2020 Soledad raid on Black prisoners hits the courtroom

One of the 200 Black prisoners targeted by the July 20, 2020, raid at CTF-Soledad, a minimum-security prison, is Talib Williams, known as “the student,” a highly respected scholar shown here participating in a leadership competition.

by Tasha Williams

In the summer of 2020, when COVID-19 was rapidly surging throughout the nation, prison officials at Soledad State Prison off the central coast of California pulled a highly illegal and brutal show of force, now known as “Operation Akili,” ​that ended with serious injuries to​ incarcerated men and soon after led to a massive spike in coronavirus cases within the facility. 

The men were rounded up and zip-tied behind their backs after being thrown from their beds in the middle of their sleep. They were taken to the chow hall where they were forced to sit, four men to a small table, for six hours straight. 

In that time, the men were questioned about the social discord taking place on the streets – after the slow, public murder of George Floyd – as well as their ties to Black Lives Matter and the Black Guerilla Family. 

While this may seem like business as usual at many prisons around the country, CTF-Soledad is a minimum-security facility and many of the men brutalized were incarcerated people who have exercised peaceful pacifism for 10-20 plus years behind bars. Oh – and every single one of them was Black. 

“It seems a little ironic to me that in online America people are getting criticized and cancelled for the slightest racial insensitivity, while California prison guards seem perfectly comfortable conducting openly racist mass assaults on Black inmates while dropping the n-word as if CTF is some sort of transatlantic slave ship.”

In the months following the raid, more guard retaliation has taken place, and most of the men harassed have been hit with 602 write-ups or have even been validated as gang members by the administration with little to no evidence. This includes peaceful Black feminist author Talib Williams, who was one of the men whose constitutional and human rights were violated on that July 20 morning. 

Williams just sat for the following interview for the New York Public Radio, entering at 5:25. Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K5gNKVLk44.

Now, a lawsuit out of the offices of Pavone and Fonner LLP is accusing Soledad officials and the CDCr of these offenses: 

The recent lawsuit out of the offices of Pavone and Fonner LLP, representing Shelton Adams, Terrence Brownlee, Antoine Keil, Gary Lawless and many more, is accusing Soledad officials and the CDCr of these offenses.

That lawsuit reads:

  • In what can only be described as one of the most eye-popping racist attacks in recent civil rights history, on July 20, 2020, the warden of the California Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, Calif., executed a 3 a.m. raid, dubbed “Operation Akili,” with the intent to injure, infect, terrorize, provoke and humiliate a large number of sleeping African American inmates. 
  • Not satisfied to merely engage in the KKK-style assault, CDCr agents at the same time elected to weaponize the COVID-19 virus by intentionally exposing a mass number of the inmates to each other and to the guards who had just assaulted them without any protection or social distancing. 
  • This predictably and by design became a “superspreader” event, ultimately resulting in some 2,700 subsequent cases of COVID-19 infection traceable to it, including 17 deaths at this prison. 
Since the July 2020 raid at CTF-Soledad, COVID-19 cases have risen sharply. This is not an isolated incident; rather it points to a broader, barbaric mistreatment of prisoners in CDCr facilities and nationwide.

The lawyer who wrote the complaint, Ben Pavone, Esq., had this to say about the mid-pandemic raid that likely cost people their lives: 

“It seems a little ironic to me that in online America people are getting criticized and cancelled for the slightest racial insensitivity, while California prison guards seem perfectly comfortable conducting openly racist mass assaults on Black inmates while dropping the n-word as if CTF is some sort of transatlantic slave ship.”

While this document only covers the first four plaintiffs, listed as Shelton Adams, Terrence Brownlee, Antoine Keil and Gary Lawless, many more are to come, as there are a rumored 200 plus Black men who were lawlessly and barbarically handled like animals that early morning, forced to sit maskless in a group of hundreds during the deadliest contagion outbreak in 100 years. 

The first hearing is set to take place June 22, 2021, just one month shy of the one-year anniversary of the raid that has scarred the psyche of many men who were peacefully and lawfully just trying to carry out the sentences that they had been handed, fair or not. 

Talib Williams, feminist author and liberationist currently caged at CTF-Soledad, was one of the Black men targeted by the 3 a.m. July 20, 2020, raid at the prison to supposedly investigate unfounded gang activity among prisoners – but proved a plot to racially harass and infect the 200-plus men with COVID-19.

Talib Williams is one of those men. Williams is seeking to go home in 2021 and he’s asking for your help. Please visit www.talibthestudent.com ​to learn more about this highly respected prison scholar, and write a short letter recommending he be released. Please send all letters ASAP to: Marcelle Williams, V69247, CTF-SP EW-304, P.O. Box 689, Soledad, CA 93960. 

Tasha Williams, an activist dedicated to bringing her husband home, can be reached at tashachildress@gmail.com.