Support grows for California prisoners’ hunger strike

From: Workers World

By Sharon Danann
Published Jul 13, 2011

Even California prison authorities acknowledge that 6,600 prisoners were participating in the hunger strike called by inmates in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit over the “Fourth of July” weekend. (Los Angeles Times, July 9) Pelican Bay is California’s supermax prison. The prisoners in the SHU are in solitary confinement, some for decades.

(Photo: Cleveland activists hold informational picket
and leafleting July 9 in solidarity with
California prisoners. WW photo: Susan Schnur)

More than one-third of California’s 33 prisons had inmates refusing food, many of whom are also in SHUs. There is widespread support for the hunger strikers’ demands for such basic human rights as an end to collective punishment and to long-term isolation, adequate food and a phone call a week.

Support for the hunger strike spread worldwide. On July 3 in Perth, Australia, as part of a celebration of Aboriginal survival, the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee held an action in solidarity with the hunger strike. On July 4 activists in Kingston, Ontario, unfurled a huge banner saying “Collins Bay to Pelican Bay, Solidarity for Prisoners on Strike.” Inmates in Collins Bay Federal Penitentiary there started a work stoppage June 28 to address the issues of overcrowding and prison conditions.

Dancers from Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc in Los Angeles performed ceremonial dances in front of Pelican Bay prison on July 4. Supporters held rallies in cities in the U.S. and Canada almost daily from July 1 to July 9, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Eureka, Calif.; Seattle; Harrisonburg and Blacksburg, Va.; Cleveland; New York; Montreal and Toronto.

Activists in Montreal are hosting a “Contractor Crawl” to “discover some of Montreal’s prison contractors on July 16. On July 23 there is a rally at Ohio State Penitentiary at 2 p.m., followed by a program on torture in today’s prisons at 4:30, both in Youngstown. For more information contact

Solidarity from behind the walls

In the supermax unit at OSP, prisoners went on a 36-hour solidarity hunger strike from July 1 to July 2. Among these was Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, one of three OSP prisoners who were able to improve the terms of their confinement through a hunger strike in January of this year. All three were sentenced to death as the result of their alleged roles in the 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville, Ohio.

In his solidarity message to the California prisoners entitled “United We Stand,” Imam Hasan proclaimed,

“Their injustices have been going on for far too long. … Twenty-five years is too long for human beings to be subjected to the cruel terms and dictates of their oppressors.”

Lucasville uprising hunger striker Jason Robb wrote,

“I can fully understand and respect the path [the Pelican Bay hunger strikers] chose. They have made a decision that is not easy at best, but men must stand as men or be subject to being treated as less.”

The third Lucasville uprising hunger striker, Bomani Shakur, posted in his “Letter of Support” at

“In a country that incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world (over 2.6 million men and women behind bars), human rights violations are inevitable, and it falls to those of us who must suffer through the experience to stand up and speak truth to power, for as Frederick Douglass suggested: ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’ In the days to come, the men at Pelican Bay will need each and every one of us to support them, to stand with them as they seek to bring their situation to a tolerable level.”

For the complete list of hunger strike demands, a link to an electronic petition, up-to-date event information, and what you can do to help, visit

Danann is a member of the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network and visits prisoners in OSP, Ohio’s supermax prison.