Revolution #239, July 17, 2011
San Francisco: Over 200 Demonstrate in Support of Prisoner Hunger Strikers
On July 9, well over 100 people staged a spirited rally in support of the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay and other California prisons. Dozens of protesters wore orange jumpsuits marked CDC—standing for California Department of Corrections—on the back, reminders of prison uniforms and also those worn by prisoners in Guantánamo Bay. Activists around prison conditions and mass incarceration were joined by prisoner families and former prisoners. There were a significant number of those who had taken up the issue of torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay carrying signs saying that what is going on in Pelican Bay is torture. There were students from Stanford and UC Berkeley.
|Credit: Ruben Coronel|
Speakers emphasized the urgent situation. "I have great, great respect for the courage and the strength of those men in the SHU [Security Housing Unit] in Pelican Bay for doing what they are doing," said Barbara Becnel, an activist against the death penalty who is on the mediation team that is meeting with officials on behalf of the prisoners. "You should know, as we speak this is the ninth day of the hunger strike and it is so disturbing and distressing to me... What they have said is that they are slowly dying anyway and they would rather take a stand and you should know that they have said they are willing to go until they are dead."
Former prisoner Manuel La Fontaine, with the group All of Us or None, said, "Most of the people in the Security Housing Unit are critical thinkers, people who want fundamental changes in our community, are people that are human beings that are willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom... The CDC may let people die before they even start talking to prisoners." (He said he'd stopped his own fast because his voice was needed and he had to stay strong.)
Former prisoners Richard Brown, Linda Evans, and Deirdre Wilson also spoke.
During the rally there was a mass "phone-in" with people taking out their cell phones to call the head of the CDC and Governor Jerry Brown to tell them to grant the prisoners' demands. Many people took up petitions to get out broadly—and quickly—calling on the CDC to grant the prisoners' just demands.
The rally was joined by marchers from another demonstration, organized by the ANSWER Coalition, opposing U.S. intervention in Libya, adding another 100 people to the rally. A spokesperson for the march said that these issues were part of the same system and pointed out the hypocrisy of the U.S. going to Libya to supposedly bring "democracy" when it is torturing the prisoners at Pelican Bay.
During the day, 60 copies of Revolution #237 and #238 were distributed, including some bundles, and three copies of BAsics were sold. The newspaper's coverage of the strike has been widely appreciated; we've sold out of #237, and Revolution's articles on the prisoners' hunger strike have circulated widely online.
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