A letter from prisoners held at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia since Aug 1
We are 24 male prisoners currently held at Curran-From hold Correctional Facility for our participation or attempted participation in the Aug. 1 non-violent direct actions against the Republican Convention in Philadelphia. The carefully choreographed conventions of both major parties have nothing to do with democracy. They are corporate-sponsored pageants designed to legitimize a system of corporate class rule that crushes the human spirit and that is destroying the planet. The criminal justice system of cops, courts and prisons that targets poor and working-class people in general and people of color in particular is a cornerstone of a system that serves the rich and maintains their rule.
Our actions in the streets of Philadelphia were intended to shine a light on the incarceration of 2 million people in the U.S., on the systematic use of police brutality to terrorize whole communities, on the racism and cruelty of the death penalty, on the many political prisoners, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, who are caged for their commitment to social justice. Our actions were aimed at disrupting the Republican Convention to the best of our ability. While we're sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused the people of Philadelphia, we are proud of what we did to expose this rotten system.
From the moment of our arrest we have experienced and witnessed the workings of a system designed to dehumanize people. Many of us were brutalized in the course of arrests. Some of us were beaten or pepper sprayed after we were handcuffed. In jail as many as nine people were packed into cells designed for two people. People with dietary restrictions went without food for up to 48 hours. In some cases our hands and feet were cuffed together and some of us had our cuffs so tight that we lost feelings in our hands or bled as a result.
We were denied the opportunity to meet with our lawyers prior to arraignment and were arraigned in a courtroom closed to the general public with the exception of select members of the capitalist media. We were arraigned with a court appointed public defender serving as counsel despite our explicitly and repeatedly stated desire to be represented by our own counsel who were denied access to the proceedings. We were charged with a variety of misdemeanors and in a few cases with felonies. Our individual bails have been set at between $10,000 and $1 million. Many if not all of the charges against us are either greatly exaggerated or completely falsified.
At Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility we have been placed in a special pod where we have little contact with other prisoners. While we regard our conditions here as dehumanizing we recognize that we are receiving special treatment such as extra food. So far we have not been beaten or physically hurt by personnel here.
Throughout this process we have sought to resist and stand in solidarity with each other to the best of our abilities. Almost all of us have refused to give our names. Many of us have had to be physically dragged through the various stages of this process. We have kept our spirits high through singing and chanting and pounding on our cell walls. We developed systems for communicating with each other and for reaching decisions by consensus. Many of us ripped the bracelets intended to identify us off our wrists. We resisted fingerprinting and attempts to photograph us. Some of us have refused food. In jail we stripped naked to make our processing more difficult. In the course of all this we have discovered strengths we never knew we had and have built a wall of solidarity based on profound love and respect for each other. We have drawn particular strength from the proud defiance of the sisters whose loud voices we have heard and whose acts of resistance we have occasionally been able to witness. While our access to information is restricted we are aware of the efforts of those on the outside to assist us. We love you all. We are in here for you and know that you are out there for us.
We believe that our experiences so far strongly vindicate us in our decision to take powerful action to expose the brutality and injustice of the so-called criminal justice system. As we go through this process we are learning personally of the mistreatment people experience every day in this country. As a group of mainly white and mainly middle class men we know full well that the treatment routinely received by poor people, people of color, and other marginalized people is much worse than what we have received.
While we have had little contact with other prisoners, that contact has been overwhelmingly positive, they know why we are here and they let us know in many ways that they support our actions and respect our commitment and solidarity. In turn we are learning from them about the workings of the prison and their own traditions of resistance. They have our respect, admiration and solidarity. So far the efforts of some personnel to cultivate distrust and antagonism between us and the other prisoners have failed.
We are political prisoners; we are being held on outrageous charges, in many cases with no foundation whatsoever in our actual actions; our bail figures are far out of proportion even for the crimes we are falsely accused of; we are here because of our political commitment and because we dared to defy the corporate powers that be as they were attempting to give a veneer of popular support to the rule of the few.
We call on those who support us to continue to put pressure on the Philadelphia authorities to win our quick release. We urge you all to continue to organize protests on our behalf and to write and call the mayor's office, the prosecutors and the prison authorities to demand:
- Our immediate and unconditional release on our own recognizance;
- That all charges be dropped, and;
- That prisoners with dietary restrictions (vegans and vegetarians) be provided with adequate food that they can eat.
- Call these officials and let them know that you support our demands:
- District Attorney Lynne Abraham, (215) 686-8701;
- Mayor John Street, (215) 686-2181;
- City Solicitor Ken Trujillo, (215) 683-5003.
Thirty of us have gone on hunger strike to win these demands. We want everyone to know that we are in good spirits and remain strong in our solidarity. We come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, but we are united in our commitment to genuine democracy and an end to corporate rule in general and to the criminal injustice system in particular.
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
& all political prisoners!
Stop police terror!
Tear down the prison industrial-complex!
End the death penalty!
Write to us:
John Doe "JD" Professor
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"That's not good
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Camilo Viveiros Jr.
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"Hank H. Parts"
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