[Pnews] Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 3 12:12:10 EDT 2020

Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
by Linda G. Ford <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/linda-ford/> - August
3, 2020

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

If you protest against police brutality in America, you are definitely
going to get brutalized by the police. And lately, federal marshals,
homeland security, ICE officers, and assorted militarized federal goons and
thugs will pile on. If you *led *a movement against police brutality in
Rochester, NY in 2006, like Rev. Joy Powell did, you will be set up on
felony burglary and then murder charges, and spend a long time in
prison—doing very hard time as a female, African-American, political
prisoner. It’s important to make sure Rev. Powell’s story is out there,
because she was in the forefront of the black effort to protest this most
lethal form of white supremacy, and as the only political prisoner jailed
for directly fighting police brutality, is paying dearly for it.

Joy Powell recently wrote <https://www.freejoypowell.org/> about the
killing of George Floyd:

We live in a system which blatantly displays “White Justice and Black Laws”
with random killing of Black and Brown people based upon the color of their
skin. . . [T]he world is enraged after the traumatic news aired of an
unarmed black man named George Floyd being brutally murdered by a
Minneapolis officer named Derek Chauvin who strangled him to death as his
knee pressed in this unarmed victim’s neck while George was handcuffed on
the ground. This evil and diabolic murderer didn’t treat George Floyd with
dignity and humanity. . . [It] has me disgusted and totally vexed. We’re
pushed to the brink and forced to protest. It’s really happening; it’s
called “CIVIL UNREST”!

Rev. Powell knows all about the lack of dignity and humanity of the police.

Powell is in solitary at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for
Women—harassed by guards, and, typically for prisoners, especially
political prisoners, denied medical treatment for diabetes and asthma. Born
in 1962, she grew up in bad conditions in Rochester, NY, and started young,
dealing drugs, for which she was jailed at the Albion Prison—where she was
raped and then stalked by a corrections officer. In spite of that trauma,
she came out determined to devote her life to advocating for the mentally
ill and then organizing protests against violence. By 2002, this included
the lethal violence of the Rochester Police Department. By then a
Pentecostal pastor, Powell organized demonstrations
<https://itsgoingdown.org/phone-blast-joy-powell/> criticizing the police
when six people died in police custody and when a man was beaten to death.
The police beat a mentally ill black man to death, and then they “maced,
beat with billy clubs, stomped and arrested” those who tried to intervene
to prevent his death. It was all on tape, but not only did the police go
unpunished, they were commended by the police department and the mayor. All
this sounds very familiar. It certainly is to Joy Powell. She has recently
written: “African-Americans are subjected to the harshest laws. . . The
color of my skin seems to be the only crime: racial profiling comes to
white supremacist minds.” The harshest punishment was definitely meted out
to Powell.

Powell’s activism against police brutality and racism resulted in her being
framed for serious crimes. The Rochester PD had warned her she was a
“target.” She was not to get away with speaking out “against corruption,
police brutality, and police justifications,” as the Jericho political
prisoner <https://www.thejerichomovement.com/home> organization put it. She
was set up <http://rochester.indymedia.org/node/3179>: falsely charged with
burglary in 2006, and convicted—getting 16 years—and then, in 2011,
convicted of killing a man back in 1992, given 25 years to life, with no
credible evidence and witnesses who later admitted to lying. She will be
eligible for release in 2022.

That is, she will if she survives that long. It’s been reported
that at Bedford Hills Prison, women with corona virus symptoms are housed
virtually on top of each other in isolation. After two weeks, they’re
released into the general population. There’s no widespread testing; each
prisoner gets *one* disposable mask. At Carswell “Medical” Prison
for Women in Ft. Worth, there have been at least 500 cases. One of the
women politicals I’ve written about, Red Fawn Fallis
in for resisting the pipeline poisoning of indigenous lands, has been
transferred to Dublin (California). But fellow Native-American prisoner
Andrea Circle Bear was not as fortunate. She died of the virus at Carswell,
after delivering her baby. Earth Liberation Front (ELF) political
transgender Marius Mason was also transferred, to Danbury (Connecticut),
but not Aafia Siddiqui
Siddiqui is a victim of horrific injustice, tortured as an alleged Muslim
activist, and is still at Carswell, serving her 86-year sentence as a
“terrorist.” All political prisoners should immediately be released.

As Joy Powell said <https://www.freejoypowell.org/> in her recent statement
on Floyd’s murder: “My people came here in shackles and chains, yet nothing
has changed. It remains the same. . . They maced a 9-year-old girl and
busted a 75-year-old man’s head open in Buffalo.” In Powell’s own Rochester
NY, her struggle continues and the response is still brutality. In July of
16 people were arrested at a Black Lives Matter Rochester march. The
marchers were met by Rochester riot police with “guns, batons, and
helicopters” and with no mainstream press coverage. In June of this year,
after yet another violent police response to their George Floyd rally,
the Rochester
BLM released a statement
criticizing the RPD’s “disregard for our basic humanity” and insisting the
city of Rochester must “divest from police and invest in our communities.”
The dissent goes on and so do brutal police riots.

As of the end of June, at least 10,000 protesters have been arrested
And as ever, police certainly do not spare women when it comes to their
brutality—many, many videos can be seen online where women are knocked
down, held down, maced at close range—very young women and women from the
Wall of Moms in Portland. And also as ever, black women can count on
special attention from police as they defiantly protest against faceless,
heavily armed storm troopers. In early July, in Des Moines
protest organizer and African-American Jasmine Johnson, 19, was charged
with “criminal mischief.” She told of two officers holding her handcuffed
arms while she said to them: “Let go. I have handcuffs on. I can’t do
anything. You’re holding me too tight and it hurts. Let go of me!”
According to Des Moines’ BLM, law enforcement “became violent” at that
demonstration. They tackled a woman, while other protesters tried to push
away the cops. And they put two black women in chokeholds—one of them was
then slammed up against the side of a van, causing her injury. Such police
violence is way too common.

Another egregious example is the experience of Miracle Boyd
a black 18-year-old activist, a recent high school graduate, who is an
organizer for Chicago’s Good Kids Mad City. She advocates defunding the
police and using the money to help black and Latinx communities. She has
also worked against gun violence and poverty. On July 20th she was filming
the cops’ violence at a rally to protest the Christopher Columbus statue.
*She* was filmed when she was punched in the face by an officer—the blow
knocking out several of her front teeth. She’d been recording the violence
around her where the CPD struck at least 32 people with their batons, some
on the ground when being hit. After the incident she got hate mail, racist
messages and threats, all of which blamed her and thought she deserved to
be punched. Boyd said
at a news conference, that she was attacked by the CPD, “who value a
supremacist statue over my life, safety and well-being.” Her lawyer, Sheila
Bedi, a law professor from Northwestern, says the officer was using “lethal
force” illegally. They want him fired, and Boyd is bringing a civil
lawsuit. The social media visibility of the incident, as with other filmed
violent incidents, means that perhaps at least some of these police crimes
might face punishment.

The Black struggle against the lethal force unleashed by white supremacy to
keep them in line dates back to slave patrols, but in terms of more recent
movements, the Black Panther Party was very important, and very dangerous
as far as the government was concerned. The Black Panthers, begun in 1966
(over 50 years ago!), demanded an end to police brutality and had armed
patrols to ensure it. According to the BPP’s Safiya Bukhari (another female
political prisoner), the Panthers’ “10 Points” featured “an end to police
brutality and murder of blacks” and “black men freed from jails.” The US
systemic white supremacist government has not lost that fight yet. Famed
political prisoner—until she escaped to Cuba—Assata Shakur, member of the
BPP and its underground military wing, the Black Liberation Army, clearly
saw that their enemy was, as Shakur said in her *Autobiography *(1984),
“the capitalistic, imperialistic oppressors.”

The Panthers put their analysis in the global context of American
imperialism abroad. Truths about capitalism and imperialism cannot be
admitted by the US, because of the necessity of maintaining the Big Lie of
America personifying freedom, equality and democracy. So when Julian
Assange tore back the curtain to reveal the true nature of the US war to
“help” the people of Afghanistan with the revelation of the “collateral
damage” tape, it had to be quickly contained and those responsible for the
truth-telling harshly punished. Similarly, when the tape of George Floyd’s
murder was widely broadcasted, the corporate government and media tried to
contain and co-opt the horrible truth of unchecked police violence, and has
now moved to forcibly suppress the anti-racist/anti-government protesters.

As Joy Powell puts it: “Unity, shame and fear, has moved in weeks what
centuries couldn’t. Acknowledgement is power.” There’s hope in that
recognition. Assata Shakur talked of “political, social and economic
oppression” of black people. And then “where there is oppression, there
will be resistance.” So many black women political prisoners have fought
white racism—from anarchist Lucy Parsons in the 1870s, to Communist Claudia
Jones in the 1950s, and SNCC’s Diane Nash, MOVE’s Janine and Janet Africa
and the Black Panther women of the 1960s and 70s—and now for BLM. BLM’s
politicals include the jailed (in 2016) Jasmine Richards from Pasadena, and
Sandra Bland, who was quite possibly murdered in a Texas jail in 2015. All
political prisoners must be freed—this is even more urgent as prisoners
confront the corona virus.

And the Rev. Joy Powell, jailed for exposing police brutality is one who
should be released. It was good to see that the Black is Back Coalition
in advertising their August conference, pictured Joy Powell with Mumia
Jamal, Sundiata Acoli and Mutulu Shakur; she was there with all the black
male political prisoners, many in jail since the age of the Black Panthers.
The Coalition argues that during this latest uprising, it would be a good
time to free all these prisoners. Joy Powell’s statement
<https://www.freejoypowell.org/> on the uprising is moving: “We need love,
peace and the police abuse to cease! . . . THE GIG IS UP IN 2020, like
thunder we sing! No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police!” She wants to be
free—to have justice. She wonders—as do the protesters in Seattle,
Portland, NYC, Des Moines and Rochester—“why can’t I exercise my first
amendment right of ’free speech’?” In Powell’s case, she wants to exercise
her right “without being set-up, and beaten, with trumped-up charges, a
couple of wrongful convictions and a 6’ by 8’cell.” She’s the only
political prisoner jailed directly for fighting police brutality.

Free Joy Powell!
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