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Under Lock & Key

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[National Oppression] [First Nations] [ULK Issue 50]
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Commemorating Mary Crow Dog, AIM and the BPP

The Black Panther cover
Cover of The Black Panther Vol. 3 No. 5, May 1969

This month the Brown Berets - Prison Chapter (BB-PC) honors Mary Crow Dog, born Mary Blue Bird. She was a resident of a town called Saint Francis on the reservation of Rosebud during 1973 at the siege of Wounded Knee.

In 1971 Mary joined the American Indian Movement (AIM). During the siege at Wounded Knee Mary was tasked with organizing the women to do the cooking, cleaning and communications. She organized food running and getting in and out of Wounded Knee to get much-needed supplies. The siege lasted 73 days, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) using armored personnel carriers and Huey helicopters. Mary helped keep morale up among everyone at the camp. Her bravery and courage is why my family in Pine Ridge and Rosebud have the freedoms we do today.(1)


MIM(Prisons) responds: The BB-PC sent us these words on Mary Crow Dog, along with some notes on the documentary on the Black Panthers that we reviewed in ULK 49. We thought it appropriate to print something on the AIM in this issue, as they are very relevant to understanding the conditions in the United $tates during the time of the Black Panther Party. While the BPP can brag of having most of the FBI actions of the time targeting them, this is probably due mostly to the size of the New Afrikan nation and their mass base, compared to the First Nations who have been decimated by genocide. And while Panthers engaged in long shoot outs with police, nothing compared to the U.S. Army invasion of Wounded Knee:

"In the first instance since the Civil War that the U.S. Army had been dispatched in a domestic operation, the Pentagon invaded Wounded Knee with 17 armored personnel carriers, 130,000 rounds of M-16 ammunition, 41,000 rounds of M-1 ammunition, 24,000 flares, 12 M-79 grenade launchers, 600 cases of C-S gas, 100 rounds of M-40 explosives, helicopters, Phantom jets, and personnel..."(2)

Churchill and Vander Wall document the details of the intensive war the FBI led against AIM. They write about the pursuit of AIM founder Dennis Banks as having "garnered the dubious distinction of becoming the most sustained attempt at a federal prosecution in the history of American jurisprudence."(3) While on the run from the state in 1976, Banks is reported to have been hidden by [email protected] leader Corky Gonzalez, and members of the Crusade for Justice working with local AIM members. Later that year, Corky Gonzalez was falsely accused by the FBI of possessing "a rocket launcher, rockets, M-16 automatic rifles, and hand grenades," intended to use in combination with AIM and others to kill police.(4) Such rumors were part of the FBI's public relations war against liberation movements, attempting to distract from the fact that the U.$. government is the real perpetrator of violence.

The American Indian Movement was formed in 1968, in a rising movement for national liberation among First Nations that paralleled that in New Afrika. Forming two years after the Black Panther Party, like many, they were inspired by and modeled themselves after the BPP, though not taking up the explicit Maoism of the BPP or the Young Lords Party. Like the Panthers, AIM saw chapters pop up across the country soon after its founding. And like the Panthers, AIM promoted armed self-defense of its people and territory.

It is worth noting the different conditions faced by First Nations compared to other internal semi-colonies. The threat of annihilation, and the clear recognition of territory rights, lead to a more advanced national consciousness and more advanced conditions for national struggle. While we take lessons from the BPP's ultra-left tendency to pick up the gun too soon, the conditions of the time — from the First Nation reservations in the United $tates to Vietnam to China — makes their decision much more understandable than it would be today. Even today, we recognize the objective conditions among First Nations overall to be more advanced and armed struggle to be a correct path for them before it would be in other parts of the United $tates.

Notes:
  1. Mary Crow Dog, 1991, Lakota Woman. recommended by BB-PC, Colorado.
  2. Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, 1990, Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, South End Press:Boston, p. 144.
  3. Churchill, p. 343.
  4. Churchill, p. 281.
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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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THE INTERNATIONALIST WAY

Agent provacateurs' glued to my cell door
i can smell they stench on my vents
They strategically placed snakes
Opportunist of the information age
Institutional Gang Investigators screening my mail
For intelligance files on Maoist Study Group cells
Screening my phone calls, collecting my convo
FBI spy satellites in the heights
i hate this "Matrix" we enslaved in
Communalist ambitions got them worried
5.62 mm rounds thrown in flurries
So they plans to get us buried
Liberation in a hurry; about to Enlighten my mind
In amerikkka it's a crime and a fine
Doing little petty shit to make me push up my time
Not even aware of our destiny to tear this shit down!
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[Censorship] [Union Correctional Institution] [Florida]
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Censorship and Grievance Appeals Ignored in Florida

Other publications routinely and completely banned are: Black and Pink (newspaper), Community Church of Boston (we grieved the rejection, now get 1 or 2 then start over again), and Prison Legal News newsletter is banned outright.

Although ULK48 is still officially rejected, it was delivered to me today. Note: the petition about Florida grievances you provided to me was sent to all provided addresses and have been ignored. Any hints as to what's next?


MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this update from one of the many comrades in Florida who have tried to use the petition to demand their grievances be addressed. We are unfortunately not surprised to hear that there has been no response to these petitions. There is no real justice in an imperialist system that locks up oppressed nations and resisters while giving big payouts to the criminals who run the government and corporations. The system is not set up to provide rights to prisoners. However we can sometimes gain small victories by using the imperialists' laws and regulations against them. And in this case, with campaigns like the demand for grievances to be addressed, we can also use this opportunity to educate people about the system that we are fighting.

Because of this we do not expect instant results, and in fact can not expect that campaigns such as this one provide relief to people after just sending in a few protest letters. However, the collective force of many people sending these to the same addresses might have an impact on conditions prisoners actually face. We ask our comrades to send us an update in every state where we have a grievance campaign so that we can assess if there is further action that can be taken. If anyone else in Florida has had success, write in and tell us what you have done so that this comrade and others can learn from your experience. If you have received no response, let us know that as well. And if you have other ideas about next steps for this campaign, please share them with us so that we can continue this fight.

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[Censorship] [River North Correctional Center] [Virginia]
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Fighting Censorship for "Gang Material"

It has been over 90 days since I filed an appeal over ULK 47 and I have received no reply. I filed the appeal for ULK 48 on 29 February, also receiving no reply. As for the theory journals, they have not been delivered nor have I been notified of their rejection. It seems that at this facility communism of any form is heavily censored.

I did get your guide to fighting censorship and I reference the case law and the gang definition in each appeal I file over a rejection of ULK. It has been most useful, however, it has done little to curb the level of political and religious censorship happening here at River North Correctional Center.

I was told that ULK 48 was rejected due to gang material being found on pages 8 and 18 but no further description has been provided. Being that gangs are typically imperialistic in their actions where related to violence and criminal actions I suspect that any anti-imperialist group wouldn't promote gang activity.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This censorship of Under Lock & Key in prisons with the justification that it promotes gang material is becoming more common. And of course it is very difficult for prisoners to appeal this censorship when they have no access to the material to disprove the "gang material" claim. This comrade is correct to point out that the biggest gangs are the imperialists, who carry out organized violence and criminal actions around the world. What the prisons claim is promoting gang activity is in fact MIM(Prisons) promoting a United Front for Peace in Prisons, urging lumpen organizations and their members to come together and end the struggle between prisoners in favor of unity to fight the injustice system. Those in power will always come up with labels to put down those who resist, whether it is "terrorist" or "gang member" or "criminal." But we know that the real terrorists and criminals are the imperialists. Write to us for a copy of our guide to fighting censorship.

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[Censorship] [LA State Penitentiary] [Louisiana]
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New Afrikan Books Censored in Louisiana

On 13 February 2015, the books Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Dubois, The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, and Blood In My Eye by George Jackson arrived at the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. They were sent to me by a family member directly from the Amazon.com as per the requirements of this institution. However, I wasn't notified of their arrival until six months and two weeks later. Added to that outrage was the rejection of the absolutely essential, must-read piece of literature for the New Afrikan Guerilla, Blood In My Eye.

The institution, perhaps on some "legitimate self-interest" grounds, could have possibly raised a plausible objection to the book. For it is known throughout the corrections racket that the book "Blood In My Eye" has been known to elevate the consciousness of the oppressed captives subsisting behind its walls. And of course conscious elevation equals prison population deflation, I get that. What I didn't get was this institution rejection the book on the grounds that it contained nudity or sexually explicit material. Yes you read that right. The book by Comrade George was rejected, according to this institution, because it contained nudity or sexually explicit material.

I of course immediately appealed the decision through the administrative remedy procedure. Three and a half months later - mind you that policy only allows 40 days for a response - I received an answer. Amazingly the book was now being rejected because it "contains material that could lead to inmate unrest for racial reasons." Not the nudity issue I addressed in the appeal! If it wasn't for the fact that I understand how the administration does battle, they would have totally thrown me off course with that move. But they didn't so I continue to fight on. Just another episode in the never ending series of "Administrative Justice". A Luta Continua.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for continuing the fight in face of the prison changing rules and reasons, failing to follow their own policies, and unjustly denying em educational material. We should all strive to have this same attitude of perseverance when we are repeatedly put down by those in power. We will lose most of our battles right now because we do not have power. This is why our tactical battles, like the one against censorship, must always be in the context of the larger struggle to overthrow imperialism. Only when we have a government that is serving the interests of the majority of the world's people, rather than one serving the minority of wealthy people, will we be able to implement real justice. This power will not come with a few petitions and legal battles, but these campaigns are part of the long hard work we do at this stage of the struggle.

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[Campaigns] [Missouri]
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Downloadable Petition for Access to Law Library, Missouri

Missouri Access to Courts

Click the PDF to download a copy of the Missouri petition to allow prisoners in Administrative Segregation to receive cases from the law library. This petition can be used on any security level where the law librarian is arbitrarily denying prisoners access to legal materials. It is meant to be rewritten by prisoners in Missouri and sent to State Representatives and the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) Inspector General.

While we struggle to build public opinion for socialst revolution in the United $tates, we use the courts to fight winnable battles — battles that will help make space for our overall anti-imperialist movement. The denial of legal assistance to prisoners without active cases prevents our comrades from even beginning an active case, or studying law in order to prepare for a case. We know that most cases will not be won in our favor, but maintaining the right to challenge injustices in court try is an important part of our struggle at this stage in the game.

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Graterford] [Pennsylvania]
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Censorship Victory in Pennsylvania

I have received some good news. Executive Secretary of Corrections Shirley Moore-Smeal of Pennsylvania DOC has fired two of the mailroom staff here at this prison. These staff were found to be stealing and discarding mail from prisoners that they didn't agree with or didn't like the contents of. The study group material was among the mail these two staff stole and destroyed. Ms. Moore-Smeal made it clear to all staff here at this prison that prejudice or bias displayed against any prisoner regardless of political viewpoints, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. will not be tolerated unless a significant security or penological interest warrants it. You might remember me sending you a letter to forward to Ms. Moore-Smeal, concerning this issue or something very similar.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is very good news, and if this comrade or anyone else in Pennsylvania has a copy of an order from Ms. Moore-Smeal about censorship and discrimination please send it to us. If this order exists in writing it will be very useful in appealing future censorship. Of course we know these victories are temporary and often reversed or ignored so we will take advantage of it and encourage our Pennsylvania comrades to write in to request study material while they can. Be sure to let us know what work trade or payment (stamps and checks accepted!) you can make in return.

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[Organizing] [Hamilton Correctional Institution] [Florida]
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Operation S.A.F.E. Standing Against Fearful Environments

Progressive Precepts

  1. Respect: Abolish the antagonisms that exist between us. We must develop and possess a willingness 2 respect one another regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, street-level affiliation or sexual-orientation.
  2. Solidarity: The U.$. prison population is held in kaptivity by greedy prisoncrats that subject us 2 systematic abuse and brutalization. Since we are all under the yoke of the same oppressor we should stand in solidarity 2 build a united front 2 end all forms of injustice.
  3. Unity: Discord is counter-revolutionary. 2 build a solid movement for social-revolutionary change all freedom loving individuals must be in a state of accord.
  4. Agitation: Knowledge is power. We should strive to become politically astute so that we can go about the business of raising the political consciousness of the prison population at large.
  5. Autonomy: We acknowledge and exercise our inherent right 2 self-governance. No one is coming 2 our rescue. We must organize the formation of our own independent groups, associations, and fraternities now 2 become saviors of ourselves.

Mission Statement

The concept for Operation S.A.F.E. was born out of a desperate need 2:

  1. Raise the political consciousness of the Florida prison population.
  2. Introduce them 2 progressive revolutionary ideals.
  3. Foster unity and respect among all kaptives held within their confines of FL DOC regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, street-level affiliation or sexual orientation.
  4. Educate the prison population on how to peaceably organize against the various forms of physical and psychological injustices that we are subjected 2 on a daily basis.

Wherever oppression exists, there can be no peace and there can be no peace without organized struggle - we invite and encourage all freedom-loving individuals 2 stand in solidarity with us 2 assist in organizing a movement for social-revolutionary change. May the benevolent forces of the universe imbibe us all with a spirit of a love and revolutionary unity!

Educate, Agitate, Unify and Revolutionize

The co-ordinating body of Operation S.A.F.E. does not encourage acts of violence against FL DOC staff. Instead we strongly encourage political education/dialogue and non-violent organizing/struggle. We call on all kaptives held in FL DOC 2 institute a moratorium on all spontaneous acts of violence, unless faced with a do-or-die dilemma.

Knowledge is power - start a study group. Request materials from:

MIM(Prisons), PO Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140

Anthony Rayson, C/O So. Chicago ABC Zine Distro, PO Box 721, Homewood, IL 60430

Request materials written by: Sean Swain, El Coyote, Maroon Zolo, Rashid and A. Rayson.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This statement from Operation S.A.F.E. is another good demonstration of local organizations applying the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) organizing principles. Their five progressive precepts line up well with the five UFPP organizing principles: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism and Independence. And their focus on education underscores a critical task for all revolutionaries today. We echo their call for people to write to us to start a study group and request materials from us to support this group. We can provide revolutionary literature to study, study questions, and we will respond to comments or questions you send us about the reading that come up in your study group. In this way we can build together for the day when revolutionary forces can take power from the oppressors and put an end to this capitalist system of oppression.

Where Operation S.A.F.E. is against all discord, we know that all of existence is full of contradictions, even within a United Front for Peace in Prisons. In order to understand how to change any phenomena to our advantage, it is imperative to understand how contradictions work and how history is shaped. We'd recommend a thorough study of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, starting with material by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. We see contradictions between competing theories of how to achieve liberation, and in fact MIM(Prisons) has published some debates with Rashid (a recommended author above by Operation SAFE) over significant disagreements on the question of defining who are our friends and who are our enemies. These debates should not be ignored in an attempt to create a false sense of unity as we have a duty to the oppressed of the world to find the best and fastest path towards liberation and to avoid false promises that only lead to further oppression for the world's majority.

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[Organizing]
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Is It Time to Let www.prisoncensorship.info Die?

abandoned store front

Almost 5% of our comrade time in 2015 was put into maintaining the technical aspects of our online presence, mostly our website www.prisoncensorship.info. While that might seem like a small percentage, an increase in our capacity of 5% would allow us to see some significant improvements in our work.

In the past we had estimated that our online readers were about equal in number, if not quality, to our print readers in prison. In recent years we've seen a doubling of our readership inside prisons. In the past year we've seen a significant drop in our online readership, though this is probably completely due to technical difficulties and not a decrease in interest.

Recently, prisoners have donated about 5% of the cost of distributing ULK (this includes some regular contributions from USW members on the outside). During the same period, comrades in prison have contributed an equal amount of money to pay for books and study materials from the Ministry. The rest of our funding comes from members of MIM(Prisons). While we might make a few bucks here and there at public events, it is irregular. This summer we set the achievable goal of funding 10% of ULK through prisoner donations. None of our funding comes from online readers. In other words, online readers cover 0% of the cost to fund the website, despite the fact that it is much cheaper than the newsletter and our online readers have much greater access to money than our imprisoned readers.

Most of the writing and almost all of the art in ULK is contributed by prisoner subscribers. Almost none of it comes from our online readers. (Just before publishing this article we did get some article submissions via web contribution.)

In recent years we've had a couple of allies who have contributed to our work in a consistent way, and we have some volunteers come and go that help us with typing, editing and other tasks. But when all is said and done, we are losing more comrade time to maintaining the website than we are gaining from it.

Now, we try to keep in mind that our principal task is building public opinion and not building our organization. Yet, we are approaching a crisis where our comrade time on the streets cannot keep up with the interest from prisoners. Really it never could, but even to the standard we are used to we are losing ground. So the question starts to look like: do we spend more resources building public opinion behind bars or on the streets (and by streets, we mean online)?

Alternatively, our online readers could step up to the plate. Five percent of our annual comrade time is no small beans. But it is easily achievable by a few regular contributors. It could be achieved by one dedicated comrade who steps up and starts putting in work. But how do we inspire someone to act over the internet like we do through the mail?

The worldwide web has always been an important tool in the MIM agitational toolbox. Prisoncensorship.info is approaching its 10 year anniversary of going strong and we host the archive of the MIM etext site dating back another 15+ years. We might foresee situations where not having it could really hamper our work in the future. So there are other points to consider here.

But the question remains, is it time to let www.prisoncensorship.info die in order to focus all our efforts on supporting the organizing efforts of the imprisoned masses?

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Waking each day in my cell

Waking each day in my cell
is like living in hell
Getting a rude awakening by magic mike
on the mic
As we hit the yard, a group of pigs scan
the seen
If we walks in threes, we might get STGed
They say it's greener on the other side but I'll never know
Because they're not going to brainwash
me to say what they want to know
And they gave us a new enemy in our ranks
It's not a risk some of us are willing to take
Because they're threatening to take our dates.
But some can consider this paradise what I go thru
We can never forget our comrades slammed in the SHU
As they hate & taunt
We must keep our United Front
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