Posted 10 years ago on Feb. 19, 2012, 12:34 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Updated with new cities and actions! This Monday, Feb. 20th, is the National Occupy Day of Action In Support of Prisoners. For information on events in Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Durham, Eureka, Fresno, Indio, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, SF Bay Area, and Washington, DC, see here. Prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary will refuse food in solidarity on Monday.
The following statement was issued by a group of formerly-incarcerated members of All of Us Or None and Occupy For Prisoners. For more about why this protest has been called, see below.
To the Occupy Oakland family, all supporters of Occupy Oakland, and the larger Occupy Wall Street movement:
We are writing to appreciate everyone who has ever supported PEOPLE inside jails, prisons, and detention facilities throughout the country. We are also writing to ask for support from everyone planning to participate in February 20th National Day of Occupy in Support of Prisoners. PEOPLE in prisons – a nice name for cages – as well as formerly imprisoned PEOPLE, are one of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in our society. We have been labeled as “offenders”, “criminals”, “convicts”, “ex-offenders”, “ex-cons”, and many other dehumanizing terms, and are scapegoated for causing society’s fundamental problems. We are PEOPLE, and not the labels they use. The real “criminals” are those who run Wall Street, who are responsible for genocide, racism, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination. They lead the attacks against communities throughout America.
Feb 20th is a National Day to support PEOPLE inside cages who express their solidarity with the 99% and to support PEOPLE seeking social, economic, and other forms of justice. With the help of our supporters, allies, and larger communities, we aim to create a safe space to allow the voices of PEOPLE in captivity to be heard.
Many of us inside as well as out in the “free” world live by a code of conduct and support self-determination. We strive to build and follow leadership in our collective and public actions. We do not advance individual agendas over our collective needs. We further pledge to treat each other with respect and not allow differences to divide us, to accept responsibility for any acts that may have caused harm to our families, our communities or ourselves, and to play an active role in making our communities safe for everyone.
Seldom if ever, are people inside asked or given a safe space to tell their stories. The broader Occupy Oakland and general public need to know what is going on inside these cages, how the bottom of the 99% are treated by the 1%, and the need to meaningfully include people inside as we build our collective efforts.
We ask everyone reading these words to support our efforts to create a safe, secure and genuinely inclusive space for people inside, and to build a genuine role for their voices in the February 20th National Day of Occupy in Support of Prisoners. We do not want to create or exacerbate conditions that endanger anyone’s freedom. We know police have attacked our sisters and brothers at Occupy encampments all over the country. We ask everyone participating to remember that for many of us even a mass arrest could escalate to a parole violation and a return to prison. We also want to guarantee the safety of family members with loved ones inside because they are the lifeline for PEOPLE in cages.
We ask you to be our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers!
Formerly-Incarcerated People from All of Us or None and Occupy for Prisoners
Original Call-out from Occupy Oakland
“We are calling for February 20th, 2012 to be a ‘National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners.’
“In the Bay Area we will ‘Occupy San Quentin,’ to stand in solidarity with the people confined within its walls and to demand the end of the incarceration as a means of containing those dispossessed by unjust social policies.
Prisons have become a central institution in American society, integral to our politics, economy and our culture.
Between 1976 and 2000, the United States built on average a new prison each week and the number of imprisoned Americans increased tenfold.
Prison has made the threat of torture part of everyday life for millions of individuals in the United States, especially the 7.3 million people—who are disproportionately people of color—currently incarcerated or under correctional supervision.
Imprisonment itself is a form of torture. The typical American prison, juvenile hall and detainment camp is designed to maximize degradation, brutalization, and dehumanization.
Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow. Between 1970 and 1995, the incarceration of African Americans increased 7 times. Currently African Americans make up 12 % of the population in the U.S. but 53% of the nation’s prison population. There are more African Americans under correctional control today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
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.
In addition, the Center for Economic and Policy Research estimated that in 2008 alone there was a loss in economic input associated with people released from prison equal to $57 billion to $65 billion.
We call on Occupies across the country to support:
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.
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.
Freeing political prisoners, such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Lynne Stewart, B. Manning and Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, a Black Panther Party member incarcerated since 1969.
Demanding an end to the repression of activists, specifically the targeting of African Americans and those with histories of incarceration, such as Khali in Occupy Oakland who could now face a life sentence, on trumped-up charges, and many others being falsely charged after only exercising their First Amendment rights.
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.
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.