Category Archives: Political Prisoner

Former Political Prisoner Zolo Azania

Zolo Agona Azania

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This week on The Final Straw radio we are sharing a chat that Bursts had with Zolo Agona Azania. Zolo is  from Gary, Indiana where he lives now, working a job and also doing re-entry work with the formerly incarcerated and community service to break cycles of trauma. After 7 and a half years in prison from ages 18-25 where Zolo engaged in political education with members of the Black Panther Party from Indianapolis, he was released. In 1981 he was re-arrested, picked up by the Gary police while walking around the city after a bank robbery took place, resulting in the death of a Gary police lieutenant. Because of his political views and circumstantially being on the street at that time, Zolo was convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to death.

Zolo beat that death penalty from within prison twice and blocked a third attempt by the state to impose it. For the hour, Zolo talks about his life, his parents, his art, his education, his time behind bars, his political development, the Republic of New Africa, and his legal struggle.

To get in touch with Zolo you can email him at azaniazolo5( at)gmail(dot )com or you can write

Jumpstart Paralegal and Publishing
PO Box 64854
Gary, Indiana 46401

To see more of Zolo’s art you can visit this support page!

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Playlist

Kevin Rashid Johnson on the #PrisonStrike + Two Audio Zines

Kevin Rashid Johnson on the Prison Strike

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This week on the Final Straw, we’re featuring two main events, both themed around the Prison Strike ongoing across Turtle Island until at least September 9th.

First, an interview we conducted with Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. Rashid is a co-founder of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party and is the Minister of Defense from within it’s Prison Chapter. He is the author of two books available from Kersplebedeb, Defying the Tomb & Panther Vision, both collections of Rashid’s art and essays on capitalism, racism, imperialism and his view of a road towards liberation. Rashid is a Maoist and presents some interesting arguments in his writings. In this interview, Rashid talks briefly about his own case, his politicization behind bars, organizing the NABPP-PC, it’s split from the New Black Panther Party, cross-racial class organizing, the #PrisonStrike and more. We hope to be able to bring more of Rashid’s voice in the future. To check out his writing and and his quite literally iconic art, check out rashidmod.com. And at the moment you can write to Rashid at the following address:

Kevin Johnson #1007485
Sussex 1 State Prison
24414 Musselwhite Dr.
Waverly, VA 23891

Next, we’ll hear an audio post-card that some friends put together, interspersing words of encouragement and audio from a noise demonstration outside Hyde prison in Eastern North Carolina on August 20th. Prisoners at Hyde CI met the outside supporters in the yard and from across lines of razor wire they unfurled three banners with simple statements: “parole”; “better food”; & “In Solidarity”. To read an article about the noise demo, see some pictures and hear about NC specific demands, check out the article, Community Shows Support as NC Prisoners Rally With Banners on ItsGoingDown. Make some noise!

To close out the hour, we will hear some words of encouragement to striking prisoners in #Amerikkka from comrades incarcerated in #Klanada!

If you’re in Asheville today (Sunday September 9th), consider dropping by Firestorm at 610 Haywood Rd at 5pm to join #BlueRidgeABC for the monthly political prisoner letter writing night. Supplies will be free as well as info on writing prisoners, names and addresses, and comradery.

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Show playlist here.

Anti-Prison, Anti-Imperialist, Anti-Racist: Ray Luc Levasseur, PT2

Ray Luc Levasseur, PT2

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This week, we share some more perspectives on prison, stretching back decades. You’re about to hear the second half of our conversation from earlier this year with Ray Luc Levasseur. Mr. Levasseur is a longtime activist, Vietnam War vet, revolutionary and former political prisoner in the U.S. Ray was a reputed founder of the Sam Melville / Jonathan Jackson Unit, later known as the United Freedom Front which conducted sabotage, expropriations and attacks against profiteers and symbols of American Imperialism and oppression abroad. After 9 years of activity in the group and living underground, members of the group were apprehended and became known as the Ohio 7. Ray was paroled in 2004, about 20 years after his arrest. We aired the first half of my conversation with Ray back in March where he talked about his time underground, his relationship with Tom Manning and the resistance Tom has given and repression Tom has faced as an aging prisoner in the Federal System for the death of a cop he claims to be innocent of.

This hour, Ray talks about his introduction into political organizing in 1968 after returning from the Vietnam War. Ray joined an anti-racist, anti-Vietnam War and pro-Labor organization called Southern Student Organizing Committee in Clarksville, TN. He was incarcerated in 1969 for a drug charge (he was selling weed to supplement his G.I. Bill), and repressed as an anti-racist prisoner and organizer, and began to put the pieces together about criminalization, capitalism and white supremacy. He talks about his time at Brushy Mountain, where Convict-Lease (the transition of forced labor after slavery) prisoners had been forced to mine coal, and where Ray was held on death row. Ray later talks about the activities of the Marxist guerrilla group, the Sam Melville / Jonathan Jackson Unit, 1975-1978. From 1982 to1984, the United Freedom Front (UFF) began bombing and bank robbery activities for which members were convicted and served time in Prison, again with Tom Manning and Jan Laaman still inside. Ray then responds to our question about his views as a long-term anti-racist organizer about the resurgence of street-level fascist and racist organizing in recent history, and inform us about engaging as anti-racists in support of the Indigenous Penobscot nation’s resistance to the Penobscot river being commercialized. Finally, Ray mentions Sacco and Vanzetti being brought up in his trial statements, so I’ll link to those statements here.

We apologize for the quality of audio during this interview, we were having technical difficulties with our new audio setup when this was recorded.

Announcements

Prison Strike

The #August21 – September 9th #PrisonStrike is in full bloom with participation around the U.S. among immigrant detainees, folks in County, State and Federal facilities as well as prisoners in Halifax, Nova Scotia putting out a solidarity statement. Rather than list out all of the inside and outside solidarity, again we’ll point y’all to https://prisonstrike.com, where you’ll find links to IWOC, IGD, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, SuwariMi and other resources and clearinghouses where press releases, images, posters, interviews, updates and call outs are being collected, tools for you to use to amplify and spread this prison strike. And check out this audio postcard that someone produced for the ears of prisoners. Share it with someone inside if you can!

And if you’re looking for things to listen to, check out recent and upcoming episodes from the IGDcast, Kiteline, Rustbelt Abolition Radio, the newly added From Embers and the recently re-started crimethInc HotWire, all members of the Channel Zero Network of Anarchist Podcasts.

NWDC ICE Phonezap

There’s also a request for a phonezap for Monday the 27th in support of Hunger Striking prisoners at the North West Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. In solidarity with the #August21 Nationwide Prison Strike and in their own struggle, undocumented prisoners at NWDC began this hunger strike on Tuesday the 21st. You can call Acting ICE Field Director, Bryan S. Wilcox at 206 835 0650 ext. 2 and Assistant Field Director for ICE Detentino William Penaloza at 253 779 6000 ext. 1, wait for the message and then dial 4 to get through. It’s requested that you tell them to meet the hunger strikers demands and that GEO cease and desist in retaliating against the hunger strikers. More at incarceratedworkers.org/

Confederate Monuments

Last Monday, August 20th , the Silent Sam statue to confederate soldiers from UNC Chapel Hill was removed by anti-racist students and community members and now Neo-Confederate goons are rattled. Saturday, August 25th there was a rally with racists waving Stars and Bars in Chapel Hill and scuffled with anti-racists. A number of anti-racists were arrested and released at the Monday event, then 3 warrants were set for people in the Triangle and more arrests occurred at the rally today. When fundraising sites are up, we’ll be sure to pass on that information. In response to the monument coming down, one in a line of monuments in New Orleans, Memphis, Charlottesville, Richmond and even little old Asheville, Neo-Confederates are up in arms. There is a call up for a counter to the League of the South demo in Elizabethton, TN, on September 29th. More info on that can also be found in future episodes of this show.

And here’re a few announcements we stole from crimethInc’s latest Hotwire!

Sean Swain

Anarchist prisoner Sean Swain is being held in solitary. Call Director Gary Mohr at 614–387–0588 or e-mail drc.publicinfo@odrc.state.oh.us or melissa.adkins@odrc.state.oh.us (Administrative Assistant for Mohr). You can use this script:

“I am calling on behalf of Sean Swain, inmate #243–205. I am a friend of Sean. I am calling to request the ODRC grant Mr. Swain’s appeal regarding his most recent disciplinary record, drop the charges, and lower his security level from 5b to 2. Mr. Swain is not a physical security risk, and there is no reason to keep him at such a high security rating where he will be unable to get the programming he needs to be eligible for rehabilitation and parole. Thank you for your consideration.”

Joseph Dibee

Also of note, we’re sorry to share with you that alleged Earth Liberation Front activist Joseph Dibee, was captured by the Cuban state and handed over to the FBI. Joseph is being charges with arson and conspiracy charges related to ELF actions taken almost 20 years ago. Here’s a crimethInc article about his case. You can send letters of care and encouragement to Joseph. DO NOT write about his case or reference anything illegal. Write him here:

Joseph Dibee #812133
Multnomah County Detention Center
11540 NE Inverness Drive
Portland, Oregon 97220

Zurich Tattoo Circus

Anarchists in Zurich, Switzerland will be hosting a Tattoo Circus there from august 31 to September 2, to raise money for political prisoners and the Anarchist Black Cross. Find out more at TattooCircusZurich.noblogs.org.

Playlist Pending

Expropriations and Internal Exile: Ray Luc Levasseur on Tom Manning, SCAR, and the Ohio 7

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For this week’s episode, Bursts spoke with Ray Luc Levasseur, longtime activist, Vietnam War vet, revolutionary and former political prisoner in the U.S. Ray was a reputed founder of the Sam Melville / Jonathan Jackson Unit, later known as the United Freedom Front which conducted sabotage, expropriations and attacks against profiteers and symbols of American Imperialism and oppression abroad. After 9 years of activity in the group and living underground, members of the group were apprehended and became known as the Ohio 7. Ray was paroled in 2004, about 20 years after his arrest.

Here we present half of our interview with Ray, which covers some of his political development. The other portion of this interview will air soon.

Now, though, we’ll hear about Ray’s organizing with prisoners after his own political incarceration for organizing and possession of small portions of marijuana for sale, the organizing of SCAR (Statewide Correctional Alliance for Reform), meeting Tom Manning, the process of going underground and why they chose this route and the formation of the underground movement later known as the SM/JJU. Then, Ray speaks about the case of his still incarcerated co-defendants, Jaan Laaman, and in more detail about co-defendant Tom Manning. Tom has been kept off and on in solitary confinement for very long periods of time, has been summarily transferred, has received inadequate medical care for the injuries of incarceration and aging inside of prisons. He was producing artwork until 2010 when he almost lost his leg due to an injury while being held in Florida. He was recently transferred from the Medical Facility at Butner, NC, to USP Hazelton in West Virginia. Tom Manning has only recently been able to start drawing again because he finally relieved some medical care relieving some of his pain & there’ s an art room at Hazelton with some supplies.
If you’d like to correspond with Tom, you can write him at:

Thomas Manning #10373-016
USP Hazelton
Post Office Box 2000
Bruceton Mills, West Virginia 26525

If you want to check out Tom’s art while monetarily supporting him, consider getting “For Love And Liberty”

We’ll have more info on the case of Jaan Laaman, the other mem

ber of the UFF still in prison soon. Jaan’s birthday is coming up on March 21st, so send him a birthday greeting if you want.
Jaan Laaman #10372-016
USP McCreary
Post Office Box 3000
Pine Knot, Kentucky 42635

To keep up on support for Tom, Jaan and other political prisoners in the U.S., check out the for The National Jericho Movement Fedbook page, or signing up for the Freedom Archives Political Prisoner News list.  Also, you can check out 4StruggleMag, which Jaan helped to found.

If you’re in NYC, the National Jericho Movement (website & fedbook) is having it’s 20th anniversary gathering on March 24th (as Ray mentions in the chat). Here’s a link to the JerichoNYC page for more details.

Playlist

Tree-Sitting to Stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline

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Main Interview: Stop the MVP and All Pipelines!

(at ~ 16min, 38sec)

This week, Bursts spoke with Birch and Judy, two folks involved in the Tree Sits on Peter Mountain along the Appalachian Trail on the border of Virginia and West Virginia.  The tree sits are operating in order to block the Mountain Valley Pipeline or MVP.  Before all of the permits have been ok’d, contractors with the help of local law enforcement have been clearing the path for the pipeline.  This preparation would include 3,800 feet blasted through the mountains or if that didn’t work the blasting of a trench that length through the mountains.  We also talk about the ACP, or Atlantic Coast Pipeline, in this conversation and the connections between the two projects and their resistance.

These constructions (or destruction) and the resultant pipelines threaten the plants, animals (human and non) and all of the water systems along the route as well as continuing to foster an energy system that feeds off of the unsustainable extraction, transport and burning of fossil fuels to the short term benefit of a few government officials and capitalists and to the detriment of the entire world via anthropogenic, or human initiated, climate change.

To get involved, you can contact: petersmountainstand@protonmail.com.

You can donate to support at their youcaring site

For more information on the the Peters Mountain tree sit, the campaign against the MVP and how to join in or support where you are, check out the fedbook page Appalachians Against Pipelines.  To keep up on resistance to the ACP, you can follow the twitter account, NoACP.  And to learn more about anti-pipeline struggles in Virginia, in particular, check out the podcast, “End Of The Line“.  We interviewed a producer of this project in an earlier episode.

Retraction of a previous Sean Swain segment

To open our announcements section, I’d like to air a brief statement in the spirit of accountability. As per the very reasonable request on the part of the folks doing support for Alvaro and Abraham, we have omitted the Sean Swain segment for the episode in which we interviewed Bruno Rennero-Hanan regarding Keep Loxicha Free, which originally aired on February 18th. The You Are the Resistance topic did not pair well with the main interview content, and the group that was being interviewed did not have any prior knowledge of the segment. We very much regret any confusion or discomfort that this caused, and all versions of the show have since been updated to remove the segment in question.

We would like to take a bit of space here to contextualize these segments for new listeners, which is to say that the Sean Swain segments are presented in the spirit of satire; Swain himself has been a political prisoner for over 25 years at this point, and his humor can get abrasive, but he is a committed believer in the dismantling of all forms of oppression. This is in no way to imply that they should be free of interrogation or troubling, and we are open to feedback on this segment and any other content we present!

Due to separate, technical difficulties, we are unable to air a Sean Swain segment this week. But fear not, Swainiacs, for next week Sean should be back. To brush up on the over 200 segments we’ve recorded of Sean over the years, please visit SeanSwain.org

Some Events in Asheville

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Tour

At Firestorm in Asheville, NC, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief will continue it’s tour of 2 night presentations around the region with Protectors v. Profiteers: Communities in Resistance to Disaster Capitalism on March 9 @ 7:30 pm EST.  The next day at 3pm (correction, had said noon in the podcast), in the basement of Firestorm, at Kairos, MADR will also host Part 2 of their tour, Giving Our Best, Ready For The Worst: Community Organizing as Disaster Preparedness.  These events will be free.  More info on these and other tour stops is available at https://mutualaiddisasterrelief.org.

“Hebron” Documentary

Coming up: the group, Jewish Voice for Peace – Asheville presents a film screening of the 35-minute documentary Hebron, by Palestinian filmmaker and now Asheville resident Yousef Natsha, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with the filmmaker and other community members.

The showing will take place on Sunday, March 11th, at 3:00pm at THE BLOCK off Biltmore, 39 S Market St B in downtown Asheville.  More info on the film can be found at his website here, and stay tuned for an interview with the filmmaker on this film and many other topics on this here radio platform!

Other Announcement: J20 West Coast Tour

J20 West Coast Speaking Tour will be doing a daily stops down the Pacific coast of Turtle Island.  Today, March 4th, they’ll be in Olympia, Monday the 5th they’ll be in Portland, Tuesday they’ll be in Eugene… etc, ending up (announced so far) in Tuscon on March 18th.  If you find yourself in that route and want to hear the voices of defendants and build that movement support, give a visit to http://defendj20resistance.org/blog/ and find the link and image.

Support Ruchell Cinque Magee!

(at ~ 8 min, 40 sec)

And here’s an announcement about the man who may be the longest held political prisoner in the world. Ruchell was originally from Franklinton, La., he was falsely charged with “attempted rape” for being with a White girl in KKK territory. He was 16 and sentenced to the infamous Angola State Prison. Ruchell Magee was politicized alongside George Jackson and was involved in the Marin County Courthouse Rebellion alongside Jonathan Jackson, William Christmas and James McClain in 1971. He’ll be up for parole this year after 54 years behind bars, 7 of which were for his prior conviction.

More info from PrisonerSolidarity.Net:

Ruchell is the longest held political prisoner in the U.S., having been locked up since 1963. Politicized in prison, he later participated in the Marin County Courthouse Rebellion, the attempted liberation of political prisoner George Jackson. Ruchell Magee pled guilty to the charge of aggravated kidnapping for his part in the assault. In return for his plea, the Attorney General asked the Court to dismiss the charge of murder (Magee being the shooter of Judge Haley). Magee later attempted unsuccessfully to withdraw his plea, and was sentenced in 1975 to life in prison. He has lost numerous bids for parole. He has also worked tirelessly as a jailhouse lawyer, working on his own case and helping many other prisoners win their freedom.

He had been in L.A. for 6 months when he and his cousin Leroy got in a fight over a $10 bag of marijuana. In court, the two ended up with trumped up charges of kidnapping and robbery and he was given life in prison.

While in prison Ruchell began learning the long and rich history of Black liberation history. He adopted the middle name of Cinque, after the enslaved African who led the takeover of the slave ship Amistad, which eventually lead to the freedom of all the people being held on board. He began petitioning his unjust sentence to no avail. Although critically wounded on August 7, 1970, Magee was the sole survivor among the four brave Black men who conducted the courthouse slave rebellion, leaving him to be charged with everything they could throw at him.

Here is some background on the Marin Courthouse Incident

On August 7th, 1970 Jonathan Jackson, age 17, George’s younger brother, raided the Marin Courtroom and tossed guns to prisoners William Christmas and James McClain, who in turn invited Ruchell to join them. Ru seized the hour spontaneously as they attempted to escape by taking a judge, assistant district attorney and three jurors as hostages in that audacious move to expose to the public the brutally racist prison conditions and free the Soledad Brothers (John Clutchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Jackson).

McClain was on trial for assaulting a guard in the wake of Black prisoner Fred Billingsley’s murder by prison officials in San Quentin in February, 1970. With only four months before a parole hearing, Magee had appeared in the courtroom to testify for McClain.

The four revolutionaries successfully commandeered the group to the waiting van and were about to pull out of the parking lot when Marin County Police and San Quentin guards opened fire. When the shooting stopped, Judge Harold Haley, Jackson, Christmas, and McClain lay dead; Magee was unconscious and seriously wounded as was the prosecutor. A juror suffered a minor injury. In a chain of events leading to August 7, on January 13, 1970, a month before the Billingsley slaughter, a tower guard at Soledad State Prison had shot and killed three Black captives on the yard, leaving them unattended to bleed to death — Cleveland Edwards, “Sweet Jugs” Miller, and the venerable revolutionary leader, W. L. Nolen, all active resisters in the Black Liberation Movement behind the walls.

After the common verdict of “justifiable homicide” was returned and the killer guard exonerated at Soledad, another white-racist guard was beaten and thrown from a tier to his death. Three prisoners, Fleeta Drumgo, John Clutchette, and Jackson were charged with his murder precipitating the case of The Soledad Brothers and a campaign to free them led by college professor and avowed Communist, Angela Davis, and Jonathan Jackson.

Magee had already spent at least seven years studying law and deluging the courts with petitions and lawsuits to contest his own illegal conviction in two fraudulent trials. As he put it, the judicial system “used fraud to hide fraud” in his second case after the first conviction was overturned on an appeal based on a falsified transcript. His strategy, therefore, centered on proving that he was a slave, denied his constitutional rights and held involuntarily.

Therefore, he had the legal right to escape slavery as established in the case of the African slave, Cinque, who had escaped the slave ship, Armistad, and won freedom in a Connecticut trial. Thus, Magee had to first prove he’d been illegally and unjustly incarcerated for over seven years. He also wanted the case moved to the Federal Courts and the right to represent himself.

Moreover, Magee wanted to conduct a trial that would bring to light the racist and brutal oppression of Black prisoners throughout the state. “My fight is to expose the entire system, judicial and prison system, a system of slavery.. This will cause benefit not just to myself but to all those who at this time are being criminally oppressed or enslaved by this system.”

On the other hand, Angela Davis, his co-defendant, charged with buying the guns used in the raid, conspiracy, etc., was innocent of any wrongdoing because the gun purchases were perfectly legal and she was not part of the original plan. Davis’ lawyers wanted an expedient trial to prove her innocence on trumped up charges. This conflict in strategy resulted in the trials being separated. Davis was acquitted of all charges and released in June of 1972.

Ruchell fought on alone, losing much of the support attending the Davis trial. After dismissing five attorneys and five judges, he won the right to defend himself. The murder charges had been dropped, and Magee faced two kidnap charges. He was ultimately convicted of PC 207, simple kidnap, but the more serious charge of PC 209, kidnap for purposes of extortion, resulted in a disputed verdict. According to one of the juror’s sworn affidavit, the jury voted for acquittal on the PC 209 and Magee continues to this day to challenge the denial and cover-up of that acquittal.

Ruchell turns 79 years old this month and eligible for parole for several reasons, including the impanelment of a federal three-judge order to release elderly prisoners to reduce the prison population.

You can write to Ruchell by addressing mail to:

Magee, Ruchell #A92051 B3-270
California Men’s Colony State Prison
PO Box 8103
San Luis Obispo,, CA 93409-8103

To read a recent article by former Black Panther Kiilu Nyasha including words by Ruchell, you can go to the SF Bay View.

Whammo!: MOVE9 Parole; Addicted to Screens; Anarcho-Syndicalism in Kosovo

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This episode contains three segments:

Move 9 Parole
“Stare Into The Lights My Pretties”
Anarcho-Syndicalist Organizing in Kosovo

MOVE9 Parole

First, there’s the interview that Bursts held with Michael Davis Africa Jr., a member of the MOVE organization.  MOVE is a Philadelphia-based black liberation group founded by John Africa in 1972. The group lives communally. During the conversation, Michael Jr. talks about the case of the MOVE9, who were 9 members of that group who were arrested and accused of the killing of a police officer in 1978 in Philadelphia, a charge they each deny.  Officer James Ramp was killed following a year of the Philly PD blockading the house for a year under an eviction order and the police besieged the house on August 8th, 1978.  The MOVE 9 have been incarcerated for almost 40 years now, with Merle & Phil dying behind bars.  Police and white supremacist affiliated groups have successfully gotten parole denied for Eddie, Michael and Delbert Africa over the last 9 months as they do for many Political Prisoners from the 1960’s through 80’s in the U.S.  There are upcoming are parole hearings for Janet, Janine and Debbie Africa and more info on who to petition for their release can be found at http://onamove.com/move-9/. The name of the D.A. who prosecuted the MOVE9 in 1978 and who is still on the paperwork and has a say on the parole of the MOVE9 40 years later is named John Straub.

Coming up this Saturday, February 24th starting at 4pm there’ll be an event called “Framed In America: The Making of Political Prisoners”.  This will take place at The National Black Theater, 2031 5th Ave in Harlem, New York and will include presentations by Ramona Africa, Fred Hampton Jr, Pam Africa, Roger Wareham, Betty Davis, Ralph Poynter and Johanna Fernandez.  More info can be found on the Justice for the Move 9 fedbook group.

Stare Into The Light My Pretties

The second conversation you’ll hear today is an interview by Dissident Island Radio from London from their February 2nd episode. In this, a collective member interviews Filmmaker Jordan Brown, director of ‘Stare Into the Lights My Pretties’, discussing their documentary about screen culture and its implications.  The film is available for free on archive.orgyoutube and at truthstreammedia.com. DI is a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts available at channelzeronetwork.com.

Anarcho-Syndicalist Organizing in Kosovo

Finally, we’ll be airing an interview conducted by our friends at Črna Luknja on Radio Student in Lubjlana, Slovenia, that they conducted with members of an anarcho-syndicalist collective from Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.  This segment was released as a part of the February 2018 edition of B(A)DNews: Angry Voices From Around The World, from the A-Radio Network of which The Final Straw, Črna Luknja and Dissident Island are members.

Keep PUSHing: Building on the #OperationPUSH demands

Mere days before FDC’s repression effort began scattering active prisoners into new facilities, and into solitary confinement for the weeks surrounding January 15, an Operation PUSH prisoner’s anonymous voice reached the world and called on outside supporters to “shine a light from the outside in on the system.”

In essence, this prisoner saw what was coming and passed the torch to us on the outside. With three clear demands and a simple strategy, this invisible group of prisoners gave a glimpse of what could be, if the networks of outside solidarity and inside communication could coalesce.

While we have heard from many prisoners since January 15, we know that the vast majority of FL prisoners still do not know how much support they garnered on the outside. And many who made plans to struggle together have not seen or heard from each other in weeks. In many ways, the next steps towards victory for them are in our hands.

It is with this understanding that a group of us on the outside are developing an additional list of demands, based primarily on communication from prisoners we’ve gotten in recent weeks, that aims to honor the countless who have suffered major sacrifices to develop or report on Operation PUSH as well as those who had no idea what it was, but were punished preemptively simply because they were viewed as potential organizers or participants.

We will do all we can to bring these demands to FDC, the Governor and State Legislature, in an effort to carry the prisoners’ vision for Operation PUSH forward.

In addition to the Operation PUSH demands of payment, parole and pricing, we, supporters of all Florida prisoners struggling for dignity, demand:

  • An end to censorship of publications that give voice to prisoners and/or critique prisons;
  • An end to repression of prisoners for communication with outside advocates;
  • An end to the use of Security Threat Group status as a means for political repression;
  • An end to strip cells and extreme temperatures to torture prisoners;
  • An explanation of the cause for a major spike in 2017 prisoner deaths;
  • Protection of prisoners health from nearby industrial activity, including phosphate mining and landfills;
  • An end to black mold-infested facilities, spoiled food and dilapidated buildings;
  • Removal of all KKK members, and other recognized racist hate groups, from FDC staff;
  • An end to the medical co-pay that results in financial debt and untreated illness;
  • An immediate reduction in prison population using existing guidelines for clemency; and
  • A face-to-face meeting with FDC officials to further discuss these matters.

Links to more info:

Updates on Operation PUSH in the Florida Department of Corrections

Time on Ice: Florida Officials Torture Prisoners With Freezing Strip Cells (2018) by Kevin Rashid Johnson

Playlist

Keep Loxicha Free!: A conversation with Bruno Renero-Hannan about Political Imprisonment and Indigenous Resistance in Oaxaca

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This week William got the chance to speak to Bruno Renero-Hannan, who is an anarchist historical anthropologist from Mexico City, about their solidarity work around two of the original 250 Loxicha Prisoners in the state of Oaxaca. This rebellion and imprisonment occurred almost simultaneously to the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas in the mid-late 90s with very different results. We talk about the long and complex history of this case, the similarities and differences between this uprising and that of the Zapatistas, the ongoing political repression of Alvaro Ramirez and Abraham Ramirez, and the economic solidarity push being orgainized by our guest, as well as some stark parallels between this case and that of the remaining 59 J20 defendants. If you would like to see the 45 minute broadcast edit of this interview, you can go to The Final Straw Radio Collection on archive.org.

 

To contribute to freedom for Alvaro and Abraham, please visit https://patreon.com/KeepLoxichaFree.

As per the very reasonable request on the part of the folks doing support for Alvaro and Abraham, we have omitted the Sean Swain segment for this episode. The You Are the Resistance topic did not pair well with the main interview content nor were Keep Loxicha Free supporters aware of the segment.  We regret any confusion or discomfort that this caused. 

We would like to take a bit of space here to explain to new listeners that many of the Sean Swain segments are meant in the spirit of satire; Swain himself has been a political prisoner for over 25 years at this point, and his humor is sometimes abrasive, but he is a committed believer in the dismantling of all forms of oppression. 

He and we are open to feedback on this segment, and any content we present!

You can reach us at thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net, and he can be reached by writing to:

Sean Swain #243-205
Warren CI
P.O. Box 120
Lebanon, Ohio 45036

Resist Nazis in Tennessee

On Saturday, Feb 17, Matthew Heinbach of the Traditionalist Workers Party will be speaking at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 1-4pm. If you don’t like this, you can contact the University by calling 8659749265 and demand that they disinvite this open neo-nazi organizer from their campus!

Some Benefits in Asheville

For the drinkers in Asheville, this week features two libation-centric benefits for books to prisoners projects.

On Wednesday, February 14, Valentines Day, three bars in Asheville will be participating in a drink special that will raise money for Tranzmission Prison Project, our local LGBT books to prisoners project with a national scope. You can visit the Crow & Quill on Lexington, the Lazy Diamond around the corner in Downtown or the Double Crown on Haywood in West Asheville on Wednesday for more details.

On Thursday, February 15th at the Catawba’s South Slope Tasting Room & Brewery (32 Banks Avenue #105) for their first New Beer Thursday fundraiser of 2018!! Starting with the release on the 15th and running through March, a portion of the cost of every glass of their pomegranate sour sold will be donated to the Asheville Prison Books Program!

More events coming up this week include: Thursday the 15th at 7pm Blue Ridge ABC is holding a benefit show at Static Age for a local activists with a sliding scale cost. Bands featured are Kreamy Lectric Santa, Cloudgayzer, Secret Shame, Falcon Mitts & Chris Head

Later that night in Asheville, the monthly benefit dance party called HEX will be holding an event at the Mothlight to raise money and materials for A-Hope, which provides services locally to houseless and poor folks. Bring socks, footwear and camping gear to donate!

On Tuesday, April 20th at 6pm at The Shell Studio, 474 Haywood Rd on the second floor, there will be a showing of the locally produced documentary entitled Hebron about human rights struggles in Palestine.

On Friday the 23rd at 6:30pm, the Steady Collective will be participating in a Harm Reduction forum at the Haywood Street Congregation at 297 Haywood St. in downtown.

Also that night, BRABC will be showing the latest TROUBLE documentary by sub.media at 7:30pm at firestorm books and coffee. This will be a second on Student Organizing around the world.

Finally, on Saturday the 24th 9am to 3pm at Rainbow School, 60 State Street in Asheville there’ll be a Really Really Free Market organized by the Blue Ridge General Defense Committee or GDC. Bring stuff that’s still good to share and come back with other stuff that’s still good for free! Perfect for spring cleaning or dealing with inclement weather on a budget.

A Call for Art Submissions for ACAB2018…

A reminder that if you are the sensitive, artistic type, the ACAB2018, or Asheville Carolina Anarchist Bookfair is soliciting art for fundraising and advertising purposes. If you have image ideas that you can put into action and want to share them, that’d be dope. We’re looking for things we can put onto postcards, t-shirts, posters and other swag to spread word about the event and help us cover the costs of operation. Contact us at acab2018@riseup.net

…and for Yours Truly at TFS

Likewise, if you are feeling artsy fartsy and want to help out this show, we’re looking for swag imagery, either as a logo or a standalone piece of art we can feature for fundraising purposes. If you like the show and want to help, post your files on share.riseup.net and send us a link at thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net or share it with one of our social media identities. If we choose to use your art, we’ll send you a mix tape with one side produced by each of our regular contributing editors.

Jalil Muntaqim on Revolution, Spirituality & more + Remembering Le Guin

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This Week’s Content

First, we air a portion of Ursula K. Le Guin’s acceptance speech from the 2014 National Book Awards, where she received the Lifetime Acheivement award.  Ursula K. Le Guin, wrote fantasy and sci-fi for 77 years of her life, contributing many books such as The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Word for World is Forest & The Earthsea Series.  She died on Monday, January 22nd at the age of 88.  Her fiction touched on many themes, including anarchism, taoism, gender, environmentalism, sociology, anthropology and psychology. Her official website is here. The full video this was pulled from, including the introduction by Neil Gaiman can be found here.

The third and fourth portion of CKUT’s Prison Radio Show interviews with former Black Panther and BLA Political Prisoner of War Jalil Muntaqim. In the third segment, Jalil speak about being incarcerated during the Attica Uprising, the ideas of Intercommunalism, Internationalism and Nationalism, as well as the idea of revolution.  In the final portion, Jalil speaks on spirituality and politics, ISIS and a message to rappers.  More of his writings and info on his case can be found at freejalil.com

Support Kevin Rashid Johnson!

We are nearing the end of the second week of #OperationPUSH!, which is described in a statement released by participants, as a work stoppage or “laydown” in at least eight prison facilities around the state of Florida. The beginning of this plan coincided with Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday on January 15th 2018, in protest of the deplorable conditions in FL prisons. This comes hot on the heels of the September 9th prison strike which took place in 2016 on the 45th anniversary of Attica, and disrupted operations in dozens if not hundreds of prisons across the country. This is being called the largest prison strike in US history, and was followed by several subsequent strikes all over the country. It has been difficult to get information about OperationPUSH!; FL prisons are being predictably recalcitrant and have also been imposing communication blackouts for even suspected participants.

However, there has been one major insight into this situation in the form of an article by Kevin Rashid Johnson entitled Florida Prisoners are Laying It Down. In this article, Rashid (who is a prison journalist and self taught paralegal) describes conditions within Florida prisons in detail, including the high cost of goods in the commissary coupled with the fact of forced and unpaid labor, up to and including a culture of abuse and neglect by prison staff. In retaliation, Rashid has been thrown into an unheated cell, with no working toilet and with a window that cannot properly close, making the temperature equal to the subzero environment outside.

This is a clear sign of retaliatory torture, and surely is what Rashid calls “a true emergency”. It is urgently requested that people call the prison to advocate for and demand the immediate cessation of this abuse on the part of the prison!

Please call:

Warden Barry Reddish
Florida State Prison
Raiford, FL 32083
904-368- 2500

The demands are:

  • Move Johnson (#158039) to a properly climate controlled cell with working toilet
  • Immediately allow Mr. Johnson to make phone calls to his attorneys
  • Stop retaliating against him for reporting on conditions within your prisons.

You can keep up with this situation by visiting fightoxicprisons.wordpress.com or go to Kevin Rashid Johnson’s support website at rashidmod.com

Interview on Afrin from It’s Going Down

A little heads up about media worth checking out. This week, It’s Going Down aired a podcast interview with an anarchist in the U.S. who’s from Turkey about the Turkish assaults on Afrin, one of the cantons of Rojava, the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Syria. Afrin is administered by the Democratic Confederalist PYD and defended by the YPG & YPJ militias. The interview covers some of the history as relevant to anarchists, some of the developments of Rojava through the Syrian Civil War, their alliance with the United States and Rojava’s relationship with Turkey and other states involved in the proxy wars in the region. This interview is well worth a listen, and hopefully can aid you in organizing reading groups, fundraisers or demonstrations in your area in support of Rojava and it’s tenuous experiment.

An Update from Us!

Just a little heads up, too, we’re messing with our podcast a little bit, not so much in format but more so in distribution. So, we set up a soundcloud with the three latest episodes and all of the episodes in our podcast stream are now up youtube though the videos only plays our show as you’d hear with the episode image as the background. If those platforms are your deal, swing by and follow us. I’d also like to remind y’all that we’re up on itunes. If you go into that blasted program and rate our content and write reviews, it fucks with the algorithms and will make the show visible to wider audiences.

Also, I’d like to reiterate what we say in the introduction to the show, that we have a free edition of the show that’s 59 minutes in length and falls within the requirements of the FCC here in the U.S. for radio broadcast. If you have a community or college radio station in your area and you’d like to hear us up on the airwaves, getting into folks’ cars, houses, jail cells, work places or whatever by the magical accident of radio science, check out our Radio Broadcasting link at our website, hit us up on social media or email us to get the ball rolling. In addition, we suggest getting some friends together to petition the local radio overlords to get us on their station.

Finally, just to remind y’all, we love hearing feedback and show suggestions. Finding a different person or persons every week to fill an hour with interesting content is hard work, and cues from y’all really helps us plug away at this volunteer endeavor. As always, you can email us at thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net

Playlist

A Refugee on Manus Island & the 2018 Certain Days Calendar

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This week on the Final Straw we feature 2 interviews.

Walid, an asylum seeker held at the Manus Regional Process Center, Papua New Guinea

First up, you’ll hear a conversation that Bursts had with a refugee seeking asylum in Australia. His name is Walid, he is 24 years old and from Afghanistan. Manus Regional Processing Centre, where Walid is being held alongside nearly 450 other men, is a facility on Papua New Guinea on the PNG Lombrum Naval Base. The processing center, from here out called Manus for short or MRPC, was run up until October 31st by the Spanish multinational company Grupo Ferrovial on behalf of the Australian Government as a way of off-shoring the housing of people seeking asylum. The center was closed October 31st after the Papuan Supreme Court determined the facility unconstitutional in breech of the promise of personal liberty.

So, the Australian government withdrew it’s medical workers, shut off electricity and water and food shipments. However, the residents of MRPC have refused to be resettled into other facilities in PNG due to fears of physical harm by members of the PNG Defence Forces, as is alleged to have happened in April of this year, as well as violence coming from local gangs wielding machetes and other weapons. The population of the island is just short of 6,000 people and locals have expressed concern that resettlement would affect their economy greatly. In the conversation, Walid mentions two fellows from the MRPC who were found recently hung by their necks in the jungle near the Processing Centre as a proof of danger the refugees face if they leave the premises.

The Obama administration had agreed in 2016 to resettle many of Australia’s asylum seekers. However, do you remember that first presidential phone call that Trump made, where he ended by saying it was a stupid deal and it was the worst conversation ever? That was #45 chatting with Australia’s Prime Minister Turnbull about the resettlement deal for refugees on Nauru and Manus Islands. Cancelling that at the time fed into the issues in PNG & Australia’s national politics with the refugees being caught in the middle as pawns. The U.S. has now apparently changed it’s tune about the Asylum seekers, having applied for whatever “extreme vetting” it was seeking and has taken in 24 of the men and resettling them.

I will admit to being a bit ignorant of the situation in Manus that people like Walid are facing, but what I do understand is this: borders are imprisoning some of the most marginalized people fleeing dangerous situations and holding them in dire circumstances. The men at the Manus Regional Processing Centre are refusing to leave for fear of their lives and in hopes of reaching a safer space and are being starved by bureaucracy. And many Australians are voicing a desire to resettle these people on the mainland.

We at the Final Straw wish the residents of MRPC the best of luck and solidarity and will continue to air their words as we receive them.

Aaaaalso, a big big big thanks to Linda from Subversion1312 podcast for helping us make this contact with Walid and with some pointers on the questions. Definitely check out their work, it’s (under various names) one of the longer running English-language anarchist radio shows and is jam packed

Sara Falconer and Daniel McGowan on the 2018 Certain Days Calendar for Political Prisoners

Secondly, we are airing an interview presented recently by the Which Side media collective with Sara Falconer and Daniel McGowan about the 2018 Certain Days Calendar for Political Prisoners. Jordan Halliday and Jeremy Parkin host the interview, and range along a wide array of ideas and topics.

From the show notes “The calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers in Montreal and Toronto, and three political prisoners being held in maximum-security prisons in New York State: David Gilbert, Robert Seth Hayes and Herman Bell. The initial project was suggested by Herman, and has been shaped throughout the process by all of our ideas, discussions, and analysis. All of the members of the outside collective are involved in day-to-day organizing work other than the calendar, on issues ranging from refugee and immigrant solidarity to community media to prisoner justice. We work from an anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, feminist, queer and trans positive position.”

You can check out the Which Side online store to see some giveaway deals regarding the Certain Days calendar by visiting http://www.whichsidecollective.org/ and see more from this project at http://whichsidepodcast.com

If you’d like to hear The Final Straw’s conversation with Herman Bell’s daughter in law Dr Kihana Ross which details the incident mentioned in the interview plus some more about his case, you can visit our website.

Whichside Podcast is a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts, of which we are as well. Check out our website for a steady stream of up to date anarchist audios and keep an eye out for our mobile app coming soon.

Audios of Interest:

Just a heads up, if you missed it. we launched our occasionally weekly intro to tech security podcast series, Error451 this week with a conversation on safer approaches to burner phones. Check it out and keep an ear out for more!

Also, the Anarchist Radio Network just released the November episode of B(A)DNews: Angry Voices From Around The World, which is up on the new A-Radio Network website. Keep up on episodes there.

Support Herman Bell & a discussion on the Signal App

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For a 59 minute long, radio clean version for syndication purposes, please visit the archive.org collection.

Support Herman Bell

First this week, we had the opportunity to speak with Dr Kihana Mariah Ross, who is the daughter in law of Herman Bell, a former member of the Black Panther Party and a political prisoner who is currently clocking 44 years behind bars. We will speak about recent developments in his case, plus some historical context, and actionable items moving forward.

To learn more about Herman Bell and to read some of his writings, you can visit freehermanbell.org. To send him a card – and be aware that his 70th birthday is on January 14th and his upcoming parole hearing is in February 2018 – you can write to him at

Herman Bell 79 C 0262
Shawangunk CF
P.O. Box 700
Wallkill, NY 12589-0700

How Best to use Signal?

In the second segment of today’s episode, we’ll air another conversation with William Budington, a digital security expert and trainer about the Signal end-to-end text encryption app for smart phones and desktops. Signal, produced by WhisperSys, is an easy to use, free means for folks to avoid one type of surveillance in their day to day communication. The ubiquitous, normalized use of encryption shields the purpose of the use, obscuring whether the practice is to shield illegal activity or not. In the conversation we talk about the human failure side of communication, as well as the informational leakage possibilities of the devices we use to engage Signal app. If you really enjoy the pie-baking/Betty Crocker metaphor, don’t despair, it doesn’t end with this segment. Check out more on this topic in our occasional series, Error451.

Stay tuned soon for a conversation with William about burner phones and more. If you have a topic about digital security, devices and programs, surveillance or related topics, leave us a suggestion at thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net ! If you want our pgp key, check our website.

Editorial

Now, it’s my turn for a brief editorial, dear listeners. This is Bursts. I grew up in a part of so-called California known as Sonoma County, lands stolen from the Pomo and the Miwok peoples first by the Spanish, then by Mexico and Russia and then the U.S. I lived there from the mid-1980’s through 2009 and consider it my home in a way I could no other place. The rolling hills, the foggy mornings, the Coastal Live Oak groves, the nasty but 100 year old Eucalyptis groves, the early evening sky that turns a goldish orange into purple, the Manzanita, the people, the ocean breeze coming out from Bodega. These are things that I remember fondly from the deeply damaged yet still beautiful biome I called home for most (and definitely the more formative years) of my life.

This has been a year for spectacular disasters around this hemisphere, with a record 10th hurricane now appearing in the Carribean and southern U.S., 2 major earthquakes rocking Mexico and now the fires in Northern and Southern California. The fires in the north, which I’ve been paying more attention to because they QUITE literally bring home to me a sense of devastation I still haven’t been able to digest from this distance, have been whipped up by winds, a seasonal dryness out of the ordinary and fed by the aftermath of a wet winter that created a ton of easy-to-burn fuels. California has long been racked by fires, but never this many deaths and never have they consumed large parts of cities as they have with Santa Rosa. Thousands of homes have been turned to ash, monuments standing over a hundred years are cinders, human and non-human animals have been killed, damaged and displaced. California is yet another part of the world feeling the first hand effects of anthropogenic climate change, after years of over-taxing it’s water levels with large scale and animal and food agriculture, it’s manicured industrial lawns, the barely regulated weed industry booming, the building of human settlements in the middle of deserts and the idea promoted by high levels of industry and state that as the 6th largest economy in the world it could buy itself climate chaos. Day by day, year by year, this is proven more and more a delusion. But I digress.

I’d like to give a shout out to the brave folks doing search and rescue in my home away from home, the neighbors who look out for each other, that roused each other from sleep to escape the fire storms, who shelter and feed each other. Also to the fire professionals who are working to fight back the fires. An element of this that is under reported, of course, is the fact that over a thousand prisoners of the state of California and it’s included counties, are putting their lives on the line for $1 to $2.56 a day to train and then fight these blazes. That can be compared to the $31.85 an hour of the median hourly wage for non-inmate firefighters. I would like to bring this up because as the climate becomes more chaotic and the ever-tighter squeeze of austerity capitalism turns further and further away from more sustainable and stable incomes like unionized firefighters this continues a nasty trend.

Putting prisoners on the fire lines to fight the blazes, while more deadly for them than other modes of work, arguably offers them a potentially more meaningful and lucrative engagement with community service. This also fuels the profit motive of governments bent on incarcerating mostly poor communities of color, often people with chemical dependencies and neuro-divergencies the state can’t be bothered to treat but to stick them in a concrete and steel cage. More prisoners means more low-pay and expendable firefighters who’s crime was to be born the wrong color or class in the age of mass incarceration. I don’t bring this up to denigrate those risking themselves to save lives and homes, whether a prisoner or not, but to point out that this is not how a community organizes itself for it’s members, this is the logic of capital and thus streams value to the top of the pyramid.

My heart goes out to those who suffer at the hands of these fires. Let’s fight for futures where we are better prepared, where we don’t employ slave labor to fight them, and everyone has what they need to live in true community, which means true accountability to the impact of our survival on the non-human environment with which we share this awesome world.

If you’d like to help by sending some money to autonomous organizing for relief in Sonoma County, consider visiting https://generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/northbay-iww-fire-relief-fund

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