California Prisoners Hunger Strike Against SHU – Solidarity Expands Across North America

On July 1st, prisoners at the Pelican Bay SHU went on indefinite hunger strike in protest against their conditions and solitary confinement. Their core five demands are:

1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse

2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria –

3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement

4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food

5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.

Numerous demonstrations of solidarity with the hunger strikers have begun surfacing as well:

Inside Prison:

Prisoners across the US are showing their solidarity with the Pelican Bay SHU Prisoners by joining the hunger strike for varying lengths of time (like Corcoran, Folsom, CCI Tehachapi, Calipatria and Centinela State Prisons in CA and Ohio State Penitentiary), or by bravely writting statements, letters, or calling people outside to relay messages to the Pelican Bay hunger strikes. These messages will be delivered to the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay during the next round of visits.

Outside Prison:

Families and loved-ones of prisoners have been organizing outside of Pelican Bay, sharing information with each other before visiting with their loved ones inside. Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc danzers from Los Angeles are up in Crescent City in front of the prison to support the hunger strikers with ceremony.

Outside Corcoran State Prison, where prisoners have joined the Pelican Bay hunger strike in solidarity, families and community members have been rallying to show their support, as well as sharing information before visiting their loved ones.

A growing number of supporters internationally are joining the prisoners on a hunger strike by fasting for various amounts of time.

In Seattle, Washington, a group of people equipped with a mobile sound system met in front of the King County Juvenile Detention Center in the Central District of Seattle. The group played music, banged on pots and pans, and made speeches (including the demands from Pelican Bay and how King County and Pelican Bay are connected) through megaphones in front of the prison cells. At one point, every occupant in the cells along the southern end of the Detention Center was banging on the walls and windows of their cells, responding to the cheers and words from outside. The event lasted for an hour and there were no arrests, despite a large police presence.

Prisoners at Collins Bay Federal Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario began a work strike on June 28th demanding an end to overcrowding at the prison, and are protesting worsening conditions. The federal prison restructuring and increasing criminalization has caused double bunking at many prisons and is intensifying tensions inside and outside prisons.

Supporters in Ontario are linking the struggles at Collins Bay to prisoner’s struggles at Pelican Bay. On the morning of Monday, July 4th, a banner  was dropped off a building overlooking City Hall in downtown Kingston, Ontario.

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee in Western Australia also supports the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike, dedicating an action in Perth on July 3rd for NAIDOC week (a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander survival).

On july 3, Sunday afternoon in the Montreal area, demos were carried out in solidarity as well. From anarchist news:

“A group of about 30 people appeared at the prison complex in Laval comprising of the Federal Training Center, Montées St-François Institution and Leclerc Institution, and the Canadian Immigration Prevention Center which holds immigrants whom are awaiting deportation and is operated as if it was a maximum-security penitentiary.

A group later appeared at the Bordeau Detention Center with chanting, banners, flares and fireworks. Afterwards they marched through the surrounding neighborhood handing out flyers and chanting as they finally reached the Tanguay Detention Center for women. At this point the pigs had arrived but people were able to reach the fences and get eye contact with a group of women in the prison yard and as the group of comrades screamed slogans, throwing themselves against the fence, climbing on it and shaking it the women responded by yelling back their joy for the solidarity.

Although the screws attempted blocking the way with their vehicles and to drown out the chanting with their sirens, the group of comrades were able to break through them and dash with their banners up to the fence yelling slogans of solidarity like “OUR PASSION FOR FREEDOM IS STRONGER THAN THEIR PRISONS” and shooting fireworks. The banners deployed were: “FOR A WORLD WITHOUT BOSSES, COPS NOR PRISONS ” “FROM CALIFORNIA TO QUEBEC SUPPORT THE PRISONERS IN STRUGGLE” and a third with a PO box to which the prisoners could write. The group was then able to continue bringing their solidarity to all sections of the complex.

With the presence of pigs growing, the group then headed back through the surrounding neighborhood while chanting “PIGS, COPS, MURDURERS”, marching in the street, passing out flyers with a heavy presence of SPVM squad cars tailing behind and repeatedly urging them to get off the street to which comrades responded by chanting louder. Everyone was able to get back to a bus which brought them downtown after some harassing by the SPVM and being followed by a squad car until they all dispersed upon arrival at a metro station.”

More information can be found at www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com