Organized Resistance Continues
Defend California Prisoners and Demand CDCR Be Held Accountable for Deaths of Hunger Strikers
Voice of Revolution vigorously condemns the revenge taken against the California hunger strikers and their continued torture using solitary confinement. The California government and specifically the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) are responsible for these deaths and should be charged accordingly. Some of these prisoners are also political prisoners, targeted for demanding change and organizing resistance, inside and outside the prisons. In addition to torture and imposing civil death on the prisoners — treating them as if no law or standards exist and that the state is free to act with impunity — now the CDCR is making clear that death of the hunger strikers is also sanctioned. This effort to further terorize the prisoners and all who resist is being met with further resistance, by the prisoners and many natoinwide who recongize that human dignity security for the people lies in fighting for the rights of all. reenge and violence are weapons of a dieing force with no solutions and no ability to legitimize their rule.
Since the hunger strike by Pelican Bay, Calipatria, Corcoran and other California prisoners ended in September, CDCR has retaliated against the strikers, using threats, disciplinary actions and even more stringent solitary confinement. Family members report hunger strikers feel their lives are threatened. One, Hozel Alanzo Blanchard, had two emergency appeals concerning the need for protection from prison officials pending with the California Supreme Court when he died.
Prison officials in December reported that Blanchard and two other hunger strikers committed suicide. Yet they refuse to provide family members or legal advocates with full information concerning what happened. Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children reported, “These guys were calling for help, their fellow prisoners were calling for help, and guards literally stood by and watched it happen.” For one person, his cries for help were ignored for hours, after which prison officials reported he had committed suicide.
Voice of Revolution demands that CDCR officials responsible be charged with these deaths and that the solitary confinement end immediately. We condemn this use of torture and all acts of revenge being taken against the prisoners who have organized for their rights under extremely difficult conditions. We defend and applaud these men standing up for rights and urge all to follow their example of highly organize collective action that puts the fight for rights at the center.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) shameless attempt to suppress the tragic loss of life of three recent hunger strikers has inevitably failed in the whole, despite the fact that it still refuses to knowledge its own complicity with regards to the particular details surrounding these deaths. The essential facts are widely known among the prison masses.
This comes as no surprise for those of us familiar with the practices of the CDCR. Yet for those naive to the CDCR’s duplicity, there are valuable lesson to be learned from all of this. With respect to the three men who needlessly lost their lives, it is significant that we not pass judgment on them prematurely.
The taking of one’s own life is a conscious decision, and such a decision is as relevant as the surrounding conditions that gave rise to the decision itself. This inseparability between our consciousness and our environmental conditions is summed up well in Karl Marx’s simple, yet revealing, statement:
“…the ‘ideal’ is nothing more that the material world reflected in the human brain and translated into forms of thought….”
To speak of these avoidable deaths in the context of “suicides” is to legitimize the state’s role in creating the oppressive conditions that resulted in these deaths, and thus, exonerates it of responsibility.
To judge the suicides based solely upon the “possible” decisions of these three individuals alone is to allow ourselves to be divided and conquered. We should not pass judgment upon the alleged decisions alone, but also upon the state and the conditions that gave rise to such contemplations.
The state apparatus of various governments, including the U.S. government, have a long history of eliminating opposition to the status quo, and in particular, “suiciding” that opposition when they are confined. We must ask, did these three human beings commit suicide? Or were they “suicided” by inconspicuous means? All three of these deaths have been quite conveniently classified as suicides. Yet by all indications these classifications do not correspond with the actual circumstances.
How do we know that these men intended suicide? We do not. But of greater significance, we do know that there were repeated attempts to call “Man Down,” kicking on cell doors, etc., which was willfully ignored and neglected by guards. In parallel circumstances, were not state employees involved, anyone else would be charged with either murder or at the very least manslaughter.
If this concept comes across as unorthodox, this is only a demonstration of how effectively we have been conditioned to think, but the objective reality is, these three men were “suicided” even though it was by inconspicuous means —intentional neglect. It requires no great feat of intellect to understand that the state will rarely prosecute its own. But to ensure that the deaths of the three men were not for naught, we must do all that we can to publicize and transform this tragedy into an educational opportunity.
We call on Amnesty International to assist us and demand a United Nations investigation into these deaths and the deplorable conditions of solitary confinement throughout the U.S. penal system. We likewise call upon the UN to appoint an independent and unbiased autopsy of these men and any others who may be subjected to a similar fate…
Chad Landrum has consistently provided coverage and analysis of the hunger strikes. He is currently imprisoned at Corcoran State Prison in California.
Update from the Pelican Bay Prisoners
A Shout-out of respect and solidarity – from the Pelican Bay State Prison Short Corridor – Collective – (PBSP –SHU) to all similarly situated prisoners subject to the continuing torturous conditions of confinement in these barbaric SHU & Ad/Seg units across this country and around the world.
This is our update of where things currently stand and where we’re going with this struggle – for an end to draconian policies and practices – summarized in our “Formal Complaint” (and many related documents published and posted online, since early 2011).
As many of you know… beginning in early (2010), the PBSP – SHU Short Corridor Collective initiated action to educate people and bring wide spread exposure to – the (25+) years of ongoing – progressive human rights violations going unchecked here in the California Department of Corruption – via dissemination of our “Formal Complaint” to 100’s of people, organizations, lawmakers, Secretary Cate, etc… wherein, we also sought support and meaningful change.
The response by CDCR – Secretary Cate was “file an inmate appeal” (collectively, we had filed thousands); therefore, after much reconsideration and dialogue, the collective decided to take the fight to the next level via peaceful protest action – in the form of a hunger strike.
With the above in mind – beginning in early (2011)… we again sought to educate people about the ongoing torture prevalent in these prison systems – solitary confinement units; and pointing out our position that the administrative grievance process is a sham, and the court system has turned a blind eye to such blatantly illegal practice. This left us with no other meaningful avenue for obtaining relief, other than to put our lives on the line and thereby draw the line and force changes, via collective peaceful protest hunger strike action.
We believed this was the only – fully advantageous – way for us to expose such outrageous abuse of state power, to the world and gain the outside support needed to help force real change.
We requested support in the form of – asking people to write letters to those in power… we received more support than we ever expected – in the form of letters, rallies, and hunger strike “participants” – more than (18,000) similarly situated prisoners and some people on the outside!
All united in solidarity, with a collective awareness – that the draconian torture practices described in our “Formal Complaint” are prevalent across the land; and that – united in peaceful action, we have the power to force changes.
The hunger strike actions of (2011) achieved some success, in the form of – mainstream world wide exposure – solid, continuing outside support – some small improvements to SHU/Ad-Seg unit conditions, and assurances of more meaningful substantive changes to the overall policies and practices. This includes the basis for placement and amount of time spent in such units – a substantive review of all prisoners’ files, per new criteria – and more change to the actual conditions in such units.
However, this fight is far from over! Notably, the second hunger strike action was suspended in mid-October … in response to top CDCR administrator’s presentation that the substantive changes be finalized… would be provided to “the stakeholders” (this includes our attorneys), within 60 days for comment. To date, CDCR has not produced anything re: SHU/Ad-Seg policy changes. The PBSP’s Warden has not even replied to the (2) memo’s we have sent him concerning – additional program – privilege issues, per core demand #5 (see footnote #1 below)
Naturally, many people are not happy about CDCR’s failure to abide by their word – again – and they are asking… “what’s the next move in this struggle?”
Based on our collective discussions, our response is … people need to remain focused, and continue to apply pressure on CDCR, via letters, emails, fax, etc… summarizing the continuing core demands – immediately! There’s real power in numbers!! (see addresses to contact below, at footnote #2)
It is important for everyone to stay objective and on the same page – remember… united we win, divided we lose. And, if we do not see real substantive changes within the next 6 months… we will have to re-evaluate our position.
Additionally, now is a good time for people to start a dialogue about changing the climate on these level IV mainlines… As it stands now, these lines are warehouses, with all the money meant for programs – rehabilitation, going into guard pockets.
It is in all of our best interests to change this in a big way, and thereby force CDCR to open these lines up and provide all of us with the programs and rehabilitative services that we all should have coming to us!!
Respect and Solidarity,
T. Ashker, A. Castellanos, Sitawa (s/n Dewberry), A. Guillen
Footnote#1: To date, we’ve received zero improvements re: core demand #5 … while Corcoran and Tehachapi have gained on canteen and dip-pull up bars – which, is all good. This is an example of what we pointed out in our “Formal Complaint” re: disparate treatment at PBSP-SHU compared to other SHU’s.
This is also a typical CDCR attempt to create discord and disruption to our unified struggle…we are certain this feeble move will fail because all of us understand what our main objective is – an end to long term torture in these isolation units! It is our fundamental right to be treated humanely… we can no longer accept state sanctioned torture – of our selves! (and, our loved ones!) and we remain unified in our resistance!!
Footnote#2: Addresses of people to write
Tom Ammiano, Assemblyman/ Capitol Bldg. Rm# 4005 / Sacramento, CA 95814/
Governor Edmund G. Brown/ State Capitol, Ste #1173/ Sacramento, CA 95814
CDCR – Secretary Matthew Cate / 1515 S. St. Ste. #330/ Sacramento, CA 95811 [TOP]
Numerous protests were organized January 10, 2012, the tenth anniversary of the U.S. Guanatanmo concentration camp. Demonstrators demanded that President Obama release the dozens of prisoners cleared for release by the Pentagon, CIA, FBI and Supreme Court, end continued torture and take action to Close Guantanamo NOW! Below are photos from actions in Washington, DC. on January 10 and the days leading up to it, when demonstrators organized a fast in support of prisoners at Guantanamo and marched throught out the city.
Whereas, EGT, a joint venture led by multinational grain giant Bunge, agreed to hire union Longshoremen when accepting millions in taxpayer funds to build a huge new grain exporting terminal at the Port of Longview Washington, but once the terminal was built has tried to void its contract and refused to hire ILWU labor. With the use of brutal police and courts and 220 arrests in the 225 member ILWU Local 21, EGT has managed to get enough scab grain across picket lines into the new terminal that EGT appears poised to load a ship soon in violation of their agreement with the port; and
Whereas, a solidarity caravan of thousands of union members and community activists – endorsed by ILWU Locals 10 and 21, the San Francisco and Cowlitz County (Longview) labor councils and many others – is being organized to support our brothers and sisters in Longview, for an emergency mass protest when requested to do so, to confront union-busting by Wall Street on the Waterfront; and
Whereas, according to Longshore & Shipping News, within a month, the empty grain ship will be escorted by armed U.S. Coast Guard vessels and helicopters, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the EGT facility. The Coast Guard is an integral part of the U.S. Armed Forces, operating under the Department of Homeland Security (except when engaged in combat operations abroad, as it did in Iraq, when it operates under the Navy); and
Whereas, this is the first known use of the U.S. military to intervene in a labor dispute on the side of management in 40 years – not since the Great 1970 Postal Strike when President Nixon called out the Army and National Guard in an (unsuccessful) attempt to break the strike. The use of the Armed Forces against labor unions is something you expect to see in a police state. This is part of a disturbing trend where the U.S. military, acting as enforcers for the 1%, is poised to be used against our own people, as exemplified by the new law allowing the military to imprison U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial; and
Whereas, now the U.S. military, which has been oppressing, bombing and threatening other nations [a military that is paid for with the workers’ taxes] is now being used against us, against American working people and our unions. To quote ILWU international President McEllrath: “ILWU’s labor dispute with EGT is symbolic of what is wrong in the United States today. Corporations, no matter how harmful the conduct to society, enjoy full state and federal protection while workers and the middle class get treated as criminals for trying to protect their jobs and communities.”
Therefore be it Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council condemn in the strongest terms the announced use of U.S. Armed Forces (Coast Guard) to provide an armed sea and air escort for the empty grain ship, which is due to call at the new EGT grain terminal, Port of Longview, Washington, to load scab grain for export to Asia. We condemn this use of the military as part of a union-busting campaign to lower the cost of labor on the waterfront and destroy the union;
And be it further Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council join with allies in other cities on the West Coast to participate in any press conferences and demonstrations that are organized to denounce this use of the military to intervene in a labor dispute on the side of Wall Street on the Waterfront;
And be it finally Resolved, that the Council circulate this resolution to affiliated unions, Bay Area labor councils, the California Labor Federation, as well as labor bodies in Oregon and Washington, for concurrence and action, and urge labor leaders including Richard Trumka and Mary Kay Henry to take a strong stand against this brazen assault on our labor rights and civil liberties.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is waging a battle against union-busting. ILWU Local 21 in Longview, Washington is under attack by a giant consortium, EGT, which has built a $200 million grain terminal and is running it as a scab operation. This directly violates the port agreement with ILWU, which has had jurisdiction for over 75 years. This union-busting must be stopped. It is the fight of working people everywhere.
If EGT succeeds, other grain handlers will push for scab operations as well. That would affect the entire ILWU, as grain contracts contribute 30 percent to our benefits. Not only health & welfare but also our pension fund, dangerously underfunded at 64 percent. Breaking ILWU jurisdiction would immediately threaten our container ports. ILWU is one of the most militant unions in the country. This is a make-or-break struggle for all organized labor.
Longview Local 21 and San Francisco Local 10, Harry Bridges's local, are asking for your support. The struggle is coming to a head as EGT plans to bring in a ship to load the scab grain stored in their terminal in Longview. This could happen at any time, possibly in mid- to late-January. We are urging workers to join a caravan to go to Longview from your area when the ship comes in and to participate in a mass labor protest rally. It is your right and your duty, to your fellow union members and to yourself. […]
We will not have much advance warning. So we need to prepare to come with our workmates, friends, family, with everyone who understands that our future is at stake in Longview. Get ready to be there!
It can be done. Longshore workers have done it. Last July a thousand ILWU members and supporters blocked a train carrying grain to the scab terminal. On September 7, 400 union supporters blocked a grain train in Vancouver, Washington, and then again in Longview. The next morning hundreds of longshore workers arrived from all the Northwest ports before dawn, and news media reported thousands of tons of grain ended up on the tracks. The ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Vancouver and Portland were shut down – the workers were all in Longview. Now we need you to "meet and greet" the scab ship.
The brothers and sisters in Longview are doing their part. Under a police reign of terror Local 21 with only 225 members has 220 arrests for defending ILWU jurisdiction. They have built a large and broad support campaign with rallies and mass pickets several totaling over a thousand. […]
We are all in this together. The San Francisco and Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Counties Central Labor Councils have already declared their support. We will be signing up people who are ready to go up to Longview in a caravan when they call us. Local 21 is leading the way. Northwest locals have stepped up to the plate, as has the Occupy movement. Now it is everyone's turn. Together we have the power! Use it or lose it. Show that working people are ready, willing and able to fight for our rights.