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The Magnificent Seven

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

They are a cross section of Amer­ican men: Black, white, Greek (apparently), Italian.

Seven men – George R. Efthimiou; Mark Johnson; George T. McHale; John Shnipes, Jr.; Jeffery T. Staff; Paul J. Voglino; and James J. Walsh – seven guards at a county jail in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.

Seven men who collectively face 37 counts of sexual and institutional assault against a dozen women.

The women? Local newspapers have a policy of not naming them, which adds to their extreme invisibility.

As prisoners they were already invisible.

How could they feel otherwise when they complained for years, only to be ignored, retaliated against, only to be assaulted again and again and again.

The trial against the Lackawanna County Seven has begun – and who knows what will happen? They may be convicted or they may be acquitted. Six of the seven have already been fired by county officials, while the seventh, Shnipes, a former local city councilman, resigned when the charges first arose in a civil action brought by the women in 2013. According to local accounts, over $750,000 has been spent in legal costs arising from the sexual assaults.

The seven men are charged with sexually assaulting women – women prisoners – two categories doubly invisible in today’s sexist America.

On local TV, when tape was shown of the men being arrested and walked out of the county prison, their hands cuffed, ball caps covering most of their faces, it was hard to tell their ages. I assumed they were mostly young men.

But published accounts showed all seven were between the ages of 42 and 53. Mature men. Fathers. Grandfathers.

The sexual assaults against women at a Pennsylvania county jail were no different than the sexual assaults against Hollywood’s brightest stars.

That’s because it’s all about power – state power – male power – the power of the law to legitimize scapegoating.

It’s ultimately about power.

What will happen? We shall see. 

Source: The Times-Tribune


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