Film: Attica showing on Sept 12th in SF

Wed. Sept. 12, 7pm
2969 Mission St. at 26th, SF (near 24th St. BART)

Film Showing
“Attica”
a film by Cinda Firestone

With discussion of the recent California prisoner hunger strikes and the history of struggle for prisoner rights.

Social unrest in the United States hit a boiling point on September 9, 1971, when inmates at Attica State Prison—after months of protesting inhumane living conditions—revolted, seizing part of the prison and taking 35 hostages. The uprising resulted in the death of 43 people after troopers were called in to suppress the rioters.

Three years later, Cinda Firestone released this monumental investigation of the rebellion and its aftermath, piecing together documentary footage of the occupation and ensuing assault with video from the McKay Commission hearings that criticized Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller’s handling of the incident and firsthand interviews with prisoners discharged after the event.

Unavailable for 33 years, Attica still is a sobering and revealing look into the heart of American justice, weighing the costs of institutional dishonesty and abuses of power against the price some will pay to retain human dignity. — www.atticathefilm.com (1974)

$5-10 donation (no one turned away for lack of funds)
Wheelchair accessible. Refreshments provided.

Sponsored by ANSWER Coalition.
More info: 415-821-6545, www.ANSWERsf.org

Sometimes I think this whole world is one big prison yard…


Dylan’s song by Steele Pulse

George Jackson by Walter Rodney, on History is a Weapon

From: Workers World (Aug 14th 2011):

40 years of fighting prison slavery

By Judy Greenspan
Oakland, Calif.
Published Aug 14, 2011

The revolutionary movements abroad for national liberation and the rebellions in major urban cities in this country in the 1960s inspired a revolutionary development within the prisoners’ movement that rocked the foundations of the most repressive apparatus of the state. California’s Pelican Bay prisoners are continuing that struggle today.

This summer is the 40th anniversary of the 1971 assassination of George Jackson, a revolutionary Black leader of the struggles of California prisoners and also of the Attica Rebellion, a massive protest against the dehumanization and torture of prisoners in a New York state prison. These two events inspired the growth of the prisoners’ rights movement.

Prison authorities reacted with the proliferation of security housing units — a 23-hour-a-day lockdown for prisoners who dare to challenge the torture and brutality of the inhumane prison system.

George Jackson & the Soledad Brothers

“I could be killed tomorrow but there … would be two to three hundred people to take my place,” said George Jackson. (Interviews with Karen Wald, May 16 and June 29, 1971)

Jackson was serving a one-year-to-life sentence in the California prisons for stealing $70 from a gas station in Los Angeles. He spent much of his time inside reading the texts of revolutionary leaders, including Mao Zedong, Kwame Nkrumah, Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap. He patiently explained his revolutionary thoughts to other prisoners.

On Jan. 13, 1970, prison guards fired into the prison yard at Soledad Prison after a fistfight broke out, killing three Black prisoners. A group of prisoners organized a hunger strike demanding justice. Three days later, the guards were exonerated in court, and within a half-hour of the court ruling, a guard was beaten and thrown from a yard tower to his death.

Jackson and two other prisoners, Fleeta Drumgo and John W. Clutchette, were charged with first-degree murder. The three men became known as the Soledad Brothers. Their case gave rise to a broad movement of support on behalf of Jackson and the other prisoners.

Six months later, when George Jackson was being brought into the Marin County Courthouse with a group of prisoners, his younger brother, Jonathan Jackson, was killed, along with two prisoners and a judge, after engineering a failed attempt to force the freedom of the Soledad Brothers.

George Jackson was assassinated by prison guards on Aug. 21, 1971, shortly after being brought to San Quentin’s Adjustment Center maximum-security unit. Prison officials claimed Jackson had a pistol hidden in his Afro.

By this time, Jackson was a “marked man.” He had already written and published “Soledad Brother,” dedicated to his brother Jonathan, which was a scathing indictment of the racist prison system. The book was widely read both inside and outside the prisons.

Jackson had fought off his attackers and opened the unit’s cell doors, freeing 26 prisoners. This uprising lasted less than 30 minutes when Jackson was shot in the back by prison guards. Six prisoners charged with participating in this uprising became known as the San Quentin Six.

Attica Rebellion in September

Jackson’s assassination ignited a wave of protests inside and outside prisons. A large hunger strike at New York state’s Attica Prison precipitated a wave of anger and organizing that led to the prisoner uprising and takeover of that prison on Sept. 9, 1971, by more than 1,000 prisoners.

“We are men, we are not beasts, and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. … What was happening here is but the sound or the fury of those who are oppressed,” said L.D. Barkley, one of the leaders of the Attica rebellion, as he introduced the list of demands.

The Attica Manifesto of demands included an immediate end to the pitting of one race against another by the prison administration, an end to the racial discrimination against Brown and Black prisoners by the parole board, the right to union membership and higher wages while working in the prison, and an end to the segregation of prisoners from the mainline population because of their political beliefs.

A People’s Central Committee of Black, Puerto Rican, Native and white prisoners was formed during the Attica Rebellion. Prisoners invited a group of observers to come to the prison to witness the prison takeover and to negotiate on their behalf with the prison administration. Tom Soto, a leader of Workers World Party and a founder of the Prisoners Solidarity Committee, received such an invitation and went to Attica. Moving testimonies by this united group of prisoners were heard around the world.

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, true to his ruling-class heritage, refused to negotiate and instead unleashed a brutal and barbarous assault by an army of police, sheriffs and National Guard that killed 43 people and wounded more than 150. Frank ‘Big Black’ Smith, a leader of the rebellion who lived, called the attack, “cold-blooded premeditated murder.”

Pelican Bay hunger strike

This year’s heroic hunger strike by prisoners in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit against the torture of these isolation chambers has also inspired a rebirth of protests by prisoners and their supporters outside.

This three-week strike, which began July 1, took a tremendous toll on the health and welfare of these incredibly courageous prisoners, who were joined in solidarity hunger strikes by thousands of other prisoners, former prisoners and family members throughout California and around the country. The prisoners’ demands were simple: stop the torture of the lockdown units, stop indefinite SHU terms, and allow prisoners more visitation, adequate nutrition and access to mail and phone privileges.

The strike ended on July 20 when the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation agreed to “accede to a few small requests immediately … in support of their assurance that all of our issues will receive real attention,” according to a statement issued by Short Corridor Collective, a representative of the Pelican Bay hunger strike leaders.

California SHU prisoners have issued an alert that they may be forced to resume their protest because CDCR is not moving to remedy even the smallest of their grievances. Family members, former prisoner organizers and other supporters are mobilizing to attend a California State Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing about the prisoners’ demands on Aug. 23 at the state Capitol.

In 1942, the revered revolutionary leader of the Vietnamese struggle against colonialism, Ho Chi Minh, wrote in his prison diary, “When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.”

This year we remember the slogans: “Attica is all of us!” “Long live the spirit of George and Jonathan Jackson!” “Stop the torture at Pelican Bay and all lockdown prisons!”

Some information for this article came from the CD “Prisons on Fire: George Jackson, Attica & Black Liberation,” produced by Anita Johnson and Claude Marks in 2001 and available from Freedom Archives.

New Resource: Attica Prison Uprising 101- A Short Primer

This publication about the Attica Prison uprising of 1971 is not intended to be a curriculum guide, but a brief primer for educators and organizers. It includes a timeline of events (with primary sources); testimonies from Attica prisoners; poetry by Attica prisoners; sample activities for youth; and other suggested resources.

We do not claim to have addressed all of the complexity of the rebellion in this short document. This is by no means intended to be the definitive word about the context and meaning(s) of the rebellion. We simply offer this resource as another in the long line of publications that have been produced about the Attica uprising. We do so knowing that we will omit a lot important information. This is unavoidable.

We had been looking for exactly this type of resource to foster our own popular education efforts and activism on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Attica rebellion. We didn’t find anything that quite worked so we took it upon ourselves to create what would be useful for us. A core value of ours is to share information with others in order to facilitate movement-building to eradicate incarceration. As such, we share this resource with you.

This primer was produced by organizers and educators rather than by historians. While we tried to be objective, we are not neutral. We state this unabashedly and honestly. We sincerely hope that this material is useful to you if you plan to discuss the Attica uprising with your students, community members, and others. We encourage others in the future to add to our collective knowledge about the Attica Rebellion and its legacy.

If you have any questions about this resource, please feel free to contact Mariame Kaba at mariame@project-nia.org.

Finally, we invite you to freely reproduce and distribute this primer. We ask that it be disseminated at no cost and that Project NIA be acknowledged as producing this resource. We love hearing from folks about how they have used our resources so make sure to drop us a line!

Download the Attica Prison Uprising Short Primer here

Download the Attica Prison Uprising 101 Illustrations Appendix Here

Read more at NIA dispatches here.