[sixties-l] Only as Free as the Padlocked Prison Door

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu Aug 03 2000 - 19:54:28 CUT

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    radman asks:

    hey ron, is this you?
    From: Independent Media Center - Philadelphia

    Thursday August 03, @02:53PM
    Only as Free as the Padlocked Prison Door
    By ron jacobs

    Only as Free as the Padlocked Prison Door

    The folks arrested in the past few days in the streets of Philadelphia
    are political prisoners. They are in the Roundhouse and Holmesburg
    jails because they were expressing their political beliefs. There is a
    very real likelihood that some of them will face serious felony charges
    and there is the further likelihood that a few will face some kind of
    federal charges concerning intent to riot when it is all over.
    Although I still believe that a federal prosecution on these types of
    charges are more likely under a Bush regime, they could also occur
    should Gore win the election in November. If one recalls what happened
    in 1968, although it was the Democratic convention that was disrupted by
    the infamous Chicago police riots, the Nixon justice department
    conducted the prosecution of the Chicago 8 conspiracy.

    Prisoners who either have been released or been able to reach the
    independent media from jail tell of beatings in the jails, denial of
    food, water, and medicine, and the denial of legal counsel to those
    arrested. This is but a prelude to what lies ahead. The police are but
    the most obvious participants in the system of oppression in this
    country. Beatings of prisoners happen all the time in our nation's
    jails. Indeed, in the communities of color in our nation, men and women
    are beaten by police even before they are in jail and often without even
    going there. And, as we all know, more than a few are killed without
    any type of due process even considered. None of these comments are
    meant to diminish the brutality of the police in Philadelphia this week
    nor should they be construed to diminish the experiences of those
    sisters in brothers currently being held under less than humane
    conditions in the jail of that city.

    If we are to learn from the experiences of the past--recent and
    historically--we must ensure that the movement does not become a
    movement that spends all its energy getting people out of prison. Nor
    must it become one that forgets those who are in prison. The work
    around Mumia Abu Jamal and other political prisoners has been
    instructive in this matter in that Mumia, Black Panther Geronimo ji Jaga
    Pratt, and others are insistent in relating their situation to the
    greater struggle for social justice. If (or perhaps when) the trials of
    those arrested in Philadelphia begin and especially if serious charges
    are brought against those the government deems the movement's leaders
    (as they did in 1969 after Chicago), it is up to us to link any struggle
    for their freedom to the greater struggle in the world against global
    capitalism, racism and militarism. In short, we must turn the tables on
    the prosecution and put the system they represent on trial.

    After the protests against the WTO in Seattle there were those in the
    movement who attempted to separate themselves from that action's more
    militant protestors--the so-called anarchists. This was, plain and
    simply, doing the work of the state. We should not allow this dynamic
    to occur, even if we have sincere problems with the tactics of certain
    groups within our amorphous coalition. When this dynamic exists, the
    state and its law enforcement apparatus has no qualms about exacerbating
    those differences, which often leads to our more militant sisters and
    brothers going it alone if they are arrested. One very recent example
    is that of Rob Thaxton (or Rico) who is spending seven years in the
    Oregon prison system for his involvement in J18 activities in Eugene in
    1998. His trial drew little support outside of northwestern U.S.
    anarchist circles and, perhaps because of that (and the obvious
    prejudice of the judge), he received close to the maximum sentence.

    If more of our comrades end up in prisons this can be a beneficial
    organizing opportunity. As historical events like Attica and the
    struggles for justice in California prisons in the Sixties and seventies
    showed, prisoners of capitalism are open to political education and
    organization. However, it is important to remember that organization of
    those on the outside is equally important and that the emotional and
    political perspectives of the two groups (outside and inside prisons)
    are not always the same. While life is undeniably brutish in many
    working class communities in the world, prison is even more so.
    Consequently, the sense of desperation is often magnified when one is
    inside. This means that one is often prepared to take very desperate
    measures that, while making perfect tactical sense to a prisoner, do not
    make a similar sense when considered objectively from the outside. In
    addition, the controlled environment of the prison allows for even more
    police interference and manipulation of people and projects than occurs
    in the "free" world.

    All this said, let us take inspiration and instruction from those in
    jail in Philadelphia and those political prisoners throughout the United
    States. The struggle to free these prisoners and the struggle to free
    us all from the economic prison of global capitalism and its evils are
    one and the same.

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