AUDIO excerpts: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/03/17/18709496.php
VIDEO excerpt, Daniel Hazen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0G8qTcOF4M
VIDEO excerpt, Sara Shourd, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal: Shane, Josh, and Sarah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIrW50s0DLU
Free Speech Radio News: http://fsrn.org/audio/prisoners-activists-bring-attention-us-criminal-justice-system/9873
O4P REPORT ON OCCUPY SAN QUENTIN
The Feb. 20 Occupy Day for Prisoners marked the historic merging of the Occupy movement with prison abolition organizations working in the trenches for decades. We believe it was crucial to join these forces, to further consciousness among Occupy activists about the other 1%, the 2.5 million incarcerated people. As the Occupy movement has brought economic injustice to the forefront of the political conversation, we envision Occupy for Prisoners expanding awareness of the racialized caste system of mass incarceration as both a foundational element and an outcome of centuries-old US racism and economic injustice.
Although human rights have never been consistently respected in American prisons, in the last few decades of explosive mass incarceration there has been a drastic decline in humane treatment. Activists in the Bay Area chose to demonstrate at San Quentin, which houses California’s Death Row and is representative of inhumane conditions nationwide. Imprisoned people are now more clearly included amongst Occupy zones – places that need to be reclaimed by a humanitarian and liberatory consciousness.
In the lead-up to the event formerly incarcerated people, led by All of Us or None, called for the day to be peaceful and non-violent, in order to protect formerly incarcerated people and families of those currently imprisoned attending. In response Occupy Oakland Non-Violent Caucus ran trainings in peaceful non-violent presence early on Feb. 20, prior to loading people on buses from downtown Oakland. During the rally Occupy For Prisoners activists, including clergy, formed a human buffer between protestors and heavily-armed San Quentin snipers and guards. In addition, the Connection Action Project set up a sacred prayer/empathy circle near the prison gate to offer emotional support. The day was entirely peaceful, with many opportunities for those most affected by the prison industrial complex to speak their truth, as well as for those relatively less impacted to act in solidarity.
The crowd that day, combining formerly incarcerated people, loved ones of those currently inside, Occupy activists and prison abolitionists, was family-friendly and included children and elders. Crowd estimates averaged around 800, and the colorful banners, artwork, and passionate speakers created a liberated zone even in the “valley of the shadow of death” that is San Quentin. Having an opening invocation by First Nation activist Lenny Foster and drumming by youth firmly established the peaceful and sacred intent of the gathering – to show that with the consciousness of unity and liberation we have the power to make great changes. This unity was also reflected in the words chanted as Occupy Oakland arrived – “Inside, outside, we’re all on the same side.”
The program provided a rarely seen public space for amplifying the voices of incarcerated people. Throughout the day, words from well-known political and politicized prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Kevin Cooper, the Pelican Bay hunger strikers, and Yassin Aref in addition to less well-known voices from inside the walls filled the air. devorah major, former San Francisco poet laureate, shared a powerful spoken word piece, and Jabari Shaw performed a rap on the prison system as modern day slavery . Linda Evans and Dorsey Nunn from All of Us or None and Barbara Bechnel from the STW Legacy Network were the emcees, and most of the speakers were formerly incarcerated people and their families.
The topics covered a wide range of struggles around human rights for imprisoned people: the abolishment of unjust sentences and inhumane conditions (especially solitary confinement), solidarity with hunger strikers, the needs of women in prison, freeing political prisoners, ending the repression of activists, and spending our taxes on the needs of our communities rather than prisons.
Mumia Abu-Jamal and Michelle Alexander among many others have called for a massive social justice movement to end mass incarceration in the US, and Occupy for Prisoners will continue to respond to those calls by organizing, politicizing, identifying the issues and building solidarity with all imprisoned, oppressed people. We will provide an energetic presence of movement-building outside the walls to reflect and support the dynamic and visionary organizing already occurring within the walls. The success of the national day of protest on Feb. 20 lends a militant optimism to the moment – LA LUCHA CONTINUA!
(For more about the day, see Wanda Sabir’s detailed article – with pictures – at http://wandasabir.blogspot.com/2012/02/occupy-san-quentin.html)