Political Prisoner Hugo Pinell Killed—Blood Is on the Hands of the System

August 17, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On August 12, Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell, a political prisoner and one of the defendants in the famous case of the San Quentin 6, was killed in Folsom Prison in California. Originally from Nicaragua, Pinell was 71 years old and had been in prison since 1964, more than 50 years. Almost 46 of those years were spent in solitary confinement, longer than any other prisoner in the California system.

Hugo Pinell in 1982Hugo Pinell in 2001

Hugo Pinell in 1982 (left) and 2001.

Hugo Pinell was 19 years old when incarcerated in 1964. In prison he met George Jackson and other revolutionaries and became radicalized. Jackson himself had become a revolutionary in prison, influenced by the revolutionary times. Jackson joined the Black Panther Party, and his articles appeared in the Black Panther newspaper. He urged unity among prisoners of different nationalities and tried to build revolutionary consciousness and a spirit of resistance behind the walls. For this, he was hated—and feared—by the authorities. And on August 21, 1971, the authorities assassinated George Jackson during what they said was an escape attempt from San Quentin Prison. The full details of what happened that day aren’t known. But what is clear is that they murdered this revolutionary brother in order to silence him.

In a November 29, 1971 article, the Black Panther newspaper wrote: “Comrade George Jackson and Comrade Hugo Pinell, one Black and one Latino, were living examples of the unity that can and must exist among the prisoner class. These two men were well known to other inmates as strong defenders of their people.

“Everyone knew of their love for the people, a love that astounded especially the prison officials of the state. It astounded them so thoroughly that these pigs had to try and portray them as animals, perverts, madmen and criminals in order to justify their plans to eventually get rid of such men.

"They're selling postcards of the hanging." - clip from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian given in 2003 in the United States. Bob Avakian is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. This talk, followed by questions and answers, is a wide-ranging revolutionary journey, covering many topics. It breaks down the very nature of the society we live in and how humanity has come to a time where a radically different society is possible. It is full of heart and soul, humor and seriousness; it will challenge you and set your heart and mind to flight.

“For when Comrades George and Hugo walked and talked together, the prisoners began to get the message too well.”

The authorities didn’t stop at killing George Jackson. They went with vengeance after other prisoners—in particular, six prisoners who came to be known as the San Quentin 6: Hugo Pinell, Willie Tate, Johnny Larry Spain, David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo, and Luis Talamantez. They faced multiple charges related to what happened on August 21, which had led to six deaths—George Jackson, three guards and two other prisoners. After a 16-month trial, three of the six were acquitted of all charges, while Spain was convicted of killing two guards, and Johnson and Pinell were found guilty of assaulting prison guards.

Since that time, Hugo Pinell had been confined to a small 6-foot x 8-foot cell for 23 hours every day. His cell contained a concrete bed, a metal toilet, a sink, and a TV. He had very little human contact except with brutal armed guards who stood watch over him 24/7.

In a letter to revolutionary journalist Kiilu Nyasha, Hugo Pinell wrote, “I’m a very free energy, my sista, and captive only because we (Blacks, Browns, and others) remain in many ways imprisoned and enslaved by Uncle Sam & Co. I’ve worked hard to keep growing, learning and transforming into a free energy and I’m not looking back.”

According to an August 15 article in the SF Bay View by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff, “Isolated in the Pelican Bay SHU from 1990 to 2014, Yogi supported his SHU comrades’ campaign to end solitary confinement. He participated in the hunger strikes and applauded the Agreement to End Hostilities, authored by 16 of his comrades, Black, Brown and White, and dated Aug. 12, 2012, three years to the day before he was killed.” (Go here to read the Agreement to End Hostilities.)

The details surrounding Hugo Pinell’s death are not known at this time. But it is clear that his blood is on the hands of this system which tortured him for so many years and holds so many of our brothers and sisters captive in the prison dungeons of the USA.


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