In this June 11th special, we’re releasing an interview with some anarchist prisoners in the so-called U.S. and some of the folks who support them. June 11th, for people who don’t know, is a day of solidarity with Marius Mason and other long term anarchist prisoners. You can find bits of the history of the importance of the date up at crimethinc.com and interviews with and about anarchist prisoners up at our website and at june11.org . The framing of this special is to focus on a publishing project currently being undertaken inside and outside of the prisons that many long-term anarchist prisoners in the so-called U.S. participate in called Fire Ant.
First up, Sean Swain shares his views on Fire Ant and prisoner support. [2min 20sec , followed by Surrounded by Matador from the album The Taking, Black Powder Records]
Then we hear Michael Kimble sharing his views on the publication and recent experiences in the Alabama prison in which he’s held, which was a part of the interview we aired with Michael a few weeks back. [10min 56sec, followed by The War On The Imagination by Sole from Let Them Eat Sand]
After Michael speaks, a supporter and partner of Eric King talks about their impressions of the impact of June 11 and Fire Ant on their partner’s life. We’ll be sharing more from Eric’s partner in coming weeks about his situation, changes coming in the BOP and about the types of support federal prisoners and their supporters need. [42min 52sec]
After the Eric section, we are happy to share a musical track by the project, Realicide, called “Decide Today = Free Marius Mason” about the long-standing Earth Liberation, anarchist, Animal Liberation prisoner. There’s a link to youtube for the audio in our show notes.
Finally Robcatt, one of the folks on the outside shares some of the history of Fire Ant zine, some of his past support experience and a provocation on how we as anarchists need to shift how we do support work. [52min 17sec]
You can find issues of Fire Ant, which are written and adorned by anarchist prisoners, at the website for Bloomington ABC and for a list of June 11 events around Turtle Island, check out https://itsgoingdown.org.
For the hour, Paulette tells about Leonard’s life, his case, his health, the resistance that Leonard was and continues to be a part of, COINTELPRO, and Leonard’s art. You can learn more about Leonard Peltier by visiting the ILPDC’s website, http://whoisleonardpeltier.info, where you’ll find lots more info, Leonard’s artwork, ways to plug in and do events to raise awareness of Leonard’s case and keep up on updates. You can also find the ILPDC on twitter and fedbook.
This week, we’re excited to share the voices of Jess and Olive, who both did legal support, and do prisoner solidarity with the folks facing Federal prison time from the struggle at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This episode was heavily edited for radio, so I suggest you find our audio at our website or in itunes or soundcloud or youtube or ideally our podcast stream and listen to the podcast version, cuz it is crammed full of great information and perspectives we don’t have time to include in the radio version of the show this week.
Jess did legal work supporting the struggle in Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and into 2018 and continues to support political prisoners in the case. Olive lived in camp, engaging in nonviolent direct action and working security during the winter (late november-february), survivor of water crises in West Virginia and as a Sundancer. Olive stayed through the raid on Oceti near the end of February 2017 and became a paralegal afterward and doing legal support for their loved one, Rattler.
At the end of these notes I’ve included a few post-scripts from Olive about the folks who caught sentences, Akicita and prophecies of the “Black Snake”.
We speak about L’eau Est La Vie camp in so-called Louisiana is continuing the struggle against the southern endpoint of the Dakota Access Pipeline from Enbridge. Visit the site to learn more and how you can get involved, they need help!
Support sites for the Federal Prisoners from Standing Rock
The day after this airs is New Years Eve and cities around the U.S. and abroad will be continuing the, I believe Greek anarchist, tradition of noise demonstrations outside of jails and prisons. Check out itsgoingdown.org for a list of places holding these where you can join in and be heard behind bars. In Asheville, folks’ll be meeting up on College St in front of the court house and jail at 7pm and will bring noise makers, warm clothes, banners and signs.
Upcoming BRABC events in Asheville
Also this week, Blue Ridge ABC will be showing the latest Frontline/PBS documentary called “Documenting Hate: America’s New Nazi’s” about the Atomwaffen Division at 6:30pm on Friday, January 4th at Firestorm Books. Also, on Sunday January 6th at Firestorm, BRABC will host it’s monthly letter writing event from 5pm to 7pm at Firestorm. No experience necessary.
Finally, The Final Straw Radio alongside It’sGoingDown, crimethInc and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief are calling for a week of action around the weekend of January 20, 2019. With the charges from January 20, 2017 dropped, we can focus on other forms of long-term solidarity and mutual aid, creating a fertile soil for future resistance and creativity. You can find the challenge and ways to plug in at cwc.im/survival
Episode Notes from Olive
As an aside, I want to share a little more information from Olive about Akicita:
“…Traditionally, Akicita would go to battle as a last resort and were always the last to leave, but they acted as protectors and to hold people accountable and dispense consequences when necessry, one example being on Buffalo hunts; people were not allowed to take more than they needed or to hunt by themselves because it hurt not only other tribal members but the Buffalo population. Akicita made sure the hunts happened with integrity. They also kept Nacas, elders, and the people informed. They were mediators of conflict. They were recognized for acts of bravery and selflessness. “
Also, Olive had these notes to share about the Federal Defendants who’ve been sentenced:
“Little Feather’s mother is part of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in California, so I forgot to mention he is also Morongo in addition to also Lakota and Chumash.
Rattler is a descendant of the war chief Red Cloud, who also signed the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868, one of the treaties we were defending with our occupation through camp.
Rattler’s Lakota name is Mato Tanka (Big Bear). Angry Bird’s Lakota name is Sunka Wakan Sica (Bad Horse).
Not everyone with federal charges are Akicita or Ikce Wicasa. Rattler, Little Feather, and Angry Bird are Akicita and Ikce Wicasa camp security. RedFawn and Dion had other responsibilities and ties to the camps. “
Olive also had this to add about their own participation at Standing Rock:
“If it’s relevant, I didn’t mention another responsiblity I had while being in camp. I formed with two other femme people Two Spirit and Women’s security branches so gender queer folks like myself and women/femme people could deal with our own safety/decolonizing issues within camp. This is how I began to work with Akicita security directly.
The role of Akicita, the several councils that made up camp for collective decision making, and the ceremonies we participated in were all ways we were actively decolonizing our daily lives and DEFYING state intervention in disputes among our community (concepts of transformative justice try to exert the same concept of “don’t call cops, be accountable” but don’t necessarily have the structures to do it like traditional indigenous societies have) “
Another addition to the audio that I’d like to include is a short write-up that you can find in our show notes about the concept and Lakota and Standing Rock prophecies of the “Black Snake” which has been applied to the Dakota Access Pipeline
“I didn’t feel we had the time, but I wanted to at least tell you about some Lakota prophecies related to the “black snake” and historical context of where camp was located. All of this information I have is from Standing Rock elders and Lakota that know their lands well, including Tim Mentz, a Lakota archaeologist from Standing Rock, as well as my own experience from living in camp.
Grandfathers, some in the early 1800s, had visions of a “black ribbon on top of the Earth to separate all people…the people wouldn’t gather anymore…when the black ribbon goes underneath the Earth there will be no more Lakota.” This “ribbon” is seen as pavement and fossil fuels. Prairie Nights Casino was built on top of a known site where ceremonial fasts were held. Cannonball River has buttes, all with names known to the Lakota one being Tipi Butte near the Backwater Bridge. Near Backwater Bridge (where cops kept up barricades after North Camp raid), there are remnants of old Sundance ceremony arbors. October 22nd arrests happened partly because we were protesting the 27 burials that were uprooted for DAPL’s access roads that were across from HW 1806. Cannonball Ranch, which was eventually bought by DAPL, had Bear effigies, burials in the four cardinal directions, with at least 82 other sacred sites and ancestral sites of the Lakota. Southwest of where Oceti camp is Horshoe Bend, along the Standing Rock border is Treaty ground where men gathered to discuss the 1851 Treaty (North Camp was actually 1851 Treaty Camp). Spotted Tail (Sicangu band) and Big Head adopted one another around the year 1851 in the same location of Oceti camp. “
This week, I spoke with Sahar Francis, the Director of Addameer. Addameer is a non-governmental organization, or NGO, based in Ramallah in the West Bank in occupied Palestine that focuses on human rights advocacy, political prisoner support & public education efforts like Know Your Rights trainings. Addameer is one of the projects that is receiving a portion of the profits of the 2019 Certain Days: Political Prisoners Calendar that we’ve you’ve heard of in past episodes. For the purposes of broadcast, we had to cut some portions of this chat for the radio. If you’re listening to the radio version, check out our podcast version for a few more minutes of chat. More instructions below.
For the hour, Sahar tells us about aspects of the Palestinian struggle of the last 70 years against the domination of the Israeli state and a little about the refugee situation of the 10 million Palestinians in the region as they await their Right of Return to their homeland. Addameer (which translates to “Conscience” from Arabic) works to highlight the treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories by the military court system of Israel, in particular the situation of youth as young as 12 years old who face harassment and torture, administrative detention of months and years on end with seemingly no end, and the impunity of the military system’s use against Palestinians, and the unequal treatment of Palestinians and Israeli Jewish Settlers in the Occupied Territories. We also speak of the movement towards widening the death penalty under military law and the difficulty of Palestinian lawyers offering defense in the Israeli military courts who aren’t usually fluent in Hebrew or proficient in Israeli law, as they study Palestinian law in college. Addameer, as a human rights organization, frames it’s work in terms of International Human Rights law as enshrined in the United Nations (UNRWA, The Geneva Convention in hopes of eventual international intervention against the ongoing genocide at the hands of the Israeli government. We even cover the incarceration of Palestinians (in Israel or the Occupied Territories) for publishing critique of the Israeli occupation on social media (1,000’s, including Tareen Tatour in 2015). In a segment comparing Settler-Colonialism in the U.S. & Israel/Palestine, Sahar speaks about two Bedouin villages under threat of demolition by Israel, Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank as well as Umm al-Hiran in order to clear way for Israeli colonial design.
If you visit our website, thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org you can find all of our episodes going back to 2010. To never miss an episode, click the “podcasting” link, where you can find instructions on how to subscribe to our podcast using iTunes or whatever music app or program you like, including our soon-to-be resurrected Error451 podcast, an occasional tech security podcast from an anarchist perspective. In the near future we hope to bring you perspectives on encryption from the pEp (or Pretty Easy Protection) Foundation, LEAP(or Leap Encryption Access Project) and more.
Stay tuned next week for an overview of the 2018 Nationwide Prison Strike with an incarcerated organizer named Dee from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak.
Phone Zap for Comrade Malik Washington
This didn’t make it into the recording for today, but this Tuesday, November 13th, BRABC with the backing of IWOC is inciting a phone zap in support of Keith “Comrade Malik” Washington to get Malik out of segregation. Malik has been continuously punished and persecuted, including instances of medical endangerment and solitary confinement with out reason given or recourse. He’s also had his property, including legal documents, taken and his communication is greatly stifled at the moment (including legal). Read more by visiting the above links.
Digital Security Self-Defense at Firestorm
If you’re in the Asheville area coming up, on Saturday, November 17th from 4-6pm at Firestorm Books and coffee, Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross will be giving a free, interactive presentation on online hygene and security self-defense threat modeling the far-right. But, whether you’re concerned about what info’s online that might fall into the hands of the fash, a stalker or just want to tie up loose ends, a lot of the tools and tips are the same. Bring a laptop, tablet or phone to work on. And a few hours later there’ll be a concert by Nomadic War Machine at the Bottle Shop, an electronic assault by Margaret Killjoy that you’re welcome to swing by.
SF Bay View Newspaper Updates
In an update to our past episode featuring Mary Ratcliff of the SFBayView National Black Newspaper from August, we have good news! Amani Sawari, who we interviewed in July about the Nationwide Prison Strike as an outside spokesperson for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak prisoner organization, will be stepping up to take on the editorial position at that paper and giving Mary and Dr. Willie Ratcliff a long-deserved break. There’s an online fundraiser to help get Amani situated in the Bay Area where you can support the transition and hopefully long next phase for the paper. You can find out more at https://www.patreon.com/sfbayview
In light of the murder of eleven people at the Tree of Life synagogue, Anti-Anti-Semitism Action is asking for your support to take action against anti-Semitic organizers and to defend Jews. We are raising funds which we need to spotlight specific anti-Semitic organizers—especially those who use platforms that cater to the Alt Right such as Gab—to spread their toxic conspiracy theories. Funds will be used to expose and run public campaigns against activists who spread anti-Semitism, as well as those promoters who bring anti-Semitic speakers to their towns.
Remaining monies will be used to provide security and protection for Jewish activists who are targeted by anti-Semites. This includes hiring security for public appearances, and arranging security measures at activists’ residences.
The ADL raises millions of dollars a year to “fight anti-Semitism” but they refuse to do the nuts and bolts work of taking action against anti-Semitic organizers or protecting Jews who are targeted. 100% of your donations will go directly to this.
Dayvon Person is a prisoner being accused of inciting a riot on September 24 at the Craggy Correctional Institution, just outside of Asheville, NC, where he was just about to reach minimum security levels. It’s requested that people call officials to press them to hear is appeal of innocecence. He is asking that folks on the outside call with persistence, and ask these persons to hear his appeal for this false accusation.
You can call:
Kenneth E. Lassiter (Director of Prison Facilities):
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.
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
A transcription of this first interview will be found at the bottom of the page and an imposed zine for printing imposed zine for printing can be found here soon.
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. . … . ..
Q: Could you please introduce yourself for the listening audience?
A: Alright, this is Kevin Rashid Johnson, I am a prisoner, incarcerated in Virginia at Sussex 1 State Prison.
Q: How has the prison tried to silence your organizing and writing over the years, and is this a consequence of the prison strike or other efforts?
A: I think I’ve gone through the entire range of reprisals. I’ve been subjected to physical attacks. I’ve been denied meals. I’ve been attempted to be subjected to dehydration, I’ve been subjected to destruction of property. Most recently I was transferred out of state, sent first to Oregon, then transferred from Oregon as a result of writing and exposing abuses in that prison system, to Texas. Same process resulted — I was transferred from Texas to Florida. Florida just got rid of me in June and sent me back to Virginia. I was then transferred — when I returned to Virginia, to Red Onion State Prison, and moved from Red Onion State prison and transferred on the 12th of July, and sent here to Sussex 1 State Prison, and I’m now being house on death row, although I have no death sentence, and that being with the obvious purpose of isolating me from other prisoners, as there are only three prisoners left on Virginia’s Death Row, and they’re spread out in a 44 cell pod, which I’m housed in separated and all the inmates have been instructed not to talk to me. So, the major effort has been to isolate me and to remove me from areas and places where they felt I would be able to talk to prisoners, to be able to gain info about abusive conditions and to, I guess, influence prisoners to challenge abuses and to stand up to conditions that are pretty inhumane and abusive. As far as responses to the prison work strike, I have not as of yet seen any reprisals or any response that I could call reprisals. And they expect that there would be exposure of anything they did, which may be the only deterrent at this point for any type of retaliation. But I’ve been involved in a commissary strike, not spending any money, as my contribution to the strike, because I’m confined in solitary and don’t have the ability to work. I have never participated in prison work. I’ve refused through my incarceration because I have recognized it is slave labor, and I refuse to allow them to exploit me in that fashion.
Q: For the listeners in the wider public, can you talk about the purpose of prisons under white supremacist capitalism in the US, and why it’s in all of our interest to not only struggle against these institutions, but to support prisoners’’ organizing efforts?
A: Well, from the outset, I think it’s rather obvious that there is a racial component to who is targeted with mass imprisonment within America, from the New Afrikan, that is Black, prisoners, Black social population being 12 to 13% in mainstream society but being some 50% of the prison pop nationwide. In Virginia, where I’m incarcerated, they have been something like 13% of the state population but 58% of the prison population. So, race clearly is a determinative factor in who is targeted within imprisonment and who receives their sentences and the extent of incarceration and where they are housed. In that context, within the prison system, it’s usually at the low security, the low level institutions where predominately white prisoners are housed, and the most extreme and harsh prisons, in each prison system I’ve been to and I know of, this is where the predominately Black and Brown prisoners are housed at. Within the prison structure, prisoners tend to polarize into racial groups, based on their shared cultural and social experiences, and guards and administration are typically inclined to try to manipulate prisoners against each other along racial grounds, racial lines, you know. The guards in my experience, especially where I just came from — Florida — are particularly orientated to acting out racist policies and politics. In fact, where I was confined, two of the institutions I was confined to, the Reception and Medical Center in Florida, in the Florida State Prison, those institutions have been exposed as employing card-carrying Ku Klux Klan members, in fact — three guards who were exposed as having plotted to kill an ex-prisoner who was Black, at the Reception and Medical Center, and revealed their plans to an FBI informant were recently prosecuted, and it came out during the prosecution that all three of them were card carrying Klansman, and that they work at the institution. And not long ago one of the legislatures on the Florida Congress had done a tour of the Reception and Medical Center, she being a Black woman, she pretty much expressed in the media that she feared for her life, the attitude of the white guards there were just openly racist. She acknowledged that she knew that the Klan played a prominent role in the staff and the administration of that institution and in that region, which is the same are the Florida State Prison is located. And she expressed her knowledge of a portion of the institution’s guards kicking Black prisoners’ teeth out who had gold teeth, and that in general, she knew that these institutions were run by the Ku Klux Klan. And this is from an elected member of the Congress of Florida, a Black woman who had done a tour and said that she literally was in fear of her life as she did this tour within the institution, because of the treatment and attitudes of white guards of the institution when she did her tour. So, the racial politics are pretty out in the open, and they’re able to exist in such at such a level because prisons not only hold people on the inside and keep us isolated from the general public, they also keep the general public locked out. So there is no scrutiny, there is no supervision, and there is generally no public accountability for and by those who work within the institution, so it’s just a closed culture, where all sorts of corruption and abuse is allowed to fester and just to be carried out with pretty much impunity. The support that is needed on the outside is tremendous. The support that the prisoners have been able to gain over the past several years in response to the work strikes and various attempts to publicize and challenge abusive conditions in the prisons have pretty much got word in to the institutions where prison officials had blocked prisoners from becoming aware of what was going on as far as protests going on and attempts to challenge and expose abuses. And it bolstered and motivated prisoners who otherwise were afraid to challenge abusive conditions and didn’t feel that there was anything that could be accomplished by trying to stand up and oppose conditions. It kind of motivated a lot of prisoners who weren’t otherwise involved to get involved. So the support that can be garnered on the outside and has been garnered is very important to this type of work and this type of struggle. It’s essential that those who are aware of these struggles and aware of these conditions give what support they can, not only as allies, but also as comrades.
Q: to anyone behind bars out there who might hear this interview, and is sitting on the fence about participation, what can you say about the nation-wide prison strike?
A: That they should not be deterred, they should not be discouraged, they should not just sit on their hands and refuse to get involved. The more of us who get involved, the stronger the outside support and awareness that we’re serious about the conditions that we’re challenging and the need for change — that they should not allow officials to continue to manipulate us against each other, whether along racial lines whether you’re talking about along the lines of street organizing. That’s what supporters… They should also not allow loved ones to discourage them from participating in the work strike. I know a lot of the loved ones who may hear about the strike, they may advise them to not get involved because of fear of them being transferred, a long way away from their loved ones, or they don’t want to see them subject to relation or being placed on lock down, but their loved ones should understand that this is a condition, that these are conditions that we live, that they’re not living them and that its important that we take a stand to change these abuses, and not play in to officials trying to isolate and play us one against the other, and cause people to refuse or fear coming involved, and keep us divided amongst ourselves. We need all possible participants; we need the greatest level of unity possible. And one of the things I always emphasize to my peers is, we outnumber the prison guards, the prison officers around us some 30 to one at very least. But they have total power and total control, because they always keep us divided, fearful, envious, and not trusting or believing in our own potential, where as they exercise complete and absolute unity in their actions. If they want to abuse you, the rest of them are gonna fall in line and support that abuse. If one them lies on us and mistreats us, the rest of them are going to conform to that lie and they’re gonna carry out that abuse. And that’s why they have the control and power that they have, because no matter what, no matter what the situation no matter the condition, they always work and stick together. And we need to take that same example and apply it to how we exercise our unity and our level of power amongst ourselves.
Q: Rashid, can you talk about your incarceration, political development, and a bit about the New Afrikan Black Panther Party that you helped to co-found? Also, how does it differ from the New Black Panther Party, formerly of the nation of Islam?
A: Ok, my imprisonment initially began in 1990. I was incarcerated for a murder that I had no involvement in, and large part, it was conspiratorial on the part of a police officer who I had a history of conflicts with. They subjected me to deliberate misidentification and a number of procedural violations during the prosecution of the case that was imputed against me, that went the actual jurisdiction, the actual power of the court to try to convict and sentence me for the charges that they were attempting to impute against me. Ok, throughout my imprisonment, particularly the first decade and a half, I spent a large part of my time struggling directly against guard abuses. Their physical abuses, I responded to with physical responses. They would abuse physically myself or others around me, and I would respond with physical reactions to their abuses. I went through the struggle pretty much back and forth, one to one head up conflicts with guards and their teams, riot guards and cell extraction teams, for about the first decade and a half. I became exposed to political thought put, particularly the writings of George Jackson, around 2002, when I was housed in an area with another prisoner, another political prisoner, Hanif Shabazz Bey, from the Virgin Islands. He turned me on to a lot of different political writings, and different political organizations that were involved in the system in America, the various revolutionary nationalist struggles that had taken place through the world through the 40s and 50s. I began to do extensive studies into various aspects and levels of progressive as well as revolutionary history and politics. Various theories, etc. And as I studied more, I came to understand the inherent dysfunctional nature of the capitalist, imperialist system that America is at the center of, and I understood or came to understand that the oppression that I was struggling against was much bigger than head to head clashes with individual guards, that it was largely an invalid system that pitted a small group of powerful wealthy people against the masses of working class people and poor people through out the world, and that they lived at the expense of these people. And to change conditions requires a struggle that mobilized the oppressed to bring about fundamental change at various levels of society. And I grew from a person inclined to react on a more individual level to one who recognized or saw the bigger picture and was more inclined to organize people and to contribute what I could with my resources, and the understanding that I was developed to build into something bigger, that was more, addressed more to the fundamental problems of the overall system. So in that, my clashes with individual guards lessened. I was also involved in mitigation and studying and understanding the political system and legal system. I became less inclined to, as I said, individualize my struggle against the system. Though, in doing that, I began to reach out more to people on the outside who were involved in political organizations, trying to pull people who were in positions of influence, politically people who were willing to mobilize groups of people in support of prisoners and conditions that we lived under, to challenge those conditions, to educate prisoners, and to try to consolidate a base of support on the outside to the inside. In doing this, I was able to understand some of the weaker points of the system. I understood where it was most effective to attack the power structure, and I understood, or came to understand that one of the most vulnerable places that you can direct your attack at the system is by exposing its corruption to the masses, because the masses are the sources of their power, that those people can’t be ruled over by an oppressor, or any power, unless they give their consent at some level to that ruling. And once they become aware of the illegitimacies and the corruption of the system, and they refuse to acknowledge or concede the legitimacy of the system, then they can typically overnight overthrow that system. And this is why the power structure expends such a massive amount of resources and propaganda to try to influence and keep the masses brainwashed and believing that they’re moralistic and they’re honest and they’re well-meaning and their intentions are oriented to the best interests of the masses, because they realize without some level of acknowledgment and consent, the masses of the people could not be ruled over and would not accept their authority, and as you observed during the Arab Spring in, what, 2011? — once the mass of the people refused to accept the power that rules over them, they can send that power into exile and flight over night, and the powers that be understand this. So I understood that by exposing the corruption and illegitimacy of those in power and the lies that the sustain themselves with, this is one means of undermining the false power and the false credibility and sense of legitimacy that these people try to portray themselves, as the basis of them exercising their authority over others. And it has proven most effective, particularly my writings about abuses going on inside of the prisons. My writings exposing the corruptions and illegitimacy of the power structure and the economic system to the extent that people have been receptive to my writings, I have seen a corresponding reaction by those in power, which, as I pointed out earlier, is a result of me facing a much higher level of reprisal and attempts to isolate me now, a very different response from when I was just in my head to head clashes with, you know, guards at a very low ranking lever. When I started to expose the system, they started tryna isolate me, to try and stop me from communicating with people on the outside, to shutting down my lines of communication, transferring me from state to state and deliberately sending me to states where conditions were known to be the most abusive in the country, particularly Texas and Florida, and trying to put me in positions where I would end up in violent clashes with other prisoners, and that sort of thing.
But anyway, as I became more politically I aware, I saw the need for political organizations to represent those who do not have political representations and to operate to educate and organizing the masses on a more revolutionary and fundamental level of understanding the political economic system on how to challenge and ultimately over throw that oppressive system in the interest of the working class and in support of the people. So, we co-founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter initially as an autonomous of the New Black Panther Party, being aware the New Black Panther Party started in 2000 was not practicing the politics and they were not living up to principles in the program of the original Black Panther Party, but had pretty much wrapped up these politics, the racial politics of the Nation of Islam, in an artificial garb of Black Pantherism. And our agenda was to try to take that organization in to the politics and the revolutionary ideology of the original Black Panther Party and to change their reverse racism, and to put them more on to the path of revolutionary politics of the original party. Ultimately, we realized that it was futile trying to do this, in that they were not interested in changing their political orientation, or to maintaining or carrying forward the agenda of the original Panther Party, so we ultimately split from the New Black Panther Party.
We changed our name to the National Black Panther Party Prison Chapter, and from there we have maintained the political line of the original Black Panther Party, but we have been very focused on not repeating the mistakes of the original party, but building on the correct contributions that the party made to the struggle of the 60s and 70s. And trying to carry forward what they were able to accomplish during their more revolutionary stages, which was from 1966 to 1971, and to, again, not repeat the errors that they made, and to learn from the mistakes that they made and from the what we understand now to be a very vicious campaign carried out against them by the US government, and the inclination of the government to attack any organization that seeks to open the eyes of the masses of the people. And we ourselves have been subjected to the same sort attacks and attempts to undermine. We’ve been stigmatized as Black Separatists and domestic terrorists, and all when we have done nothing and we have not been fighting for doing anything except publicizing the corruption of the law enforcement establishment and the abuses inside the US prisons, and they have identified this as being the behavior that they dislike, that they feel qualified us as threats to the security of the country. And I was personally profiled in a 2009 threat assessment report as a domestic terrorist because of my involvement in publicizing abuses in, you know, American prisons. And they’re saying that I prove to have exercised a good level of influence over people and society, in turning them against the law enforcement system because of my writings, which is pretty absurd. But this has been the thrust of what we are trying to organize, and some of the work that we’ve done, and the response has been, as I said, repression, isolation, attempts to attack us, subjecting the various members, leading members of our org to various levels of reprisal. Being placed in, thrown in solitary, subjected to all sorts of physical abuses, and you know, other attempts to try and dissuade and deter us from the work that we’re trying to do.
Q: The New Afrikan Black Panther Party has a focus of org with folks of African descent. In your view, how can folks in other groups, like white folks, act as comrades as you say in struggle against white supremacy?
A: Alright, within our party, we founded in 2006 in what’s called the White Panther Organization and subsequent to that, the Brown Panther Organizational Committee, as arms of our party. We are the first Panther organization that has actually brought white comrades and brown comrades in to our party. So we have brown and white Panthers in our party, and the function of them is to take the line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party in to the white communities to struggle against the racism in the white communities, the Brown Panthers take the same line in to the brown communities, and the thing is to bring all these different sectors of society, both domestic and abroad, into a consolidated, united front that will unify us in the single struggle against the imperialist system, particularly focused on the marginalized people that are called criminalized or the Lumpen. Our work is specifically again to take the struggle to the power structure at the most fundamental level, and to build the sort of unity that has been probably the Achilles heel of revolutionary struggles, and undermining their effectiveness, and that has been polarizing factor of race. And as I see it, this is our approach in it has proven quite effective. Initially when they sent me out of state, they sent me to Oregon, which is one of the few prison systems in America where there is a predominately white prisoner population — it’s probably like 5 or 10% Black. And they sent me there after they had profiled me as a Black Separatist, and when I got to Oregon, they spread amongst the large number of Aryan gangs up there that I was Black Panther, which they portrayed as some sort of Black variation of the Ku Klux Klan, portraying us as anti-white and wanted to make race war against white people and this sort of thing, and they were trying to create a violent conflict between me and the white groups up there, which was obviously the point of them sending me to that state. But in effect, because of the politics of our party, and the orientation of the line of our white panther organization, I was able to politicize the white groups up there to various — they had like 13 different Aryan gangs up there in the prison system. I ended up politicking with them. They immediately released me into the population, which was another indication what they intended to try to see happen. But instead of me ending up in a war with them, I ended up politicking with them, exposing them to the history of racism, how racism was manipulated and created in the late 1600’s, and how it had been used and has been used as the most effective polarizing factor in society to manipulate oppressed people against each other. And I won a large sector of them over, and when I started to prove effective as not engaging them in violence, but winning them over to more revolutionary political and understanding of racial politics, they immediately threw me into solitary, got me out of population, and started to impose a different regiment of abuse and oppression against me, and ultimately kicked me out of the state and sent me to Texas, and when I was able to influence white Aryan gangs there to get involved in the national prison hunger strike that was taking place in 2013, where 30,00 prisoners got involved in Oregon joined them in hunger strike, so the line of our party, with respect to racial politics is specifically to organize white comrades to take the politics of our party, unifying politics in to the white community to struggle against the polarizing culture in, you know, white culture and white society in America, and to try to bring us all together in a common, united front.
Q: Can you talk about your views on feminism in the revolutionary struggle for a new society?
A: Alright, I should make a distinction between our line on the gender issue and the question of the struggle against paternalism and male domination. We are not feminist. We are, we are about revolutionary women’s liberation. Feminism seems to be the equal opposite of chauvinism, no– male chauvinism. The line in feminism largely has been represented by the bourgeois sector of the women’s movement, the upper middle class to upper class has always dominated the voice of the feminist movement, so we find it to be largely not a movement that really is about advancing the cause of women, at all levels of oppression, but at the interest of bourgeois and upwardly middle class women to gain an equal foothold with the bourgeois males in dominating society in general. So our struggle is for gender equality, not to raise the interest of upper class women at the exclusion of the lower class and oppressed women. Our struggle is to see working class women, poor women have all their rights respected and to be given an equal stage of power and an equal stage of respect throughout society at all stages, though I would make the distinction between what is known or generally represented as feminism with what we call revolutionary women’s liberation. But we are allied, of course, to the women’s movement, those women who identify as and those other people who may reject the concept of gender etc, who identify with the feminist struggle, but from the standpoint of working class women and working class non gender people or working class lgbtq people, and we stand on an equal footing with them and seek to have all forms of repression of women or all forms of repression of non gendered people, all forms of repression of LGBTQ people overthrown, and all people to have an equal share in power, and an equal interest in having their rights, and their desires, so long as they aren’t opposing and oppressing other people.
Q: Are there any other final statements you’d like to make, before we get cut off:
A: Well, I would like to state that I appreciate this opportunity to speak to the listen au of this program, and I really hope that much can be achieved through the struggles that are gaining ground and momentum now, and that there will be a growing link between those on the outside and the prison movement, and that this will help advance the cause of the oppressed against this oppressive system.
Q: Thank you so much for making this conversation happen, and solidarity
As of May 2019, Rashid has been transferred out of state yet again to
Virginia. He can be written at:
D.O.C. No. 264847
Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Road
Pendleton, IN 46064
You can read his essays and updates on his case, plus get ahold of his two books, learn about the NABPP-PC and see his revolutionary artwork up at:
The Final Straw is a weekly anarchist and anti-
authoritarian radio show bringing you voices
and ideas from struggle around the world.
Since 2010, we’ve been broadcasting from
occupied Cherokee land in Southern
Appalachia (Asheville, NC). We also
frequently feature commentary (serious and
humorous) by anarchist prisoner, Sean Swain.
You can send us letters at:
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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.
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!
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/
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!
“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.”
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.org, youtubeand 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.
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.