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Political Prisoners in America: The Jericho Movement and the October 10th National March to Set the Captives Free

May 10, 2008
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BY JAAN LAAMAN

There are over 100 political prisoners in various prisons across the United States. These women and men are listed and recognized as political prisoners by numerous national and international human rights, legal defense and progressive/socialist organizations. These captive activists come from the Civil Rights/Black Power/New African Liberation struggles, the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, Indigenous People’s survival struggles, Chicano/Mexicano movements, anti-imperialist/anti-war movements, anti-racist/anti-fascist struggles, the Women’s Movement, social and economic justice struggles, and especially in the past several years, from the environmental and animal rights movement.

We, U.S. political prisoners, are Black, white, Latino, Native American and Asian. Most of us have been in captivity since the 1970’s and 80’s. Some of us were convicted on totally fabricated charges, others for nebulous political conspiracies or for acts of resistance. All of us received huge sentences for our political beliefs or activities in support of these beliefs.

Additionally, there are thousands, probably tens of thousands of revolutionary minded politically conscious prisoners in U.S. jails. These are people who became more politically aware and active once they landed in prison. Since 9/11/01, the U.S. has also imprisoned thousands of Arab and Muslim visitors to this country, as well as some Islamic citizens and residents.

The U.S. government likes to deny that it holds political prisoners. This is a lie. The harsh punitive conditions of confinement, often in special control unit type super max prisons, that we political prisoners face day in, day out, decade after decade, exposes and refutes this government myth. Not only does America hold political prisoners, but we are being held under longer sentences than any kind of prisoners, anywhere in the world! Despite this, we remain committed to our communities, movements and most of all our principles. As best we can, through our voices and lives, we continue to uphold the politics of justice, equality and liberation, especially for the poor and working class people throughout the world.

In 1998, a very principled and politically conscious march and rally of over 10,000 people, gathered in Washington DC to demand the freedom of all political prisoners held in the United States. The march was called the Jericho Freedom March, and from it the Jericho Movement was born.

The Jericho Movement is the only nationwide political prisoner advocacy organization, whose sole purpose is to inform the public about and advocate for the release of all political prisoners in the U.S. This Fall, ten years after the original Jericho march, on October 10, 2008, the Jericho Movement is calling for a march and rally to demand freedom for all U.S. political prisoners, in front of the UN building in New York City. We, political prisoners held by the United States, are fully and energetically in support of this march.

Most of us who were already political prisoners at the time of the original 1998 march, are still behind prison walls today. There have been a small number of joyous advances. President Clinton released 11 Puerto Rican Independence activists in 1999. Just before he left office in 2000, he gave amnesty to two more political prisoner sisters. A few individuals have been released on parole or after long fought appeals. Death from illness, after decades of captivity have sadly, taken some respected and loved comrades as well.

The large majority of women and men who were political prisoners ten years ago remain locked up today. In addition the ranks of U.S. political prisoners have grown in the past several years. Many people have been imprisoned for their work to protect our Earth and environment. The Puerto Rican Independence movement as well as the New African/Black Liberation struggle have also seen more of their activists imprisoned. These new prisoners of conscience are joining the dozens and dozens of Black and Puerto Rican freedom fighters presently in captivity, some of whom have been locked up for over 30 years now. Recently people have also been imprisoned for anti-war activities. This includes active duty U.S. soldiers who have courageously refused to continue to participate in the wars Bush started, wars that most Americans today oppose. The ranks of U.S. political prisoners are growing and the need for a public outcry and demand for justice and freedom is clearly needed today.

We U.S. political prisoners, want and need your awareness, support and participation in the 10/10 march.

Personally, I am in my 24th straight year of captivity. Along with my comrade Tom Manning,who is being held in the federal prison system, we are the last two Ohio 7 anti-imperialist political prisoners still in captivity. I will fully complete my Massachusetts state sentence at the end of 2008, and then I will be transferred to the federal system to begin a 53 year sentence.

Captivity takes its toll on human beings. My comrade Tom has and continues to deal with serious medical issues, as do many of the other aging political prisoners. I continue to miss and mourn my comrade Richard Williams, who died of illness added to by the extremely poor prison health care system, while in a federal prison 2 years ago.

The government imprisons people as political prisoners for multiple reasons. First of all in order to take serious leaders and activists out of circulation and to stop their work. Imprisonment is also used to intimidate other activists and to slow down or destroy liberation, peace and justice organizations and movements. Locking people up puts a very heavy toll on activists’ families, especially their children. It also hurts and damages the friends and communities of the prisoners.

The U.S. government has sought to silence us, and hurt our families, communities and the struggles we come from. Despite this, political prisoners in America, like our counterparts in other countries, have continued to speak, write and participate as best we can, in the efforts for peace, justice, freedom and equality in the continuing struggles against imperialism, tyranny and war.

One important voice of U.S. political prisoners is 4strugglemag (www.4strugglemag.org). This primarily emagazine (hard copies are available) focuses the insights and experiences of U.S. political prisoners on major issues of the day. We welcome you to check out 4strugglemag.

Earlier this year I began doing regular radio commentaries on a broad variety of political issues. They are also available as podcasts at www.freejaan.com. So we political prisoners continue to do what we can to stay connected and active in the important and necessary ongoing peace and justice struggles. We are going to stay active and we hope you do too. Come and join the 10/10 march and rally. Bring your family, friends, co—workers and fellow students and help raise the cry, so the whole world can hear —

FREE ALL U.S. POLITICAL PRISONERS NOW!

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