In This Issue

Confronting Urban Shield
The Pride of Miss Chelsea Manning
Teachers School Mexico
Fossil fuels: the gift that keeps on giving. Updates on tar sands, pipelines, and fracking
Environmental Activist Marie Mason Imprisoned in a Concrete Hell
California Prisoners Hunger Strike for 60 Days to Close the SHU
Albany Bulb Redux
Our Inside Voices: Writings from Prison
   A Plea for Compassion
  Call for Participants and Contributors

   Fairly Warned: CDC Rehabilitation
   Finally Pen to Paper
  Transformation of Character
The MOCHA Column
Apartheid Marches On
The Cuban 5 And Vancouver Pride


“Out of the streets and into the sheets” was the slogan plastered across billboards, buildings and basements nationwide. A previously unknown queer anarcho-matrimonialist neo-christian movement billing itself as Auntychrist has claimed responsibility for the pending shutdown of the federal government.

Information about the amorphous organization first came to light in recently released wikileaks documents. NSA analysts were first alerted to this new subversive organization when searches for references to Tea Party turned up the cumsensus based Tea Baggers caucus of Auntychrist.

Taking heed of the dire warnings from televangelists that the gay marriage would spell dewm for the country, the group changed its tactics from direct action to indirect action. “We suspected that if the state sanctioned gay marriage, that would spell the end of the state,” said M.A. Goldmyn.“Thus we fought for the gay marriage. And it turns out we were right.”

In the latest bull from the vatican, Pope Frances the Last, wearing his tiara, issued a closet rule for the whole catholic church. “We just won’t talk about these things.”

Confronting Urban Shield

From October 25th -28th, 2013 in Oakland, California, Urban Shield - a trade show and training exercise for SWAT teams and police agencies - will bring local, national and international law enforcement agencies together with “defense industry contractors” to provide training and introduce new weapons to police and security companies.

In addition to police, fire, and sheriffs’ departments from all over the bay area, the exercises will involve more than two dozen state and federal agencies, colleges, school districts, and armed forces from Israel, Bahrain, Qatar, Brazil, Norway, Switzerland, France, Jordan and Singapore.

More than 20 local peace and justice organizations, including LAGAI and QUIT!, are organizing to oppose this further militarization of our communities.  There will be rallies, teach-ins and direct actions.

For info

The Pride of Miss Chelsea Manning

by George

At the sf pride membership meeting on September 15, six of seven candidates from the San Francisco Pride Members for Democracy, Accountability and Transparency (PMDAT) slate were elected to the pride Board.

A few days prior to the election, pride CEO Earl Plante was forced to resign, after release of an email in which he threatened PMDAT candidate Jesse Oliver Sanford with prosecution for assault if he did not resign as a candidate. The alleged “assault” occurred at a cancelled Board meeting that was to address the issue of pride’s removal of Chelsea Manning as a grand marshal. Numerous witnesses have denied that there was an assault. The Bay Area Reporter stated that in a September 6 letter to the "SF Pride Community," Plante had said that his decision to resign was based largely on the "racist politics of personal destruction" and "unrelenting public vilification" "over the past four months" due to "the erroneous nomination and selection of Chelsea (Bradley) Manning as a Pride parade grand marshal."

Lisa L. Williams, the board president, has taken over as the interim CEO. In her capacity as board president, Lisa L. Williams had been the spokesperson for preventing Chelsea Manning from being a grand marshal, stating:

“Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform -- and countless others, military and civilian alike -- will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride.”

Despite massive protests, community meetings, a flash-mob dance group, and questions from members of the sf board of supervisors, sf pride never reversed their stance, or even tried to attempt a compromise. As spring wore on, many people saw the decision on Chelsea as further evidence of the corporatization of pride, and there was a lot of discussion among individuals, groups, and in the queer press.

courtesy: Rick GerharterAs the day of the parade approached, people who were still angry about the decision and the arrogance of the pride officers and board, adopted various strategies. Some people in the ad hoc coalition advocated for people to become members of pride, so that they could vote in the board election in September. The coalition decided the main strategy would be to keep the focus on Manning’s trial and build the largest possible contingent, wherever pride chose to place it. Various groups targeted the pride media party, which took place on the Thursday before pride at the posh Hotel W. Members of LAGAI and QUIT! and other radical queers disrupted the party, went on stage with a banner, and read a statement. Code Pink staged an action in the hallway at the entrance to the party, while the coalition held a small demonstration outside.

On the day of the parade (which used to be a march, and didn’t have a CEO) our wildcat contingent of about 70 radical queers from LAGAI, QUIT!, ACT-UP, Workers World, Gay Shame and WORD, broke into the parade in front of pride’s lead banner, getting a great response along the route. We also set up a booth directly across from the clear channel cameras on Market so that a bunch of different banners, produced and orchestrated by Dean, were on display and appeared on camera as various contingents passed on the march. Support signs for Manning were seen in over a dozen other contingents.

Meanwhile, although the national guard and other military and police contingents had prominent placement in the march, the official Bradley Manning Support Network contingent was placed near the very end of the parade, and didn’t step off until almost 1 p.m. Nonetheless, it was the largest contingent in the parade, colorful and loud. In a public vote after the parade, the contingent won the awards for “Most Fabulous Marching Contingent,” and “Most Fabulous Overall Contingent.”

The strategy to change the membership of the pride board was also successful. Although pride initially considered not honoring the September 15th vote, on September 18, a recount was held, and the election results were confirmed. The slate candidates elected were Joey Cain, Gary Virginia, Marsha Levine, Jesse Oliver Sanford, Jose Cital, and John Caldera. Kevin Bard, the only African American on the slate, was the only PMDAT candidate not elected. Incumbent Justin Taylor was re-elected. Four incumbents were not up for election this time.

This is not the first time that progressive people have tried to change the corporate course of pride. Back in the 1980’s Larry Burnett, who had been active in LAGAI, Black and White Men Together, and other progressive groups, became the parade co-chair. Although he was able to move the position of progressive contingents forward in the parade, he was not able to accomplish any structural change. Now that the pride board has a majority of “reformers,” we look forward to seeing how many of the shots corporations will continue to call.

Free Chelsea Manning

Lisa L. Williams’ statement was issued just as Chelsea’s trial was to begin. Chelsea had been initially charged with 34 criminal violations, the most serious of which was “aiding the enemy.” She was also charged with six violations of the Espionage Act, nine counts of violating lawful orders or regulations, as well as violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and Embezzlement and Theft of Public Money, Property or Records.

What Chelsea actually did was provide to Wikileaks for publication over 700,000 computer files, some documenting u.s. military killings of civilians and human rights abuses, including activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo prison. Specific information included a video of a 2007 helicopter attack on Baghdad in which the u.s. army killed civilians, including two journalists. Other documents in the release showed the collusion of foreign governments with the u.s. and helped inspire Arab Spring protests in Tunisia and in Egypt. Others revealed the role of the u.s. embassy in opposing raising the minimum wage in Haiti.

Military judge colonel denise r. lind found Chelsea not guilty of the charge of aiding the enemy, but found her guilty of most of the other charges. On August 21, lind sentenced Chelsea to 35 years, with credit for 1294 days which included actual time served, and additional time credited for the 112 days of “mistreatment” (read – torture) she endured prior to trial. Chelsea is expected to serve her sentence at the fort leavenworth military prison. She will be eligible for parole in approximately 8 years. Even the New York Times Editorial Board commented on the harsh sentence, saying:

“But 35 years is far too long a sentence by any standard. In more than two weeks of hearings, government lawyers presented vague and largely speculative claims that Private Manning’s leaks had endangered lives and “chilled” diplomatic relations. On the other hand, much of what Private Manning released was of public value, including a video of a military helicopter shooting at two vans and killing civilians, including two Reuters journalists. By comparison, First Lt. Michael Behenna was sentenced to 25 years for the 2008 killing of an unarmed Iraqi man who was being questioned about suspected terrorist activities. Lieutenant Behenna’s sentence has since been cut to 15 years. Private Manning has already been held for more than three years, nine months of which were in solitary confinement.”

After her sentencing, Chelsea released a statement saying “I only wanted to help people…If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.” 

On August 22, the following statement from Chelsea was read on the Today show, “I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.

“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.”

Catherine T. Wilkinson, speaking on behalf of the department of “defense,” told ABC news that “there is no mechanism in place for the U.S. military to provide hormone therapy or gender-reassignment surgery for inmates."

The American Civil Liberties Union has said that they will support Chelsea to receive hormones and other medical intervention. “The official policy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and most state agencies is to provide medically necessary care for the treatment of gender dysphoria, and courts have consistently found that denying such care to prisoners based on blanket exclusions violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. The ACLU stands with Chelsea Manning, and will support Ms. Manning's pursuit of appropriate healthcare and lawful treatment while at Fort Leavenworth.” The Transgender Law Center and the National Center on Transgender Equality have made statements supporting Chelsea’s right to transition.

Even the human rights campaign supported Chelsea’s right to appropriate care:

 “Regardless of how she came to our attention, Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s transition deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  As she requested in her letter, journalists and other officials should use her chosen name of Chelsea and refer to her with female pronouns.  Using the name Bradley or male pronouns is nothing short of an insult.  Media, having reported on her wishes, must respect them as is the standard followed by the AP Stylebook.

As Pvt. Manning serves her sentence, she deserves the same thing that any incarcerated person does – appropriate and competent medical care and protection from discrimination and violence.  The care she receives should be something that she and her doctors – including professionals who understand transgender care – agree is best for her.  There is a clear legal consensus that it is the government’s responsibility to provide medically necessary care for transgender people and the military has an obligation to follow those guidelines.”

The hrc went on to clarify which side of the military-industrial complex they were on:  

”What should not be lost is that there are transgender servicemembers and veterans who serve and have served this nation with honor, distinction and great sacrifice.  We must not forget or dishonor those individuals. Pvt. Manning’s experience is not a proxy for any other transgender man or woman who wears the uniform of the United States.”

On September 3, Chelsea officially applied for a presidential pardon. A previous on-line petition at the white house web site, that many people have signed, expired without achieving the threshold of signatures that requires a response. 

We are inspired by Chelsea Manning’s courage in continuing her fight for justice, by publicly coming out and demanding her rights as a transperson in prison. Free Chelsea!

Photos:  Rick Gerharter.  Please do not use without permission.

Teachers School Mexico

The federal government of Mexico recently ordered a police and military crackdown on a demonstration in the main square of the capital, Mexico City.  This demonstration of tens of thousands of teachers and their supporters was preceded by massive demonstrations across the entire country. Teachers, and their supporters, are protesting recently passed and proposed laws that would, among other things, eliminate whatever local control there is of education in poor, rural, and indigenous areas.

The current national government is controlled by the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) which was in control of the country for decades and, after losing electoral power for 12 years, once again controls both houses of congress and the presidency. PRI spent much of its time in power quashing dissent. The national teachers union has a decades-long relationship with the PRI and is supporting the neo-liberal changes that have been and are being made.

These demonstrations and protests and actions are being driven by a rank-and-file caucus of the teachers union coming out of poorer areas of the country. Media outlets in the country and in the u.s. are pro-government. Teachers have been portrayed as caring only for themselves. This caucus, the CNTE (National Education Workers Committee) believes that change is needed, but not these changes. These teachers and their supporters are also opposed to the privatization of the country’s oil company. They are opposed to tax laws that benefit the rich. It has been the policy of PRI to “marginalize, corrupt, threaten, and repress.” If these protests were led by lazy teachers concerned only for themselves, they would not be so big, and so everywhere across the entire country. And they wouldn’t have prompted a military crackdown. 

Fossil fuels: the gift that keeps on giving. Updates on tar sands, pipelines, and fracking

By Lisa

Let’s just go back to the beginning for moment, why do we queer folk care how our local municipal utilities and the behemoth public utilities keep the lights on and the cell phones charging or where the gas comes from for our cars, trucks, motorcycles and lawnmowers?  Because we love our blue-green living planet!  And, although some of us also love to read those post-apocalyptic novels with great queer characters, we really rather would prevent an environmental apocalypse from occurring, sea levels rising to engulf our homes, and other disasters linked to global warming and climate chaos.

Fossil fuels cause carbon dioxide emissions; specifically, burning coal, oil, gas, and even wood has released so much carbon dioxide since the “industrial revolution” that humans have changed the atmospheric balance of chemicals radically and swiftly (by geological standards).  We are now past 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide and already on a course for at least a 2 degree Celsius overall global warming in the next 100 years—and it could be more, a lot more.  This rapid change is already affecting the relatively consistent weather patterns that have prevailed for thousands of years. 

And that is one big reason why over the past few decades, many have been calling for a shift to cleaner fuels and an end to coal mining, tar sands mining, the pipelines for the tar sands (Keystone XL and Enbridge), and an end to fracking.  There are other reasons to oppose these processes that relate to how each of these fuels is taken from the earth. For example: Strip mining coal in Appalachia by blowing up mountains and burying streams under the “waste” rock; strip mining tar sands in Alberta destroys thousands of acres of the boreal forests and both uses and pollutes massive amounts of water. Fracking and other gas and oil well projects release “waste” methane (a short-lived but powerful green house gas that is 56 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide), fragment and devastate large areas of land, and pollute ground water with toxic chemicals, and pollute lands and surface water with “waste water”, sludge and other noxious by-products of these processes.

As Ultraviolet has reported before, tar sands are a particularly dirty type of fossil fuels because it uses large amounts of energy and hot water to separate the “oil” from the rock and sand even before it can be shipped out and more energy used to refine it into usable “oil”.  While Ultraviolet does not endorse politicians, it is worth checking out this silly but true video from Raul Grijalva about Keystone XL if you have a minute—tar sands are really rocks!  (best line: “I’m not a scientist, but I look like one in this borrowed lab coat.”)  

So What’s New?

This week Gov Brown (who always takes more than he gives), signed a bill that he says will regulate fracking in California, but it really won’t. What started as a bill that included a badly needed moratorium on fracking until full disclosure is made by industry and environmental review is completed, wound up as a bill that allows fracking to continue while the agency sets “regulations” for disclosure and undertakes an after-the-fact environmental review of the fracking that is already occurring and will come on line during the time it takes the agency to do the review.  While it is important to get disclosure of the fracking chemicals and techniques (including acidization), overall the bill is a gift to the industry and a slap in the face to environmental activists who raised these issues publically and pushed for regulations shedding light on a practice that has gone forward in California for decades with virtually no oversight from government agencies tasked with protecting our air and water.

Fracking even threatens our newest national park at Pinnacles which is home to the California Condor and other rare and imperiled wildlife.  Recently, a proposal for steam injection wells was approved less than 10 miles from the park and it is not subject to the new regulations.

Meanwhile, Canadian tar sands continue to be mined and shipped to the US in existing pipelines and Canada is pushing hard to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved that would take more of this dirty oil all the way to the gulf coast.   This past summer, occupy, activists and many activists across the country engaged in “summer heat” with creative civil disobedience and demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline approval, including one at the Chevron oil refineries in Richmond California which have a terrible history of fires, explosions and leaks that poison local residents, and several demonstrations by native Americans whose lands in Canada are being destroyed by tar sands mining and in the US whose lands the pipleline would cross.  Check out some of the reports on these and other actions to “draw the line on keystone.”

And we need to worry about more than just the Keystone XL pipeline (which gets all the media). As usual, the corporations that will make money from devastating the planet have other proposals that will let them achieve the same results by cobbling together a set of existing and smaller proposed pipeline segments (see map accompanying this article).

Is there any antidote to all this bad news? Getting out and protesting with friends can be invigorating or you can always try lying on the couch and reading post-apocalyptic queer fiction.  

Environmental Activist Marie Mason Imprisoned in a Concrete Hell

For three years, Maries feet have only touched concrete and her view of the sky has been obstructed by wire mesh.

She faces another 18 years in these conditions for defending the natural world that she is now being denied.

Marie Mason is serving nearly twenty-two years in federal prison for environmental related vandalism in which no one was injured. After being threatened with a life sentence in 2009, Marie pled guilty to two acts committed nine years earlier: damaging an office where Genetically Modified Organism research data was held and destroying logging equipment.

The federal judge, having applied the terrorism enhancement provision, gave her almost two years longer than the longest sentence the prosecution asked for, making it the harshest punishment of anyone convicted of environmental sabotage to date.

For reasons known only to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Marie is locked up in the special administrative housing unit at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, far from her family and friends. This high security, highly restricted unit is justified by the government as necessary only for inmates they deem the countrys most violent, dangerous prisoners.

Maries gymnasium-sized unit houses up to 20 female prisoners, but this space has been cut in half due to a new wall; a restricted unit inside a restricted unit. Prisoners are only allowed to leave this building for medical treatment, which comes after a protracted wait and fierce advocacy on the part of the prisoner.

Many of the women in Maries unit suffer from untreated, debilitating mental health issues which are manifested in violent behavior, self mutilation, screams and sobs throughout the night, and unpredictable actions. The constant barrage of cries and pleas from people in emotional pain constitutes psychological torture. There is no rest or calm.

Marie is allowed to exercise in a small, fenced-in, concrete, outdoor area topped by wire mesh. There is no room to run or engage in physical activity. The recreational room has one exercise bicycle and is rarely staffed.

Marie is frequently and unpredictably locked down for hours on end due to inmates fighting, attacks on guards, and acts of self-sabotage by some of the women. This greatly limits her access to recreation, work, and the small outdoor cage.

Mental health counseling and educational classes are not provided.

Most inmates know what they have to do to be transferred from this unit, but not Marie. The BOP has never given her any instructions as to what she must do in order to be transferred out of this unit. Currently, she has no hope of ever being moved unless we advocate for her.

The continual assault of a sterile environment, the lack of access to exercise and mental stimulation, the constant destructive outbursts from inmates who are not receiving the treatment they desperately deserve, and the impossibility of attaining freedom from this unit without outside intervention is inhumane.

It is urgent that we do everything within our power to get her out of this place immediately.

Every day that Marie is forced to live in these conditions takes a toll on her mental and physical health. Marie has never violated any prison rules and is obviously being targeted for her political beliefs. We demand that she be removed from this restrictive unit and transferred to a federal prison near her family and friends.

You can help!

Please write respectful letters to Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Federal Bureau of Prisons, 320 First St., NW, Washington, DC 20534.

You can find sample letters and more info about Maries case at

California Prisoners Hunger Strike for 60 Days to Close the SHU

On July 8th, 30,000 California prisoners across prison-imposed racial lines, began a hunger strike and work stoppage, a true feat of inside prison activist organizing against a brutal system which should be abolished.  In 2011, 12,000 prisoners participated in statewide hunger strikes protesting the inhumane conditions in the “Secure Housing Units,” where prisoners are held in long-term isolation.  After one prisoner died from starvation, the 2011 strike ended with a promise from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to reform the procedure for condemning inmates to the SHU, and modify the conditions there.  After two years with no changes forthcoming and only 208 of over 12,000 being released to general population, prisoners announced they were renewing the strike.

Over 12,000 prisoners are still held indefinitely, FOR YEARS, in solidarity confinement, in small windowless cells, unable to touch people they love, have pictures, phone calls, community with others or even access to the outside fresh air.  Prisoners are confined in the SHU (Security Housing Unit) at the slightest whim of the prison officials, if they are considered to be part of a gang.  Prisoners in the SHU spend 22 and a half hours a day in their cells.  The only way to leave solitary confinement is to snitch on other prisoners, a process known as debriefing.


The prisoners presented five demands

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 – CDCR shall implement the findings and recommendations of the US commission on safety and abuse in America’s prisons final 2006 report regarding CDCR SHU facilities as follows:

  • End Conditions of Isolation.  Ensure that prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation) have regular meaningful contact and freedom from extreme physical deprivations that are known to cause lasting harm.

  • Make Segregation a Last Resort.   Create a more productive form of confinement in the areas of allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation], the opportunity to engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, education, religious, and other productive activities relating to having a sense of being a part of the community.

  • End Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Release inmates to general prison population who have been warehoused indefinitely in SHU for the last 10 to 40 years (and counting).

  • Provide SHU Inmates Immediate Meaningful Access to: i) adequate natural sunlight ii) quality health care and treatment, including the mandate of transferring all PBSP- SHU inmates with chronic health care problems to the New Folsom Medical SHU facility.

4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food – cease the practice of denying adequate food, and provide wholesome, nutritional meals, including special diet meals, and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.

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

Examples include:

  • Expand visiting regarding amount of time and adding one day per week.

  •  Allow one photo per year.

  •  Allow a weekly phone call.

  •  Allow two annual packages per year. A 30 lb. package based on “item” weight and not packaging and box weight.

  •  Expand canteen and package items allowed.

  •  Allow TV/Radio combinations, or TV and small battery operated radio

  •  Allow Hobby Craft Items – art paper, colored pens, small pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, etc.

  •  Allow sweat suits and watch caps.

  • Allow wall calendars.

  •  Install pull-up/dip bars on SHU yards.

  •  Allow correspondence courses that require proctored exams.

Support for the hunger strikers stretched across California communities.  Weekly vigils were held in downtown San Francesco and near weekly demonstrations at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland.

We in LAGAI-Queer Insurrection and many other queers were among the 500 people who drove four hours to corcoran prison in the insecticide-and-manure-smelling barren inhospitable Central California desert.  There was a militant multicultural rally representing a diverse range of political groups.  Aztec dancers performed, a wall of pictures of prisoners and their writings was assembled on a chain link fence, former prisoners told of their experiences and the core demands were explained.  Then there was a march and a car caravan along the empty country road to the prison in the 103 degree blazing heat.  LAGAI carried our QUEERS FOR THE ABOLITION OF PRISONS banner.  A wilted demonstrator speculated that surely there must be air-conditioning inside the concrete evil looming prison. I knew from past prison visits to corcoran that it is oppressively hot, no air-conditioning and starkly institutional inside only dirt concrete, not a blade of green and run by arbitrary and posturing guards always watching.

I left feeling a mixture of the insidious crush of the prison industrial complex and the excited exuberance that such a massive demonstration against this malevolent system was happening inside.  We chanted INSIDE OUTSIDE WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME SIDE.

In August the Anti- Repression Committee (an off shoot of Occupy Oakland) had a Queer-focused demo in support of the hunger strikers who were by now in the news because the prison administrators wanted to force feed those remaining on the strike, a practice internationally condemned as torture.  This particular demonstration highlighted the oppression of queer prisoners.

Janetta Johnson, representing the Trans GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project, spoke: “Transgender prisoners are placed in the SHU based on the fact that they are transgender. It’s punitive.”  We then hit the streets in the traditional Occupy Oakland style Fuck the Police rowdy march to the police station, chanting “CLOSE THE JAILS! FREE THEM ALL! TEAR DOWN THE PRISON WALLS!”

On September 5th the hunger strike ended after 60 days of intense solidarity and organizing.  When the strike ended, over 100 people were still participating and 40 people had been on it the full 60 days.  The prison system put out specious propaganda that prisoners were coerced into this monumental action by gang leaders, but everyone knows that’s not true.

The Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective, which initiated the call for the strike, issued the following statement “suspending” the hunger strike.

To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice.  With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.

From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals.  However, there’s still much to be done.  Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.

State legislators, led by Tom Ammiano, have agreed to public hearings on the issue of long term solitary confinement which is a progress as the 2011 hunger strike produced only evaluation of individual cases of solitary imprisonment.  We will see.  The struggle continues and we remain ready to demonstrate again at corcoran.

Albany Bulb Redux

by Tory

The evil empire just doesn’t quit.  It’s happening again, a repeat performance at the Albany Bulb.  Come October the city of albany, california is busting up an encampment of 70 otherwise homeless people who have made a home and community on the bulb.  The Albany Bulb is a spit of 30 acres of landfill begun in 1963 as a dump for housing development debris, concrete slabs rubble and rebar.  It was an unwanted place that over the years returned to a sort of urban wild, complete with odd plants that came with the construction dumping, garden roses, palm trees and the like.  Early September the albany city council voted 4-1 to get rid of the encampment and turn the bulb over to the state park.  The land is already part of the east bay regional parks who were planning to tidy it up (make it sufficiently bourgeois), pave the paths, etc., in 2003-4 after the last community living there was summarily removed.  But the budget crunch came and nothing was ever done and the bulb remained a free place with off-leash dogs, strange art and graffiti and tent communities among the fennel groves, looking out over the bay.

No doubt the new interest by the state is driven by desire for coastal luxury development on the former racetrack property adjacent to the bulb.  The bureaucrats don’t want the encampments, free dogs, unruly weird vegetation, found art sculptures and graffiti interfering with the anticipated foo-foo developments

In 2004 I did a story about the then-struggle to keep the Albany Bulb a place for people.  I interviewed Osha Neumann, a radical lawyer and one of the artists of SNFF who made fantastic art all over the bulb.  Osha defended the people evicted from the bulb in 1999, highlighting that albany has never had a single shelter or accommodation for homeless people, something that remains true today.

The people currently living on the bulb are continuing the tradition started in the nineties encampments of community building.  They hold meetings, improve the paths, helped in cosco-busan oil spill clean up, remodeling the old library, make art and care for each other.

Recently I went out to the Albany Bulb, something I do every so often. I was greeted by two huge city dumpsters at the top of the path leading into the wild part of the bulb, signaling the impending state intervention.  I had not been to the bulb in a long time, so at first was distressed, but then I was transfixed by all the activity in evidence.  People were hauling water on wagons attached to bikes or bringing supplies in shopping carts.  There were signs on trees advertising community meetings.  New art was in evidence at the shoreline and graffiti on concrete slabs.  There were signs announcing that the library would be reopened and tents squirreled in thickets everywhere. I was so excited by this indomitable new wave of taking the peoples space.

It is a revolutionary act, the claiming of unused land, buildings, taking over, making our own place.  State authority has become increasingly freaked out about this, rightly identifying the power of such space claiming.  They couldn’t stand Occupy Oakland.  So they made damn sure it went.  The mere sight of a tent sends the police and politicians into a frenzy in Oakland.  The direct action encampment at the Berkeley Post office protesting the selling of the much loved community landmark was raided August 28th after a month of a tent city on its steps.  The city of fresno raided three encampments built by hundreds of homeless people on August 2th.  The police in new york routinely patrol Zuccotti park to make sure no pesky activists setup any new tents.

The Albany Bulb is an industry-created dump that no one wanted.  Now that nature and people reclaimed the land and made it beautiful, the city wants it back.  The evil empire wants to destroy this important spontaneous community.  Rather than help this community flourish they want to tear it down, forcing the residents back to dangerous streets fighting for the lousy non-existent crumbs of services.  Dogs will be leashed and the art destroyed and the wildness exchanged for manicured park paths, no doubt paving the way for condos.


Our Inside Voices: Writings from Prison

A Plea for Compassion.

Queer Community: We live, we exist, and all our hopes and dreams involve Love. If others cannot understand this truth, it is their loss and ours. I cannot stop being who I am, because Compassion is the biggest part of me. All that I see is a reflection of my inner convictions, and echos of passion never lost energy! Meditate and imagine a world in-sync, ONE and in-phase like a laser (our light would be magnified)> My boyhood friend and later love, Kyle, was brutally attacked and tragically killed by gang members because they deided that they alone held the power of life and death over one so fragile and Beautiful. Had they known how loving, kind and free he was, would they still decide to crush him (and me) forever? I hope not. Why, in a world so violent and chaotic, would not everyone relish ANY opportunity to experience the joy that can come from ANY source – regardless of Cosmetic manifestation? It has been 6 years and my pain seems to have no end. I want only one more embrace, one more kiss. Please friends, be loving to each other, and Compassionate to even those which you perceive as ‘different’. We all need each other like the Earth needs rain.

Your friend, Stanley King #121539, CUCF, PO Box 550, Gunnison UT 84634


Call for Participants and Contributors for 2014 International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA)

People currently or formerly imprisoned, victims of state and personal harm, activists, advocates, artists, academics, journalists, professionals, along with others from around the world are invited to take part, in person or by proxy, in ICOPA 15 on Algonquin Territory in Ottawa Canada on June 13-14, 2014.

Proposals for individual submissions and sessions are welcome.  Proposals can address any theme related to imprisonment, the penal system, other forms of state control and the prison industrial complex.  Write to ICOPA 15 c/o Justin Piche, Dept. of Criminology University of Ottawa, 120 University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 6N5  or email for more information.

Sent in by Dr. Cathy Marston, Gatesville TX


Fairly Warned: CDC Rehabilitation

When the choice to die of hunger ---------Strike!
Is better than to live------- because there is no Rehabilitation!
Where the Valley blows of Virus ------------Disease!
In a prison that men can’t leave ------------thwart the hope of Rehabilitation!

If their livelihood is based upon a prisoner’s return -------------Complex!
On the outside or the inside with those whom the authorities scorn ---------they really don’t want

There is sex without condoms and rape surmounts without a sound -----------Silenced!
And the prisoners share needles with drugs as common as the clouds ------------don’t speak of

Oh, Governor Brown, be of, by and for the People --------------- Please!
For the people include the Prisoners and you are so Chief Justice Supreme -------------- so stop touting

Why do they keep saying “Rehabilitation?”
They’re starting to make a fool of the word, “Rehabilitation” -----------
                        And “Revolution!” may soon take its place.

A Ramirez – California State Prison  

Finally Pen to Paper

I have been in five years now and have worked most every day of the last four on proving my innocence. Recently I returned to Court on papers I wrote and filed myself and it appears I have presented a convincing enough argument that my sentence is going to be overturned. I have never been in trouble before and the crime was non-violent yet I was given an extremely long sentence (13 years) and placed in Maximum Security even though my points and case factor score only qualified me for Minimum Security. I believe this was done solely because of my real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. I was immediately raped and beaten so many times I lost count. I reported it to the Officers but the first one just laughed and none of the rest ever did anything about it for almost a year. Then they started an investigation and said there was no evidence to collect because too much time had gone by.  The crazy thing is all of this has made me a better, stronger person than I have ever been in my whole life.  I am able to quickly determine if someone is a user/abuser or not and take measures to eliminate or minimize their involvement in my life. I know what my goals are and I am able to obtain them. I finally learned not to sweat the small stuff and that all of it is small stuff. And I learned that happiness is in the people around you and comes from within, not from anything outside of yourself. These prisons are a desolate, empty, hateful, hostile place especially for a member of our community. Innocent or guilty – We Are Family! We need to stick together in here and out there. Be a light to each other. Pink. Purple. Violet. UltraViolet. Just be a light.

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere!

Always, Shane, Lanesboro CI, North Carolina


Not here
Where rain is clear
Where oceans wane
And wax
The queer inside my soul reacts
As if by ear
Upon my brain, in…
I fear
This chain, my tear
Leaves a stain
And woe
The year I’ve lost but even though
They disappear
My wounds remain, in

Benny G, 2013, CA State Prison

Transformation of Character

Transformation isn’t an occurrence, performance or pronouncement of conduct. It is not some foreign perspective that will immediately present inevitable great expense or riches.

No, transformation is rather a daring experience with polarizing results that illustrate emotion. An adventure that is provoking and depressing, opposing but compensating. Useful and advantageous at some conditions in life while crippling and destructive at others.

Transformation is a driving power which is constructive and destructive, resulting in your being unsafely exposed with uncertainties and impoverished by usual and habitual social conventions carried on by tradition. Nevertheless, strength is developed with achievement and defeats. The self-determination to persevere and subdue bestowed accomplishments.

To endeavor to see one’s self for the first time; not exclusively the individual in the mirror, but as well as the individual behind it. To perceive the meaning of what it is that you see and have the innate qualities to direct and regulate what you expose. That is devoted transformation.

Transformation is approval pursued by  refusal, in an orchestrated dance with fate, arranging knowledge and understanding into actuality, while disassociating actuality from illusion.

Are you prepared to transform your character?

By  Al Cunningham, San Quentin CA

The NJ4 Are Free!

Patreese Johnson, the longest imprisoned of the New Jersey 4, who served eight years for self-defense, was released in August.  Congratulations Patreese!
Thanks to everyone who donated to support the NJ4.  We hope they will all have a great life from now on.

The MOCHA Column

By Chaya and Deni



This latest movie from South African director-writer Neill Blomkamp continues his interest in sci-fi themes combined with current social issues. We didn’t see District 9 (about the treatment of peaceful aliens stuck in South Africa as refugees) but we had high hopes for Elysium since it starred Matt Damon and dealt with class, race and immigration issues in a post-apocalyptic society. It starts with an interesting premise: Elysium is the space station where the rich white folks live, while down on earth everyone else is struggling for survival. It takes place in a repressive, bombed-out Los Angeles. Unfortunately, things went downhill really fast in the movie due to mediocre writing and story developments, and frequent, endless stupid fight scenes. We also had to endure Jodie Foster as co-star. Chaya said how could their version of ‘paradise’ include hideous houses and palm trees? Can’t we at least have forests in paradise? Or was such an artificial-looking environment part of the point? We were quite worn down by the end, which devolved into a Jesus metaphor for Matt, and a Madonna with child metaphor for the other female character in the film (played by Alice Braga, daughter of Sonia). Too bad they didn’t write her part as a rebel. 

Blue Jasmine (review by Deni)

Despite great critical aclaim, I found this Woody Allen film unremarkable. It was mean-spirited and left me with a “who cares” feeling about the pampered New York society wife (well acted by Cate Blanchett). The movie was set in SF, but the distortion of neighborhoods and locales was irritating (like characterizing a spacious and well-furnished apartment as a run-down Mission flat.) Especially annoying were the strong NY accents of supposed San Francisco main characters, and a San Francisco that was barely recognizable in real people and places. Skip it.

Hannah Arendt (review by Deni)

Though I wanted to really like this movie, I found the beginning slow and some parts cloying. I liked seeing a movie about a progressive political woman and the historical context was informative. But I found an excerpt from her essay “Zionism Reconsidered” far more interesting than this film: “Only folly could dictate a policy which trusts a distant imperial power for protection, while alienating the goodwill of neighbors. What then, one is prompted to ask, will be the future policy of Zionism with respect to big powers, and what program will Zionists have to offer for a solution of the Arab-Jewish conflict?” A very astute comment, given the current state of  Palestine/Israel “peace talks” amidst Israel’s ever-expanding settlements and international isolation (oh yeah, except for the U.S.). I’ve never read Arendt – perhaps this is a good time to start. It also seems like I should see more work by this film’s renowned director, Margarethe von Trotta.

Twenty Feet From Stardom (review by Deni)

This film about black women back-up singers in the 1950s and beyond was filled with fantastic music. It has been widely praised, which makes the Racialicious review by Tamara Winfrey Harris even more important: “While the commentary each singer provides is illuminating, it would be inconceivable for a retrospective on white male singers to feature virtually all black women musicians, historians, technicians and producers as subject experts on their careers. However, this is the “benign” structure that 20 Feet sets up. For nearly two hours the women appear through the eyes of their mostly white male employersrock and pop superstars like Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Chris Bottiand assorted white male subject experts. Presumably [belle] hooks, Angela Davis, Patricia Hill Collins, Michele Wallace, Joan Morgan, Tricia Rose and scores of other black feminist scholars and music historians were unavailable to critically contextualize these women’s experiences.” How ironic that the recognition and opportunities that the back-up singers were denied is replicated in the film’s choice of talking heads. See the film for the amazing music and the few times women are able to provide their own reflection and analysis in telling their stories.

The Spectacular Now

Sutter Keely (played by Miles Teller) is a high school senior with great social skills, big unresolved family issues, a drinking problem, and no plans for post graduation. After his girlfriend dumps him, he unexpectedly gets involved with outcast, good-girl Aimee (played by Shailene Woodley). This movie had very good acting, especially by Woodley, and not bad writing, but the predictable plot developments weakened it considerably.

The East (review by Deni)

Kate and I saw this film the night before the last newsletter was sent out. I almost felt compelled to put stickers on every issue saying “DON’T SEE IT!” But hopefully most of you missed it anyway. It was a “leftist political revolutionary anarchist” political thriller with an eco-anarchist-activist-direct action plot line. Unfortunately it was saddled with really bad writing, bad politics, bad acting (even Patricia Clarkson’s small part couldn’t save it) and such contrived scenes that we squirmed our way through it. Hard to decide which scene was the worst: when the radical commune members had to wash each other, feed each other, or when we had listen to them plan a major political action with 2 minutes of discussion. There were some good politics injected in the beginning about corporations and capitalist greed driving devastating environmental decisions, but this was quickly lost in the drek of the annoying characters and storyline. Oh, did I mention it turned out the main radicals’ actions were fueled by anger at their parents? Did I mention the racism and sexism? Aaaaggghh – so sad to have to revisit this awful film 3 months after I had gotten it out of my mind! But I have a responsibility to my MC readers, so suffer I must. Ummm, need I say SKIP IT??!

Wadjda (Our “didn’t see it yet review”)

A couple of issues ago, the Mocha Column told you to watch for this film about an independent ten year old Saudi girl, directed by Haifaa Al Mansoura. It’s the first feature film made by a female Saudi filmmaker. But it opened as we went to press so we haven’t seen it yet. It looks great though, so we’re giving an unprecedented “see it” before the fact!


TOTALLY BIASED GOES NIGHTLY  Progressive African American comedian W. Kamau Bell’s topical tv show on FX has moved to a nightly format on FXX (FX’s new cable station). Sharp critique of national issues and interesting items from a humorous, pointed angle (wait, aren’t all angles pointed?). It’s produced by Chris Rock, and the political satire often has an ethnic or racial focus. It’s pretty good on LGBT issues, sometimes not so good on sexism. Good supporting cast of comedians. Fortunately, the show is not as boring as we’re making it out to be, it’s often LOL. Guess it has better writers. Congrats to Kamau. We don’t know how he does a show 5 nights a week, we can’t even keep up with watching it. Some clips from shows are available on FXX’s website.

CA PUBLIC TEACHERS MAY RUN WILD!  As California moves toward the implementation of the new national Common Core academic standards (which will theoretically focus more on critical thinking than on rote learning), the state has made the shockingly bold move to suspend the traditional odious standardized testing this year. Fearing perhaps that without the threat of The Tests this year, public school teachers would wantonly teach science with gasp! actual time for experiments and might even teach critical thinking ahead of time and encourage students to examine why there’s been no money for public educatation, Evil Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan initially threatened to withhold federal funding from California unless the state tested this year, but has now backed off. The CA bill that would allow most students to skip this year’s standardized testing has passed the state senate but sits on Jerry Brown’s desk. He indicated he supports the bill but has until the end of the month to sign it. So teachers are left not knowing if they will have official freedom to actually teach meaningfully and creatively this year. Meanwhile, reactionary education forces like Parent Revolution and Educators 4 Excellence are pressuring Brown to veto the bill and enforce the testing. We’ll leave you with one of our favorite second grade standardized math test questions: “Which picture shows how two dogs would evenly divide 5 dog biscuits?” Hint to the highly overpaid testmakers: Try this out with two dogs and see how ridiculous your so-called “right” answer is. Two and a half biscuits per dog? We think not!

STOP THE COPS  In an August 12 Al Jazeera tv story on gun violence in Chicago , a reporter interviewed Mike Shields, the head of the Chicago police “union.” Despite the level of racism and violence expected from Chicago cops, this statement jumped out in its racist callousness. Responding to a mother’s tearful plan to sue the CPD for the cop murder of her son, Shields said, “There are certain parts of the community where you get shot by the police and it’s like winning the lottery. There’s always gonna be a lawsuit, I can guarantee that.” We say, fuck the police.

SPACE, THE FINAL FRONTIER, OR WHERE’S THE ATM?  PayPal is partnering with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (known as SETI) to launch PayPal Galactic to resolve the question once and for all of how earthlings will pay for things in space. And for you skeptics who think this is too far off, did you know that the Space Tourism Society of Los Angeles (no, we didn’t make that up) says that space hotels will offer cruises that orbit the planet by the end of this decade? Which raises many issues, such as what happens to electronic payment systems when the transaction has to process over thousands of miles back to earth. And speaking of the moon (which actually we weren’t), we’re not even going to mention the complex legal issues that mining the moon’s water ice will bring about. We’re just relieved that the peace-loving U.S. signed the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. This appears to permit mining on the moon and other celestial bodies, according to space-law experts. But it's not entirely clear that mining companies would own whatever they extract – perhaps it will be owned by Lucas and Spielberg? And then there’s the Moon Treaty of 1979, which attempted to set up a governing structure for using the moon's resources (green cheese?). It was ignored by most countries, although experts on space law don’t think that’s a big problem. Given the way treaties are followed (or not), it doesn’t seem to matter who signs them anyway. And getting back to intergalactic currency, we suppose that ATMs on the moon and beyond will use Klingon darseks.    

JOHN GREYSON AND TAREK LOUBANI FREED  We’ve mentioned John Greyson several times in the Mocha column, most notably his courageous stance at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival in protesting its spotlight on Tel Aviv. He’s a professor at the Department of Film at York University in Toronto , and an award-winning queer film-maker. In mid-August 2013, John and Tarek Loubani, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at London University , Ontario , were in Egypt enroute to Gaza for a collaboration with the main hospital in Gaza . They were arrested in Egypt and have been in jail since then but have not been formally charged. Only the Canadian embassy has been allowed to contact them. In mid-September they started a hunger strike to protest the arbitrary nature of their detention. They were finally released on October 5.  Wasting no time, John has posted a video diary, "Prison Arabic in 50 Days", on their website, dedicated to those who remain inside.  Check it out..

BEST QUOTE AWARD  So many contenders, but we’re giving it to James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (wha???). At a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee way back in March 2013, before Snowden spilled the NSA beans, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No, sir.” Given the subsequent revelations provided by Edward Snowden’s data, Andrea Mitchell of NBC news asked Clapper about his denial, which was obviously a lie. Clapper, sliding fast down the slippery slope, said his answer to the senator had to do with the definition of “collect.” He then explained, “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner, by saying no.” The Mocha Column has obtained commentary on this matter from an unidentified, highly placed British source (ok, it’s Lewis Carroll): “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to meanneither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice , “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “When I make a word do a lot of work like that,” said Humpty Dumpty, “I always pay it extra.” We assume Clapper paid his lying words big bucks.

CAN THE POPE COPE?  Hurrah for the abortion-rights demonstrators who vandalized Chile's main cathedral during a mass in July and used pews as barricades during clashes with police. A group of direct action protesters, part of a larger protest calling for the legalization of abortion, stormed into the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, interrupting the mass. They painted walls with pro-abortion messages, broke ornaments and hauled pews all the way to the Plaza de Armas Square in front of cathedral. Police in riot gear rushed to contain them, and arrested at least two people. Reactionary Chilean President Sebastian Pinera condemned the vandalizing of the cathedral. Abortions, even for medical reasons and in the case of rape, have been illegal since Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, which ended in 1990. Pinera's government opposes any easing of the ban.

Through an anonymous Vatican source, The Mocha Column has obtained the non-edited version of the Pope’s recent speech on abortion and gay rights in which he warned that the Catholic Church's moral structure [excuse us????] might "fall like a house of cards" if it doesn't balance its divisive rules about abortion, gays and contraception with the greater need to make it a merciful, more welcoming place for all.” In the unreleased version, the Popester said, “As a South American compatriot myself, I fully support the pro-abortion demonstrators in Chile. Having been complicit with the Argentine dictatorship in the 1980s, I cannot support any anti-woman measures, such as the anti-abortion laws, that were put in place by the repressive Pinochet regime in Chile after the U.S.-funded 1973 coup.”

However, instead of releasing this version of the speech, the Poopster then issued a strong anti-abortion message. Covering all bases, he then wrote two personal checks: one for repairs to the Santiago cathedral, and one to Planned Parenthood Chile.


Apartheid Marches On

by Kate

We had just gotten back from the hunger strike solidarity demonstration at Corcoran when I heard the news that George Zimmerman had been acquitted for killing Trayvon Martin in Florida. I was not surprised, but I was disheartened.

“Here we go again,” I said to myself.  It had been a long, hot day, I had a headache, and all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch Project Runway.  But I saw someone’s facebook status saying, “All Out to Oscar Grant Plaza, 10 pm.”  It was exactly 10:00.  I put my battered shoes back on and headed to downtown Oakland.

When I got OGP, a young African American man was standing rather precariously atop a statue, declaiming to the small assembly.

“I’m not just saying this ‘cause I’m loaded,” he said.  “I feel like I really want to hurt someone. Don’t worry.  I’m not going to.  But I want to.  Because I know this country doesn’t care about my life.”

In so many ways over the next two weeks, at demonstrations and vigils, on television and radio and on the street, I heard young dark-skinned men echoing that sentiment.

“Am I Next?” was the most heart-wrenching sign, carried by a nine-year-old boy.

The aftermath was predictable.

Hundreds, occasionally thousands, participated in nonviolent marches, rallies and speakouts all over the country, decrying the impunity of white people who kill African American youth in the name of providing security.  In a scene reminiscent of the heady days of Occupy/Decolonize, one Oakland protest wound around the streets of downtown and Lake Merritt from 6 pm until after midnight, briefly blocking the 880 freeway.  In Oakland and some other cities, small numbers of people smashed windows of upscale businesses and government offices (but why Youth Radio?), and in one highly publicized incident, a white waiter at Flora, a restaurant in Oakland’s Uptown, tried to stop people from breaking the restaurant’s windows and ended up getting hit in the head with a hammer.  A lot of the people doing the property damage were white anarchists.  Police were somehow caught unawares – do they not watch television? – and not on hand when the property damage was taking place, and business owners screamed bloody murder about their broken windows.  The media branded all the demonstrations “violent.”

Obama, Trayvon’s parents, Ben Jealous of the NAACP and others went on television pleading with everyone to be nice and “peaceful.”  At one demonstration in Oakland, some Occupy Oakland people silkscreened t-shirts that said “Fuck the Police” and featured a picture of Trayvon with both middle fingers in the air.  (It’s real – apparently a selfie from his cell phone.)  They, like a lot of people, felt like the soft-light hoodie photo featured on nearly everything about Trayvon was a little saintly and they wanted to celebrate a more rebellious image of him.  A young man from the NAACP came up to us while a friend of ours was getting a t-shirt screened and said he felt like the image perpetuated negative stereotypes of African American youth.  We could understand how he felt and suggested he should talk to the people actually making the shirts about his concern.  He kept saying that his aunt had been in the civil rights movement in Birmingham and she said everyone should be nonviolent.

Two weeks after Zimmerman was acquitted, the Oakland city council passed a ban on bringing “tools of violence” to demonstrations.  The ordinance passed with six votes in favor, none against and one abstention.  It makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1000 fine to possess “Clubs, impact-resistant shields, aerosol spray cans, pressurized paint sprayers, sling shots, hammers, large wrenches, fireworks, paint projectiles, and fire accelerants” while at a demonstration.  If you’re confused about what any of those items are, you can read the definitions, along with an exhaustive list of all the demonstrations in the last few years where they were allegedly used, at

I was trying to figure out what this ordinance is supposed to accomplish, since obviously using any of those things, except maybe the shields, was already a crime, but then I realized it means they don’t actually have to see you doing anything; they can just find an excuse to search you and then arrest you for possession.  Good deal for the cops, not so much for those of us who like to have spray paint nearby or plumbers or carpenters who might want to come to a demo straight from work.

The same night that the tools of violence ordinance was introduced, the city approved accepting a $2 million federal grant to create a “Domain Awareness Zone,” basically a massive 24-hour surveillance center linking the 130+ cameras at the Port of Oakland with every other camera in the city, including ones at BART and CalTrans stations, on freeways, probably ATMs and even Twitter feeds.  (This project for “securing the ports” was not a response to the West Coast Port Shutdown in 2011 – it began four years ago as part of an Obama stimulus package.)

One positive result of the Zimmerman verdict and surrounding media frenzy was some renewed attention to the case of Marissa Alexander.  Alexander, a 31-year-old African American woman with three kids and a Masters in Business Administration, is doing 20 years in Florida for “aggravated assault.”  She fired one shot into her kitchen wall while being threatened by her estranged husband.  Though accounts differ as to whether she fired in the air or at him, his history of abuse is not contested – her injuries had sent her to the hospital and she had a restraining order against him.  Alexander’s effort to invoke the Stand Your Ground law was rejected by the court, because she had left the house and come back with the gun from her car – the judge said she should have left.  She was prosecuted by Angela Corey, who also prosecuted the Zimmerman case.  Corey argued that Alexander should have taken a plea deal which would have given her a three-year sentence, and that it was her own fault she was convicted and received the mandatory 20-year sentence for using a gun in the commission of a felony.

At protests over the Zimmerman verdict, people around the country carried banners calling for Marissa Alexander to be freed.  She was visited in jail by Jesse Jackson and a Florida Congresswoman spoke about her case on MSNBC.  On September 14, small rallies around the country demanded her release.

In the wake of the Supreme KKKourt’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, eviscerating the Voting Rights Act, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia have already moved to make it harder for people of color, older people, students and people in heavily Democratic areas to vote.  An Arizona law, the most restrictive in the country, which had previously been struck down by the kourt, is given new life by the Shelby ruling, and Kansas is trying to jump on board with demanding “proof of citizenship” in order to vote.

In a glimmer of good news, the well-publicized “stop and frisk” trial in New York resulted in a verdict that the policy is discriminatory against young men of color – like anyone didn’t know that, but still it’s good to have it recognized.  Though mayor bloomberg insisted he’s going to continue the policy anyway, voters in the city’s Democratic primary issued a stunning rejection of the policy – and of bloomberg himself – by voting overwhelmingly for the dark horse candidate Bill deBlasio over the mayor’s pick, Christine Quinn.  DeBlasio got 47% of the LGBT vote to only 34% for Quinn, even though Quinn is a lesbian (take that, homonationalists).  deBlasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is African American and a former lesbian.  DeBlasio ran heavily against stop and frisk, often accompanied by his biracial kids.

The New York police department released statistics last week purporting to show that shootings jumped 13% in the 28 days following the stop and frisk ruling.  This notwithstanding the fact that in over 90% of stops under stop & frisk, the police found nothing illegal.  The judge in the case, Shira Scheindlin, also “found that during police stops, blacks and Hispanics “were more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband.”

Meanwhile, since the Zimmerman verdict:

·         Jonathan Ferrall, a former Florida A&M football player, was shot and killed by Charlotte police on September 14.  He had crashed his car and knocked on a white woman’s door, looking for help.  She hit her panic alarm and called the police, who shot him several times when he ran towards them.

·         In August, 60-year-old Roy Middleton was shot 15 times by Florida deputies, standing by his own car in his own driveway.  A neighbor thought he was a car thief.  Fortunately for Mr. Middleton, those cops were terrible shots – as are most cops, as it turns out.  (Middleton has pins in his leg, but is alive and talking to the media.)  According to the New York Police Department’s Firearms Discharge Report, police who intentionally fired their weapons at someone hit their targets 28.3% of the time in 2006, up from 17.4% in 2005.

·         In an infamous Cleveland incident in November 2012, an unarmed couple was shot at 137 times from 60 police vehicles.  They were hit a total of 47 times – she 24 and he 23.  In August this year, the review concluded that 75 officers would be disciplined but none would be fired.

According to Malcolm X Grassroots Movement,

“In 2012, police officers, security guards and self-appointed keepers of the peace killed 313 Black men, women and children.  Like the killing of Trayvon Martin, 288 of these 313 extrajudicial killings involved unnecessary, excessive force. Yet, only  26 of the killers were ever charged with a crime—that is the judicial system ruled 91% were justified.

“After the Zimmerman verdict additional research found that of the 15 security guards and self-appointed  keepers of the peace charged with a crime, only four have been convicted. And of the 11 police officers charged, none have been convicted.”

MXGM recently released a report by activist journalist Arlene Eisen documenting the fact that a Black person is killed by police or security guards at least every 28 hours in the U.S.  Read the report.

In a survey by the authors of the book Justice in America: The Separate Realities of Blacks and Whites, 70% of Black respondents and 17% of white respondents believed that stop and frisk policies were a big problem in their community.  In a joint poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, 59% of white respondents agreed with the statement, “America is a nation where people are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  79% of African American respondents disagreed.

Check out the great website  “In the Black tradition of the call and response, #BlackLivesMatter is both a Call to Action and a response to the ways in which our lives have been de-valued.”

The Cuban 5 And Vancouver Pride

by Amanda

September 12, 2013 marks the15th anniversary of the imprisonment of the Cuban 5. Nearly a generation has passed since these Cubans were incarcerated, initially in solitary confinement for many months. They join some of our most courageous and brilliant comrades who have spent decades of their lives in prison for fighting injustice.

At least 1 in 5 prisoners in the world is in a US prison, our new plantation system.

Most Ultraviolet readers know of the Cuban 5 but permit me to recap their case.

Since 1959 there have been hundreds of attacks on Cuba by the reactionary Cuban community centered in Miami, resulting in thousands of deaths of Cubans with many more injured, as well as extensive property damage.  The men who are now known as the Cuban 5 went to Miami from Cuba to defend their homeland and to prevent future attacks against Cuba. They were charged by the US government with several conspiracy charges including espionage, although their only “crime” was protecting their homeland. Despite a refusal to move the trial from Miami, many judicial irregularities, international protest including from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and years of appeals, 4 out of the 5 remain in prison with 3 of them carrying life sentences. It has been extremely difficult or impossible for wives and family members from Cuba to get permission to visit them. In Cuba they are national heroes, with their pictures on billboards all over the country. In my work organizing for the 5, I have met many people who have told me they had never heard of the 5 until they went to Cuba and how surprised they are that they are never mentioned in US media.

In May I joined activists from around the US and many countries in Washington DC for the second 5 Days for the 5 campaign to coordinate efforts and intensify the pressure on the US government to release the Cuban 5.  We demonstrated in front of the white house, did a series of  press conferences and events, including one with Angela Davis in a large church with a standing room only crowd, and, along with international parliamentarians, met with congressional representatives to press  for the release of the Cuban 5. It is always a great experience to work with international activists and see the ways in which our struggles are similar and different. I met some young activists from Vancouver who were among the few queers in attendance and who were a lot of fun besides being awesome organizers. I jumped at their invitation to come to Vancouver  on Pride weekend.

Vancouver Pride was the first weekend in August. The Vancouver organizers had decided to focus on Private Manning and the Cuban 5 for all the Pride activities. (Chelsea Manning is the US soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning who was convicted in July 2013 for espionage and sentenced to 35 years after releasing restricted documents detailing clandestine US global diplomatic and military activities.)

We were there for the Trans march Friday night, the Dyke march Saturday, and the Pride march on Sunday as well as tabling at the rallies after the marches. In addition, the next day, Monday, was the 93rd monthly vigil in front of the US Consulate to demand the release of the Cuban 5. Tuesday was the monthly teach-in by the  coalition, Mobilization against War and Occupation, focusing on Manning. The enthusiasm and energy of these activists was exhilarating as well as challenging to keep up with their pace. Most of them were half my age, but they are also able to work with a diverse community of activists of all ages, including many immigrants who have fled violence in the middle east, North Africa, and Latin America as well as Canadian indigenous activists.

As at our Pride events, there was a decided lack of anti-imperialist organizing and activity. In fact, we were the only such presence at the marches. Yet, there was a lot of interest during the marches to fliers we handed out, and a lot of people came by the table at the rallies. There was a beautiful banner with a rainbow map of Cuba saying  “Cuba SAYS LGBT Rights are Human Rights”. We chanted as we carried large banners and, for pride, decorated a truck float. The lit table had books, buttons, and posters about many issues as well as a life-size Manning poster with the face cut out so you could take a photo proving we are all Chelsea Manning. It was a great outreach effort to the local queer community, some who knew nothing about the Cuban 5 or Manning and some who were very aware.

As with the Manning contingent at 2013 SF Pride, we must continue to make a large, vibrant, and colorful statement of our politics that outreaches the queer community and makes visible our support for something more than the corporate Pride image that dominates. QUIT and LAGAI  have been such a presence for decades. I look forward to many more queers challenging the definition of LGBTQ Pride that has become entrenched in increasingly narrow and mainstream, reactionary politics. Stonewall was not about asking for permission to join the military or to marry. We can demand an expansion of the focus of queer politics to include education, food, housing, health care, and human rights for everyone regardless of marital status or citizenship.

We don’t want military recruiters at Pride to recruit queers as soldiers of US imperialism around the world. I aspire to that old slogan, Queers ARE revolting…it’s about time.

For more information about the Cuban 5, Contact International Committee for the Cuban 5 or check out Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba.