Revolution #240, July 24, 2011
Actions “Outside” Support the Prisoners
Protests, rallies, vigils, encampments, and other actions in support of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers are continuing. A July 15 media advisory from Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity reported, "International solidarity with the striking prisoners also continues to mount with demonstrations and messages emerging from the US, Canada, Turkey and Australia."
Revolution received the following reports of support actions from correspondents in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. As we go to press, there is a call to demonstrate Monday, July 18, outside the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) headquarters in Sacramento, the state capital.
On July 15 there were two actions in support of the hunger strike. At noon, religious leaders spoke out to bear witness to the courage of these prisoners and to demand that the prisoners' requests for more humane treatment be granted. This was part of a daily weekday vigil and rally at the California State Building to call attention to this hunger strike until the State of California and the CDCR accede to the demands of the prisoners.
Reverend Daniel Buford, Prophetic Justice Minister at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, issued a call to action: "If you believe that enough is enough, blow your horn. If you believe enough is enough stick your head out of the window and shout it loud! Enough is enough with torture in the prison system. Enough is enough with treating people like animals instead of human beings. Enough is enough when it comes to wasting our money in the prison industrial complex. Enough is enough when it comes to spending more money on prisons, on death row, than on education. Enough is enough when it comes to politicians who are more concerned about the right to own a gun than for people to be treated like human beings. Enough is enough when it comes to turning people into animals and then letting them out on the street without giving them jobs or hope..."
Father Louis Vitale, a Franciscan priest with Pace e Bene, who recently served six months in prison for protesting torture training at the School of the Americas, said, "I think that part of being a human being is looking out for other human beings. We worry about cruelty to animals almost more than we worry about cruelty to human beings. Here is this situation in Pelican Bay. The very existence of it is a contradiction in human conduct, to put people away in solid concrete, no sun, no light, no windows for years and years. I had a parishioner here in the city and her husband has been in Pelican Bay for, at that time, something like 30 years and I think he's still there! It was inhuman. The son had never met his father. He was only two years old when he went in..."
"We can't just let it off the hook and say that it's the people running the prison... I'm here to speak for people that I know who have been in prison who are human beings and deserve to be treated as human beings. Our reputation as a human race is at stake in allowing this to go on."
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At 5 pm as people were getting off work, a march to "Bring the Noise! in Support of Hunger Strikers at Pelican Bay and beyond" took off down Market Street through downtown. The call for the march said, "With a loud, visible, and bold march, protesters will let the world know that the prisoners are human beings, and their demands must be met." Initial endorsers included Communities for Peace and Justice, Poor Magazine, the Revolution Club of the Bay Area, World Can't Wait, and Youth Defending Youth. The spirited and youthful march of more than 50 included many wearing orange jumpsuits modeled after the uniform of prisoners.
At points along the way the group stopped and told people of the prisoners' demands and the refusal of the prison authorities to even negotiate. People were excited to see this action and grabbed up fliers. A number of former prisoners and people with family members in prison stepped up to speak. As the march neared Union Square, a line of San Francisco police blocked the route. After a tense standoff the march continued. The demonstration was prominently covered on at least one local TV station that night.
At the Gates of the Pelican Bay Prison
Friday, July 15, three Revolution readers drove up to Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City in northern California near the Oregon border to show their support for the prisoners on hunger strike, to learn more about the situation from families and supporters of the prisoners, and to report on the situation for Revolution newspaper. They touched base with Julie Tackett, who has a friend in the prison and has been camping out in support of the hunger strikers. (See correspondence online at revcom.us) On Saturday, the team held an impromptu protest at the front gates. On Sunday, they were joined by a crew from the band Outernational. A number of family members who had been visiting loved ones were very excited to see this show of solidarity and stopped to talk.
On July 15, supporters of the hunger strike spent four hours in front of the entrance to the Men's Central Jail downtown, reaching out to family members and loved ones of those incarcerated inside, and to others just released. Most of those taking part were family members themselves. Some people, who had traveled an hour and a half to come to this action, reported that they have been organizing protests and other actions in Santa Ana in Orange County, and in other locations. The protesters held signs and passed out informational fliers announcing a strategy session later that night, and an encampment at the KRST Unity Center.
Some of the protesters had attended the emergency meeting held at Revolution Books the night before. People were getting out Revolution newspaper and BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. One just-released prisoner, in his early twenties, leaned against the outside wall of the jail, reading quotations from BAsics. Hearing about the conditions in the SHU at Pelican Bay and elsewhere, this youth described the degrading treatment inside the men's jail. As he left he passed BAsics to another just-released youth, who was soon reading quotes himself.
Later that night, more than 60 people met at the Southern California Library in South Central Los Angeles to make plans to step up the protests in the coming days. Among those taking part were ex-prisoners, family members, and numerous youth, including a group from UC Riverside who've been organizing in San Bernardino, over an hour east of L.A. They made a decision there to build for a major, all-day protest at the California State Building in downtown L.A., beginning first thing Monday morning. Others announced the encampment at KRST Unity Center; and a plan was also made for a protest on the West Side. They also discussed the work they had to carry out over the weekend to spread word of the hunger strike and these emergency protests in the neighborhoods, at churches on Sunday morning, and in the media.
An hour-long interview with revolutionary communist and former prisoner Clyde Young was done by Blase Bonpane for his 10 am Sunday morning radio show World Focus on Pacifica Radio station KPFK. Young has also done two interviews for international TV and one by Glen Ford, for the Black Agenda.
The encampment at the KRST Unity Center of African Spiritual Science in South Central L.A. began on July 16. According to a flyer, "The Encampment is where people come to express support for the prisoners on hunger strike in Pelican Bay SHU and other CA prisons; where prominent voices of conscience make appearances and convey their solidarity; it is a space where people congregate for a 24 hour solidarity hunger strike and fast and take up other forms as well that draw public awareness to this battle. This Encampment is where families of those incarcerated, and everyone, find community and support and where all this amplifies the voices of the SHU prisoners and galvanizes societal-wide mobilization and support for their just demands."
On Wednesday, July 13, as word spread of the deteriorating health of the strikers, an emergency protest took place in front of the California State Building. Participants and speakers included former prisoners; several women whose sons are in prison, including a hunger striker in the Pelican Bay SHU and a prisoner at the Corcoran SHU who is on a hunger strike in solidarity; students from as far away as UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside; and several organizations that have been at the core of the support movement from the start.
New York City
At 12 noon on July 15, about 30 people came together for an emergency speak-out and demonstration at the Javits Federal Building, including some who were moved on the spot to join in standing with the prisoners and stepped up to speak out. Scores of people stopped to listen. Hundreds of fliers spread through the busy lower Manhattan area included a challenge from prisoners at the Corcoran SHU who are also on hunger strike: "Our indefinite isolation here is both inhuman and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don't care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support."
Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party described the conditions of torture these prisoners are experiencing and called out NO MORE! People called back in response. He said, "These prisoners are asserting their own humanity, and by doing so, challenging others to reclaim their humanity by standing with the prisoners." Several people stepped forward to speak out, including a young homeless white man who has been on hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners for eight days, and a young Black man who had been in prison.
Some people have been closely following the hunger strike since day one and spreading the word, like a young business office worker and artist who said there needed to be "more people dressed like me out here." There was a sense of hatred for the entire system of mass incarceration.
Stolen Lives Activists
On July 17, 50 participants in a Stolen Lives Induction Ceremony in NYC declared their support for the hunger strikers in the California prisons.
Emergency Meetings at Revolution Books Stores
Emergency meetings on the developing situation with the Pelican Bay hunger strike took place at Revolution Books stores in Berkeley, Los Angeles, and New York City. A reader who attended the July 14 meeting at the New York store said, "The urgency of the situation for the hunger strikers electrified the emergency meeting. As Revolution writer Li Onesto was giving a vivid picture of the situation in Pelican Bay, the phone rang—on the line was a sister of two of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers. The room became tense as she talked to us about the continuing determination of her brothers, whom she had seen a few days before, and the difficulty getting information about the medical condition of the strikers. The two other panelists were Carl Dix, RCP, and King Downing, lawyer from American Friends Service Committee. Then we discussed and came up with different ideas for further support actions: rally next day at City Hall, go to churches, big presence in Harlem, break the silence in the media, get word up on the Web, contact famous people to speak out."
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