Monday, August 5, 2013

A3 Newsletter: On a Move, But the Struggle Continues

(Published by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, on August 5, 2013)

On July 12, Louisiana's Hunt prison reduced Herman Wallace's classification from maximum to medium security and transferred him out of solitary confinement into a 10-bunk dorm inside the prison hospital, where he has access to a day room, and does not have to wear leg irons.

While celebrating the more humane conditions, we emphasize that the transfer from solitary is not enough and we are asking folks to continue supporting Amnesty International's call for compassionate release. If you have not yet done so, please take action here.

Expedited Review of Herman's Case

There is also some exciting news in Herman's long dormant habeas case. Judge Jackson began a recent status conference with Herman's legal team by granting Herman's request for expedited review.  He said he will not issue a formal ruling but has spoken with the Magistrate Judge (Riedlinger) and gotten assurances that he can and will issue his recommendation within 30 days. Then each side will have 14 days to submit simultaneous responses, and another 14 days after receiving the other's first response to rebut. Judge Jackson said he is prepared to rule as soon as both sides have their final say. 

Herman's Health

In more disturbing news, it also came to light last week that the medical team at LSU, where the prison took Herman to for diagnosis 6 weeks ago, had actually ordered 2 rounds of oral chemo, to have started then, 6 weeks ago. However, the prison failed to administer this altogether, and as a consequence Herman's tumor has continued to grow.  This proves what was already suspected--that the prison is not providing anything close to a reasonable standard of care. In fact it seems to be intentionally disregarding the medical advice that they themselves had sought. This is on the heels of a diagnosis that, by expert opinion, is at least six months later than it should have been given Herman's recent medical past.  After some quick pressure from the legal team, Herman has now begun his oral chemo regimen. He has not yet experienced any pain related to the treatments and seems to have regained his appetite. Hopefully they can help slow the progress of his disease and give us some much needed time to ensure that his does not become the poster case for "justice delayed is justice denied."

A3 Together Again

In more heartwarming news, last week Herman, Albert, and Robert were together again for the first time in several years, thanks to a court order granting them time to meet jointly with their attorneys in the lead up to the civil case next summer.  Obviously, they had tons of business to discuss during the 6 hour meeting, but as those lucky enough to have spent time with them in person know, there is something intangibly magical about each of these incredible men individually, and therefore something incredibly powerful and productive about them all being together in the same room once again. The attorneys have gotten a court order to have regular monthly meetings leading up to the trial next June.

New Song Dedicated to Herman

Amy Ray from the Indigo Girls has just released a new song inspired by Herman Wallace and the Angola 3, entitled The Rise of the Black Messiah. The song's title is a reference to the infamous March 3, 1968 FBI COINTELPRO memorandum from one month before Martin Luther King's assassination, declaring the need to "prevent the rise of a 'messiah' who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement," with the then anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist King cited by the FBI as a potential 'messiah.'

Reflecting on making her song about Herman, Amy Ray describes the challenge of finding words to describe what Herman has been subjected to: "Any person, let alone an innocent one suffering in solitary confinement for 40 years, is just paralyzing. There are no gray areas in the case of the Angola 3, this is clearly an abuse of human rights, but the historical context of it is so mind-blowing that it's hard to write about."

--Read Amy Ray's full accompanying essay and listen to / download The Rise of the Black Messiah here.

A3 Solidarity With CA Prisoner Hunger Strike

Albert, Herman and Robert have all been involved in numerous hunger strikes from their early 1970's strikes demanding that food trays not be shoved under the cell door on the floor for sanitary reasons, to their last hunger strike in 1998 to protest the prisons reduction of their hard won contact visit privileges and other diminishing rights.

Robert says: "During the early seventies, Albert, Herman, and I participated in hunger strikes. We understood then (and now) that this was an effective 'tool' to get the attention of the prison administration, and it sets the stage for further negotiations."

This week, our media activist project, Angola 3 News, published video coverage of the July 31 protest in Oakland, organized in support of the hunger strikers in California. You can watch our short video clips of three different speakers here.

For the latest news on the hunger strike, stay tuned here.

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