“Gavin Newsom, let them go!”
Five hundred participants marched on San Quentin’s West Gate on Aug 2 protesting California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s cruel decision to keep thousands of incarcerated people exposed to the virus in prison.
Two prisoners called into the protest, reporting the disorganization at the state’s oldest prison. “They still haven’t cleaned out the air vents here,” Troiano Hudson said, “we’re breathing in trash and dust. Medical is not the same.”
The action was called by the No Justice Under Capitalism Coalition, which has organized a number of car caravans around San Quentin as well as a protest at the gates of Gavin Newsom’s mansion.
A number of local activists and organizations spoke at the gates of the prison, while prison guards lined up on the other side.
In an interview with KCBS Radio, NJUC organizer Courtney Morris explained, “Gavin Newsom does have the opportunity to grant mass releases, and that’s what we’re demanding today: No state execution by COVID-19.” Despite Newsom’s executive order against the death penalty in March, prison deaths keep mounting.
“We can’t say we have a moratorium on the death penalty if we’re dying due to criminal state negligence at the hands of the state,” Morris added.
More than half of the population of San Quentin has been infected by COVID-19. Running at more than 112 percent capacity, nearly half — 42 percent — of those imprisoned at San Quentin are considered to be at high medical risk. And, six out of ten prisoners are classified as being the lowest risk of committing another crime once out of prison.
There were no known cases of infection until May 30, well into the pandemic, when California Dept of Corrections transferred 121 people from a prison in San Bernadino County that was a known hot spot of the virus. Some of those transferred were sick on the bus as they arrived.
The 2,000 cases is almost certainly an undercount. The North and West cell blocks, which hold 1,600 prisoners, have windows that are welded shut. Prisoners are only allowed to shower once every five days, showering with 40 to 50 other people at a time. Some have reported that prison medical staff were not even changing their gloves between tests.
“We are dying in here,” said prisoner Than Tran.
The virus is a fact of nature. But mass incarceration is not. It is a tool of repression built up by Democrats and Republicans alike.
End mass incarceration! Free all political prisoners! No State Execution by COVID-19!