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Jul 15, 2015

More On Mass Actions

Jose H. Villarreal, PBSP


From Prison Focus Issue 46

I recently heard about the mass actions going on out in society
to raise awareness about the upcoming court date [for Ashker class action].
It’s important that people outside of SHU, and outside of
prison for that matter, get involved in our efforts because on
some level what we are going through affects everyone. So
in that sense participation is key.
The recent monthly actions have been held on the 23rd
of each month where folks have been raising awareness out
on the streets. The idea of involving people in the anti-SHU
or anti-solitary struggle is important, but I think it’s [also]
important to cast our net wide in order to build momentum.
I think after the court date in December that people exploring
ways to better get folks on the streets involved in prison
struggles for human rights start thinking of creating a day of
action which is more inclusive of various prisoners, not just a
certain demographic. It is understandable that we keep focus
on SHU and ad seg prisoners, but the issue of prison oppression
is scaling the walls of the maximum security prisoner
whether we like it or not. The struggle for prisoners’ rights,
or prison reform is stretching out to other prisons and even
other states.
A day designated at prisoners’ Human Rights Day should
be a day that includes prisoners throughout the U.S. and in
every prison. It should be a day which has historically represented
prisoners struggling for justice, a day which represents
all prisoners struggling against state repression. As I
scoured various dates the only one which signifi es this the
most is September 9th, the date of the Attica Uprising where
all prisoner rose up against the state to reclaim their humanity.
The date of September 9th would be inclusive of all prisoners
throughout the U.S. and can be used to highlight the
history of prisoners in the U.S. not just suffering oppression,
but resisting as a class against the state. It would get wider
swath of people to get involved and take notice about not just
solitary or SHU issues, but for prisoners in general. It would
open up these efforts to a larger audience than just the current
friends and family of SHU prisoners. Our sights should be
set on shooting for a complete U.S. prison-wide movement
for change.
The efforts created from within the SHU are spreading and
affecting laws and reforms spanning across the U.S. in regards
to prisons, our ideas and days of action should not lag
behind these developments but instead lead them. ●
[Ed’s Note: Jose’s piece points to the need for prisoners to
honor the struggles of those past by having a generally accepted
Prisoners’ Day. I agree that the Attica uprising should
be the event we celebrate each year on September 9th. In fact
I’ve done so for many years. Every September, in whatever
publication I was putting out at the time, I always tried to
have something on the Attica uprising. Sadly, I’ve not done
so in years. I’ll look for some of those old Attica articles I’ve
written over the years and share some of the better ones with
readers in future issues of Prison Focus.
I’ve been noticing what appears to be a trend in which
prisoners are agitating for outside people to fight your battle
for you, while you passively sit back and eat Bonbons. I’ve
been here before, more than a few times. As soon as you forget
that it is your struggle and your responsibility to fight it,
when you fail to remember that the only reason you have any
outside support at all is because of the sacrifices of the SHU
prisoners, then you have lost all understanding of the dynamics
of this struggle. As soon as you rely on people other
than prisoners you are plunging a knife in the back of the
movement. Your base is prisoners, and from that everything
else flows. Look to outside volunteers too much and you burn
them out. Look to the courts, legislature, or executive branch
for relief, you are pissing up a rope. Remember, self-reliance
in all things!]

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