US Prisoners Strike Against 13th Amendment Sanctioned Slavery

“The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Today, after months of preparation, many prisoners in the United States will go on an unprecedented work strike in protest of inhumane treatment and exploitation within the penal system. Starting today and ending on September 9th, the anniversary of the 1971 Attica uprising, it’s likely that many inmates will face absurd and unjust retaliation for their organizing work (some already have), supported primarily by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a branch of the IWW, which I was a member of for several years. It’s important that the public is aware of the gravity of this situation, the issues being raised, and that as “citizens” we turn as much focus as possible towards this struggle in an effort to protect some of the least visible human beings in society from further violence at the hands of the institutions that hold them. Their demands are not lofty:

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human
    shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.

In Colorado, several inmates at the Sterling Correction Facility reported to the Denver Anarchist Black Cross (disclosure: I was also a member of this organization, a prisoner support group, for a number of years) that they have begun a hunger strike in response to punitive policies that have placed several dozen prisoners in administrative segregation in a collective punishment practice. Inmates are citing a settled case that is supposed to place restrictions on solitary confinement in Colorado, as well as demanding crucial commissary restitution after prison-issued tablets were recalled and outstanding subscription money wasn’t refunded. The men in Sterling are also fighting for correspondence courses to strengthen ties with family on the outside.

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Eric King

I’d also like to use this space to bring attention to the case of Eric King, incarcerated for actions taken in support of the Ferguson Revolt and sentenced to ten years in federal penitentiary. Eric was moved to a Secure Housing Unit (solitary) last week and then transferred to the high-security SHU in Florence, Colorado. The reasons for this punishment is unclear, and it remains to be seen if this is connected to the larger prison strike struggle, as Eric is a vocal political prisoner, but has also been put in the SHU before after filing complaints about a guard who threatened Eric and his partner’s children during a visit, and the authorities blamed his correspondence with people on the outside. You can learn more about Eric King here, and he loves receiving mail! His updated address is posted here alongside guidelines for writing him. His partner was recently in a car accident and is fighting health issues. She is a friend of mine, and if you feel so inclined, please donate to help offset the costs of her medical treatments and automobile repairs.

On the outside, active solidarity to support prisoners is springing up across the United States and the world. It’s Going Down is constantly updating a page with news and ways to help, including call-in campaigns, rallies, and other actions to take to support the strike. The despicable “Silent Sam” statue was toppled last night at UNC-Chapel Hill in North Carolina and demonstrators held banners in support of the strike. Widespread graffiti murals have been reported and photographed as far away as Lisbon, Portugal and Indonesia.

I’ll be writing as much as I can about the strike as news breaks, likely trying to keep my focus on local facilities and solidarity actions here in Colorado in the next few weeks. Until all are free, strength to the prison rebels.

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Broncos Anger God, Invite Torrential Downpour After Blowing 13 Point Lead

There’s no real reason to get too worked up about losing an NFL preseason game in the fourth quarter with third-string players on the field. Being up 23-10 after three stings a bit, but the first and second squads had good showings early on, key players looked returned to form, and drives came together in a way that was both productive and satisfying to watch. Last week, an increasingly frustrating coaching staff marched into the opening game against the Minnesota Vikings with an… avant-garde game plan, in which the team was clearly experimenting and seeing what could stick to the wall. That’s fine for a preseason game, although I think most fans prefer something a little more structured and goal oriented. Against the Chicago Bears, a team that finished last in their division last year, the Broncos looked pretty lethal at times, with Von Miller on the field longer than most people would probably like and Emmanuel Sanders blossoming new chemistry with 2018’s hired gun QB Case Keenum.

Royce Freeman and CU alum Phillip Lindsay dominated the running game over Broncos veteran Devontae Booker, both clearly deserving spots on the final roster. Jeff Hue-Hue-Hue-Heuerman, a sorely underused tight-end weapon, looked like a bouncer at closing time, fighting for every bit of yardage he could get and scoring on a two-point conversion after a running TD from Freeman early on in the second quarter. First-round draft pick Bradley Chubb forced a safety after a bobbled snap, and Justin Simmons caught an interception to bring in “back up” Chad Kelly, quickly becoming a fan favorite in the preseason for his physicality and clear QB IQ. Everything was looking great. I think everyone knows it’s the Bears, but the Broncos played legitimately good football for basically three and a half quarters. This Kelly to Sutton touchdown near the two-minute warning right before halftime is an absolute thing of beauty:

After last week’s disastrous, downright depressing showing by first-round bust Paxton Lynch, most fans, including myself, were calling for him to be cut from the team or traded to another franchise dumb enough to take a chance on him. Lynch was booed as he took the field and again periodically as he threw 5/11 for 39 yards, most of which were YAC against a third-string defense from one of the worst-performing teams in the league. He’s abysmal, yet had the audacity in the post-game presser to claim that he “wants to be THE quarterback, not the backup.” If anything, tonight cemented my claims last week that Lynch doesn’t even belong in the NFL, much less warming the bench in Denver. Local sporting press is starting to feel bad for him, despite urging the team to “make a move”, and head coach Vance Joseph, traditionally a little bit cagey regarding questions about Lynch, seemed particularly unleashed when commenting on him getting booed at Mile High. Again. Even ex-Bronco RB CJ Anderson admonished fans for booing:

A lot is being made about the Isiah McKenzie fumble, and although I think he’s tested quite a bit of patience after earning a reputation for dropping punt returns last year, that was a bang-bang great defensive play from the Bears and McKenzie did what he could. I really hope his confidence isn’t shaken, because he’s shown a lot of progress from last year and I believe he’s earned a spot on the roster without a question. He looked dejected on the sidelines after that play, in which he was fighting for extra yardage with defenders on his ankles before having the ball punched out of his grasp. There’s no shame there, he’s out to prove himself.

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Local deity, pictured after a Broncos loss.

I was fortunate enough to be commuting into work shortly after the game when the Denver metro area finally let open the monsoon it had been brewing since the late afternoon. Luckily, the lightening that had been persistent for much of the game didn’t delay anything. I’ve been out of town for several of the summer storms, which I’ve cherished in the nearly 15 years I’ve spent here, and this was definitely the hardest, most sustained rain I’d seen all year without any added hail. After a 24-23 loss in the final two minutes, I’m assuming the Gods were absolutely furious at another week of Paxton Lynch provoking an entire region of the United States into more wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Next game: Friday 8/24 at 5:30pm MST @ Washington.

 

An Extralegal Execution in Aurora

Very early Monday morning in Aurora, Colorado, 73-year-old Richard “Gary” Black woke up to find a woman on his porch attempting to retrieve her 26-year-old son, who she said was on drugs and not likely in control of his actions. Black raced upstairs, where he found that a nude man, later identified as the 26-year-old Dajon Harper, had dragged his 11-year-old grandson from the living room into a bathroom, where he was strangling and attempting to drown the boy. Black, a Vietnam combat veteran, started to beat the man and reportedly tried to gouge out one of his eyes in an effort to free his grandson to no avail, went and retrieved a handgun, and shot Harper dead.

Black’s wife had been on the phone with 911 and police reported hearing gunshots as they approached the house. Black walked into his living room, where police shot him dead through a window from outside the house. Police reportedly didn’t identify themselves but claimed for “around thirteen seconds” they screamed at Black five times to drop his weapon. The whereabouts of Harper’s mother during the incident are presently unknown. Black reportedly suffered hearing damage from his time in Vietnam, as well as further degradation due to old age, and also likely had very little auditory function after firing a handgun inside of a bathroom. Aurora Chief of Police Nick Metz has blamed Mr. Black’s actions for his death, despite the as-of-yet unnamed police officer being involved in a fatal shooting in June and recently returned to duty.

The same police department that took in Aurora theater shooter James Holmes into custody alive murdered a man defending his family in his own home, from outside the house, who was an entirely different ethnicity and wearing specifically described clothing than the suspect detailed during the emergency phone call. That’s an indictment of incompetence and poor training that underscores the “fearful”, wanton bloodlust of police culture in America, where academies constantly drill a shoot-first-ask-question-later mentality with phrases like “better to be judged by twelve than carried out by six.” Anyone paying attention in the last thirty years knows that phrase is far accurately “better to get several weeks of ‘paid administrative leave’ and no charges.”

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The Highwaymen Are Now Boarding

high·way·man 

/ˈhīˌwāmən/

noun historical

noun: highwayman; plural noun: highwaymen
a man, typically on horseback, who held up travelers at gunpoint in order to rob them.

 

When you get back on a sub-par metropolitan public transit system, especially after a brief respite, there’s sometimes new nuances and customs to learn. I’ve detailed the bad taste in my mouth Colorado’s Regional Transportation District has left after thirteen years of residency and service before, but my most recent return to this town’s buses and trains during arguably the hottest summer this city has ever seen has left me shaking my head in a puzzled, Kafkaesque bewilderment. As the city pushes more and more poor and working class people out, forcing longer commutes, RTD is pushing another fare hike and aggressively pursuing so-called “fare dodgers” on the light rail lines. I don’t know why I even let myself be surprised anymore.

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I’ve prepared a graph.

Anecdotally speaking, the vast majority of people I’ve seen ticketed are either underage kids with expired transfers who would be riding on economically negligible fares anyhow, commuters who chanced it instead of missing a train because of slow ticket kiosks and validation processes, and regular, every day people who paid for the “wrong fare.” Armed men, sometimes uniformed security contractors and sometimes plainclothes city police, will board the trains from “random” stops and like hall monitors checking to make sure you’re allowed to be going to the bathroom, pace the aisles checking tickets. If you’re not squared away, they take your identification, take your picture, and put you in a database with a warning. If you’re already in there, you’ll get a ticket for more than $100.

Of course this happened to me.

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Hickenlooper Dithers On The Great Sand Dunes Oil & Gas Lease, Navajo Nation Vows to Protect Land

Bruce Finley at The Denver Post has some great reporting on an upcoming move by the Bureau of Land Management to open up some of Colorado’s wildest land near the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness and The Great Sand Dune National Park to oil and gas interests. Part of a larger effort by the BLM under the Trump administration to open up protected, preserved lands to corporate energy entities, similar fights have also opened up in Utah’s Zion National Park and the Bear Ears National Monument. Despicably but predictably, much of the BLM’s moves directly target sites sacred to indigenous communities, untouched by industry, and in many cases, previously surveyed and determined that the potential wealth extracted isn’t worth the environmental consequences. The 18,000 acres of public lands slated for oil and gas industrialization in Colorado is home to two spiritually important mountains for the Navajo people and residents in the area overwhelmingly want to preserve the area for future tourism, one of Colorado’s largest revenue generators.

Governor Hickenlooper, characteristically wishy-washy, responded to the issues raised by conservationist groups and tribal leaders in a fashion fit for a typical soulless buisnessman:

“We take the concerns regarding mineral leasing seriously and will address new concerns as they are raised.”

The article further notes that Hickenlooper, in contrast to his Utah Republican counterpart Gary Herbert who has barred BLM efforts to drill on protected land, is declining to intervene on the sale despite having the power to do so. State lawmakers opposed to the development are relying on Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Corey Gardner (R), to protect vulnerable fauna as well as crucial watersheds, which is a little like hoping your crackhead neighbors talk their own friends out of burglarizing your apartment and shitting in your bathtub. Continue reading →