On the Mass Political Movement Inside US Prisons

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four years and still fighting

July 14, 2015, SF Bayview Newspaper

by Claude Marks and Isaac Ontiveros

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison.

“Will You Stand Up and Let Your Voice Be Heard July 8th 2013?” – Art: Michael D. Russell

The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.

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Imprisoning undocumented immigrants isn’t ‘national security’ – it’s cruelty

Innocent children and families are being detained just like Japanese Americans were during World War II. This must stop. Photograph: David Maung/EPA

These detentions seem to be a repeat of the Japanese American internment camps – an ugly part of US history

29 June 2015

As Japanese Americans whose relatives were imprisoned as “national security threats” during World War II, we were shocked to learn that the Obama administration is contracting with private prison companies to imprison thousands of mothers and children from Central America in detention camps. This, after these families fled some of the most violent countries in the world to apply for asylum in the United States.

After visiting one of these family detention facilities, a descendant of incarcerated Japanese Americans described the place as feeling like “an updated version” of the World War II prison camps. The Japanese American Citizens League has stated that the organization is “deeply troubled by the chilling similarities between the confinement of women and children in places such as Dilley and Karnes, and the wartime treatment of Japanese Americans at places such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain and Tule Lake.” Continue reading

No Justice in Baltimore – No peace in Baltimore

[The Maryland officials blame the riot on “outside agitators” and on “groups of thugs roaming the streets attacking innocent people” — a description which many have applied to the Baltimore police in their recent murder of the innocent black man Freddie Gray — the most recent of a repeated chain of events across the country. — Frontlines ed.]

Baltimore erupts in riots after funeral of man who died in police custody

A man walks past a burning police vehicle, Monday during unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A man walks past a burning police vehicle, Monday during unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Ian Simpson, Reuters, April 27, 2015

BALTIMORE – Rioters hurled bricks, looted businesses and set fires in Baltimore on Monday in violence that injured at least seven police officers following the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died after he was injured in police custody.

The disturbances broke out just a few blocks from the funeral of Freddie Gray and then spread through parts of Baltimore in the most violent U.S. demonstrations since looting in Ferguson, Missouri, last year. Continue reading

Film Review — “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”

[Almost all bourgeois media depictions of the Black Panthers have been highly sensationalized, racist, and scarified, designed for bewildered viewers to dismiss.  Some have had a more sympathetic, even empathetic, edge, though usually told in terms that say, “that’s in the past, it won’t happen again.”  But this review connects this new film with its relevance  today in a society riveted and outraged by  the everyday, country-wide, routine police killings of blacks. — Frontlines ed.]

Wickham: The Black Panthers redux

by DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, February 17, 2015
New documentary tells another story of revolutionary group than the one we’ve been told.
NEW YORK — The Black Panther Party is back.
Not the one-dimensional, gun-toting, leather-jacket-wearing caricature that dominated news coverage of the black revolutionary organization during its heyday in the 1960s.
And I’m not talking about the Black Panther Party that was both the target and creation of COINTELPRO, the secret FBI counter-intelligence operation that sought to “neutralize” the Panthers by virtually any means necessary.

Book Review: About Black Prison Organizing

[The movement and struggles of prison activists has played a major, even central, role in the social movements in the US.  But it has not often been recognized or embraced by many other activists and movements which, led by liberal reformists and organizations, avoid the injustices and enslavements of the “criminal justice” system.  Prison organizers, political prisoners, and prisoners as a whole have played a huge role in social movements  in the US (and in most countries throughout the world, as seen from Ireland to Palestine, South Africa to India, Peru to China).  But in the US, the role has been magnified by the mass incarceration of millions, whose pathways and influences in an out of prison have multiplied as a result.  This book review traces recent writing on the roots and links of the prison movement. — Frontlines ed].

The Prisoner’s Rebellion at Attica Prison, New York, 1971

A Hidden Legacy of the Civil Rights Era

by JAMES KILGORE, Counterpunch

Dan Berger’s latest volume, Captive Nation, is perfectly timed. In a moment where interest in mass incarceration across the political spectrum is on the rise, sanitized versions of carceral history will doubtless emerge. Berger’s account offers an instant antidote to any such efforts. He warns us we will be negating a long history of righteous rebellions of the oppressed if we opt for quick fix policy packages that do not address the inequalities underlying the rapid growth of incarceration.

Berger’s personal profile as an historian casts him in a unique position to tell his tale. He represents a bridge between the praxis of the 60s and 70s and today’s decarceration campaigners. Back in the day, activists connected to those in prison by striking up extensive correspondence via snail mail and making in person visits. In this age of digital communication, Berger has stepped back in time and used those old “analog” methods to establish relationships with a number of those still incarcerated for their activities in that era, people such as Veronza Bower, Sundiata Acoli, Jalil Muntaqim (also known as Anthony Bottom) and David Gilbert. These relationships were key to Berger’s framing of the stories he tells as well as his analysis.

Prison Intellectual Culture: The Case of George Jackson

Two things particularly struck me as I read Captive Nation. The first was the amazing radical intellectual culture that emerged in prisons during this period, a culture, I should add, that appeared almost totally absent in the federal and state prisons where I resided from 2002-09. Berger’s depictions of the richness of political debate and the eagerness of people inside to connect prison resistance to the Black liberation struggle and other movements of the era, were staggering. The politics of the rebels/revolutionaries Berger describes were not mere legal maneuverings aimed at overturning individual cases or re-doing legislation. Rather, they aimed to depict and contest the political economy and ideological foundations of a “system.”

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Mumia: Execution by Medical Neglect?

 

[4/3 UPDATE: Abu-Jamal has reportedly been moved by the Dept. of Prisons back to SCI-Mahoney’s infirmary, where there is no specialist on diabetes, despite his apparently still being in an acute health crisis. Sigificantly, his supporters note that this shift makes it even more difficult for family members, supporters and reporters to monitor his treatment and condition.To help Mumia immediate action must be taken. You can help by Calling Pennsylvanian Department of Correction Director of Health Care Services Richard Ellers at 717-728-5311 (rellers@pa.gov) and express your concern for Mumia’s medical treatment. You can also call SCI Mahoney Pennsylvanian Department of Correction Superintendent John Kereste at 570-773-2158, to express your concern. Take action now to help save Mumia’s life!]

Pennsylvania’s Prison System is Torturing Mumia Abu-Jamal and His Family Too

by DAVE LINDORFF, This Can’t Be Happening!, April 1, 2015

 

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical Philadelphia journalist convicted of killing a white Philadelphia police officer in a trial fraught with prosecutorial misconduct, witness coaching and judicial prejudice back in 1981, spent nearly three decades in solitary confinement in the deliberately designed hell of Pennsylvania’s supermax SCI Green prison before a panel of federal Appeals Court judges eventually ruled that he’d been unconstitutionally sentenced to death.

He, of course, received no apology for the state’s making him illegally and improperly spend all those years in solitary waiting to be wrongfully executed. Instead, with that ruling (after a few years of legal stalling by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office), he was simply switched over to a sentence of life without possibility of parole and moved to the SCI-Mahoney prison in central Pennsylvania.

Now, it appears the state, which lost its chance to execute him, may be trying to kill him another way, as word comes that this world-renowned political prisoner had to be rushed to the hospital this week, unconscious from an undiagnosed case of severe diabetes.

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Mexico and US actions link Ayotzinapa, Ferguson, Garner

Weekly News Update on the Americas, December 9, 2014

Hundreds of Mexican immigrants and other activists held actions in at least 47 US towns and cities on Dec. 3 to protest the abduction of 43 teachers’ college students by police and gang members in Mexico’s Guerrero state in September; each of the 43 students had one of the actions dedicated to him.

The protests were organized by UStired2, a group taking its name from #YaMeCansé (“I’m tired now,” or “I’ve had it”), a Mexican hashtag used in response to the violence against the students, who attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. The protesters focused on US government financing for the Mexican government—especially funding for the “war on drugs” through the 2008 Mérida Initiative—but they also expressed outrage over the US court system’s failure to indict US police agents in two recent police killings of unarmed African Americans. Continue reading