Rally to Show Solidarity for Striking Georgia Prisoners By Phillip Reynes
Rally to Show Solidarity for Striking Georgia Prisoners
By Phillip Reynes
Note: We are having problems uploading pictures and so the pictures will be found as attachments at the bottom of the article. COIMC is working to resolve this issue as soon as posible.
It was cold and my hands felt it, I could not wear gloves and work my camera, when I arrived at the new jail that Denver had built on Elate and Colfax to cover the rally in solidarity with the skiting Georgia inmates. I had just heard the strike had ended and wondered if this would effect the turn out. As it turned out nobody knew this at the rally. Despite this fact it was good to see so many cared enough to come out in support of these inmates who exhibit great courage in doing what they have done. I can't help but feel that the state will take it's own revenge against the leaders of the strike.
Regardless, today marks the end of a seven-day strike where tens of thousands of inmates in Georgia refused to work or leave their cells until their demands had been met. The odd thing is, that until today, no one had ever heard about this strike. Unless you read COIMC or are very media savvy and know where to look on line.
It was already dark when I arrived at 5:00 pm for the six o'clock rally. I reflected on Georgia's bad weather as I shivered and waited for the rally to start. The turnout, considering the cold was good, as 20 or so people arrived to show there support and hoist signs showing their solidarity with the Georgia prisoners.
Inmates in ten Georgia prisons, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, to name a few, went on strike last Thursday to protest their treatment and demand their human rights. Rights that are basic to us all. Dostoevski said: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” American prisons are amongst the worst in the developed world and everyone everyplace but America knows this sad fact. That is with the exception of the people in this crowd and the aware who support them.
The signs they held aloft made it clear that they understood the inhumanity of the United States Penal system. A national shame that is just not discussed in the news. The USA does indeed toucher prisoners by keep vast numbers locked away in solitary for little reason. We operate labor camps. We, our government in our name, give less then substandard health care to inmates as well as bad food and inhuman living conditions. We, the United States have 4.7% of the worlds population and more then 25% of all the prisoners on the entire planet according to the US department of justice, see the bureau of justice statistics web site. Some understand this sad fact.
Our political leaders, be they republican or democrat have something in common. They have all sought to keep their power by diverting the citizens anger from themselves to groups that can not defend themselves due to poverty, or lack of resources. These groups can't defend themselves and make good scapegoats. As H.L. Mencken said; “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” Yet, these protesters show through their signs that they have not fallen for this simplistic yet effective political tactic.
Crime and criminals are the hobgoblins be they sex offenders or murderers, so are immigrants, people on welfare, and governments like Iraq, Cuba, and Argentina. By turning the populaces attention to these things, by exaggerating their dangers (like the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the sex offender scare) they divert the peoples attention away from the basic failures of the American system and preserve the wealth of those that profit from these failures. It is the wealth of the top 1/2% that our politicians serve and the prison system is one tool they use to serve these interest.
This was a small demonstration. But small or not it was a savvy crowd that understood the issues. There where IWW people in the demonstration, you can see their sign in one of the pictures here. All gathered agreed that prison, especially American prisons as they are run today are inhumane.
There was a certainly more then a little humor to be seen to if one can find humor in such a sad state of affairs as our criminal justice system. One protester held aloft a torch power by bacon fat. I wish I had asked him about the symbolism of it. Did the fat symbolize the rich? Was a pork product used to symbolize the police, the servants of the rich. It was an interesting symbol this flam of freedom. I had to laugh at it.
At the end of the rally Dave, from Denver Anarchist Black Cross gave a little talk on the situation in Georgia. Despite him being unaware that the strike had ended, I can't fault him it literally had just ended, it was a good talk. I could not hear it all from where I stood but I hope he went over the demands of the prisoners.
According to an article by Facing South, Department of Corrections have been nervous about deteriorating conditions in Georgia’s prisons since early 2010. Wardens started triple bunking prisoners in response to budget cuts — squeezing three prisoners into cells intended for one. Prison officials have kept a watchful eye out for prisoners to, meaning their fear of a prison riot, as well as for prisoners’ rights lawyers to litigate, or both.
Poor conditions and substandard medical care are also on the inmates’ list of demands. However, the inmates main gripe seems to center on landing recognition as workers entitled to fair pay.
As it goes, prisoners in Georgia are forced to work without pay for their labor — seemingly a violation of the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude.
For months the prisoners had apparently used cell phones to get in touch with inmates from other prisons, organizing a non-violent strike. Not the sort of action the conservative wold expect as the conservative right would have you believe that they (the inmates) are animals and the worst of the worst in society. The outcome began the morning of Dec. 9 — by Dec. 13 the GDC issued a statement that four prisons were completely on strike.
An interview with one of the strike leaders revealed that every group of inmates in the prison had been working together. “They want to break up the unity we have here,” said an anonymous strike leader in an interview with the Black Agenda Report. “We have the Crips and the Bloods, we have the Muslims, we have the head Mexicans, and we have the Aryans all with a peaceful understanding, all on common ground.” Again, not the action of inhuman people here but constructive politicaly motivated action that is dangerous to the myths that are propagated by the state.
The largest prison strike in American history seems like a topic ripe for the press, however there was no mention of it anywhere in mainstream media. Could it be that corporate media has no interest in reporting on it because it to serves the top 1/2% and not you the little working man? Smaller outlets like Black Agenda Report and Facing South (Institute for Southern Studies) have been covering the strike since day one.
Perhaps there was a larger hand at play — one that did not want the deplorable conditions of the Georgia prison system to surface. If Wikileaks has taught us anything, it is that the revolution will be televised.
The prisoners demands where:
A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.
DECENT HEALTH CARE: In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.
AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.
DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS: Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.
NUTRITIONAL MEALS: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.
VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.
ACCESS TO FAMILIES: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.
JUST PAROLE DECISIONS: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.
The inmates have ended there self imposed lock down and strike. But, and it is a big but, they will take stronger action soon if their demands are not met. I hope that we will all stand with them if it comes to that, I know the people at this solidarity rally will.