Hello readers, new and old, activists and fellow revolutionaries, welcome to the Spring 2013 issue of 4sm.
We have a lot of useful and important information for you in #22. First, let me tell you about some changes – additions, that 4sm will initiate in the next issue, #23.
Many of you 4sm people – readers are already familiar with The Jericho Movement, the national movement to support and free political prisoners in the United States. See Jihad Abdul Mumit’s article on Jericho and political prisoners in this issue. In the past, Jericho has published a paper and newsletter. Beginning in our summer issue, 4sm will include a complete Jericho newsletter in each issue. This is a natural fit for 4sm, and we think Jericho’s newsletter pages will add to the overall information and value of 4sm.
Many readers are probably also familiar with the work and writings of Ward Churchill. He is, of course, a noted author of many books, innumerable essays and articles, a scholar, educator and activist who has focused on Native American history and struggle. Ward Churchill will be a regular columnist-essayist for 4sm, and his first work with us will be in the next issue. We are also working on having a leader-elder of the Puerto Rican People’s Independence Movement contribute a column or essay on a regular basis.
We think these additions will make 4sm even more dynamic and useful for our readers, especially all you activists and Freedom Fighters, those in prison and outside.
In this issue, definitely check out the section on Lynne Stewart. She is dying in prison and we can and must give her our support and love, and get her freed, on a medical compassionate release.
Also check out the Denver ABC article on the renewed effort to develop a nationwide amnesty movement and campaign to free political prisoners in the u.s. I urge all p.p.’s to contact the Denver address with your thoughts and advice. Likewise collectives, organizations and activists outside who have the desire and interest to support an Amnesty for p.p.’s campaign, make contact with Denver and lets build the struggle to win freedom for political prisoners.
4sm is initiating a new discussion and struggle against patriarchy and sexism in this issue. We are reprinting David Gilbert’s call for this discussion (from #21) and invite you to read and respond.
Check out Rashid Johnson’s unusual and harrowing piece about getting drugged and one bad thing leading to another. Then also read my article on drugs, prison life and the long established political prisoner position on drugs.
This issue has lots of other news and information for you. 4sm will put out two more issues this year – #23 in August and #24 in November. With our upcoming additions, especially the Jericho newsletter section, 4sm will probably be bigger and will take more resources to put out. While 4sm is a professionally produced and printed magazine (both online and in hardcopy), this is a totally non-profit enterprise. There are no paid staff or writers at 4sm. There are many costs in putting this magazine out and getting it in your hands. 4sm certainly could use some material support from you for this revolutionary work, especially at this time. See you all in #23 – out this summer.
No To Imperialist War in Korea, Africa and Afghanistan! Free Lynne Stewart Now!
Jaan Laaman, editor Jaan Karl Laaman #10372-016 USP Tucson
P.O. Box 24550 Tucson, AZ USA 85734
BY JOHN HILL, Mohawk Nation News
A great loss to the people, to the nation, to the resistance, anti-imperialist movement right across Great Turtle Island.
On March 13th, Dacajeweiah, Splitting-the-Sky, 61, left us forever when he passed away in his home in Adams Lake, British Columbia. Dac’s colonial name was John Boncore Hill, from Six Nations. “From Attica to Gustafsen Lake,” and thereafter, he was a warrior, a comrade, a brother, a father, a grandfather, a friend.
We deeply mourn his loss.
The family will release a biographical statement and details of memorial arrangements in due course. With deepest love to his wife, She-Keeps-the-Door, and children. We stand with Dac’s many many co-fighters and friends. He loved the People. The AIM song is dedicated to the continuance of the resistance after a warrior has fallen
From Roslyn Cassells:
Splitting the Sky, also know as John Boncore, his colonial name, aged 61, was one of the most fierce, uncompromising, warriors I have ever met. He was fighting the pipeline in northern BC at the time of his death, but has been involved in sovereignty issues and many human rights and ecojustice campaigns all over the world.
As a survivor of the prison uprising in Attica and a member of AIM (American Indian Movement) he came to Surrey, BC during the trial of the Sundancers of Tspeten, the Gustafson Lake standoff, the longest trial in BC history. That is where I met him.
He tried to arrest George Bush for war crimes, and was an ally of social justice battles everywhere. His fierce spirit, big heart, and huge smile and sense of humour is what I will remember of Splitting the Sky.
I doubt he will rest in peace, as there is yet no justice. I suspect his fighting spirit will return to encourage those of us who remain to keep up the battle for all peoples, and all our relations.
I will always remember Splitting the Sky, and his cry for justice!
A MESSAGE FROM EDITOR JAAN LAAMAN
My family and friends,
I have VERY serious and important information to share with you, and literally, a life saving request — task to ask of each of you.
My friend, our friend and sister, Lynne Stewart, is dying in a federal prison in Texas. I believe all of you are generally aware that Lynne was convicted under the infamous ‘Patriot Act,’ for too vigorously defending her (Court appointed) client, Sheik Omar Rahman. She initially was given a 28 month sentence. The government appealed and her sentence was increased to 10 years. Just before Lynne went to prison, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While still on bail, she successfully fought the cancer. But now, in the 4th year of her sentence, her cancer has come back and has spread to her lungs and back. She presently has ‘stage 4′ breast cancer.
Lynne is a wonderful person, a 73 year old woman, mother, grandmother, a fierce former Human Rights and criminal lawyer.
Under federal law, the 1984 Sentencing Act, courts can reduce sentences for “extraordinary and compelling” reasons such as terminal illness.
Lynne Stewart must be released from prison so she can get back to good quality, non-prison, healthcare in NY City, where she fought back her initial breast cancer. And back to the support, care and love of her family so she at least has a chance to fight her illness.
Federal law allows for this, but the Bureau of Prisons, and its’ boss the Justice Department, and the President, Barak Obama, must hear the voice of the people, asking and demanding that Lynne Stewart be released. Our voices in the thousands and tens of thousands must and can reach all the way up to the White House.
The task is really simple: PLEASE NOW go to: www.lynnestewart.org and sign the petition asking that she be given medical and compassionate release. THEN PLEASE, pass this information and message on, along with your own thought and note, to EVERYONE on your email/contact lists. Ask each and everyone of your people to also sign the Petition for Lynne Stewart’s Compassionate Release. And ALSO ask all of your friends/contacts to send this message on to everyone on their lists, along with their own request that these people also send the message on to everyone on their respective lists.
This, my friends, is a doable thing. It just takes each of us a little time to sign the petition and send on the message. We can save a life. We can do a good thing. Please, be part of this noble, positive and crucial life saving effort.
Lynne is a long time friend of mine. I love her like a sister, comrade and friend. She needs our help — thanks for doing the right thing.
A cri de coeur from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the persecution of Lynne Stewart
Lynne Stewart is renowned throughout the United States as a criminal defense lawyer who, for over 30 years, defended the poor, the disadvantaged and those targeted by the police and the State.
Such has been her reputation as a fearless lawyer ready to challenge those in power that judges assigned her routinely to act for defendants whom no attorney was willing to represent.
Now, Lynne Stewart needs our urgent help or she may die in prison.
In 1995, Lynne Stewart was appointed by a federal court to represent the blind Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who was accused of conspiring to blow up New York landmarks. She became co-counsel with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and renowned civil liberties attorney Abdeen Jabaar.
Despite Lynne Stewart having marshaled evidence demonstrating the innocence of her client, and pointing indisputably to the hand of the government in the plots attributed to her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment plus 65 years!
Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) were imposed, violating first, fifth and sixth amendment rights of defendants and attorneys alike.
These measures placed severe restrictions on any communication of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman communication with the outside world.
On April 9, 2002, Attorney General Ashcroft made an unprecedented appearance on the Late Night Show of David Letterman, a nationally viewed entertainment talk-show, to announce that the Justice Department was prosecutIng Lynne Stewart for providing “material aid to a terrorist organization”.
This “material aid” was her own person and her function as defense attorney. The “material aid” consisted of a Press Release conveying the views of the Sheikh and given to a Reuter’s correspondent – an action protected by the first amendment and the free speech rights of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and Lynne Stewart alike.
The Justice Department of George Bush and of Barack Obama prosecuted Lynne Stewart and demanded 30 years in prison. This attack upon due process and basic democratic rights was aimed at every attorney in the United States. The intent was and remains to destroy democratic rights and protections that date to the Magna Carta.
Lynne Stewart was railroaded to prison in a show trial evocative of the era of Joseph Stalin. Broad public protest caused presiding Judge John Koetl to declare Lynne Stewart ”an asset to the nation” while sentencing her to 28 months in federal prison.
Pressed by the Justice Department, the Appellate Court, breaking precedent, directed Judge Koetl to increase her sentence drastically, to revoke her bail and remand her to prison despite the fact that Lynne Stewart had the right to appeal her conviction to the Supreme Court.
Judge Koetl, yielding to this immense pressure, increased his original 28 month sentence to ten years. This has become, effectively, a death sentence for Lynne Stewart. Urgent surgery was delayed 18 months by the prison authorities. Her breast cancer, in remission before imprisonment, metastasized and spread to her lymph nodes, bones and lungs.
For every person of conscience, there is no time to lose. We must mobilize world opinion to stop the judicial and political murder of Lynne Stewart, an ominous measure of the mass repression in preparation for working people and the oppressed.
The campaign to save the life of Lynne Stewart is a first line of defense against a ruling class rapidly destroying the rights obtained through generations of struggle as a ruthless system prepares to subjugate us all.
WE CALL UPON ALL TO SIGN THE PETITION NOW TO SAVE LYNNE STEWART
PETITION TO FREE LYNNE STEWART: SAVE HER LIFE – RELEASE HER NOW!
Lynne Stewart has devoted her life to the oppressed – a constant advocate for the countless many deprived in the United States of their freedom and their rights.
Unjustly charged and convicted for the “crime” of providing her client with a fearless defense, the prosecution of Lynne Stewart is an assault upon the basic freedoms of us all.
After years of post-conviction freedom, her bail was revoked arbitrarily and her imprisonment ordered, precluding surgery she had scheduled in a major New York hospital.
The sinister meaning of the relentless persecution of Lynne Stewart is unmistakably clear. Given her age and precarious health, the ten-year sentence she is serving is a virtual death sentence.
Since her imprisonment in the Federal Prison in Carswell, Texas her urgent need for surgery was delayed 18 months – so long, that the operating physician pronounced the condition as “the worst he had seen.”
Now, breast cancer, which had been in remission prior to her imprisonment, has reached Stage Four. It has appeared in her lymph nodes, on her shoulder, in her bones and her lungs.
Her daughter, a physician, has sounded the alarm: “Under the best of circumstances, Lynne would be in a battle of the most serious consequences with dangerous odds. With cancer and cancer treatment, the complications can be as debilitating and as dangerous as the cancer itself.”
In her current setting, where trips to physicians involve attempting to walk with 10 pounds of shackles on her wrists and ankles, with connecting chains, Lynne Stewart has lacked ready access to physicians and specialists under conditions compatible with medical success.
It can take weeks to see a medical provider in prison conditions. It can take weeks to report physical changes and learn the results of treatment; and when held in the hospital, Lynne has been shackled, wrist and ankle, to the bed.
This medieval “shackling” has little to do with any appropriate prison control. She is obviously not an escape risk.
We demand abolition of this practice for all prisoners, let alone those facing surgery and the urgent necessity of care and recovery.
It amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of human rights.
There is immediate remedy available for Lynne Stewart. Under the 1984 Sentencing Act, after a prisoner request, the Bureau of Prisons can file a motion with the Court to reduce sentences “for extraordinary and compelling reasons.” Life threatening illness is foremost among these and Lynne Stewart meets every rational and humane criterion for compassionate release.
To misconstrue the gravamen of this compassionate release by conditioning such upon being at death’s door – released, if at all, solely to die – is a cruel mockery converting a prison sentence, wholly undeserved, into a death sentence.
The New York Times, in an editorial (2/12), has excoriated the Bureau of Prisons for their restrictive crippling of this program. In a 20-year period, the Bureau released a scant 492 persons – an average of 24 a year out of a population that exceeds 220 000.
We cry out against the bureaucratic murder of Lynne Stewart.
We demand Lynne Stewart’s immediate release to receive urgent medical care in a supportive environment indispensable to the prospect of her survival and call upon the Bureau of Prisons to act immediately.
If Lynne’s original sentence of 28 months had not been unreasonably, punitively increased to 10 years, she would be home now — where her medical care would be by her choice and where those who love her best would care for her. Her isolation from this loving care would end.
Prevent this cruelty to Lynne Stewart whose lifelong commitment to justice is now a struggle for her life.
Free Lynne Stewart Now!
Ralph Poynter and Family
Seth Hayes denied parole for the 9th time
BY NATE BUCKLEY
Seth was “hit” again at the Parole Board for the 9th time. The reason given was the same reason given for previous 8 parole board appearances “due to serious nature of the crime.”
Seth was given a risk assessment last year and it came back very low, Seth has had a great work record, discipline record, a family. Seth is also a Vietnam veteran, with a purple heart.
This reasoning has nothing to do with rehabilitation, with the community in mind, his family, nor mentioning the 15 year life sentence he has served past the mandatory 25. Seth, now in his 60′s has been incarcerated since 1973; he is now in his 40th year of incarceration
Seth is not the only one either, the Department of Corrections and the Parole Board have much interest in keeping inmates inside. There is big money in prisons. More to come in the future.
Write to Seth and lend some support!
Robert Seth Hayes #74-A-2280
Sullivan Correctional Facility,
P.O. Box 116, Fallsburg, NY 12733-0116
Sundiata Acoli freedom campaign legal update
On March 4, 2010 Sundiata Acoli, at 73 years old, was denied parole for the third time by the New Jersey State Parole board. Sundiata had served 37 years in prison as he was convicted in the May 2, 1973 shooting of a New Jersey State Trooper on the NJ Turnpike.
Sundiata had last been denied parole in 1994. The parole board continues to cite among other things, that “He was not rehabilitated.” Sundiata has maintained an infraction-free prison record since 1996.
Over a thousand letters and petitions from a diverse group of influential peoples, including psychologists, lawyers, clergy, professors, journalists, and community members were sent to the parole board expressing love from the community and support for his release.
Nevertheless, Sundiata was denied parole just minutes after an in-person review by two members of the board. No time was taken to deliberate the decision, and notice of the denial was given to him on a sheet with barely legible hand-written notes on it. Not only was he denied but he was told his case would be referred to a 3-member panel to establish a FET (“hit”) outside the guidelines. In mid July,
Sundiata received written notice that a three member panel, two of which included the two members who denied him, had decided to give him a 10 year hit which means he must serve an additional 6 years in prison before he will again be eligible for a parole hearing. He will be 79 years old.
The “hit” is particularly harsh since on August 1, 2010 a new law was passed in New Jersey capping to 36 months, the number of years the parole board can establish a FET. The New Jersey Parole Board rushed to send this letter to Sundiata to avoid the August 1st deadline. As of this posting, Sundiata has not yet received any explanation from the board for this 10 year “hit”.
The Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign (SAFC) continues to be vigilant in seeking justice for Sundiata and his right to freedom. Sundiata’s legal advisors have consulted with a NJ attorney to appeal the decision. The attorney has been retained and has prepared and filed an administrative appeal to the NJ Parole Board outlining in very clear terms, the errors made by the panel in denying Sundiata’s parole. The appeal was filed on August 27, 2010.
In July, 2012 Sundiata appeared before the NJ Parole Board twice via video teleconference at FCI Cumberland, MD where he’s currently held. The panel denied parole and referred his case to a 3-member panel to establish a “hit” outside the guidelines.
On October 17, 2012 the 3-member panel set a 100 month, i.e., 8 1/3 year, ”hit” for Sundiata but did not deliver the written decision until January 17, 2013 to the now 76 year old Sundiata. This latest decision must also be appealed.
We believe the case for appealing the NJ Parole Board’s decision is strong! SAFC will continue to keep pushing for Sundiata’s release and raising awareness about his case. Members of SAFC are available to speak and share information with any group who requests it. Simply email email@example.com.
Sundiata needs your love and support and SAFC needs to raise funds to cover Sundiata’s legal expenses. Regular commissary donations to keep Sundiata smiling and knowing he is loved are also encouraged. We understand the financial limitations of people during these times and we appreciate anything you can give.
Please take a moment and give what you can to support his release:
To make a contribution to Sundiata’s legal expenses, please send a check or money order payable to SAFC to:
PO BOX 766
New York, New York 10027
Please be sure to note in the memo field that your check is for Legal Fees.
To send Sundiata a card, a photo, artwork or just a simple letter saying you are thinking about him, write him at:
Sundiata Acoli #39794-066 (Squire)
PO Box 1000
Cumberland MD 21501-1000
Any one of these things is a great way to show your love and support.
Thank you in advance!
Amnesty International has launched a campaign to keep Louisiana Attorney General James D. Caldwell from appealing the court’s decision which once again overturned Woodfox’s conviction finding his trial flawed by racial discrimination. Woodfox, one the “Angola 3″ was initially targeted in prison for Black Panther Party organizing to the benefit of both black and white prisoners. Louisiana has previously appealed rather than honor court decisions in Woodfox’s favor. While Amnesty asks Woodfox be retried or freed, since he was unjustly convicted, having served forty years in solitary confinement, a retrial would only prolong an absolute injustice. Albert Woodfox should be freed immediately.
Great news! Roger’s release date is currently scheduled for April 17, 2013. His friends are very excited to have him back on the outside. Unfortunately, his release from incarceration won’t mark the complete end to his monitoring by the prison system. It is likely Roger will be released with a number of conditions, which he will have to adhere to very closely. Details of these conditions aren’t fully clear yet, but they may involve being unable to associate with many of his friends and colleagues until June, 2014, his Warrant Expiry Date.
By JAAN LAAMAN
Rashid Johnson’s foregoing article on his traumatic and dangerous experience with accidentally getting high, then trying to hurt himself, all while being in the control of prison authorities, is a cautionary tale indeed. I don’t know Brother Rashid personally, but his long time work with 4sm and his leadership in the New African Black Panther Party, gives him seriousness and credibility as a revolutionary. I am certainly glad he survived his ordeal and I think there are lessons to be gained from his hardships.
These revolutionary prisoners and the trials we were involved in drew a certain amount of public support and a lot of media attention on a regular basis. There were also some official international inquiries made about us and the conditions we were held under. For example, the government of the Soviet Union officially asked the u.s.a. government to explain why some political prisoners in MCC (and other prisons), were being harassed, mistreated and kept in solitary confinement. The u.s.a. government ran its (still) official line that they did not hold any political prisoners. That all u.s. prisoners were charged or convicted of crimes. The fact that some of us were charged with “crimes” like sedition, trying to overthrow the u.s. government, conspiracies to stop u.s. wars, stop racist police activities, etc., were all just “crimes”.
The u.s. government, through the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), also attempted to discredit our character and principles. They tried to claim that some of us were in segregation for use of drugs or alcohol. While this was not true, it brought the issue of drugs and drinking to a group level for all political prisoners. Up to that point, people were guided by the policies and regulations of their organizations, as far as drug and alcohol use was concerned. Even in captivity you were still a member of your revolutionary organization and thus still subject to organization policy and discipline. Personally, I have never heard of any revolutionary organizations that accepted the use of hard drugs. The recreational use of alcohol and/or weed was accepted by some organizations.
The BOP and u.s. government was trying to discredit revolutionary organizations, and besmirch their principles, morality and activities, by labeling political prisoners as drug users and criminals. We understood the seriousness of this. In response, all political prisoners in MCC, and from there the word went out to prisons across the country, formally committed ourselves to the policy that from then on all political prisoners, as long as we were in captivity, would not use or possess any drugs or alcohol — period. For me personally and as far as I know, this is still how political prisoners conduct themselves – we don’t use or possess drugs or alcohol.
This has little to do with prison rules or regulations. It does have a lot to do with being a freedom Fighter, being committed to the principles and work of creating a new free, just, peaceful, cooperative, sustainable and revolutionary future for our people and planet. Wherever revolutionaries and activists are, it is not just what we say, but what we do, how we act, live, relate to each other and the people, that we are known and evaluated by.
Here is one more thought for my fellow prisoners. Rashid spoke about having his “spread” meal spiked by drugs. I know we all remember good and real food, and we try to create little tasty treats and meals, like Rashid spoke about. I don’t know any details of Rashid’s overall relationship to the person who drugged him, but while randomly sharing a cookie or a soda with whoever, is ok, who we actually prepare meals with and for — our eating partners, should not be random. Our eating partners/circle should be close people who we have trust and some history with. Rashid’s situation is a clear example of why doing this makes sense.
As far as medical care, many prisons are lacking basic minimum care, and a system that works. This is certainly true in a lot of federal prisons. In addition, like Rashid ran into and described, you frequently have very negative, if not outright hostiles attitudes on the part of the medical workers. Here is another thought for my fellow prisoners, the best way to insure your health and survival in prisons, is to keep yourself as fit as possible and take sensible measures to avoid deadly diseases. The more you can avoid the prison infirmary the better. Stay fit, exercise, eat sensibly, take some daily vitamins. Stay away from blood and body fluid sharing activities. And seriously think about avoiding drugs and alcohol, at least while you are in prison.
Freedom (and survival) Is A Constant Struggle! - Jaan Laaman (anti-imperialist political prisoner)
BY KEVIN “RASHID” JOHNSON
Things I don’t do
Even before I began my political journey in 2001, I maintained certain principles – a variety of things I just don’t do. And usually, if ever I deviated from those principles, even in error, I’d end up in a tangle of trouble.
February 2013 was an ordeal. I broke some of my rules and things got ugly. What happened is yet another experience that those who blindly trust the system – and those who don’t – need to know about.
Among my longstanding “don’t dos” are 1) I don’t do suicide and 2) I don’t do intoxicants. Suicide’s a no-brainer, since I couldn’t fathom caving in to pressure – especially not from the opposition. Which is the only way I could see taking myself out. But more important is the political principle that my life is not mine to take. It belongs to the people. And that’s not to posture nor sound “politically correct.” It’s a genuine commitment.
The intoxicant thing is a bit more complicated. For one, I don’t like not being in control of myself. Secondly, when under the influence, I go soft in the head, being what some call “chemically imbalanced” or, in other words, I literally go berserk when intoxicated. And since I don’t use, it doesn’t take much to tip me completely over.
Meet Mr. Highjinks
My troubles of February 2013 were the result of breaking these two particular “don’t dos.” Over a three day period I got intoxicated, then, under the influence, attempted suicide – twice. And the pigs and “professionals” quite blatantly watched and waited for me to die, which compelled me, once I sobered up, into yet another life and death struggle to not let that happen.
The intoxication wasn’t intentional (on my part), but the practical joke I might say of an apolitical and particularly mischievous peer. A fella who routinely makes and takes cocktails of various mind-altering prescription drugs he collects. Although he has consented to being identified by name, being remorseful and willing to confess his role in the ordeal his shenanigans caused, I’ll just call him Mr. Highjinks (for obvious reasons).
For some time he’d tried to convince me to pop some pills with him. Wanting to share his and many others’ method of escaping the maddening tedium of solitary confinement. I declined of course. But he kept at it, trying all sorts of enticements. To no avail. But what I didn’t realize was how determined he really was to get me pickled. Nor that he’d use devious methods to do it.
Mr. Highjinks spikes the spread
To give a bit of diversity to the otherwise bland prison diets, prisoners – when we can afford it – sometimes make homemade pizza-like or casserole concoctions by combining foods purchased from the prison commissary and foods taken from our prison meals. Sometimes several prisoners will contribute various food items and one person will make the “meal” that is then shared around. The concoction is called different names depending what prison system you’re in. Here in Oregon it’s called a “spread.”
Well, on Jan. 31, I “put in” with Mr. Highjinks to make a spread, contributing items left over from our special Christmas commissary purchase along with some ingredients from the meal trays. Turns out Mr. Highjinks decided to spike the spread with one of his pill concoctions that has him bouncing off the walls for days at a time. To him it was all in fun.
I didn’t consume my entire portion of the spread until Saturday, Feb. 2, and that’s when and how things went south. The result was a total loss of impulse control and an odd compulsion toward self-annihilation. In short, I lost my mind.
Outta my head
First I got into a fracas with the goon squad – about seven guards dressed out in full body armor with gas, tasers and a large plexiglass shield. Then I overdosed on dozens of my own prescription anti-inflammatory medications. Followed by another clash with the goon squad, as I was being prepared to be taken to the hospital for the OD.
At the hospital – St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, Oregon – no treatment was given, except a staged blood test while I was kept hidden away in an isolated back room. Within a couple of hours of arriving, I was discharged back to the prison, where that same night – shortly after midnight, Sunday, the 3rd – I was placed on a close observation suicide (SCO) watch inside a suicide monitoring cell, where I found a razor blade. Obviously no coincidence.
The next day, Monday, the 4th, still out of my head, I broke the razor blade into three pieces and swallowed them. This was witnessed by a sergeant and captured on camera. The entire experience played before me like I was standing outside myself watching someone else.
I was again taken to the same hospital, where again no care was given. Although they went through the motions of taking x-rays – which they wouldn’t let me see – the hospital staff, who were pretty blatant about not wanting me there (apparently a skin thing), claimed the films showed definitively that no razor blades were inside me. By then I was sobering up, and, losing my suicidal compulsion, I contested that they were wrong or outright lying and should do further investigation. With a bit of attitude, the doctor – named Bean – declined and told the guards to be off with me.
To eat or not to eat
Knowing the fatal danger of a punctured intestine, I protested to prison medical and security staff upon my return that I still had three razor blade pieces inside me. They blew me off, citing the hospital report to the contrary. So I declined to eat or drink, expecting that stimulating digestion would cause the razor blades to move along and slice through my contracting entrails. Meantime I repeatedly requested medical staff to order further x-rays. They refused, indifferent to my protests.
Several admitted my concerns were valid if I actually did have razor blades inside me, but of course I didn’t, they contended, because the hospital said so. I went six days without food or liquids, and dropped 20 pounds in just as long. I requested intravenous hydration from nursing staff and the doctor – named Garth Gulick – which was also denied. I was told that I was choosing myself not to eat and drink, so they would not intervene.
The new Hippocratic Oath: ‘Do nothing’
On the fourth day without food and water, I fell unconscious in the cell and was taken by gurney to the prison’s medical center. Gulick was called and simply told them to put me back in the cell. That my severe dehydration was my own fault.
To validate refusing me medical hydration, a nurse named Folkman lyingly documented in my medical file that she witnessed me drinking water on my fifth day without food or liquids. When on the sixth day without food or liquids, Gulick assured me he’d watch me dehydrate to death, and he cited Folkman as a witness that I really wasn’t going without liquids, although my tongue was white and “furry,” my lips parched and my skin scaly. I decided to risk drinking water.
Initially, I kept vomiting the water back up, while suffering extreme stabbing pains in my abdomen. Gradually, the water stayed down. Then later that night I defecated a puddle of blood laced with bile. A nurse Fritz was alerted to the situation and ordered x-rays, taking seriously my protests that I still had razor blades inside and obviously cutting me. The next day Gulick overruled her order for x-rays.
Meantime, everyday mental health staff attempted to meet with me to try and take me off SCO status. I refused to talk to them in order to remain on SCO status for as long as possible. This way I remained under documented close monitoring in case the razor blades otherwise caused serious complications. On SCO status I remained in a completely bare, cold cell, naked except for sleeveless nylon smock and nothing else but two nylon sheets. I was left to sleep and lie on a bare concrete slab.
Throughout the ordeal I endured constant severe abdominal and kidney pains, and was discharging blood in my urine daily.
Gulick made a game of it all. Being such a fanatic for denying prisoners needed care, every time I saw him he’d play a debating game with me attempting to rationalize how he knew I was faking about the razor blades and why he would give me no medical care for that, my pain, nor any of my other issues.
He accused me of everything from malingering for reporting the abdominal and kidney pain – although urine tests repeatedly confirmed blood in my urine – and “tricking” guards into thinking I’d swallowed the razor blades, to trying to “extort” x-rays just so I could look at myself on film (!?). He ultimately admitted a concern to save the state money by not giving prisoners needed care.
The uncover up
During the ordeal, several prisoner witnesses sent letters out to my supporters and comrades, only one of which actually made it out – a letter from Cory Freiberg. Cory’s letter succeeded in prompting outside protest and inquiries on my behalf. Apparently officials didn’t expect word to get out – in fact they acted at every turn to prevent it.
Although I’d had consent for release of information on my medical condition and treatments on file for several of the inquirers since February 2012, the prison’s medical staff lied to them for almost a week, claiming they had no such consents on file so they couldn’t discuss my medical situation with anyone who called. In fact the forms on record required them to alert the inquirers when I had to be sent out to the hospital or had any other serious medical problems, but they didn’t.
Each prisoner witness who sent out letters was promptly moved out of the unit with me under some pretext. Meantime my mail was withheld and denied, then ultimately a large amount of it was “confiscated” by an Assistant Superintendent Judy Gilmore, without explanation or justification.
Also, based on a completely fabricated disciplinary report from Feb. 2, 2013, that was later dismissed, I was placed on a completely unrelated status, where, once off SCO status, I could not possess any mail nor any other property – except legal papers in pending court cases – but for four hours per day.
A cutting edge discovery
After repeated documented complaints of severe abdominal and kidney pain, another nurse ordered x-rays for me. Gulick promptly overruled her, too. Only with mounting outside pressure about my situation and a lawyer, Benjamin Haile, having arranged a call with me, did Gulick finally allow the x-rays, just to “prove,” he said, that I had no razor blades in me.
On Feb. 21, the x-rays were filmed and the “independent” radiologist’s report came back confirming that pieces of metal were indeed in my intestinal tract, having passed through my system and settled in my transverse colon.
I didn’t see Gulick again nor find out about the x-ray report until Feb. 28, at which time he changed his tune. He knew word had gotten out about my actual situation and I was scheduled to speak with Mr. Haile for the second time the next day. So Gulick’s angle then became to try and interpret and “prove” the metal showing on the x-rays was something other than razor blades. He admitted consulting with other doctors to this end. Another set of x-rays was taken on that day also.
The next day, one of the more candid nurses assured me, with the Feb. 21 x-rays showing the razor blades having passed into my large intestine, they were unlikely to cause serious damage if I ate. I then accepted my first meal in 25 days. The next day I passed my first stool in 26 days, where one of the razor pieces was found and documented by the same nurse. Overall I’d lost 29 pounds since Feb. 4.
I next saw Gulick on March 5, when the Feb. 28 x-ray results couldn’t be found, and he then claimed belief that the metal showing on the Feb. 21 x-rays were staples, or something I’d swallowed since my Feb. 4 hospital visit. Yet another theory he abandoned when I pointed out that I was on a closely monitored SCO status since returning from the hospital.
He finally admitted an initial concern to protect the hospital from liability, and now himself. Once again it came down to placing monetary interests before human life and professional integrity.
On March 8 the nurse who confirmed the razor blade fragment in my stool on March 2 searched for, found and showed me the report for the Feb. 28 x-rays, and it showed at least two pieces of metal in my lower large intestine, one of which she said matched exactly the measurements and dimensions of the razor blade piece I passed and she collected on March 2. She said Gulick had not yet seen the report, and I haven’t seen Gulick again since.
This particular nurse went on to express relief that the razor blades had passed through my system without any apparent serious injury in light of Gulick’s and others’ persistence in doing nothing to help me. She compared the “miracle” to one she said she’d experienced when her young daughter swallowed an open safety pin and it passed through her without injury.
Support Rashid by buying his book, “Defying the Tomb,” with foreword and afterwords by Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Sudiata Acoli and Tom Big Warrior. Ed Mead, former political prisoner and publisher of The Rock, a newsletter for prisoners, advises readers to “buy multiple copies of this book, read it carefully, and then get it into the hands of as many prisoners as possible. I am aware of no prisoner-written book more important than this one, at least not since George Jackson’s ‘Blood In My Eye.’”
From all this I recognized that from the hospital to the prison staff, a series of events played out that showed at the very least gross neglect and at the worst a consistent and shared intent to see me die – no surprise to me by the way. However foolish my actions that created the predicament, their responses can’t be justified.
Now granted, I’m not exactly loved by prison officials, so they’ve some strong motives to see me out of the way once and for all. But the outright indifference and intransigence of these medical “professionals,” and the doctor’s admitting to prioritize penny-pinching over needed care even in life-threatening cases, demands that everyone who cares about human life – and anyone with loved ones behind these walls – raise a sustained hue and cry and mobilize resistance and awareness concerning medical “professionals” relating to us with such overtly fascistic mentalities.
Otherwise many loved ones will return to homes and others’ lives with all manner of medical disorders – even communicable ones – and expenses they didn’t leave with. As for others, we should remember that the evil people do is in knowing of abuse and turning a blind eye.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
Send our brother some love and light: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 19370490, Snake River Correctional Institution, 777 Stanton Blvd, Ontario OR 97914. This statement was transcribed by David Rovics.
Ann Hansen is a former member of Direct Action, an underground anarchist group active in the 1980s, who presently lives as a writer, farmer and public speaker in the Kingston area. On August 3, 2012, Ann was arrested and had her parole suspended for ‘unauthorized associations and political activity’ in the context of growing anti-prison organizing in Kingston, Canada’s prison capital. Ann, with the advice of her lawyer, chose to not publicize her arrest until after her parole hearing. On October 30, the Parole Board canceled her parole suspension and released her on stricter conditions. This is her first public statement regarding her arrest and imprisonment.
On August 3, I was at my home near Kingston, Ontario, sitting in a lawn chair after supper when out of the corner of my eye I saw a line of black SUVs speeding towards our driveway. With a sinking feeling, I realized one of my reoccurring fears as a parolee was becoming a reality. Four SUVs turned into our driveway, slammed on their brakes and out hopped about six to eight cops from the Ontario Provincial Police dressed in full Darth Vader gear with a couple of them brandishing automatic weapons for full dramatic effect. As I struggled to stay calm, I noticed the acronym ROPE (Re-Offenders and Parole Enforcement Squad) in bright yellow blazoned across their bullet proof vests.
They parked askew all over the driveway, and while a couple of them with their fully automatic rifles took positions at the top of our property, the rest walked rapidly up to where I was and handcuffed me without saying a word. I asked the one female cop what this was all about and she said my parole was being suspended.
I spent a few days at the local remand center, Quinte Detention Centre, before a new parole officer (my regular parole officer was suddenly replaced) and a Security Intelligence Officer (SIO) from Correctional Service Canada (CSC) came to see me for a post suspension interview. They spent an hour and a half interrogating me and trying to intimidate me into giving them the names of anyone involved in EPIC (End the Prison Industrial Complex) or any other anti-prison activists, as well as information about any possible “bombings and arsons” which the SIO warned me I would be responsible for “if it all went sideways.” Needless to say, they were not satisfied when I told them I didn’t have names for them. The interview would have made a hilarious Monty Python script with the SIO comparing me at times to Ghandi and then in the next breath to James Holmes, the “joker” who killed twelve people during the Batman film in Colorado. The outcome of the interview wasn’t quite so hilarious.
On August 13, I was transferred to the maximum security unit at Grand Valley Prison for Women in Kitchener. Ten days earlier I had been lounging in my slippers in a lawn chair after supper, and here I was suddenly transformed into a high security federal prisoner who had to be put in leg irons and handcuffs just to be led from the admitting area into one of the pods of the maximum security unit. It was so funny, I felt like crying.
A few weeks later I received parole papers stating that the CSC parole office was “strongly recommending” that my parole be revoked with a long list of reasons why. As I suspected, the library was the scene of the ‘crime;’ I was not charged with any actual crime. The ROPE squad had arrived the day after I had screened a film about Prisoners’ Justice Day (PJD) at the Kingston Public Library. The film was followed by a ‘direct action workshop’ conducted by a lawyer who explained what to expect at a blockade/picket, which was to be held at the entrance to Collins Bay Penitentiary on PJD. These ‘direct action workshops’ have become commonplace globally as training workshops for large scale demonstrations or civil disobedience actions in order to familiarize people with the legality of different kinds of activities. They also teach people how to participate in large consensus decision-making processes, how to interact with the media, what to do if one is arrested and other skills necessary for protests.
The planned Prisoners’ Justice Day blockade/picket of Collins Bay was the most obvious reason why my parole was suspended, but there were many other ‘reasons’ listed based on paranoid suspicions that are not worth the time and effort of explaining. It is worth noting, however, the political context in Ontario, which provides the most logical reasons for my parole suspension. I believe that the reasons for my parole suspension are similar to the G20 Main Conspiracy Group prosecution; that is, ‘preventative security measures’ aimed at arresting people before any ‘illegal act’ is even committed. These kinds of measures are used not only to disrupt political actions but also to have a chilling effect on political resistance in general. They put us on the defensive and force us to fight for our basic rights, which are supposedly entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It could be viewed as a sad day indeed when we are reduced to fight for our basic human rights, but I think it is actually a sign of the strength of our resistance. In the minds of the authorities, they are so threatened by the potential of our movements that they are reduced to trying to pre-empt our organizing efforts by arresting us for going to meetings, speaking out, and demonstrating, which are supposed to be legal activities even in a capitalist society.
I think the back story to the latest rounds of preemptive arrests in Ontario begins in the year leading up to the Toronto G20 Summit in 2010 when undercover cops were embedded in the Guelph and Kitchener/Waterloo anarchist communities. Billions of dollars were spent on police security and intelligence gathering in the year leading up to and including the actual days of demonstrations against the G20 Summit. We see similar police preparations occurring now to counter organizing against the Alberta tar sands and the line nine pipeline reversal in Ontario.
In Kingston, local police forces were no doubt taken by surprise by the sudden emergence of a relatively large and diverse movement to stop the closure of the prison farms in 2009. Prison abolitionists saw this as an opening move to free up land and money at Collins Bay Penitentiary to construct a regional superprison, as outlined in the government’s “Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety.” In August 2010, hundreds of people in Kingston participated in a two-day blockade of the entrance to Collins Bay and Frontenac Institutions to prevent the removal of the prison farm cattle herd. The local cops were not prepared for the size of the movement and had to call in provincial police reinforcements on the second day. There were twenty-four arrests. Local prison abolitionists had also begun organizing against the plans for a massive prison expansion, which by 2012 has translated into the construction of six new prison units in the Kingston area alone.
In the months leading up to August 10, 2012, local prison abolitionists and some people involved in the prison farms campaign worked to organize for Prisoners’ Justice Day. Across the city, posters invited people to participate in an early morning blockade/picket of Collins Bay to halt construction on the new prisons as an act of solidarity with the prisoners fasting and refusing to work inside the walls. In the minds of the cops and CSC, visions of hordes of anarchists and outraged locals danced in their heads. Based on the ludicrous expectations for PJD expressed by the CSC during my Quinte interrogation, I don’t think it would have surprised them if ‘what to their wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.’
For three months I waited for my revocation hearing with the Parole Board. It’s hard to be optimistic inside the maximum security unit where Ashley Smith died, and Nyki Kish waits for her appeal after being convicted of a murder she did not commit. It’s always easier to do time when you have nothing to lose, but in my case I live with two others on a small self-sufficient farm and work with a great community of comrades locally, so I have a lot to lose. In the end the Parole Board released me with stricter conditions on October 30, 2012.
There is no doubt in my mind that I would have spent many more years in prison without the tireless support of a network of friends, family, anarchist allies and a good lawyer. It becomes clear in prison, that all the efforts of the CSC are directed towards isolating the prisoner from their networks of support both inside and outside the walls. I owe my ‘freedom’ to all those who supported me throughout this episode of my life, and I just hope I can reciprocate through my solidarity and by continuing the joyous lifestyle of resistance!!