On Monday, Feb. 20, people and organizations around the country will join in mass action against the prison-industrial complex.
The call to the rest of the country came from the Occupy Oakland General Assembly after they came to a consensus to have a National Occupy Day in support of prisoners. The original proposal lists many reasons for the day of action, including: “Prison has made the threat of torture part of everyday life for millions of individuals in the United States, especially the 7.3 million people-who are disproportionately people of color-currently incarcerated or under correctional supervision. Imprisonment itself is a form of torture.”
Many prisoners have now publicly endorsed the day action, F20, including the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement Hunger Strikers, which includes Lynne Stewart, Khalfani Malik Khaldun, Kevin Cooper, Jane Dorotik, Herman Wallace, Robert King and many more.
Mumia Abu-Jamal also wrote a statement in support of the day of action, in which he said, “When I heard of the call just raised in Oakland, California, to ‘Occupy the Prisons,’ I gasped. It was not an especially radical call, but it was right on time, for prisons have become a metaphor-the shadow-side, if you will, of America.
“With oceans of words about freedom, and the reality that the United States is the world’s leader of the incarceration industry, it’s more than time for the focused attention of the Occupy movement. It’s past time, for the United States is the world’s largest [incarcerator] for decades, much wrought by the insidious effects of the so-called ‘drug war’-what I call ‘the War on the Poor’…So let us begin, down with the prison-industrial complex!”
Hearing Occupy Oakland’s call to action, 11 cities across the country officially began planning events, including New York City, where Stop Stop and Frisk has become a staple in the organizing for the day.
“Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow. Between 1970 and 1995, the jailing of African-Americans increased seven fold. African-Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population and 53 percent of the nation’s prison population. There are more African-Americans enslaved under correctional control today-in prison or jail, on probation or parole-than there were in 1850,” reads the flyer for New York’s F20.
“We are working with Stop Stop and Frisk and Families for Freedom, and Vocal is actually marshaling the event,” said Israel Mercado, an organizer for New York’s F20. “It’s probably not really that much of an Occupy [Wall Street] event in reality,” he said, explaining that Occupy was simply part of the catalyst that brought many of these independent groups together.
In New York at Lincoln Correctional Facility, protestors will gather at 2 p.m. and march from there. While the day was called for by Occupy Oakland, many community groups have joined in the planning for New York’s F20 events.
“I hope it can be an opportunity for people to rise up nationally in a coordinated way,” said Mercado. “Show up on Monday with whoever you can personally bring out. Make contacts that day and I hope you will continue to be involved past that day.”