National Day of Action: Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners
February 20th is recognized as a National Day to support persons inside cages who express their solidarity with the 99% and to support individuals seeking social, economic, and other forms of justice. With the help of supporters, allies, and larger communities, Occupy4Prisoners and other prisoner advocacy organizations aim to create a safe space to allow the voices of persons in captivity to be heard. This day of action was initiated by California death row prisoner Kevin Cooper and has garnered the support of many, many organizations and individuals nationally.
Occupy4Prisoners and other advocacy organizations urge us to join in on this historical day of action and be a part of amplifying the voices of prisoners and their concerns. They are asking that we stand in solidarity with those behind prison walls, their loved ones, and formerly incarcerated people. Prisoners are part of the 99% and Occupy4Prisoners and other advocacy organizations ask that we stand together in demanding an end to mass incarceration.
Occupy4Prisoners asserts that prisoners as well as formerly imprisoned PEOPLE, are one of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in our society.” They “have been labeled as “offenders”, “criminals”, “convicts”, “ex-offenders”, “ex-cons”, and many other dehumanizing terms, and are scapegoated for causing society’s fundamental problems.” Prisoners “…are PEOPLE, and not the labels…”. Occupy4Prisoners argues that “…the real “criminals” are those who run Wall Street, who are responsible for genocide, racism, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination. They lead the attacks against communities throughout America.”
Occupy4Prisoners argues that many of incarcerated persons and formerly incarcerated persons live by a code of conduct and support self-determination. They strive to build and follow leadership in our collective and public actions. These persons do not advance individual agendas over our collective needs. Further, participants in this movement accept responsibility for any acts that may have caused harm to their families, their communities or themselves, and seek to play an active role in making their communities safe for everyone.
Occupy4Prisoners and other advocacy organizations remind us that seldom if ever, are people inside asked or given a safe space to tell their stories. With that said, the general public needs to know what is going on inside these cages, how the bottom of the 99% are treated by the 1%, and the need to meaningfully include people inside as we build our collective efforts.
Occupy4Prisoners asks that everyone reading these words to support their efforts to create a safe, secure and genuinely inclusive space for people inside, and to build a genuine role for their voices in the February 20th National Day of Occupy in Support of Prisoners. Please take a moment to read through these statements from people in prison: http://occupy4prisoners.org/statements-from-people-in-prisons/. They are such a good reminder of why this day of action is so important for those 2.3 million people who the 1% aims to make invisible. The words of prisoners also remind us that this day of action is just the beginning. As Mumia points out,
“….the Occupy Movement must do more. As it shifted the discussion and paradigm on economic issues, it must turn the wheel of the so-called ‘Criminal Justice System’ in America, that is in fact, a destructive, counter-productive, annual $69 billion boondoggle of repression, better-known by activists as the Prison-Industrial-Complex. That means more than a one-day event, no matter how massive or impressive. It means building a mass movement that demands and fights for real change, and eventually abolition of structures that do far more social damage than good. It means the abolition of solitary confinement, for it is no more than modern-day torture chambers for the poor. It means the repeal of repressive laws that support such structures. It means social change—or it means nothing. So let us begin—Down With the Prison Industrial Complex!”
Actions are happening all across the country. If there’s not an action already planned in your city, you can still be a part of the National Day of Action. These are things you may want to consider doing:
1. Setting up a table to bring awareness to the issue of mass incarceration. This could include printing up literature to hand-out, petitions for specific cases for people to sign, or even a laptop with videos playing about the day of action. This could be a good way to help inform people about what’s going on and also meet people who you could work with for future events.
2. Using social media sites to spread the word about February 20 and the issue of mass incarceration. Occupy4prisoners.org has a section with powerful statements from prisoners about the national day of action. Those should be spread far and wide! We have to let the 1% know that we have not forgotten about the 2.3 million people they aim to make invisible. We want to amplify their voices on the outside.
3. Organize a reading group of Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. This book is an important tool for our movement. The New Jim Crow goes through mass incarceration and its historical ties to Jim Crow, the war on drugs, how the court system “works”, and the impact a felony record has on one’s life. It is full of staggering statistics that expose the racist prison system and point out that the only way forward is a mass social movement that demands change.
4. Bring issues that prisoners face into your local Occupy movement. This could be done through a teach-in, film screening, or by starting a prisoner solidarity working group.
Source(s): www.Occupy4Prisoners.org. Action Alert CEDP.
Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art