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Analysis

Free Ruchell “Cinque” Magee!

“Once the facts can be clearly established and shown to the people where these dogs are practicing slavery under the color of law, then this automatically requires a special investigation by the people to look for themselves. They will find that these judges are criminals.” -Ruchell Cinque Magee

Portrait of Ruchell Magee by Kiilu Nyasha, 1975.

In the wake of the release of Jalil Muntaqim, all progressive and revolutionary people should extend their full solidarity to the campaign to free Ruchell “Cinque” Magee! Ruchell Magee is the longest-held political prisoner in the United States and the world. He has lived under the full weight of this rotten, racist California prison system for over 57 years but still remains strong at 81 years old. In August, the PSL branches in Sacramento and Los Angeles held a letter-writing event in solidarity with Ruchell Magee. Black August is an annual commemoration of freedom fighters who lost their lives through the centuries of chattel slavery, segregation, and white supremacist terror. Even though Black August is over for 2020, work to free political prisoners like Magee must continue through the entire year.

Born on March 17, 1939 in the small town of Franklinton, Louisiana, Magee grew up with the racial dynamics of the Jim Crow South only 62 years after Reconstruction. In 1955, Magee was first imprisoned at 16 years old after being charged in a racist, Klan-affiliated court with “aggravated attempted rape” for associating with a white woman. In the same year that Emmett Till was lynched for no reason other than reportedly offending a white woman, Magee was incarcerated in the infamous former plantation known as Angola State Penitentiary. After eight years in these horrid conditions and the confiscation of his family’s property after his mother’s death during his sentence, Magee was forced to relocate and make a new life for himself in Los Angeles. 

It only took six months in Los Angeles for the white supremacist state to seize him again, and in 1963 he was beaten, hospitalized, and arrested. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County charged him with kidnapping and robbing an associate for $10 in a drug trade, with a sentence of seven years to life. 

In 1970, after 15 long years in the system, Magee joined in an act of liberation that shocked the world: the Marin County Courthouse Rebellion. This rebellion was led by Jonathan Jackson (younger brother of Black revolutionary communist George Jackson), William Christmas, and James McClain.

“Slavery 400 years ago, slavery today. It’s the same but with a new name.” -Ruchell Cinque Magee

Ruchell Magee was on the witness stand when the 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson broke into the courtroom, demanded the immediate release of the Soledad Brothers (George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette), and asked him if he wanted freedom. Magee responded “Take these chains off, I’m a free man!” In the tragic massacre of this modern day slave rebellion, the San Quentin guards shot and killed Jonathan Jackson, William Christmas, James McClain, and even Judge Harold Haley in a brutal onslaught. Only Magee survived, but he was critically wounded in the attack.

Magee was slapped with murder and conspiracy charges, but was only convicted of simple kidnapping. Participating in this historic attempted liberation gave Ruchell a new perspective on life, making him identify deeply with the name “Cinque.” Sengbe Pieh (also known as Joseph Cinqué) was a man of the Mende tribe born in modern-day Sierra Leone who was captured by slave traders and shipped to Havana in 1839. At the age of 25 he led a ship revolt on the Spanish schooner La Amistad, ultimately ending in the Supreme Court decision United States v. The Amistad in 1841 which acknowledged that they were free men escaping illegal kidnapping and restored their freedom. Magee has continuously drawn parallels between Cinqué’s just struggle against slave traders in 1839 and his attempt to break his unjust, racist confinement as a prison slave in 1970.

“You have to deal on your own tactics. You have a right to take up arms to oppose any usurped government, particularly the type of corruption that we have today.” -Ruchell Magee

Magee’s story has been one of overcoming obstacles and tragedy, transitioning from an apolitical youth in a world set against him, to devoting his life to freedom fighting. By 1971 he had become a conscious revolutionary and people’s lawyer responsible for helping a number of people walk free. In the same way that Magee has put time and energy toward helping his fellow imprisoned comrades, those of us outside the walls must elevate his name and demand his freedom.

With countless killer cops, robber barons, corrupt politicians, and war criminals walking freely, it’s unacceptable that someone is still imprisoned for continually resisting enslavement. The real criminals enjoy life from mansions and yachts while so many working class people of all colors suffer through poor sanitation, low-quality food, abuse by correctional officers, and being locked out of opportunities after their sentences end.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation showed solidarity during Black August with events and posts which centered the revolutionary Black liberation struggle. In August, the Los Angeles and Sacramento branches teamed up for a presentation which highlighted Ruchell Magee’s case. August 7 marked 50 years since the Marin County Courthouse Rebellion. The year 2021 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Attica State Prison Uprising which shook the U.S. to its core. 

The nationwide movement to free political prisoners has won many victories recently – from the freedom of Mike and Debbie Africa in 2018, Delbert Africa earlier this year, and Jalil Muntaqim earlier this week. Ruchell Magee must be freed from the inhumane and unsanitary conditions of prison, and be granted compassionate release due to the risk of keeping an 81-year-old locked in wretched conditions. It’s impossible to explain the agony and trauma Magee has been put through in 64 years of combined imprisonment. He spent the majority of ages 16 to 81 in prison, and he can never get those years back – but we can fight for his release today!

Free Ruchell Magee now!

Sign the campaign petition.

Write to Ruchell Magee!

Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115

California Medical Facility

P.O. Box 2000

Vacaville, CA 95696-2000

United States

*Mail is reviewed by correctional officers before reaching the political prisoner. Please do not mail sharp objects, hardcover books, inflammatory language, or anything that could endanger his freedom.

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