Sunday, July 17, 2011

Political Arrests in Montréal

Statement from the Canadian Revolutionary Communist Party (not the same as the u.s. Avakian group):

Update (07/13/11): The four individuals who have been arrested and charged went in court last Wednesday. The Crown disclosed its evidence to the defendants. It also asked for a hardening of their release conditions. The hearing was then postponed to Monday, July 18.

Montréal, July 5th — On June 29th, 2011, the Anti-Gang unit of the Montréal Police Service’s Organized Crime Division arrested four political activists —including Patrice Legendre, a communist worker and supporter of the RCP. The police searched their homes and arrested them in connection with the most recent May First demonstration, organized by Montréal’s Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC). Nearly 30 officers were involved in the operation, which occurred early in the day.

According to the investigator who headed the whole operation, nine officers were injured, some seriously, during an altercation at the May First demonstration. More on the demonstration is available in issue 3 of the communist newspaper Partisan. The four activists who were arrested were detained and then released on a promise to appear on July 13 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse in Montréal. They have been charged with a number of offenses, from “assault with a weapon” to “assaulting a police officer,” “obstruction of justice” and “possession of a weapon with intent to cause harm.”

During the May First demonstration in the streets of Montréal, at which nearly 1,500 people were in attendance, the police provoked an altercation by trying to arrest, for reasons unknown, a militant who was widely known as the photographer for Partisan newspaper. As one would expect, dozens of protesters responded by confronting the police, telling them to release the activist they were trying to arrest. Obviously unprepared, the police chose to retreat.

The operation on June 29th was clearly carried out with very little basis. The content of the interrogation to which the arrested activists were subjected as well as the presence of an investigator from the “Integrated National Security Enforcement Team” suggests that there were other motives behind the operation.

First, we can assume the arrests were motivated by revenge, as the police will always want to “get back” at those who cause them to suffer a defeat —as was the case at the May First demonstration, where demonstrators stopped them from arbitrarily and inexcusably arresting one of the activists involved. The cops had egg on their faces and somebody needed to pay for it. Without any evidence to go on, the police decided to go after a few well-known activists, some of whom express their views openly. The demonstration was used as a pretext to criminalize their political involvement and, what’s more, the communist views they defend. Recall that in recent weeks, the RCP began publishing a bilingual, biweekly newspaper, Partisan, and has been distributing it in major cities in Ontario and Québec, and has also started organizing workers in the Revolutionary Workers Movement (Mouvement Ouvrier Révolutionnaire, MRO). Its struggle against capitalism and exploitation is taking new forms and is moving forward, and the police, we can assume, are not fond of that.

Investigators also said they had started monitoring Maison Norman Bethune —a bookstore run by the Information Bureau of the RCP— the day after the May First demonstration. Many activists frequent the bookstore, attending events and getting involved in the cause of revolution. It seems as though the police wanted to “go on a fishing expedition” to find somebody guilty of something so they could draw attention away from their own petty and provocative behavior at the May First Demonstration.

Further, information collected by the RCP Information Bureau suggests the police who carried out these arrests tried to implicate the RCP, and Patrice Legendre in particular, in three previous incidents, including one that happened a year ago in Trois-Rivières, where an explosive device shattered the doors of a recruitment office for the Canadian Forces. A group calling itself “Résistance Internationaliste” claimed responsibility for this act and since it happened the police have not solved the case.

Curiously, the day after the arrests in Montréal, the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team installed a command post for three days in Trois-Rivières across from the recruiting office in order, they said, “to collect new information and validate some leads described as ‘very serious’.” The police then presented pictures of the four arrested activists to the people of Trois-Rivières, hoping somebody could implicate them in one way or another.

The operation on June 29th was no accident. It comes at a time when the bourgeois state in Canada is on the offensive in criminalizing political struggle and the activists who are involved in it. We need only look at the G20 summit in June 2010 in Toronto, where over a thousand people were illegally arrested, to verify this. In recent years, dozens of activists, among them some from the RCP, have been harassed at home and work by the infamous “Integrated National Security Enforcement Team.”

The Revolutionary Communist Party harshly condemns this cowardly operation, which was politically motivated. It is doomed to failure and will backfire on those who planned it. The RCP is actively campaigning to denounce the arrests and obtain full and unconditional release of those arrested. We thank the many individuals and groups who have already expressed their outrage and solidarity following the June 29th arrests.

Denounce political intimidation! Defend our right to fight against the bourgeoisie and its state! Solidarity is our weapon!

The RCP Information Bureau

Friday, July 15, 2011

Support the California Prisoners' Hunger Strike!

In the months before summer 2011, news spread that between 50 and 100 prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), Corridor D, were going on an indefinite hunger strike, starting July 1.

What was initially expected to involve scores of men laying their lives on the line quickly exceeded all expectations, and in the first weekend of the strike over 6000 prisoners across California participated. While numbers had dropped by the second week, there were still hundreds on strike, and some had perhaps escalated to a thirst strike. A human being can only survive a short while without liquids, and as of July 12 there were already reports of prisoners suffering renal failure. It suddenly became horribly clear that this was for real.

It is no coincidence that the largest - and potentially the most tragic - prisoner struggle in recent California history was planned and organized in Pelican Bay's SHU. 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.
A system of lies elicited by torture, a kafkaesque world where (regardless of one's "crime") an anonymous accusation can land you in a torture chamber ... this is the nature of the Pelican Bay SHU. There are people who have spent decades in these conditions, despite overwhelming evidence that even short-term isolation can cause serious psychological harm. The SHU is killing people slowly, in a way that is supposed to be "acceptable" and sanitized, with no need of a capital conviction. It is by grasping this reality that one can see that the prisoners' - though refusing food and in some cases water - are not fighting to die, but are literally fighting to live.
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).

More at The Real News

Recent News

this will only show the last ten news items, for older items click here.

Letters from Prisoners




Off The Hour, CKUT 90.3FM, interviews Ed Mead, June 9, 2011
Hard Knock Radio KPFA 94.1 FM, A Letter by a Corcoran prisoner, followed by an interview with Ed Mead and Laura Whitehorn, June 24, 2011
En bas à gauche, CKUT 90.3 FM, entrevue avec Carl du Comité de Soutien de la Grève de la Faim, 27 juin 2011
Sojourner Truth Radio, Update on Pelican Bay Hungerstrike, July 6, 2011
Off the Hour, CKUT 90.3FM, interview with Carl Small of the Montreal Hungerstrike Support Committee, July 11, 2011

Solidarity Words & Action


Background Material

Support Organizations


Outside support work for the July 1st hunger strike is being coordinated by the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) Coalition, based in the Bay Area and made up of grassroots organizations committed to amplifying the voices of and supporting the prisoners at Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) in their hunger strike to end tortuous conditions. Support is crucial; to get involved check out or telephone 510-444-0484.
A blog has been produced my comrades in Montreal with a focus on support activities in canada:
i also have a page up with as complete a calendar of solidarity events as i have been able to manage.
The Kersplebedeb website is in support of the goals of the hungerstriking prisoners, and of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, but is a completely separate project, and PHSS and the prisoners in question are in no way responsible for or necessarily in agreement with anything here. If you see any links or resources you think would belong on this page, please get in touch!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hugo Pinell Participating in the California Hungerstrike

Excerpted from a letter to Kiilu Nyasha:

A hunger strike has been in effect since July 1 and I've been with it, altho is very hard to know what's going on? On July 1, one station up here announced the hunger strike, but nothing since and I don't know if prisoners have gotten with staff and what's happening, etc. But I have to get with it because it's for a great cause and if good changes come about, I could get a break too. At this point, a move to a mainline would be great being that my keepers are determined to keep me until I die. On a mainline, we could have contact visits again! It's been too long since I've touched my Mom and all of my loved ones.

When or since I met you in 1973, I've been on no contact visits status. They kept telling me I'd get my contact visits back. But they sent me to a new SHU in 1986, and everybody is on no contact visits status in these SHUs.

"It's been a really long time since I particpated in a hunger strike, but I was much younger, stronger and ready. I wasn't prepared for a hunger strike, so i don't know how well or how long I can hold on, but I had to participate. I don't have the options so many have used to get out of prison ofr the SHU. The counselor tells me I do have those options, but I tell thim I don't because I can't use them. I'm into growing, evolving and building, not into negative, self-destructive behavior. I don't even think in terms of doing or saying something wrong to better my situation, for that would strike against everyting I live for; freedom, a New Man and that New World. So, Sis, this hunger strike provides me with an opportunity for better changes while also in concert and support of all those willing to risk their precious and valuable health.

I'm feeling okay, but I wish I knew what's going on. Well, in time. I'm not working out, physically, but I'm drinking a lot of water, get my walking, meditation, my studying and mind travels :)! I send my best to everyone. Take good care, Sis....

Hugo L.A. Pinell
A88401 D3-221
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, Ca. 95531-7500

Hugo Pinell has been in solitary confinement for forty years. He had been in prison since 1964, when he was 19 years old, and was one of George Jackson's comrades. Following Jackson's assassination in 1971, Pinell was one of the San Quentin Six accused of murder and conspiracy - Pinell was found guilty of assaulting a guard, and has been in isolation ever since. Yyou can learn more about Hugo Pinell's case on the (not updated) website:

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Revolutionary Prisoner C. Landrum On His Decision to Hunger Strike Indefinitely

It’s been a difficult and uphill battle, a lot of brow-beating and direct debate, but as it stands all are participating on a limited basis. Some, including myself, are going “indefinitely”… victory or death! I ask that you and those necessary are aware of our participation. Geographically we are isolated from the main SHU facility and PBSP will try to isolate and restrain our info from getting out. We are in A-Z. Also, as you know, I’m sincerely sick with end stage liver disease (ESLD) and a severe case of related diabetes. I’m going to end up in the hospital almost immediately and will be effectively isolated. Due to my dedication to the struggle I will continue with my strike. I won’t know when to stop. If the demands have been met in whole, negotiated part, etc. I will not take the cops’ word for the pigs have proven their word to be hollow. I will need the word of you or your outside support. Likewise, please keep those convicts at the heart of this struggle in D short [corridor] abreast of my circumstances (most know me as ‘Ghost’ or ‘Landale’). Hopefully the situation doesn’t deteriorate to this. What that I end this letter with the words of Ulrike Meinhof [of Germany’s Red Army Faction], ‘Protest is when I say I don’t like this or that. Resistance is when I see to it that things I don’t like do not occur.’

C. Landrum has been a regular contributor to Prison Focus and other progressive publications. He is the author of The Road Ahead and the Dialectics of Change.

He can be reached at:

Chad Landrum #J-53747
Pelican Bay State Prison
A-2-114 – MED/SHU
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95531

Eddie Griffin's Statement of Support for Prisoner Hunger Strike at Pelican Bay

Eddie Griffin, one of the surviving Marion Brothers who went on hunger strike in 1976, writes here of his support for the Pelican Bay strike, and his own experiences thirty five years ago. In solidarity with the California hunger strikers, Griffin has himself been on hunger strike since July 1.

Our prayers and support go out to the men at Pelican Bay State Prison in California who began an indefinite hunger strike on July 1, 2011. We empathize with those who have undertaken this extraordinary step to bring the world’s attention to the inhumane conditions of their incarceration.

No matter a person’s status and condition, we are afforded the constitutional right to basic humane treatment, even under conditions of confinement. And, whenever those conditions become brutal and unbearable, we have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. In absence of relief, or even the hope of relief, these inmates and brothers have collectively joined themselves together to plead their cause to the public and world bodies.

The Pelican Bay State prisoners are asking for relief from “group punishment” and arbitrary branding inmates as “gang members” for the purpose of selective segregation and maltreatment. They are asking that the state comply with federal standards on the use of “long term solitary confinement”, and to provide them with adequate food instead of half-starving them, and to provide a constructive outlet for sensory deprived prisoners in special isolation units.

Historically, the policies and practices of prison authorities have been based upon the concept “Out of sight, Out of mind”. And, it is this public ignorance that allows these inhumane systems to continue.

It was exactly 35 years ago, on July 4, 1976, that the federal prisoners at Marion staged a similar hunger strike. As one of the surviving Marion Brothers, I share this personal experience because very little seems to have changed in the interim.

The Great Bicentennial Hunger Strike

Marion Federal Prison was the first super-maximum security penitentiary, built in 1961 to replace Alcatraz. Before its construction, the Bureau had designated the facility to house high-profile inmates. No one would care that, behind these walls, the government engaged in secret mind-control experiments upon it prison population.

During the 1960s and 1970s, most of the prison population was comprised of high educated, politically conscious men, who crimes were motivated against the U.S. government, and particularly aimed at bringing down the Nixon administration. Many had been caught up in J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO counterinsurgent program.

As a collective body of incarcerated men, we were writers, jailhouse lawyers, and organizers. Prior to the Bicentennial Hunger Strike, the turbulent struggle over human rights at Marion is described in Alan Gomez’s “Resisting Living Death at Marion Federal Penitentiary, 1972”. Out of these struggles, the Marion Brothers were born.

I became a prison writer under the tutelage of Arthur Burghardt Banks, an off-Broadway actor incarcerated for draft resistance. Banks went on to win a Big Apple Emmy and Amnesty International went on to win the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize and the release of Banks and thousands of anti-war resisters.

In 1977, I wrote “Breaking Men’s Minds: Behavior Control and Human Experimentation at the Federal Prison in Marion”, which was circulated worldwide. It was because of the hunger strike that I began to gain recognition as a prison writer.

The Great Bicentennial Hunger Strike was two years in the making. It was not a simple undertaking, because men were putting their lives at stake, and the planning had to be kept secret from the prison administration.

I was given the responsibility of drafting the petition for redress and issuing the press release. As a prelude, now part of the Marion Brothers archives, there were interviews with select political prisoners, which included Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda, American Indian Movement Leonard Peltier, and Black Panther Lorenzo Komboa Ervin. These were internationally recognized political prisoners with grievances against the United States. And, it was their grievances, besides the human rights issues of prisoners that comprised the body of the petition, which I delivered to the warden on that Fourth of July.

The first redress was “to hire more minority prison guards”. Although most prisoners fought me, tooth and nail on this issue, it was the first to grab the media’s attention, and the most defenseless for the government.

The second redress was “to stop using prisoners as guinea pigs in mind control experiments”. This issue raised curiosity and initiated an investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. When the allegation proved true, and that the CIA was behind the experimentation, Angela Davis organized some 800 support organizations into the Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression.

Our case was presented to the United Nation, which declared 1977 as the Year of the Prisoner of Conscious. The World Peace Council convened at the University of Helsinki and named some 125 prisoners worldwide as Prisoners of Conscious. U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young acknowledged that there were hundreds of American political prisoners.

On the other hand, the warden at Marion, through the government, promised to hire more minority and women prison guards. But the “behavior modification” programs continued. Long-term segregation in sensory deprivation chambers took on new names. Today’s Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) is a replica of Marion’s notorious Control Unit.


On the morning of July 4, 1976, I went to the mess hall because it was my shift to work the dish tank. There was much ado about the national celebration of the country’s 200th birthday, and usually on Independence Day, it was all-you-can-eat hot dogs and hamburgers for prisoners.

Would the rest of the men give up the best meal of the year to make a statement like this?

From the dish tank tray window, I had an observation post, and orders to report any inmate who crossed the strike line. Only one guy picked up a tray and hurried made a U-turn when he realized what was happening.

Nobody came to breakfast. I had no dishes to wash. I was proud for several reasons: First, because every inmate participated; Second, I did not have to report on anybody and nobody got hurt; and Third, I clutched the petition in my hand, expecting the prison guards to take me to the warden.

Some time, during those very tense moments, the warden got a call from Jake McCarthy at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, inquiring about the hunger strike. I imagined he hit the ceiling: “What strike!”

By the time I was haled into his office, my comrade Akinsijui was already there, singled out as one of the prime ringleaders. When I handed the warden the petition, the look he gave me in return was worth the price of admission to indefinite solitary confinement.

The prison was shut down. There were riots. When it opened again a few months later, there were more riots. Eventually, the prison went on lockdown for good, until it was converted to a medium-security prison, and other super-max prisoners were built in its stead.

While protesters surrounded the prison, and lawyers barred from entering, I was moved from long-term segregation, to the sensory deprivation boxcar cell with a steel front door, to a padded cell and shot full of drugs, and finally to a refrigerated strip cell with only brief shorts, no mattress, and running water for only 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.

It was on the fifteenth day that I ended my hunger strike. Leonard Peltier and the Indians continued for 40 days. These were the last of my memories of Marion before being “kicked out”.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Life in Pelican Bay SHU


B. General Conditions Within the SHU

From the outside, the SHU resembles a "massive concrete bunker."[65] From the inside, it is a "windowless labyrinth of cells and halls, sealed off from the outside world by walls, gates, and guards."[66] The overall effect of the SHU is "one of stark sterility and unremitting monotony."[67] The physical environment reinforces a sense of isolation and detachment from the outside world and, for custody personnel, creates a "palpable distance from ordinary compunctions, inhibitions and community norms."[68]

SHU prisoners are isolated in small cells for twenty-two and one-half hours a day,[69] separated by three locked doors from an armed control booth officer.[70] The inmates can see no other prisoners, nor can they see outdoors. They are watched on screens in a central control room. Their movements are monitored by video cameras. Cell doors open and close electronically. The ceiling is covered with heavy screening on one side and heavy plastic on the other.[71] The filtered light that seeps through the screen is the closest the SHU prisoners ever get to feeling sunlight—no direct sunlight ever reaches these cells. The National Prison Project describes the SHU as follows:

Each concrete cell contains a concrete stool, concrete bed, concrete writing table, and a toilet and sink made of heavy stainless steel. Nothing is allowed on the walls. The cells of SHU prisoners are lined with opaque materials, so that prisoners cannot see out. Prisoners never walk freely, they never emerge from their cells without being handcuffed and in chains. They shuffle to the law library single file, chained to each other at the ankles . . . . Toothpaste is removed from the tube. There is no unread mail.[72]

The design of the SHU's cell doors calls for their construction in heavy gauge perforated metal. Although the prison officials probably chose this material to prevent the inmates from throwing things through their cell doors, the heavy metal reinforces the isolative nature of the SHU by blocking any available light, as well as the inmate's vision.[73] In fact, the SHU was purposefully designed to reduce "visual stimulation."[74]

The cells are contained in eight-cell units known as "pods," with four 500-foot corridors that are also monitored by video. Each set of four corridors is viewed from a control room from which all video transmissions are monitored by control booth officers. In addition, the cells within the pods contain speakers and microphones which permit communications between control booth officers and inmates.[75] Many prisoners believe that their conversations are monitored.[76]

Unlike most prisoners, SHU inmates are fed in their cells on trays, twice a day.[77] The meals are placed on tray slots in the cell doors to be eaten inside. When Dr. Craig Haney made his first visit to the prison, he was told by a guard that this was the only design flaw in the prison—that they had not figured out a way to "automatically" feed the prisoners, eliminating any need for contact with them whatsoever.[78] SHU inmates are permitted to shower three times per week.[79] The inmates are not allowed to take classes, do not work,[80] and are not permitted to smoke.[81]

SHU inmates may exercise unshackled outside their cells for a maximum of ninety minutes per day in an area known as the "dog-walk."[82] The exercise space measures twenty-eight by twelve feet and has twenty-foot walls.[83] At any other time the prisoners leave their cells, they must be in waist restraints and handcuffs, and have an armed double escort.[84] Before and after "exercise," an inmate must stand naked at the front of the control booth and undergo a visual strip search by a control booth officer, which may be seen by other officers, inmates, and "whomever else happens to be in the open area around the outside of the control booth."[85]

The term "exercise yard" is a euphemism. In reality, it is "a small bare concrete room with high ceilings," which is attached to the end of each pod.[86] The pens "are more suggestive of satellite cells than areas for exercise or recreation."[87] "In the control booth, the televised images of several inmates, each in separate exercise cages, show them walking around and around the perimeter of their concrete yards, like laboratory animals engaged in mindless and repetitive activity."[88] Chief U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who presided over Madrid v. Gomez, saw inmates simply pacing around the edges of the pen.[89] He described the image as "hauntingly similar to that of caged felines pacing in a zoo."[90]

With the exception of those inmates who are double-celled,[91] whenever SHU inmates are in the presence of another person, they are in chains at both the waist and ankles. They are even chained during their classification hearings.[92]

Thus, with minor and insignificant exceptions, the life of a SHU inmate is lived within the confines of an eighty square foot cell, a space that may be shared with another prisoner whose life is similarly circumscribed. This degree of isolation and deprivation of virtually all meaningful human contact is degrading, dehumanizing, and results in a significant risk to inmate mental health. Simply put, these conditions drive men insane.

Letter from Bomani Shakur of the Lucasville 5

The Lucasville 5 are five prisoners who were framed for the murder of snitches and guards in the 1993 Lucasville prison riot. The 1993 riot and hostage taking was one of the longest in u.s. prison history, and yet it ended relatively peacefully. It was the 5 who negotiated a nonviolent resolution to the hostage taking, but for this they were targeted as "ringleaders" by the state and sentenced to death, framed for the murders of snitches and a prison guard during the uprising.

Since 1993 the Five were held in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day - for eighteen years. Finally, in early 2011, a hungerstrike by the prisoners forced some concessions from the prisoncrats, loosening their isolation conditions.

Here Bomani Shakur, one of the Lucasville 5, sends his message of solidarity and hope to the California prisoners who commenced a hungerstrike yesterday, on July 1:

Ask anyone who has ever been on a hunger strike, and they will tell you that the process of intentionally starving oneself is a very painful ordeal. Typically speaking, it is a protracted form of suicide; taken too far, the body will shut down and die. And yet, there are places on this planet where the idea of death is preferable to continuing down a path that offers no hope or relief from suffering. I live in such a place; I know.

In January of this year (2011), and after almost thirteen years of solitary confinement at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), I and several others went on hunger strike. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. However, after countless appeals to reason had failed, and after coming to the end of all that we could do (law suits, greivances, petitions, etc.) we made the decision to risk our very lives in order to bring about the necessary changes that would allow us to live as human beings. In the end, we stood firm, garnered world-wide support, and prevailed. Now prisoners in California, confined in the notorious Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, have decided to undertake a similar course of action. To them, I say: Bravo!

In a country that incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world (over 2.6 million men and women behind bars), human rights violations are inevitable, and it falls to those of us who must suffer through the experience to stand up and speak truth to power; for, as Frederick Douglass suggested: "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

In the days to come, the men at Pelican Bay will need each and every one of us to support them, to stand with them as they seek to bring their situation to a tolerable level. What they are demanding is basic:
  1. Individual accountability
  2. Abolish debriefing policy, and modify active/inactive gang status criteria
  3. Comply with US Commission 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement
  4. Provide adequate food
  5. Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates

Let's come together to assist these men in their time of need and show them that their status as "criminals" does not automatically disqualify them from being human beings. In my time of need, I found this to be the truth and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity. Give these men the opportunity to feel that outpouting of compassion.

And to the men at Pelican Bay (Todd, Danny, et al), I simply want to say: Stay the course; pay attention to what you are doing; and when things get rough (and they will) , know that you are not alone. By and through the activation of what he called "Satygraha," - or truth force - Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy in the world. In every evil that threatens us, the truth - once known - has the power to set us free. Hold on to that.

The system as it currently exists must change, and this, what you all are doing right now, may very well be the catalyst to bring about that change. Remember that.

And remember this: the first three days are the hardest; after that, it's mind over matter. When the body is brought under control, the mind is set free to receive revelations. Be on the lookout for that; and when they come, when the truth of your situation is revealed, stay in that space. Drink as much water as you can, stay hydrated (read: coffee is a diuretic). And when the time comes, be sure to get everything in writing!

Calling all arms * Calling all arms

Bomani Shakur
Ohio State Penitentiary (2011)

Sanyika Shakur, August Third Collective, On July 1 Hunger Strike

Due to the recent strike, i only received this letter dated June 13 a few days ago:

i was given an indeterminate SHU term in 1989, for being a threat to the institutional security. The CDC cited writings i had from Comrade-Brotha George, exercising in military fashion with known revolutionaries & conducting joint military manoeuvres with other formations in the New Afrikan Independence Movement. i came up for an “inactive” review in 2008, but the political police said my name was found on a roster of known & active members of various formations in the cell of a New Afrikan on San Quentin’s death row. For this & writing “Black August” in a letter, i was given an additional six years in the SHU, on an indeterminate status. i have, like others in the SHU class, stood firm thru it all & will continue to do so until i am no more. We of the August Third Collective of the New Afrikan Independence Movement will join in & support the July 1st hungerstrike in resistance to the draconian treatment meted out against all SHU prisoners.

Sanyika Shakur, August Third Collective

Video to Support the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike!