Solidarity with #August21 Prison Strike
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
Richmond, VA General Membership Branch (GMB)
The Richmond, Virginia branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) offers our complete solidarity with the #August21 National Prison Strike for dignity, justice, and self-determination. The U.S. prison system – along with police occupation of oppressed communities and the militarization of the empire’s borders – are the ramparts of white supremacy. As instruments of internal colonialism, the prisons are designed to “relocate” the masses of Black and Latinx workers, to delink the potential social base of a revolutionary working class movement from the broader community. Yet this has never stopped our comrades from organizing inside the prison walls, from George L. Jackson of the original Black Panther Party to the warriors of Attica, prisons have been frequently transformed into centers of political agitation, education, and organization for working class liberation. It is for this reason that the prison authorities at San Quentin assassinated comrade George L. Jackson on August 21, 1971, why on September 13, 1973 New York State Police slaughtered 29 prisoners and 10 civilians at Attica, and why this Black August, those of us on the outside must extend our full support to the National Prison Strike from August 21 to September 9, 2018.
The U.S. has the world’s largest prison population: 1.5 million people are incarcerated (overwhelmingly Indigenous, Black, Brown, and Asian), with approximately half of the prison population engaged in super-exploitative, sub-wage, neo-slave labor. The prisons are nothing short of an instrument of colonial warfare against people of color, and prison labor is a mechanism for extracting super-profits for capital. The #August21 National Prison Strike will deploy a diversity of tactics against super-exploitative prison labor, including work stoppages, sit-ins, boycotts, and hunger strikes. A series of 10 demands have been raised by incarcerated workers:
1) Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned people.
2) An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
3) The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
4) The Truth in Sentencing Act and Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No humans shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
5) An immediate end to the racist overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and Brown people. Black people shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
6) An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and Brown people.
7) No imprisoned person shall be denied access to rehabilitative programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
8) State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitative services.
9) Pell grants must be reinstated in all U.S. states and territories.
10) The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!
These demands are the logical extension of decades of prison organizing, as emphasized in 2007 by Kevin “Rashid” Johnson of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC), who is currently incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison in Pound, Virginia:
“Our Party has already taken a firm stand in promoting prisoners’ slave status (including amending the 13th Amendment to strike the clause that legalizes convict slavery) and granting them the right to vote (which is the fundamental component of citizenship), and abolishing the racist death penalty, indefinite solitary confinement, physical and mental torture, and other humyn rights abuses. But an additional step in organizing prisoners, advancing our revolutionary consciousness and ranks, and preparing us for a more stable and productive re-entry into society is to demand prisoners’ right to work for minimum wage and to union representation.”
As One Big Union for all workers, the Richmond IWW fully supports the 10 demands of the prisoners in federal, immigration, and state prisons. We recall the words of the Attica Uprising’s manifesto: “The entire incident that has erupted here at Attica is a result of the unmitigated oppression wrought by the racist administration network of this prison. We are [human], we are not beasts. And we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.” Let the fury return. Let the plantation burn.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)