Thursday, September 29, 2011

Agents Claim to Have Captured Alleged BLA Combatant George Wright

in happier times...

Many of you will have heard the sad news that police are claiming they have arrested George Wright, an alleged former BLA combatant living in Portugal under the name Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos.

Mainstream news reports state that Wright escaped from prison where he was serving a sentence for murder in 1970. He then apparently joined the BLA, and was one of a group which hijacked a Delta Airlines flight from Detroit to Miami, forcing it to land in Boston, where they exchanged their hostages for 1 million dollars before flying on to Algeria. While the Algerian government did seize the million, Wright and the others were not handed over to the united states. According to these same mainstream news reports, Wright has spent the past forty years living in Africa and then Portugal. CNN reports that:

 At age 68, he was living quietly in the resort of Sintra near Lisbon in Portugal when he was arrested Monday.

The United States is seeking his extradition from Portugal to serve the remainder of a 15- to 30-year sentence for murder. Portuguese judicial authorities could not be reached Tuesday for details of the extradition process.

Wright is fighting extradition, a U.S. federal agent said, and his next court appearance in Portugal is in about two weeks.

A comrade in Lisbon has made contact with Wright, and he has indicated that he would like support. He can be reached at:
Estabelecimento Prisional instalado junto da Polícia Judiciária de Lisboa
Rua Gomes Freire, 174.
1169-007 Lisboa

Best to put the names "George Wright" and "Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos" on envelopes so that the prisoncrats don't have an excuse to reject them.

Updates will be posted as information becomes available. To contact someone in Portugal trying to coordinate support: or

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hungerstrike Resumes in California Prisons! (Slingshot article)

This is an article i wrote for Slingshot - it was a bit of a rush job (i only found out about it a few hours before the deadline), so hopefully i didn't goof on anything:

By the time you read this article, prisoners across California will have embarked on their second hunger strike in just a few months. Rising up against conditions of torture, the first hungerstrike lasted three weeks in July, with thousands coming together in an unprecedented show of unity and force. The second hunger strike may not be as large as the first, but it promises to be more brutal, and there is a real risk that prisoners could die. If you're on the outside, there are many ways you can support those on the inside in their struggle – indeed, your involvement and action are crucial.

The second hunger strike will necessarily build on lessons learned in July. While prisoners in many facilities were struggling against their own conditions, that strike was initiated by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU), a solitary isolation facility located in the remote edge of northern California by the Oregon border.

It is not surprising that the largest prisoner protest in years, one that brought together people from different nationalities and organizations, kicked off in the PB-SHU, for this unit embodies key aspects of the State’s most ambitious, and destructive, policies.

Cells in the SHU have no windows, just fluorescent lights which are never turned off. Prisoners spend 22-23 hours a day thus confined; when they are allowed out it is to be brought (alone) to what is euphemistically called an “exercise yard” – in fact, just a larger enclosed space with grating instead of a roof. There are no contact visits with loved ones, ever. Violence from guards is commonplace. Merely shouting out to another prisoner through your cell door can be considered a disciplinary infraction. Prisoners are fed substandard food, they are punished collectively for issues involving individuals – generally on a “racial” basis – and their indefinite SHU sentences end only if they agree to “debrief,” that is to say, to snitch.

These are the conditions in which people have spent years, even decades, of their lives – often with no prospect of ever getting out.

The SHU is best understood as a long-term behavior modification program. This kind of treatment was developed in the 20th century, under the auspices of both sides during the Cold War, with the goal of destroying people without breaking the rules of Geneva Convention. The result was yet another new weapon in the hands of the ruling class. In America the first experiments in this vein were the Marion and Lexington Control Units, specifically aimed at political prisoners and prisoners of war. Today, close to 100,000 people suffer in such units, which sprouted like a plague across the country in the late 1980s.

If the SHU is a ruling class weapon, who is it aimed at? The answer to this is two-fold. On the one hand, control units are aimed at “security threats” within the prison system, a category that includes anyone organizing against oppression: jailhouse lawyers, revolutionaries, and other “troublemakers.” People have ended up in the SHU for having a book by George Jackson, or a tattoo of a Huelga bird. More broadly, though, the SHU is aimed at all prisoners. Throughout the system, the threat is, if you step out of line you’ll be put in “segregation.” Even those who are not sent to the SHU are subjected to isolation conditions that have been perfected in institutions like Pelican Bay.

For the democratic State, every weapon of oppression must be accompanied by a propaganda attack. This is the way in which the ruling class enjoys what u.s. political prisoner George Jackson referred to as the State’s prestige, or what Italian political prisoner Antonio Gramsci referred to as hegemony. So what could be termed psychological or ideological warfare is the necessary companion of every assault on the oppressed. In the case of the SHU, this psychological warfare takes the form of the gang label.

Accusing people of belonging to a “gang” has become a convenient way to deprive those people of the ability to communicate, to develop politically/intellectually/culturally, and to pursue what are supposed to be their rights under the system's laws. Many people are understandably fearful of the violence and mayhem associated with many criminal organizations, and these fears are exploited by bodies such as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in order to justify clamping down on any collective activity, accusing those they don’t like of being members of “gangs” whether or not this is true. Perhaps not so coincidentally, this works to isolate these people from their communities, further eroding the ties of solidarity that exist between poor and oppressed people, leading to an increase in atomization and antisocial violence which in turn makes these communities all the more vulnerable to actual criminal organizations and oppressors operating on both sides of the law.

In other words, repression of “gangs” serves as a fig leaf for the repression of any collective action or organization by the oppressed that does not suit the plans of the oppressor. This dynamic exists in communities throughout the United States, but like most oppressive dynamics it appears in its most concentrated form within the prison system. 

As recently explained on the California Correctional Crisis blog, produced by faculty and students at UC Hastings College of the Law:
“To curb criminal gang activity, we have adopted special sentencing rules and uniquely oppressive correctional practices. This special treatment goes beyond the mere development of special investigation practices, evidentiary rules and penal technologies; it includes the development of a new body of knowledge that regards gang members as special, their lives and behavior beyond the reach of ordinary human common sense. But we have done more: By examining gang practices as special and unique, through the lens of clinical expertise, we have relegated gang members to the status of incorrigible specimens, who can only be studied, controlled, governed, and suppressed through special, dehumanizing technologies.”
The SHU is itself one such dehumanizing technology.

The July Hunger Strike: Round One
Predictably, a major concern in July was that many prisoners suffered a marked deterioration of their health, a situation the prisoncrats exploited in an attempt to break the strike. Strikers were advised to take multivitamins and salt tablets – and yet these were often not available. CDCR insisted that everyone was being monitored, but there were reports that this “monitoring” consisted of someone standing at a cell door asking if the prisoner was feeling alright. Prisoners were supposed to be weighed daily, but this was sometimes done while they wore chains, sometimes not, making the entire exercise somewhat pointless. 

When it became clear that some prisoners were willing to continue regardless of the consequences, the State started exploring other options. On July 20, CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate announced that he would seek a court order allowing prison officials to force-feed striking prisoners – including those who had signed advance medical directives indicating that they did not wish to receive any such life-sustaining measures.

Force-feeding is the State’s trump card when dealing with hunger strikes. It is intensely painful, especially when the patient resists, and is often used as an excuse for physical violence from guards and other staff. Indeed, force-feeding has itself been described as a form of violence. At the same time – despite the fact that prisoners have died while being force-fed, and that the World Medical Association prohibits the practice – in the public’s eye the procedure often reduces the urgency of a strike, because people incorrectly believe that the health of a person being force-fed is no longer at risk. 

Nevertheless, the State never ended up playing that hand. On July 22, CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan met with prisoner representatives, and an agreement was reached whereby the strike would be suspended, in exchange for which the CDCR would begin making significant changes to address each of the prisoners’ five demands. Specifically, Kernan promised that the hated debriefing policy would be replaced by a step-down program based on behavior, not purported “gang” affiliation.

While CDCR did make some minor concessions on the spot – allowing prisoners to purchase warm clothes and art materials, for instance – as days turned to weeks, many of the prisoner representatives began to feel they were being played. Meanwhile, CDCR put out the word that the prisoners had settled for these token concessions, denying that there had been any promise for more significant structural changes. It was an intolerable situation: CDCR was aiming to undo the July hunger strikers’ most important accomplishment – their unity and moral prestige at having resisted torture – and was trying to make it look as if people had settled for crumbs, as if the whole struggle had been over “beanies and calendars”. 

In this situation, it was soon decided to resume the hunger strike.

Round Two: Thoughts on the Eve of a Storm
This article is being written exactly two months after the end of the first hunger strike – and less than 72 hours before the start of the next one. Writing beforehand but knowing that this will be read during – or even after – the second strike, poses certain challenges as to what can be said. Nevertheless, the experiences over the summer point to some clear lessons that people would do well to keep in mind.

  1. In resisting conditions of torture in the SHU, the prisoners are challenging an important ruling class institution. The SHU, the prison system in general, and specific “anti-gang” policies, are central to how the government controls oppressed people in the United States. The State will do all it can to hold on to these weapons. It will exploit the difficulties prisoners face when communicating with each other and the outside movement. It will exploit fears about gangs and criminality. It will exploit prisoners’ medical conditions. It will exploit every advantage it has – which is why it is all the more important that each and every one of us who opposes this system support the prisoners’ struggle.
  2. The struggle to support the prisoners is hampered by a lack of resources. The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition is strapped for cash. California Prison Focus did not have sufficient funds to publish its Prison Focus newsletter prior to the second strike. A very small number of people have been doing most of the work. If the second hunger strike persists, a lack of outside support will translate into dead prisoners. More people and organizations need to get involved.
  3. Autonomous action seems to be on the agenda. While the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition has done an excellent job, its mandate is to amplify the voices of the prisoners, not to provide leadership. As for the hunger strikers, the prison system as a whole is designed to prevent easy communication with the outside – and nowhere is this more true than in the SHU. It is not realistic to expect people in isolation cells to micromanage an outside solidarity campaign. People need to think about how to intervene, because nobody’s going to come up with a grand plan for us.
  4. Escalation will occur, whether we can match it or not. CDCR has already stated that the response to a second hunger strike will be harsher than what occurred over the summer. As possible preparation for this, prisoners received disciplinary warnings after the first strike, informing them that they had broken prison rules, that this was being entered into their file, and that they would be punished if this happened again. Action on the outside has to be imaginative and inspiring, more than just phoning politicians. The prisoners have made a point of framing their struggle as a nonviolent one, but even with that limitation there are a wide range of options that should be explored and pursued.
  5. The prisoners don’t come from outer space, they come from communities. They have family members and loved ones. These are the people who will have to take the lead in developing a strong movement on the outside, one that threatens the State so that it comes to see ending its SHU torture program as the lesser of two evils. 

To get involved with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, contact or call: 510.444.0484

To keep up to date with activity around the hunger strike, visit the blog at or subscribe to Hungerstrike News by sending an email to

To connect with other people working around the hungerstrike, including many family members of prisoners, check out the “PELICAN BAY- CALIFORNIA HUNGER STRIKE SOLIDARITY!” group as well as the “CA Prisoners Hunger Strike Solidarity Action Network” group on facebook. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 26, the strike's back on - Tortured SHU Prisoners Speak Out: “The Struggle Continues”

For the past 10-40 years thousands of California prisoners have been confined in CDC-SHU units indefinitely based on status [E.G., a gang label – active gang classification, based on innocuous association activity, and allegations from confidential inmate informants] – wherein, they have been demonized as the worst-of-the-worst, in order to justify decades of human rights violations – including state sanctioned torture for the purpose of breaking the prisoners, and coercing them into becoming known informants for the state –thereby placing such prisoners, and their families in serious danger of retribution; as well as, the severe-permanent physical and psychological pain and suffering to these long term SHU prisoners and their families – directly related to CDCR-SHU policies and practices, all of which violate U.S. Constitutional, and international legal principles [as summarized in the prior formal complaint and 5-core demands available online].

As of September 2011, these SHU-prisoners continue to be subjected to CDCR’s torturous human rights violations, in spite of the July 2011 peaceful protest via hunger strike, wherein thousands of prisoners of all races/groups united in their effort to bring mainstream exposure and force an end to such barbarous policies and practices. [CDCR has responded with more propaganda, lies, and vague double talk promises of change in time].

SHU prisoners are dissatisfied with CDCR’s response to their formal complaint and (5) core demands, and therefore will continue to resist via peaceful protest indefinitely, until actual changes are implemented as summarized below.


1. The Formal Complaint and Five (5) Core Demands

Beginning Feb. 5, 2010, dozens of PBSP-SHU prisoners and their family members and friends began sending copies of the formal complaint to numerous law makers, CDCR Secretary Cate, and to many organizations. CDCR’s response was,..”file and inmate appeal.” In May 2011, the formal complaint, notice of hunger strike for July 01, 2011, and Five(5) core demands, were served on CDCR Sec. Cate, and Warden Lewis. There was no response…[notably, these documents were all posted on-line in March 2011].


2. The July 1st Hunger Strike and CDCR’s Response(s)

The H.S. began on July 1st at PBSP-SHU, and quickly spread to other prisons- at one point more than 6,600 prisoners participated at thirteen (13) prisons across the state!

On July 14, 2011, CDCR Undersecretary Kernan spoke to the inmate representatives via phone conference, promising them that the (5) core demands would be addressed, with positive changes occurring over time. The reps asked Kerman to put details of the changes on paper for their review.
On July 15, 2011, the reps received the documents provided by Kernan and determined the documents were not satisfactory because they were very vague and did not specify any changes of substance in relation to the (5) core demands.

On July 20th, Kernan and additional CDCR administrators met with the inmate reps in the PSB-SHU parole board hearing room. Kernan made more assurances about positive changes to SHU policies being in the works, and stated he would meet with the reps again in a couple of weeks in order to provide specifics as to each of the (5) core demands re: changes and progress made. As well as agreeing that, other than adding an extra day of visiting each week…the rest of the demands on (#5) re: programs/privileges, were reasonable and would be granted, as a show of good-faith on CDCR’s part.

All of the reps (14) then met and discussed the proposals from Kernan, and then decided to temporarily suspend the H.S., in order to give CDCR “a couple of weeks” grace period to keep their word on the (5) core demands [per Kernan’s request and assurances].

On August 19th, Kernan and other CDCR Administrators, met with the reps again, to follow up on the July 20th assurances re: specifically addressing the (5) core demands in detail.

Kernan did not have anything on paper to specifically address any of the (5) core demands. The meeting consisted of Kernan’s words – in very vague, general terms, about CDCR staff working to come up with some type of step down program for inmates to get out of SHU, which does not require debriefing- informant status- and Warden Lewis stating (SHU) inmates would soon be allowed to purchase sweat suits, and have the use of a handball on the yard.

All of the reps (14) then met and discussed the proposals from Kernan, and then decided to temporarily suspend the H.S., in order to give CDCR “a couple of weeks” grace period to keep their word on the (5) core demands [per Kernan’s request and assurances].

On August 19th, Kernan and other CDCR Administrators, met with the reps again, to follow up on the July 20th assurances re: specifically addressing the (5) core demands in detail.

Kernan did not have anything on paper to specifically address any of the (5) core demands. The meeting consisted of Kernan’s words – in very vague, general terms, about CDCR staff working to come up with some type of step down program for inmates to get out of SHU, which does not require debriefing- informant status- and Warden Lewis stating (SHU) inmates would soon be allowed to purchase sweat suits, and have the use of a handball on the yard.

The reps pointed out that Kernan’s verbal, vague presentation was not what was agreed to on July 20th. Kernan responded that “a step down” program will be operational by the end of this year, or early next year.”

The reps asked for specific details to be provided on paper to all SHU sections so all inmates can have something tangible in their hands. And Kernan eventually agreed to begin providing this documentation within (2) weeks. Instead, on Sept. 02, a memo dated Aug. 25th, entitled gang mg. proposal was only issued to the (4) principle reps; this document is again, extremely vague and general. It is not adequate nor acceptable!

On Aug. 23rd, Kernan appeared before the Calif. Assembly Public Safety Comm., to answer questions re: SHU policies and practices, that were exposed to the world via the H.S….according to the transcript of this Aug. 23rd hearing, Kernan was very vague, general, non-responsive, and focused on propagating CDCR’s out right lies about PBSP SHU policies, and the inmates subject to the torture therein – examples are;
a. “The courts have found PBSP-SHU policies meet constitutional standards.” [This is false- see e.g.,Madrid v. Gomez 889 F. Sup. 1146, at 1270, fn 217; see also, Griffin v. Gomez; Lira v. Cate, [cases cited in formal complaint!]. And, Chambers v. Florida, 309, U.S. 227, at 237-328 [1940]. 
b. “SHU houses (3,000) gang generals, who spend 24/7 engaging in gang-activity which threatens prison and public safety; and, we need to isolate them in harsh conditions, to prevent them from ordering other inmates to kill staff on sight,” etc, etc, etc. [This is also false, There are no rule violation reports/or criminal charges to support this claim!]

c. When asked directly by the Assembly if “debriefing places the inmate and his family in danger?” Kernan failed to answer! Notably Kernan stated that one certainty is CDCR’s plan to expand the number of prisoners subject to solitary confinement torture, by applying the policies and practices currently reserved for some suspected gang affiliates, to encompass all inmates categorized as party to any type of “disruptive group”[1] [e.g., the tens of thousands of street gang affiliates in CDCR prisons]; as well as, CDCR’s intent to continue to rely on information from “debriefing” inmates, to keep other inmates in SHU indefinitely!!

On Aug. 31st, PBSP-SHU staff issued (4) memos, addressing the allowance of the following; handballs on the yard; ability to purchase sweat suits; and, with (1) year free of disciplinary action and committee approval, the ability to get a yearly photo taken and purchase art pens and drawing paper from the prison canteen. [While said memos were being passed out, a Sgt. Was loudly telling staff to start writing up all prisoner’s for any type of reason they can think of, in order to prevent prisoners from getting their newly won privileges!]


3. SHU Prisoner’s Dissatisfaction with CDCR’s Response to the Formal Complaint and Five (5) Core Demands;

PBSP-SHU inmates have considered all facts and circumstances, summarized above, and remain united in our dissatisfaction with CDCR’s lack of specific substantive action on our (5) core demands. Our dissatisfactions are summarized below;

d. Re: Core Demands #1-3
Our problem with CDCR’s response to core demands #1, 2, and 3 is this…

#1. We remain in (SHU) indefinitely, deprived of our basic human rights – based on illegal policies and practices, that amount to torture; torture of us, as well as our family members and loved ones on the outside. CDCR remains in denial, and continues to propagate the lies re: “worst-of-the-worst” 3000 gang generals, etc. – in order to dehumanize/demonize us, so as to maintain the status quo, and “continue to hammer us” [per Sec. Cate’s press statement earlier this year], and subject us to “harsh” conditions [per Kernan’s Aug. 23rd testimony]. These terms “hammer” and “harsh” conditions, are used in place of the word torture – and the fact is, CDCR’s intent is to break us down, and coerce us into becoming state informants! A violation of international treaty law-period!! This is not acceptable!

CDCR has failed to produce any documentation re: details of how their so called “step-down” program will work, who it will apply to, exceptions-exclusions etc.; and our problem is,…”step down” from what”? When someone has been in (SHU) deprived of normal human contact- especially the lack of any physical contact with family/loved ones, for 10-40 years [based on a “label” without being charged and found guilty of illegal gang activity]; yet CDCR is dragging it out, coming with nothing but words, and vague “proposals,”…which indicate we will have to remain in (SHU), jumping thru a bunch of CDCR’s security hoops, to advance through “steps”…inspite of (3 to 25+) years free of any serious rule violations!

Plus, we’re certain that CDCR Administrators have no intention of ever giving most of us in PBSP short corridor, any real chance for general population!

#2. CDCR has made clear that one certainty is, their plan to substantially expand on the use of “solitary confinement”, via targeting all prisoners deemed “disruptive groups” [security threat groups], which is defined as: “2 or more inmates who are collectively deemed to be a security threat” – e.g., all street gang affiliates, prisoners deemed political-revolutionary etc, etc, etc. [see also; CCR Title 15; sec. 3000 “Disruptive Behavior”] which with CDCR’s history of abuse of policies re:”prison gangs” in solitary confinement, it’s clear, things will get worse, not better. This new policy is a way CDCR plans to maintain their staff and funding status quo, in response to the Plata order to reduce prison population – it costs nearly double to house prisoners in solitary confinement!

Our position is, CDCR’s “plans” to date, are not acceptable, and are another example of their intent to maintain, and expand on, “solitary confinement;” and demonstrate a failure of the entire CDCR management to make positive reforms! And, all long term (SHU) inmates should be released to general populations!! ASAP!!

#3. Also, the medical care problems re: core demand #3, have not been resolved!! All PBSP-SHU inmates suffering from chronic disease, and denied adequate care at PBSP, due to deliberate indifference, and efforts to coerce them to debrief..should all be transferred to New Folsom Medical SHU, while waiting to be released to general populations!!

e. Re: Core Demand #4
This issue concerns our poor diet, small portions – all watered down, dirty trays, etc… and has not been fixed- in fact, its gotten worse since we came off the hunger strike on July 20th!! This lack of adequate nutritional food/vitamins causes all of us to lack energy and harms our mental/physical health – which greatly increases medical care costs! Plus, our lack of sunlight, and related lack of vitamin D, is a problem too..we need better food and portions, clean trays, and ability to purchase healthy food items and nutritional supplements ASAP!!

c. Re: Core Demand #5
There remains a problem with many of our program/privilege examples listed on demand #5, not being implemented [e.g., phone calls, canteen and package issues; T.V./Radio – channels; extra visiting time- what about the ability to get photos in visiting room, wherein c/o takes picture of inmate and visitors thru the glass?]. And, the ones that have been implemented in PBSP-SHU, have been done in a way that it makes it real hard for most inmates to get a photo, or art pens/drawing paper, because the warden has state via memos, that inmates have to have (1) year free of discipline, and they must first “have to go to committee to get approved” [Kearnan’s Aug. 29h memo to all SHU Wardens does notsay inmates “need to go to committee” for these.

And, having to get sweat suits in yearly packages, equals another 40-50 ounces of weight, which meansless food items! This weight for non-food items takes a lot out of food amount; then, you add all the packaging [e.g. box, etc.], and we will end up with very little food items in our packages [e.g. packaging (50-ounces), tennis shoes (50-ounces), sweat pants, shirt, shorts (40 ounces), thermals (18-20 ounces), equals 158 ounces of a max weight of 480 ounces!] An easy fix for these non-food items, is that PBSP can return to their old policy of allowing us to purchase all “non-food” items, thru special purchase, just like we continue to do when ordering books and periodicals…

In closing, to all SHU-prisoners and all our outside supporters,[2] we wanted to let you know [as you can see from this], that this is far from over..and once again, hopefully for the last time, we will be risking our lives via a peaceful hunger strike on Sept 26, 2011 to force positive changes. Thus, we stillneed your support to contact the governor, etc, to force CDCR to make fair and reasonable changes to their policies, and indicated here. Thank you.

Respectfully and in Solidarity,
From all PBSP SHU H.S. Reps.

Escalation of political repression at Red Onion State Prison (Virginia: United States)


Over the years long standing organizing efforts by class conscious prisoners in the Virgina state system’s two maximum security facilities (Red Onion and Wallens Ridge) have been met with systematic repression including beatings, assaults with electrical and chemical weapons, isolation in special segregation units, interdiction of communications and at least one shooting incident.

Most recently Kevin “Rashid” Johnson a founding organizer of the NABPP-PC (New African Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter) and author of the book “Defying the Tomb” has been subjected to an extremely restrictive communications regime including the suspension of all outgoing mail and deprivation of most telephone access.

This is being carried out within the context of a broader agenda on the part of the Virginia DOC to criminalize and smear prisoner organizing as “gang activity”.

According to a recent message from an outside supporter on Rashid’s current situation:

“Basically, they have stepped up their interference with his communication  network and also their efforts to stigmatize him as a  'gang-member.'

Under the direction of one M. Duke, a gang task-force member who wears a  T-shirt with the inscription GANG  UNIT (in very big letters), Rashid’s cell  was raided and all of his stamps were  taken. While his cell was being  ransacked , Rashid questioned Duke, pointing out  that the latter’s insignia was  like a signal to incite violence on the part of  the authorities. He  explained to Duke that the NABPP opposes gang behavior and  asked why he was being targeted. Duke’s only response was that he “just happened to be there that  day.”

All Rashid’s phone connections have been blocked… He thinks that all his outgoing mail has been blocked. He asks that protest be made to state officials. He holds Tony  Adams (an  “investigator”) responsible for the cutting off of his lines of communication.

Rashid wants “noise” to be made — to protest the interference and also to  protest the labeling of the NABPP as a gang.”

From Georgia to California and access the country the prison struggle is a key link in the broader class confrontation today and we need to support those organizing on the front lines under conditions of maximum repression and control.

Please call Red Onion State Prison at  (276) 796-7510 or mail a letter to ROSP, PO Box 1900, Pound, VA 24279 to politely express your concern about the ongoing political repression and forward and repost this information as widely as possible.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Moment of Silence

The best poem i have ever read in my life; click here to listen to the poet reading it out loud:

Before I begin this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence in honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.

I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, for the victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the U.S., and throughout the world.

And if I could just add one more thing…

A full day of silence… for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.

Six months of silence… for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result

of a 12-year U.S. embargo against the country.

…And now, the drums of war beat again.

Before I begin this poem, two months of silence… for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, where “homeland security” made them aliens in their own country

Nine months of silence… for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin, and the survivors went on as if alive.

A year of silence… for the millions of dead in Viet Nam­—a people, not a war—for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives bones buried in it, their babies born of it.

Two months of silence… for the decades of dead in Colombia, whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem,
Seven days of silence… for El Salvador
A day of silence… for Nicaragua
Five days of silence… for the Guatemaltecos
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence… for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas…
1,933 miles of silence… for every desperate body
That burns in the desert sun
Drowned in swollen rivers at the pearly gates to the Empire’s underbelly,
A gaping wound sutured shut by razor wire and corrugated steel.

25 years of silence… for the millions of Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.
For those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees
In the south… the north… the east… the west…
There will be no dna testing or dental records to identify their remains.

100 years of silence… for the hundreds of millions of indigenous people
From this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness…

From somewhere within the pillars of power
You open your mouths to invoke a moment of our silence
And we are all left speechless,
Our tongues snatched from our mouths,
Our eyes stapled shut.

A moment of silence,
And the poets are laid to rest,
The drums disintegrate into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence…
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.
Not like it always has been.

…Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem…
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.

And if this is a 9/11 poem, then
This is a September 11th 1973 poem for Chile.
This is a September 12th 1977 poem for Steven Biko in South Africa.
This is a September 13th 1971 poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York.
This is a September 14th 1992 poem for the people of Somalia.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground amidst the ashes of amnesia.

This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told,
The 110 stories that history uprooted from its textbooks
The 110 stories that that cnn, bbc, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.

This is not a peace poem,
Not a poem for forgiveness.
This is a justice poem,
A poem for never forgetting.
This is a poem to remind us
That all that glitters
Might just be broken glass.

And still you want a moment of silence for the dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves,
The lost languages,
The uprooted trees and histories,
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children…

Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.
So if you want a moment of silence

Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines, the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights
Delete the e-mails and instant messages
Derail the trains, ground the planes.
If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses
and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July,
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale,
The next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful brown people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
Take it all.
But don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.

And we,
We will keep right on singing
For our dead.

Emmanuel Ortiz is a third-generation Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American community organizer and spoken word poet. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, The Word Is a Machete (self-published, 2003), and coeditor of Under What Bandera?: Anti-War Ofrendas from Minnesota y Califas (Calaca Press, 2004). He is a founding member of Palabristas: Latin@ Word Slingers, a collective of Latin@ poets in Minnesota. Emmanuel has lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Oakland, California; and the Arizona/Mexico border. He currently lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” with his two dogs, Nogi and Cuca. In his spare time, he enjoys guacamole, soccer, and naps.