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On the Here and Now

May 10, 2008


I write this to salute Jericho for the years it has been in the storm fighting for liberation and social justice, and to say a few things about a comprehensive strategy to free our PPs.

I urge our friends and supporters to develop a comprehensive package that calls for the release of all our PPs. Rather than addressing their plight on a case-by-case basis, which is how it has traditionally been done since the 70s. It has not been a successful strategy – though one or two brothers have gotten out, too many comrades remain confined, and none of them are getting any younger.

Thus in the traditional case-by-case approach, I see no future hope of ever getting our PPs released from prison. In my view the case-by-case approach confines their plight within the criminal justice system – limiting it to the so-called “facts,” “due process,” and “conviction” in their case. This approach is equivalent to having to find the needle of a constitutional violation in a haystack of a so-called fair and impartial trial and jury verdict.

It’s like having Sisyphus in Hell consigned to push a rock up a hill that can be pushed but so far before it tumbles back down again and he continuously has to start over again. Thus the case-by-case is the rock that we’ve been pushing up the criminal justice hill to get our people out of prison and like Sisyphus we’ve had no success.

Instead, our fight for their freedom ought to be fought in the political and humanitarian arena, where the blind eye of U.S. justice is precluded from impinging or coloring unfairly the cause motivating their political and humanitarian struggle for social justice. In practically every country since the 70s, political detainees who were imprisoned and not executed during that time have been released.

By contrast, except for a limited number of Puerto Rican and anti-imperialist comrades, the U.S. has released none of its political detainees. Why not? Why not indeed: in my view this question changes the playing field and thus places the plight of our PPs squarely within the political and humanitarian arena, and it lends even more substance to the “why not” question. In conducting the COINTELPRO hearings the Church Commission certainly could have asked the “why not” question because it found a raft of FBI culpability in its investigation of COINTELPRO. Yet no FBI agents served prison time for committing illegal acts against our movement and targeted individuals, while victims abound in those caught in the web of FBI illegal schemes to provoke, sabotage, slander, entrap and murder (as in Fred Hampton, George Jackson, Bunchy Carter, John Huggins and numerous others); and many of those same victims still languish in U.S. prisons today.

This situation is unconscionable and it cries for a change in strategy, which is why I urge you to convene a forum of concerned people and PP support groups and hammer out a national campaign to free our PPs. Rather than individual support groups supporting a particular PP, why not instead support a national campaign to free them all? It requires a structure, a steering committee, a tremendous amount of educating and fundraising. In conjunction with this a call should be made to re-open the COINTELPRO hearings – since the Church Commission found the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign culpable in conducting illegal acts against targeted people in our movement but offered no remedy for its victims, we provide a remedy: release of all our PPs, even if some of them are released to host countries outside the U.S. Connect these hearings in a notion of “Truth and Reconciliation” and our objective will rest squarely in the political and humanitarian arena that we seek rather than in a courtroom where success has stubbornly eluded us. The U.S. could well be ready to engage in this type of discussion for reasons that are beyond the scope of this call.

Such a strategy suggests a more promising outcome than what we’ve experienced in the past; and perhaps our comrades can go home before they grow too old to care.

Herman Bell
San Francisco County Jail
850 Bryant Street
San Francisco CA 94103 USA

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