Melvin Ray – A Message to the People (part 3 of 4)

…when we call for marches and demonstrations, we need people at the prisons to help us put pressure on the prison system, and to help us, you know, build the spirit up. You know, guys need encouragement sometimes.”

These recordings were made by co-founders of Free Alabama Movement while in solitary confinement. They were played over loudspeakers at various stops during the prison strike solidarity march in Oakland, Calif., on September 10, 2016.

 

…To the government, the corporations, the politicians, everyone who is involved in exploiting and making money off of mass-incarceration that the end is near.”

Transcript:

To the people out there who are listening, you know, the supporters, we need y’all at the prisons. We appreciate people marching in the streets, we appreciate people marching downtown, we appreciate all the things that are going on. But the suffering is taking place in the prisons. The soul and the spirits are at these prisons. And when we call for marches and demonstrations, we need people at the prisons to help us put pressure on the prison system, and to help us, you know, build the spirit up. You know, guys need encouragement sometimes. These walls, they have an impact on people. So when you’re organizing and planning, please don’t forget to organize and plan demonstrations at these prisons, because we need all the help we can get. On visitation days we need people out there distributing pamphlets, giving out information, helping the family members get involved and have a better understanding about what’s going on. To the government, the corporations, the politicians, everyone who is involved in exploiting and making money off of mass-incarceration that the end is near.

Holman Update: Truce and Self-Defense

A few days ago, we posted EMERGENCY ALERT: Free Alabama Movement Press Release for Holman Prison, when the warden dumped 20 prisoners with beef from solitary back into General Population – clearly a move to escalate violence and destabilize the whole of the inmate population. Just like on the outside, Power seeds conflict and violence to maintain its own position. We’ve got two updates.

Truce

In response, Holman prisoners held a summit between sets and established a “NO STAND OFF POLICY” – essentially an agreement to squash hostilities amongst themselves. Here’s the announcement from Free Alabama Movement:

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT STEPS UP

On Saturday September 17, 2016, the men at HOLMAN CF held the 1st UNIVERSAL PEACE & UNITY SUMMIT in which it was established that there would be a “NO STAND OFF POLICY”. All street organizations (Bloods, Crips, Growth n Development and SB’s) have vowed to respect the policy for the sake of all men housed at Holman. Since then there has been No Violence.

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT has taken on the responsibilty to provided protection for one another and to resolve all disagreements-as the ADOC has abandoned their duty and responsibilty.

So if you have a loved one at Holman prison, you should be demanding answers from Commissioner Jeff Dunn and his staff.

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This truce echoes the California “Agreement to End Hostilities” that came out of the Pelican Bay short corridor collective, preceding the massive hunger strike of 2013:

…all hostilities between our racial groups… in SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population, and County Jails, will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end… and if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!!

Self Defense

An anonymous prisoner at Holman sent a report of prisoners resisting repression:

Just ten minutes ago members of the riot team and warden entered c dorm and attempted to confiscate a cellphone from a prisoner and whole c dorm rose up and forced them out of c dorm. The resistance at Holland prison in Alabama is strong. Fuck the police! 9/21/16 /2:48

We were able to force them [out] by showing a collective front of unity….

Full report on It’s Going Down.

 

Melvin Ray – Slavery Is Not Over (part 2 of 4)

…we have to fight for our freedom, it’s not going to be given to us.”

These recordings were made by co-founders of Free Alabama Movement while in solitary confinement. They were played over loudspeakers at various stops during the prison strike solidarity march in Oakland, Calif., on September 10, 2016.

 

…slavery never ended in this country; the only thing that happened was that the institution changed hands. …Instead of being the property of a private individual, we became state property.”

Transcript:

The main thing we’re going to come out of this strike different is that awareness is built. The more people to understand more about why we’re here, what is the dynamics involved, what role does the 13th Amendment play, what role are corporations playing in it, what role are businesspeople playing in it. That’s what we’re fighting to make sure that the awareness is there. The thing for us is that September 9th is not a commemorated day, it’s not a holiday, it’s not an anniversary. It’s a continuation of what the many who made the sacrifice in Attica. They were fighting for something 45 years ago, and that fight has not been won yet, it has not been complete.

We understand that slavery never ended in this country; the only thing that happened was that the institution changed hands. They went from private owners to public ownership. We became instead of being the property of a private individual, we became state property. But the rest of the dynamics remain the same: the living conditions, the free labor, and everything that goes along with that. So we want to make sure that we acknowledge that that was the spirit that was captured in Attica prison, and that spirit was a call for resistance against the 13th Amendment. It was a call for resistance against cruel and unusual punishment, inhumane punishment, using people for monetary gain. So that’s what we’re doing, we’re just acknowledging what took place, acknowledging that, you know, the fight is not won, that we’re now in Attica. There’s an Attica everywhere in this country. So we want the spirit of Attica to be embraced around this country, so people can understand that we have to fight for our freedom, it’s not going to be given to us.

Prisons Censor Bay View Newspaper

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New Folsom Prison, 100 Prison Road, Represa, Calif.

The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, a communications network for the Black community worldwide, has hundreds of subscribers in prison. Because of an article about the prison strike, the paper has been rejected from New Folsom prison in California – and subsequently from the entire state of Pennsylvania.

The Bay View is still developing its response, and their editor’s letters include calls for support. Until more direct actions are decided upon, consider supporting the paper by donating or subscribing.

Here are two letters on the situation as it unfolded by editor Mary Ratcliff:

Sunday, September 18

I’d like to nip this in the bud. I’ve been churning out appeals to state after state and prison after prison that rejected the last several Bay Views (different issues for different reasons, though prison strikes seem to scare them the most) and even winning a few, but this is California, and we can’t let them get away with this here at home.

Though this rejection applies to only one prison, New Folsom, it’s the one that’s wired to the capitol — and the guards’ union, CCPOA, is still one of the most powerful lobbies there, not to mention the insatiable budget appetite of CDCr. So New Folsom is a bellwether; other California prisons will follow suit if New Folsom succeeds.

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New Folsom Prison

Their objection is to a story headlined “Sept. 9: Strike against prison slavery …” You can read it here or the way it appears in the print edition here. The major media are calling this Sept. 9 strike the largest prison strike in history. Getting reports from inside is hard and slow, and the strike hasn’t been covered as it should, but there’s coverage by some mainstream press and by the major alternative outlets. CDCr is telling reporters that no California prisoner participated, but some prisoners say otherwise.

Officials at New Folsom who imagine they can stop word of this revolutionary movement at the California border are delusional. One of the men in a multi-state collaboration (and most of you seeing this know the towering obstacles to prisoner-with-prisoner collaboration) who hatched the idea for a nationwide protest against prison slavery about three years ago is from California; others in the core group are from Alabama, Texas and Ohio.

The recognition that the 13th Amendment permits actual slavery for prisoners is being feverishly discussed in cell blocks across the country, and a demand is growing to strike the “punishment clause” from it. Here’s that clause: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The great minds locked up in California will certainly have a lot to say about this, whether or not they participated in any kind of strike this month.

In Alabama, where three prisoners at Holman Prison, founders of the Free Alabama Movement, are the main organizers of the nationwide strike, they reported yesterday that the guards are coming to them and asking them to use their organizing magic to quell rebellion by those who haven’t yet shaken their “criminal mentality” and have been attacking and even killing guards lately. So many guards have quit that those who remain are afraid to enter the dorms, and prisoners are doing count themselves.

But back to California, please put your great mind to ways we can resist these attacks on the Bay View. In August, you’ll recall, the FBI released a bulletin blaming the Bay View for what they predicted would be a Black August blood bath for police and prison guards — a bulletin leaked to and reported by KGO-ABC7. I remain convinced that California guards instigated the bulletin’s targeting of the Bay View. But regardless, the FBI prediction was wrong.

The prediction in New Folsom’s letter that the September Bay View would “disrupt the order, or breach the security” of New Folsom or any other prison is just as wrong. The prison’s decision to censor needs to be appealed, and I’d love help with that. Would it also be effective, do you think, to ask people to call the warden? Any other suggestions?

One suggestion I’ve been making in appeals to censorship in other parts of the country is for prison officials to sit down with reps chosen by the prisoners and discuss their complaints and demands — and actually address them. I tell them that California’s doing that, and the prison admins and guards haven’t suffered — in fact, their budget is up once again. We could urge New Folsom to set up meetings like that.

Thanks to each and every one of you for caring that the Bay View survives and reaches its subscribers behind the walls, where, according to CDCr, it persuaded 30,000 California prisoners to participate in the 2013 hunger strike. Many of you know that we’re currently hanging by a threadbare shoelace financially; if it breaks, CDCr can claim the victory. But if we’re able to keep printing the paper, I’ll be damned if CDCr gets away with censoring it.

Mary Ratcliff
SF Bay View

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Monday, September 19

Now the September Bay View is banned in the whole state of Pennsylvania, where we have hundreds of subscribers. The excuse, as at New Folsom Prison in California, is the Sept. 9 prison strike stories.

Strangely, Pennsylvania also banned our August paper for a bizarre reason: They

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Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections, John E. Wetzel

misinterpreted Black August to be a call for a hunger strike. Black August is commemorated partly by fasting during the daytime and breaking the fast in the evening, much like Ramadan. I appealed that but haven’t heard back yet. So I don’t know whether Mumia and hundreds of his comrades in PA ever got their August papers.

Thanks to those of you who have responded to the message I sent out yesterday (below). I’m told the PHSS (Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity) coalition will be discussing it tonight, and Terry Collins will cover the issue on his show tomorrow on KPOO (10pm-midnight).

Please keep in mind that this retaliation against the Bay View is nothing compared to the nationwide retaliation against the strikers and especially anyone fingered as a leader — people in many cases whose words you’ve read in the Bay View, the best and brightest. Remember the retaliation against Georgia prisoners when thousands refused to work for only one day in December 2010: Two of them were beaten with hammers by guards (yes, there’s video on sfbayview.com), another thrown off a tier and dozens disappeared (incommunicado with loved ones) for a month.

While we work to abolish prisons, let’s bring the light of the First Amendment into those dark dungeons. Prisoners must be allowed to COMMUNICATE, a most fundamental human right, and a necessity if we’re going to know what kind of torture we’re paying for.

Since we don’t yet know exactly who is being punished for the strike, taking a united stand against censorship of the Bay View will warn prison officials everywhere not to mess with the prisoners who are only demanding their basic human rights — respect for their humanity.

More suggestions of WHAT WE CAN DO would be greatly appreciated. I know you care, but these prison officials have to know it too.

Mary Ratcliff
SF Bay View

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“Censorship in Solitary Confinement is Psychological Torture” by Michael D. Russell

 

Melvin Ray’s message to Oakland (part 1 of 4)

We understand that this is a continuation of struggles that have been going on much longer than Free Alabama Movement has been in existence.”

These recordings were made by co-founders of Free Alabama Movement while in solitary confinement. They were played over loudspeakers at various stops during the prison strike solidarity march in Oakland, Calif., on September 10, 2016.

 

We always keep the same thing in mind: that Attica was one prison, and the spirit in the demonstration that took place in Attica prison, it changed the entire country.”

Transcript:

Hey what’s up Oakland, all the people out there around the country, this is Bennu Hannibal for Free Alabama Movement, also known as Melvin Ray. We’re down here organizing in the south, glad to be a part of this national demonstration. We understand that this is a continuation of struggles that have been going on much longer than Free Alabama Movement has been in existence. So we ain’t taking no credit for nothing, we’re just assuming our responsibility in the struggle. And we’re glad that so many other people have embraced this nationwide call for a work strike, and we appreciate all the help from all the great people around the country.

Down here in Alabama, you know, we’ve been up against a lot of repression. They’ve been moving several of us around, solitary confinement, moving us from block to block, all different types of things, you know. They put a few of us on isolation where we’re not allowed to access anyone. But you know it has not killed the spirit of what we’re doing. We always keep the same thing in mind: that Attica was one prison, and the spirit in the demonstration that took place in Attica prison, it changed the entire country. So we understand that it doesn’t have to be in Alabama, it doesn’t have to be in Texas, it doesn’t have to be in Florida. It can be at any one prison around the country where the demonstration and the spirit is strong enough to carry the rest of the people. This is what we’re going to do once here we get these issues resolved, alter the 13th Amendment, prison slavery, mass incarceration as a whole, whatever you want to call it. We’re in this fight until the end.

Oakland Meeting & Strike Updates

oakland-prison-strike-graffiti

PRISON STRIKE UPDATES Sept. 19, 2016

1. New Folsom Prison censors the Bay View newspaper due to prison strike news

2. Additional fifth jail block joins Merced prisoner hunger strike

3. Oakland IWOC chapter meeting this Tuesday!

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New Folsom Prison censors the Bay View newspaper

New Folsom Prison outside Sacramento refused to deliver all copies of the September issue of the BayView newspaper due to the inclusion of the article “Sept. 9: Strike Against Prison Slavery”. claiming that it would “disrupt the order or breach the security” of the facility. Sources from elsewhere in the California prison system confirm as well that officials and guards are being hyper vigilant and repressive concerning any possible participation and any news of the strike. They are fucking scared. From Mary Ratcliffe of the Bay View:

“Though this rejection applies to only one prison, New Folsom, it’s the one that’s wired to the capitol — and the guards’ union, CCPOA, is still one of the most powerful lobbies there, not to mention the insatiable budget appetite of CDCr. So New Folsom is a bellwether; other California prisons will follow suit if New Folsom succeeds.

Their objection is to a story headlined “Sept. 9: Strike against prison slavery …” … The major media are calling this Sept. 9 strike the largest prison strike in history. Getting reports from inside is hard and slow, and the strike hasn’t been covered as it should, but there’s coverage by some mainstream press and by the major alternative outlets. CDCr is telling reporters that no California prisoner participated, but some prisoners say otherwise.”

At the upcoming Oakland IWOC meeting on Tues, 9/20, we’ll be discussing ways topush back against the CDCR and  support the Bay View newspaper, one of the few publications in the state to cover prisoners struggles and give space over to prisoner’s writings.

The Bay View is also facing serious financial difficulty at the moment. They need support to continue the work. Please visit their donation page and kick down what you can ; http://sfbayview.com/support/

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Fifth dormitory block joins the Merced prisoner hunger strike. Our interview with the strikers inside.

From the Live Free Merced page:

Block 4 of the Merced County Jail has joined this #HungerStrike in solidarity with their people!!!! This is what tackling the criminalization of our people looks like!

This makes 5 blocks across 2 jails including approximately 125 prisoners that are on hunger strike. They are demanding racial integration, an end to group racial punishment with arbitrary gang classifications, NA/AA programs, and that a racist sadist, one Lieutenant Moore be fired.

Yesterday, Cole from Oakland IWOC interviewed two of the hunger strikers inside Merced County Jail. For a snapshot of what is going down inside there and explanation of their demands, check out the interview here: https://itsgoingdown.org/igdcast-luke-odonavan-merced-hunger-strikers/

Strike representatives are meeting with a Sergeant on Monday, Sept.19 to discuss their demands and the strike. We will have updates on the meeting and conversation to share at Tuesday’s meeting @  Mosswood Park.

For more context, an interview with an outside supporter and organizer as well as the full text of their demands:  https://itsgoingdown.org/igdcast-prisoners-launch-hunger-strike-inside-merceds-concrete-hell/

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Oakland IWOC/supporters meeting this Tuesday 9/20 at 6pm, Mosswood Park

News of various prisoners on strike across the country keep trickling in. News of repression also keeps coming in; threatening prisoners with dogs, teargassing Texas prisoners in their cells, using food as a weapon against a diabetic prisoner, solitary, lockdowns, dumping inbound and outbound mail…. At Holman in Alabama, the warden is intentionally stoking instability and violence in the generall population by dumping en masse predatory prisoners with beef out of segregation into general population. We’ll share what we know and what is underway to track all this and apply pressure.

Also on the agenda:

What is IWOC? How does it work? Do I gotta be a member to put in work? We’ll be talking a little about the structures of the outside solidarity coalition, the relationship between IWOC and the Free Alabama Movement/other prisoner groups, the operating method and structure of IWOC chapters in general and how we all are gonna set up and run this new local here in Oakland. Bring your input! It’ll be what y’all make it.

Tasks in front of us here in Oakland: all sorts of work to do! Fundraising, a hotline for prisoners’ calls, correspondence, media creation, data workkeeping track of everbody inside, propaganda for the street, material support to prisoners and their families…… Whatever your skills or level of interest, there’s something most def to plug into and solid people to work with!

BRING STAMPS, ENVELOPES AND PAPER – We’re gonna get into the correspondence support right then and there. For those that haven’t done prisoner letter writing, we can show you just what is allowed, what gets through the censors, etc.

See y’all there!

Solidarity,
Oakland IWOC

Kinetic Justice Amun – To Abolish Prisons (part 4 of 4)

They will be refusing to work for free, period.

These recordings were made by co-founders of Free Alabama Movement while in solitary confinement. They were played over loudspeakers at various stops during the prison strike solidarity march in Oakland, Calif., on September 10, 2016.

 

To abolish prisons is not just going to happen tomorrow…. But we know it’s a continuous process of steps that must be embarked upon.”

Transcript:

To abolish prisons is not just going to happen tomorrow, it’s not going to just happen overnight. We understand it is a gradual process, it’s a process of steps. But we know it’s a continuous process of steps that must be embarked upon. And this right here is a beginning process, it’s just like in any warfare or in any strategy: to cut off the money, to strangle the money supply. If we cut off the money supply of this prison system, then it’ll become something more akin to a place for treatment, rehab, rehabilitation, and re-entry, rather than just being somewhere where you warehouse and hold people to work them for free. Because it won’t be so profitable to house them here, because they will not be working for free. They will be refusing to work for free, period. And it will begin to cost the state more money to house so many people.