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Why We Jog

May 10, 2008

BY LA-ABCF

As the stillness of the morning gives way to the sound of children kicking soccer balls through the park, a small group of people gathers around a cluster of picnic tables.

At ten in the morning it’s still overcast and a damp seventy degrees. Today is August 23rd 2008, the 81st anniversary of the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted and sentenced to death for killing two men during a robbery of a paymaster and his guard. Like modern day political prisoners and prisoners of war, they were railroaded in the courts because of their anarchist politics. Despite overwhelming evidence that pointed to their innocence, the two were executed in 1927.

The unjust arrest and conviction of Sacco and Vanzeti brought support from millions of people around the world. This movement to support them and save their lives thought that Sacco and Vanzetti were just two examples of how unjust this system is. These two men’s refusal to renounce their political beliefs was the reason they were arrested and ultimately the reason they were executed by the state.

Sacco and Vanzetti are well known political prisoners, but many political prisoners and prisoners of war in this country remain unknown and unsupported. These “unknown” PP/POWs are why the ABCF exists, and the reason we gather in the park today is to Run Down The Walls. Starting in 1999 in the hills of Griffith park in Los Angeles, and continuing with one small break to today, LA-ABCF has organized a 5k non-competitive run/jog/walk (and now bike ride) designed to raise funds for the ABCF Warchest and other programs supported by local organizations.

The funds raised have been divided between the ABCF Warchest and the Prisoner Art Project – a fund designed to monetarily assist political prisoners with art supplies. In ‘02, the run helped the autonomous settlement of Maclovio Rojas in Mexico – which has faced considerable repression over the years. In 2006, RDTW helped raise funds for the Growing Healthy program sponsored by the New Panther Vanguard. In 2007, RDTW helped raise funds for the Black Riders Liberation Party and their Watch a Pig program. This year it went to El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a community center in Santa Ana dedicated to developing a cultural and educational bridge that brings together a variety of cultural projects from Mexico, Central and South America. Also this year RDTW helped raise funds for The Committee to Free Chip Fitzgerald, the support group dedicated to the release of Romaine ‘Chip’ Fitzgerald. Chip is the longest held Black Panther political prisoner in the United States.

Beyond the fund raising aspect of Running Down The Walls there is, at the core of the event, one thing: SOLIDARITY. Solidarity Runs are one of the strongest components of Running Down the Walls, and take place in various prisons and cities across the country and occasionally across borders. There have been solidarity runs in prisons such as USP Leavenworth (KS), USP Lompoc (CA), USP Atwater (CA), and MCI Walpole (MA) Navosta (TX), Inez (KY) and Detroit (MI). In addition to this we have begun to expand runs to other cities, such as Winnipeg, Phoenix, Tucson, Boston, and Montreal.

PP/POWs have organized runs in their locations as an act of solidarity with those of us running in LA. In the past comrades like Malik Smith, Leonard Peltier, Ali Khalid Abdullah, Tom Manning, Bill Dunne, and many more have put their running shoes on and broke a sweat along the prison fences. These comrades have also reached out to our social prisoner comrades, who have in the past been committed to Running Down the Walls year after year.

“If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, justice, for man’s understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words – our lives – our pains – nothing! The taking of our lives – lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler – all! That last moment belong to us – that agony is our triumph.”

– Bartolomeo Vanzetti 1927

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