While schools and government offices closed to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, activists gathered in front of the Florida Department of Corrections Miami Circuit Office, across from a Miami Police station. People from all over South Florida came to rally in support of Florida prisoners planning to go on strike.
Codenamed Operation PUSH, the strike began as a way for incarcerated people to protest the injustices being done to them within the confines of the prison, including violations such as ridiculous price gouging for the basic goods made available for inmates to purchase while they are paid extremely low wages for their labor.
So far, over 100 organizations have come forward to stand in solidarity with the astoundingly brave prisoners, who are fighting for justice within the unjust system of mass incarceration. By 1PM, the rally commenced with people bringing signs, shirts, and banners all showing their support with the striking prisoners. Organizers across many different political backgrounds, from groups like the Democratic Socialists of America to various anarchists, came out en masse to show their unwavering solidarity, letting the prisoners know they are not alone!
On the ground Liberation News spoke with Ira, one of the leading organizers of the rally who was with an organization, based out of Lake Worth, sending books to prisoners called the Prison Book Project. “When we heard that there was a strike we really wanted to stand in solidarity– not just in the form of sending books, but in bringing people together.”
When asked about the significance of the event, Ira stated that bringing so many people out “shows that people see what the Department of Corrections is doing and we’re vocal about it, we’re coming together.” Ira continues, “[The prisoners] are really risking their safety to get free and we want them to know we see what’s happening.”
For people just now learning of the struggle unfolding and wondering how they may begin to help, Ira said we could “start by simply humanizing prisoners. A lot of people, when I tell them I do prisoner support work, say ‘oh, you support murderers and rapists’, and people don’t understand that that is a low percentage of prisoners. There are alternative solutions and people who are in there are in there for non-violent offenses.”
Another person who was rallying on that day was a DSA member named Bean. Bean was out to “stand in solidarity with the prisoners and do the kind of think Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted.” Bean goes further to say “It’s nice to see people come out for this, it’s nice to see that the movement to abolish prison slavery is growing and the rhetoric around this is getting more and more radical. It’s great to see people stand up and fight.” Bean suggests reaching out to prisoners on the inside and communicating with them to help the effort. “If you know someone who’s incarcerated ask what you can do for them and their fellow inmates.”
As Operation PUSH continues, we must keep our eyes on the prisoners’ struggle for justice and lend our full support as they face brutal repression from a vastly unjust system. We must do whatever we can to de-stigmatize prisoners and let them know that we care and that we stand with them.