Summary: Leftist groups gather in front of Twin Tower Correctional Facility in Downtown Los Angeles for noise demonstration in solidarity with prisoners going on strike nationwide — Editors
Leftists from different backgrounds and tendencies organized a demonstration on August 21st in support of the Nationwide Prisoners Strike in front of the Twin Tower Correctional Facility in Downtown LA. Organizers and members from Black Lives Matter, International Marxist-Humanist Organization, anarchist groups, Justice LA Coalition, IWW, along with others, were present at the noise demo, a demonstration characterized by a crowd attempting to draw attention to itself by making loud noises (utilizing instruments, appropriating pots and pans…). The crowd was composed of around 60 to 70 individuals, who were waving flags of their organizations, banging drums, strumming guitars and chanting loudly to let the prisoners inside the facility know they are standing in solitary outside its walls. The crowd was chanting things like “shut it down”, “abolish all prisons”, “f— the police” and “cops and Klan go hand in hand”, and other creative slogans demanding freedom, education and justice for all, and chants in support of immigrants/refugees.
Activists were invited to come on to a designated microphone to represent their organizations and voice their calls. It was made clear that the strike is something that all leftists should get behind and that the demo is a sectarian-free space, where leftists from all tendencies are invited to contribute in. A Black Lives Matter member called for demonstrators to support movements against police violence and against ICE. He mentioned that activists have been in solidarity with detained children for 61 days at the ICE detention center, and invited members of the crowd to come down and participate/help out the best they can.
Other activists approached the microphone and voiced their concerns. One activist stated that the prison industrial complex is one of the logical conclusions of the last two centuries of American development, that there is no actual rehabilitation of prisoners, but simply extraction of wealth and profit from the most marginalized communities, i.e., communities of color. Others mentioned their disgust at the conditions of prisoners, the slave labor they are subjected to, and their bewilderment that the State would not even allow them to work the jobs they are forced to do in prison when they are out.
Another demonstrator mentioned Black revolutionary George Jackson, who was shot and killed in San Quentin Prison on the same day in 1971 while trying to escape and the crowd commenced in a moment of silence for him and others who die in prison. The crowd at one point chanted “it ain’t suicide if it’s inside,” suggesting that suicides inside prison are assisted murder instead. Others mentioned the terrible treatment of women inside prisons, and how there is little or no regard as to when some are let out of prisons, noting one instance where a woman was recently let out at 3am in a vulnerable mental state and was soon after killed. Some mentioned how police violence has affected their communities and loved ones, and shared some stories that they said was cause for them to explore radical avenues of resistance.
The crowd walked around a small garden right in front of the jail several times, chanting, singing and clapping. There was great energy, and the demonstrators were not afraid to howl and hiss at police cars when they drove by. Police were lurking around and keeping an eye on protestors, though they did not get too close. The noise demonstration lasted for about two and a half hours, and gathered much support from passerby cars in that duration.
The Nationwide Prison Strike is set to occur between August 21 and September 9. Both dates are significant in that the former marks the death of George Jackson mentioned above, the latter the Attica riot of 1971 and also the biggest prison strike in US history in 2016. The most crucial demands of the prisoners is the end of prison slavery and that inmates be paid the “prevailing wage” of the state they are detained in, reforms and improvements in all prisons and prison policies that meet the humanity of inmates, rescinding of the Truth in Sentencing Act, the Sentencing Reform Act and the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the end of racist measures used to target Black and Brown peoples and making it harder for their paroles, and other demands targeting state legislature nationwide. The prisoners will follow through with their strike by refusing to do assigned work, sit-ins, boycotts and hunger strikes.The strike has been endorsed by many prisoner rights organizations, including Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, Millions for Prisoners, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and The People’s Consortium.
It is clear that prisoners in the US are aware of their strength in numbers, which is in any case largely due to race and class-based mass incarceration. They are aware of their dehumanization based on race, but also class, gender and sex, and will vigilantly stand against it for the duration of the strike. Only time will tell of the outcome.