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

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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Prison System Injustices: Racism, Solitary Confinement, and the Detention of Immigrants

People's Summit logoJoin 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 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.

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Statement by Gregory Koger at the Chicago City Council Hearing on Anti-Torture Resolution

On January 12, 2012, just one day after the tenth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, the Chicago city council held a hearing on a resolution organized by the Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT) that publicly  condemns the use of torture and declares Chicago a “torture-free zone.” A broad array of people came out to speak publicly against the use of torture in the U.S. and abroad at the hearing organized by Alderman Joe Moore, who introduced the resolution to the Chicago city council. Listen to an excellent interview about the use of torture by the United States and the resolution with Mario Venegas and Dr. Frank Summers hereI spoke at the press conference and hearing about the pervasive use of torture in U.S. prisons in the form of long-term isolation and sensory deprivation in solitary confinement.

Speakers at the press conference and hearing included: Congressman Danny Davis; Flint Taylor, attorney with the People’s Law Office who has been instrumental in seeking justice for the men tortured by Chicago police commander John Burge; Dr. Frank Summers, psychologist who lead the fight within the APA to bar psychologists from participating in interrogations and torture in Guantanamo; Cherif Bassiouni, United Nations war crimes expert; Melinda Power and Margaret Power, Illinois Coalition Against Torture; Mary Lynn Everson, Marjorie Kovler Center; Sr. Benita Coffey, representing the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT); Laurie Jo Reynolds, activist with Tamms Year Ten; Mario Venegas, Chilean survivor of torture under Pinochet; Mark Clements, Burge torture survivor; Mary L. Johnson, mother of a Burge torture victim and inmate at Tamms Correctional Center, as well as several other mothers of Burge torture survivors; and Wallace “Gator” Bradley, who spoke to the use of torture in the federal ADX supermax prison. 

Gregory’s Statement

I’m Gregory Koger, torture survivor who spent nearly the entirety of my 20’s in solitary confinement in prison in Illinois.

The exact number of prisoners held in solitary confinement within the US is difficult to ascertain. A 2005 study1 found that as of 2004, 44 states had supermax prisons holding approximately 25,000 prisoners. This number does not take into account numerous prisoners held in isolation outside of officially designated supermax prisons. For example, Tamms – Illinois sole supermax prison – holds 408 prisoners, while Pontiac – Illinois long-term disciplinary segregation prison – holds 1,733 prisoners2 in similar conditions of isolation, many for years on end. The total number of prisoners held in isolation in the US is estimated to be between 50,000 – 100,000 persons.

Sensory deprivation in solitary confinement has been universally condemned and considered torture. In October, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez called for the prohibition of solitary confinement, stating: “Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit (SHU)… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique.”3

Despite both universal condemnation and widespread knowledge of its seriously detrimental effects, the United States is now the foremost practitioner of solitary confinement in the world. This unprecedented use of solitary confinement arose concomitantly with with the explosion of mass incarceration in the U.S. since the early 1970s, under the guise of the “war on drugs” and – as Michelle Alexander has documented– racist New Jim Crow policies that leave the United States with a rate of incarceration for Black males five times higher than apartheid South Africa.Along with incarcerating more men, women and children than any other country in the history of the world, no other society has so routinely used torture in the form of solitary confinement.

As Harvard professor Dr. Atul Gawande stated, “In much the same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement—on our own people, in our own communities, in a supermax prison, for example, that is a thirty-minute drive from my door.”6 And as Dr. Gwande has also described, “”People experience solitary confinement as even more damaging than physical torture.”7

This summer, thousands of prisoners in over one-third of California prisons came together across racial and other dividing lines on hunger strike to oppose the inhumane treatment that they, and other prisoners across the country, face. Ending long-term isolation in solitary confinement was one of their core demands.

We should follow their courageous example by demanding an end to torture in the form of solitary confinement in prisons. We should categorically state – as this resolution does – that there is never any justification for torture and that it has no place in our city or our society. And we must demand that it stops and that those responsible for policies and practices of torture be brought to justice. Thank you.

1 “A Critical Look at Supermax Prisons.” Daniel P. Mears. Corrections Compendium. 2005.

2 IDOC Quarterly Report, October 1, 2011.

3 “UN Special Rapporteur on torture calls for the prohibition of solitary confinement.” United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. October 18, 2011.

4 The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Michelle Alexander. 2010.

5 South Africa near the end of apartheid in 1993 had a rate of incarceration for Black males of 851 per 100,000; the United States in 2001 had a rate of incarceration for Black males of 4,848 per 100,000. The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry (2003). Peter Wagner.

6 Hellhole. Dr. Atul Gawande. The New Yorker. March 30, 2009.

7Dr. Atul Gawande: Solitary Confinement is Torture.” Democracy Now! January 5, 2011.

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Chicago October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression & the Criminalization of a Generation

January 1, 2011: Police shoot and kill Tory Davis…

January 7, 2011: Police shoot Darius Penix, 27-years old. Shot at 16 times, killing him at a traffic stop…

June 7, 2011: Police shoot Flint Farmer numerous times, killing him while he holds a cellphone…

July 25, 2011: Police shoot 13-year-old Jimmell Cannon four times…

October 5, 2011: Amit A. Patel is chased into Lake Michigan by police. He died a few hours later. Age 31…

Names and stories from the list of 57 people shot and/or killed by the Chicago police this year ring out in a striking indictment of these crimes of the system, reverberating off City Hall and the State of Illinois building.

The front page of the Chicago Tribune on the morning of October 22nd carried an expose of the cover-up of the police murder of Flint Farmer, including police video showing the cop shooting him three times in the back while he lay face down in the grass and killing him.

As people streamed into the plaza and the stage was being set up, the electricity of the day began to course through the air. Revolutionary music from Outernational and conscious hip-hop thundered off the skyscrapers overlooking the plaza. Curious bystanders and tourist were drawn into the growing scene of resistance, as protesters unfurled Stolen Lives banners and posters condemning police brutality and murder, and passing out flyers with the faces of victims of police murder.

October 22 Chicago organizer reads a statement from Flint Farmer's father.

Once the rally started, a statement from Flint Farmer’s father was read to the crowd of 100 people of all different backgrounds gathered to demand an end to police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. Family members of victims of police brutality and murder, young folks from Occupy Chicago and Occupy the Hood, people who were outraged by the execution of Troy Davis, as well as college and high school students stood shoulder-to-shoulder to demand that this must stop.

Gregory Koger, a former prisoner who spent many years in solitary confinement and who has been involved in the movement for revolution since his release from prison, condemned the historically unprecedented explosion of racist mass incarceration in the U.S. and the spoke about the courageous example of the prisoners on hunger strike in California (see below).

Gregory Koger, revolutionary former prisoner who spent many years in solitary confinement, speaks at October 22 Chicago.

An uncle of Jimmell Cannon, a 13-year-old shot by Chicago police 4 times (see Revolution #242, Chicago Police on a Murderous Rampage: 42 people shot – We Say NO MORE!), spoke passionately about the outrage of these police shootings and murders.

After the Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party on the Occasion of October 22, 2011 was read, others spoke out. Relatives of Jose Diaz, killed by Berwyn police, spoke; one relative said that “even though it was 11 years ago, it feels like yesterday.” Jamia Smith, the teenage sister of Devon Lee Pitts—who was killed by a police officer driving drunk—brought the crowd to tears as she read a poem with the lines, “even as I write this, I still feel you around, my big brother, my guardian angel,” with tears of sadness running down her face. Mark Clements, a survivor of police torture and activist with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty who spent 28 years in prison on a wrongful conviction, condemned the legal lynching of Troy Davis and led the chant, “Remember Troy Davis!” Occupy Chicago voted at their General Assembly to attend and send a representative speaker to stand in solidarity with O22, who said, “We have to end the suffering. It has to stop now!”

Jamia Smith, the teenage sister of Devon Lee Pitts who was killed by a police officer driving drunk, speaks with Mark Clements and other family members who lost loved ones to police murder.

The rally concluded with a member of the People’s Neighborhood Patrol reading their founding Proclamation and calling on people to join the patrols. Several people signed up.

The crowd defiantly marched out of the plaza, chanting “Egypt, Wall Street, Pelican Bay –We refuse to live this way!” This spirit was heightened musically by a raucous anarchist brass band. The march grew as it snaked through the Saturday afternoon crowds on State Street. A banner with pictures of people killed by Chicago police stretched across the sidewalk side by side with a banner of Troy Davis brought to the rally by students from Columbia College. People stepped aside to let the protesters through, with many smiling widely that this question was being addressed and some even joining chants including “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail—The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” After moving through the crowded streets of the Chicago Loop, they marched into the occupation surrounding the Federal Reserve Bank building, mingling in with the chanting, drumming scene at Occupy Chicago.

The raucous anarchist brass band energizes the crowd as they march.

Marching Against Police Chiefs

The Chicago Ad Hoc Committee for Oct 22nd, joining with World Can’t Wait and the Midwest Anti-War Mobilization, called for protesters to reconvene at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Gala taking place at the Chicago Hilton later that evening. This was part of the IACP convention, a convention of police commanders who order murder, torture and rape. Their members include 20,000 commanders of police forces that rain brutality and terror down on civilians from Saudi Arabia to London, England, where police brutality helped spark major uprisings this spring.

As the time to reconvene approached, a “mic check” was called at the HQ of Occupy Chicago and the crowd was challenged to join a march down to the Hilton. About 30 people marched out of the HQ bound for the IACP gala, chanting “Cairo, London, Chicago—Police brutality has got to go!” to the accompaniment of the anarchist brass band.

Once the march arrived at the Hilton, the march had grown in numbers and it was greeted by police lines and barriers. Protestors responded creatively to the police repression by positioning themselves on the other three corners and a determined and defiant protest ensued, denouncing the IACP in English and Spanish.

The October 22nd action concluded with the IACP protesters marching up Michigan Avenue to Grant Park, where they greeted thousands of people marching in to occupy the park; later that night 130 Occupy Chicago protesters were arrested while attempting to establish a permanent occupation at the park.

A banner of Stolen Lives held by family members who lost loved ones to Chicago police murder stand shoulder-to-shoulder with protesters condemning police brutality around the world outside the International Association of Chiefs of Police gala.

Former Prisoner Gregory Koger Speaks at October 22nd Rally

The following is the text of Gregory Koger’s speech at the Chicago O22 rally:

I’m here to speak about the criminalization of a generation: there’s been an explosion of mass incarceration since the early 1970s, historically unprecedented in the history of the world.

The U.S. has 5% of world population – 25% of worlds prisoners. More women are incarcerated here than anywhere else in the world.

Nearly 2.5 million men, women & children in are prison and close to 8 million are ensnared within the inhuman clutches of the so called “criminal justice system” today.

The rate of incarceration for Black males is over five times higher than 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.

As Michelle Alexander documented in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, more Black folks are in prison, jail, on parole & probation in the U.S. than there were slaves 10 years before the Civil War.

Joining in with the upsurge of resistance sweeping the globe, in July thousands of prisoners in California—led by prisoners in Pelican Bay SHU—went on hunger strike to demand an end to the torture & inhumane treatment they face.

Within days, over 6,500 prisoners in one-third of California prisons joined the hunger strike.

After three weeks they temporarily came off hunger strike, and then resumed the hunger strike on September 26. Within days, nearly 12,000 prisoners were on hunger strike.

The CDC retaliated: they banned prisoner’s lawyers, withheld mail and visits, and threatened to place prisoners on hunger strike in administrative seg.

At the end of last week, they temporarily came off again. Prisoners have stated that though they are willing to die rather than face these conditions of torture, they do not want to die. They know that it will take people on outside to force the government to meet their demands, and that will not happen in the time they can remain on hunger strike and live to see those changes.

Despite the demonization and dehumanizing portrayal, the majority of prisoners are locked up for non-violent drug offenses as part of “war on drugs,” which began in the early 1970s but expanded exponentially in the 1980s. And the “war on drugs” was a strategy for the ruling class to impose a “counterinsurgency before insurgency” because they fear the power of the people rising up to challenge the crimes and injustices of this system.

They saw the power of the people in the 1960s, but because people didn’t make a revolution out of the upsurge of the 1960s, the ruling class was determined to crush any potential liberating movement of the people from developing again.

Despite their attempts, even in the depths of the most horrendous conditions of oppression such as the hellholes of America’s prisons, people have a vast potential to transform themselves as they transform the world and join in becoming emancipators of humanity.

Like millions of others, I was one of those youth that this system has cast off. My family lost our home when I was a teenager, I got involved with a street organization to survive on the streets, and by the time I was 17 years old I was serving a 20 year sentence in an adult maximum security prison. Like too many other youth, this system offered me no better purpose and no greater fate than crime and punishment, a future of living and dying for nothing.

Once I got to prison, I soon started to question what brought me—and all the other people there with me—to prison, and soon began to develop an understanding of the historical and social forces that led all of us to the hellholes of America’s prison system.

Within a short period of time, I was given an indeterminate period of segregation—solitary confinement—and it was in the midst of those brutally isolating conditions of torture that I became politically conscious.

And since my release from prison a few years ago, my life has been firmly dedicated to the movement for revolution and the struggle against the crimes of this system and for a liberated future for all humanity.

O22 is a day for people of all different backgrounds to get in the streets and stand together shoulder-to-shoulder with those who live under the boot and the gun of police brutality and repression—and those languishing in the hellholes of Americas prisons—and demand that all of this must stop! People of conscience everywhere should take inspiration from the courageous example of the prisoners on hunger strike and recognize the moral responsibility to join together to rise up to take action to stop these horrendous injustices.

Check out revcom.us for more reports from around the country: Initial Reports on October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality

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