Prisoners at Calipatria Call Off Strike
Why I Chained Myself to the State Building in LA
by Keith James
Two videos of acts of Non-Violent Civil Disobedience in Support of the Prisoners Hunger Strike, to demand an end to the retaliation and torture at the hands of the CDCR and governor Jerry Brown, and a demand that CDCR and Gov. Brown immediately meet the Prisoners' Five Demands.
Videos 2:27 and 2:24 in duration
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In a word, torture… torture in a brutal and barbaric penal system hell-bent on the destruction of thousands of prisoners in high-tech torture chambers called Security Housing Units or SHU’s.
In the SHU you’re locked up in a small, windowless concrete cell 23 hours a day, with minimum human contact and maximum sensory deprivation. Imagine your only human contact with the outside world is the punch of a prison guard, or a violent gas explosion as part of “extracting” you from your cell. Imagine never hearing music ever again.
Think about everything that makes you human… that keeps you physically and mentally alive… that connects you with the world and other people… that gives you a reason to live, to love, to learn and think…. All this is what the SHU tries to extinguish.
Of the 1100 prisoners in the SHU in Pelican Bay State Prison, over 500 have been literally buried alive in the SHU, entombed, for over 10 years; 78 for over 20 years. The cruelty and illegitimacy of the State of California ’s actions must stop and stopping torture requires such inhumanity becoming a MAJOR focus of resistance in society.
Prisoners at Pelican Bay and other state prisons have rebelled against all this; for 20 days in July and now for 19 days, from September 26 to October 14, upwards of 12,000 courageous prisoners have carried out a hunger strike. The prisoners stopped eating, risked their lives, and made their just and reasonable demands to end long term solitary confinement and torture, and snatched the initiative from the prison authorities, spotlighting a towering crime that has been for far too long covered up.
What these prisoners have done is truly heroic. They are an inspiration, setting an example for everyone fighting for an end to injustice, and we must come to their side.
Yet in California the Governor supports the prison officials in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation(CDCR). As the CDCR viciously intensified their almost unimaginably cruel treatment of prisoners who are on a hunger strike with even greater repression and violence these past weeks and months, Gov. Brown fully backed the assault, saying: “We have individuals who are dedicated to their gang membership who order people to be killed, who order crimes to be committed on the outside. My recommendation is to deal effectively with gangs in prison.” No, Governor Brown - torture is unequivocally unacceptable, no matter what labels are put on prisoners. This is why I chained myself to the State Building in Los Angeles .
The CDCR response to this hunger strike has been vicious, outrageous, and ominous: intimidation and retaliation against prisoners and their families; “general population” prisoners put into isolation for participating in the hunger strike; fluids and vitamins deliberately withheld to further incapacitate the striking prisoners; expulsion orders to two key mediation team lawyers who have been banned from Pelican Bay prison pending an investigation into whether they had “jeopardized the safety and security of the CDCR”; denial of family visits; further isolation of hunger striking SHU prisoners by placing them “down under” in Administrative Segregation Units, in extreme cold with no medicine and medical attention; brutal cell extractions of hunger striking prisoners, with the use of suffocating gas explosions in the prisoners cells….
What people do on the outside of prison will be a big factor in what happens now that the prison authorities have reacted with vicious reprisals against prisoners, families, and legal advocates. The hunger strike has been halted for now. The torture, despite an epic struggle, continues… the 5 demands of the prisoners have NOT yet been met… but many, many more people, millions more, learned about the SHU’s and thousands today are looking for ways to act to put an end to such inhuman, punitive treatment.
We have a moral responsibility to act in a way that corresponds with the justness of the prisoners’ demands and with what is truly at stake. In the words of Revolution newspaper, a determined and bold movement outside the walls of prison is urgently needed to expose and demand an end to these high-tech torture chambers called “SHU’s”. That’s why I chained myself to the State Building in Los Angeles .