Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Medical Self Defense and the Black Panther Party --An interview with Alondra Nelson


Medical Self Defense and the Black Panther Party
--An interview with Alondra Nelson

By Angola 3 News

Alondra Nelson, a professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University, is the author of a new book released last month, entitled Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination. By documenting the multifaceted health activism of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and critically assessing the BPP’s strategy and tactics in a respectful and appreciative manner, Body and Soul presents an analysis that is rare and badly needed in US colleges and universities today. In this interview, Nelson discusses how the Panthers’ legacy can both inspire and provide important strategic lessons for today’s new generation of political activists

In her book, Nelson writes that “the Party’s focus on health care was both practical and ideological.” On a practical level, the BPP provided free community health care services, including preventative education. Simultaneously, the BPP railed against the medical-industrial complex, declaring that health care was “a right and not a privilege.” Ronald “Doc” Satchel, the minister of health for the Chicago BPP, wrote in the BPP newspaper that “the medical profession within this capitalist society…is composed generally of people working for their own benefit and advancement rather than the humane aspects of medical care.” A newsletter published by the Southern California chapter argued that “poor people in general and black people in particular are not given the best care available. Our people are treated like animals, experimented on and made to wait long hours in waiting rooms."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

VIDEO: Resisting Gender Violence Without Cops or Prisons --An interview with Victoria Law

Resisting Gender Violence Without Cops or Prisons 
--An interview with Victoria Law

By Angola 3 News

(First published by Truthout)

Activist and journalist Victoria Law is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press, 2009). Law has previously been interviewed by Angola 3 News on two separate occasions. Our first interview focused on the torture of women prisoners in the US. The second interview looked at how the women’s liberation movements of the 1970s advocated for the decriminalization of women’s self defense. Taking this critique of the US criminal “justice” system one step further, Law presented a prison abolitionist critique of the how the mainstream women's movement, then and now, has embraced the same “justice” system as a vehicle for combating violence against women.

While citing the important work of INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence, Law argues that “today, abuse is treated as an individual pathology rather than a broader social issue rooted in centuries of patriarchy and misogyny. Viewing abuse as an individual problem has meant that the solution becomes intervening in and punishing individual abusers without looking at the overall conditions that allow abuse to go unchallenged and also allows the state to begin to co-opt concerns about gendered violence.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bonding With Herman Wallace Inside a Louisiana Dungeon

Bonding With Herman Wallace Inside a Louisiana Dungeon

By Ashley Wennerstrom

I first wrote to Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox after seeing In the Land of the Free last spring and learning of the horrendous injustices the Angola 3 have suffered.  I felt compelled to offer my support and admiration for their commitment to social justice.  Within just a few days, I received a response from Herman (Albert wrote me a beautiful letter the following week) and we began to exchange letters on a weekly basis.  After several months of sparring about political philosophy, discussing literature, and discovering unexpected similarities, I was delighted when Herman asked me to join him for a special visit.

Two days before our scheduled visit, I received a letter from Herman explaining that he had not yet been notified of whether our visit was approved.  I had to call the prison the morning I hoped to see him to learn that permission had indeed been granted. Upon my arrival at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, staff informed me I was not on Mr. Wallace’s visiting list and would not be allowed to enter.  I persisted, and staff eventually located my name on their list of approved special visitors.  I was instructed to pass through a metal detector and was given a full body pat down before boarding the bus to the maximum security prison.   

Monday, October 17, 2011

"We Called Ourselves the Children of Malcolm" --An interview with Billy X Jennings of It's About Time BPP

"We Called Ourselves the Children of Malcolm"
--An interview with Billy X Jennings of It's About Time BPP

Video by Angola 3 News

This year marks the 45th year since the Black Panther Party was co-founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland. It's About Time BPP is organizing events in the SF Bay Area throughout the month, with the biggest events Oct. 21-23. Read the full schedule below (click on the graphic to enlarge it) and link to the main event website here).

Featured above is a new video-interview with Billy X Jennings by Angola 3 News, entitled "We Called Ourselves the Children of Malcolm," featuring archival photos and more graphics from www.itsabouttimebpp.com, including the photo exhibit "Women of the Black Panther Party and Beyond." Link to the full screen, high quality version of the video here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

15 Years of Giving Voice to Women and Transgender Prisoners --An interview with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners

15 Years of Giving Voice to Women and Transgender Prisoners in California
--An interview with Diana Block, Pam Fadem, and Deirdre Wilson of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners

By Angola 3 News

On Sept. 26, the statewide prisoner hunger strike resumed after a postponement of almost two months to give the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) time to implement policy changes. The CDCR has reported that as of Sept. 28, almost 12,000 prisoners were striking and public support is needed in order for the strike to be most effective. An update posted October 7 at the “Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity” website stated that “medical conditions are also worsening for strikers throughout the state. We’ve received reports that after 12 days of no food, prisoners are once again losing severe weight and fainting. One hunger striker at Pelican Bay was denied his medication and consequently suffered from a heart attack and is now is an outside hospital in Oregon.”

The current hunger strike demonstrates once again that injustice fuels resistance, and California has a rich history of prisoners, former prisoners, and their supporters taking a stand. Among these freedom fighters is the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), self-publishers of a newsletter entitled The Fire Inside (archived here). CCWP will be celebrating its 15th year anniversary on October 14, with an event in San Francisco featuring longtime anti-prison activist and former political prisoner Angela Davis along with other speakers and performers.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Filming the Inspiring Life of Eddy Zheng, a Bay Area Community Leader Facing Deportation --An interview with Ben Wang

Filming the Inspiring Life of Eddy Zheng, a Bay Area Community Leader Facing Deportation
--An interview with Ben Wang

By Angola 3 News

(First published at Alternet)

Ben Wang is the Director/Producer of the upcoming documentary film Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story. The film’s website explains that “after serving over 20 years behind bars for a robbery he committed at age 16, Chinese American community leader Eddy Zheng now faces deportation to China, a huge loss to the Bay Area community. Released from prison in 2007, Eddy has dedicated his life to preventing youth violence and delinquency through his work at the Community Youth Center, Community Response Network, and many other SF Bay Area programs and organizations.”

This month, Wang and other film makers initiated a fundraising drive as they enter into the major phase of filming. As this interview is being release there is one week left. You can visit their Kickstarter page to donate and learn more. Complementing Eddy Zheng’s own website, news articles from 2002, 2005, and earlier this year, describe the various stages of the successful battle for his freedom from prison and the continued fight against deportation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

California Prison Crisis Sparks Statewide Hunger Strike --An interview with Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance

(ABOVE: Protest at CDCR headquarters in Sacramento on July 25, photo by Indybay.org)

California Prison Crisis Sparks Statewide Hunger Strike
--An interview with Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance

By Angola 3 News

On July 20, hunger strikers at California’s infamous Supermax, Pelican Bay State Prison Secure Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU), declared victory and ended their nearly three-week fast for human rights. The strike had been announced several months beforehand and when it began on July 1, the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay were joined in the fast by thousands of other prisoners across the state. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), at least 6,600 prisoners in at least one third of California’s 33 prisons participated in the hunger strike.

In response to the hunger strike, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and the Public Safety Committee in the State Assembly of California will hold an informational hearing on August 23 regarding conditions and policies of the Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay. Activists have initiated a statewide mobilization around this hearing, in order to pressure state legislators and the CDCR to make substantial changes.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Showdown at Angola: God’s Warden vs. Veteran Muckraker

(Illustration of Burl Cain by Jack Unruh, Mother Jones)

Mother Jones writer James Ridgeway has written a new article about his recent visit to Angola Prison and his many failed attempts to interview Warden Burl Cain. While published in the July/August issue of Mother Jones, it has just been released online this week, and the full article can be viewed here.

For several years prior to this article, Ridgeway has been writing an excellent series of articles about the Angola 3, and this did not make him a favorite of Cain and Angola authorities. He writes that “when I requested permission to visit the prison and interview Cain, back in 2009, Fontenot turned me down flat. Cain, she said, was not happy with what I had written about the Angola Three, a trio of inmates who have been in solitary longer than any other prisoners in America…After more than a year of trying to get into Angola, I…turned to a lawsuit. In March 2010, the ACLU agreed to represent me on a First Amendment claim arguing that to keep government information from a reporter merely on the basis of what he's written is an infringement on press freedom.” Then, as “the ACLU prepared to file suit in federal court, Fontenot wrote to them, inviting me down for a tour.”

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Solitary Watch Confronts Torture in US Prisons --An interview with James Ridgeway and Jean Casella

Solitary Watch Confronts Torture in US Prisons --An interview with James Ridgeway and Jean Casella

By Angola 3 News

Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison in California have announced that they are beginning an indefinite hunger strike on July 1, 2011 to protest the conditions of their imprisonment, which they say are cruel and inhumane. An online petition has been started by supporters of the strikers. While noting that the hunger strike is being “organized by prisoners in an unusual show of racial unity,” five key demands are listed by California Prison Focus:

1) Eliminate group punishments; 2) Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; 3) Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long term solitary confinement; 4) Provide adequate food; 5) Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

Notably, Pelican Bay is ‘home’ to the only US prisoner known to have spent more time in solitary confinement than the 39 years that Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, have spent--since April 1972. Imprisoned now for a total of 47 years and held at Pelican Bay since 1990, Hugo Pinell has been in continuous solitary for over 40 years, since at least 1971--probably even since the late 1960’s. Pinell was a close comrade of Black Panther leader George Jackson, who had organized a Panther chapter inside California’s San Quentin Prison, similar to the prison chapter organized by the Angola 3 in Louisiana.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Another Loss

The A3 Coalition is also sad to announce the death of Herman's brother, Leon Williams Jr. who died unexpectedly at the age of 52 of a massive heart attack on June 6th. The family will have a small service in New Orleans. Please call Victory Wallace if you want further details at (504) 278-4887 and check back to this posting, which will be updated as more information is available.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Amnesty International Launches Global Angola 3 Campaign


This week Amnesty International launched a global campaign calling for the authorities in the United States to end the solitary confinement of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. They state that "the treatment to which the two men have been subjected was 'cruel and inhumane' and amounted to a violation of the US' obligations under international law".

Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty's deputy director for America said "We are not aware of any other case in the USA where individuals have been subjected to such restricted human contact for such a prolonged period of time." Amnesty has also raised questions about the legal aspects of the case including the lack of any physical evidence linking Herman and Albert to Brent Miller's murder, lost DNA evidence and convictions based on questionable inmate testimony.

Amnesty is calling for people around the world to contact Governor Jindal via email or post and let their outrage regarding this injustice be heard. The spotlight on injustice which Amnesty International is now shining on the case of the Angola 3 is a monumental step of support to the campaign.
We hope Albert and Herman's supporters will lead the charge in responding to Amnesty's call for action.

Please join us and take action today at Amnesty's action page.

Read/Download the full report: USA: 100 years in solitary: 'The Angola 3' and their fight for justice.

Watch the Amnesty International video, featuring Robert King, here.

Below is the full press release, also available online.

Amnesty's call to action has been spotlighted by the international media, including: The West (Australia), Bangkok Post, Radio Netherlands, France 24, AFP, Free Malaysia Today, Monsters and Critics, Canada Views, The Province, I Africa, Times of Oman, Oman Tribune, Euronews, Irish Times, ABNA, Countercurrents, Le Figaro, Au Troisieme Oeil, Corriere Della Sera, News 2U, la Repubblica, Affaritaliani

And, the US media, including: Solitary Watch, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, MSN, Yahoo News, Press TV, Bayou Buzz Louisiana, All Gov, The Raw Story, Louisiana Prison Watch, Real Cost of Prisons, Op Ed News, Activist Post, Infoshop, Reader Supported News

The full press release from Amnesty is below.

Transition of a Soldier

(Written by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3)

On 2 June 2011 we lost a soldier... geronimo ji jaga. It's no exaggeration to say that without geronimo's initial efforts, the Angola 3 Coalition would have never existed. In 1997, Colonel Bolt, who had spent 20 years in CCR with Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King, went to geronimo's release party to talk to him about the Angola prisoners, and so the campaign to free the Angola 3 was born.

From that moment on, the effort took on a life of its own, but geronimo ji jaga was always there to support. In 2001, geronimo provided us with a statement of support for the Angola 3 Coalition's first newsletter. It barely seems possible that just a few weeks ago, geronimo attended the commemoration of Herman and Albert's 39th year in solitary confinement in New Orleans.

geronimo's generous nature and philanthropic efforts were given full reign during his fourteen years of freedom. His work through the Kuji Foundation, which he founded, and his deep ties to Africa are just two of the many highlights of what he contributed during his years in minimum security.

We are thankful that his passing was swift and know that those of us whose lives he touched will forever keep him in our hearts. To the thousands of political prisoners in America's Gulags his contribution is an inspiration and his warrior spirit lives on wherever freedom struggles continue.

(*His way of being humble, geronimo never capitalized his name, so out of respect for him here, we spelled it as he did.)

PHOTO: geronimo speaks at the recent A3 event in New Orleans.

In 2001, geronimo issued the following statement in support of the Angola 3:

Robert King Wilkerson, Albert Woodfox, and Herman "Hooks" Wallace are very dear to me because they come from my home state of Louisiana. The Louisiana chapter of the Black Panther Party was one of the best chapters we organized and they were some of our best, most disciplined soldiers. They were the kind of soldiers who never cried out to anyone for help, even though they were facing life imprisonment.

Understand that after being in that kinda situation for so long, I can personally attest to the highly disciplined and dedicated nature of these askaris. They endured, and they survived, over all the years, with very little help from the outside world. They are the kind of unsung heroes who we must come forward to help, because they never asked for anything from us in exchange for suffering what they have suffered.

To Struggle for the People and not expect anything selfish in return is a rare thing and this is what King, Wallace, and Fox have personified throughout all those hard years. They most certainly deserve our strongest salute.

There will be a memorial service at 10AM on June 18 at the Morgan City Auditorium in Morgan City, Louisiana, geronimo's hometown. For more info call Jones Funeral Home at: (985) 384-8643.

There will also be a memorial service for geronimo at the Eastside Arts Alliance in Oakland on July 15th at 6pm. This is a celebration of the life of a Revolutionary. East Side Arts Alliance is located at 2277 International Blvd. For more info call Billy X at (916) 455-0908.


Geronimo Ji Jaga from Freedom Archives on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Real Cost of Prisons --An interview with Lois Ahrens

The Real Cost of Prisons
--An interview with Lois Ahrens

By Angola 3 News

Lois Ahrens is the Founder/Director of The Real Cost of Prisons Project (RCPP) and has been an activist/organizer for more than 40 years. First started in 2001, RCPP brings together justice activists, artists, justice policy researchers and people directly experiencing the impact of mass incarceration to work together to end the U.S. prison nation. RCPP created workshops, a website that includes sections of writing and ‘comix’ by prisoners, a daily news blog focused on mass incarceration and three comic books that were first created in 2005: Prisoners Town: Paying the Price, by artist Kevin Pyle and writer Craig Gilmore; Prisoners of the War on Drugs, by artist Sabrina Jones and writers Ellen Miller-Mack and Lois Ahrens; and Prisoners of a Hard Life: Women and Their Children by artist Susan Willmarth and writers Ellen Miller-Mack and Lois Ahrens.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Troy Davis Execution Date Expected Anytime --An interview with Laura Moye of Amnesty International

(PHOTO: Troy Davis with family during a prison visit.)

Troy Davis Execution Date Expected Anytime
--An interview with Laura Moye of Amnesty International

By Angola 3 News

Laura Moye is director of the Amnesty International USA Death Penalty Abolition Campaign. In this interview, Moye talks about 42-year-old Troy Davis, an African American who has been on death row in Georgia for over 19 years—having already faced three execution dates. The continued railroading of Davis has sparked outrage around the world, and public pressure during the last few years of Davis’ appeals has been essential to his survival today.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SOUL ON FIRE --Online play portrays Herman Wallace of the Angola 3

Activist, writer, and actress Linda Carmichael explains that she "first wrote the play SOUL ON FIRE about seven years ago, and has had several staged readings performed since, including one Off Broadway. I had been corresponding with Herman and he knew I was an actress and suggested I write a play. It was called ‘Life's Morsel’ and was a multi media theater play for seven characters. A lot of the dialogue was from actual letters that Herman and I wrote to each other over many years. Some of the play is fictionalized and I wrote some of his lines from 'channeling' him. With his approval I later changed the name to SOUL ON FIRE."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Congressional Briefing About Solitary Confinement and Other A3 Events

(View Media Coverage: The Guardian UK, Free Speech Radio News)

After years of legislative advocacy that resulted in significant support of the plight of the Angola 3 in DC, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) have joined together to jointly sponsor a Congressional Briefing on "The Abuses of Solitary Confinement in the Criminal Justice System" scheduled for Wednesday, April 6th at 3:30pm in the Rayburn House Office Building Room 2226, followed by a screening of the A3 documentary "In the Land of the Free," which features both Rep. Conyers and Rep. Richmond (download the event flyer here).

The Briefing panel will include experts on solitary from all over the country, including A3's own Robert King, and a second panel discussion following the film will include Rep. Richmond, Robert King, and Carine Williams, a member of both the criminal and civil A3 Legal teams. The event will be moderated by Tory Pegram, Campaign Coordinator for the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, and is open to the public.

We encourage you to both consider attending and contacting your Congressional Members and urging their official involvement in the event to help end abuses of solitary confinement in the US.

In addition to speaking out about the injustices in the case for years, Rep. John Conyers and then Chair of the Louisiana Judiciary Committee, now Congressional Rep. Cedric Richmond, led a Congressional delegation to visit Herman and Albert in Angola in 2008. Their visit resulted in an unprecedented 8 month move of both men from solitary to a dorm. Although both Herman and Albert were unceremoniously transferred back to solitary only 8 months later without explanation or reason, both officials have remained involved in efforts to expose the Constitutional abuses rampant in their cases.


"In the Land of the Free" continues to be prominently featured at the many Human Rights Watch film festivals around the world. In San Francisco, on March 31, the 4 PM screening is at the Presentation Theater, 2350 Turk Boulevard. The 7:30 PM screening is at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street (buy tickets here). Robert King, will be speaking at both events, and at the 4 PM event he will be joined by Richard Brown and William Crossman. Read more about the March 31 screenings here.


We'd like to invite you to be our special guest at the New Orleans debut of "In the Land of the Free," at Warren Easton High School Auditorium at 7pm on Thursday, April 14th as a part of Patois: The New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival. Robert King and Emily Maw, the Director of the New Orleans Innocence Project will lead a Q&A following the event.

Get your free tickets now! Just send your name and email to landfree@patoisfilmfest.org and we will be happy to put your name on the will call list at the door. If you have any guests you'd like to bring, just send their names along too and we'll do our best to accommodate them.

On April 17-18 please join us at the RAE Building to mark the 39th year anniversary of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox’s unjust isolation in solitary confinement. 39 people will spend one hour each in a 6x9 ft replica cell. Our program of events over the weekend will also include:

- Screenings of documentaries In the Land of the Free and The Farm, followed by panels of former Black Panthers, artists and legal experts.
- A display of arts & crafts from Angola inmates, and The House That Herman Built by Jackie Sumell and Herman Wallace
- Undoing Racism workshop, round-table discussions, educational workshops with local high school students and a teach-in.
- Theatrical excerpts from Angola 3, The Play written by Parnell Herbert, and Voices performances by Louisiana exonerees.
- Press conference and vigil at dusk.
- A book-signing by Robert King.
- Musical entertainment by local performers.

For more info about the events in New Orleans, click here or visit: www.angola3action.org

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dancing With Dynamite --An interview with Ben Dangl

Dancing With Dynamite
--An interview with Ben Dangl

By Angola 3 News

Benjamin Dangl, author of the new book Dancing With Dynamite (AK Press), was video-interviewed by Angola 3 News this week while visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, on tour with his book, which has been positively reviewed by a range of publications and writers, including Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, who proclaimed that “Ben Dangl breaks the sound barrier, exploding many myths about Latin America that are all-too-often amplified by the corporate media in the United States.”

Dangl has previously written The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press, 2007), and contributed to Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Latin American Issues (McGraw-Hill, 2006). He has written about politics and social issues in Latin America for The Guardian Unlimited, The Nation Magazine, The Progressive, Utne Reader, CounterPunch, Alternet, Common Dreams, Z Magazine, La Estrella de Panama and more. While currently teaching Latin American history and politics and globalization at Burlington College in Vermont, he also works as editor of the news websites: Upside Down World, focusing on politics and social movements in Latin America (founded by Dangl), and Toward Freedom, a progressive perspective on world events.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

War, Prisons, and Torture in the US & UK --An interview with Richard Haley

War, Prisons, and Torture in the US & UK
--An interview with Richard Haley

By Angola 3 News

Richard Haley is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has been active in Britain's anti-war movement since 2003. He is a member of the Stop the War Coalition and is currently Chair of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities.

Last December, on Human Rights Day, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities initiated a “Stop Isolation” campaign with an online statement arguing that solitary confinement is a form of torture that must be abolished. The petition states that “We call upon the countries of the world to enact legislation that prohibits long-term prisoner isolation, and prohibits the transfer of prisoners to countries where they would be at risk of such treatment. Dungeons should not be tolerated in the 21st century.”

Angola 3 News: Can you please tell us about your organization Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)? In Scotland, which communities are being criminalized?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dylcia and Cisco on Panthers and Independistas

ABOVE: Full, 39 minute version. BELOW: Edited, 10 minute version.

--> -->
Dylcia and Cisco on Panthers and Independistas
--SF8 Hearing on March 2

By Kiilu Nyasha and Angola 3 News

This February 26, 2011 episode of Freedom is a Constant Struggle features Dylcia Pagan and Francisco Torres.

Dylcia Pagan is a Puerto Rican freedom fighter and Independista, who spent nearly 20 years in Federal prisons on charges of seditious conspiracy for her role in the underground wing of the Puerto Rican independence movement. One of 11 Puerto Rican political prisoners granted clemency in 1999 by President Clinton, she was paroled to Puerto Rico, where she has continued to struggle against U.S. colonialism nonviolently. Born and raised in New York City, Dylcia studied psychology, political science, and Puerto Rican studies at Brooklyn College where she founded the Puerto Rican Students Union. Her culture and politics are expressed through painting, ceramics, poetry, writings, and film.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Great News! Judge Brady Rules in Albert Woodfox's Favor!

The hearing on Tuesday went so well that Brady has already ruled in Albert's favor, granting Albert an evidentiary hearing on the issue of discrimination in the selection of the Grand Jury foreperson (read the 2 page ruling here). The presumption that discrimination occurred is now technically in our favor and this hearing will be the State's chance to rebut it. Timelines are still being worked out but most likely the hearing will be scheduled by summer.

This is a small but important step towards again overturning Albert's unjust conviction. A huge congrats to the legal team for the months of unexpected legal work it took them to get us back to this stage of the game, and lots of gratitude to all the supporters who made the trip to Baton Rouge to fill the hearing courtroom. Thanks to a brilliantly argued case, the court is better poised to again give Albert yet another chance at freedom than it was when this process began.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Richard Brown: The SF8 and FBI Repression (video)

Richard Brown: The SF8 and FBI Repression

Video by Angola 3 News

In this video, Richard Brown, of the San Francisco Eight, speaks at a protest outside the US Federal Court Building in San Francisco on January 25, 2011. Brown urges the public to support the 23 anti-war activists that were subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury that day. All activists refused to testify and can now be criminally charged for not testifying. Learn more, please visit: www.stopfbi.net

Richard Brown contextualizes the recent subpoenas with how the SF8 were similarly called before a Grand Jury, and were imprisoned because they refused to testify. Cisco Torres, the last of the SF8 still facing charges, has a court hearing in San Francisco on March 2 that supporters are being urged to attend. Learn more at: www.freethesf8.org

--Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lucasville Five Hunger Strike Begins --An interview with author Staughton Lynd

Lucasville Five Hunger Strike Begins

--An interview with author Staughton Lynd

By Angola 3 News

January 3, 2011

In 1993, the maximum security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio was the site of an historic prisoner rebellion, where more than 400 prisoners seized and controlled a major area of the prison for eleven days. Nine prisoners alleged to have been informants and one hostage correctional officer named Robert Vallandingham, were murdered. Following a negotiated surrender, five key figures in the rebellion were tried and sentenced to death. Known since as the Lucasville Five, they are Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders), Bomani Hando Shakur (Keith Lamar), George Skatzes and Jason Robb.

The Lucasville Five are now back in the news with an announcement last week that four of the five will be participating in a simultaneous “rolling hunger strike,” beginning today, January 3. They are using the hunger strike to protest their convictions (having always maintained their innocence) as well as their living situation, which is more restrictive than for most prisoners on Ohio’s death row. The statement issued by the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network explains that “the hunger strike will proceed in an organized manner, with one prisoner, probably Bomani Shakur starting on Jan.3. The hunger strike becomes official after he has refused 9 meals. Therefore the plan is that 3 days later, Siddiquie Abdullah Hasan will start his hunger strike and 3 days later, Jason Robb will follow. Namir Mateen has a great willingness to participate and plans to take part to the extent that his diabetes will allow.”

Staughton Lynd is the author of the 2004 book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, which asserts that the Lucasville Five are innocent men, who were framed by the State of Ohio. In a review of Lucasville, the news website, Solidarity, concludes that “Lynd presents sufficient evidence and argumentation to cast more than reasonable doubt on the convictions of the Lucasville Five.” The book’s “immediate agenda is to mobilize public opinion to achieve amnesty for the Lucasville Five. In the 1970s, the governor of New York was compelled to grant amnesty to the Attica rebels based upon revelations of state malfeasance. Lynd contends the Lucasville Five’s death sentences should be wiped clean on the same grounds.”

In the foreword to the upcoming second edition of Lucasville, being released by PM Press in February, death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal writes that the Lucasville Five "sought to minimize violence, and indeed, according to substantial evidence, saved the lives of several men, prisoner and guard alike…they rose above their status as prisoners, and became, for a few days in April 1993, what rebels in Attica had demanded a generation before them: men. As such, they did not betray each other; they did not dishonor each other; they reached beyond their prison ‘tribes’ to reach commonality."

Angola 3 News: Can you please give us some historical background on the 1993 uprising and the subsequent convictions of the Lucasville Five?

Staughton Lynd: There were revolts at the old Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus in the late 1960s. The state government decided to build a new maximum security prison in a town called Lucasville, just north of the Ohio River separating Ohio and Kentucky.

The new prison housed between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners. More than half the prisoners at the new Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) were African Americans from cities like Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown. Lucasville was all white and inevitably, most of the correctional officers at the new prison were Caucasian.

'Luke' developed a well-deserved reputation for violence. There was a horrible incident in 1990 when, in a sequence of events that remains ambiguous, a black prisoner followed a white teacher into a women's restroom. White guards broke down the door to the restroom and, as they did so, the prisoner cut the teacher's throat.

The State sent in a new warden who instituted 'Operation Shakedown.' Prisoners were allowed one short telephone call a year, at Christmastime.

In April 1993 the new warden proposed to test all prisoners for TB by means of an injection. More than fifty Muslim prisoners protested. They said the injection would contain phenol, a form of alcohol; that this was forbidden by their religion; and that there were alternative means of testing for TB, by sputum or X ray. Warden Tate said it would be done his way, by injection, beginning Monday, April 12.

On April 11, Easter Sunday, prisoners returning from the recreation yard occupied one large housing block, L side. Guards were overpowered. Persons severely injured in the takeover, both guards and prisoners believed to be snitches, were carried out to the yard. Eight officers were held as hostages. In the course of an 11-day standoff, nine prisoners and one hostage guard were murdered. There was a negotiated surrender.

A3N: Why was this story so important to you that you decided to write a book about it?

SL: In 1996 my wife and I became aware that as a result of the Lucasville uprising, a new maximum security prison called the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) was being built in Youngstown. We organized a community forum at which one of the speakers was Jackie Bowers, sister of one of five prisoners condemned to death after the surrender. We met her brother, George Skatzes (pronounced 'skates.') His lawyer told us that we could best help by investigating facts not presented at trial and we have been doing that ever since.

The importance of the story is that the five men sentenced to death are three blacks and two whites. Two of the three blacks, Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Namir Abdul Mateen, are Muslims. At the time of the rebellion the two whites were members of the Aryan Brotherhood. One is still an AB leader although Skatzes has withdrawn. These five men have acted in solidarity during their almost eighteen years of solitary confinement. They have refused to 'snitch' on each other.

A3N: What facts do you cite for arguing that the State of Ohio deliberately framed innocent men?

SL: My allegation that the State of Ohio has deliberately framed innocent men is presented in a book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Temple University Press, 2004), a second edition of which will be published in 2011 with a Foreword by Mumia Abu Jamal, and in a law review article, "Napue Nightmares: Perjured Testimony in Trials Following the Lucasville, Ohio, Prison Uprising," Capital University Law Review., v. 36, No. 3 (Spring 2008) The key fact is that the State made it clear early on that they wanted to put the alleged leaders of the disturbance to death, and built cases against the Five almost wholly on the basis of testimony by prisoners who, in exchange for their testimony, received benefits such as early parole.

A3N: Why you believe the trial itself was unfair?

SL: The trials were unfair for a variety of reasons, but the two basic facts were: 1) the Five were tried before so-called 'death-qualified' juries, that is, juries from which persons opposed to the death penalty were excluded; and 2) the prosecution's evidence, as I indicated earlier, came almost entirely from prisoner informants in exchange for bargained-for benefits like parole.

A3N: How has your 2004 book been received?

SL: My book was banned from all Ohio prisons and it provoked a good deal of discussion in Ohio. In 2007, a play based on the book was presented in seven Ohio cities. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed friend of the court briefs, based on the book, in the trials of Skatzes and Hasan.

A3N: Can you please tell us more about the hunger strike? How do prison officials publicly justify these conditions that are being challenged?

SL: As to the goals of the hunger strike, I refer the reader to Keith LaMar's statement. LaMar emphasizes that he understands the prison system's concern for security, but, he insists, a 'privilege" such as the opportunity to touch a parent or other relative does not threaten security. The more than 150 other death-sentenced prisoners in Ohio enjoy such privileges. On the other hand, the Lucasville Five are held alone in their small cells 23 hours a day, and when released for an hour of so-called recreation cannot be in the same space as any other human being.

A3N: Can you please explain why George Skatzes is not currently housed alongside the other four members of the Lucasville Five and how his conditions differ from the others?

SL: George Skatzes was transferred to OSP when it opened in 1998 along with the other members of the Lucasville Five. He was transferred out two years later because the authorities feared that he was so depressed that he might commit suicide. He is held with about thirty other death-sentenced prisoners considered seriously mentally ill at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, north of Columbus.

A3N: How can our readers best help to support the upcoming hunger strike?

SL: Readers can help by contacting Professor Jules Lobel, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, <jll4@pitt.edu>, and Professor Denis O'Hearn, director of graduate studies in sociology at the State University of New York, Binghamton, <denisohearn@googlemail.com> They are circulating a statement of support nationally and internationally.

--Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.