Jailers Attempt to Silence the Irrepressible C. Clark Kissinger
Revolutionary Worker #1085, January 7, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
"The purpose behind my sentencing and restriction has been in effect to try and put a brake on a political movement that the government does not like."
C. Clark Kissinger, at his Dec. 6 hearing
"Everyone who is punished is to a certain extent punished so that other people also don't break the law."
Asst. U.S. attorney Richard Goldberg, commenting on Kissinger's sentencing
"There is a trail of disruption wherever your client goes."
Judge Rapoport to C. Clark Kissinger's defense attorneys, Dec. 6
"Mumia's fearless, so are we. We demand that Clark go free!"
Chant outside Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, Dec. 20
C. Clark Kissinger has now been behind bars since December 6. Clark, a contributing writer for the Revolutionary Worker and a founding member of the organization Refuse & Resist!, is a leading organizer in the Mumia movement.
Clark had been arrested in 1999 during a protest for Mumia at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia--and had faced outrageous probation terms that denied him permission to travel outside New York without official permission. Each time Clark asked for permission to travel to speak in support of Mumia, he was denied. On August 1, 2000, Clark made a surprise appearance at a protest outside the Republican National Convention--to speak to the crowd in the streets.
Later, charged in court with making this speech without permission, Clark said: "A new generation [came to protest in Philadelphia]. Could I have done anything less? Could I have remained at home when they were willing to put themselves on the line?... The eyes of the world were on Philadelphia." For the "crime" of delivering this political speech, he was sentenced to a 90-day prison term on December 6 by a federal court in Philadelphia.
Typically, the prosecutor and the sentencing judge insisted that their jailing of Clark was "not political." But the very first words out of the prosecutor's mouth at the Dec. 6 hearing was a quote from Clark's August 1 speech where he referred to George W. Bush as a "smirking frat rat." The prosecution argued that Clark's speech was "not lawful speech." The prosecutor openly talked about punishing Clark in order to stop him from carrying out further protests. And the prosecutor raised the concept of "general deterrence"--the idea that punishing Clark would also deter others from taking political action.
This jailing is a dangerous attack on the growing movement to save Mumia's life--by attempting to silence and isolate one of the movement's key organizers behind bars for the coming three months. In addition it set a dangerous precedent by criminalizing political protest and speech.
Using Bars to Silence
At the beginning of his sentence, Clark was held in virtual isolation in Philadelphia. So many calls came in to the prison protesting his sentence that all the guards and prisoners knew who he was. After being moved to Brooklyn, Clark was denied clean clothes and prevented from acquiring a toothbrush, pencil or paper for eight days because, the officials said, he had no commissary privileges. Part of the official explanation for this was that Clark was convicted of such a minor crime, that no pre-sentence investigation was done, and so the prison did not have all the information it needs to "process" Clark.
Welcome to Alice's Wonderland--where a leading revolutionary activist is sentenced to three months, in a case involving a Class B misdemeanor (among the most minor of violations), and is then denied writing materials in jail because his "crime" is so ridiculously small!
On December 19, Judy Kissinger, who is married to Clark, tried to visit him at the Brooklyn Detention Center and was turned away for the second time. The next day, on December 20, people demonstrated at the Brooklyn Metro Detention Center, demanding an end to the isolation that prison authorities were imposing on Clark Kissinger. Shortly afterward, due to the many calls and letters of protest on Clark's behalf, Clark had won some of the minimal "privileges" accorded to the prisoners of this jail. His family can now visit, and he has clean clothes for the first time. As we go to press, Clark has been able to make some phone calls. Despite serious restrictions on his ability to telephone people on the outside, he has issued several statements from prison (see box) and is continuing to write about Mumia's case. His attorneys have filed a motion for a stay of sentencing, asking that Clark be released until his appeal has been heard.
Meanwhile the authorities have pressed ahead in even more outrageous ways to cut Clark off from the Mumia movement and silence his voice. When Noelle Hanrahan of the Prison Radio Project requested to interview Clark for radio broadcast, both she and Clark were told that she may interview him on January 2, but that Warden Dennis Hasty said he was exercising so-called "discretion" to rule that Noelle cannot bring in recording equipment! In addition, Noelle was asked by the warden's public relations assistant what questions she intended to ask.
In a statement issued from jail, Clark said, "This is a reprise of the government's attempt to censor the voice of Mumia... When Pennsylvania authorities cut off Mumia's access to audio and video journalists as punishment for publishing his first book, Live from Death Row, Mumia took them into federal court and won. The federal courts ruled that PA could not single out Mumia for this kind of censorship. The Pennsylvania prison system responded by changing its rules to prevent all Pennsylvania prisoners from being recorded. People everywhere must speak out against the wall of silence that officials are seeking to build around America's two million prisoners."
The jailing of Clark must be met with a major political response, resisted and defeated. The people need this revolutionary brother on the streets, helping to build the kind of movement that can defeat the government's moves to execute Mumia. Everyone with a sense of justice must speak out against this outrage--without serious resistance, the government might get away with setting a very dangerous precedent for criminalizing political speech and protest. We must take on the attack on Clark Kissinger so that it backfires on the government and further strengthens the movement to win justice for Mumia.
Refuse & Resist! said in a recent call for action around Clark's imprisonment: "This jailing cannot be tolerated. It cannot deter this movement! We must step up our efforts. We must resist it, expose why they are really going after Clark, build support for Clark and win justice for Mumia!"
To send Clark letters, write to:
Charles Clark Kissinger #53094-066,
Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center,
100 29th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11232
(Clark can receive paperback books and money orders made out with his name and prisoner number.)
To demand Clark's release, contact:
Warden Hasty 718-840-4200
Unit Manager Lee Tatum ext. 5212
Address: Cadre 2 South Prison, Metropolitan Detention Center,
80 29th St., Brooklyn, NY 11232
US Marshal's office, Daniel Byrne:
US Attorney for the Eastern District, Loretta Lynch: 718-254-7000
Judge Arnold C. Rapoport: 610.776.0369; fax, 610.776.0379 (convicted and sentenced C. Clark Kissinger)
Judge Bruce Kaufman: fax, 215.580.2281 (hearing Clark's appeal)
To contact Clark's office:
C. Clark Kissinger
655 Fulton Street #201
Brooklyn NY 11217-1112; Phone 212-571-0962;
or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Please forward copies of letters you write to the prison authorities.)
Information on Clark's case and imprisonment is online at: Free Speech TV (www.freespeechtv.org), Rage Against the Machine (www.ratm.com), Refuse & Resist! (www.refuseandresist.org), and Revolutionary Worker (rwor.org)
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)