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“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
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Opening Remarks at Occupy4prisoners Chicago

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.

"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…

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Chicago Rally in Support of the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike

Rally in Support of the Hunger Strike and Just Demands of Prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 — 10:30 am

On the steps of the Cook County Courthouse (26th & California)

In an act of tremendous courage, prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison in California are beginning an indefinite hunger strike on July 1, 2011. This hunger strike is demanding an end to the horrendous and dehumanizing conditions imposed on prisoners at Pelican Bay.  People everywhere must come to their aid and support their demands.

Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) is a super-maximum security prison located in an isolated part of northern California, twenty miles from the Oregon border.  There are more than 3,000 prisoners confined at this prison. More than a thousand prisoners are locked down in the SHU at Pelican Bay, where they are subjected to isolation, maximum sensory deprivation, and brutality.

These conditions are horrific, dehumanizing and in violation of international law.  This is official state-sanctioned torture, carried out in state and federal prisons across the nation. In fact, tens of thousands of prisoners are confined to isolation units throughout the country.]

The following core demands are being circulated in a “final notice from prisoners on D-Corridor” at Pelican Bay:

1)       End “group punishment” where an individual prisoner breaks a rule and prison officials punish a whole group of prisoners of the same race.

2)       Abolish “debriefing” and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. False and/or highly questionable “evidence” is used to accuse prisoners of being active/inactive members of prison gangs who are then sent to the SHU where they are subjected to long-term isolation and torturous conditions. One of the only ways these prisoners can get out the SHU is if they “debrief”…that is, give prison officials information on gang activity.

3)        Comply with recommendations from a 2006 U.S. commission to “make segregation a last resort” and “end conditions of isolation.”

4)       Provide Adequate Food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food. They want adequate food, wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals and an end to the use of food as a way to punish prisoners in the SHU.

5)       Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates…including the opportunity to “engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities…” which are routinely denied. Demands include one phone call per week, more visiting time, permission to have wall calendars, sweat suits and watch caps (warm clothing is often denied even though cells and the exercise cage can be bitterly cold.

The prisoners who have called for this strike have made clear that they are uniting across racial lines, an extremely important development, given racial divisions in prison, which are often fomented by prison officials.  And they have called on prisoners throughout the California prison system, including prisoners who are “suffering injustices in general population, administrative segregation and solitary confinement,” to join them in the strike.

The prisoners are shining a spotlight on the horrific and unacceptable conditions existing inside the corridors of Pelican Bay State Prison; they must not be allowed to stand alone. People throughout the state of California and beyond must urgently come to their aid and support, standing firmly in support of the hunger strike and supporting the just demands of the prisoners.

 

Resources on the Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/

News from Pelican Bay Hunger Strike and Protests at Revolution newspaper

Speakers/Endorsers list in formation includes:

Duffie Clark, Illinois Institute for Community Law

Mark Clemmons, Administrator with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty

Englewood Political Task Force

Fred Hampton, Jr.; Chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee

Omega; C Number Prisoners Campaign

Dwight Taylor, Citizens Against Violence in Gary

Voice Of The Ex-offender (V.O.T.E.)

 

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