Tag Archive: Nonviolence

From Occupy to Ferguson

1a2From Crimethinc.

In early 2011, in response to austerity measures, protesters occupied the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a localized struggle, but it gained traction on the popular imagination out of all proportion to its size. This clearly indicated that something big was coming, and some of us even brainstormed about how to prepare for it—but all the same, the nationwide wave of Occupy a few months later caught us flat-footed.

In August 2014, after white police officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a week and a half of pitched protests shook the town. Once again, these were localized, but they loomed big in the popular imagination. Police kill something like three people a day in the United States; over the past few years, we’ve seen a pattern of increasing outrage against these murders, but until that August it hadn’t gained much leverage on the public consciousness. What was new about the Ferguson protests was not just that people refused to cede the streets to the police for days on end, nor that they openly defied the “community leadership” that usually pacifies such revolts. It was also that all around the country, people were finally paying attention and expressing approval.

Like the occupation of the capitol building in Madison, this may portend things to come. Ferguson is a microcosm of the United States. Could we see an uprising like this spread nationwide? It seems almost possible, right now, as the governor of Missouri has declared a preemptive state of emergency and people all over the US are preparing demonstrations for the day that the grand jury refuses to indict Darren Wilson.

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Radical Philosophy and the Free Alabama Movement

famBy Lisa Guenther/From Truth Out

Last summer, thousands of prisoners in California launched a 60-day hunger strike to protest and transform oppressive policies in the California Department of Corrections. One member of the organizing team called their strike action a “multi-racial, multi–regional Human Rights Movement to challenge torture.”

This weekend, another prisoner-led human rights movement is gaining momentum in Alabama. The Free Alabama Movement (FAM) seeks to analyze, resist, and transform prison slavery from within the Prison Industrial Complex.

Both of these movements challenge us, as philosophers and as people, to interrogate the meaning of slavery, torture, human rights, and political action. What does it mean to struggle for one’s human rights as an “offender” in the world’s first prison society? What can philosophers and political theorists learn from the example of incarcerated intellectuals and political actors whose everyday lives are situated at the dangerous intersection of racism, economic exploitation, sexual violence, and civil death? What would it mean to respect the specificity of the Free Alabama Movement, and at the same time to recognize that even the freedom of non-incarcerated philosophers may be bound up with the freedom of Alabama? What is freedom, after all? What – and where – and who – is Alabama?

In what follows, I will share what I have learned about the Free Alabama Movement over the last couple of days. But don’t take my word for it! Check out the FAM website, which includes photos and videos of degrading prison conditions, as well as this brilliant spoken word analysis of prison slavery. Follow the movement on Facebook and Twitter. And read the 100-page manifesto written by prisoner-organizers about the situation in Alabama prisons and the movement to end prison slavery. (more…)

Inmates to strike in Alabama, declare prison is “running a slave empire”

Melvin Ray

Melvin Ray

Breaking: Reached in his cell, Free Alabama Movement leader tells Salon inmates will refuse work to end free labor

From Salon

Inmates at an Alabama prison plan to stage a work stoppage this weekend and hope to spur an escalating strike wave, a leader of the effort told Salon in a Thursday phone call from his jail cell.

“We decided that the only weapon or strategy … that we have is our labor, because that’s the only reason that we’re here,” said Melvin Ray, an inmate at the St. Clair correctional facility and founder of the prison-based group Free Alabama Movement. “They’re incarcerating people for the free labor.” Spokespeople for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and his Department of Corrections did not respond to midday inquiries Thursday. Jobs done by inmates include kitchen and laundry work, chemical and license plate production, and furniture-making. In 2011, Alabama’s Department of Agriculture reportedly discussed using inmates to replace immigrants for agricultural work; in 2012, the state Senate passed a bill to let private businesses employ prison labor.

Inmates at St. Clair and two other prisons, Holman and Elmore, previously refused to work for several days in January. A Department of Corrections spokesperson told the Associated Press at the time that those protests were peaceful, and told AL.com that some of the inmates’ demands were outside the authority of the department to address. The state told the AP that a handful of inmates refused work, and others were prevented from working by safety or weather issues. In contrast, Ray told Salon the January effort drew the participation of all of St. Clair’s roughly 1,300 inmates and nearly all of Holman’s roughly 1,100. He predicted this weekend’s work stoppage would spread further and grow larger than that one, but also accused prison officials of hampering F.A.M.’s organizing by wielding threats and sending him and other leaders to solitary confinement. “It’s a hellhole,” he told Salon. “That’s what they created these things for: to destroy men.”

To grow the movement, said Ray, “We have to get them to understand: You’re not giving up anything. You don’t have anything. And you’re going to gain your freedom right here.” (more…)

Updates About Jailed MSEF Activists!

marcellusFrom Marcellus Shale Earth First!

All 5 of our brave friends are in goods spirits!  They where arrested Thursday during the lock down to block one of Anadarko’s drill sites on state land,   At this time, they are all content to stay in jail and not be bonded out.  This Weds they have their first court date and will be hoping for a bail reduction of their ridiculously high bails ($57,500 total!) for a non-violent protest.  We will be attempting to visit everyone this week at Lycoming County Prison in Williamsport, PA.  Their first court date is this Weds and we will be able to give more updates on their legal situation then.

In the mean time, please donate to their legal fund at https://fundly.com/marcellus-shale-earth-first.

If you want to send any messages of support to John Nicholson, Zora Gussow, Sierra Moy, or our other 2 friends (who wish to not have their names publicized), please email them to msefmedia@gmail.com and we will get the messages to them.  We will update with more information soon about how to send letters to them in jail.