Empty the Cages: Former Political Prisoners Speak Out

empty-the-cages-flyer

https://www.facebook.com/events/754237618050159/

Join ABC and political prisoner support chapters across the continent in our annual panel discussion featuring former U.S. political prisoners:

Thursday October 13th
Doors open at 6:30pm
Speakers 7-9pm
Location: Whittier Community Center, 2900 Downing St.

Spanning generations of political struggle for liberation in the U.S., we are proud to help host this panel that will prove to be informative, inspirational and will help us build a stronger movement of support around resistance to repression by the State.

Speakers:
Sekou Kambui
Daniel McGowan
John Tucker
More TBA
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Sekou Kambui:
Sekou is a New Afrikan/Cherokee former political prisoner who survived 47 years of incarceration. Throughout the 1960’s, Sekou participated in the Civil Rights movement, organizing youth for participating in demonstrations and marches across Alabama, and providing security for meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Sekou became affiliated with the Black Panther Party in 1967 in Chicago and New York. While in Detroit, he became a member of the Republic of New Afrika, before returning to Birmingham. Back in Alabama, Sekou coordinated community organization activity with the Alabama Black Liberation Front, the Inmates for Action (IFA) Defense Committee and the Afro-American People’s Party in the mid 1970’s. Sekou was also a soldier in the Black Liberation Army (BLA) during these years before his capture.

In 1975, Sekou was falsely arrested and charged with the murder of two white men: a KKK official from Tuscaloosa and a multimillionaire oil man from Birmingham. There was absolutely no evidence against him, only coerced testimony from individuals who subsequently recanted their statements. The judge refused to allow the recanted statements to be stricken from Sekou’s record. He continued the fight throughout his time in Prison. On June 30th, 2014, Sekou was released on parole.
———-
Daniel McGowan:
Daniel is an environmental and social justice activist from New York City. He was charged in Federal court on counts of arson, property destruction and conspiracy, all relating to two actions in Oregon in 2001, claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). McGowan was facing a minimum of life in prison if convicted when he accepted a non-cooperation plea agreement. His arrest is part of what the US government dubbed Operation Backfire; a coordinated, multi-state sweep of over 15 activists by the federal government who have charged the individuals with practically every earth and animal liberation action in the Pacific Northwest left unsolved. Many have considered this round up indicative of the government’s ‘Green Scare’ focus which has activists being arrested and threatened with life in prison. Many of the charges, including Daniel’s, were for crimes whose statute of limitations were about to expire. Daniel was released from prison on December 11, 2012.
———-
John Tucker:
John was one of five antifascists arrested in May 2012, after an altercation between white supremacists and antifascists in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park that left ten injured fascists, three of which needed hospitalization. The case of the Tinley Park 5 received an overwhelming amount of public support. Despite the fact that the meeting was organized by violent white supremacist organizations including the National Socialist Movement, Council of Conservative Citizens, and Ku Klux Klan, the state showed their cozy relationship with white supremacy by refusing the accused antifascist activist bail or a plea deal comparable to any other criminal defendant in Cook County. In January 2013 the Tinley Park Five accepted a non-cooperating plea deal. John Tucker was released in February 2014. As of September 2014, all of the TP5 are released.
———-
Donations are encouraged, and will go towards the 6th Annual North American Anarchist Black Cross Conference.

If you can’t make it and would like to help cover travel costs for the panel and the conference, please donate here!
https://fundly.com/na-abc-conference?showsteps=1

We’ll see you there!

Resisting FBI Repression – A speaking tour with Leslie James Pickering

Leslie flyer

Join us Wednesday, September 14th at 6:30PM!
Tivoli Room 442 (1363 E. 9th Avenue)
https://www.facebook.com/events/114894128966233/

Over the last two decades, Leslie James Pickering has been a target of the FBI, accumulating a file over 30,000 pages long.

Beginning with his work as Spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front Press Office in the ’90s, Leslie has sustained two Joint Terrorism Task Force raids, several federal grand jury subpoenas, threats, infiltration and extensive surveillance.

This repression has continued through Leslie’s political prisoner support work and the founding of Buffalo’s radical bookstore, Burning Books. Between 2012 and 2014, the FBI used two informants in an attempt to paint Burning Books as a front to form a 9-person eco-terrorist cell and Leslie as its “mastermind sociopath.” See secret FBI files detailing this investigation for yourself and hear Leslie’s struggle to continue to be a voice for revolution in the face of decades of state repression.

 

BREAKING! Albert Woodfox is Freed TODAY on his 69th Birthday!!

From Angola 3 News:

MEDIA COVERAGE:   UK Guardian  II  Washington Post  II  NBC  II  The Advocate (with new photo)  II Times-Picayune

Woodfox-Albert-out

(PHOTO: Albert Woodfox following his release just moments ago!! Photo from Democracy Now!)

Take a deep breath everyone,

Just moments ago, Albert Woodfox, the last remaining member of the Angola 3 still behind bars, was released from prison 43 years and 10 months after he was first put in a 6×9 foot solitary cell for a crime he did not commit. After decades of costly litigation, Louisiana State officials have at last acted in the interest of justice and reached an agreement that brings a long overdue end to this nightmare. Albert has maintained his innocence at every step, and today, on his 69th birthday, he will finally begin a new phase of his life as a free man.

In anticipation of his release this morning, Albert thanked his many supporters and added: “Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges.  I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.”

Over the course of the past four decades, Albert’s conviction was overturned three separate times for a host of constitutional violations including prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense, racial discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson, and suppression of exculpatory evidence. On June 8th, 2015, Federal Judge James Brady ordered Albert’s immediate release and barred the State from retrying Albert, an extraordinary ruling that he called “the only just remedy.” A divided panel of the 5th Circuit Court of appeals reversed that order in November with the dissenting Judge arguing that “If ever a case justifiably could be considered to present ‘exceptional circumstances’ barring re-prosecution, this is that case.” That ruling was on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court when news of his release broke.

On behalf of the Angola 3 – Albert Woodfox, Robert King, and in memory of Herman Wallace – we would like to sincerely thank all the organizations, activists, artists, legal experts, and other individuals who have so graciously given their time and talent to the Angola 3’s extraordinary struggle for justice. This victory belongs to all of us and should motivate us to stand up and demand even more fervently that long-term solitary confinement be abolished, and all the innocent and wrongfully incarcerated be freed.

For more information about the Angola 3, visit angola3.org.


STATEMENT FROM ALBERT”S LEGAL TEAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 19, 2016

Contact: Laura Burstein, laura.burstein@squirepb.com, 202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c)

Albert Woodfox, Longest-Serving Solitary Confinement Prisoner, to be Freed from Prison After Four Decades

Statements from Albert Woodfox – One of the ‘Angola 3’ – and Attorneys George Kendall and Katherine Kimpel

February 19, 2016, West Feliciana, LA — Albert Woodfox, who spent more time in solitary confinement than any prisoner in U.S. history, will be released this afternoon from custody after more than four decades in the Louisiana prison system. Mr. Woodfox, who turned 69 today, continues to maintain his innocence for the murder that sent him to solitary confinement for more than four decades. He pled no contest to two lesser crimes before being set free.

“I want to thank my brother Michel for sticking with me all these years, and Robert King, who wrongly spent nearly 30 years in solitary.  I could not have survived without their courageous support, along with the support of my dear friend Herman Wallace, who passed away in 2013,” said Mr. Woodfox.  “I also wish to thank the many members of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Amnesty International, and the Roddick Foundation, all of whom supported me through this long struggle.   Lastly, I thank William Sothern, Rob McDuff and my lawyers at Squire Patton Boggs and Sanford Heisler Kimpel for never giving up.  Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges.  I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.”

The extreme and cruel solitary confinement endured by Mr. Woodfox and his fellow prisoners, Herman Wallace and Robert King, known as the “Angola 3,” drew international condemnation.  The unnecessary and inhumane use of solitary confinement was particularly stark in light of Mr. Woodfox’s exemplary conduct record for decades.  In fact, in the midst of litigation, the Wardens of both institutions where Mr. Woodfox was held in solitary confinement admitted that he had exemplary conduct records.

“Although we are overjoyed that Albert Woodfox is finally free, it is indefensible he was forced to endure decade after decade in harsh solitary confinement conditions, longer than any prisoner in the history of the United States,” stated George Kendall, attorney with Squire Patton Boggs, LLP.  “Albert survived the extreme and cruel punishment of 40 plus years in solitary confinement only because of his extraordinary strength and character.  These inhumane practices must stop. We hope the Louisiana Department of Corrections will reform and greatly limit its use of solitary confinement as have an increasing number of jurisdictions around the country.”

Mr. Woodfox and Mr. King, along with Mr. Wallace, brought a civil lawsuit in 2000, challenging the constitutionality of the State of Louisiana’s use of indefinite solitary confinement.  Mr. Woodfox and Mr. King confirmed that a primary goal of the ongoing litigation is to help bring light to the fact that there is no penological justification for how the State of Louisiana currently uses solitary confinement and to create incentives for reform.  As Mr. Woodfox explained, “I can now direct all my efforts to ending the barbarous use of solitary confinement and will continue my work on that issue here in the free world.”

Their case, which is pending, is supported by extensive reports from two nationally-recognized corrections experts.  Those most recent experts’ reports, from 2015, are publicly available and include extensive detail about the State system’s failings (http://bit.ly/1PUqjiG; http://bit.ly/1oNAfUv).  As a federal judge wrote, the extreme length of Mr. Wallace’s and Mr. Woodfox’s solitary confinement was “so far beyond the pale that this Court has not found anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence.”  See Wilkerson v. Stalder, No. 00-304 (M.D. La. Feb. 1, 2005) (Doc. No. 105 at 21).

“It is past time for our nation to leave behind its shameful legacy of being one of the only developed countries in the world that still relies so heavily on the outdated and ineffective corrections practice of indefinite solitary confinement,” commented Katherine Kimpel, partner at Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP. “That Albert Woodfox served over four decades in solitary confinement shocks the conscience and is a national embarrassment.  We should take advantage of the growing national consensus regarding corrections reform to ensure that, if our society were to be judged by entering our prisons, we would not be found lacking.”

Attorneys for Mr. Woodfox said he will now be able to receive the medical attention he desperately needs.

If you would like to speak with attorneys for Mr. Woodfox or leading experts on solitary confinement conditions and reform, please contact Laura Burstein or Jamie Moss at Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com, 202-626-6868 (o), 202-669-3411 (c); or jamie@newspros.com, 201-788-0142.

‘Angola 3’ Case Background

In 1972, Brent Miller, a young, white guard at Angola prison, was killed. At a time when Angola prison was highly racially polarized, investigators eventually honed in on four suspects who were politically active Black Panthers.  Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were two of those men.  No forensic or physical evidence linked Mr. Woodfox or Mr. Wallace to the crime, the fingerprints found at the scene, or the bloody knife found nearby. Several alibi witnesses placed both men in different parts of the prison and away from the scene of the crime at the time of the murder.

Mr. Woodfox was originally convicted in 1973 of the murder solely on the testimony of three inmate witnesses.

However, as Mr. Woodfox learned decades after his original trial, these inmates were provided attractive incentives by the prison officials for their testimony, including promises of improved housing and a pardon.  State officials also suppressed inconsistent statements by these witnesses.

Eventually, Mr. Woodfox’s 1973 conviction was overturned because of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury that indicted him.  He was retried in 1998.  Despite the fact that two of the State’s three inmate witnesses had died, and despite the fact that they never were adequately cross-examined because of evidence hidden by prison officials, their transcripts from the prior trial were admitted into evidence and Mr. Woodfox was again convicted.

After many years of appeals, his 1998 conviction was set aside in later 2014 and he was recharged in 2015.  His lawyers waged a vigorous campaign to exclude from any new trial the prior testimony of the deceased witnesses who never were adequately cross-examined.  However, both the trial judge and the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Louisiana denied those motions, meaning that the prior statements would again be used against Mr. Woodfox at a new trial.

Although Mr. Woodfox and his legal team remained optimistic about the possibility for an acquittal at a new trial, concerns about Mr. Woodfox’s health mounted as he approached his 69th birthday. Mr. Woodfox decided to bring the case to a conclusion with today’s action. His plea of “nolo contendere” or “no contest” to two lesser charges is not an admission of guilt. It means simply that he does not contest that the State would present evidence at a new trial from witnesses who said he committed this crime. Mr. Woodfox continues, as he always has, to maintain his innocence.

Jay Chase Denied Care for Huntington’s Disease: Send Letters of Support

From POW Medical Justice:

jared-chase-150x150

Political prisoner Jay Chase is currently experiencing rapid progression of symptoms from Huntington’s Disease as he is being denied a diet and supplements that are recommended for his condition.  Navigating any type of chronic health issue within prison is difficult, and HD is no exception.  The symptoms of HD can be described as having ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – simultaneously, including:

  • Personality changes, mood swings & depression
  • Forgetfulness & impaired judgment
  • Unsteady gait & involuntary movements (chorea)
  • Slurred speech, difficulty in swallowing & significant weight loss

At this time, mail and letters to Jay are being requested so he knows he has the support of people who care about him.  Jay will probably not be able to respond to every letter, but it is anticipated that he will appreciate all mail and writing periodic letters, even if he does not respond initially, is welcome.

Reportback on Jared Chase’s courtdate: December 7, 2015

jaychaseJay’s trial was postponed yesterday to April 11. He’ll also have a status update before that on February 3. Thank you so much to the awesome group of people who were there in solidarity. If you couldn’t make it, I understand, believe me. Asking people to deal with the arduous process of getting to and into the courthouse here is no light request.

Going into that courthouse and being screamed at and even frisked by those pigs is triggering in so many ways. It always leaves it’s mark, always opens up partially healed scars. Being back in that courtroom, watching that judge and those prosecutors carry out the States “justice” in that eerily mechanical way, so nonchalantly shitting on your life, brings back all the feelings of rage and despair better left buried alive.

Seeing Jay come out that door and looking out at us, managing a big grin through a fresh black eye and swollen face was the most bittersweet feeling. Bitter because I remember as though it was yesterday, what it’s like behind that door. The memory of those cages and what goes on will be burned into my conscience for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Too many people either forget or just don’t know. Jay is still deeply entrenched in that struggle, one of millions.

I also remember very clearly what it was like to walk through that door and see a crowd of supportive and loving people, there in solidarity and friendship. It’s a rare occurrence and one of the closest things to a moment of happiness you’ll ever feel for months and years at a time. Most go without that for longer.

It’s a testament to his strength and to the strength of most people trapped inside that in spite of the obvious desperation and brutality of what they’re going through, you can still manage a smile every now and then. Sometimes it’s all you can do to cope. It’s also one of the strongest forms of resistance available inside. A smile.

I’m glad I could be there for that like so many were for me. Thanks so much everybody for their continued support of Jay and I hope we can continue to fill up those seats and to keep the letters flowing, to keep Jay in touch with all that is happening outside. It’s too easy to forget that life still happens outside the cage and a reminder is a small flicker of light and happiness in a dark place. Til all are free

Brent Betterly

JARED CHASE (NATO 3) UPDATE

Jared Chase of the NATO 3 is serving an 8-year sentence for helping undercover cops with their own idea to make molotov cocktails, that were never used, to protest the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. Originally charged with multiple counts of terrorism under IL state law (not federal charges), he and his co-defendants were acquitted of ALL terrorism-related charges, but convicted on lesser charges including misdemeanor mob action and possession of an incendiary device with intent to commit arson.

Chase is currently scheduled to be released on parole in May 2016. However, he still has an unresolved battery charge pending, resulting from an incident with Cook County Jail guards during his pre-trial confinement. His doctor’s testimony at sentencing for the charge of possessing an incendiary device revealed that Chase’s hereditary Huntington’s disease is a likely factor contributing to his behavior in custody and the pending charges. Chase has not been receiving the recommended medical care and nutritional supplements required to treat his condition while in custody, further adding to his erratic behavior.

Chase has dismissed both his NLG attorneys and his public defender, and his trial for allegedly assaulting guards has been postponed yet again until December 7. He continues to face harsh treatment in custody, including losing “good time,” losing visitation rights, having personal property destroyed, spending time in solitary confinement and even being housed on suicide watch (despite not being suicidal). He has gone on many hunger strikes as his only recourse to demand that they meet his medical and nutritional needs, without much success.In October of 2014, Chase wrote to several supporters, “I am a transgender woman,” asking to be referred to as Maya Chase. In accordance with these stated wishes, supporters spread the word in blogs and via social media that Chase’s preferred name was Maya and pronouns were feminine. In a more recent letter, however, dated September 21, 2015, Chase explicitly requested that his legal name and male pronouns be used once again to identify him: “Also let me apologize for rushing so much in my last letter [that] I didn’t get to explain the sudden change of names. After a lot of thinking I’ve decided even though I am Bi/TS/GQ, I don’t think I want to spend the rest of my life as a Woman 24/7. So you can refer to me in mascul[ine] terms.” Letters from that date forward have been signed using “Jared” or “Jay.”

Jared needs all the love and support of our community as he navigates a hostile and inhumane institution from the inside.

Letters may be sent to:
Jared Chase M44710
P.O. Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764

November 25th: Day of Action to Free Oso Blanco

https://www.facebook.com/events/1522353564749916/

oso

One small way to stand against the ongoing genocide of indigenous people celebrated in u.s.-occupied Native land on November 26th* is to stand with natives who are held captive by the u.s. without the consent of the sovereign nations to which they belong.

One opportunity is the case of Oso Blanco aka Byron Chubbuck, a Cherokee sovereign citizen of Cherokee, Choctaw, and Celtic ancestry held by the u.s., without Cherokee consent, on charges trumped up by the armed career criminal act (ACCA), a part of which was struck down by the us. supreme court as “unconstitutionally vague.”
 

Things to Do . .

1) Make a small donation to Mr. Chubbuck’s legal fund at freeosoblanco.blogspot.com so that he can challenge his draconian and unjust sentence.

2) Organize a small fundraising event soon if you can–even if it is you and two friends!

3) Spread the word about this call and your event on social media hashtag #FreeOsoBlanco!

4) Find other opportunities to support indigenous self determination where you live and elsewhere!

http://freeosoblanco.blogspot.com/
#FreeOsoBlanco

https://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/a-day-to-give-thanks/

http://freeosoblanco.blogspot.com/p/oso-blanco-fundraiser.html

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/10/19/13-words-that-could-mean-freedom-for-many#.XiQVZFSDv

Support Keith LaMar’s Hunger Strike

From Lucasville Amnesty:

Keith LaMar is on hunger strike protesting conditions at OSP. Find full details of his demands here.

Things you can do to support the hunger strike.

1. Contact OSP Warden Christopher LaRose and his boss, The North East Regional Director Todd Ishee.

Script: “Hello, My name is _____. I am calling in support of Keith LaMar’s hunger strike. Please meet with Keith and meet his very reasonable demands. It is unjust and inhumane to take away Keith’s property like this, please do not do it.”

Contact info:
Christopher LaRose
Phone: (330) 743-0700 ext 2006 *note: the warden’s office is closed for the 11/11 holiday, and the extension doesn’t accept voicemails.
Fax: (330) 743-0841
Laura.Gardner@odrc.state.oh.us
Gina.Wylie@odrc.state.oh.us

Todd Ishee
Phone: 330-797-6398
Fax: 330-744-3512
Todd.Ishee@odrc.state.oh.us

2. Write to Keith. Letters of support not only lift Keith’s spirits at this time, they are also a tangible way to demonstrate to OSP staff how much support he has.

Keith LaMar
317-117
OSP
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd
Youngstown, OH 44505

3. Spread the word and raise funds. The twitter tag for Keith is #FREEKeithLaMar, his facebook page is here, there’s an online fundraiser here, a 1/4 sheet flyer to hand out to people here. You can also share his letter detailing the current situation, as well as some essays and recent statements about developments in his case for backstory and context.

Or you can also send a money order or a check to:
Campaign for Justice for Keith LaMar
PO Box 3656
Youngstown, OH 44513