Monday, May 30, 2011

Pelican Bay Prisoners Set to Hunger Strike July 1

On July 1, 2011, between 50 and 100 prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), Corridor D, are going on an indefinite hunger strike. The D corridor (also known as the "short" corridor) has the highest level of restricted incarceration in the state of California and among the most severe conditions in the united states. The rules of their confinement are extremely harsh in order to force them to "debrief" or offer up information about criminal or prison gang activity of other prisoners. Most inmates in the SHU are not members or associates of prison gangs, as the PBSP staff claims, and even those who are put their lives and the lives of their families and other prisoners at risk if they debrief.

Using conditions of severe mental and physical harm in order to force prisoners into confessing is torture! Many debriefers simply make up information about other prisoners just to escape the isolation units. This misinformation is then used to validate other prisoners as members or associates of prison gangs who in reality have nothing to do whatsoever with gang activity.

These are the five core demands of the hunger-striking prisoners:
  1. Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh.
  2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they "debrief," that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.
  3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement. This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to "make segregation a last resort" and "end conditions of isolation." Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years.
  4. Provide adequate food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.
  5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities “to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities..." Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves. Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweatsuits and watch caps. (Often warm clothing is denied, though the cells and exercise cage can be bitterly cold.) All of the privileges mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other SuperMax prisons (in the federal prison system and other states).

This widespread hunger strike has the potential to become the most significant event in California prison reform in the last decade. Public support is crucial. Outside support work for the July 1st hunger strike is being coordinated by California Prison Focus, which works to abolish the California prison system in its present condition. Members of CFP travel regularly to Pelican Bay and Corcoran state prisons to uncover and disseminate information on the current conditions prisoners must endure.

California Prison Focus
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 507
Oakland, CA 94612


The hunger strike will predictably be met with a media whiteout, and it is our responsibility on the outside to make this untenable for the powers that be. We can do this by carrying out solidarity actions - pickets, demonstrations, banner-drops or whatever - to make this news. It is an obscene sign of where things are at that these people will be putting their lives on the live with this hunger-strike, and yet it will be far less risky or heavy actions on the outside that will either provide the context in which this struggle will succeed - or not.

One prisoner had written asking people to organize candlelight vigils on July 1st, while organizers from California have suggested that July 9th might be the best day to organize public rallies of support - one way or another, though, everyone should be thinking of doing something, and proceeding accordingly.

Here in canada, support work around prisoners often ends up focusing on situations (like this one) in the united states, and this can seem odd. In fact, in some ways it is odd. But there is a reason for this odd situation; while all prisons are instruments of mass oppression, the u.s. prison system is unique in both its scope and its intensity, and constitutes a laboratory for all those sciences intended to destroy human beings, the cutting edge of state repression, whose lethal lessons are then exported around the world.

We can see what this means when we look at California, whose state population is roughly the same as that of Canada, but whose prison population is over five times as large. Within this capitalist tumor which is the u.s. prison system, isolation-torture represents the cutting edge of social control, intended to destroy prisoners without leaving any physical evidence of harm. On any given day there are tens of thousands of people subjected to such torturous conditions in the u.s. gulags.

Here in canada, the new Harper majority government is planning on accelerating the trend of importing elements of the u.s. prison-industrial complex. Supporting the Pelican Bay prisoners resistance to torture and isolation is not separate from building our own resistance to the spread of this new form of human subjugation here and around the world.

i've put together a page of information about this hunger strike on the Kersplebedeb website, including all the key documents, agit prop materials, and background information that i could find. You can visit it here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This Weekend: Montreal Anarchist Bookfair!

The bestest and biggest radical bookfair in North America, and i'm lucky enough that it happens in my town. Come and say hi and check out the books at this year's bookfair!

MAY 21-22, 10am-5pm
at the CEDA,
2515 rue Delisle
(a short walk from Lionel-Groulx metro)
FREE. Welcome to all! Bring your kids!

For anarchists and people curious about anarchism.

Main Hall, Kid Zone, Introductions to Anarchism, Workshops and Presentations, Autonomous Media and Technology Room, Anarchist Film Room, Kids Zone, Anarchist Cabaret, Festival of Anarchy and more.

Participants from all over Quebec and North America, booksellers and vendors, workshops, films, discussions, kids activities, art exhibits and more!

NOTE: During this year’s Bookfair, tabling will take place over TWO DAYS: May 21-22 between 10am-5pm.

The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair — and month-long Festival of Anarchy — bring together anarchist ideas and practice, through words, images, music, theatre and day-to-day struggles for justice, dignity and collective liberation.

The Bookfair is for people who don’t necessarily consider themselves anarchists, but are curious about anarchism, as well as a space for anarchists to meet, network and share in a spirit of respect and solidarity. All are welcome.

The Bookfair is organized in a spirit of openness towards the different traditions, visions, and practices of anarchism. Together we share a commitment to promoting anarchism through the values of mutual aid, grassroots democracy, direct action, autonomy and solidarity, while opposing oppression in all its forms.

The Bookfair and Festival of Anarchy provide an important gathering and reference point for anti-authoritarian ideas and practice in North America.

What Happens at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair? Read more here:

Accessibility Statement:


Introductions to Anarchism – SATURDAY, MAY 21

* 1pm: Anarchism without Anarchists / Anarchism with Anarchists: The Practice and Relevance of Anarchism (Jaggi Singh)
* 1pm: Discovering Anarchism Through Music (Philippe Morin)

Introductions to Anarchism – SUNDAY, MAY 22

* 1pm: Wage Labour and Alienation: An Anarchist Critique of Work (Camille Robert)
* 1pm: Embracing Brazen Laziness: Introduction to Anarchism (Adrienne Hurley)

Workshops & Presentations – SATURDAY, MAY 22

* 11am: The importance of struggle at the workplace (Industrial Workers of the World)
* 11am: Transforming Harm: Supporting Survivors and Confronting Sexual Assault in Our Communities (SACOMSS & Philly Stands Up)
* 11am: Oppose and Propose! Lessons from Movement for a New Society (Andrew Cornell)
* 12pm: Anarchist Writers Bloc Workshop (Anarchist Writers Bloc-Montreal)
* 1pm: Anarchist responses to “austerity” measures (l’Union communiste libertaire and others)
* 1pm: Social struggles in Indigenous communities of South America (Mapuche Support Committee and Nicolas Van Caloen)
* 3pm: An Introduction to Animal Liberation & Anarchism: How Animal Liberation Attacks the Roots of the Capitalist System (Love & Rage Liberation Collective)
* 3pm: Orwell, the Anarchist-Tory (Eric Martin)
* 3pm: Support and Self-Defence in the Face of State Repression: The example of the G20 in Toronto & Montreal (La Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes, CLAC)
* 3pm: Contemporary Anarchist Perspectives: Introduction to Contemporary Anarchisms (Christian)

Workshops & Presentations – SUNDAY, MAY 22

* 11am: Anti-authoritarian perspectives on the ongoing revolutions from the gulf to the ocean: Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain,Libya, Iran, Iraq, Palestine (Tadamon! Montreal)
* 11am: Lessons in Solidarity: The Oscar Grant rebellions and the movement against police terror in Oakland, CA. (Oakland 100 Support Committee)
* 11am: Physical Proximity, Neighbourhood Life and Anarchist Struggles: The Experience of la Pointe Libertaire (La Pointe Libertaire)
* 12pm: Towards an International Anarchist Gathering in St. Imier (Switzerland) in 2012 (La coopérative Espace noir)
* 1pm: Philosophy is child’s play! (Louise Caroline Bergeron, Mubeenah Mughal & Marike Reid-Gaudet)
* 1pm: Round-table: 10 years after the Summit of the Americas: What impact on anarchists? (Hélène Nazon, Maxime Fortin, Sarita Ahooja and others)
* 1pm: The Struggle for Reproductive Autonomy: From underground abortion collectives to the fight to decriminalize sex work (Emily Davidson & Kaley Kennedy) – Women & trans only
* 3pm: Anarchism, Colonialism, and Aboriginal Dispossession in the Canadian West (Paul Burrows)
* 3pm: Fifty Years of Struggle Against Police Brutality in Montreal, Fifteen March 15 Demonstrations, New Strategies Against the Oppressive State? (Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière, COBP)
* 3pm: Todos Somos Japon and Planetary Anarchism (Go Hirasawa, Adrienne Hurley & Sabu Kohso)
* 3pm: Parole Sans Parole (the termite collective)
* 3pm: Decolonizing our Solidarity (Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie, PASC) [More...]

Workshops and presentations will take place on BOTH Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22, from 11am-5pm. Workshops will take place either in French or English or are bilingual. There is whisper translation available into French or English for every workshop.

This year there will be four introductory style workshops for people who are new to, or curious about, anarchism and anarchist ideas and practice. The other workshops (20 in total) go in greater depth into various currents of anarchism and issues facing anarchists. There is also a space for the Anarchist Writer’s Bloc and an info-session about the Rencontres internationales de l’anarchisme in St Imier (Switzerland).

Workshops take place either at the main Bookfair space – the CEDA at 2515 rue Delisle – or at the Georges-Vanier Cultural Center located across from the CEDA.

For more detailed descriptions of the various workshops, see

Monday, May 09, 2011

May 11: "Beyond the Walls": A new publication about political prisoners in Colombia

it's the Festival of Anarchy in Montreal, a month of radical events around the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair... i'll be highlighting some of these on this blog, the first of which is actually in just 2 days, as the PASC - a local group doing solidarity with Colombian political prisoners - launched a new publication. Definitely worth checking out...

"Beyond the Walls": A new publication about political prisoners in Colombia

May 11, 6pm
Bar Populaire
6584 boul. St-Laurent

PASC is launching a new brochure, using the situation of political prisoners as a lens for tackling the problem of crimes perpetrated by the state in Colombia. Political prisoners are those imprisoned because their political views and/or actions run contrary to those of the state. In Colombia however, one ought also to include in this category those who have been imprisoned, quite apart from their personal politics, for the simple reason that their mere existence impedes the plans of the ruling elite. It is in precisely this situation that a great many rural Colombians find themselves, living in armed conflict zones where the lands they occupy have been targeted for mega development projects.

The brochure is accompanied by a DVD containing audio and video recordings from political prisoners themselves as well as from their allies at the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Colombia (with french subtitles).

Contact us for copies of the brochure and DVD or come to the launch!
Montréal launch as part of the Anarchist Festival on May 11, 2011

6pm at Bar Populaire 6584 boul. St-Laurent, Montréal

Opening Panel: Certain Days*, Recon**, PASC Several groups from around Québec working with prisoners here and abroad will join us for a panel discussion.

* Certain Days : Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar: is a collective composed of political prisoners and their allies. Contemporary resistance movements against war, globalization and colonialism are rooted in a long struggle for justice that has included the mass protests of the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the political prisoners and prisoners of war who have participated in this calendar were organizers during this period: members of the Black Panther Party or American Indian Movement, Puerto Ricans fighting for their lands, white anti-racist allies working in solidarity with oppressed groups. Some prisoners have been incarcerated since that time period, in some cases MORE THAN 35 YEARS. These prisoners are not relics of a bygone era; they remain politically active and despite the difficulties associated with organizing while imprisoned, they continue to struggle for justice behind bars and in the streets.

** Re-Con is a prisoner-initiated Q-pirg Concordia working group created in 1999 by lifers, long-term prisoners and volunteers at the Federal Training Centre penitentiary in Laval, Quebec. Re-Con aims at establishing positive links with various communities and attempts to diminish the effects of long term incarceration. An additional goal of Re-Con is to counter the negative perceptions that are often held toward those incarcerated.