We lost a comrade yesterday. It's been a little over 24 hours since it went down. Some men are angry, some are confused, not knowing what to do. Some are afraid, with no hope that anything can be done. The worst thing I've heard was when a coward stated that the man who six officers jumped on, gassed, and slammed on the concrete floor, creating a gash in his head and causing him to die "put himself in that position." I don't care how good you are at humbling yourself, suspending your manhood and dignity and staying out of these crooked officers way, as long as you are in white uniform you are in that position. Your turn just hasn't come around yet.
All of the facts are not out. Supposedly, officers Hay, Velardi, Marquez, Jackson, Crawford, and Gabriel exerted excessive force against this man, who was known to have mental and physical disabilities. The man has asthma, and was recently on suicide watch. Knowing this, they suited up and gassed this man in the chow hall, slamming him to the floor. And instead of taking him directly to medical facilities, they took him to an administration building, where he took his final breath.
The way I understand it, this comrade died because he would not move from his seat in the chow hall and sit in another place. I had no idea that was a crime, let alone that such a crime would bring the death penalty. Nor was I aware that these six officers were judge, jury and executioner. But, the worst part may well be the flagrance of the administration in response to this incident. Supposedly Officer Alvarez simply erased the camera footage, and they have more or less gone on running the unit business as usual, certain that we are so "humbled" that we won't do anything. Well, we will do something.
I don't care if you saw the incident or not, file a Step 1 complaint stating what you have heard about what happened and ask for an investigation. Ask that the video of the incident be reviewed. When they send you a bullshit response, file your step 2. This is just due diligence. That is what movement and struggle is about, working the process. Create a paper trail and documented accounts that will no doubt differ from the cover-up they will try to do by calling it an accident, which disrespects that man whose life was taken, his family, and it disrespects all of us. Call your family and have them call the ombudsman. We need calls and emails and letters about this to go out to other state and federal offices. Write to newsletters, newspapers and others about this tragedy and be prepared to stay as is until something gets done. This man lost his life. If this life doesn't mean anything, neither does ours. For those of you who are afraid of what they will do to you if you file or make noise, they took that man's life, so what can they do to you that is worse?
But, we have to realize that our struggle cannot always be in reaction and on the defensive. We need a solid offensive. It is a power struggle. I'm reminded of what the honorable comrade Frederick Douglass said: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." By now, we should be able to demand that there are cameras all over prisons without blind spots except for restrooms, showers and sleeping areas. Those video and audio feeds should go directly online where a community oversight committee can have 24/7 access to what is happening in prisons in real time. The same committee should have punitive authority over these officers, the committee members themselves being comprised of both crime victims and of the family members of incarcerated persons. Had we had this in place yesterday, I'm certain it would have saved a man's life. The only thing preventing us from having the capacity to make such a demand is our willingness and determination to continue to organize ourselves in unity which is operational, which strengthens our collective leverage. This is our power base.
Hip hop pioneer KRS-One asked the question of crooked cops: "You were sent here to protect us, but who protects us from you?" What we saw in the 80s and early 90s is no different than what we see in today's criminal justice system. What we have to finally realize is that it is the one who holds the power who determines who the criminal is. If these officers killed this man in the way it is coming out, then they are no doubt criminal in their conduct. If justice is to be had it is up to us. Contrary to popular notions justice is not blind, nor do we want her to be. We want her to see clearly what predicament we are in, and we want her to do right by us. Our struggle must seek to subdue and to dominate her, rather than to petition for any favor from her. The longer we wait to stand and do what we must do, the more of these injustices we will endure.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade's assessment that "justice" serves those in power. In the world today this is the imperialists and their criminal injustice system. They call it justice when they provide military aid to corrupt regimes that brutalize and kill their people. They call it justice when they kill or imprison people for trying to cross the border into the United $tates to seek a way out of imperialist-imposed poverty in their home country. They call it justice when they lock people up in long-term isolation cells, proven to call irreparable physical and mental damage, to stop them from educating and helping other prisoners. We fight for a justice of the people. A justice that will put an end to the global domination of a few, the capitalists, at the expense of the majority. Communist justice will liberate the world's people and punish and re-educate the oppressors so that they can become truly productive members of society.