California Prisoner Hunger Strike: Countdown in the Struggle for Humane Conditions

Day 32


August 8, 2013 — Today is the one-month anniversary of a hunger strike initiated by prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison that quickly spread to other correctional facilities across the state of California. To be precise, it is Day 32 of a month-long period of no solid foods for what are now hundreds of prisoners.

 

These are men risking their lives to insist on humane conditions and certain terms for those prisoners who have otherwise been banished to indefinite sentences of solitary confinement in California’s prison system. Many of these men have been isolated for decades with no windows, no contact visits, no outside sunlight and no real exercise.

 

Recent reports from these prisoners demonstrate that their brave efforts have been made all the more difficult by prison guards who are treating them very harshly.

 

Guards are knocking them into walls, handcuffing them incorrectly to cause suffering and bending their arms to provoke extreme pain. Guards are spitting out racial epithets or deliberately placing an African American prisoner, for example, in a cell with racist graffiti. Guards are also being strategically divisive by tactically treating some prisoners nicely and others in the most demeaning ways, hoping—as the guards openly discussed in front of some prisoners—to create division so the prisoners will begin to fight each other. The guards’ goal: to undermine the hunger strike. According to these same talkative guards, this unprofessional behavior is what they were instructed to do to help bring the hunger strike to an end. Continue reading

Prof. Akinyele Umoja Discusses “We Will Shoot Back”


March 27.2013

Professor Akinyele Umoja, chair, African American Studies at Georgia State University discusses his new book: We Will Shoot Back: Armed Self-defense in the Mississippi Freedom Movement. This program was sponsored by the Stone Center and the Bull’s Head Bookstore of UNC at Chapel Hill.
This is part of the presentation Professor Umoja made at Chapel Hill,  length: 30:38
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What Will It Take to Free Our Political Prisoners?

July 16, 2013

By Liz Derias

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), a revolutionary organization based in the u.s. that fights to uphold the self-determination and the human rights of Black people in the world, has been working to free political prisoners for over three decades. The organization has actively worked on the cases of Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt, the San Francisco 8 (SF8), the MOVE 9, the Cuban 5, and more. Additionally, MXGM has worked with the founding Black August Organizing Committee of California to popularize Black August, a month of commemoration and action in support of political prisoners.

Through the heed of political prisoners Assata Shakur and Nehanda Abiodun, MXGM has also taken a lead in inspiring and mobilizing the Hip Hop generation to take action in support of political prisoners, particularly through the annual Black August Concert, which has featured artists such as Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Erykah Badu, Dead Prez, and others. MXGM works with other leading organizations that have championed action to free political prisoners, such as the National Black United Fund, the Prisoners of Consciousness Committee, the Nation of Islam, and numerous support committees around the world.black august

This article will describe the history and current context of political prisoners in the u.s., the conditions for them while incarcerated, and the organizing strategies employed by MXGM over the years to free them.

The Legacy of COINTELPRO

We cannot discuss the case of political prisoners in the u.s. without having an understanding of COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO, or the Counter Intelligence Program, was the federal government’s secret program during the 1950s-1970s used against many forces of the Black Liberation movement, leftists, and political dissidents in the u.s., including the Chicano Nationalist Movement and the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. It was secret because it was illegal.

Under COINTELPRO, the FBI and local police forces assassinated, arrested, tortured, and framed hundreds of leftists, particularly Black leftists, who were considered to pose the greatest threat to the racist status quo of u.s. society. The tactics of COINTELPRO can be categorized in four main areas: infiltration of organizations, psychological warfare from the outside, harassment through the legal system, and extralegal force and violence, including extrajudicial killing and outright murder. The FBI’s stated motivation for the program was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order. Continue reading

Jose Campos Torres, and Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, and countless more of us

Gil Scott-Heron — Jose Campos Torres, and a Visual Poem for Oscar Grant

Gil Scott Heron’s “Jose Campos Torres” (1978) and video by TripleTruth

Trayvon Martin (no justice, just us)

Inspired by Gil Scott Heron’s “Jose Campos Torres” Brooklyn born lyricist/poet/singer Glennjamin Bishop digs deep and touches real-life issues and emotions in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin tragedy.
Published on Apr 4, 2012

How the System Worked – The US v. Trayvon Martin

July 15, 2013, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/15/the-us-v-trayvon-martin/

by ROBIN D.G. KELLEY

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today.   Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points.  The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.

But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute.  Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today.  The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot.  Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man.  Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator.  At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

Zimmerman pursued Martin.  This is a fact.  Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back.  The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cel phone and his fists.  Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat.  He did know he was in imminent danger.

Where was the NRA on Trayvon Martin’s right to stand his ground?  What happened to their principled position?  Let’s be clear: the Trayvon Martin’s of the world never had that right because the “ground” was never considered theirs to stand on.  Unless black people could magically produce some official documentation proving that they are not burglars, rapists, drug dealers, pimps or prostitutes, intruders, they are assumed to be “up to no good.”  (In the antebellum period, such documentation was called “freedom papers.”)  As Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president, succinctly explained their position, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”   Trayvon Martin was a bad guy or at least looked and acted like one.  In our allegedly postracial moment, where simply talking about racism openly is considered an impolitic, if not racist, thing to do, we constantly learn and re-learn racial codes.  The world knows black men are criminal, that they populate our jails and prisons, that they kill each other over trinkets, that even the celebrities among us are up to no good.  Zimmerman’s racial profiling was therefore justified, and the defense consistently employed racial stereotypes and played on racial knowledge to turn the victim into the predator and the predator into the victim.  In short, it was Trayvon Martin, not George Zimmerman, who was put on trial.  He was tried for the crimes he may have committed and the ones he would have committed had he lived past 17.  He was tried for using lethal force against Zimmerman in the form of a sidewalk and his natural athleticism. Continue reading

The People–Not the System–will solve the Problem of White Supremacist Murders

The Zimmerman Verdict is a Reflection of the Times.   WE CHARGE GENOCIDE!

The People Must ORGANIZE!

Statement by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, July 13, 2013

Trayvon Martin was never going to get justice from a courtroom of the United States government. Justice for Trayvon and for the hundreds of other Black women, men, and children executed by someone employed or protected by the US government on a daily basis will only come from our people and the power we are able to wield through the strength of our organization and the resolve of our will. Zimmerman was only put on trial because todos con una misma direcciónmillions of our people took to the streets in early 2012 and threatened to disrupt the system. The trial was a means to divert our energies and return things to the status quo.

Obama’s statement that a “a jury has spoken” encouraging what he called, “calm reflection”, is just another effort to lure Black people to sleep and keep us accepting the status quo. The status quo of white supremacy has never and will never work for Black people.  As W.E.B. DuBois stated, “a system cannot fail those who it was never meant to protect.” White supremacy and the systems that support and reinforce it like capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy must be defeated and dismantled. We must always keep this in mind and be prepared in concrete, organized ways to ensure that there will be no peace if there is no justice. Now is the time for direct action in the form of organized Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns that disrupt the status quo systems of the US government through massive non-compliant resistance.

We must also be clear that the Zimmerman verdict is a reflection of the times. 17-year old Trayvon Martin was the 31st Black person executed by someone employed or protected by the state in 2012. As we demonstrated in Operation Ghetto Storm, 313 Black women, men, and children were executed without trials by the police, security guards or certified “neighborhood watchmen” in 2012. These extrajudicial killings have by no means stopped or slowed down, as witnessed by the execution of Kimani Gray and dozens more Black people in the first six months of 2013. With the Zimmerman verdict justifying and setting new precedent for the disposal of Black life, we should expect the number of extrajudicial killings to increase. It is now more imperative than ever for us to strengthen the organization of our communities and defend ourselves. Continue reading

Solidarity Network: “ALL OUT FOR CALIFORNIA PRISONER HUNGER STRIKE 2013″

California prisoners started a hunger strike and work actions today for basic human rights.
Support their demands – join us for a demonstration at Corcoran Saturday – July 13th!
Check out this new video!

Edited by Lucas Guilkey & Nicole Deane
Music: Fatgums ‘Kill the Vultures” & The Coup ‘My Favorite Mutiny’
 Published on Jul 8, 2013

JULY 13TH RALLY AT CORCORAN

SIGN THE PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE and become part of the EMERGENCY RESPONSE NETWORK

SIGN THE PETITION TO GOVERNOR BROWN

MORE INFORMATION: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

In 2011, over 12,000 prisoners and their family and community members participated in statewide hunger strikes protesting the inhumane conditions in California’s Security Housing Units (SHU or solitary confinement). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation promised meaningful reform as a result of those protests, but nothing meaningful has reached the people living in these cages. Prisoners have announced another hunger strike will begin July 8th because of CDCR’s failure to fulfill that promise. Continue reading

Assata Shakur Becomes the First Woman Added to FBI’s Most Wanted List

Assata Shakur

Madeleine Davies
As of yesterday, former Black Panther and member of the Black Liberation Army Assata Shakur became the first-ever woman to be added to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list. She is currently 66 years old and living in Cuba where she has been granted political asylum.

In May of 1973, Shakur was in a car that was pulled over by police on the New Jersey highway. A shootout occurred, resulting in the deaths of her companion and fellow activist Zayd Malik Shakur and State Trooper Werner Foerster. Assata Shakur was wounded in the gunfight, having been shot twice. Accounts of what happened that night differ greatly — surviving Trooper James Harper (also wounded) claimed that Zayd Malik Shakur began firing when they asked him to step out of the vehicle whereas Assata Shakur attests that the police fired first, even after she had her hands in the air.

Shakur was convicted of Foerster’s murder and sentenced to a life in prison. In 1979, with the help of allies, she was able to escape from confinement and flee to Cuba where she still lives and calls herself a “20th century escaped slave.” Continue reading

French railroad merges racial profiling and islamophobia during welcome of Israeli president

Black workers ‘banned from Gare du Nord during Israeli president visit’

French President Francois Hollande receives President of Israel Shimon Peres at Elysee Palace. It was on this trip that black and African rail workers were banned for the arrival of Mr Peres at Gare du Nord station in Paris because they might have been mistaken for Muslims

Black and African rail workers were banned when President of Israel Shimon Peres arrived at Gare du Nord train station in Paris “because they might have been mistaken for Muslims.”

Black and North African railway workers were banned from working at Paris’s Gare du Nord when the President of Israel visited France over fears they might be Muslim, it has emerged.

By Nabila Ramdani, Paris
Telegraph 5:39PM BST 14 Apr 2013
The alleged discrimination took place as Shimon Peres arrived at the station, the hub for high-speed trains, on March 8, to discuss the Middle East peace process.
It is now the subject of an official complaint by the SUD-Rail transport union which says everything was done to ensure there were “no Muslim employees to welcome the Head of the State of Israel”.
Mr Peres and a delegation of other senior Israelis arrived on a morning train from Belgium, and were greeted by staff from SNCF, France’s national railway, and their baggage-handling subsidiary, ITIREMIA.
The previous day however, a site manager told all workers at the station about the ban on black staff, and those of North African descent, because they might be Muslim.
Secular France does not officially recognise anybody’s religion, but it was assumed by management that anyone from a “black or Arab” background might be Muslim – an assumption “based on the appearance of the workers”, according to a SUD-Rail statement. Continue reading

New Annual Report — “Operation Ghetto Storm” — 313 Black People were killed in 2012, averaging one every 28 hours.

[Last year, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement released, in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida, a report revealing that every 36 hours, a Black man, woman, or child is murdered or protected by the US government.  As if this were not shocking enough, ongoing research is revealing an even more pervasive pattern, as shown in the updated research and new report described below.  We urge you to download and forward, share, discuss and study this report which must not be ignored.  Take it to friends and neighbors in the community, in schools, at work--and plan ways to educate and act upon it. -- Frontlines ed.]

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Released by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Monday, April 8, 2013

Contact:     Kali Akuno, 404.567.5938, kaliakuno@mxgm.org

For Immediate Release: New Annual Report reveals that 313 Black People were killed in 2012, averaging one every 28 hours

Download here: http://mxgm.org/operation-ghetto-storm-2012-annual-report-on-the-extrajudicial-killing-of-313-black-people/

Every 28 hours in 2012 someone employed or protected by the US government killed a Black man, woman, or child! This startling fact is revealed in Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of 313 Black People by Police, Security Guards, and Vigilantes.

When we started this investigation in early 2012, we knew a serious human rights crisis was confronting the Black community”, says Kali Akuno, an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). “However, we did not have a clear sense of its true depth until we compiled and examined the annual figures. We have uncovered outrageous rates of extrajudicial killings–rates, that when they are found in countries like Mexico or Brazil, are universally condemned.  The same outrage inside the U.S. also demands immediate action.” Continue reading

Another Black LA cop speaks out

Ex-LA Cop Brian Bentley on Dorner Manifesto: ‘Not Only do I Believe it, but I Lived it’

Ex-LAPD officer speaks out about the LAPD, racism, and Christopher Dorner   
by Jasmyne A. Cannick, EURweb
Brian Bentley

[Ex-LAPD Officer Brian Bentley today in Los Angeles, Calif.]
*Brian Bentley, 49, doesn’t agree with what Christopher Dorner — the ex-cop at center of a massive manhunt for the killings of three people—has done, but he certainly understands it.
As a former LAPD officer, Bentley, who is now an author, says that a Dorner-like situation was just a matter of time.
“It took longer than I thought it would for something like this to happen.”
In fact, Bentley says that when he was a police officer, there were frequent postings of “look out” bulletins on the walls at police stations featuring officers who’d been terminated and who were believed to have vendettas.
“When the Department terminated you, they intentionally tried to ruin your life,” Bentley explains.  “That’s how they discredited you.  Dorner isn’t the first ex-police officer to have a manifesto or some sort of hit list.”
And he should know.
Brian Bentley

[Ex-LAPD officer Brian Bentley]
Brian Bentley left the LAPD in 1999 after serving ten years with the Department. He was a police officer in 1992 during the uprising and was assigned to guard O.J. Simpson’s house in Brentwood during the infamous trial.  He served under police chiefs Daryl Gates, Bayan Lewis, Willie Williams, and Bernard Parks.  However, he was fired for writing the book One Time: The Story of a South Central Los Angeles Police Officer that detailed the massive misconduct and racism he witnessed during his time at the LAPD’s Southwest and West L.A. divisions.
He says that when he left the Department he had a manifesto of his own.  Not one that involved killing anyone, but a list of people who had wronged him during his time at the Department. Continue reading

New York: Police program stalking Muslims denounced by whistleblower

NYPD informant who tracked militants quits, denounces police

Police barricade in NYC (Mario Tama, Getty Images)
Police barricade in NYCBy Mark Hosenball, Reuters, October 22, 2012

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An informant recruited by the New York Police Department to collect information on suspected Islamic militants has quit and denounced his police handlers, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the case.

The informant, a 19-year-old American citizen of Bangladeshi descent, was recruited by the NYPD recently as part of an expansive intelligence-gathering program the department launched after the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. His assignment was to make contact with suspected Islamic extremists to try to determine if they had any inclinations to engage in violence, the source said.

On October 2, however, the informant, whom the source did not name, posted a message on his personal Facebook page exposing himself as an informant to people he had been in contact with. He declared that he had quit as a police informant.

“I was jus (sic) of pretending to be friends with ya cuz I honestly thought i was fighting terrorism, but let’s be real, it’s all a f…king scheme,” the informant wrote, according to the source. “It was all about the money,” he added.

The source said that the informant was not involved in an investigation that led to the arrest of a Bangladeshi man last week in connection with an alleged scheme to bomb the New York Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan. Continue reading

Oakland’s Government Can’t Defeat the Struggle for Justice against Police killings

Unresolved OPD Shooting of Black Teenager Alan Blueford Illustrates Oakland’s Continuing Crisis of Governance

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

By Scott Johnson, TruthOut

Every member of the large and close knit family of Alan Dwayne Blueford who could spoke truth to power at the Oakland City Council meeting on May 15 in support of justice for their slain loved one, who was gunned down on May 6 by one of the OPD’s paid killers behind the badge, Miguel Masso. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

After seeking justice from the City of Oakland for months, the family of Alan Blueford finally caught the attention of city leaders on September 18 when their protest brought the City Council to a halt.

Alan, an African-American high school student, was murdered on May 6 by Officer Miguel Masso, who drove up on the young man who had committed no crime, chased him for five blocks and shot him dead outside a Cinco de Mayo party. Masso initially claimed that Alan shot him, a story spread by the local media, although when it was revealed that Masso actually shot himself this lie turned into the claim that Alan pointed a gun at the officer. The Bluefords refute even this claim, considering Masso’s earlier lie.

Since May, the Bluefords have demanded that Masso be fired and prosecuted and that stop-and-frisk and racial profiling practices be ended among Oakland police. The elected leadership of Oakland have largely ignored these requests outside of a handful of closed door meetings where the Bluefords were promised a timely investigation and no slandering of Alan in the press. Neither promise was kept.

The Bluefords arrived at the September 18 City Council meeting with over 100 supporters to speak during open comments, recounting not only their heartbreak but also the endless unkept promises from the city and OPD. “I just want to know what happened to my son,” Adam Blueford, Alan’s father, both begged and demanded of the Council.

The Councilmembers, typically masters of evasion who are usually absorbed in their cell phones and magazines during public comments, suddenly all sat upright at full attention. Once it was clear the Bluefords were not going to walk away quietly without answers, City Administrator Deanna Santana went scurrying to find something to offer the Bluefords. Finally, it was announced that OPD Chief Howard Jordan was on his way to City Hall with the police report in hand – after refusing to release it for months.

This promise also evaporated within the hour after the Bluefords refused yet another closed-door meeting with Jordan, insisting he address the public in order to be held accountable. With no sign of either Jordan or the report, the Council attempted to resume with its first order of business – passing a resolution declaring Oakland an International City of Peace. This absurd resolution, from a city internationally known for the murder of Oscar Grant and the repression of Occupy Oakland, led to chants of “No Justice No Peace” and “Howard is a coward!” from both the Bluefords and the audience, many of whom were beaten and tear-gassed during those two movements. Continue reading

Tracking Hate Crimes, Tracking the FBI’s Crimes

[Ever since the criminal/hate massacre of Sikhs took place on August 5, 2012, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the shock and anger at that horrifying murderous act by a white-supremacist gunman has fueled an intense discussion and debate within the Sikh community and South Asians, and among all who stand in solidarity and in common humanity with the targeted Sikh community.  Some have argued that Sikhs should embrace the FBI and other instruments of government repression, and try to get the FBI to take action against fascist attackers.  Others have said that Sikhs should draw more closely together, and join forces with all victims of white supremacy, of racial profiling, of Islamophobia and of xenophobia, in more determined and forceful community alliances.  While some have argued combining these methods, others have argued the incompatability of these two strategies, because of the key role the FBI has played in both supporting and initiating attacks (racial and Islamophic profiling programs) on targeted communities and activists of (non-white) color and (non-Cristian) religion.  The following is from a Sikh blog, The Langar Hall. -- Frontlines ed.]

The Oak Creek community mourns the loss of the shooting victims from the Oak Creek Sikh temple at a group wake and visitation service in the Oak Creek High School gymnasium on Friday.

September 18th, 2012

Over the last month since the horrific tragedy in Oak Creek, WI, Sikh civil rights organizations and other leaders in the community seem to have come to a consensus on what our collective demand should be to move forward — getting the FBI to track hate crimes against Sikhs.  A few weeks ago Valarie Kaur wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, “Sikhs deserve the dignity of being a statistic,” in which she convincingly articulates the basic argument that many are making:

The FBI tracks all hate crimes on Form 1-699, the Hate Crime Incident Report. Statistics collected on this form allow law enforcement officials to analyze trends in hate crimes and allocate resources appropriately. But under the FBI’s current tracking system, there is no category for anti-Sikh hate crimes. The religious identity of the eight people shot in Oak Creek will not appear as a statistic in the FBI’s data collection. As a Sikh American who hears the rising fear and concerns in my community, I join the Sikh Coalition and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) in calling for the FBI to change its policy and track hate crimes against Sikhs.

We’ve all probably gotten numerous action alerts to sign petitions, call our Senators, and, most recently, to attend tomorrow’s Senate hearing on hate violence in Washington, DC.  The Sikh Coalition’s email advisory today about tomorrow’s hearing begins, “Be Present and Request that the FBI Track Hate Crimes Against Sikhs.”

It seems like a sensible request.  The FBI is a government agency responsible for investigating hate crimes, so of course they should be looking specifically at attacks targeting Sikhs and have a category to enable them to do so.  While I am sympathetic to this cause, I am a bit troubled by it, or have some questions about it, as well. Continue reading