Yesterday, 200 family members, community members and lawyers across CA mobilized outside the headquarters of California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) in Sacramento to demonstrate their support of the people on hunger strike at Pelican Bay, Corcoran and other prisons, and to call on the CDCR and Governor Brown to intervene in this urgent, life-death matter.
Marching and chanting strong, a small delegation entered the CDCR lobby to deliver the over 7500 petitions and allow family members to ask questions about their striking loved ones. Oscar Hidalgo, CDCR Communications Director, came out after over 40 minutes of waiting and police threatening to arrest supporters for “trespassing” if they didn’t leave the lobby. No arrests were made.
After a useless conversation with Mr. Hidalgo, the crowd decided to march to the state capitol building to confront Governor Brown’s office, continuing to chant and play drums. A smaller delegation of family members, someone who had been in the SHU, and another former prisoner, went into the Governor’s office and met with his corrections staff person Aaron Macguire and Director of External Affairs, Nick Velasquez. The delegation demanded more answers.
Family members shared their intimate, painful stories of how their loved ones are being tortured, including a mother who had two sons in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU). The person who had served in the SHU 13 years ago vividly described how toilet paper and mail were used to terrorize him.
According to Manuel La Fontaine, a former prisoner and organizer with All of Us or None and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, “The multi-racial, multi-generational, and multi-geographical representation of people power shown outside prison in solidarity with the hunger strikers reflects the solidarity happening inside the Security Housing Unit amongst prisoners across racial, generational, and geographic lines.” Members from the Yurok Nation closed the action in front of the capitol with a warrior song to honor the courageous hunger strikers in their 18 days without food.
Yesterday there were also demonstrations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and Philadelphia.
In the morning of July 18, 2011, two banners were dropped in Philadelphia in solidarity with the courageous actions of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers and the 6600-plus prisoners throughout the state of California who have joined the strike. Connecting California and Pennsylvania’s prison systems, the banner-droppers explained:
“We hope this action will join the large and growing voice calling on CA Governor Jerry Brown and the CDCR to meet ALL the demands of the hunger strikers. We also hope that the inspiring actions of the hunger strikers in California will generate increased resistance to solitary confinement and torture in Pennsylvania’s prisons both inside and outside of prison walls.”
While the mobilization in Sacramento was happening, more than 140 people across the continent joined a conference call for a direct update on the hunger strike, an overview of the demands, some info on the structure and purpose of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, and ways people can support the prisoners in winning their demands. Notes from the meeting will be posted tomorrow (Wed July 20th).
A group of people in Haliburton, Ontario (Canada) gathered together to join the conference call and met with each other after the conference call was over. They then decided to form “Haliburton County Hunger Strike Support Committee” and decided upon action-steps for their solidarity work around this strike. This is a strong example of how people across the US and internationally can work together in using this blog as an informational and organizing resource to support their local work of resisting inequality, powerlessness and oppression, while also bringing global, wide-spread attention to this particular struggle and support the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers in winning their demands.