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“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
gregory_a_k » Posts for tag 'Cook County Jail'

Putting In Work

So I was reading a pretty interesting article, The New Black Power. Good piece on some of the young Black folks putting in work for liberation in Chicago. Got down to this paragraph, and really started thinking about everything that’s been going on since George Zimmerman was acquitted for gunning down Trayvon Martin in July 2013:

But what happened the second day wasn’t part of the plan: George Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. The young activists held hands as they watched the TV reports. Some wept.

The tension that had built up found its outlet in that verdict. It was, Carruthers says, “a moment of collective trauma, but also a moment of collective clarity.” That night, half of the participants hit the streets to protest, while the rest stayed behind to write what would become the group’s first public statement. (The New Black Power, Chicago magazine March 2016)

I had spent most of that week keeping up with the trial and preparing for the almost-inevitable protest we would have to have when there was no justice for Trayvon. It was a warm July summer weekend, and I was preparing to be sent back to jail to finish serving a 300 day sentence for a fabricated political prosecution based on video recording a political statement on an iPhone at the “Ethical Humanist” Society of Chicago. I was there in part to record any police brutality and instead became the subject of police brutality and a political prosecution. That is another story for another time. But after appealing the case up to the Illinois Supreme Court, my appeal was rejected without any of my substantive legal claims being addressed. I also had a warrant out for my arrest for missing an alleged court hearing on said case which was never sent to my attorney. Another surreal side story I’ll omit at this time.

So this entire time that I’m participating in organizing these protests, I have a warrant, I’m preparing to “turn myself in” at the next court hearing on July 23, 2013. Turning oneself in was never something I saw as a noble act, nor did I intend to smugly submit to injustice based on knowing that I was being completely set up. There was nothing that I liked or felt good with about “turning myself in” – except for the agenda of struggle I set for myself to be part of during my time locked up.

The California prison hunger strike was kicking off again and I was doing radio shows to support the hunger strikers and preparing to join the hunger strike myself when they locked me up on July 23rd. I was also planning on bringing a lawsuit against Cook County Jail for banning all newspapers – which I did. And I won that lawsuit in July 2015 – see Cook County Jail’s 30-year Long Ban on Newspapers Ruled Unconstitutional. But that’s jumping ahead.

I go to my court hearing on July 23rd, accompanied by 30 or 40 friends, comrades and supporters. I began the hunger strike the previous night just before midnight, after a small piece of baklava and my traditional libations of a blunt and a 40oz of Olde English 800. After a few perfunctory words from the judge, I’m taken out of the back of the courtroom in handcuffs into the bullpens in the bowels of the courthouse to be processed and sent on a bus back to Cook County Jail.

I spent two weeks on hunger strike in Cook County Jail in support of the California prison hunger strike that summer. The next summer I’d appear in newspapers and night vision green video returning tear gas to militarized pigs moving on us with APCs and assault rifles, standing with the people of Ferguson.

Battlefield USA Inside Edition Ferguson

LOLs @ Ur Headlines, Bros

And so much happened between my hunger strike in Cook County Jail and Ferguson and since… Supporting the hunger strikes in Menard, the organizing I did with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network for the October Month of Resistance, being on Jesse Jackson’s tv show (not without a lot of consideration – another story for another time), Ferguson October, the panel I did at the National Lawyers Guild conference, going back to the prison I spent over six years straight in solitary to support some brothers there on hunger strike with my friends and comrades Brian Nelson and Mark Clements…

Pontiac protest - Brian Nelson, Mark Clements, Gregory Koger

Brian Nelson, Mark Clements and Gregory Koger supporting the hunger strike at Pontiac “Correctional Center” in September 2014

Speaking at universities and high schools, shutting down Lake Shore Drive and the Dan Ryan for Eric Garner and Laquan McDonald and too many others…

I’m trying to process and write about all of this, while living with way too many years in solitary confinement particularly but really, prison period. Fighting a 4 year long political prosecution where I was sent back to jail didn’t help in many ways, even though we did a tremendous amount taking on that case and won – hands down – politically even if I lost legally.

Shit has been really hard for the last year or so. In some ways I’ve made some important steps, in my personal life and in my writing. But in a lot of ways I struggle to even make it from day to day. I just gotta keep putting in work on the writing, on fighting to survive, on fighting this system… I got a few stories I need to tell yet.

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Cook County Jail’s 30-year Long Ban on Newspapers Ruled Unconstitutional

Cook County Jail’s 30-year long ban on all newspapers has been ruled unconstitutional today by Judge Matthew F. Kennelly in a lawsuit I brought specifically challenging this policy: Koger v Dart, Case No. 13 C 7150. I must convey my great thanks to my lawyers and friends Mark Weinberg and Adele Nicholas for their work on this case. Importantly, I should emphatically note that the assertion beginning the opinion, that I was ever a member of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago, is factually incorrect. The “Ethical Humanist Society” was responsible for my 4-year long political prosecution and ultimately 300-day jail sentence for videotaping a statement against censorship by Sunsara Taylor, who had been disinvited to speak by the Ethical Humanist Society, on an iPhone. That aside, I’m glad that a policy that I knew to be patently unjust has been declared unconstitutional and I will continue to be on the frontlines of the struggle against the United States’ historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow on many fronts.

Ruling PDF: Cook County Jail newspaper ban declared unconstitutional Kennelly decision 7-6-15

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October Nationwide Protests to Stop Mass Incarceration Aimed at Epidemic of Police Killings, Injustice of Solitary Confinement, Racial Profiling, Imprisonment of Immigrants

October Nationwide Protests to Stop Mass Incarceration Aimed at Epidemic of Police Killings, Injustice of Solitary Confinement, Racial Profiling, Imprisonment of Immigrants

Pledge of Resistance

Chicago Kickoff Of Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation

  • October 1, 2014 – Chicago Press Conference and Protest 
  • 8:30am at Cook County Jail (26th & California) 
  • 5pm at Thompson Center (Randolph & Clark)
  • For further information Contact Stop Mass Incarceration Network: 312-933-9586


Vowing a month of actions which stand like a giant STOP signto American society so that protest of mass incarceration, police murder, torture in prisons, criminalization of a generation and attacks on immigrants can’t be covered up, whited out, ignored, neutralized or suppressed,organizers announced plans for the October 2014 Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.

A wide variety of organizations will hold street protests, symposiums, campus actions, outreach to prisons and courthouses. Initiated by revolutionary communist leader Carl Dix and Union Theological Professor Dr. Cornel West, the Call for the month is endorsed by families of those killed by police, former prisoners, clergy, academics, and community organizations, and public figures such as Chuck D, who recorded for the Month, and Alice Walker, whose poem “Gather,” is dedicated to Dix and Dr. West.

Dix has said “Like so many others I saw the video of police choking Eric Garner as he cried out ‘I can’t breathe.’ In Ferguson, MO I stood at the spot where a cop gunned down Michael Brown and left his body lying for hours. I protested his murder, and was picked out for arrest because I spoke in support of the youth righteously demanding ‘THIS MUST STOP!’ In October, tens of thousands of people from many different backgrounds will join together all across the country to act to stop it.”

Photo: FJJ

Photo: FJJ

Oct 1, 8:30am Chicago Protest at Cook County Jail & Press Conference  

Speakers will include:

  • Gregory Koger, former prisoner and revolutionary communist activist with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Gregory is a torture survivor who spent over six years straight in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. He spent most of August in Ferguson, MO.
  • Hannibal Salim Ali, former prisoner with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, whose nephew, Anjustine Hunter was killed by police in Tennessee;
  • Mark Lewis Taylor of Princeton Theological Seminary* and founder of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal;
  • Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois*, Chicago (retired).
  • Family members of prisoners, ex-prisoners, family members of people killed by the Chicago police, students, community activists, revolutionaries, religious leaders.
Photo: FJJ

Photo: FJJ

Oct 1, 5pm Chicago Protest at Thompson Center & Press Conference

Speakers at Thompson Center at 5pm include:

  • Gregory Koger, Stop Mass Incarceration Network;
  • Ricky Ford, father of Denzel Ford shot 8 times by Chicago police;
  • Stephanie Curtis, Roosevelt University Students for Stop Mass Incarceration Network
  • Charles Perry, Trinity United Church of Christ*
  • Leon Bailey, Ph.D., Roosevelt University*
  • Brian M. Orozco, Attorney with Greg Kulis and Associates*, who has worked on criminal, civil, and family law cases for inmates in both California and Illinois, interacting with over 150 incarcerated clients in the process.

*for identification purposes only

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Furthering the Movement to Stop Mass Incarceration – Major Panel at National Lawyers Guild Convention in Chicago

NLG SMIN panelists

Law for the People 2014: National Convention Major Panel

September 6, 2014 – 10:30AM – Noon

Furthering the Movement to Stop Mass Incarceration

Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro – Ballroom Salon B – C

2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States, with an additional 5 million under the control of the criminal “in”justice system on probation and parole. Over 30,000 are in immigration detention centers, and Obama has deported a record 2 million immigrants. As Michelle Alexander points out in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, courthouse doors are closed to systemic legal challenges to the racial inequality which has lead to more than 50% of the prison population being people of color.

This will not stop without a mass movement that demands an end to mass incarceration and the criminalization of Black and Latino youth. In this panel, former prisoners and others intimately familiar with the broader social consequences of mass incarceration will lead a discussion on how to turn around what is now two generations living under the injustice of mass incarceration. We will call for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October 2014, initiated by Dr. Cornel West and Carl Dix, co-founders of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.

NLG Hannibal Gregory

Presenters

Gregory Koger – Revolutionary communist activist with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN). Gregory just returned from spending most of the last month on the front lines of the Ferguson rebellion in response to the police execution of Michael Brown. A member of the National Lawyers Guild, paralegal and former jailhouse lawyer, Gregory spent 11 years in prison, including over 6 years straight in solitary confinement, where he transformed himself from a gang member to a revolutionary. Since his release from prison has dedicated his life to ending the injustices of capitalism. He has spoken from cellblocks to universities about need to build a mass movement to end mass incarceration as part of the struggle for a liberated world for all humanity. Deeply inspired by the California prison hunger strike, Gregory organized a Chicago Forum on the California Prison Hunger Strike and Torture in U.S. Prisons in August 2011. During the 30,000-strong resumption of the hunger strike in July 2013, he spoke on NPR and other radio stations in support of the brothers and sisters on hunger strike, and he spent two weeks on hunger strike in solidarity while locked down in Cook County Jail serving a 300-day sentence for recording a political statement on an iPhone. He is currently the Plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the decades-old policy of banning all newspapers in Cook County Jail (Koger v. Dart).

Mark Lewis Taylor – Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. Writer, teacher, scholar and activist, Mark Lewis Taylor is a theologian in the vein of engaged thinkers who trace and analyze liberating spirit – the spirit of decolonizing political practices, wherein re-membered collective suffering of the earth and its oppressed peoples can become “specters,” material forces for multidimensional revolutionary change. In addition to being the author of several books, he is the founder of “Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal,” a group of teachers from all levels of education, organizing since 1995 for a new trial on behalf of Abu-Jamal, a journalist  on Pennsylvania’s death row for 30 years. Activist movements achieved a victory in 2011, securing Abu-Jamal’s transfer from death row to general population. Nevertheless, the struggle to free him from prison continues, as many join in support of Desmond Tutu’s demand for his “immediate release.”

Brian Orozco – NLG member and practicing lawyer who has worked with prisoners and their families in California and Illinois and will speak to police/prison guard brutality, what the prisoners and their family members have been doing to protest their own conditions, and why massive resistance is needed to end the torture of solitary confinement and other atrocities. And why the NLG needs to be part of the Month of Resistance.

Hannibal Salim Ali – Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Hannibal attended the April 2014 SMIN strategy meeting in New York City with Dr. Cornel West and Carl Dix – co-founders of SMIN – and participated in the collective drafting of the Call For A Month Of Resistance To Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression And The Criminalization Of A Generation. Hannibal spent many years in prison himself and is the uncle of Anjustine Hunter, who was murdered by police in Tennessee.

 

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Revolutionary Gregory Koger Released from Cook County Jail

I’m back down after a long legal and political battle, including two weeks on hunger strike in Cook County Jail in solidarity with the California prison hunger strike. Got some reading and writing done as well. Will have more to say soon. Much love – Gregory

 

“I will continue to be on the front lines and continue to fight, and I know many of you will be there with me.” – Gregory Koger

 

Over 50 people came together in Chicago on Saturday, November 2 to celebrate Gregory Koger’s release from Cook County Jail. Gregory’s release came after he served the remainder of an outrageous sentence that should never have been imposed, for a political act that was never a crime. (See “Revolutionary Gregory Koger Sent Back to Jail” for background.) The evening of music, hugs, and conversation was sponsored by the defense committee that has fought for his innocence and freedom for four years, warmly welcoming him back to the “outside” where he vowed to continue to fight to liberate humanity.

Sunsara Taylor, whose statement protesting censorship Gregory was filming when he was arrested, sent a beautiful statement.

Statement from Sunsara Taylor, sent to the celebration of Gregory Koger’s release:

I don’t know if this will reach you while you are all together celebrating—but either way I want to send the biggest virtual hug imaginable. I have been furious and agonized every day knowing that you have been unjustly and outrageously held behind bars and denied very basic freedoms. Yet, even behind bars your determination and strength and revolutionary understanding shined. Even as I know that millions of others remain in America’s hellholes and even though I know the world is teeming with unbearable and unnecessary suffering due to this outmoded, illegitimate capitalist-imperialist, life-crushing system we live under—my spirit is lifted and I am deeply happy to know that today you are out. Even more so to know that you are celebrating with people who know and love and deeply respect you. With people who have been touched by you and learned from your courage and strength. I am, as always, proud to count you as a friend and a comrade. It is great to have you back—we have much to accomplish together!

Until all are free,

Sunsara

A member of his defense committee, the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason, spoke for many when she said, “Speaking as a visitor to that hellhole, spending even one hour there was too much. How anyone incarcerated under those conditions could be expected to survive, much less be rehabilitated is unrealistic. Gregory did manage to survive and no doubt had some damned good discussions with his fellow inmates and will continue his fight against injustice.”

Gregory’s heartfelt talk was the highlight of the evening. We want to share this with the readers of Revolution, especially those who are locked down in the hellholes of this country:

“In talking to someone earlier tonight, I recounted that in the last 19 years of my life, I have had 9 months when I wasn’t in jail, in prison, on parole, on probation, or on bond. Including over half the time of the [seven years] since I’ve been out of prison has been spent fighting this case.”

“It didn’t surprise me what the criminal injustice system did in this case, but there were aspects that I think surprised all of us. The fact that I was charged with criminal trespass for just standing there holding an iPhone, which every legal scholar and lawyer we consulted with said there is no way that is trespassing; the fact they tried to hold me in contempt of court because my defense committee had a website that talked about the larger political questions related to this case; the fact that at the very end of the case, the judge issued a secret ruling without any notice to my attorney or myself that there was a hearing happening and then issued a warrant for my arrest. The fact that none of the substantive legal issues we raised were ever addressed by the court was not all that surprising to me because I know how the system works.”

“People have spoken about where I come from. It was very much in the conditions of torture, conditions in which tens of thousands of people in U.S. prisons are held in solitary confinement, where I began to really grapple with the broader questions of society, including why is the world this way. And that is where I ultimately came to conclude, through reading Revolution newspaper and other revolutionary literature, that there is absolutely no reason for this system to do what it does to people—billions and billions of people in the world—ruining their lives and offering them no hope whatsoever. There are the resources on this planet to feed, clothe, provide housing, healthcare, and education for everyone, and to provide intellectual and cultural life for the millions and billions of people who are systematically locked out of those realms. All that could happen, but it doesn’t because of the capitalist-imperialist system. But we can get to that world through revolution—nothing less. This is what I firmly believe.”

“During the course of this battle I have made friends with so many people who don’t all agree with what I believe, including many who do not agree with communism. But we have united together to oppose the glaring injustices of this system, of which one small part is this case we have fought for the last four years. To me this is an expression and an example of what needs to happen much more in society. An example of both the core strategic approach and outlook of the Revolutionary Communist Party—that we have to bring together people from the bottom of society and people from middle class backgrounds who don’t have the direct experience of that kind of oppression and injustice. We will never get to another world without people from the bottom and people from other parts of society being firmly committed toward humanity. We really had a great expression of that throughout the course of this case.”

“On a personal level, just seeing and knowing everybody here, many of whom I first met through the work of struggling against this case, people from many different backgrounds—writers, intellectuals, and people who don’t have a fucking thing. Artists like [the world-renowned jazz musicians] who are performing here tonight. Other people who know what torture is like [a friend at the party] who was tortured in Chile under Pinochet, who was out there fighting against the torture that’s happening to prisoners in solitary confinement in the U.S. People like me, and like this brother here, who was in the same prisons as me in the same conditions, who are now revolutionaries fighting against the system. I was on a hunger strike the first two weeks I was in jail in solidarity with the California prisoners’ hunger strike against torture…”

“I want to thank everybody. This has been a very trying and difficult four years, but we have built a tremendous amount of strength taking this on. On the biggest level in society, the core fault line contradictions that were embodied and encapsulated in this case—from the role of prisoners in this society, and mass incarceration, to the repression of voices of dissent and critical thinking. I will say that we lost the case legally, but we won it politically.” [cheers]

“This is a big inflection point, not the least for me. This has been a major component of the last 4 years. The last time I was in Cook County Jail three years ago there was a point when I was depressed, recognizing that the place they had me—in that jail cell—was exactly where they wanted me and people like me. But this time I didn’t get depressed, I got pissed off. My life will continue to be dedicated to fighting against this system and its outrageous manifestation of mass incarceration, against the degrading oppression of women and LGBT brothers and sisters; against the oppression of immigrants and all the things this system does to people here and around the world. I will continue to be on the front lines and continue to fight, and I know many of you will be there with me. So I want to thank everybody for coming out tonight from the bottom of my heart.”

Gregory asks that all those who wish to celebrate his release donate to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Thousands of dollars are needed to continue to send Revolution newspaper, BAsics, and other revolutionary literature to all the prisoners who are requesting it. Donate online at prlf.org. Or contact PRLF at:

1321 N Milwaukee Ave. #407, Chicago, IL 60622
773-960-6952  contact@PRLF.org

Originally published in Revolution newspaper – www.revcom.us

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Audio: Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” with Rev. Jeremiah Wright

I’ve heard Michelle Alexander speak about her vitally important recent book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, three times now – and every time her presentation is even better than the previous one (see video of one of her talks in Chicago here). I had hoped to read her book while I was a political prisoner in the Cook County Jail, but hardcover books are banned there – along with all newspapers. Turns out that if you get hardcover books sent in, you have the option of them ripping the cover off and giving it to you, but I only learned that a few days before I was unexpectedly – and happily – release on appeal bond.

I had the great pleasure of hearing her yesterday with Rev. Jeremiah Wright at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and made an audio recording of her presentation that I hope other folks will check out, along with her book:

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Download: Michelle Alexander with Rev. Jeremiah Wright – Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago – 12-5-2010

Postscript: I realize its been a while since I’ve been able to write here…

Although the battle against my  political prosecution is far from over (and you can read more about the case on my defense committee’s website – dropthecharges.net), thanks to the support and contributions of many thousands of people, I am now out on appeal bond and able to more fully participate in my defense and towards defeating these charges, as well as to continue contributing to the broader revolutionary work that my life is dedicated to. In the face of this political prosecution and imprisonment, my dedication and determination to fight against the crimes and injustices of this system and to the struggle for liberation has only increased.

My deepest thanks to all who have shared their love and support.

With Hope and Determination for a Liberated Future For All Humanity,

Gregory

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