by Terri Kay, originally published on Workers World, August 28, 2018
Prisoners across the country are striking in response to an April 15 prison-guard-incited riot at Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Bishopville, S.C. Seven prisoners were killed in what was the deadliest prison riot in 25 years.
A network of self-taught legal scholars called Jailhouse Lawyers Speak issued the call for a national strike, with 10 demands. Among them are “humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform, voting rights and the end of modern day slavery.” The prisoners have called on outside supporters to amplify their voices.
The 19-day strike was launched on Aug. 21 — the 47th anniversary of the murder of George Jackson, a revolutionary African-American prison organizer and author, who was killed at San Quentin Prison. It will last until Sept. 9 — the 47th anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion, the largest prison uprising of the 1970s prison movement. A growing prisoner-led resistance movement has been shaped by national coordination of direct action inside the prisons.
Actions inside the walls confirmed by the strike website so far are:
- 200 ICE detainees at Northwest Detention Center, Tacoma, Wash., initiate hunger strike and work stoppage
- David Easley and James Ward are on hunger strike in the Toledo Correctional Institution, Ohio
- 100 prisoners organized a rally, displaying banners “Parole,” “Better Food” and “In Solidarity” on the yard at the Hyde Correctional Institution, N.C.
- Work stoppage of all prisoners in the McCormick Correctional Institution, S.C.
- Palestinian political prisoners gave a statement of solidarity from their prisons in occupied Palestine
- Revolutionary artist Heriberto Sharky Garcia declares a hunger strike at Folsom Prison in Represa, Calif.
- Nonviolent protest at Burnside Jail in Halifax, Calif., publishing their demands in solidarity
Solidarity actions outside the walls this week include:
- Aug. 21 – National Prison Strike Solidarity Demonstration, 1445 E. Grand Ave, Des Moines, Iowa, hosted by Central Iowa DSA
- Aug. 21 – Nat Turner Day Noise Demo, Metropolitan Detention Center, New York City, hosted by RAM & NYC Anarchist Black Cross
- Aug. 21 – National Prison Strike Kickoff Rally, University of Washington, Seattle, hosted by Seattle IWW Black & Pink and Sawari Mi at Durant Park
- Aug. 21 – Awareness March, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose, Calif., hosted by California Prison Focus
- Aug. 21 – Noise Demo, Elliot Park, Minneapolis, hosted by Twin Cities Anti-Repression
- Aug. 21 – Noise Demo, Twin Towers Jail, Los Angeles, hosted by IWW GDC
- Aug. 25 – Solidarity Rally, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, Calif., hosted by the Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee
- Aug. 25 – Rally, Lee Correctional Institution, Bishopville, S.C., hosted by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Students for Justice in Palestine at University of South Carolina
- Aug. 25 – Solidarity with the National Prison Strike, 501 S. Calhoun St., Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by the Party for Socialism and Liberation
- Aug. 26 – 13th Film Viewing and Panel Discussion, 4799 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, Calif., hosted by Liberated Lens
About 200 people rallied on Aug. 25 at San Quentin State Prison, in an action organized by the Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee. Speakers included Bilal Ali, Poor Magazine; Cole Dorsey, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee; Joey Villarreal, formerly incarcerated; Nube Brown, California Prison Focus; Steven Bingham, George Jackson’s former lawyer; Jeremy Miller, Idriss Stelley Foundation; and Terri Kay, Workers World Party.
The Bay Area National Prison Strike Support Committee is a regional network including POOR Magazine/Poor People’s Revolutionary Radio, the Anti Police-Terror Project, Workers World Party, California Prison Focus, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (Oakland) and the Democratic Socialists of America (San Francisco).
(WW photo: Terri Kay)