Shut Down Rikers Now!
Revolution Club and Stop Mass Incarceration Network Disrupt Defenders of Rikers Island Concentration Camp at "Public Forum"

February 29, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Kalief Browder was sent to Rikers Island prison in 2010 when he was 16 years old, accused of stealing a backpack. He spent two of his three years at Rikers in solitary confinement — something globally recognized as torture. After three years, charges were dropped and Kalief was released and his case became a national scandal. He never recovered from the torture he was subjected to, and on June 6, 2015, he took his own life.

New York's Rikers Island is a living hell for the tens of thousands of people, overwhelmingly poor, Black and Brown, who are taken there every year. Eighty-five percent have not been convicted of a crime. They are there awaiting trial—which can take years—on mostly petty charges, because they cannot pay the high bonds that the courts routinely set. For decades Rikers has been well-known as a torture chamber in which inmates, including juveniles, are routinely beaten by guards or other inmates; kept in solitary for months or years; and sometimes murdered.

The cries and demands of thousands of people to immediately shut down Rikers Island prison/concentration camp continue to rise, even finding echoes in the halls of the NY city council and on the editorial pages of the New York Times.

In a panicky response to this, on February 22, Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network got together with COBA, the union representing Rikers' "corrections officers,"—those brutal thugs who daily torment and torture Rikers' inmates—to host a "forum" on what to do about Rikers. In the guise of a "public forum," this meeting was a straight-up effort to confuse, diffuse and beat back the calls to close this hellhole .

This effort was righteously and courageously punctured by the intervention of members of the Revolution Club and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN). (Watch NY1 news report.)

Bootlicker Supreme

Featured at the forum was Darcel Clark, head of the Bronx district attorney's office (which has Rikers in its jurisdiction), which has utterly failed to prosecute the hundreds of known criminal acts committed by guards against inmates. Before Clark was DA, she was a judge who presided six times over hearings for Kalief Browder, which all ended with him being sent back to jail. Kalief was 16 years old when he was accused of stealing a backpack. Because he could not make bond, he spent three years at Rikers 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. He repeatedly attempted suicide, yet the whole system ground on, keeping him locked up until they finally dropped their case. Not long after being released, Kalief, permanently damaged by what was done to him, killed himself. Clark has said Kalief's death was "a tragedy"—for which she takes zero responsibility; she says she doesn't even remember Kalief. That's how much blood these people have on their hands—they cannot even remember the names and faces of all the people whose lives they have destroyed.

Norman Seabrook, the fascist head of COBA, spoke, and spent a good chunk of time whining about how rough Rikers is... FOR THE GUARDS! And Sharpton also spoke, making clear his opposition to closing Rikers. Like the other speakers, and like New York's "progressive" Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sharpton's position is that the authorities have to keep all or most of these people locked up somewhere, so it might as well be Rikers! They can't even imagine a society that doesn't incarcerate and torture huge numbers of people just for being poor or for petty crimes.

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Faced with this podium of pigs and an audience with large numbers of prison guards and their supporters, the Revolution Club and SMIN broke through the bullshit and boldly represented for the people who are victims of this whole setup. As Darcel Clark blathered on about the need to be "tough on crime" and "prosecute criminals," Noche Diaz of the Revolution Club, well known leader in the fight against police murder, (who the system has been trying to railroad off to Rikers for many years!) stood up and said:

"You're sitting right next to one of the biggest criminals responsible," referring to Seabrook. "[Seabrook and COBA] are the ones responsible... They are the ones that should be brought up on charges and facing punishment and repercussions over what their role has been. And that torture chamber needs to be shut down." And Noche went on, calling out Clark herself for her criminal role in the Kalief Browder case: "And you're one of the people responsible for Kalief Browder's death! Who's going to investigate you? Who's going to put you on trial?"

Noche was then forcibly removed by National Action Network staff, COBA members, and police—there was no room in this "public forum" for even a few moments of truth! But even after being dragged out, Noche continued to speak the truth: "That torture chamber needs to be shut down!"

For more on Noche Diaz and his most recent court case, see: Victory in Noche Diaz Case



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