Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pelican Bay Prisoners Go On Hunger Strike to Protest Grave Conditions: Lawyers, Advocates, Organizations Hold Press Conference, Voice Prisoner Demands


Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Communications Director, Critical Resistance
Office: 510 444 0484
Cell: 510 517 6612

What: Press Conference
When: Thursday, June 30, 2011, 11:00am
Where: Elihu M. Harris State of California Office Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland, CA

Oakland—Prisoners at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA will initiate an indefinite hunger strike on July 1st, 2011 to protest condition in the prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU). Lawyers and advocates who have been in contact with the prisoners will hold a press conference Thusday June 30th at the Oakland Federal Building, at 11am to rally support for the strike and put pressure on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to respond to the prisoners’ demands. Prisoners have delivered their demands to Pelican Bay warden Greg Lewis, the CDCR, and to Governor Jerry Brown. Their demands include an end to long-term solitary confinement, collective punishment, and forced interrogation on gang affiliation. The prisoners have also stated that they are willing to give up their lives unless their demands are met.

"The prisoners inside the SHU at Pelican Bay know the risk that they are taking going on hunger strike,” says Manuel LaFontaine, of All of Us or None, an organization that supports former prisoners and part of a Bay Area-based Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition supporting Pelican Bay’s prisoners. La Fontaine continues, “The CDCR must recognize that the SHU produces conditions of grave violence, such that people lose their lives in there all the time." U.S. and international human rights organizations have condemned Security Housing Units as having cruel, inhumane, and torturous conditions. SHU prisoners are kept in windowless, 6 by 10 foot cells, 23½ hours a day, for years at a time. The CDCR operates four Security Housing Units in its system at Corcoran,California Correctional Institution, Valley State Prison for Women as well as Pelican Bay.

Recent work and hunger strikes in Georgia and Ohio prisons were successful in both winning some concessions and alerting the public to the conditions inside US prisons. "People who are in prison are already being punished. They are still human beings and should not have to lose their civil and human rights" says Karen Shain, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

Pelican Bay’s hunger strike begins amidst the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling condemning California’s prison overcrowding and order the reduction of its population by at least 33,000 people. At the center of the overcrowding ruling were dozens of prisoner deaths a year due to the lack of basic medical and other healthcare. Thursday’s Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity press conference will touch off several events happening in cities across North America in the coming weeks.

Legal workers, advocates, and experts on the California prison system will be available for comment and interviews.


for more information:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Unlock the Box at the Maison Norman Bethune, July 1

This Friday July 1 in Montreal the comrades from the Maison Norman Bethune (the PCR/RCP's bookstore) will be hosting a film screening of Unlock the Box, a documentary about isolation torture and control units in the united states.

The film is in english, though there will be whisper translation into French, followed by a discussion of events being organized in Montreal to support the California prisoners' hunger strike.

The Maison Norman Bethune's announcement is reposted here in French, and below that you can see a clip from the film:

Dans le cadre des Rendez-vous de la Maison Norman Bethune:
Grève de la faim à la Pelican Bay State Prison: À bas l’isolement carcéral!

Le 1er juillet prochain, en Californie, entre 50 et 100 prisonniers de la Security Housing Unit (SHU), Corridor D, à la Pelican Bay State Prison, vont entamer une grève de la faim indéfinie. Ils protesteront ainsi contre les conditions de détention inhumaines qu’on leur impose, notamment le recours systématique à l’isolement carcéral. Pour l’occasion, nous présenterons un documentaire, Unlock the Box (Reel Soldiers Production, version originale anglaise avec traduction chuchotée), qui expose justement la lutte contre l’isolement carcéral. Nous annoncerons également les actions de solidarité avec la grève de la faim qui auront lieu dans la région de Montréal.

Le vendredi 1er juillet à 19h00
1918, rue Frontenac
Montréal (métro Frontenac)

Entrée libre • Info: 514 563-1487

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kersplebedeb Publishing Responds to Pelican Bay Ban on Defying the Tomb

On April 5, K.L. McGuyer, Associate Warden of the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit, mailed a letter to Kersplebedeb Publishing informing us that Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring Exchanges with an Outlaw, was now being deemed contraband at Pelican Bay.

The letter (which was mailed to the wrong address, and that we only received on May 27), explained that this was due to alleged promotion of “gang activities”.

According to CCR, Title 15, Section 3000, Definitions:
Gang means any ongoing formal or informal organization, association or group of three or more persons which has a common name or identifying sign or symbol whose members and/or associates, individually or collectively, engage or have engaged, on behalf of that organization, association or group, in two or more acts which include, planning, organizing, threatening, financing, soliciting, or committing unlawful acts or acts of misconduct classified as serious pursuant section 3315.
Having reviewed the aforementioned Section 3315, Kersplebedeb Publishing is challenging this ruling as is our right under CCR, Title 15, Section 3137. (For these and all other regulations referred to here, see California Code of Regulations Title 15. Crime Prevention and Corrections.)

The only “formal or informal organization, association or group of three or more persons” which Defying the Tomb might be said to promote is the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, and this organization has not engaged in “two or more acts which include, planning, organizing, threatening, financing, soliciting, or committing unlawful acts or acts of misconduct classified as serious pursuant section 3315.”

As such, the New Afrikan Black Panther Party does not meet the CDCR's own definition of a gang. In order to appreciate the nature of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, and the fact that it does not constitute a “gang” under the CDCR's regulations, consider the following quote by the author of Defying the Tomb, Keven “Rashid” Johnson:
In 2005, I co-founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party/White Panther Organization, a non-violent, legal and above-ground party whose focus is on promoting the interests and human rights, in strictly legal forms, of sectors of the U.S. population whose needs and interests are ignored, and who are not represented, by the ‘established’ political – economic system – especially poor, working class and imprisoned Blacks.

The NABPP/WPO specifically opposes criminal activities, ‘street gang’ mentalities and behaviors, violence (except in the extremes of self-defense), all forms of discrimination (racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, national, etc.) and all forms of oppression. We also promote the right to free, open and honest speech. Our orientation, ideologies, and views have been and are elaborated in our various periodicals and publications; many of them I authored.
The above quote is from Rashid’s essay “Racial and Political Persecution of Grassroots Black Political leaders and Activists”.

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 institutions such as the "California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation" (sic!) 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 oppressed communities throughout the united states, but like most oppressive dynamics it appears in its most concentrated form within the prison system.

As even the system's own Associate u.s. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black pointed out in Barenblatt v. U.S. (360 U.S. 109, ISO(1959) (dissenting opinion)):

History should teach us… that… minority parties and groups which advocate extremely unpopular social or governmental innovations will always be typed as criminal gangs and attempts will always be made to drive them out.
Indeed, the CDCR's use of the “gang” label to censor political materials and repress political organizations directly contradicts one of their own rules, CCR, Title 15, Section 3004(c):
Inmates, parolees and employees will not subject other persons to any form of discrimination because of race, religion, nationality, sex, political belief, age, or physical or mental handicap.
Specifically, Pelican Bay's use of the term “gang” to describe the New Afrikan Black Panther Party discriminates on the basis of political belief.

For this reason, we will be appealing Pelican Bay's decision and requesting that the designation of Defying the Tomb as contraband be withdrawn, and that the implied designation of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party as a gang be similarly withdrawn. Failing that, we will be asking that Pelican Bay detail which “unlawful acts or acts of misconduct classified as serious pursuant section 3315” they are using to justify this designation.

This kerfuffle over a book that we published last year occurs just as prisoners at the Pelican Bay SHU are inspiring us all as they prepare to go on an historic hunger strike this July 1. Censorship of political materials is just one of so many ways in which the prison authorities attempt to isolate prisoners. We strongly urge people to learn more about this hunger strike, and if possible to organize solidarity actions in your area. For more information, see the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition's blog at or contact them by telephone at 510-444-0484.

For more information about Kevin "Rashid" Johnson and the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) see:

Order copies of Defying the Tomb from Kersplebedeb or from AK Press.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

David Gilbert Transferred

David Gilbert has been transferred to Auburn prison; his new address is:

David Gilbert, 83A6158
Auburn Correctional Facility
PO box 618
Auburn NY 13021

David is a North American political prisoner. The Civil Rights struggle of the 60s exposed him to the sham of US democracy and embodied the beauty of collective struggle. In 1965 he started the Vietnam Committee at Columbia University in NY and became a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) there. In 1967, David authored the first SDS pamphlet on US Imperialism and participated in the Columbia Strike of 1968. After about 5 years of organizing in the above ground movement, David joined the revolutionary underground, spending a total of 10 years living clandestinely, actively resisting imperialism with arms. On October 20, 1981, he and other comrades were captured at Nyack, NY during an attempted expropriation by a unit of the Black Liberation Army working with white revolutionaries (subsequently known as the Revolutionary Armed Task Force- RATF). During the expropriation attempt, one Brinks guard and two police officers were killed. Charged and convicted of felony murder, David is serving a 75 year (minimum) to life sentence.

While in prison, David has been actively involved in the struggle against AIDS, and has remained a staunch opponent of oppression still dedicated to human liberation. He is also a longtime advisor and collaborator in the annual Certain Days Free Political Prisoners Calendar project.

A book of David's writings, No Surrender, was published by Abraham Guillen Press in David's memoirs, Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground and Beyond, is due to be published by PM Press in December.

For an incomplete collection of David's writings, see the page devoted to him on Kersplebedeb.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

June 4: Hamilton Anarchist Bookfair

i've meant to table at every Hamilton bookfair so far, but there's been a variety of events and calamities that have always interfered ... but not this year! Finally it seems like we'll be able to be there, tabling for Kersplebedeb and PM Press too ...

if you're in Southern Ontario, make sure to drop by and say hello!

Saturday, June 4th 2011
51 Stuart Street
Hamilton, Ontario
Free Lunch and Free Childcare

As the organizers say:

The 4th annual Hamilton Anarchist Bookfair is right around the corner — are you coming? It’s happening this Saturday, June 4th!

We want you all to come. It’ll be fun, promise! Together, we’ll talk all about what’s terrible, and how we might wanna fix it. We’ll sit side by side, and be glad to share our intensity, our dreams, and our relentless passion — I’m sure we’ll find that we have a lot to learn from each other! There will be over 27 vendors with books and literature, 8 workshops and discussions; and of course, free lunch and all-day childcare. For more details about the workshops, look under the ‘Workshops’ tab for an updated list.

See you Saturday!
big love, The Hamilton Anarchist Bookfair Collective

Here's the finalized Schedule:

10 to 11am: Welcome! (and coffee)

11 to 12:30: Workshops!
+ Solidaity Networks // with Steel City Solidarity – JCC Rm. 9
+ Deepening Our Strength: Radical Spirituality Discussion – JCC Rm. 3
+ Tech Security // with ATS (Anarchist Tech Support) – WAHC Rm. 1

12:30 to 1:30: LUNCH!

1:30 to 3:00: Workshops!
+ Film Screening: “CopWatch: These Streets Are Watching.” // with Hamilton Copwatch – WAHC Rm. 1
+ Anarchist-Indigenous Solidarity // With the Six Nations Solidarity Network – JCC Rm. 3

3:15 to 4:45: Workshops!
+ Intro to Anarchism – WAHC Rm. 1
+ Knowing the Land is Resistance // with the KLR Collective – JCC Rm. 3
+ Anti-Gentrification Radical Walking Tour – WAHC Rm. tba

Here is a Map of bookfair locations and other useful stuff for out of towners, if you have any questions the organizers can be emailed at