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On the front page of USA Today for Dec. 27, 2018, we saw a shocking headline: “Grave discovery unearths legacy of Black convict labor.” The unmarked graves of 95 “prison slaves” were found on a construction site in Sugar Land, Texas. These Black men, ages 14 to 70 years old, were our ancestors and the first victims of what we have come to know as prison slavery in Amerika! These contract convict laborers were subjected to this form of slavery because the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution still allows slavery. Only the name has been changed. Slavery is still alive!
“I am going to boycott the third-party correspondence system,” Bryant Arroyo, an activist and organizer currently detained at SCI Frackville in central Pennsylvania, told this Workers World reporter during an extended Sept. 23 interview. Arroyo urges all prisoners to immediately cease sending and accepting mail in response to the draconian new prison policies of current Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
In the early morning of June 16, after nearly 40 years of unjust imprisonment by the state of Pennsylvania, political prisoner and MOVE 9 member Debbie Sims Africa was granted parole and released from the State Correctional Institution-Cambridge Springs. Messaging on Instagram, the MOVE Organization wrote: “Our sister Debbie Africa is FREE! What a beautiful day to find freedom! Let’s keep fighting for our bros and sisters still behind bars — Mike [Sr.], Eddie, Chuck, Janet, Janine and Delbert! The struggle is underway!” This important victory comes exactly two years after Debbie, Janet and Janine Africa were last denied parole in 2016.
May Day – International Workers Day – is celebrated around the world, including in the United States, honoring the fighting spirit and struggle of all working and oppressed people. It is a time when workers show their strength, demand their rights and forge global solidarity. Its roots are in the struggle for the eight-hour day in 1886 in Chicago. Only in the United States, whose working class gave birth to May Day, have the powers that be managed to conceal that history, erase the memory of May Day, and suppress the class struggle that it represents. ILWU Local 10 shut down all Bay Area ports on May Day for the fourth consecutive year.
Supporters of Black liberation fighter and political prisoner Herman Bell held a packed news conference at the Center for Constitutional Rights March 23. They came out to show support for a recent New York State Parole Board decision to free Bell after more than 40 years – much of it spent in torturous solitary confinement. The board’s decision has come under attack from police groups, the corporate media and elected officials, including “liberal” Democrats Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The frame-up of rapper Meek Mill by Philadelphia cops bears a telling resemblance to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Both stand as indictments of the entire injustice system. Recent revelations about the fraudulent arrest and imprisonment of Mill demonstrate what police and prison abolitionists have known for decades: The entire institution of mass incarceration is a crooked, racist system. When we say, “Free Meek and free Mumia!” we also say, “Free them all!”
There is one place in the U.S. where slavery is still constitutionally legal: in prisons. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1864, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. But prisoners held in this enslavement are organizing resistance. Brave prisoners within the Florida state prison system have organized themselves into a month-long work strike called Operation Push. It began on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Day. In a phone interview, an anonymous prisoner-activist specifically linked the strike to King’s legacy of protest against racism and economic injustice.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections sent a letter to Workers World Publishers on Oct. 13, informing us that the denial of Workers World issue 35, Aug. 31, into Pennsylvania prisons has been “overturned.” A previous DOC letter to Workers World Publishers on Sept. 11 stated: “The August 31 issue of Workers World newspaper has been denied to all inmates housed in Pennsylvania prisons.” Their reason: The issue contained articles that “call for people to join the fight against white supremacy.”
A confident, unified workers’ movement – that’s who was marching here on the April 4 anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Spearheading the march were militants of United Service Workers West (USWW-SEIU) – the janitors, airport employees and other mainly low-wage workers playing a leading role in building for May Day general strike actions in California.
Lynne Stewart, after 78 winters in America, has died, after battling for years against breast cancer. But those were just some of her battles and, like most of us, she won some and lost some. But she never stopped fighting! For decades, she and her husband, Ralph Poynter, fought for New York’s political activists and revolutionaries, like Black Panthers and Young Lords, a Puerto Rican socialist collective. But mostly, they fought for the freedom of the poor and dispossessed of New York’s Black and Brown ghettoes. Lynne Stewart was an officer of her clients, a People’s Lawyer, beloved and respected. May she ever be so.
“On the weekend before Super Bowl 50 in downtown San Francisco, Officer Joshua Cabillo aggressively put his hands on me. It was a peaceful protest and I sensed the hatred in his eyes,” says protester Deja Caldwell. Not only did Officer Cabillo unnecessarily assault a woman who was protesting police killing, but he is a killer cop himself! On June 5, 2012, as a South San Francisco police officer, Joshua Cabillo brutalized, restrained and eventually shot to death 15-year-old Derrick Gaines. Officer Cabillo is a child killer with a long record of abuse, yet SFPD hired him.
A heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon me. On Oct. 6, 2015, I was transferred back to Marquette Branch Prison, a two-day ride on the bus, shackled, mistreated and intimidated. I was forced to strip on five different occasions. I am forced into overcrowding, inadequate exercise, lack of clean clothing and inadequate medical care which violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Despite an original agreement to hold negotiations between the PMA and the ILWU negotiating committee in secrecy, which has been upheld on the union’s side since the contract expired on June 30, the PMA has chosen to go public with their offer in an attempt to negotiate the contract through the media. In taking these steps, the PMA is putting out an all or nothing proposition and challenging the union’s right to negotiate the contract under normal fair bargaining practices.
Pennsylvania legislators are trying to stop prisoners from speaking about their ideas and experiences. Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Vereb introduced a bill, HB2533, called the “Revictimization Relief Act,” which would allow victims, district attorneys and the attorney general to sue people who have been convicted of “personal injury” crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime “mental anguish.” The bill was written in response to political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s commencement speech at Goddard College and is a clear attempt to silence Mumia and other prisoners and formerly incarcerated people.
On March 8, hundreds of people, especially from the South and particularly Jackson, Miss., came to mourn and reflect on the life of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who died suddenly on Feb. 25 at the age of 66. Starting with a March 5 tribute at the historically Black college, Jackson State University, Mayor Lumumba’s life was memorialized for several days, ending with the masses lining the streets for his burial motorcade. A collection of tributes to the late great mayor of Jackson, Miss.
In classic Fox form, the interview with me would not be about the case or about the appointment of Adegbile. In the end, the point of the segment was for Fox to call Mumia “a thrice-convicted cop killer” as many times as possible, and to associate that with Debo Adegbile so as to strategically energize a right-wing agenda against the gains of the civil rights movement – following the same pattern as in their successful campaign to decommission Van Jones.
Hundreds of Siddiqui’s supporters met the two at the airport in the wee hours of the morning, carrying flowers, signs and banners, and chanting “Free Aafia!” and “Welcome!” Siddiqui is a Pakistani political prisoner who has been held in solitary confinement for years in U.S. prisons, after being abducted from Pakistan with her three young children.
For decades, the Oakland Police Department has been the focus of fear. For a brief time, the Black Panther Party put a crimp into their strut. But the Black Panther Party is no more, and the repression has come surging back. The family of Alan Blueford continue to organize resistance to this campaign of repression. You can join that campaign at justice4alanblueford.org.
Battle lines have formed as the West Coast Occupy movements, from San Diego to Alaska, organize for blockades of West Coast ports to support the struggle of the ILWU in Longview, Wash. against EGT of the grain cartel, of port truckers fighting for the right to organize and of Long Beach against SSA, owned by Goldman Sachs.
As pressure builds for the Dec. 12 West Coast port shutdown, the capitalist owners and their media have begun a battle of ideas to blunt this powerful threat to their profits and control. But ILWU member Clarence Thomas says: "We don’t cross community picket lines. These ports are the people’s ports. Ports belong to the people of the Pacific Coast."
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