Lynne wanted everyone to read this article:
Beyond Innocence: US Political Prisoners and the Fight Against Mass Incarceration
(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)
President Obama’s recent statements about mass incarceration, together with his decision to commute the sentences of 46 people serving lengthy and life sentences in federal prison on drug charges, treat “nonviolent drug offenders” as the symbolic figureheads of America’s prison problem. This framing seems to imply that everyone else actually deserves to be in prison.
But the world’s biggest prison system is not filled with nonviolent drug offenders alone. Before and alongside the war on drugs, mass incarceration was built through the wholesale repression of radical movements – especially in communities of color.
Take, for example, the cases of two other people who have long sought commutations from Obama and other presidents before him: Leonard Peltier and Oscar Lopez Rivera. Both men are longtime activists who have each served more than 30 years in prison and garnered international support for their release from figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and organizations such as Amnesty International.
“We have to demand freedom for those who struggle for freedom.”
Peltier is an Anishinabe-Lakota former member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) serving two life sentences for the 1975 death of two FBI agents killed during a confrontation between FBI and AIM on the Pine Ridge reservation. Lopez Rivera is a Puerto Rican former community organizer from Chicago who is serving a 55-year sentence for “seditious conspiracy,” an outmoded charge that makes it illegal to plot against the US government.
Throughout the 20th century, the United States has tried dozens of Puerto Rican independence activists with seditious conspiracy – including 11 of Lopez Rivera’s codefendants, whom President Clinton freed in 1999 after a remarkable campaign for their release.
“We have to demand freedom for those who struggle for freedom,” said Alejandro Molina, a member of the coordinating committee for the National Boricua Human Rights Campaign, a prominent organization demanding freedom for Lopez Rivera.
Peltier and Lopez Rivera are two among dozens of people incarcerated for actions they took as part of radical social movements. Many are former members of the Black Panther Party – people such as Herman Bell, Romaine Chip Fitzgerald and Ed Poindexter – who have been in prison for more than 40 years. They are some of America’s political prisoners.
For some, the idea of political prisoners conjures images of far-off dictatorial regimes imprisoning opponents for their beliefs. Yet this country has a long history of imprisoning its dissidents. Political prisoners have included people incarcerated for nonviolent direct actions, such as sabotaging nuclear weapons facilities or participating in civil disobedience. But the ones who have received the longest sentences and the harshest treatment inside are people who have been convicted of violent offenses, typically against police, or conspiring against the government.
In fact, political prisoners have been the canaries in the coal mine for mass incarceration: Some of the most distinguishing features of the American prison state – aggressive policing, hefty charges, preventive detention, lengthy sentences, parole denial and prolonged solitary confinement – were first deployed as means to stop radical social movements beginning in the 1960s. Political dissidents and other oppressed communities remain guinea pigs for the intensity of American punishment. Read the rest of this entry »
Lynne plans to attend.
Lynne’s letter to Chris Hedges following George Packer’s New York Times book review of Hedges’ new book, “Wages of Rebellion.”
Just to let you know that I too was tarred and feathered by Packer in the months after my arrest. He did a piece in the NYT (a favorite venue, apparently) indicating that I was just old baggage left over from the sixties and that no-one was supporting me. He had attended, at my invitation and not a week before, an enthusiastic rally at Judson with about 300 or more. I guess “those” people don’t count. Of course his piece was accompanied by a beautiful full page color picture of me sitting all alone with my books.
I don’t know if you are aware (I wasn’t when I agreed to the interview) that he has a real grudge against the Left. His father was the Dean at Stanford when Berkeley was happening and in an effort to be a tough guy he lowered the boom on all signs of uprising. He was fired and thereafter committed suicide. Somehow George who I think was a teen at the time connected that to insurrection/liberalism and became this unspeakable critic of all things progressive. I guess his job at the New Yorker was the reward.
I am doing well and hope you are. Will end this to go on line to purchase Wages of Rebellion !
“Rebel” of the reverential portrait
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