From Carl Dix:
A Proposal for Action to the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and All Others Who Want to Fight the New Jim Crow
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We face an emergency situation.
- More than 2.3 million people, over half of whom are African-American or Latino, continue to be warehoused in prisons across the country.
- Many, many of these incarcerated people face conditions that fit the international definition of torture. This includes, by last count, over 80,000 in solitary confinement.
- More than 5 million formerly incarcerated people are stigmatized and treated as pariahs: discriminated against when they look for work, barred from living in public housing or receiving government loans and denied the right to vote.
- Racial profiling—including in the form of stop-and-frisk and gang injunctions—as well as racially discriminatory use of police to arrest literally hundreds of thousands of youth a year in school, giving them records for minor disciplinary infractions of school rules—continues to feed youth of color into the meat grinder.
- Every night the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency detains about 33,400 immigrants. A new report details how hundreds of these immigrants are being held in conditions of solitary confinement that amount to torture.
All this amounts to a slow genocide that is breaking the bodies and crushing the spirits of countless millions of oppressed people. A slow genocide which could easily become a fast one. This is unacceptable and must be stopped! And it is up to our grassroots efforts to stop it.
Nearly two years ago, some of us met to pull together a movement not just to protest this but to END IT. Some things have been done—we have supported the 2011 prisoners' hunger strikes in California; participated in actions across the country in protest of the murder of Trayvon Martin; and participated in many protests in communities across the country against police murder. And, in particular, we launched a major campaign of mass nonviolent direct action against the notorious stop-and-frisk policies in New York City.
This has been important. But it is not nearly enough.
Our movement of resistance to mass incarceration must make a big leap ahead in the coming months, becoming a major force in U.S. society capable of beating back this slow genocide and building up the strength and organization needed to actually STOP IT. I want to suggest a combination of initiatives for this summer that I think could, together, amount to a major step in this direction and, right now, make a huge leap in putting this in the forefront of people's minds.
- A central focus of doing this must be working to support the hunger strike called for by people in prison in California. In 2011 prisoners in the Special Housing Units (SHUs) of the California prisons engaged in a hunger strike demanding an end to the torturous conditions. (For info on this strike go to www.revcom.us/a/247/247prisoners-resume-hunger-strike-en.html.) They plan to initiate another hunger strike on July 8, 2013, if the authorities continue to refuse to respond satisfactorily to their demands for change, and they have called on prisoners across the country to join them. They have also issued an inspiring call for unity between people of different races and nationalities inside and outside the prisons. People who have been locked down in the dungeons of this country and have been condemned as the worst of the worst have stood up and said NO MORE! They have asserted their humanity, and if we wish to assert our own humanity, we can do no less than build powerful support for these prisoners—beginning now. We should act in solidarity with these prisoners, with their loved ones and all those who have supported their struggle.
THIS HAS TO START NOW! We need to spread the word on the planned hunger strike and the call for unity inside and outside the prisons. We need to gather statements of support for the actions of the prisoners. We need to plan tribunals and other forms to involve broad sections of people in standing with the hunger strikers. If at all possible, we must through this protest force the state of California to meet these demands and make it unnecessary for these prisoners to take such a desperate action; but we must also be prepared to support them through what might indeed be a necessary and very difficult struggle.
Even as we focus on this, we need to continue working to build a powerful movement of resistance to mass incarceration overall. This means:
- Taking on police brutality, police murder and violation of people's fundamental rights. Supporting people whenever they take a righteous stand against this.
- URGENT: We face an immediate necessity to build support for Noche Diaz, a young revolutionary who goes on trial in New York City on April 23 facing several years in prison for observing the police brutalizing people and refusing to leave those people alone to deal with that brutality. Please right now sign the statement in support. (You can sign this statement by going to http://www.stopmassincarceration.org/noche-statement.html.) And contact me about other ways we can support this courageous young fighter.
- The trial of the vigilante murderer of Trayvon Martin begins in June. It took massive outpourings across the country to force the authorities to put Zimmerman on trial, and without continued mass involvement there will be no chance for justice in this case.
- Spreading the blow-the-whistle actions we took last Fall, in which communities were mobilized to blow whistles to highlight police harassment and abuse on the spot. These were taken up in several communities and showed real potential as a way for people in the grassroots to resist the denial of their rights as it happens, and to protest this. This summer should witness a real spread of this method of resistance.
- The "We Say NO MORE!" statement should be further circulated and should actually become a dividing line in society. This is a vehicle for all people, whether they directly face this slow genocide or not, to stand up and protest against it.
- This movement needs to take on a cultural expression. There are many who would want to participate in creating a culture that highlights what is truly positive—resistance against this. Can we ask visual artists to create a logo or emblem that could become something like the pink-and-black triangle of ACT UP? And we should also look at the possibility of a major hip hop concert in the fall. (How is "Words and Beats Against Mass Incarceration" as a title for this?)
- Finally, there should be literally thousands in the streets, and tens of thousands protesting in other ways, on October 22, 2013, the 18th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
As part of doing this, we need to get further organized. This means encouraging the formation of chapters of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network all over the country.
These are my ideas on what we need to take up in the months ahead. There is an urgent need to map out an approach to the continuing slow genocide of mass incarceration that grinds away, engulfing the lives of tens of millions of oppressed people. In doing this, we need to base ourselves on what we have accomplished so far while facing squarely the need to go much further.
Get back to me with your thoughts on this proposal. Write me via the Stop Mass Incarceration Network by calling 347-979-SMIN (7646) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, co-founder of Stop Mass Incarceration Network
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.