[Pnews] Racism, Liberation, and US Political Prisoners

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 6 13:17:27 EDT 2020

https://afgj.org/racism-liberation-and-us-political-prisoners Racism,
Liberation, and US Political Prisoners
August 5, 2020

By Natalia Schuurman, Eduardo Garcia, Victoria Cervantes, and James Patrick

The Alliance for Global Justice has just updated its list of U.S. Political
Prisoners <https://afgj.org/politicalprisonersusa>*. Let’s review a few
basic facts and statistics, and consider some of the implications.

The number of Political Prisoners in the United States has risen by 11.48%
since the beginning of the national uprising against racism and police
brutality, bringing the total to 61.  Of that total, 42.62% of Political
Prisoners in the United States are Black and just over 73.77% are People of

Our definition of Political Prisoners refers to people who are incarcerated
for alleged crimes related to resistance and liberation from repression. We
believe that these cases should not be treated as isolated, “common”
crimes, but require a political solution. In many cases, those in jail are
there because of false allegations or because they were framed and
railroaded through the courts. The AfGJ list is not only of Political
Prisoners, but what we term “Prisoners of Empire”. By that, we mean people
who are jailed because of activities that constitute a direct challenge to
the national and international dominance of U.S., NATO, and transnational
capitalist imperialism.

Following the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd by members of the
Minneapolis Police Department, resistance against police brutality and
State violence has spread across the country. Thousands of persons have
been arrested, with most released pending trial following brief detentions.
We know of at least seven persons who remain in jail and are facing long
prison terms if convicted.

One of the most outstanding findings of our research is that most Political
Prisoners in the U.S. are jailed due to their involvement in struggles
against racism, both at home and abroad, and for the liberation of
oppressed peoples.

Fifteen Political Prisoners are in jail because of their membership in
groups that have included strategies of armed resistance for the liberation
of Black people. One U.S. Political Prisoner
<http://abcf.net/prisoners/gilbert.htm>was part of the Weather Underground,
a White armed resistance that had been founded specifically to support
Black liberation movements. These Political Prisoners might also be termed
prisoners of war.

We count another fifteen persons not part of armed resistance groups who
were arrested during struggles for equal rights and against racism. Of
these fifteen, seven were arrested during the current uprising.

Two of the incarcerated people are Chicano rights activists, and three are
Indigenous rights activists.

There are eighteen people in jail for acts of international solidarity,
including anti-war and anti-militarism protesters, people raising funds and
supplies for the relief of Palestinian people, Iraqi people, and Somali
people. One was a Puerto Rican woman jailed for her defense of Cuba from
U.S. intervention. In every single case, the international solidarity being
advocated was in defense of non-White majority, “Global South” nations
being assaulted, invaded, sanctioned, blockaded, and/or occupied by the
U.S./NATO Empire and its allies. Two from this category are Colombians who
were members of the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia-People’s Army) who, had they been returned home, would have been
released as part of the country’s peace process. In fact, one of those
prisoners was the FARC-EP’s primary peace negotiator. Both were extradited
to the U.S. on trumped up charges in violation of basic tenets of national

The percentage of U.S. Political Prisoners who are people of color is yet
one more indicator of how the U.S. so-called “justice” system is racist to
the core. *Just as People of Color are disproportionately the victims of
police violence and of mass incarceration in general, they are the
overwhelming majority of this nation’s Political Prisoners.*

Not included in the list of individual Political Prisoners are prisoners
held in Guantánamo Bay, nor those, even children, held in immigration
detention centers all over the U.S. AfGJ also considers these to be
Political Prisoners in the sense that they are detained for political
reasons, not reasons of any “common crime”, and the resolution of their
cases requires a political solution. As both victims and targets and  of
U.S. militarism and imperialist aggression south of its borders we also
consider these to be “Prisoners of Empire.” Were we to add the 40
Guantanamo Bay prisoners and the thousands kept in immigrant detention
centers, it would further reinforce the idea that U.S. political
imprisonment is mainly directed toward people of color.

The demographics of U.S. Political Prisoners and the struggles they are
part of reveal something else.* Just as political repression is defined by
racism, the most defining aspect of political resistance is anti-racism. *Among
anti-racist struggles, the most prominent struggle for which Political
Prisoners are arrested is for the liberation of Black peoples. This has a
special relevance for all of us. In AfGJ we are convinced that African
people, including the African diaspora, play a leading role in all
revolutionary and transformational struggles. African and Indigenous
peoples have been specially targeted for repression and exploitation from
the very beginning days of the global spread of capitalism. Today, in the
U.S., the movement for the rights and self-determination of Black people
has, above all else, shown that it is not a temporary struggle, but that it
has staying-power.

There is a thread that connects the struggles of the very first enslaved
people through the historic civil rights movement to the Black Lives Matter
uprising today. The struggle for Black liberation in the U.S. is huge,
mature yet young—multigenerational, experienced, politically savvy, and
enduring. The successes of Black liberation struggles have always, in every
instance, opened way for other struggles. The struggles against slavery and
for Black voting rights led directly to the women’s suffrage movement. The
civil rights movement was a foundation to an endless list of struggles,
including anti-war, anti-poverty, women’s rights, Latin American and Asian
liberation movements, disability rights, gay rights, and more. (Indigenous
defense of the land and its people is, of course, the oldest movement in
resistance to Empire in the Americas.) Thus, we can say that the prominence
of African heritage political prisoners in the U.S. is a situation that
concerns all of us.

There are Political Prisoners who are in jail because of other important
struggles. Of course, in the U.S., no struggle is isolated from the
anti-racist struggle. Among the other areas of focus for U.S. Political
Prisoners have been eco-defense (six prisoners fall under this category),
defense of basic democratic rights, prison abolition, and direct actions
against the surveillance system and its violations of the right to privacy.

In every way, all these Political Prisoners are deprived of their liberty
precisely *because* they fight for liberty–for liberation from the abuses
of a racist political system at home and around the world. Even while
denied freedom, they are building freedom and cultivating liberation. As
Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton once said, “you can jail a
revolutionary, but you can’t jail a revolution.”
**: A word of appreciation to Freedom Archives
<https://freedomarchives.org/>, Jericho Movement
<https://www.thejerichomovement.com/home>, Nuclear Resister
<http://www.nukeresister.org/>, Earth First!
<https://earthfirstjournal.org/>, and  Anarchist Black Cross
<https://www.abcf.net/>, as well as organizations in support of specific
Political Prisoners. We consulted all their lists in producing ours, mainly
through their websites rather than direct contact. That is an important
point, because in no case does this list constitute something they have
approved or helped develop directly.  We note that we do not all share the
exact same definitions or focuses regarding Political Prisoners. Prisoner
advocacy organizations generally only list those who have agreed to be
listed. There is a concern that prisoners may experience further targeting
and harassment as a result of attention brought by well-meaning supporters.
We very much respect that. For our purpose, we are trying to build a
comprehensive list that reflects the overall extent and reality of
politically motivated arrests in the United States. We are not involved in
direct advocacy. For Political Prisoners who have specific solidarity
campaigns, we have tried to provide links. If there are no advocacy
organizations linked, they may not exist or be wanted. Otherwise, we
recommend  contacting the organizations above for more information. *
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