"Land of the Free"? Give us a fucking break!

February 29, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Listen to any speech by any presidential candidate, and you will hear these phrases, again and again: “America is the leader of the free world,” “This is the land of the free.” This is never challenged by mass media, or commented on, or called out as ludicrous. It’s a “given,” something we are all supposed to believe without question.

The professional liars and representatives of this system should shut the fuck up! And everyone who gets caught up in this myth needs to let it go. This country is built on slavery and genocide, it is a country that leads the world in imprisoning its own people, far outstripping any of the “authoritarian regimes” that the U.S. rulers want to talk about. It spies on millions of emails and phone calls; it runs an international network of secret detention and torture sites; it declares almost every police murder of unarmed Black and Brown people to be “justifiable” while it prosecutes and jails people who protest murder by police; it’s a country that arrested, tortured, and even murdered hundreds of revolutionaries in the 1960s and ’70s and still vindictively incarcerates some, including holding them in solitary confinement for decades—40 years later—that’s your fucking “land of the free”? That is the record of a brutal dictatorship, the rule of a class of exploiters whose rule depends on all this.

Think it’s not true? Or all in the past? Read these articles (and many others at revcom.us), and then ask yourself what is the real substance of American reality.


Political Prisoners Locked Away for Decades:

Hidden behind the walls of prisons in the United States, and locked away from the public eye, are many political prisoners, including many revolutionaries from the 1960s and ’70s who were framed and jailed for their role in exposing the imperialist system and leading others to resist it. Not satisfied with locking up these heroic fighters for the people, this system has vindictively persecuted and tortured those who refused to give up their revolutionary views. Decades of solitary confinement have been the price paid by these political prisoners. Solitary confinement: locked in a concrete 6' x 9' or 8' x 10' cell for 23 hours a day. No windows. No fresh air. No human contact beyond guards, if you can call them human. The United Nations has declared that solitary confinement for more than 15 days is torture. This country has kept some in solitary for decades.

Here are three men who have spent decades in jail, subjected to inhuman torture, exactly because they stood up to foundational crimes of this system, specifically the oppression of Black people and the ongoing genocide of Native American people.

Mumia Abu-Jamal
Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal has been unjustly imprisoned in Pennsylvania for nearly 35 years. Before his arrest, the government had Mumia under surveillance since he was 14 years old. A protest leader in high school, he became a young Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. In following years he attended college and became a respected radio journalist in Philadelphia.

In 1982, he was unjustly convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a cop in a trial that was an obscene farce. Years later, through the process of appeal, his defense made a clear case of fabricated evidence, coerced testimony, and a crime scene that did not correspond with what the prosecutor presented. To this day, the system will not release him. Mumia spent 25 years in solitary confinement on death row until courts overturned his death sentence while affirming his conviction, leaving him to face the prospect of life in prison without parole.

In August 2015, Mumia’s legal team went to court to force the prison authorities to provide urgent medical treatment, and hearings were held in December 2015. As we write this, no ruling has yet been announced. The legal brief said, “Mumia Abu-Jamal is suffering severe and chronic symptoms from untreated, active Hepatitis-C. In the past several months he has experienced diabetic shock, a painful and pruritic [extremely itchy] rash affecting his entire body, edema, skin lesions, anemia, and likely fibrosis of the liver. Scientific advances in the treatment of Hepatitis-C have established a new standard of care that could cure Abu-Jamal of his Hepatitis-C and alleviate the painful symptoms within 8-12 weeks without significant side effects through daily administration of a single pill. DOC [Department of Corrections] defendants, however, are refusing to provide Abu-Jamal with this medically necessary, life-saving treatment.” The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has fought to deny this medical treatment.

Throughout his life, Mumia has continued to denounce the crimes against humanity perpetrated by this system, including by becoming a radio journalist in Philadelphia. From death row, he continued this with audio and written commentaries. Through all this Mumia has refused to capitulate on his beliefs or make peace with the system.

Leonard Peltier was framed by the U.S. government for the deaths of two FBI agents who attacked an American Indian Movement (AIM) camp on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. Peltier and others were in camp helping to protect people on the reservation from attacks and murders by thugs who had protection and backing from the U.S. government and FBI. During this “Reign of Terror,” 64 AIM members and supporters were murdered. Leonard Peltier has now been in federal penitentiaries for 40 years. In 2009, after being transferred from one prison to another, he was jumped and beaten by gang members he didn’t know. The feds put him in solitary. Peltier remains unbroken. He is 71 years old and in declining health.

Albert WoodfoxAlbert Woodfox (Photo: solitarywatch.com)

Albert Woodfox was released from prison on February 19 of this year. Woodfox, Robert King, and Herman Wallace were the “Angola 3,” Black youths from the streets who were sent to the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. While in prison, the three became revolutionaries and connected with the Black Panther Party. For the Louisiana prison authorities, this was their unforgivable crime. They were falsely convicted of killing a guard in Angola prison, based in part on their membership in the Black Panther Party.

Albert Woodfox’s conviction was overturned three times, yet he spent 43 years in solitary confinement. In June 2015, a judge ordered him released, but he was held for another eight months. In 2012, he said, “I do not have the words to convey the years of mental, emotional and physical torture I have endured. I am not sure what damage has been done to me, but I do know that the feeling of pain allows me to know that I am alive.”

The Angola 3 never broke. Albert spoke for all three in the movie In the Land of the Free when he explained, “I thought that my cause, then and now, was noble. So therefore, they could never break me. They might bend me a little bit, they might cause me a lot of pain. They might even take my life. But they will never be able to break me.”

Revolutionaries, progressive people, and anyone with a shred of humanity should defend and cherish these brothers, and in the cases of Mumia and Leonard Peltier demand their immediate release. And whenever anyone brings up that “free world” crap, the way these human beings were gone after, framed up, and tortured for years should leap to your mind.


Clark Kissinger (left); Miles Solay (right); and their attorney Kenneth Gilbert.

Clark Kissinger and Miles Solay appeared for trial on February 22 in Queens, New York, on charges from the #ShutDownRikers protest in October of last year. See Free C. Clark Kissinger & Miles Solay—Shut Down Rikers! for the full story. There was a brief hearing on the evidence the defense is seeking to discover from the prosecutor, who is required by law to provide it to the defendants, including video footage the NYPD was seen taking at the scene. The prosecutor disclaimed knowledge of such video, and has so far refused to lower charges against Clark and Miles.

A new trial date was set for Tuesday, April 12. Fifteen others arrested at the protest faced no criminal charges, but Clark and Miles are charged with “Obstruction of Government Administration,” which could carry a sentence of a year at Rikers. Supporters, including the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, are demanding the Queens District Attorney drop charges in the case, as the two were part of a nonviolent protest. SIGN this message to DROP the Charges against Clark Kissinger and Miles Solay.

Above: Clark Kissinger (left); Miles Solay (right); and their attorney Kenneth Gilbert.

Rikers Island jail complex sits in the East River in New York City. It has an average of 14,000 inmates a night. The savagery there—beatings, torture by isolation, and other horrors—happens daily only miles from New York City’s gleaming skyscrapers, and only 300 feet from the runways of LaGuardia Airport.

On October 23, 2015, 100 people sat and blocked the entrance to the Rikers Island jail. Seventeen were arrested for this nonviolent civil disobedience demonstration, which was part of the three days of Rise Up October protests against police terror and murder. Miles Solay of the band Outernational and C. Clark Kissinger were singled out and given a charge that could carry a sentence of one year... at Rikers! Their next court date is set for April 12, 2016. (See “Free C. Clark Kissinger & Miles Solay—Shut Down Rikers!” and follow revcom.us for updates.)

Kalief Browder was a Black youth, 16 years old, when he was arrested and charged with stealing a backpack. Because he could not make bond, he spent three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial, which the prosecutors repeatedly put off because they had no case. He was held in solitary for two years, beaten by guards while handcuffed and on the ground, and also beaten by gang members. Both of these beatings are on videotape. Kalief repeatedly attempted suicide, yet the system ground on, keeping him locked up until the case was finally dropped. Soon after his release, Kalief, permanently damaged by what was done to him, succeeded in killing himself on June 6, 2015. No Rikers guards or authorities have been held accountable in any way for any of this.

Have Rikers guards and authorities—or City of New York authorities for that matter—been held accountable? Not hardly.

In 2009, a guard named Victor Rodman beat Rikers Island inmate Carlos Sanchez so badly that Sanchez lost the vision in one eye. In January 2016, Rodman was sentenced to 90 days in jail for the beating. The New York Daily News reported February 16 that the city Department of Correction reinstated, with full pay, seven Rikers guards who are scheduled to go on trial February 24 for savagely beating Rikers inmate Jamal Lightfoot. February 14, 2014, Jerome Murdough, 56, died when his Rikers cell overheated to above 100 degrees. February 16, former Rikers guard Carol Lackner pleaded guilty to a felony charge that she lied about checking on Murdough. She got five years probation. He got the death sentence for trespassing.

As Miles Solay put it: “Rikers Island ... is a debtors’ prison where poor people get sent. It’s a torture prison where thousands of people are dehumanized. It’s a conveyor belt to the mass incarceration of our people. It’s unjust, it’s inhumane. It’s like a tumor from the cancer of American capitalism. Too many have died here. Far too many rot away in oblivion. Over the years, thousands and thousands of human beings have had their lives foreclosed upon. Rikers Island needs to be shut down.”

The charges against Miles and Clark must be dropped!


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