“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
The world today cries out for radical, fundamental change.
We live on a planet where tens of millions of people died in the two world wars in the 20th century, and in other wars since then…and where large parts of humanity today continue to be caught up in brutal and destructive wars, resulting in massive loss of life and incalculable agony.
We live in a world where millions die from easily preventable diseases…and still more face hunger as a daily fact of life. We are locked inside a worldwide economic system that dispenses crumbs and extends privileges to a relatively small number, while forcing billions to seek desperately for work that more often than not numbs the mind, crushes the spirit and destroys the body…an economic system which has devastated and despoiled nature itself and now has put the future of human life into question.
We walk through our days in a world where the lives of countless children are ground up and destroyed, some as child laborers and even outright slaves, others as the victims of poverty and humiliation…their potential crushed, or their lives cut short. And everywhere, women—one half of humanity!—still face the gauntlet of rape and abuse, and the continual oppression and hostility that comes in forms both traditional and “modern.”
People whose sexual orientation or identity is different from the dominant norms in society—and this is particularly and acutely so where this in some significant way conflicts with the prevailing patriarchal sexual relations—are discriminated against and persecuted, and many are subjected to brutal, even murderous attacks.
Tens of millions of people in this country face a life of grinding exploitation and bitter desperation. Many have been driven here from countries which have been plundered by U.S. capital, only to find themselves dubbed “illegal” and forced into the shadows by Gestapo-like persecution. Especially among Black people, as well as other peoples of color and oppressed nationalities, great masses of people have been cast aside because they can no longer be profitably exploited. Instead of recognizing their humanity and unleashing their potential, this system has criminalized them—with one in nine young Black men locked down in prison, and with Black and Latino youth having to face harassment, brutality, and the constant threat of death at the hands of the police whenever they walk out the door. Meanwhile the apple-pie racism of America festers and often boils over, in forms old and new.
On top of all that, this economic and social system forces everyone to look at, and to treat, everyone else as potential competitors and antagonists. “Dog eat dog” and “look out for number one” are the true commandments of this society. Those who try to make things better, within the confines of this system, find their efforts constantly frustrated, unable to get at the underlying problems.
As a result of all this, alienation and despair run rampant, and people feel as if their lives are empty and meaningless. And for relief? Either the mindless chase after ever more commodities, or the false fantasies and consolation of religion.
But the cruelest fact of all is this: IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! For here is the glaring contradiction: in today’s world the production of things, and the distribution of the things produced, is overwhelmingly carried out by large numbers of people who work collectively and are organized in highly coordinated networks. At the foundation of this whole process is the proletariat, an international class which owns nothing, yet has created and works these massive socialized productive forces. These tremendous productive powers could enable humanity to not only meet the basic needs of every person on the planet, but to build a new society, with a whole different set of social relations and values…a society where all people could truly and fully flourish together.
An Appeal to the Brothers and Sisters Locked Down in this Society’s Prisons:
Bear Witness to Torture in U.S. Prisons and to All Law Enforcement Abuse
2.3 million of you are locked away in the dungeons of this society, more people than in any other country in the world! You have been subjected to horrible conditions, and those held in solitary confinement have faced actual torture—arbitrary confinement, isolation and denial of any human contact for weeks, months and even years.
The authorities justify this by calling you “the worst of the worst,” criminal predators who are little more than animals. They say subjecting you to brutal suppression keeps the rest of society safe.
This is not true. The U.S. prison population has leaped by more than 800 percent since 1971 because the authorities have criminalized successive generations of Black and Latino youth. Under the “War on Drugs,” Black men are 10 times more likely than whites to be incarcerated for drug possession, even though Blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate. Women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population, and more women are imprisoned in the U.S. than anywhere else on the planet. Whole families of undocumented immigrants—including young children—languish in immigration prisons as record-breaking numbers of immigrants are locked up.
The backdrop to this is the way inner cities have been stripped of the employment opportunities needed to survive and raise families, and the educational system has been geared to fail our youth. This has left millions of youth growing up facing futures without hope. The response of the authorities to all this has been unleashing cops to harass and brutalize youth, unleashing the courts and enacting laws and policies to warehouse people in prison and to subject formerly incarcerated people to open discrimination after their release from prison.
All this has enmeshed tens of millions of people in the web of the criminal “injustice” system. It amounts to a slow genocide aimed at Black and Latino people. It is racist and unjust, and it must be stopped!
We call on you to join the efforts to stop it. The world needs to know of the sadistic, systemic horror of long-term solitary confinement, which is enforced on more than 80,000 people in the U.S. prison system. We know that revisiting this can be difficult for those who are facing or have faced these conditions, but the truth must be laid bare for all. All of society needs to know of the racial profiling that sucked you into the pipeline to prison, of the horrific conditions everyone in prison endures and of the open discrimination formerly incarcerated people face after release. You are in a unique position to expose the lying justifications given by the authorities for what they are.
Send these stories to the Bear Witness Project of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Through this you will be opening the eyes of those who are shielded from the real situation in the inner cities and the actual conditions enforced in prison. And letting those caught up in the cycle of going in and out of prison know that what they’re up against are social problems, not individual ones, and that by standing up and resisting them together, we can change the way mass incarceration is looked at in society and contribute to bringing forward a movement that can end it.
Many were inspired by the efforts of prisoners to transform the horrible conditions they are subjected to through hunger strikes in California and other places. The call for racial unity issued by California prisoners and efforts by prisoners to engage and spread radical and revolutionary ideas about what is the problem in society and the world and what needs to be done about them are also inspiring. These heroic efforts need to be made known to all. You telling your stories can help make that happen.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network and others will make these stories widely accessible. The stories will be posted online, run in print media, and read and spoken about in electronic media. Readings and other events, involving authors, actors, professors and other public figures, will be held to let as many people as possible hear of the horrors mass incarceration and all its consequences inflict on so many.
As people who have been in prison ourselves, we know that when the authorities imprison you, they tell the rest of society you don’t matter. Show that they are wrong. Lift your heads and raise your voices. Let the truth about the slow genocide strangling Black and Latino communities ring out from behind the prison walls and reverberate among all who hate injustice!
Carl Dix, representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party who was imprisoned in the military for refusing to go to Vietnam
Clyde Young, a revolutionary communist who was imprisoned in his youth
Gregory Koger, a revolutionary communist who was imprisoned as a youth and spent many years in solitary confinement.
Mail correspondence to: PRLF 1321 N Milwaukee, #407 Chicago, IL 60622
or Stop Mass Incarceration Network P.O. Box 941, Knickerbocker Station, New York City, NY 10002-0900
Three years ago I was arrested for attempting to document a political statement opposing censorship by Sunsara Taylor at the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC). What began as a brief but principled statement opposing the censorship of her long-scheduled talk and an invitation for those who wanted to hear her talk to join us at the home of a now-former member of the EHSC was rapidly transformed by powers in the ruling class into a three-year-long political and legal battle against a political prosecution and 300 day jail sentence for non-violent misdemeanors.
Leading figures within the EHSC joined forces with the police and prosecutors to press fabricated criminal charges based on false statements – statements which changed dramatically after the video I recorded of what actually transpired was turned over to the prosecutor the day before my trial. You can read their claims in the police report - as well as public statements sent out to the atheist/humanist blogosphere - and watch the video of what actually occurred for yourself:
After numerous pronouncements declaring that there is “nothing political” about this prosecution, in the first paragraphs of the Appellate Court ruling Sunsara Taylor is described as a “self-avowed” communist – a description that was not allowed by the judge in the original trial and appeared nowhere in the trial record of proceedings in open court. The Courts have tried to have it both ways – refusing to allow us to raise the extremely relevant political nature of the trial, while themselves signaling the political nature of my arrest and the charges. In the final move by the prosecution, when they filed a motion to have me sent immediately back to jail, they included the completely irrelevant – but highly political – information that I had once asked the Court for permission to travel out of state for matters relating to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund.
A Criminal System of Injustice
Many people who have heard about this case look at the severity of the reaction of the State and think, “Well, there must be something more to this story…” There absolutely is something about this case that the rulers of this system know has tremendous potential to shake this rotten and unjust system to its core – and that is not someone standing silently holding an iPhone attempting to record a political statement, although preventing Sunsara from speaking and her statement from being documented was what precipitated this case.
More and more people of all different backgrounds are becoming aware of, and beginning to stand up in opposing, the historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration in the United States, which proclaims itself the “greatest and freest country in the world” without the least sense of irony. The sheer number of people subjected to the dehumanizing and degrading violence of the State through its injustice system is difficult to wrap your mind around. Nearly 2.4 million men, women and children are in prison at any moment. As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has pointed out, more Black folks are in prison or under the control of the “justice” system than there were slaves just before the Civil War. There are five times the number of Black men incarcerated in the U.S. than in apartheid South Africa, where a white supremacist colonial regime subjugated the indigenous Black population for decades and is universally considered one of the most racist regimes in the history of the world. Hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino youth in New York City alone are fucked with by the police every year under “stop-and-frisk.” Whole families – including young children – who come here from around the world seeking a better future due to the depredations of U.S. imperialism on their home countries are criminalized and locked up in immigration prisons.
From deep within the belly of this monstrous imperialist beast, from the bowels of the torture units and the concrete and steel prison-tombs springing up across the prairies and plains of this country, brothers and sisters that this system has cast off as worthless are beginning to understand the historical and social forces that led them to the point of being locked within these hellholes, and beginning to see the pathway to a radically different future for all humanity. Prison cells designed to destroy human beings are being transformed into universities of revolution, where the tremendous potential of the wretched of the earth is beginning to be unleashed, and prisoners are one of the powerful sections of people beginning to transform themselves into emancipators of humanity.
That potential — and that reality — is the core of what is driving forward my political prosecution and their demands to put me back in jail. Because I am one of those wretched of the earth that this system has no future for. I got involved in a street organization to survive on the streets as a teenager after my family lost our home, and I was serving a long sentence in an adult maximum security prison by the time I was seventeen years old. I began to question what brought me and everyone else locked down in those hellholes to be there. And as conditions became increasingly repressive and more inhumane, I was placed into an indeterminate period of segregation – solitary confinement – where I was confronted with surviving for years in a living tomb until my release.
It was there, in those many years of torture that I spent in total isolation from human contact surrounded by crushing State violence on a daily basis, that I regained my humanity through the course of resisting those conditions and beginning to study and understand the world. Among other things I was studying, I began to receive revolutionary literature from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, including a donated subscription to Revolution newspaper. And Revolution presented to me a real analysis of the historical development and functioning of this monstrous capitalist system, a serious strategy for organizing and making a revolution to sweep this system away, and a viable framework in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism for actually running society after a revolution: to increasingly break down the divisions of class society as people struggle together to create a whole different way of life in which human beings, individually and above all in their mutual interaction, in all parts of the world, can throw off the chains of tradition, rise to their full height and thrive in ways never before experienced or even fully imagined – a communist world.
My thinking and understanding of course did not change overnight. Both before and after my release from prison, I struggled with many questions – from individuality and leadership to the oppression of women—and comrades struggled with me—in making the radical ruptures to becoming a communist. But through the course of that struggle and being involved in many different realms of revolutionary work in building the movement for revolution, I’ve dedicated my life to serving the people and being an emancipator of humanity.
From oppressed communities under the gun of constant police brutality and repression, to standing with immigrants against demonization and deportation, from discussions in classrooms in high schools and universities to defending clinics and women’s right to abortion, from protesting torture and war crimes to demanding liberation for the LGBTQ community – I’m constantly amazed and inspired by all of the places I’ve been and people I’ve met and gotten to know while engaged in revolutionary work throughout the course of the few years I’ve been out of prison.
Political Repression for Serving the People
That is how I came to be at the EHSC on the morning of November 1, 2009, to document Sunsara’s statement and then record her talk at the off-site location, as I had done without incident the previous day at the same EHSC auditorium. And that is what this prosecution is really about. As Revolution wrote previously, in an article on my sentencing hearing while I was in Cook County Jail:
“Should a whole section of society (there are over 2 million people incarcerated right now in American prisons) be denied the right to participate in the full range of lawful social and political activity by mere virtue of being former prisoners, because the state will use prior criminal convictions to justify political persecution? A message is being sent to intimidate millions of others at the bottom of society, ‘Don’t even think about raising your head, participating in political activity or protest, much less taking up revolutionary politics, this is what we will do to you.’ We cannot allow this message to stand.
“The ‘public safety’ is hardly threatened by former prisoners stepping forward to take up the big social and political questions of the day, including those who become revolutionary emancipators of humanity. THAT is the life Gregory has chosen, not a ‘path of violence,’ as the judge asserted. THAT is what is ‘volatile,’ and threatening to their system, not Gregory picking up an iPhone.” (Judge Slams Videographer with 300 Days in Jail: FREE GREGORY!)
My dedication to exposing and opposing the crimes of this system, as part of building a movement for revolution to get rid of this system, is the real reason why they have pursued this political prosecution for three years and are now trying to put me back in jail. It will be a real defeat, and a real injustice, if they are able to do that. These outrages happened in a political prosecution in my case – however, they happen on a daily basis to millions of people herded through the courts into the United States’ historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration.
Support Grows and Needs to Spread
Our struggle to defeat these charges has been a small part of the broader struggle against this oppressive system that inflicts monumental suffering on the people, here and around the world. Thousands of people from all different class and social backgrounds, from across the country and around the world, have stood with me through the course of this battle. Many who don’t agree with some or even most of my political views have opposed this vindictive prosecution. All of their support has been tremendously important and I’ve personally found it deeply moving. My defense committee has hosted numerous public discussions about the broader issues concentrated in this case, including speakers such as Bill Ayers and Cindy Sheehan. And this struggle is not over! We are calling on people to sign on to and spread the Not One More Day In Jail for Gregory Koger statement – which you can sign at dropthecharges.net.
Sometime within the next couple weeks, the court will set a hearing date where they will try to send me back to jail. We will let people know when that hearing is, and call on you to come out to that hearing and demonstration afterward, if you are able. We will continue to wage a legal and political offensive against these outrageous charges, and put this system – and the real criminals in the ruling class who preside over it – on trial.
Gravediggers of This System
I want to close by sharing a few words from two letters to Revolution newspaper from those who are still locked down in the dungeons who are also becoming emancipators of humanity:
“I was glad that the paper updated us on the predicament with Gregory Koger, by filling everybody in on the details of his case, all the way from the beginning up to this point. After seeing how they played the comrade, I’m even more determined to be about THIS when I get out. They do shit like that to deter muthafuckas like me, but it REALLY only fuels muthafuckas like me all the more so. I’ve been a rebellious dude my WHOLE LIFE, as I’ve related to you before. The difference between that being the case my WHOLE LIFE… and NOW, is that NOW I finally been able to put a circle around THAT THING, I’ve really been shitty at my WHOLE LIFE: CAPITALIST – IMPERIALISM and its whole decadent superstructure.”
“As I conclude these thoughts of mine as I reside in a solitary cell myself, I just want to reiterate how important it is for as many of us as possible to reach out to Gregory in some fashion in order to show our solidarity with him in a meaningful way… By the time he finishes those 300 days in the county jail or wherever he’s being held at, he should be able to leave those gates, knowing he did the right thing by leaving prison and choosing to dedicate his life to what this Party and this movement is all about. Conversely, we should send an unequivocal message to the bourgeois state, that they can’t indirectly squelch our determination by using legal repression; because in the end, we rally behind ours, and if we do happen to emerge from the repressive arm of its legal juggernaut, it only ends up magnifying our resolve, individually and collectively.”
Like these brothers and comrades, and many more behind the walls and on the streets, my life will continue to be dedicated to making revolution and emancipating humanity, whether I’m talking with students in inner-city high schools who face police brutality and repression every day, university students from more privileged backgrounds who are beginning to learn about how this system operates, or whether I am in jail learning from and organizing with other brothers locked down there. I will continue to be part of building this movement to end all of these injustices and bring forth a world where everybody can live a life worthy of human beings and flourish in ways undreamed of under this capitalist system – a communist world.
• NOT ONE MORE DAY IN JAIL!
• WE SUPPORT GREGORY KOGER AND OPPOSE THIS WRONGFUL CONVICTION.
Sign the above statement and add your own comments, here. Email this statement to friends here.
The Illinois Supreme Court has refused to hear Gregory Koger’s appeal of the vindictive conviction and outrageous sentence that were inflicted on him for peacefully videotaping a statement against censorship at the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago almost three years ago on November 1, 2009. And now the State’s Attorney has filed a motion to revoke Gregory’s bail and send him back to jail immediately.
What does this mean? It means that the court’s dangerous interpretation of the Illinois trespass statute is affirmed and is now a threat to everyone who records protests and the actions of the police. It means that the court’s vindictive sentence of 300 days is affirmed, punishing a former prisoner for standing up to injustice and oppression. And by moving immediately to revoke Gregory’s bond, the State is continuing its ruthless persecution.
What has Gregory been doing with his life in the years since he was arrested for using an iPhone at the EHSC? In addition to his employment as a paralegal at a Chicago law firm, Gregory has continued to dedicate his life to the struggle against all forms of injustice. He has been invited to speak at universities, including Columbia College and Roosevelt University in Chicago, about mass incarceration and torture in U.S. prisons. He has spoken to students in high schools about police brutality, torture, and wars for empire. He has attended rallies against police brutality and murder, spoken on panels about the issues involved in his own case and the rights of prisoners around the country, and he spoke before the Chicago City Council in January in support of a declaration naming Chicago a torture-free city — to name just a few of his many beneficial and constructive activities.
Gregory should not be forced to spend even one more day in jail! He committed no crime – in fact, the police brutalized him. Videotaping is not a crime, and taking pictures is not the same as trespassing. Gregory has become a productive member of society who deserves appreciation, not punishment.
Gregory’s lawyers will file a motion to oppose revocation of bond. If that fails and Gregory is ordered to report to jail, we call on all of you to join us at the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie, IL [and at the Cook County Jail] to protest and show support for Gregory. We must put them on notice that we are standing with Gregory.
Gregory sends his most sincere thanks to everyone who has supported him in the course of this struggle, and he wants people to know that:
“My case shows quite clearly how the legal system in this country operates:
Evidence that exposes the lies of State witnesses was barred from the jury, and video evidence shown in open court multiple times was barred from the appellate court.
The judge imposed a sentence based on ‘facts’ that were never even alleged by any witness, when she claimed that I ‘chose a path of violence’ after being convicted of what are categorized as non-violent misdemeanors, and she then sentenced me to nearly double the maximum allowable sentence for criminal trespass.
The judge barred any mention to the jury of the events that led to the peaceful protest against censorship on November 1, 2009. But these events showed up within the first few sentences of the appellate court’s decision.
“These outrages happened in a political prosecution in my case, but they happen on a daily basis to millions of people herded through the courts into the United States’ historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration. Our struggle to defeat these charges has been a small part of the broader struggle against this oppressive system that inflicts monumental suffering on the people, here and around the world.
“My life will continue to be dedicated to that end, whether I’m talking with students in inner-city high schools who face police brutality and repression every day, university students from more privileged backgrounds who are beginning to learn about how this system operates, or whether I am in jail learning from and organizing with other brothers locked down there. I will continue to build a movement to end all of these injustices and bring forth a world where everybody can live a life worthy of human beings and flourish in ways undreamed of under this system.”
Friends - As we enter the final stage of the legal battle against my ongoing political prosecution, I hope you will take a moment to sign and spread this public statement of opposition. Thank you. – Gregory
Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!
· Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!
· Videotaping is not a crime!
· Former prisoners who stand up against injustice and oppression should be supported, not repressed!
Signed by: Ad Hoc Committee for Reason; Cindy Sheehan; Dr. Antonio Martinez, co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture; Debra Sweet; Fred Lonberg-Holm; Sunsara Taylor and others.
Sign the above statement and add your own comments here.
At an historical moment when people are stepping forward in dissent and protest around the world from Tunisia to Wall Street, political attacks on those who document these courageous acts are escalating. For nearly 3 years, Gregory Koger has been fighting a completely outrageous political prosecution and 300 day jail sentence for attempting to videotape a statement by Sunsara Taylor opposing the censorship of her talk prior to a public event at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago.
Gregory’s prosecution is premised upon a dangerous attempt to reinterpret the legal definition of trespass, and the State is using his prior conviction and imprisonment as a teenager to justify his political prosecution and vindictive sentence. At his sentencing, the judge claimed that Gregory “chose a path of violence” and “endangered every single person in [the EHSC] auditorium that day” – for videotaping with an iPhone! That is a lie. The appeals court recently upheld this outrageous verdict and sentence and it is being appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.
While in prison as a youth, where he spent many years in solitary confinement, Gregory transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity. In a country where over 2.4 million people, mostly Black and Latino, are imprisoned under a New Jim Crow system of injustice, tens of thousands are held in conditions of solitary confinement that amount to torture under international law, and millions more are denied basic human rights after they are released and have supposedly “served their time,” former prisoners who step forward to become part of challenging the injustices of this society and inspire others to do the same cannot be allowed to face political repression.
As Gregory put it in a statement before his trial: “Now my life is dedicated to the struggle to end all exploitation and oppression and getting to a world where people contribute what they can to society and get back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings.” Gregory needs to be out here in society continuing the fight to bring into being this new world.
To donate funds to publish this statement and for the appeal, as well as get updates on the case, go to the website of the Ad Hoc Committee, Gregory’s defense committee, at dropthecharges.net.
If you are on Facebook (Free Gregory Koger!) or Twitter, publicize this case and mobilize others to speak out and sign the statement.
The following is an article from Revolution newspaper about my ongoing political prosecution, please check it out – Gregory.
The Illinois Appellate Court in February continued and intensified the unjust persecution of Gregory Koger by upholding his conviction for three misdemeanors and upholding the outrageous 300-day sentence for documenting with an iPhone camera the attempts to suppress the speech of Sunsara Taylor. Koger was arrested in November 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) when he was videotaping a short statement by Revolution writer Sunsara Taylor. For that “crime,” the police grabbed, beat and maced him. Then they charged HIM with misdemeanor battery, resisting arrest, and trespassing. (See “A Grave Injustice Has Been Perpetrated… Free Gregory! No Jail Time!” in Revolution #211, September 12, 2010.) In its ruling, the Illinois Appellate Court went even further than the prosecutors and the original trial judge in twisting the facts and interpreting the record to advance this highly political and vindictive attack on Koger.
Koger’s lawyers have recently filed a petition for leave to file an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. A powerful outcry against this outrage is needed!
An examination of some of the key findings of the appeals court will show the political nature of this attack on Koger through the legal system. This is revealed by what they chose to emphasize, concentrate, and even add to the record, and what they omitted and refused to consider.
First, at Koger’s trial in August 2010, the continual mantra from the judge and prosecution was “politics has nothing to do with this case, the defendant is on trial for his conduct, not his politics.” The judge vehemently denied every effort by the defense to provide the highly political context for his arrest: why he was documenting Taylor’s statement protesting the cancellation of her speech at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) and why the EHSC was trying to prevent exposure of this censorship.
So it was striking that the ruling by the Appellate Court prominently refers to Sunsara Taylor in an introductory paragraph as a “self-avowed communist.” This fact was completely banned from the trial itself! Even the defense’s request to probe potential jurors’ political prejudices, including regarding communism, was turned down. The original trial judge stated that Taylor could have been speaking about anything—”organic farming or feminism”—it was all irrelevant. The word “communism” appears nowhere in any of the official record of the proceedings in open court. One of the big claims of America is that there is supposedly no political suppression, that there is no such thing as a political case. Yet here in black and white the appeals court is boldly signaling that, yes indeed, this is a political case where political acts (documenting a controversial event) are on trial, depicted as criminal acts, and in the trial the actual events are twisted to fit that framework.
Second, the Appellate Court refused to consider the video that played a key role in the trial. This was the video Koger himself taped as he and Taylor entered EHSC that morning and took their seats in the auditorium. Provided by the defense, the video was actually introduced as Exhibit 1 by the prosecution in an effort to put their own spin on it for the jurors.
This video is now posted on the defense committee website (www.dropthecharges.net), along with the original police report. The prosecution received the video the day before trial, and by the next day they rewrote the charges with coaching from the judge who then denied the defense’s attempts to enter the original police report into evidence. This revealed the American justice system in action—if the defendant presents hard evidence proving his innocence, the state is allowed to change their story. Now people can see for themselves how the judge and the prosecution worked together to twist the facts in any way necessary to get a conviction. And this has been upheld by the appeals court. The EHSC president claims in the police report that he told Koger three times to stop filming and that Koger replied by saying “fuck you” to the EHSC president, who then told him that if he didn’t stop filming he’d be arrested for trespassing. A cop claims in the police report that he witnessed this. The video refutes all of that: Koger is completely silent and the president of EHSC is heard telling Koger only that he has to “stop filming,” which Koger does and the video shows that he put the camera down on the seat next to him. The only aggression on film comes from the president of EHSC when he pushes his hand aggressively into Koger’s camera.
The Appellate Court tried to have it both ways: bolstering its decision by using the politics that were banned from the trial, while refusing to consider documentary evidence that was part of the trial record.
New misrepresentation of trespass law is upheld
The Illinois trespass law states that in order to convict someone of trespass the state must prove that a person was ordered by a property owner to leave the premises, and then must prove that the person showed an intent to remain on the property after having been given notice to depart. Koger was never told he was trespassing at the EHSC, nor was he given notice that he must leave. After the video evidence refuted the previous statements from the witnesses in the police report that the EHSC president told Koger that he would be arrested for trespass if he didn’t stop filming—which the cop witnessed, the EHSC president directly testified in court that he never ordered Koger to leave. And the cop who grabbed Koger then changed his story and testi-lied at trial that he “whispered” into Koger’s ear after he put his camera down that he would be arrested if he didn’t stop filming—a whisper in a room with loud music blaring (as can be heard on the video). A convenient “whisper” that could not be documented.
A major legal argument in Koger’s appeal brief drew out the danger posed by a significant misinterpretation of the trespass law employed by the prosecution and upheld by the judge during the trial. Koger was never told that he must leave the premises. However, the prosecutors repeatedly equated giving “notice to stop filming” with giving “notice to depart.” The defense argued at trial and in the appeal that such conditional notice is not sufficient to convict. The prosecution went so far as to argue that if you do anything that a property owner asks you not to do, that makes you a trespasser—without any requirement that they give you explicit notice to depart, a fundamental element of the crime of trespass. To quote from the prosecutor’s closing arguments in the trial transcript: “Even if they were eating a sandwich, it’s not the filming, defendant’s eating a sandwich, ‘Sir, you can’t eat your sandwich in here; if you do it again, you’re going to be asked to leave.’ The moment he takes that sandwich back out, he becomes a trespasser.”
Astonishingly, the Appellate Court simply adopted and expounded upon the prosecution’s novel and dangerous theory of trespass and failed to even comment on, let alone refute, the legal arguments raised in Koger’s appeal brief. Those arguments are now a key element in his petition to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Additionally according to Illinois law, after being given notice to depart by the property owner, a person must be given an opportunity to leave before they can be convicted under the trespass statute. The Appellate Court ignored this too and twisted Koger’s alleged resisting arrest charge into “complete resistance to leaving” after he had “overstayed his welcome,” allegations which even the prosecution hadn’t made. Again, witnesses had testified that Koger was getting ready to leave to record Taylor’s speech at an alternate location when he was grabbed by the police. The Appellate Court wrote these witnesses out of the record when it said that his intent to leave “was not supported by the record,” despite citations to that testimony in the appeal brief itself! In fact, Koger would have been off EHSC property within minutes if the police had not grabbed him, beaten him up and maced him, but that’s the point: His crime was never trespass or “overstaying his welcome.” It was documenting a public statement of protest at a venue open to the public, and that’s a key part of what is chilling about this case.
The Appellate Court went even further than the prosecution in rewriting the record. In its summation of the defense witnesses’ testimony, they conveniently omitted any reference to two witnesses for Koger who were former members of EHSC, including a member of the EHSC Board at the time of his arrest, who did not know him before the events in question and who subsequently quit EHSC in protest of this very prosecution. Leaving out these key defense witnesses allowed the Appellate Court to claim that the defense witnesses “could be found wanting given their close relationship to defendant.” One of those EHSC witnesses for the defense testified that, in his recollection, no one had ever been prohibited from taking photographs or videos at EHSC. But the Appellate Court simply wrote that testimony out of the record too. In contrast, the Appellate Court deemed the prosecution witnesses to be “objective.” The Court didn’t see fit to acknowledge the fact that the EHSC witnesses for the prosecution—the president and a Board member—had every reason to want to see Koger convicted in order to cover up their censorship of Sunsara Taylor and their desperate attempt to prevent documentation of her statement that morning. The EHSC boasts of being an open forum, and the outpouring of opposition to their unprecedented cancelation of Taylor’s speech had stung them. They were determined to stop more exposure, and the videographer who was merely documenting the events—Gregory Koger—became the target of their vindictive counterattack. That targeting is both extremely cruel to Koger and dangerous for anyone attempting to document controversial or newsworthy public events.
Blatant Political Repression
Many people have asked incredulously why there has been such determined vindictive persecution throughout the whole legal process of this case, continuing with the Appellate Court. The EHSC played an important role in this unjust attack insisting that charges be brought, refusing to drop the charges against a huge national public outcry, including among humanist circles and many other people. But through the pre-trial phase and the trial itself, it became clear that the state itself was taking up this political persecution way beyond the vindictiveness of the EHSC. At a key pre-trial hearing the prosecution filed a contempt petition against Koger because his defense committee’s website talked about his case. While the judge did not allow this to go forward, he warned Koger that having a defense committee was going to harm his case—an unmistakable threat to back off the political struggle, all the while asserting that “this is not political.” At the trial itself, two prosecutors were assigned, unheard of for minor misdemeanors, which rarely go to trial at all. The judge, a former prosecutor herself, coached the prosecutors on pre-trial motions and repeatedly ruled against the defense.
But the fangs of the state were openly expressed and the essence of the very political message became clear at the end of the trial when the judge revoked Koger’s bond and sent him immediately from the courthouse to jail on the basis that he was a danger to society because of a past prison record. In Illinois the default sentence for misdemeanors is probation. At the sentencing hearing the judge viciously attacked Koger’s character and his very humanity in response to moving testimony from his employer, lawyers, professors, a priest, a student he had mentored, and several others who all described his transformation from a juvenile convicted of a serious crime to a person dedicating his life to helping people and emancipating all humanity.
The outrageously long sentence Koger was given—300 days, close to the maximum for simple misdemeanors, was also a subject of his appeal. The judge at the trial equated Koger’s conviction for violent crimes as a teenager almost 15 years earlier with his filming at EHSC that day and said he “chose a path of violence” there that “endangered the safety of everyone in the room.” There was absolutely nothing in the trial record to support these outrageous claims and in fact, right before trial, the prosecution had reduced the battery charge to “making contact of an insulting or provoking nature” because they knew they couldn’t prove Koger engaged in violence. Instead, he was the victim of police brutality, which required treatment at the emergency room when he was released from jail. The defense is appealing this outrageous sentence.
This is another chilling feature of this entire prosecution. The state is using Koger’s prior conviction to justify this political prosecution and vindictive sentence. When former prisoners step forward to become emancipators of humanity and participate in changing the world, they are treated even more vindictively in an attempt to dissuade anyone else from following their example. This cannot stand in a country where over 2.4 million people, mostly Black and Hispanic, are in prison at any time, and many millions more are denied basic rights after they are released and supposedly “done their time.” (See “Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!“)
In its portrayal of Koger’s conduct, the Appellate Court once again outdid even the prosecution in distorting the already twisted trial record. The Appellate Court went to great lengths to concentrate a portrayal of Koger as “belligerent,” citing his alleged “abusive language” as part of satisfying the elements of resisting arrest. The defense had requested that the jury receive an instruction based on a State Supreme Court decision that held that even the most abusive language is NOT resisting arrest and the trial judge had denied that request, but that didn’t deter the Appellate Court from using these false allegations against Koger. So the Appellate Court finds that recording with an iPhone constitutes trespass and swearing is evidence of resisting arrest!
This cannot be allowed to stand. Send statements of outrage and support for Gregory Koger to firstname.lastname@example.org. Funds for the appeal can be donated at the website of his defense committee, dropthecharges.net, or checks made out to Gregory Koger Fund can be mailed to the Ad Hoc Committee, 1055 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, 60660.
Visit the committee’s website and if you are on Facebook (Free Gregory Koger!) or Twitter, publicize this outrageous decision and mobilize others to understand its significance and speak out too. Stay in touch and join the fight to overturn this verdict!
Join us for a workshop at the People’s Summit on Prison System Injustices: Racism, Solitary Confinement, and the Detention of Immigrants with Gregory Koger, Mark Clements, Lynne Jackson, and Anthony Rayson
Saturday, May 12th, 11:45am at 500 W. Cermack – Room 715
Mark Clements & Gregory Koger
Mark A. Clements, is a Chicago Police torture victim who spent 28 years inside Illinois prison for a crime that he did not commit. He serves today as Administrator over the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Jail Jon Burge Coalition.
Gregory Koger spent over six years straight in solitary confinement during his eleven years held in Illinois prisons. During his time in solitary confinement, Gregory studied broadly and became increasingly politically conscious and developed as a revolutionary and communist. Since his release, Gregory’s life has been dedicated to struggling against the injustices of this capitalist system and for a radically more liberated world, and he speaks and writes on the horrendous conditions and torture in U.S. prisons, mass incarceration and the criminalization of the youth, as well as the vast potential for those that this system has cast off to transform themselves and the world. He will focus on the historically unprecedented and racist system of mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow, situating its development in the historical context of the foundational white supremacy of the United States and the dynamics of capitalism-imperialism.
Lynne Jackson of Albany, NY is a co-founder of Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims). Her involvement with the issue of preemptive prosecution began when two Muslim men in Albany, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, were sentenced to fifteen years in prison after being entrapped by the FBI. In 2010, Lynne organized the campaign for the Albany Common Council to pass the Albany Resolution, which urges the U.S. Justice Department to implement the recommendation of its own Inspector General and establish an independent panel to review the convictions of Muslims who have been preemptively prosecuted to ensure their fair treatment under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. She will focus on pre-trial and post-conviction solitary confinement conditions, as well as their effects on the prisoners, their families, and the community. Case examples will be given in detail, and letters and poems from prisoners describing their experiences will be read.
Anthony Rayson of the South Chicago Anarchist Black Cross will discuss the Crete Detention Center, ICE and the Corrections Corporation of America, as well as his experience with providing literature and zines to prisoners and the importance of letting the voices of prisoners be heard.
In the Age of Obama…
Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-education:
What Future for Our Youth?
A Dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix
CORNEL WEST is one of America’s most provocative public intellectuals and has beena champion for racial justice since childhood. His writing, speaking, and teaching weave together the traditions of the black Baptist Church, progressive politics, and jazz. The New York Times has praised his “ferocious moral vision.” Dr. West currently teaches at Princeton University.
CARL DIX is a longtime revolutionary and a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In 1970 Carl was one of the Fort Lewis 6, six GIs who refused orders to go to Vietnam. He served 2 years in Leavenworth Military Penitentiary for his stand. In 1985 Carl initiated the Draw The Line statement, a powerful condemnation of the bombing of the MOVE house in Philadelphia. In 1996, Carl was a founder of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. Carl coordinated the Katrina hearings of the 2006 Bush Crimes Commission.
Student Organizations: Platypus Affiliated Society • ACLU of U of Chicago • Black Law Students Association (BLSA) • Students Promoting Interracial Networks (SPIN) • Students for Correctional Reform Now (SCORN) • Chicago Justice Initiative (CJI) • Minority Graduate Students Association • African Americans at Social Services Administration (AASSA) • Southside Solidarity Network (SSN)
Departments: Political Science • History • OMSA • Race and Religion Workshop
Community: Chicago Theological Seminary • Critical Inquiry
Directions to get to West-Dix dialogue at the University of Chicago:
CTA: Take Red line to 55th Street/Garfield Blvd.. Get off and take 55 bus East to University Avenue. Walk 2 blocks South to 57th St. Enter Reynolds Club on Southwest corner of 57th & University to find Mandel Hall.
Note from the sponsors:
At the University of Chicago, freedom of expression is vital to our shared goal of the pursuit of knowledge. In order to promote rigorous inquiry, and allow all members of the community to learn and share ideas, we must protect civil discourse. That includes both listening to featured speakers and participating in the question-and-answer session that follows. Disrupting speakers may result in removal from an event. We appreciate your help in supporting
these fundamental values.
Opening remarks by former prisoner Gregory Koger at LaSalle & Jackson on February 20th for the Occupy4prisoners march and rally in Chicago:
Photo courtesy FJJ
Amidst these financial buildings that literally and figuratively concentrate the stark reality of a system that puts the interests of profit over people, where commodities produced collectively by the people all across the world are bought and sold in trading pits and electronic blips on computer screens, and where the wealth of all that labor is wrenched away from the 99%, the people who created it, and into the coffers of the 1% – and the class that rules over society – Occupy Chicago headquarters at LaSalle and Jackson stands in the shadow of a federal prison. The Metropolitan Correctional Center, which we will be marching to momentarily, looms in eerie silence a block away from the Federal Reserve Bank, just beyond the Chicago Board of Trade.
This is emblematic of the omnipresent invisibility of the nearly 2.5 million men, women & children locked down in the hellholes of America’s historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration – and the millions more, mainly youth and people of color, who live under the threat of incarceration or the stigma and discrimination of life branded as a “criminal” or “felon.”
Wall Street and much of the financial district of Manhattan is built on the bones and bodies of slaves, and the first slave market in New York was built at the end of Wall Street. This system was founded on slavery, the extermination of the native peoples and the theft of their land, and the theft of half of Mexico.
Prisons have been integral to enforcing the brutal inhumanity of this system, repressing whole sections of society as well as groups and movements who have risen up in struggle for liberation. After the Civil War, “slavery by another name” was reimposed on Black folks through a Jim Crow system of racist laws that had former slaves arrested for such “crimes” as vagrancy and forced to labor for corporations – and sometimes even forced back to the owners of the plantations from which they were just freed.
When workers began to form unions and struggle against capitalist exploitation, the police and prison cells were waiting. When Black folks in the South began to stand up in determined struggle to demand to be treated as human beings, the police were there – with clubs and dogs and water hoses and jail cells. When broad sections of people rose up in the 1960s, the rulers of this system were profoundly shaken by the power of the people and unleashed wave after wave of repression, including assassinating and imprisoning leaders of the movement. And, as we’ve seen in our time, the coordinated national repression of the Occupy Movement – which we must stand against.
"Free 'em all!" - Occupy4prisoners Chicago formerly incarcerated: (from left) Gregory Koger, Fred Hampton, Jr., Dickey Gaines, and Darby Tillis. Photo courtesy FJJ.
Recognizing and fearing the power of the people, the rulers of this system set out to prevent any liberating movement from developing again. And as they searched for ways to more profitably exploit people in other countries, and took the factories and industrial jobs out of our cities, so began the explosion of mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow, with a constant and growing stream of primarily Black and Brown people ripped from their families and intentionally defunded communities into the prison-tombs springing up across the prairies and plains.
Today we stand with thousands of others across the country in support of the bottom 1% of the 99%, locked down in prisons and jail cells and immigration “detention centers” across the country…
Occupy 4 Prisoners! National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners!
February 20th – 5pm
March from Jackson & LaSalle at 5:15pm to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (Clark & Van Buren), with rally to follow.
Occupy Chicago, in collaboration with over 28 local community and national organizations, is mobilizing for The National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners: Occupy4Prisoners. This action is part of a national call initiated by California death row prisoner Kevin Cooper. This demonstration is in solidarity with those behind prison walls, their loved ones, and formerly incarcerated people.
Prisoners are part of the 99%. The prison system is the most visible example of policies of punitive containment of the most marginalized and oppressed in our society. Prior to incarceration, 2/3 of all prisoners lived in conditions of economic hardship, while the perpetrators of white-collar crime largely go free.
We demand an end to mass incarceration, which has had a devastating effect on communities in Chicago and around the country. For example, in Chicago, 55 percent of black males are labeled felons for life, and, as a result, may be prevented from voting and accessing public housing, student loans, and other public assistance.
We will meet at 5 pm at the Chicago Board of Trade to call out the racist system that puts profits over people and prioritizes prisons over education, quality mental healthcare, drug treatment, after-school programs, and other vital services. At 5:15 we will march to the Metropolitan Correctional Center to show solidarity with those who are behind bars. We will let the 1% know that we have not forgotten about the 2.3 million people whom they aim to make invisible.
What we are calling for:
1. Abolishing unjust sentences, such as the death penalty, life without the possibility of parole, Three Strikes, juvenile life without parole, and the practice of trying children as adults.
2. Standing in solidarity with movements initiated by prisoners and taking action to support prisoner demands, including the Georgia Prison Strike and the Pelican Bay/California Prisoners Hunger Strikes.
3. Freeing all U.S.-held political prisoners.
4. Demanding an end to the repression of activists, specifically the targeting of African Americans and those with histories of incarceration, and many others being falsely charged after only exercising their First Amendment rights.
5. Demanding an end to systematic disenfranchisement by selective enforcement of the law on certain populations such as people of color, gender non-conforming individuals, people with disabilities (mental and physical) and those advocating for them.
6. Demanding an end to the brutality of the current system, including the torture of those who have lived for many years in Secured Housing Units (SHUs) or in solitary confinement. As well as putting an end to profiteering off of prison slave labor.
7. Demanding that our tax money spent on isolating, harming and killing prisoners, instead be invested in improving the quality of life for all and be spent on education, housing, health care, mental health care and other human services which contribute to the public good. As well as putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Occupy Rogers Park
The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, Roosevelt University
World Can’t Wait Chicago
South Chicago Anarchist Black Cross
International Socialist Organization
Occupy El Barrio
Dr. Antonio Martinez, Institute for Survivors of Human Rights Abuses and co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture
South Austin Coalition
Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5
Revolution Books Chicago
National Jericho Movement
Pat Hill, Executive Director of the African American Police League
The Chicago Chapter of CURE
Trinity United Church of Christ
Chicago Torture Justice Memorials
Vigils For True Justice
White Rose Catholic Worker
Tamms Year 10
Teachers for Social Justice