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

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

Crisis breeds xenophobia in Greece as nationalists gain clout


Jul 11, 2012 by RussiaToday

Greece is in turmoil. Violent clashes have shaken the city of Agrinio in the west. Supporters of the far-right Golden Dawn party fought with anarchists, leaving cars and shop windows smashed, and one person injured. Golden Dawn’s influence is rising. It gained around 7 per cent of the vote in the recent general election. RT’s Jacob Greaves takes a look at xenophobia in today’s Greece.

Immigrants To Wells Fargo: Stop Investing In For-Profit Detention

Wells Fargo Private Prisons

10/17/11

Huffington Post
Latino and Somali immigrants are organizing in Minneapolis, Minn., against Wells Fargo, telling the bank to stop donating to anti-immigrant politicians and investing in private prison corporations while courting immigrant customers.

About 150 people, many of them Wells Fargo customers and Latino or Somali immigrants, gathered outside a Wells Fargo branch on Saturday to protest the bank. The protest was part of a larger effort by 84 advocacy groups calling for Wells Fargo to divest its money from companies that profit off of immigrant detention. Continue reading

FBI and NYPD: Luring the migrant into a fake “terror plot” — then jailing him for decades

Report Documents Fake Terror Threats Concocted by FBI and NYPD

Color Lines, Monday, May 23 2011

Shahawar Matin Siraj immigrated to Queens, N.Y., from Pakistan with his family when he was 16. Siraj began working at his uncle’s Islamic bookshop in Queens where, soon after 9/11, an undercover police officer began coming around and engaging Siraj in conversations about politics and religion. Whatever Siraj said to the officer in those conversations, it was enough for NYPD to soon assign another undercover officer to befriend the young man as well.

That second officer showed Siraj images of victims of American wars in the Middle East and of Guantanamo Bay, and began making up stories about secret terrorist organizations inside the U.S. Over the next year, the undercover agent prodded Siraj to devise a plan to detonate a bomb in New York City, as a means of responding to the U.S. government’s violence. Siraj first agreed but eventually refused to actively participate in the plot, saying, “No, I don’t want to do it.” But after more repeated prodding of the young man, Siraj finally agreed to act as a lookout for others.

A week later, Siraj was called by the NYPD to a police station to deal with an outstanding misdemeanor charge. Upon arrival, he was arrested and charged with conspiracy. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The next day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested and detained Siraj’s mother, sister and father. His mother and sister spent 11 days and his father six months in a New Jersey detention center. Continue reading

Technology of Xenophobia: Entire US-Mexico border to be guarded by Predator drones

[US drones are more widely used every day, from Afghanistan to Arizona, for aerial surveillance and for attack. The technology does not create accurate intelligence or targets.  But it does generate profits for military contractors, it generates votes for demagogic politicians, and it generates victims.  This article from the Christian Science Monitor spreads  the government’s misleading justifications that criminalize migrants, and claims that “drones create safety.”–ed.]

The launch of a fourth Predator drone Wednesday will mean the entire US-Mexico border is now patrolled by the unmanned aircraft.

The border wall between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico

August 31, 2010

The entire 2,000-mile US-Mexico border will be monitored by drones starting Wednesday when a new Predator drone begins flying from Corpus Christi, Texas, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

There are already three drones operating along portions of the border. Aside from the new drone launched today, money for two more was included in $600 million legislation President Barack Obama signed earlier this month, which ramps up border security ahead of midterm elections on Nov. 2 and as Mexico’s heated drug war gains more attention. Meanwhile, Napolitano calls the border safer than ever.

With the deployment of the Predator in Texas, we will now be able to cover the southwest border from the El Centro sector in California all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, providing critical aerial surveillance assistance to personnel on the ground,” Napolitano said during a conference call, according to Reuters. Continue reading

Mexico: 72 migrants killed on US border


[Criminal drug cartels that prey on migrants–people who are vulnerable and criminalized–have attacked again.  The failures of the Mexican state to provide any basic services or protections for the poor, and the gauntlet of the US’ militarized border and War on Drugs which migrants face in their struggle for life and work, are the setting for this massacre.  This horrific act highlights the need for a revolutionary movement to champion the migrants and all oppressed, against the Mexican capitalist state, the predatory cartels, and the militarized xenophobia of  US imperialism.  See the two news articles, followed by the statement from the National Network on Immigrant and Refugee Rights, below.-ed.]

Brunei News.Net
Wednesday 25th August, 2010

Police in Mexico have found a migrant link in an incident in which 72 people were found murdered at a ranch in Tamaulipas state.

Government security agents have said the 58 men and 14 women who were murdered had come from South and Central America in an effort to reach the United States.

Their bodies were found on Tuesday, after a shoot-out between suspected drug traffickers and security forces.

A surviving member of the group told police they had all been kidnapped by an armed gang that had insisted they become drug mules.

Authorities only became involved when the surviving man managed to escape and alerted marines at a nearby checkpoint. Continue reading