No More Herman Wallaces!
We honor Black Panther Herman Wallace, who died on October 4, 2013 after spending 41 years in solitary confinement in a Louisiana prison for allegedly killing a prison guard. These charges were always suspect, and on October 1 a U.S. District Chief Judge agreed and overturned his conviction, ordering his immediate release. Despite the State of Louisiana's attempt to block the release, Wallace was able to spend the last two and half days of his life out of prison with family and friends.
The fact that Wallace had only days to live was well-known and likely played into his release. On the same day of the decision, his close comrades, Robert King (released in 2001) and Albert Woodfox (still in solitary confinement) were able to visit him due to his dire condition.(1) Together they made up the Angola 3, three of the longest to spend time in solitary confinement. Woodfox is in his 41st year in a control unit and is still locked up.
On 7 October 2013, the U.N. special rapporteur Juan E. Mendez called for the release of Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement, saying his isolation amounts to torture. Once again, the U.N. went on record stating that "the use of solitary confinement in the U.S. penitentiary system goes far beyond what is acceptable under international human rights law."(2)
The movement to free the Angola 3 has been championed by a dedicated group and echoed by supporters of political prisoners for decades. And the three, who formed a strong prison chapter of the Black Panther Party before being put in isolation, have continued to stay politically sharp and struggle for the rights of oppressed people. Robert King has been dedicated to not just supporting his two close friends, but opposing the Amerikan criminal injustice system.
While we recognize their indominable spirits, and the pleasure Wallace must have felt in his last few days, the tragedy of wasted lives in U.$. torture chambers remains unacceptable. These men, who became dedicated revolutionaries because of the adversities they faced, were prevented from fully acting on those aims by a system that intentionally framed and isolated them for political reasons. The state wants to brand activists like the Angola 3 as "cop killers" when in reality they were dedicated to a life of serving the people. They were individuals who could have transformed the destiny of New Afrika, and supported the liberation of all oppressed people from imperialism. Instead, Wallace was tortured by Amerika for four decades, until he was within days of death.
The case of Herman Wallace epitomizes the politics behind the United $tates's sanitized version of torture, in what is the largest mass incarceration experiment in the history of humynkind. And while it may be easier for some to support a Black Panther framed for killing a cop than to support a Crip accused of being a "shot caller," we must recognize the continuity between them. Otherwise we only spend our time on the individual cases, without addressing the system. We respect the work of the Angola 3 Coalition and groups like it. On the other hand, we should not be satisfied with victories like the release of Herman Wallace 2.5 days before he dies. We celebrate the organizing that has reached international attention in California in recent years, where prisoners of all backgrounds in long-term isolation have stood together to attack its very existence. While even that is just one piece of the system that must be addressed, we can best pose a real challenge to this systematic use of torture that is used by the Amerikan oppressor to control those who might challenge their hegemony over the world by organizing all those affected by it.