Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Notes from the Unrepenitentiary

Pick up your trumpet, raise your voice: it's time to make noise. 1998 will see two important efforts to win the release of all u.s.-held political prisoners and prisoners of war. These efforts need the support of all justice loving people, all those who stand against the ever increasing repression this country and its government are producing.

In March, 1998, "Jericho '98" will bring a national demonstration to the gates of the white house. Initiated and led by New Afrikan POW's and activists on the street, this mobilization demands the release of all left wing political prisoners and POW's held in federal and state prisons across the u.s. A few months later, the Puerto Rican independence movement will rally in D.C. to mark the 100th anniversary (July 25, 1998) of U.S. colonial domination of Puerto Rico. A focal point of this demonstration will be the demand to release the 15 Puerto Rican POW's and political prisoners in u.s. custody.

All around the world, governments include discussion of the status of their political prisoners in negotiations over elections and peace agreements. Only the u.s. refuses to admit that it holds any political prisoners. Internationally, the 150+ political prisoners in the U.S. --including prisoners from the New Afrikan/Black Liberation struggle, Native American sovereignty movements, Puerto Rican Independence struggle, and North American anti-imperialist solidarity movement and peace activists -- are recognized as political prisoners. We are people who were arrested for actions taken in the context of progressive political struggles. Our excessively long sentences and politicized treatment in prison (see, for example, the PLN article on Oscar Lopez, July, 1997 issue p. 13) reflect our actual status as enemies of the government. The u.s. refuses to acknowledge that we are political prisoners because to do so would reveal the depth of the inequities that characterize this society -- and the fact that there are thousands of people who have and continue to fight to change the system. For the u.s. to admit that it holds political prisoners would expose the bloated myth of u.s. democracy for the (ruling) class-and (white) race based sham that it is.

So it's well past time to take the issue to the country's capital, and to make it a very public one. For 27 years, New Afrikan and black activists, along with other progressive people, insisted that Geronimo Ji-Jaga (Pratt) had been the target of a COINTELPRO counterin-surgency frame up, and that he'd been targetted because he was such an important leader in the Black Panther Party. 27 years later -- lo and behold, a frame up is exactly what it was. Our "leftist paranoia" turned out to be nothing other than good, solid analysis. But it took 27-years for Geronimo -- 27 prison years, which are longer than calender years. For Sundiata Acoli, Jalil Muntaqim, Herman Bell, Leonard Peltier, Nuh Washington, Mark Cook, and too many others, it's already been well over 20. For all the political prisoners and POW's, it's already at the very least 13 years. Time to force the u.s. to admit it imprisons political prisoners. Time to demand release.

The 1998 Puerto Rico mobilization will truly mark 100 years of continuing struggle for freedom. In their attempts to win independence from u.s. colonialism, the Puerto Rican nation has had several generations of political prisoners. In 1978, Jimmy Carter's administration released five Puerto Rican nationalist prisoners who had served 27 years in prison. In recent years, massive demonstrations and a host of other activities have shown how widespread is the desire for the release of the 15 independentista prisoners. This desire spans the full spectrum of political, social and religious groups in Puerto Rico and in Puerto Rican communities across the u.s. mainland as well. The prisoners are heroines and heroes of their movement. They've already served more than 17 years. Time for their release.

The original idea for "Jericho '98" came from New Afrikan POW Jalil Muntaqim. If my prison damaged memory serves, Jalil was also an intiator of the 1979 petition to he U.N. for recognition of the struggle for national liberation and independence of the New Afrikan nation inside the u.s. -- a petition documenting the u.s. government's violation of black people's human rights. Just as the 1979 petition helped to advance all human rights and justice struggles by exposing the fundamental racism of u.s. society, so Jericho '98 can help advance the overall campaign for human rights for all prisoners, by bringing to light the repressive goals of the prison system.

During the months leading up to these Washington D.C. demonstrations, all kinds of activities will be held in cities around the country to educate people about the struggle for human rights in the u.s. and for independence for Puerto Rico. Please contact the addresses below for more information:

'98; C/O FMAJC, P.O. Box 650
New York, NY 10009e-mail:
Phone: (212) 330-8362

National Committee to Free Puerto Rican POW'
1112 N. California
Chicago, IL 60622 e-mail:
Phone (773) 278-0885.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login