Who are the Political Prisoners Held by the U.S.?
The U.S. government uses political imprisonment as a weapon against our collective struggle for freedom, self-determination, and human rights. A political prisoner is a person who has made a conscious commitment to a movement for liberation and self-determination, and against racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, sexism, and/or environmental destruction, and as a result, has been targeted and imprisoned.
The Jericho Movement defines political prisoners as “brothers and sisters, men and women who, as a consequence of their political work and/or organizational affiliations were given criminal charges, arrested or captured, tried in criminal courts and sent to prison.”
While trying them as criminals, the government maintained files on them referencing their political activities, designed to insure they remain in prison. The Jericho Movement is designed to force the hand of this government as it relates to these women and men who while on the streets, made a conscious decision to organize for our freedom and liberation. Then, after making this decision joined or became affiliated with organizations that advocated and organized for these aims. Then, as a consequence of their work on the streets, and/or involvement in military actions, they were targeted, captured or framed and tried in criminal courts and sentenced to prison.
With Jericho we are pushing for the admission on the part of the United States government that our political prisoners and prisoners of war do exist inside the prisons of the United States, we are pushing for recognition in the international arena and therefore changing how the world views our liberation struggles inside the belly of the beast. We can wait no longer, the time is now.
What is a Prisoner of War?
Some political prisoners define themselves as prisoners of war in accordance with resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and the Geneva Conventions, which recognize that the crime is colonialism, not the struggle for liberation.
Some of these prisoners are from internally colonized nations within thee official boundaries of the “United States” – such as the New African Nation – who have asserted their right to defend and liberate their people from collective oppression by “any means necessary”. Others – such as members of the Puerto Rican independence movement – are from colonially occupied territories whose people are engaged in a struggle for independence. Many have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the U.S. courts, and have appealed instead to international institutions.
Since the beginning of the U.S. war against Afghanistan in 2001, the US has been denying Prisoner of War status even to members of internationally recognized sovereign nations captured while defending their countries from US invasion. The US government has attempted to hold these people beyond the protection of international law and the Geneva Conventions by calling them “illegal enemy combatants,” rather that Prisoners of War.
Who are the political prisoners and prisoners of war on this continent?
More than one hundred women and men are currently imprisoned by the United States government for participating in movements for justice and liberation that have their base within the declared colonial territories of the U.S. They are dedicated activists like American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, Puerto Rican independentista Oscar Lopez Rivera, former Black Panther and death-row writer Mumia Abu Jamal, European American anti-racist and anti-imperialist activist Marilyn Buck, and radical ecological activist – and member of the Yaqui Nation – Rod Coronado.
Many of them became activists in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when many Native people, Puerto Ricans, Mexicanos, and Black people, seeing themselves as colonized nations within the United States, took up the struggle for self-determination. Some of them are European Americans who were inspired to join these struggles for justice.
Many of them were targeted by illegal government counterintelligence initiatives, such as the infamous COINTELPRO, the FBI’s classified offensive against liberation movements.
A further wave of incarceration began in the 1980’s as the struggle against environmental devastation grew more radical, and groups such as Earth First!, the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front began to emerge. The ecological politics of these movements were prefigured in the commitments of the MOVE organization, in the American Indian Movement, and in the centuries of indigenous struggle against European American settler-colonialism.
The U.S. is also holding a growing number of prisoners detained either for their nationality or for their political support for anti-imperial struggles in their countries of origin. For the past two decades, the US government has increasingly targeted Arabs and Muslims living in the US. Non-citizen Palestinians such as the LA8 have been detained and in some cases deported for speaking on behalf of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and against ongoing US support for Israel. Palestinians and a wider community of Arabs and Muslims have been subjected to detention without trial, the use of secret evidence, extensive and intrusive surveillance, and other forms of political repression.
After September 11 of 2001, this policy has escalated into mass detentions, rendition to foreign countries for the explicit purpose of torture, and the use of secret military tribunals. As the US moves forward with imperial wars in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the surrounding region, it imprisons still larger numbers of Arabs and Muslims both in Guantanamo Bay and in a wider network of secret prisons throughout the world (for more information see www.leftturn.org).
These prisoners and detainees – whether imprisoned for their beliefs, or for active resistance to US empire – have been targeted in order to repress the legitimate struggle of their people to liberate themselves from domination by the United States.
The Jericho Movement
The Jericho Movement is a nationwide organization that works to inform the public and secure the release of America’s long held “official” political prisoners and prisoners of war. We have chapters in various cities. Contact us for more information and to support this work.
P.O. Box 301057
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 USA