East Oakland Rally Supports Prisoners' Hunger Strike

August 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

On Tuesday, August 6, the Revolution Club of East Oakland held a spirited rally and march in the 'hood in support of the California prisoners' hunger strike. About 30 people of different races and nationalities showed up, many attracted to the displays and banners, as well as a casket with Billy Sell's name (Sell, 32 years old, died on July 22 while on hunger strike at the Corcoran State Prison) and a '"cage" replica of a SHU (Security Housing Unit) cell—an eight feet by ten feet wire cage with a stool and bedding. Many later commented on the powerful effect of seeing a Black man in a cage on the street corner as symbolic of the torture of being locked up in solitary confinement, deprived of your humanity.

Some in the neighborhood had experience of being out in solitary confinement in San Quentin or Pelican Bay, including one Latino man who'd been in a previous hunger strike in the 1990s. Some spoke bitterness over the bullhorn, like a white man who said, "You don't even see who gives you food! No human contact at all. You can only dream about the people you remember." An older Black man told about his mail being torn up, adding, "They try to destroy your spirit and your soul. So this is why we must support this hunger strike."

As a speaker addressed the question of torture, literally by Amnesty International's definition, another spoke of being "stripped of your manhood... being treated worse than dogs, and being fed worse than dog food..." Another man spoke of how the prison creates a "1920s America", separating the races and then pitting them against each other; and this was contrasted with the "unity statement" which called for an end to racial and nationalist hostilities) from prisoners at Pelican Bay... a truly courageous document in effect for almost a year (see "California Prisoners Call for Peace Between Different Nationalities" at revcom.us). But the experience of solitary confinement gave a very clear picture of torture when a brother said, "Just lock yourself up in a bare room for one day with no human contact, no phone, no windows, you don't know what time it is. Now imagine that for 20 years. We must support this hunger strike."

In support of the hunger strike, 16 people from the hood signed up to do a "one day fast" to have the prisoners' backs!

Lines were drawn in the rally between the Zimmerman verdict and the newest Three Strikes poster; and there were references to the truthful slogan, "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide." The Revolution Club emphasized how we must "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."

Besides people from the 'hood, there were some teachers who came from San Francisco, a student from City College of SF, and a member of a local church. One of the teachers later remarked how well the rally "connected" with some people from a nearby homeless shelter. She said, "these (homeless) people are ISOLATED with no family, or they're cast aside, just like solitary confinement. It must have hit a nerve."

After the rally, we marched through the intersection three times with loud chants: "What are we gonna do? Shut down the SHU".... "Prisoners are human beings, Meet the 5 demands", and "CDC Lies, Prisoners Die." (CDC stands for the California Department of Corrections.)

After the march, some of us drank tea at a restaurant and discussed "what is the solution?" (Hint: not all thought that "revolution—nothing less" was the solution, even though we were all in the streets together). We followed up with joining a late afternoon demonstration staged by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network in downtown Oakland.

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