By Eric Louie
February 21, 2012
Occupy Oakland led a national day of support for prisoners Monday at one of the most notorious incarceration complexes, San Quentin State Prison.
The President’s Day holiday protest, in Solidarity with the National Occupy for Prisoners Day of Action, drew several hundred to the residential Marin County neighborhood of older homes outside the San Quentin entrance.
Banners and information tables were set up including one where attendees wrote messages on pink and yellow cards that will be sent to prisoners. They included, “Unless all of us are free we are all imprisoned,” and “Stay Strong.”
Speakers, including some who have been incarcerated, talked about reform of the California’s three-strikes sentencing law, the mental punishment of solitary confinement and support for prisoners undertaking hunger strikes to protest conditions inside prisons. They included members of the San Quentin Six, prisoners who faced charges after the 1971 shootings that killed Black Panther George Jackson along with guards and other prisoners. Shane Bauer, one of the three Americans captured in Iran in 2009, talked about the hunger strikes and denial of family letters in his time there.
“The Occupy movements needs to permeate the prisons”, Bauer said.
Activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose death sentence for the alleged 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer was recently changed to life in prison, talked about Occupy’s involvement against the prison industry in a taped message.
“It was not an especially radical cause,” Abu-Jamal said. “But it came at the right time.”
Police presence was heavy, with freeway off-ramps and streets near the prison closed. Parking was also restricted. Protesters that were transported by bus from both Oakland and San Francisco were required to disembark over a mile away. Officers from multiple cities and the California Highway Patrol circulated around the area, with helicopters and correctional officers keeping watch. The event ended with a march out. Organizers encouraged attendees to pick up their trash and use to portable toilets brought in for the event.
Elsewhere in the country, more than a dozen other events were planned. Many were at prisons and jails, including large cities like Los Angeles and New York to smaller ones like Fresno and Eureka.
Eric Louie is covering the Occupy movements for The Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America Local 39521.