Militant Journalism

Western New York solidarity with prison strike

Buffalo action

On September 9, incarcerated workers around the country launched a national strike against prison slavery in remembrance of the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison occupation. The initial call to action was contained in a statement authored by anonymous prisoners from the Free Alabama movement on January 1 and reiterated on September 9 in a press release. The release reads as follows:

Today, September 9, 2016, at appx 12:01 am, FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT has kicked off the Sept. 9, Nationwide Prison Workstrikes, Boycotts and International Protests from Holman prison in Atmore, Alabama, in solidarity with confirmed strikes underway in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas.

F.A.M. has reiterated its call, first made January 1, 2014 with its first coordinated Workstrikes, for Non-Violence and Peaceful demonstrations both inside and outside of prisons as the solution to the exploitation and other forms of abuse that take place in Americas prisons, including forced prison slavery.

F.A.M. has often stated that the solution to mass incarceration and prison slavery must be lead by the men, women and children who are incarcerated and who are contributing to prison slavery and our own oppression by continuing to produce goods and provide services and purchase products that generate billions of dollars in revenue each year to support prison slavery. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution continues to permit slavery to exist in this country “as Punishment of crime, whereof the person has been duly convicted,” and the institution and enterprise of slavery was legally transferred to the State government’s prison systems.

These Non-Violent and Peaceful protests  are designed to expose the nefarious economic motives of individuals, State and Federal government, and corporations like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Starbucks, John Deer, the ALEC corporation, Victoria Secret, US military, Whole Foods, Wal Mart, Keefe, AT&T and Verizon call centers, and many others behind laws like mandatory minimums, three strikes laws, juvenile prosecution as adults, etc. that are used to incarcerate people under oppressive, inhumane conditions for extended periods of time, solely for the use of free prison labor for profit — yet in the name of crime and punishment.

F.A.M. has issued a “FREEDOM BILL“, which contains the demands that they are imposing upon the Alabama legislature to correct the problem of mass incarceration and prison slavery in Alabama.

Strike solidarity at Attica Prison
Strike solidarity at Attica Prison. Credit Eric Bardo

It has been confirmed that all inmates at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama refused to work on Sept. 9. The strike is expected to continue. At the time of publication other strikes could not be confirmed.

Throughout Western, NY (the region in which Attica resides) non-incarcerated activists expressed solidarity with the strike.

In Rochester, NY an action was held outside the Monroe County Courthouse to express support with striking imprisoned workers.

Outside of Attica prison the Industrial Workers of the World Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee organized a noise action in solidarity with striking inmates inside.

In Buffalo, New York, a documentary on the Attica uprising was screened followed by a discussion on how to we on the outside can support the abolition of prison slavery and how we can work in solidarity with those in the prisons standing up for their own rights and dignity.

The Attica uprising was the result of deplorable, inhumane conditions in the prisons. L. D. Barkley, an inmate organizer from Rochester, NY stated to the press, “We are men, we are not beasts and we will not be driven and beaten as such.” Barkley was targeted and assassinated by the National Guard during the retaking of the prison.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Thus, 21st Century slavery in entirely legal in United States prisons. Many major companies including AT&T and Victoria’s Secret use prison labor. This is a human rights violation for incarcerated individuals and it drives wages lower for non-incarcerated workers as it is much less costly to force inmates to work for next to nothing rather than pay workers on the outside a decent wage.

Prison slavery is yet another example of how capitalism is at odds with any reasonable conception of human rights and universal human dignity. As of October 2013 the number of incarcerated people in the United States was 716 per every 100,000 of the general population. The United States incarcerates more people than any other country of the world. It holds around 4 percent of the world’s population, yet has 22 percent of the world’s inmate population. With inexpensive labor as an incentive to lock people up, it is clear why the United States has such high rates of incarceration.

Working-class people throughout the country, in and out of jails and prisons, must stand up to prison slavery and force the state to abolish these inhumane practices. Capitalism creates the incentives for such conditions. Only through revolution and socialism can working class people in the U.S. be liberated from such exploitation.

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