Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike International Solidarity Day success
Thousands of human rights defenders gathered in cities across globe on Monday to observe International Day of Solidarity and Support for California Prisoners’ Hunger Strike and to support the strikers’ Five Core Demands according to reports collected by the writer from non-government rights groups. Events were held from California to Little Rock and New York, into Canada and across to Australia, and England, all due to the now historical peaceful strike leaders at Pelican Bay Prison who were honored Monday, as eyes also pierced human rights abuses occurring daily with impunity in America’s prisons, one of ten telltale signs of every police state according to scholars such as Naomi Wolf.
Blood and feces, freshly smeared over old stains of the same, decked the small dark prison cell walls where a loud wailing was heard from the prisoner who continued cutting himself. A guard explained to the therapist visiting the solitary confinement unit, or Solitary Housing Unit (SHU) in an Arkansas prison, that the inmate was “just acting mentally ill to get transferred out of solitary and into a mental ward. But that doesn’t work.”
What does seem to be working in terms of basic prison reform is due to hunger strike prisoner leaders at California’s Pelican Bay Prison in ways they may not have imagined. Their starving for over three weeks has raised awareness of the wailing not only in California’s SHUs, but also those where almost 100,000 other tortured people are kept in America’s hell-hole SHUs in 44 states.
In build-up to Monday’s day of solidarity with Pelican Bay Prison leaders, over 150 religious communities of Roman Catholic nuns mailed letters of support of the prisoners’ Five Core Demands to Governor Jerry Brown.
“The communities range from the Congregation of St. Joseph to the Loretto Sisters to the Sisters of Mercy. Each religious community represents from 100 to 18,000 nuns nationally and internationally,” stated the Prisoner Strike Solidarity group that formed as a rapid response when the strike began July 1.
In another recent preparation meeting for Monday’s solidarity day, therapist Anna Cox cited the Supreme Court declaration that California’s prison system is “incompatible with the concept of human dignity, causing needless suffering and death.” Such was written in her organization’s proclamation signed in solidarity with Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strikers.
Cox heads the national non-profit organization, Compassion Works for All, www.JustUsFriends.org, that has now officially extended solidarity with California prisoners. It has over 1000 members. She told the Examiner that the hunger strike prisoners “have risked their lives for human rights.” Among the text of Compassion Works for All’s solitary declaration is the following:
“We urge all compassionate individuals to help shine a light on this peaceful demonstration to bring about change.
“We all know that riots and violence would bring immediate and dramatic attention to their issues, but instead they demonstrate that even those who often lived in violent homes and communities, who perpetrated violence against others, who have been subject to violence by the state, may still rise above all violence – and may help bring an end to violence – by risking their lives to benefit the most hated and discarded peoples of our society, our prisoners.
“Throughout the world, not just in California, we allow our prisoners to suffer in egregious circumstances. This does nothing other than exacerbate the cycle of crime, violence, and alarming and bankrupting rates of imprisonment.
“We lend our voice to theirs.”
An international call for anti-torture supporters of Pelican Bay Prison Strikers had been made only a week ago. World Can’t Wait and prisoners’ families had agreed the international day of action was needed. The idea was to hold demonstrations, rallies, community events, music and shows on August 1, and to continue building momentum for the California legislative hearing slated for August 23rd.
Monday, supporters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Little Rock, and New York held rallies, speak-outs and declaration signings in solidarity with the estimated 7000 California prisoner participants of the hunger strike that began at Pelican Bay Prison on July 1, rapidly expanded to 15 other prisons and then prompted rolling fasts throughout the nation that is ongoing.
International Day of Solidarity aimed to support the inmates’ five core demands to be met and for there to be no retaliation of the prisoners who protested in the peaceful strike. According to Prisoner Strike Solidarity group, supporters are continuing to show support by participating in rolling fasts, writing letters to legislators, and words of encouragement and support to prisoners.
Tactics of extreme isolation, social deprivation and torturous conditions are used on 100,000 inmates throughout the U.S. where some 60 Super-max (super-maximum security) prisons are operating in 44 states, one reason the prisoner solidarity movement is growing as quickly as it is.
In each Super-max SHU across the nation, people are living in deplorable conditions. The five demands to address those conditions that the California prisoners drafted are in accordance to basic human rights, U.S. constitution, and Geneva Convention Against Torture:
- End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse
- Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria
- Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement
- Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food
- Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.
“People locked up throughout all prisons continuously resist repression and torture everyday, often working together in forms of both spontaneous and well-organized massive resistance,” according to Prisoner Hunger Solidarity Group.
Little Rock human rights defenders join the struggle
Monday night in the Quaker House in Little Rock, fifteen peace and justice leaders of state groups met and announced their solidarity with the prisoners. Veteran human rights and peace and justice leader, 83-year old Jean Gordon who heads the Arkansas Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), shared the organization’s freshly drafted Declaration of Solidarity with California Prisoners. This Declaration includes:
“ARKANSAS WAND commends the thousands of inmates at Pelican Bay Prison, California, who are courageously engaged in a non-violent hunger strike to bring about humanitarian conditions at their institution and all others in the state.
“… We know that riots and violence would bring immediate and dramatic attention to their issues, but instead these prisoners demonstrate that even those who have experienced violence in their lives may rise above violence – and may help bring an end to violence – by risking their lives to benefit the most discarded peoples of our society, our prisoners.”
American torture for profit
At the Little Rock gathering, representatives from other state organizations were quick to commit to drafting their own declarations, offered to send copies of them to Governor Jerry Brown and to their own governor, Mike Bebee. Participants asked how and why the United States is allowing such atrocities to 100,000 people kept in in SHUs .
The prison industrial complex is a $50 billion enterprise and booming that one non-profit organization, in solidarity with Pelcan Bay prisoners, the National Prison Industry Divestment Campaign (NPID), is working to expose. (See: “7000 Calif. prisoners’ hunger strike to end their torture, a historical event,” Dupré, D.)
Profiteering of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, the biggest private prison companies in the US, are making millions off of the criminalization and incarceration of immigrants and communities of color at expense of Americans’ tax dollars.
NPID is calling on all prison shareholders to divest from the prison industry. Restorative Justice more effectively manages crime, accountability and healing.
Spotlight on torture in U.S. growing brighter
In London, the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group have demonstrated support California tortured prisoners. It has been suggested that Americans reciprocate since prison abuse is global.
“People can return the solidarity by learning about Brendan Lillis and his support campaign there by visiting www.facebook.com/groups/Friends.Of.Brendan.Lillis/,”) Kay Kersplebedeb stated Tuesday to the active Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Solidarity group on Facebook where prisoner attorneys and family members have joined forces.
With SHUs across the nation, except rare states such as Maine that has opted for a less expensive, safer and more humane method of managing inmates, Pelican Bay Prisoners’ peaceful actions may have empowered the nation’s most oppressed in other prisons, such as in Indiana.
Days before the Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike officially ended at most California prisons, the state of Indiana’s Department of Corrections put all state prisons on lock-down in response to a stabbing that solidarity groups comment, was “no doubt instigated by guards.”
“Prisoners in Indiana’s SHU joined together in resistance once the prison administration cut off all electricity and water in the prisons,” stated the solidarity group.
“Supporters are calling for an emergency call-in day Monday and Tuesday in solidarity with the Wabash protesters.”
Representatives from organizations across the nation, now in solidarity with California prisoners, have each expressed similar sentiments to the nuns in solidarity, “We are with each of the prisoners and their supporters and loved ones in this struggle and extend our prayers of love, peace and support.”