to someday be able to once again enjoy your publication. Just know that it is with great regret that I make this decision. As I have stated above, I am aging and my mental health is not good. I must protect myself from harm.
“I am also a grandfather with a desire to see and hold my grandchild who was born in July of last year. I have not seen her in person and I wish to transfer down south where I can visit, so I am putting my family desires ahead of everything at this time.
“I would like to close by thanking you for educating me and being a source of comfort through many lonely years. May you have continued success. God bless you and your entire staff.”