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“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
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Rising From The Pit: Illinois Prisoners Join National Upsurge of Resistance to Torture and Dehumanizing Conditions in U.S. Prisons

In 1878 convicts began backbreaking labor carving into the limestone bluffs along the bank of the Mississippi River outside Chester, Illinois. Over a decade of sweat and sorrow at gunpoint produced two cell houses enclosed by a massive wall built from the limestone quarried by the prisoners. The prison – formerly Southern Illinois Penitentiary and now Menard “Correctional Center” – is known as “The Pit.”

On January 15, 2014, prisoners in The Pit’s “High Security Unit” began a hunger strike to oppose their placement into inhumane conditions in isolation under Administrative Detention. Solitary confinement exceeding 15 days is considered torture and prohibited under international law. We must support the prisoners stepping forward and putting their lives on the line to demand an end to these crimes being systematically perpetrated by the rulers of the United States.

The courageous hunger strike by prisoners at Menard is the latest uprising in a wave of prisoner-lead struggle against torture and the dehumanizing conditions within the United States’ historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration. Last year’s 30,000-strong resumption of the California prison hunger strike (which I joined for two weeks in solidarity while a political prisoner in Cook County Jail) was the biggest and most publicized, but a number of other organized struggles by prisoners have taken place in the last several years – from work stoppages in Georgia to hunger strikes in Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and Washington. Also last year prisoners in Guantanamo participated in a long hunger strike and faced brutal forced feeding, bringing resistance and exposure on a more international level. Recently, prisoners in Indiana’s Westville “Correctional Facility” began a hunger strike on January 13, 2014 to protest nutritionally deficient food.

*****

Many of the prisoners on hunger strike in Menard were formerly held in Tamms – Illinois’ official “supermax” prison modeled after Pelican Bay SHU. Tamms was closed down in January 2013 after a fifteen year long political and legal battle by prisoners, family members and activists. Several of the prisoners placed in the HSU at Menard are “jailhouse lawyers” – prisoners self-educated in the law who help other prisoners with legal work and challenge prison conditions.

“They won’t tell anybody why they are in Administrative Detention, let alone give them an informal hearing to contest the undisclosed allegations,”1 one Menard prisoner wrote. He said, “There are mice just running wild. They have 20 guys using one pair of fingernail clippers with no cleaning in between uses, there is absolutely no mental health screening or evaluation, nor do any mental health staff even make rounds.” Another prisoner said, “I’m a jailhouse lawyer. And [I] file/help other prisoners with their grievances and lawsuits. Because of that I was retaliated against and transferred to Menard and placed in the High Security Unit under Administrative Detention.”2

Since beginning the hunger strike, prisoners reported to attorney Alice Lynd (and published in the San Francisco BayView) that “officers shook down their cells and took any food they found. The hunger strikers were sent to see medical staff and charged $5 for medical treatment.”3 In 2000 the IDOC began charging prisoners $5 per incident to receive medical care – a direct violation of international law, including the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which states that prisoners’ medical “care and treatment shall be provided free of charge.”

Additionally, Lynd reported one prisoner was pushed down the stairs by two officers while handcuffed and then beaten.4 Officers pushing handcuffed and/or shackled prisoners down the stairs is a common form of retaliation in segregation units in Illinois prisons, as prisoners are never allowed to leave their cells without handcuffs and/or shackles.

*****

With the closing of Tamms – the most visible face of torture in Illinois’ prison system – prisoners were sent to other prisons where the practice of solitary confinement has been hiding behind older and less-scrutinized walls. Within weeks of Tamms prisoners being transferred to Illinois’ long-term disciplinary segregation prison in Pontiac, IL, nearly 50 prisoners began a hunger strike opposing the conditions there. A number of smaller and not well-publicized hunger strikes against the conditions at Pontiac have taken place since it was converted from a regular maximum security prison to long-term disciplinary segregation in the late-1990s.

Debate and struggle roil every day behind the prison walls about the repressive and degrading conditions and what to do about it – especially in solitary confinement. Far too often prisoners have little or no connection on the other side of the walls to expose the horrors of what they are facing – and to support them when they do organize to oppose those conditions.

Solitary confinement is specifically implemented to destroy people psychologically, emotionally and intellectually. It is a severely damaging and demobilizing form of torture that survivors never escape. Over 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.

Mass incarceration, rooted in the foundational white supremacy of this country, is a response of the ruling class to the driving dynamics of capitalism-imperialism. The drive for ever greater profits has decimated inner city communities as factories uprooted and set up sweatshops abroad where they can even more brutally exploit workers than they can here – leaving generations of principally Black and Brown youth locked out of society who will never be meaningfully employed. It is also a conscious response to the revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s – implemented to contain and repress millions who this system has no future for and who could become the backbone of the struggle for a radically different and more liberated world for all humanity.

*****

The conditions and retaliation described by the men in Menard sound all too real and familiar to me. I spent over 6 years straight in indeterminate segregation in Pontiac – and most of my time there in the North Cellhouse.  It was under those same conditions that I became part of a new generation of prison-educated revolutionaries beginning to emerge within those concrete tombs. I firmly believe it will take revolution – nothing less – to end the crimes of this system, and that we can bring into being a society that values and meets the material, cultural and intellectual needs of all humanity – a communist world.

Last year Carl Dix, Clyde Young and I issued a call – 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. I’d like to reiterate that call, which read in part:

“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.”

And I call on all people of conscience to support the prisoners and to step forward and follow the courageous example they are setting. Much love, respect and support to the brothers and sisters rising up from deep within the depths of this criminal system of injustice.

*****

Mail Bear Witness 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

For those outside the walls:
contact@PRLF.org

stopmassincarceration@gmail.com

Web: www.stopmassincarceration.org

Footnotes:

1.  “Locked-Up in ‘High Security Unit’ and Not Told Why, Prisoners Hunger Strike for Answer,” Ray Downs; Riverfront Times Blogs, January 21, 2014

2. Id.

3. “Update from Menard hunger strikers: We need outside support, force feeding threatened” Alice Lynd; San Francisco BayView, January 21, 2014

4. Id.

* Also published in Revolution newspaper online: Rising From the Pit: Illinois Prisoners Join National Upsurge of Resistance to Torture and Dehumanizing Conditions in U.S. Prisons,  January 27, 2014

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Dr. Antonio Martinez & Gregory Koger on the California Prison Hunger Strike and Torture in U.S. Prisons

Gregory Koger & Dr. Antonio Martinez on Worldview with Jerome McDonnell WBEZ 91.5 FM

On July 8, 2013, over 30,000 prisoners in over two-thirds of California’s prisons began a hunger strike to demand an end to the systematic torture they face through long-term solitary confinement. Prisoners in several other states have joined them in work stoppages and hunger strikes. 2.3 million people are in prison in the U.S. and over 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the United States – under conditions that amount to torture under international law.

  • Dr. Antonio Martinez, a psychologist with the Institute for Survivors of Human Rights Abuse and co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture. Dr. Martinez has been recognized by UNESCO for his lifelong work treating survivors of torture and human rights abuses.
  • Gregory Koger, torture survivor who spent over six years in solitary confinement in Illinois prison. He is a revolutionary who works with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and has spoken in universities and high schools regarding torture in U.S. prisons. Mr. Koger – a jailhouse lawyer in prison and a member of the National Lawyers Guild – was a homeless teenager in a street gang when he was sent to an adult maximum security prison; he transformed himself in solitary confinement and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice. He will be joining the hunger strike on July 23 when he faces a court hearing to jail him to serve an unjust 300-day sentence for recording a statement against censorship on an iPhone at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago. More details on his case available at www.dropthecharges.net

During the initial California prison hunger strike in July 2011, Mr. Koger organized a Forum on the California Prison Hunger Strike and Torture in U.S. Prisons. Dr. Martinez spoke at that Forum, and compared the widespread, systematic use of torture in U.S. prisons to experiences of torture in other countries:  “What I hear here is very similar to what I hear about the torture chambers in Guatemala, in Colombia, in Chile. Actually in Chile, Pinochet was more humane. They allowed people to be among others, they allowed some music, they allowed some type of interaction and they allowed more generous visits. And that was Pinochet. So what does that say about us as a society where all these things are the rule and not the exception? …”

Listen to the July 19, 2013 interview: Gregory Koger and Dr. Antonio Martinez – CA Prison Hunger Strike & Torture in U.S. Prisons (also Carl Dix on Trayvon Martin & Amina from Revolution Club LA) – The Michael Slate Show – KPFK Pacifica Radio LA 90.7 FM

Listen to the July 16, 2013 interview: Gregory Koger and Dr. Antonio Martinez – CA Prison Hunger Strike & Torture in U.S. PrisonsWorldview with Jerome McDonnell WBEZ NPR

Listen to the July 11, 2013 interview: Gregory Koger and Dr. Antonio Martinez – CA Prison Hunger Strike – Cliff Kelley Show WVON 

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Stand With Me On July 23rd and Support the Prisoners on Hunger Strike to Oppose U.S. Torture

Three weeks from today, on July 23, 2013, a court hearing has been set where the State will move forward with their attempt to put me back in jail for documenting a political statement opposing censorship at the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) with an iPhone  – a “crime” for which I received a 300 day jail sentence. Further details of our nearly four-year-long struggle against this political prosecution are available on my defense committee’s website: www.dropthecharges.net

Being under imminent threat of days, months, years of vicious, violent repression at the hands of the State within their timeless tombs clarifies the mind. Uncertainty coalesces into preparation and determination. Instantly the mind shifts to political battle mode, recognizing keenly that one is directly on the front lines of the class struggle – a gravedigger of the bourgeoisie. That you are being called on to reaffirm boldly – and in starkly visceral terms – your commitment to standing with the wretched of the earth, and of your dedication to struggling with them towards the liberation and emancipation of all humanity.

On July 23, 2013, I will attend the court hearing and my legal team will challenge this baseless political prosecution and outrageous sentence. However, I am fully prepared for the State to lock me up. This will be happening as hundreds of prisoners being tortured and held in indefinite detention without charge or trial in Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike, and during the National Prison Hunger Strike called by prisoners in Pelican Bay SHU – which is set to begin on July 8, 2013.

I am prepared to follow their courageous example and join them on the National Prison Hunger Strike for as long as the State intends to hold me captive along with the millions of others entombed within the United States’ criminal system of mass incarceration. I will spend every day that I’m held captive working with other prisoners to take up the call for the National Prison Hunger Strike and to step forward as the powerful force for revolution that we have the tremendous potential to become.

I know personally the hopeless life far too many of the youth are caught up in – and I know the horrors of spending many years in solitary confinement. As a teenager, my family lost our home and I got involved in a street organization (aka “gang”) to survive on the streets. After being sent to an adult maximum security prison at the age of seventeen, I became increasingly politically conscious in the midst of spending over six years straight in solitary confinement – conditions that amount to torture under international law.

Since my release from prison nearly seven years ago, my life has been dedicated to opposing and bringing to an end the crimes and injustices of this capitalist-imperialist system. I’ve been in street protests, abortion clinic defenses, human chains defending parents sitting-in to oppose their children’s schools being shut down. I’ve debated and discussed the prospects of and necessity for revolution and a radically different world from prison yards and street corners to universities and high schools.

I firmly believe another world is possible – a world drastically different than the current oppressive and exploitative capitalist system of private appropriation of the vast wealth produced by billions of people globally. This completely outmoded and unnecessary system is enforced by brutal police terror and a court and prison system unparalleled in the history of human society domestically, and by bloody imperialist military force abroad.

The world does not have to be like this! Collectively, we can dismantle these oppressive institutions and bring into being a world without nations or borders, a world of voluntary economic, political and social structures devoted to meeting human needs and unleashing humanity to express its highest potential – a communist world.

Getting to that world will take revolution – nothing less. I would encourage anyone seriously grappling with how to end the injustices of this system and transform the world to check out the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. In this talk Bob Avakian, chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, gets deeply into the historic roots of the development of this oppressive system and the strategy for how we could make a revolution and unleash those who are counted as nothing by the rulers of this system to transform themselves as they transform the world in the interests of all humanity.

And that is what this political prosecution has actually been all about. Those who rule this system do not want those of us born into life at the bottom of society – that this system has absolutely no future for – to recognize our revolutionary potential. They do not want people from other backgrounds and social strata to see that those most demonized and degraded by the rulers of this sytem can become the backbone of a movement to radically transform all of society. And they will use any means they feel necessary to crush the potential of those most oppressed from stepping forward.

I call on you to stand with the prisoners being tortured in the dungeons of this criminal capitalist system. One way you can do that is by signing the EMERGENCY CALL! JOIN US IN STOPPING TORTURE IN U.S. PRISONS! statement being circulated by The Stop Mass Incarceration Network and donating to have the statement published in the Los Angeles Times. You can sign the Close Guantanamo Now statement being circulated by The World Can’t Wait to support the men on hunger strike in Guantanamo. There are many other bold and creative actions we must develop to support the hunger strikes and to end the torture being committed upon tens of thousands of men, women and children by the rulers of the United States. And I ask that you stand with me in the final stages of opposing this political prosecution, including coming out to the court date on July 23rd.

With Hope and Determination for a Liberated World for All Humanity,

Gregory

July 2, 2013

The Following Announcement is from the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason:

Court Hearing July 23rd – Come Out to Demand Not One More Day In Jail for Gregory! 

A court hearing has been set for July 23, 2013, where the State will move to put Gregory Koger in jail to serve the remainder of his 300 day sentence for peacefully videotaping a statement against censorship at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) on Sunday, November 1, 2009. 

July 23, 2013 at 1:30PM

Cook County Courthouse – Courtroom 104

5600 Old Orchard Rd  Skokie, IL

Neither the Court nor the Cook County State’s Attorney has responded to the Post-Conviction Relief Petition that Gregory’s legal team filed in March. This Petition exposed the lies at the heart of the false charges against him and provides documentary evidence (suppressed by the judge at trial) of the perjured testimony and prosecutorial misconduct that laid the basis for his conviction – and demands that his wrongful conviction and outrageous sentence  be overturned. For more details, see www.dropthecharges.net

In his youth, Gregory spent years in solitary confinement while in prison. He transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity.  Gregory’s legal team will vigorously oppose any attempt to put him back in jail.

We call on you to come out to stand with Gregory and demand:

Not One More Day In Jail for Gregory Koger!

Ad Hoc Commitee for Reason

www.dropthecharges.net • adhoc4reason@gmail.com

Published in the July 14, 2013 issue of Revolution newspaper

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We Must Oppose Any Fascist Attacks On Youth Caught Up In Street Organizations – And Struggle With Them to Become A Powerful Force for Revolution

A Few Thoughts on How Slow Genocide Can Go to Fast Genocide: U.S. Senator Proposes “Crushing” Gang by Mass Roundup and Incarceration

 

As a former member of the street organization that is the target of Senator Mark Kirk’s genocidal and fascist proposal to round up and imprison – without charge or trial – every alleged member of the Gangster Disciples, I wanted to add a few thoughts to the recent piece in Revolution newspaper, How Slow Genocide Can Go to Fast Genocide: U.S. Senator Proposes “Crushing” Gang by Mass Roundup and Incarceration.

A major element missing from the media reporting on this is the fact that there had been a significant ideological change within the leadership of the GD’s and specifically its Chairman Larry Hoover, beginning in the late-1970’s/early-1980’s. The main thrust of this transformation was a move toward mobilizing the organization towards electoral politics, explicitly following the example of the original Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, who was a member of an Irish street gang known as the Hamburg Athletic Club.

Daley was a 17-year-old member of the gang during the notorious “Chicago Race Riot of 1919,” an extremely disingenuous characterization of what in reality consisted of mobs of whites viciously attaching Black folks, some of whom defended themselves. These racist white supremacist attacks occurred not just in Chicago, but in more than three dozen cities across the country in the summer of 1919.

Several important factors contributed to these white supremacist attacks. They occurred in the aftermath of World War I and the victory of the Russian Revolution, led by V.I. Lenin, which established the first socialist state. And they occurred in the midsts of tremendous changes in the U.S. economic base, particularly in relation to Black folks, with reverberating effects throughout the social and political superstructure of society.

The specifics of some of these profound economic and social changes are well documented in the special issue of Revolution, The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need. Comrade Carl Dix has spoken to this in detail, particularly in regards to how this developed into the New Jim Crow and mass incarceration in his recent dialogue with Cornel West, Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide. Act to STOP It Now!

Briefly, as global capitalism increasingly moved into the stage of imperialism, and as mechanization began to replace the need for slaves or former slaves working the land as sharecroppers, Black folks began the Great Migration to the north in search of factory jobs and an escape from the horrific racism, lynch mob terror and Jim Crow laws of the south.

The “Race Riots” of 1919 took place in the mix of these developments, along with labor struggles breaking out amongst workers across the country. President Woodrow Wilson stated one of the greatest fears of the ruling class in a private meeting in March 1919: “[T]he American Negro returning from abroad would be our greatest medium in conveying bolshevism to America.” ⁠1

Crushing the Leadership of Growth & Development

 

Daley’s rise to power out of the street gangs offered an example of a potential path to political, economic and social power to the leadership of the GDs. Larry Hoover led the organization in transforming itself from Gangster Disciples to Growth & Development, and laid out a Blueprint – a vision of how they sought to overcome the shared oppression of the Brothers of the Struggle. This happened in the aftermath of the 1960s, the ebbing of the revolutionary movement, and the specifics of the political repression and assassination of revolutionaries in the Black Panther Party and other revolutionary groups. The films Bastards of the Party and Crips and Bloods: Made In America get into some of the history of this phenomena in California among gangs there – especially the dire impact of the concentrated repressive efforts of the ruling class against revolutionary forces.

By the early 1990s, the GD’s – as Growth & Development – were mobilizing thousands of youth in the projects through 21st Century VOTE, and running candidates for Alderman. Additionally, Growth & Development was involved in the nationwide gang truces of the early 1990s in the aftermath of the LA Rebellion. (See Former Chicago Gang Members and 21st Century VoteDemocracy Now! 3/19/1996).

But the rulers of this system were not about to allow the GDs – or any of the other street organizations – to follow the same path to political power as Daley. By the mid-1990s, federal prosecutors had brought charges against the alleged leadership of the GDs, and buried them in federal prison. Larry Hoover was put in the notorious federal ADX supermax prison in Florence, Colorado – living under conditions that meet the international definition of torture, that over 80,000 prisoners across the U.S are held under and that prisoners in Pelican Bay SHU have called for a National Prison Hunger Strike beginning on July 8, 2013.

 

The System Has No Future for the Youth –  The Revolution Does

 

Like many other youth who this system has no future for, I was attracted to becoming a GD in part because of the political ideology of Growth & Development. For example, while I was in Cook County Jail serving part of my 300 day sentence for holding an iPhone at the “Ethical” Humanist Society, one brother put it this way: “When I joined the GDs, they had me thinking I was joining the Black Panthers.” The political and ideological line coming out of the transformation of the GDs is fundamentally capitalism for oppressed nationalities and taking up bourgeoise electoral politics; however, something extremely important that should not be dismissed is that there is an underlying ethos of struggle against the economic and social conditions imposed by the system – especially national oppression.

That can – and increasingly needs to – lead to a radical rupture with capitalist ideas and thinking, and these youth – and even the older brothers – have the potential to become the backbone of a revolutionary force to transform society in the interest of all humanity. I’m a living example of that. And we must stand with these brothers and sisters against any fascist attacks by the rulers of this system, while struggling with them to become revolutionaries and emancipators of humanity.

RNL-WrapCover-front600Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, gets into this deeply in his recent talk, BA Speaks: Revolution – Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live, in the section: A Revolutionary Situation… The Role of the Youth… & How to Work Today So That There Is A Revolutionary Force When That Time Comes:

“The revolution has a future for the youth. For the masses of youth in this country and throughout the world, this system has no future for them but the revolution does. A revolution and a future in which these youth can and must have a decisive and increasingly conscious role. People tell us that these youth, especially these youth who are on the bottom being stepped on and beaten down every day, have been reduced to conditions where they could not any longer rise up to play this revolutionary role. But this is not true. People need to think about how hard many of these youth have tried to get out of the conditions they’re in and get to some place where they could do something much better. This too gets not only forgotten but consciously covered up.

Right now in the California prisons, the people who carried out self-sacrificing hunger strikes have made a call for peace among people of the different races in the prisons. We should understand how tremendously significant and difficult this is. How much is going up against it, both among the masses spontaneously but also for the workings of the authorities and how much they’ll try to undercut and sabotage all this. This needs a lot of support and needs to be popularized.

People need to know about it, they need to support people who have been condemned and cast aside as less than human and the ‘worst of the worst’ when they reach for something lofty like this. But from the perspective of understanding all that I have been talking about and for those who do understand this, we need to work to make this part of building a movement for revolution. We need to approach everything in that way and from that framework, even while uniting  with other people who have not yet been won to that position or are coming from different perspectives.

Or think – let’s go back again to the LA Rebellion. Sometimes it’s forgotten – and we need to not forget – how hard so many of the people caught up in a lot of bad shit tried to break out of that at that time. From the first night of the rebellion to sometime in its aftermath, there was the  graffiti on the wall in LA on the first night of the Rebellion: ‘Blacks and Mexicans together tonight.’ Think about what that signified and how significant that was. And then in the aftermath of the Rebellion you had all these attempts at forging unity, overcoming these deep divisions among the  people that had grown over years with bitter antagonism. There were unity picnics. There were attempts at unity conferences all around the country. The police would attack the unity picnics.

I remember seeing a picture at that time of two young guys, one a Blood and one a Crip, shortly after the Rebellion with their arms around each other. Do we understand the significance of that and how much that means? These are youth who from a very early age are taught that they count for nothing and deserve nothing but a boot up their ass and a bullet in their brain – or a long time in jail. And so you have nothing and you are told to expect nothing. And so you try to get something by carving out a little space on a street in a neighborhood that doesn’t belong to you, doesn’t really mean anything but it’s all that you can feel that you can plant yourself in and find some meaning and purpose in. And then there are other people two blocks away – whether you’re Mexicans and in your rival gangs, or Black in your rival gangs, or Vietnamese or whatever – people two blocks away just like you. But if they come in the little territory that you staked out your hood, the rules are they’re slippin’ and you gotta shoot them. You shoot them, so then they have to come back and kill you and your family and your friends. And on and on it goes, back and forth for years and years. People kept like in cages.

And here they took the step, after all these years of this bitter experience of friends and loved ones being killed on both sides back and forth, and the meaning of their putting their arms around each other and trying to forge something different… But the system wouldn’t have it and couldn’t have it. They attacked the unity picnics time and again. But more than that the program that these people – that these youth and others, the O.G.’S in the gangs and whatever – tried to come up with was a program for reform, for entrepreneurialism that couldn’t work under this system. There was no room for it.

And so it didn’t go anywhere and many went back to the old ways and youth coming up fell back and, you know were sort of channeled into those ways. But they tried so hard! And so genuinely heroically. And the problem is that under this system there’s no basis for overcoming these kind of divisions. But in striving for and building a movement for revolution there is the basis – and this is what we have to be fighting for: to bring forward the full potential of these and other youth and other sections of oppressed people, men and women, to be the backbone and driving force, and win them through a lot of struggle to be that backbone and driving force of this revolution. [Applause]

And where this happens, when they do make this great leap to becoming part of the revolution – and yes, it is a great leap – then among others in the communities they come from and much more broadly among other sections of society as well, people have to be rallied in different ways and forms to encourage and back up these youth who take this great step of joining the ranks of the revolution. So that they can not only continue to get more and more deeply involved themselves but can play a key part in bringing forward many others. We need to find whatever the forms are to give life and expression to this. We need to find the forms for people who are not going to be on the front lines actively out there fighting the power but are contributing to the revolution and can contribute in many ways to back up these youth. To say in ways that have meaning: we are proud of our youth when they step forward into the ranks of the revolution. We need to even develop ceremonies that express this. We need to develop a collective culture that gives life and meaning to this. And there’s much sentiment out there that can be tapped in this direction.

Everybody wants the youth to do better. Even the churchgoing ladies: ‘[Sighing], these boys out here they ain’t doing anything good. They need to do something better. They need to get to Jesus.’  Well no they don’t need to get to Jesus – they need to get with the revolution. But even the churchgoing ladies can be appreciative of this – and this is not just in one community or among one section of society, but much more broadly. And this is a way that we can implement what’s talked about in that Strategy Statement (A Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party: ON THE STRATEGY FOR REVOLUTION), of developing growing cores of people that constitute relatively small numbers now – dozens here, but then become hundreds and the thousands as we put it in that statement that are actively and openly with the revolution and are influencing millions, among all different sections of the people. And being prepared and preparing themselves to get to the point where they can lead those millions when a revolutionary situation has been brought into being through the workings of this system itself and the ongoing conscious and consistent work of revolutionaries, and people are looking for leadership that has an actual program and has the actual orientation and determination to fight through to actually bring about a radical change.”

1 McWhirter, Cameron, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America (NY: Henry Holt, 2011), p. 56

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Bear Witness to Torture in U.S. Prisons and to All Law Enforcement Abuse

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!

Signed:

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

For those with Email access:
contact@PRLF.orgstopmassincarceration@gmail.com

Web: www.stopmassincarceration.org

Originally published in the February 3, 2013 issue of Revolution Newspaper

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What This System Does to the People of the World Is Criminal — Dedicating Your Life to Emancipating Humanity Is Not

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:

The trial was replete with numerous “irregularities,” which exposed both the political nature of these charges and the actual functions of the “justice” system as the machinery of enforcing the class dictatorship that it is part of. Then, after spending nearly two months of my 300 day sentence in Cook County Jail, I was released on appeal bond and have been fighting these charges for the last two years. Earlier this year the appellate court upheld my conviction and the Illinois Supreme Court recently refused to hear my appeal.

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.

And tens of thousands of prisoners every day are held in extreme isolation and sensory deprivation in supermax and segregation units – conditions that amount to torture. As Carl Dix, one of the comrades standing on the front lines of the struggle against the faultline contradiction of mass incarceration and currently facing trial with other Stop-and-Frisk Freedom Fighters, has pointed out, “All this comes down to a slow genocide which could easily accelerate.” People who want to get deeper into this should check out  “Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide” Strikes a Visceral Nerve, and Ask a Communist: There Are 2.4 Million People in Prison in the U.S.—Why? What Do We DO About It? And How Does the Notion of a “Prison-Industrial Complex” Get This Wrong?.

Becoming Emancipators of Humanity

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.

Check out my November 2012 interview on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK Pacifica Radio.
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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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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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Occupy4prisoners Chicago – 2/20 – Demand and End to Mass Incarceration!

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.

Download color and b&w flyers

Endorsers:
Occupy Chicago
Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Occupy Rogers Park
Chain Reaction
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
Michelle Alexander
Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5
Anti-Eviction Campaign
Revolution Books Chicago
Project Nia
National Jericho Movement
Pat Hill, Executive Director of the African American Police League
www.jailbrakers.org
Stateville Speaks
The Chicago Chapter of CURE
www.illinoisinsitute.net
www.illinoisprisontalk.net
Changing Minds
Trinity United Church of Christ
Chicago Torture Justice Memorials
Vigils For True Justice
White Rose Catholic Worker
Tamms Year 10
Teachers for Social Justice

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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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Ruth Wilson Gilmore – Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex

I had the pleasure  of hearing Ruth Wilson Gilmore speak this Monday at the University of Illinois – Chicago. Her talk, Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex: The World We Want is the World We Need (MP3 link), is well worth checking out. Her book, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, which came out shortly after I got out of prison and am just getting into it now, is also an important read for anyone concerned about and struggling against the historically unparalleled injustice of the system of mass incarceration in the USA.

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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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