Occupy Groups Converge on San Quentin
in Support of Prisoners, Protest Prison Conditions

Written by Eric Louie. Posted in Events, Politics

Tagged: , , ,

Published on February 21, 2012 with 4 Comments

In Solidarity with the National Occupy for Prisoners Day of Action, several hundred Bay Area Occupy demonstrators gathered Monday outside San Quentin State Prison to protest prison conditions and California's Three-Strikes law. Photos by Eric Louie.

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.”

An Occupy protester affixes a message in support of prisoners.

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.

The protest included demonstrators from Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco.

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.

Eric Louie

Eric Louie is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in Greenbiz.com, Contra Costa Times, The Record ( (Stockton), Philippine News, Pacific News Service and the Sunset Beacon.

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Comments for Occupy Groups Converge on San Quentin
in Support of Prisoners, Protest Prison Conditions
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  1. Danny R. misunderstands what Occupy San Quentin is all about. Occupy San Quentin State Prison protested prison conditions. Remember, the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Plata, ordered California to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent, or to 109,805 from 143,436 prisoners within two years. (California’s prisons are designed to house a population of just under 80,000.) The decision was based on evidence that prisoners were being deprived of basic medical care caused by overcrowding. The Court noted, for example, that there were high vacancy rates for medical care (20 percent for surgeons) and medical health care (54.1 percent for psychiatrists). And the state had not budgeted for sufficient staff and, even if vacant staff positions were filled, there is not enough space for them. The Supreme Court ruled that the state had violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” The protesters called for a number of reforms, including the end to the death penalty in California, the three strikes law, the practice of charging juveniles as adults and solitary confinement. As for the death penalty, Anti-death penalty advocates plan to begin a state-wide campaign to qualify the “Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement for California Act”, or SAFE California, for the 2012 general election. If passed, the SAFE California Act would replace the death penalty with life without parole; require work and restitution into the Victim Compensation Fund; and increase public safety by directing $100 million saved from death penalty costs into a fund to solve unsolved murders and rapes.

  2. C’mon Danny R! Some inmate’s third strikes were stealing food. Do you really think they deserve to be in prison based only on a three strikes law? I guess you never heard of Les Miserables. The next Jean Valjean stealing bread for his daughter could be you……..

  3. Ok. This article is about supporting people who have done things that are UNLAWFUL. Then, right below it, there is a headline and link for an article about protecting kid’s privacy online. This is about making the laws that protect our kids from people like those in San Quentin. The irony did not escape my attention. If those people in the prison do not like the environment, they need to get out and do the right thing. If they did three things wrong and are in for life, they made their choices. They will now have to live with the consequences. Until we demand that people take responsibility for their choices, places like San Quentin will be full. I believe these protestors, while well-meaning, are terribly misguided about what they should be protesting about. They should be protesting against the people in the prison who committed CRIMES. The soldier they support compromised national security by leaking information to WikiLeaks. That means he could have compromised the right they have to protest in the first place. Wake up, Occupiers. There is a rule of law in this country. It is there for a reason. Stop protesting and grow up!

  4. YAY OCCUPY !!!!! Can’t wait to join in again…