Monday October 4th: Reportback Mailing and Card-writing

from Philly ABC

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In lieu of our usual monthly letter-writing event, we will be mailing printed copies of our 2021 Running Down the Walls reportback to over 30 political prisoners. This is one way to share and celebrate the energy garnered at the event as over 200 people gathered in Philly alone to move our bodies in solidarity with those on the other side of prison walls.

Join us this Monday at 6:30pm, at the northwest side of the dog bowl in Clark Park as we package and mail the reportbacks. Snacks and supplies are provided. We encourage people who want to discuss ideas on how to support political prisoners and prisoners of war to come hang out, and sign cards for political prisoners with birthdays in October: Jamil Al-Amin (October 4th), David Gilbert (October 6th), and Malik Bey (October 8th).

In Contempt #9: Running Down the Walls 2021; Eric King Trial, Hunger Strikes in Texas & Oregon

from It’s Going Down

[This post only contains information relevant to Philadelphia and the surrounding area, to read the entire article follow the above link.]

Vaughn 17

Vaughn 17 prisoner Kevin Berry is getting out, and Philly Anti-Repression are holding a fundraiser to help support him upon his release. You can read a previous statement from Kevin here.

Uprising Defendants

Everyone should support the defendants facing charges related to their alleged participation in the George Floyd uprising – this list of our imprisoned comrades needs to be getting shorter, not longer. The status of pre-trial defendants changes frequently, but to the best of our knowledge they currently include:

David Elmakayes 77782-066
FDC Philadelphia
PO BOX 562
Philadelphia, PA 19105

You can donate to David’s legal funds here.

Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal 70002-066
FDC Philadelphia
PO BOX 562
Philadelphia, PA 19105

Upcoming Birthdays

Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal

Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal is a community care worker from Philadelphia and pre-trial political prisoner facing charges connected to her alleged participation in the George Floyd Uprising.

Birthday: October 27

Address:

Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal 70002-066
FDC Philadelphia
PO BOX 562
Philadelphia, PA 19105

Running Down The Walls 2021 Reportback

from Philly ABC

We’re pleased to share the following reportback of our fourth annual Philadelphia Running Down The Walls in support of political prisoners and prisoners of war.

On sunny September 12, 2021, a light breeze persisted from off the lake in FDR park as participants gathered to check-in for their t-shirts, make donations, set up tables, and hang banners. For the fourth year in a row, the day kicked off an amazing yoga warm up lead by  Sheena Sood  to uplift the energy for the rest of the day. Our comrade Spiritchild from the  maroon party for liberation  emceed the event getting participants amped and queued up. Walkers left the start line around 11:10 am, followed by folks moving at a medium pace, and finally the runners around 11:30 am.

After the 5K, the crowd gathered as Spiritchild performed a song for the spirits of political prisoners, fallen comrades and ancestors, followed by pouring libations. Then we acknowledged the prisoners who were sponsored for and participated as part of the Philadelphia event: John Bramble and Paul Kali Hickman (Vaughn Correctional Center), Hector “Pica” Huertas and Jerome Coffey (SCI Pine Grove), Jacob Busic (Halifax Correctional Unit), Alejandro “Capo” Rodriguez-Ortiz and the 9 others participating with him (SCI Phoenix).

The first speaker was Mumia’s grandson, Jamal Jr. He started with the chant he’s heard his whole life – “Free Mumia!” – to remind everyone what the goal is, and then continued to share his raw emotions with us. Jamal spoke on how hard it was to see Mumia’s incision wounds from the recent open heart surgery, but his words come from more than just that. They come from a lifetime of fighting to free his grandfather. His call to action is for all of us to do one revolutionary act a day. See Jamal’s full speech from  Unicorn Riot’s  live stream  here.

I wish my grandfather was here to address you today. We have a puppet in his stead. I wish he was here, lending his voice for the liberation of others like he always does. I wish he was here laughing and telling stories, flanked by his wife, children, grandchildren, and other family. … He’s been abducted longer than most of us have been alive. Just think of that. … They intended to kill him, but the people had something to say about that. … They took him from me, and they still intend to hold him. I’m pretty sure we got something to say about that. They took him from my children, and they intend for him to die in there– to die behind enemy lines. … Freeing political prisoners is personal to me, because my grandfather has been a political prisoner all my life. He’s been a political prisoner most of my dad’s life. Bringing him home is the goal. You guys hear that? We got to bring him home. We have to.

We all got work to do, so I am going to require one revolutionary act a day. One revolutionary act could be sharing a revolutionary story. One revolutionary act could be joining in on a conversation of political prisoners and injustices that we need to challenge. There’s many ways we can do one revolutionary act a day… . When I’m asking you guys to voluntarily do one revolutionary act a day– don’t just do it because it makes you feel okay, you know it makes you feel right, makes you feel whole, makes you feel good, you know supporting political prisoners– do it because, you know, a lot of us, we don’t have a choice… In supporting political prisoners, and supporting revolutionaries, in a lot of ways you’re supporting the family members, you know, of revolutionaries … the ones who didn’t sign up for this.

The next speaker was former political prisoner,  Kazi Toure,  who was imprisoned for over ten years for his role in bombings carried out by the United Freedom Front (UFF) to combat Apartheid in South Africa and US Imperialism in Central America. Kazi traveled down from Boston to participate and share his wisdom, solidarity for Mumia and all political prisoners, as well as his experiences with Running Down The Walls both inside and outside prison. See Kazi’s full speech here.

Each year I see this [Running Down The Walls] growing and growing, more and more. And you know it’s something we really need to do because of the double standards that they have on this land. Where Mumia would already be out, and a lot of other political prisoners would be out. So we have to double our efforts.

As brother [Jamal] spoke before … [where] he was talking about doing one revolutionary act a day, I think the self-discipline plays into that. Just like where we start the day off with yoga, and then went on our walk and our run… we have to incorporate all that and study revolutionary movements, and who the political prisoners are. People should know them. They are in there because they made a choice. People made a conscious choice to fight against this government, and it’s racist, sexist, homophobic policies.

Following came a legal update from Nia Holston of the  Abolitionist Law Center,  on the current status of medical parole for political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz. Maroon has been imprisoned for 48 years and suffers from stage 4 cancer, to the point at which he is eligible for compassionate release into to hospice. However that didn’t stop a Judge last month from asserting this 78 year old man is an “undue risk of escape or danger to the community,” and denying his release. Nia and others from ALC are still fighting for his release, and they believe he will come home. See Nia’s full legal update  here.

I definitely want to acknowledge the family of Russell Maroon Shoatz that’s here today, and that we stand in solidarity with them. In August we filed a petition for compassionate release in his case, because of the illness, because of what he’s been going through, because he spent so long incarcerated. We’ve been working to file that petition to get him released. Now I have to say that unfortunately, Judge Scott of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas did deny that petition in August of this past month, but we are still working. We are still preparing the litigation to continue that fight, and we believe that we will win.

But I will say, as you all know here, we know that we can’t rely on the legal system to do what’s right. We know that we can’t. And so, all of the work that you are doing, all the good work you’re doing to organize this event, and all of the work that the Free Maroon Now coalition is doing to support the litigation is so, so important.

Next up, we were again joined by Robert Saleem Holbrook. Saleem is a former juvenile lifer who was released in 2018 after spending over two decades in prison. He spoke at last year’s event about the political education and mentorship he received from Maroon and  Joseph “Joe-Joe” Bowen  while incarcerated with them. This year he spoke on the history of Jericho and their new Philly chapter that formed a few months ago. He also echoed the strength and victories of our movements to free political prisoners. See Saleem’s full speech here.

Jericho was founded in 1998 after a call was made by  Jalil Muntaqim … for all national organizations that support the Black liberation movement and support radical things in this country, to come together and march on Washington demanding the release of political prisoners who were casualties of this country’s war against the Black liberation movement, and this country’s war against the social protest movement of the 60s and 70s. … Since 1998, I’m proud to say that we have brought home a lot of political prisoners. Something that at one time seemed impossible. Jalil Muntaqim, the political prisoner who made that call, is now home. However not only is Jalil home, his comrades are also home. … A lot of times when you’re in the trenches fighting, you sometimes forget our victories … but we have victories that we need to uplift, and I think as a movement we need to uplift these victories a lot more… . There are so many who are released that gave inspiration to us that we need to acknowledge when we’re in their presence.

We have a lot more work to do. We got bring home Mumia Abu-Jamal … Russell Maroon Shoatz … Fred “Muhammad” Burton … Joseph “Joe-Joe” Bowen … Sundiata AcoliMutulu ShakurLeonard Peltier … You know today is his birthday, so we need to uplift Leonard Peltier’s presence [and] his fighting spirit today. Philly Jericho is part of this movement, this mass movement to liberate our political prisoners.

The final speaker was longtime ABCF member, Tim Fasnacht. Since 2005, Tim has been the person dispersing the monthly Warchest stipends to political prisoners and prisoners of war. He gave a brief update and history of the program. See Tim’s full speech  here.

Right now we’re up to 18 political prisoners [that] we send $50 a month. We also provide occasional legal money if someone needs help with legal fees. And [what] we also started over the past couple years as the Warchest has really grown, is a release fund. So we’re giving political prisoners who have been released over that last couple years anywhere from maybe $500 to maybe $3000 to help them get on their feet when they get out.

The Warchest started in 1994. It came about from comrades up in Patterson, New Jersey. They started writing and visiting different political prisoners. The first one they wrote to was Ojorie Lutalo … he’s been a huge inspiration to the formation of the ABCF in all different aspects, and he’s the one who coined the term “Warchest.” So you can thank him for it, you can thank Sekou Odinga and Sundiata Acoli – they’re the ones that kind of put together the list of people that we should get in touch with who were in need of financial assistance. We’ll just keep on doing this every year until they are all free.

Between speeches, we read aloud Running Down The Walls solidarity statements from political prisoners Oso Blanco and Bill Dunne, former political prisoner Jaan Laaman, and Capo on behalf of the Vaughn 17 prisoners who participated with us. Many people also signed up to join the Free Mumia listserv, which can also be subscribed to here. All the while, were accompanied by powerfully symbolic 18 ft. Mumia puppet in the background. If you appreciated the puppet, please donate to sustain that project. The speeches wrapped up with some short announcements of upcoming events and another reminder of the many political prisoners we’ve brought home, followed by a group photo on the pavilion steps.

We’d like to thank Food Not Bombs Solidarity for the snacks and refreshments, to Unicorn Riot for the full  livestream  of speakers, statements and announcements, and photographer Joe Piette for yet another collection of amazing photos. We were honored to be joined by former political prisoner Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, who traveled all the way from New Orleans to be a part of the event. In that same vein, we were honored to be joined by and Kazi Toure and former Anarchist prisoner of war, Ojorie Lutalo,  as well as recently released Pennsylvania prisoners Arthur ‘Cetawayo’ Johnson (August 11, 2021) and Eric Riddick (May 28th, 2021).

We thank Prison Radio, Mobilizaton for Mumia, Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, and International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal for all the support in promoting and making this event the success that it was. We would also like to thank Spiritchild for emceeing the event, Sheena Sood for leading the Yoga warm-up, Latziyela and Come On Strong  for printing the shirts, and people who tabled for Mobilization for Mumia, Here & Now Zines, IWW, Socialist Rifle Association, and a Black Panther support crew.

We thank the 200+ people who attended in person or remotely from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, California, Vermont, Illinois, New York, Virginia, Washington, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Arizona, Massachusetts, D.C., Malmo (Sweden), and Tokyo (Japan). Together we raised a total of $10,505 to be split between Mumia Abu-Jamal and the ABCF Warchest  that sends monthly stipends to 18 political prisoners with little or no financial support. A full breakdown of Warchest funds in and out since 1994 is available  here.  Funds available beyond the reserved amount needed for the monthly stipends will be disbursed as one-time donations to other political prisoners who demonstrate financial need, or to the release funds of the next comrades to come home.

We look forward to more successes in the next year as we further the struggle to free Mumia and abolish the carceral system! We encourage folks to donate what they can to the Ant Smith Defense Committee. An outspoken supporter of Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners, Ant is a beloved educator, community member, and organizer who participates in Running Down The Walls. Since October of 2020, he has been the target of trumped up, politically motivated charges related to protest during the George Floyd uprising. Follow the #FreeAnt  Linktree,   Twitter,  and  Instagram.  Make donations to freeantphl on  Cashapp or PayPal.

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We want to close this out by commemorating former political prisoner and long-time friend and comrade of Philly ABC, Chuck Africa. After nearly 42 years in prison, on February 7th, 2020, Chuck was the last of the surviving Move 9 to be paroled. His cancer had already reached stage 4 by this time, but Chuck remained strong and optimistic.

Chuck spoke at  last year’s Running Down The Walls,  to which he called on the movement to take immediate action in supporting his imprisoned comrades Joseph Bowen and Steven Northington, and a list of women serving life without parole (or sentenced to death by incarceration).

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It was Chuck’s first and only public speaking engagement since his release. He was excited to attend the event again this year, and possibly speak again, but his health declined too rapidly in the month prior.

Around 3:00am on Monday September 20th, Chuck joined the ancestors after his four year battle with cancer that clearly worsened through incarceration. His family and close friends know him as a bold and selfless warrior, always standing up and fighting for everyone else before himself. He will forever be remembered as someone who loved with all his might, and we will keep fighting in his honor. #RestInPower comrade.

Until all are free,
Philly ABC

Anti-Prison Protest Raises Ruckus At Philly Youth Jail

from Unicorn Riot

On the evening of Thursday, September 9, several dozen anarchists gathered in West Philly for a noise demonstration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison uprising. After marching in the street for several blocks, the unannounced protest arrived at the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center, a youth detention center on North 48th St that opened amidst protests in 2012.

Protesters lit road flares, set off fireworks, pointed lasers and banged pots and pans to create a ruckus that served as a form of primitive communication with the youth prisoners locked inside the child jail.

A firework is launched towards the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center

Several of the youth could be seen waving and/or banging on the frosted windows of their cells, in an apparent gesture of appreciation for the noise and bright lights visiting them from the parking lot.

 

Youth locked up in the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center bang on their windows as the noise demonstration takes place outside.

After about 20 minutes, two Philadelphia Police cruisers arrived and the protesters quickly dispersed without incident.

Graffiti left in the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center parking lot

Before the protest ended, a member of the crowd read a statement reflecting on the anniversary of the Attica prison rebellion, written by Alejandro ‘Capo’ Rodriguez-Ortiz, one of the ‘Vaughn 17’ prisoner defendants prosecuted after the historic ‘Vaughn Uprising’ at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware in February 2017:

“50 years ago today, the death of dozens of warriors highlighted an issue that was previously kept in the shadows: The oppression faced by modern day slavery. It also gave us, the prisoners, the knowledge that our power wasn’t relinquished with our freedom. Behind every V17 stands the radiance of those sacrificed in the struggle to be free.

Those comrades showed what’s necessary to bring REAL change. That comes from physically fighting this machine of oppression. Not just simply ASKING for your dignity, BUT TO TAKE IT, by any means necessary.

The issues voiced 50 years ago are the same that we face today. All that proves is that there is only one cure for the malady of this affliction: a total amputation.

In a world where the people can be controlled by the threat of slavery, we’ll never be free. We have to abolish this whole system. No more concessions, they don’t get us any closer to freedom. Just talking will just bring us 50 more years of oppression & slavery.

They can make policy reforms & less oppressive & targeted laws all day. That doesn’t change the fact that there are more people enslaved in this country than the combination of the next three largest countries COMBINED! Our freedom doesn’t come retroactively with these meaningless reforms that are normally either impossible to get applied to our case or only affect a small, selected group.

Every step towards the abolishment of prisons should be attributed to the Brothers of Attica. Without them, a lot of warriors wouldn’t of thought that standing up to such an oppressive force was possible. Their blood helped loosen the foundation of the prison industrial complex. It’s our duty to finish the job, so that their sacrifice wasn’t without purpose.

We live in a different age. One where the people in our communities are now aware of the true purpose of prisons, as plantations. Now is the time to strike. Both the prisoners & our comrades in the world. We have the chance to live without the threat of slavery.

When will we take it?”

– Statement from Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz (Capo) on behalf of the Vaughn 17, on the anniversary of the Attica Rebellion

A flyer distributed along the march to the youth jail

“Running Down the Walls” Event Highlights Prisoner Support

from Unicorn Riot

An annual 5K run/walk/roll benefit called “Running Down the Walls” aims to amplify “the voices of our comrades behind bars, lifting them up in their struggles,” and provide material support, according to Philadelphia Anarchist Black Cross, the host of today’s event in South Philly’s FDR Park. After the participants finish their 5Ks, speakers will address the issues facing incarcerated people and the prison industrial complex.

This year’s run is in honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a high-profile prisoner for 40 years who suffers from multiple health issues.

[Video Here]

Last year’s Philly RDTW was featured in a short documentary by hate5six:

[Video Here]

he proceeds from the event are split with the Anarchist Black Cross Federation “Warchest Program” which includes incarcerated people like Leonard Peltier, Eric King, and Mutulu Shakur.

Cover image via IGD News.

Attica Uprising Commemoration March

from Twitter

Last night in Philadelphia, anarchists commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Attica prisoner uprising by marching to a youth detention facility where they banged pots and pans, lit road flares and set off fireworks to raise the spirits of the young people held inside:
[Video Here]

Support Kevin Berry of the Vaughn 17!

from Go Fund Me

Vaughn 17 member and politicized prisoner Kevin Berry is finally coming home after being locked down for 14 years. Kev was caught up in the system at an early age and has been in state prison since he was 18 years old. For the past four years, he’s been locked away in solitary in retaliation for standing up against the prison system in Delaware.

Kev is about to officially start his work-release program in Delaware, and we’re asking for help getting him on his feet. When he gets out of prison and starts his work-release job, he’s gonna have nothing — he needs clothes, food, and money as soon as possible. Your donations will literally go towards putting clothes on his back!

Kev has not only survived the so-called “justice system,” he’s also someone who has made significant sacrifices for our collective liberation. You can read his writings as part of the Vaughn 17 movement here and here .

If you would prefer to donate gift certificates or hotel vouchers (so he can save on rent while he’s trying to save up money), please do! You can email them to our riseup account (see below).

This comrade really needs and deserves our support right now. Thank you for showing up and showing your solidarity!

[Donate Here]

This Is America #147: Anti-Frat Action Goes Wild; Daryle Lamont Jenkins on Current Terrain; Philly ABC; Organizing Offline

from It’s Going Down

[This post only contains information relevant to Philadelphia and the surrounding area, to read the entire article follow the above link.]

Welcome, to This is America, September 1st, 2021.

On today’s episode, first we speak with Daryle Lamont Jenkins about his recent travels to New York for an antifascist film festival and Portland for a mass convergence against the Proud Boys. We talk about fighting the far-Right in a post-J6 world, the need to build alternatives to the State, and the growing threat of the anti-vaxx/mask movement. We then talk with someone from Philadelphia Anarchist Black Cross about the history of the group and the importance of upcoming ‘Running Down the Walls’ events.

We then switch to our discussion, where we talk about the need for people to re-hone their organizing skills as posts on social media are often leading to diminishing returns.

  • September 11th – 12th: Running Down the Walls. Events to raise money and awareness for political prisoners. See list here.

Thursday August 26th: Letter-writing for Sundiata Acoli

from Philly ABC

sundiata-acoli.jpg

Black August began in the 1970s to mark the assassination of the imprisoned Black Panther, author, and revolutionary George Jackson during a prison rebellion in California. Each year in August we take time to honor captured freedom fighters of the Black Liberation struggle as we study, train and recommit to the struggle for freedom year-round.

In lieu of our normal Monday night letter-writing, we will be co-hosting a Black August event with Philly Jericho. We will be focusing on sending meaningful letters of solidarity to long-term political prisoner Sundiata Acoli. Sundiata was a prominent member of the Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party. After targeting by the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO, Sundiata continued the struggle underground with the Black Liberation Army. In 1973 he, Zayd and Assata Shakur were stopped by New Jersey state troopers. Zayd Shakur was killed, while Assata was wounded and taken into custody. One state trooper was killed during the incident and another injured. Sundiata was later captured and sentenced to life plus 30 years in a politically charged and biased trial. We will also send birthday cards to political prisoners with birthdays in September: Leonard Peltier (the 12th) and Maumin Khabir (the 15th).

Never written a letter to a prisoner before? No Problem! Join us at Clark Park (stone platform near 45th and Chester) and we will go over some of the basics and have all the letter-writing supplies and snacks available.

If you are unable to make the event, please send your solidarity to Sundiata at:

Sundiata Acoli (Squire) #39794-066
FCI Cumberland
P.O. Box 1000
Cumberland, MD 21501

#SHUTEMDOWN2021

from It’s Going Down

Philadelphia, PA:

  • August 21st: 8pm, more info here. Demonstration in solidarity with prisoners.

Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson Ordered Released After 51 Years in Prison

from Unicorn Riot

August 11, 2021

Philadelphia, PA – Longtime Pennsylvania prisoner Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson, age 69, was ordered released today after five decades in prison, 37 years of which he spent in solitary confinement. Johnson had been convicted in the 1970 murder of Jerome Wayfield, when he was just 18. The Conviction Integrity Unit of the Philly District Attorney’s Office recently identified evidence that the sole witness against him, 15 years old at the time, was beaten by police for hours until he agreed to incriminate himself and Johnson.

Johnson was represented in court today by Bret Grote, executive director of the Abolitionist Law Center, a public interest law firm that has been working to secure his release. In a statement, Grote said “we are grateful to the Conviction Integrity Unit that Mr. Johnson is finally able to return home to his family. When I first met Mr. Johnson I promised we wouldn’t stop fighting until we brought him home. Today we fulfilled that promise.”

Pennsylvania state prosecutors agreed with the determination of Philly DA Larry Krasner’s office that Johnson’s original conviction should be overturned, citing interviews with Wayfield’s surviving relatives who said they supported his release.

Philadelphia Judge Scott DiClaudio agreed to nullify Johnson’s original conviction in the 1970 murder case, saying he believed the sole witness Gary Brame, known as ‘Ace’, “was coerced when interviewed in such a manner that the circumstances of the information provided to the police and the jurycould cause the court to hesitate as to the veracity of the witness.” DeClaudio described the role of Brame’s coerced testimony as “serious misrepresentation to the jurythat went unchecked.” Johnson was arrested and charged in 1970 by Philadelphia cops working under then-police chief Frank Rizzo, notorious for encouraging corrupt, brutal and racist practices amongst his officers.

After entering a new guilty plea today to the lesser charge of 3rd degree murder, Cetewayo Johnson is set to be released today or tomorrow once cumbersome logistics allow him to be processed out Pennsylvania’s prison system. The 10-20 year sentence imposed by Judge DiClaudio in the new lesser guilty plea is over 30 years shorter than the amount of time Johnson has already spent in prison.

One obstacle holding up Johnson’s release even though Judge DiClaudio ordered him to be “immediately released” is the fact that the text of the out-of-date 1970 murder statute he was charged under was not readily available to court staff filling out the necessary forms.

Passing family, friends and supporters of Johnson mingling in the hallway as he left his courtroom at lunchtime, Judge DeClaudio said that Johnson’s release was delayed because the court couldn’t find the 1970 murder law, and would have to “pull a book off the shelf” in order to complete filings.

It’s not gonna be anytime soonthey can’t even find the section of what the crime was 51 years ago.. when i pled him today there’s a certain section they have to pull up on the computer so they can send the order up…nobody knows where the section was, so we’re trying to call up to Harrisburgto go find a book off the shelf to see what the sub-section was of homicide in 1970.

– Judge Scott DiClaudio, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

Early in his incarceration, Johnson became politicized via friendships with political prisoners like Joseph “Joe-Joe” Bowen, a combatant in the Black Liberation Army (BLA), and Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, a member of the Black Panther Party and the BLA.

Johnson attempted to escape prison three times – in 1979, 1984 and 1987. The 1979 attempt allegedly involved using improvised weapons and restraining a guard he had incapacitated inside a cell. Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections (DOC) cited the escape attempts as recently as five years ago to justify holding him in prolonged solitary confinement.

In 2016, the Abolitionist Law Center represented Johnson in a lawsuit which successfully forced prison officials to stop holding him in solitary confinement after doing so for nearly four decades. Solitary confinement is classified as a form of torture yet is still used as a routine punishment in US prisons.

Saleem Holbrook, Executive Director of the Abolitionist Law Center, was once incarcerated alongside Johnson at SCI Greene. Holbrook told Unicorn Riot that Johnson’s case was “personal” for him because “Cetewayo was one of our mentors and elders.”

He was legendary within the system for his resistance – 38 years in the hole, and he stood tall. When prisoners… went in the hole, Cetewayo used that as a university. They isolated him, they wanted to use him as an example to us, like ‘don’t be like him’… but Cetawayo’s personality and his resistance was just so infectious that a lot of us younger guys looked up to him.

What was really impressive was that influence he had. He pushed us in the right and positive direction. He easily could have, had he been into the prison culture, pushed us into a more negative direction… Cetwayo pushed us into a direction of self-improvement, self-development, self-determination – study our history, study the Black Panthers, the Black Liberation Army, and more importantly, prepare ourselves for freedom.

– Saleem Holbrook, Executive Director, Abolitionist Law Center

Holbrook said that winning Johnson’s release was a “victory, it feels good, but it’s also bittersweet because we didn’t get justice” by exonerating him from all charges, with Johnson settling for the compromise of a guilty plea to lesser charges whose maximum sentence he has already served. “We got freedom for him, but I’ll take that.

Cetewayo Johnson’s cousin, Julie Burnett, told Unicorn Riot that Johnson was “like a brother” to her and that she’s missed him since his arrest in 1970, when she was just 4 years old: “I’ve been writing [him] letters since I knew how to address envelopes at about 5 or 6.” She’s been visiting him in prison for decades (“it’s like a way of life for me“), most recently on her 55th birthday this last July.

Burnett, who lost another brother when he died in prison in 1990, said she “always had hope” that Johnson would someday be released – “I was told never to give up on family.” She said that in spite of the “cruel and excessive punishment” of extended solitary confinement, her cousin “was a mentor to me over the telephone” and supported her through the loss of other family members when she was young. When Judge DiClaudio ordered Johnson released, Burnett described herself as “bursting at the seams with joy and thankfulness to God for allowing this to happenI can tell other people that there is hope, there’s a chancewhere there’s hope, never give up.”


UPDATE – Tuesday evening: After some confusion about the time and place of his release, Arthur “Cetawayo” Johnson was finally freed at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) in northeast Philadelphia.

Protest Against Prison Profiteer Companies

from Twitter

We are #live from #Philadelphia covering a protest against prison profiteer companies the local Aramark Offices nitter.net/i/broadcasts/1Zk…
One of the organizers points out that this event was largely organized by people inside prison. She is reading a statement from one of the people behind bars.
Global Tel Link (GTL) is the largest telecommunications provider in prisons and jails.

In Contempt #7: Charges Dropped, Charges Filed

from It’s Going Down

[This post only contains information relevant to Philadelphia and the surrounding area, to read the entire article follow the above link.]

A lot has gone on this month. From comrades like Loren Reed getting out (again!), to abolitionists in Florida getting their charges dropped, to Water Protectors like Jessica Reznicek now facing years in prison with a possible terrorism enhancement.

In this month’s column, we also bring you a whole roundup of news, prisoner birthdays, and updates on those facing repression in the wake of the George Floyd uprising.

Last up but not least, August is shaping up to be a busy month, with a call for people to organize #ShutEmDown rallies and much more! With so much to cover, let’s dive in!

Pennsylvania

A hunger strike involving several members of the Vaughn 17 has now been resolved, with hunger striker Alejandro “Capo” Rodriguez-Ortiz writing that “We look at the 10 day strike as a success… Now the world sees what the PADOC was doing.” The strike caused the PA Department of Corrections to publicly acknowledge the existence of their long term segregation program. According to the legal director for the Abolitionist Law Center, this had never happened before.

Mongoose Distro have published a short piece of writing by David Elmakayes, a Philadelphia defendant facing charges connected to last summer’s uprising. You can donate to help David’s legal costs here.

Upcoming Events

The month of August is commemorated as “Black August” by many radical prisoners in memory of George Jackson, and August 10 is commemorated in Canada and some other countries as Prisoners Justice Day.

Jailhouse Lawyers Speak are calling for abolitionist demonstrations under the slogan “Shut ‘Em Down 2021” on August 21st and September 9th. Reach out to Oakland Abolition and Solidarity if you’d like to get stickers to promote the events. Also, various international ABC groups observe August 23rd-30th as a week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners.

The annual Running Down the Walls solidarity event is scheduled for September 12th this year, with events confirmed for Austin, Lawrence, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia already so far. For a list, go here.

Uprising Defendants

Everyone should support the defendants facing charges related to their alleged participation in the George Floyd uprising – this list of our imprisoned comrades needs to be getting shorter, not longer. The status of pre-trial defendants changes frequently, but to the best of our knowledge they currently include:

David Elmakayes 77782-066
FDC Philadelphia
PO BOX 562
Philadelphia, PA 19105
You can donate to David’s legal funds here.

Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal 70002-066
FDC Philadelphia
PO BOX 562
Philadelphia, PA 19105

Upcoming Birthdays

Lawrence Michaels

A former Vaughn 17 defendant, and contributor to the Vaughn zines, “Live from the Trenches” and “United We Stood.” While the state has now dropped its attempts to criminalize Lawrence in relation to the uprising, he, like all of the Vaughn 17, deserves respect and support for making it through the entire process while staying in solidarity with his co-defendants and refusing to co-operate with the prosecution.

Pennsylvania uses Connect Network/GTL, so you can contact him online by going to connectnetwork.com, selecting “Add a facility,” choosing “State: Pennsylvania, Facility: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections,” going into the “messaging” service, and then adding him as a contact by searching his name or “NW2894.”

Birthday: August 14

Address:

Smart Communications / PA DOC
Lawrence Michaels – NW2894
SCI Greene
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Pedro Chairez

A former Vaughn 17 defendant. While the state has now dropped its attempts to criminalize Pedro in relation to the uprising, he, like all of the Vaughn 17, deserves respect and support for making it through the entire process while staying in solidarity with his co-defendants and refusing to co-operate with the prosecution. You can read some of Pedro’s words here.

Illinois uses Jpay, so you can send him a message by going to jpay.com, clicking “inmate search”, then selecting “State: Illinois, Inmate ID: Y35814.”

Birthday: August 17

Address:

Pedro Chairez Y35814
Pontiac C.C.
P.O. Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764

Russell “Maroon” Shoatz

Anarchist/anti-authoritarian-leaning Black Liberation/Black Panther prisoner, held since 1970 for his alleged involvement in attacking a police station in response to a police murder. Maroon is the author of the classic text “The Dragon and the Hydra: A Historical Study of Organizational Methods,” among others.

Pennsylvania uses Connect Network/GTL, so you can contact him online by going to connectnetwork.com, selecting “Add a facility,” choosing “State: Pennsylvania, Facility: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections,” going into the “messaging” service, and then adding him as a contact by searching his name or “AF3855.”

Birthday: August 23

Address:

Smart Connections/PA DOC
Russell Maroon Shoatz #AF-3855
SCI Dallas
Post Office Box 33028
St Petersburg, Florida 33733

 

Monday July 26th: Letter-writing for Ronald Reed

from Philly ABC

ronald-reed.jpg

Join us in Clark Park this coming Monday for the next letter-writing event. Snacks and materials will be provided! We will be writing letters to extend our solidarity to Ron Reed, long-time civil rights activist and Black revolutionary who is fighting his conviction for which he was framed and given a life sentence. His birthday is August 31st, so if you are writing to him from home, please send him birthday greetings as well.

Ron is a former 60s civil rights activist. In 1969, Reed was among the students at St. Paul Central High School who demanded Black history courses and organized actions against racist teachers. He was also instrumental in helping to integrate college campuses in Minnesota. During this period, Reed began to look toward revolutionary theory and engage in political street theater with other young Black revolutionaries in the city of St. Paul.

Reed went on to join the Black United Front. In 1970, he was convicted of shooting an off-duty police officer during a bank expropriation and served 13 years in prison. Twenty-five years later, Reed was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after having a cold case of another police shooting pinned on him. He is now serving life in prison for the second conviction.

We will also be sending birthday cards to political prisoners with birthdays in August: Eric King (the 2nd), Bill Dunne (the 3rd), Hanif Bey (the 6th), Mutulu Shakur (the 8th), and Russell Maroon Shoatz (the 23rd).

Meditation on Accountability

from Dreaming Freedom Practicing Abolition

Abolition is truly a project that requires balance. It is a negative and positive project. It is presence and absence. Often, we lean one way to the detriment of the other way. Inside, we tend to focus on the dismantling, the negative aspect. We are captive in an oppressive system predicated upon anti-Blackness. We are trapped in a space maintained by racialized and gendered violence. The terror is quotidian. Everyday we are under the boots of people who see us as less than human. No wonder our focus is getting rid of this system.

But then what? What have we done while inside to prepare ourselves for a world without prisons? This is the struggle I am engaged in everyday. Each day, I am fighting against the death this system has prepared for me and my peers. Each day, I am struggling to not drink the PIC kool-aid that says we are unworthy. Each day, I am locked in battle with a system that is determined to isolate and alienate us, not only from you, but from each other. But there is another fight.

Over ninety percent of incarcerated folks have a release date. We are coming home. What are we doing to prepare ourselves for that date? The system is rigged. It is designed for us to fail, to recidivate. No DOC is really going to prepare incarcerated folks for successful reentry. No DOC is going to prepare any of us for a world without prisons. No DOC teaches accountability. Punishment, yes. But not accountability. And we desperately need to learn accountability.

In 2019, I was asked to speak at annual assembly on responsibility. I saw this as an opportunity to speak on accountability. I knew it would be the first time many incarcerated folks engaged in a discussion on this topic. I opened by citing a question from a Vera Institute report that asked crime victims what they wanted more than anything else to happen. Audience members guessed the answer would be long term sentences or corporal punishment for people who perpetrated harm. But that wasn’t the number one answer. What people wanted most: that it never happen again, to them or anyone else.

I chose this question because I wanted the audience to know that the police could not give these people want they wanted. They only become involved after the harm has occurred. Neither could the district attorney or the judge. The DOC and the parole boards definitely are powerless to give people who have been harmed what they want most. The only people who can give them what they want is us. We have the power to make sure the harm doesn’t happen again. And just as some of us had made a decision to harm another person, we could make another decision to not repeat our behavior.

From there, I was able to springboard into a conversation on accountability. On not just being sorry, but “doing” sorry. I focused on what we could do right now to make sure we didn’t continue to harm others. I spoke about the pillars of accountability. I spoke on what it means to really be remorseful and not just regretful. I spoke on making amends. But that was one day.

What we need is sustained study and practice. What we need is community where we can practice accountability. What we need are allies that support and encourage accountability practices. And we need it now. This is one of the things we need to build if we are to create a world we can all thrive in and that doesn’t use cages to remedy harm. It’s tricky. I have to keep everyone’s humanity in the forefront of my mind. No one is disposable. And I have to be firm and require accountability from my circle.

Aishah Simmons’s new book is entitled “Love with Accountability”. That sums up what is required. Love has to be the motivation, the impetus. Accountability has to be the practice. Some days, I can keep all the balls in the air. Other days, I drop all of them. It’s tricky. But with practice, I am getting better. With comrades and allies, I am becoming more adept at loving with accountability.

Join me in this balancing act.