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Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [Security] [Civil Liberties] [South Carolina] [ULK Issue 39]
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Facebook Shuts Down South Carolina Prisoner Accounts

facebook in prisons
I have initiated this correspondence in reference to the most recent arbitrary action taken by the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) that infringes upon the First Amendment rights of incarcerated, and non-incarcerated, citizens. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states that:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

However, the SCDC, which is not even a legislative body, has implemented a policy that impedes and infringes upon the constitutional right to freedom of speech in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The following offense was amended to SCDC Policy OP-22.14, Inmate Disciplinary System:

"905 Creating and/or assisting with a social networking site: The facilitation, conspiracy, aiding, abetting in the creation or updating of an internet web site or social networking site."

This SCDC policy has resulted in Facebook, a social networking site, taking the following arbitrary action on accounts created by, or on behalf of, prisoners within the SCDC:

"Your account is locked because it doesn't comply with inmate regulations. People who are incarcerated may not be eligible to use Facebook if:
* It is prohibited by state law or regulations of the facility
* The account is being maintained by someone else"

These actions on the part of the SCDC and Facebook are of significant public interest due to the fact that they prohibit non-incarcerated citizens from exercising their First Amendment right to be able to create and update internet websites and social networking sites, utilized to advocate for family and legal support on behalf of their incarcerated family members or loved ones. Further, these actions by the SCDC and Facebook prohibit non-incarcerated citizens from being able to publicize the conditions, and rehabilitative efforts, of their incarcerated family members and loved ones. Such decisions by the SCDC do not serve any "legitimate penological interests" and are in direct conflict with any rehabilitative and re-entry agenda. Most importantly, they are violating non-incarcerated citizens' First Amendment rights to free speech.

The SCDC may cite "security concerns" but this is not a valid response. To prohibit the creation and/or updating of all websites and social networking sites by, or on behalf of, any prisoner within the SCDC is not a sound defensible position. It would effectively negate the hundreds of prisoners who want to establish a true re-entry plan or proceed on a path of rehabilitation. It would also prohibit non-incarcerated citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech. In addition, it would punish prisoners for the exercising of this protected right by non-incarcerated citizens.

In a similar case, the U.S. District Court, District of Arizona, decided against such policies and made the following ruling:


"Prisoners may not be punished for posting material on the internet with the assistance of non-incarcerated third parties." Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty v. Ryan, 269 F. Supp. 2d 1199 (D. Ariz. 2003).

My family created and updated a Facebook account on my behalf to advocate for the support of my family and friends, and to publicize my conditions of confinement and rehabilitative efforts and progress. Facebook has locked that account due to SCDC's arbitrary policy. My family and I are preparing to take legal action against the SCDC, because although they can limit the rights of prisoners due to "legitimate security concerns," they do not have the legislative power to impede upon non-incarcerated citizens' rights.

My family and I would be grateful for any aid and assistance, or referrals, that any individual citizen, or group of citizens, may be able and willing to provide. We would respectfully request that everyone help in publicizing this issue, because there are many citizens who are unaware of the fact that they are affected by it. I thank you all in advance for your time and assistance.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We know that many prisoners and their families and friends make use of social networking sites like Facebook to publicize their case and garner help and support. This attempt by SCDC to further limit prisoner's voices comes as no surprise after they banned literature coming from outside sources a few years ago. We have seen an upswing in prisoner activism in South Carolina over the past year, and this policy suggests the prison will do whatever it can to restrict these activists from getting word out about the abuses and injustice going on behind bars.

We know that social networking sites like Facebook are not going to form the basis for successful revolutionary struggles, and that we must build independent institutions of the oppressed, whether online or elsewhere. Yet even that would not address the threat of punishment against prisoners for providing information that is posted online, the basis of this very website. So we stand behind this prisoner's fight and agree that SCDC does not have the right to impose these restrictions. Meanwhile, we call out Facebook for playing along with regulations that shut down the free speech of prisoners and their family and friends.

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[Control Units] [Organizing] [United Front] [Calipatria State Prison] [California]
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Segregation is Torture, Unite to Fight Common Enemies

I've been relocated to Ad-Seg which is, of course, the hole. Life in here is as bad as it's ever been. It's been a while since last I was in Ad-Seg and the sad reality is that not too much has changed. A lot has gotten worse. We're kept in our cells for twenty four hours a day. We're given "yard," that is in 10 feet by 10 feet cages which are known as dog kennels, every third day for two hours. It fluctuates but that's pretty much the program. We're given showers every third day as well.

The worst part about being locked in confinement is the overwhelming oppression. The lack of sunlight and movement really does a number on one's mental state. Which is why they monitor us so closely here. We're counted every half hour and they have a crew of psych doctors constantly making circuits around the tiers. From what I understand the suicide rate is pretty high here. So they keep a close eye on us. I've been locked up back here since early May and I'll be here until later this month (June) or early next month. The sad part is that even though I'll be getting out there are a lot of brothers back here who won't be getting released for a long time. A lot of them are youngsters too.

It makes me feel so bad seeing all of these good young brothers in here sacrificing themselves for no reason. The LO violence here at Calipatria is back in full swing. There was a riot recently between the Mexican/Chicanos and the Blacks. The foolishness here in Cali continues. It's time we wake up and get our shit together and stop fighting against each other and start working with each other. Only then can we make progress. The sad truth in Cali is that racial divisions are deeply embedded in us. It's been this way since the eighties and who knows when we'll overcome it. But overcome it we must. So I call on all those LOs with any influence to reexamine the big picture. We are all in the same boat and it's in all our best interest to unite. As the saying goes united we stand divided we fall.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade reminds us why we have a campaign to shut down prison control units. Short term isolation is enough to dramatically harm people's mental and physical health, and in the United $tates prison system many prisoners are locked up for years in isolation units like this prisoner's describes. The call for unity is well placed as we agree with this comrade that oppressed groups coming together is the best chance to fight against the oppressor. This principle of unity is particularly important to the United Front for Peace in Prisons. We encourage all our readers to organize for unity and peace for the September 9 solidarity demonstration this year, when our peaceful unity and protest can be a starting point for future united actions and peace agreements among organizations and individuals.

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[United Front] [Organizing] [Gender] [ULK Issue 40]
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From Unity to Collective Liberation; Learning to Unite Against Gender Oppression

Just recently I finished studying a book from PM Press by Chris Crass titled Towards Collective Liberation. This was one of the best political/activist books I've read, and it has been vital in helping me clarify my political vision and goal for creating liberating and transformative change within myself and the world.

I was not aware how this system of divide-and-control creates and utilizes divisions along the lines of gender (sexism), sexuality (homophobia), ability (elder discrimination), and nationality (anti-immigrant rights) to maintain its ruling-class dominance. This lack of awareness of these systems of oppression along the lines of gender, sexuality, ability, and nationality caused me to be completely numb to and disinterested in any struggles for justice and equality as it relates to gender equality and reproductive rights, LGBT rights, elder rights, and immigrant rights.

Prior to reading Toward Collective Liberation, I would not have come close to embracing any struggles remotely dealing with feminism or LGBT rights, partly out of fear of being viewed by my heterosexual male peers as weak, feminine, or even gay. I now see how such a concern is in and of itself sexist and homophobic in nature and is indicative of my own internalized values of sexist/heterosexist male superiority. All women and LGBT people are human beings deserving of our respect and collective support as they too struggle for equality, basic human rights, and the right to live their lives freely, without hindrance, slander, ridicule or discrimination.

Having been in prison for 20 consecutive years, I bear witness on a daily basis to how these same divide-and-rule tactics manifest themselves even behind these prison walls. The penal system uses behavior modification and psychology against us, especially those politically active prisoners engaged in a protracted struggle against all forms of oppression. Such psychological tactics are inflaming/instigating hatred and violence amongst the different "races"; the use of prisoners who covertly collaborate with the penal administration; treating prisoners who are willing to collaborate with the penal administration in far more lenient/favorable ways than those who are not; using collaborating/informing prisoners to spread rumors detrimental to the character and reputation of natural leaders so they will not be trusted; and most noticeably, the use of Security Housing Units (SHU) and Administrative Segregation (AdSeg) as tools of repression to isolate all prisoners deemed to be influential.

Of course, there are many divisions amongst prisoners that can clearly be seen in these modern-day gulags:

  1. Division between much older and experienced captives who view younger, less experienced prisoners as reckless, lacking a "code" of ethics, and not willing to listen to instruction; and the younger, less experienced prisoners who view the older captives as washed up, institutionalized, and behind in the times
  2. Division between those who classify themselves as gay/bi-sexual who are resentful towards those classified as heterosexual who openly alienate them; and those classified as heterosexual who look down upon prisoners classified as gay/bi-sexual with disgust and hostility
  3. Divisions between those who are part of religious/cultural organizations such as Christians, Muslims, Rastas, Catholics, Gods and Earths, Atheists, etc.
  4. Divisions between nationalities and even within nationalities
  5. Division between lumpen street organizations who are convinced that it is more "gangsta" to fight each other rather than fight for change in the circumstance or environment, against oppression and exploitation, inhumane living conditions, extortion, substandard food, etc.

And many more.

The "Agreement to End Hostilities" initiated by those courageous brothers of the Pelican Bay State Prison - SHU Short Corridor Collective and the "United Front for Peace in Prisons - Statement of Principles" developed by MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within, and other types of progressive collective moves taking place in various prisons across this Empire, are just glimpses of the type of unity and leverage we can achieve with a multi-national, inter-organizational, cross-gender alliance if we develop a multi-dimentional analysis of how the penal administration utilizes our differences to keep us divided and at each others' throats instead of working together for our own common good.

What the penal authorities hate most is that after decades of oppressive and inhumane living conditions, the arbitrary use of SHUs, AdSeg, and this "lock 'em up and throw away the key" mentality, the progressive, revolutionary elements within the various penal colonies will always raise their head. They see within the progressive, revolutionary elements that which will expose and defeat them: the commitment, determination and resolve to oppose and ultimately abolish the criminal injustice system.

At the same time, they can see and feel their own powerlessness, for their power ends at the point when we all come together to lift our heads, take the reigns of our lives into our own hands, throw off the old guard, and collectively struggle to provide new guards for our future security.

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[Control Units] [United Front] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 39]
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Colorado Organization Builds for Peace, Activists Locked up in Segregation

I am chairman of New Aztlan - the Young Brown Berets which works to promote the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. We are an anti-imperialist group which focuses upon militancy and revolutionary doctrine; our main audience is Chicanos and Native Americans, united in struggle to expose racist agendas in the injustice system. The term Young applies to those in our group who range from 18-30. We attract a lot of non-gang members and de-active members alike. We stand in the pursuit of self-determination, bridging the gap of racism and uniting all people for the cause of dignity, human rights, and national liberation of all conscientious people. We've opened up our work with all minority and resistance groups of all colors.

Due to political retaliation by the guards in Colorado prisons, I've been moved to solitary confinement, in Colorado's highest security prison. Recently, the DOC headquarters told the public that it will put an end to administrative segregation (Ad-Seg). The 23 hours a day spent in total isolation with a TV to babysit us is no longer going to happen. Yet, all it did was to create an even more complicated form of isolation. Ad-Seg has turned into maximum security, with 3 levels to progress into the general population. Class one writeups which carry potential street charges are now given for fights, and other actions that can be perpetuated at any time by any guard.

STG-affiliated members can be sent to Ad-Seg for no reason other than the notion of a perceived threat. Unity of any type threatens the prison system and any prisoners caught taking any action will be subjected to the cruel imagination of the guards. I was denied soap and all hygiene items including a shower for 21 days, all due to my proclamation of my membership as part of a community. It's ok, it's worth the time I've spent alone, in fact your ULK was revealed to me while I was in Ad-Seg.


MIM(Prisons) adds: The United Front for Peace in Prisons builds for peace and unity amongst the oppressed, with an anti-imperialist platform. As more and more organizations like this across the country sign on to the United Front, we are working to implement these principles on the ground. We know that in the early stages many who take up this struggle will face long-term isolation as they become very real threats to the violent, predatory ways promoted by the U.$. prison system. Yet, as more courageous leaders step forward a critical mass will be reached that make the state's tools of repression less effective. We offer study groups and individual study materials for our comrades behind bars, programs that are especially important for those locked up in solitary confinement with no other contact with the outside world. We urge our comrades to make good use of their time behind bars to study and build, whether in isolation or general population.

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[Campaigns] [Abuse] [Polunsky Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 39]
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Texas Petitions Fall on Deaf Ears, Need to Shift Campaign Target

We here on Polunsky Unit are receiving the ULK and copies of the grievance petition. We are engaged in the fight on a very small scale. Hundreds of petitions have been sent to the central grievance office, Administrative Review and Risk Management Division (ARRM), Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and recently TDCJ Board Chairman Oliver Bell, but to no avail. Grievances are not submitted and grievance investigators claim to not have received them. Those that do get processed/submitted are not properly investigated and receive the standard response of "insufficient evidence to substantiate your allegation."

The KKKlantation Warden Gary Hunter is in collusion with grievance staff to trash/destroy any grievance/appeal that may get action if we proceed to the Step 2 level, that is if the Step 2 does not land in the hands of Regional Director Richard Alford who has been Assistant Warden and Head Warden on this KKKlantation within the 12 years that I've been here.

There is another struggle against Helen Sheffield (Sgt. of Safe Prison/Extortion). She confiscates personal property of offenders accused of extortion, running gambling businesses, stores, inappropriate relationships with female guards, etc., and destroys property if the offender refuses to snitch for her. This is all done under the watchful eye of Senior Warden Hunter and Assistant Warden Kenneth Hutto.

If any comrades in Texas can assist us in our fight against Sgt. Sheffield and her theft and unlawful destruction of offender property, please feel free to engage in this struggle.

To all comrades of USW in Texas, we must come up with a new direction to take this grievance campaign (new addresses, etc.) to send grievance petitions to because all the former names/addresses have failed us. My suggestion is the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or ACLU Texas. We comrades on the Polunsky KKKlantation have chosen to forward our petitions to the DOJ.

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[Organizing] [Boycott] [Civil Liberties] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 39]
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Virginia Prisoner Punished for Organizing

I am in receipt of your introductory letter to the Prisoners' Legal Clinic and a copy of my edited article that's published on your website. Since the publication of the article, the prisoner who had previously been denied schooling is now enrolled. Your efforts and exposure had a positive impact!

Unfortunately, the other materials you have sent, Under Lock & Key, the study group materials, etc., continue to be censored. I'm awaiting the final decision of the Publication Review Committee, so I may send you their notice should you choose to file a lawsuit challenging the censorship.

With the appeal of my conviction for Encouraging a Group Demonstration being decided against me, I am not permitted a prison job. While I did not expect a favorable decision, I was stunned that the final arbiter explicitly admitted that I am punished, "Not for what you did, but for why you did it."

Of course the U.$. Constitution guarantees freedom of belief and speech. And the United Snakes Supreme Clout whose "justices" are the final interpreters of the constitution of the United Snakes have repeatedly ruled "[N]o citizen may be punished for his beliefs but only for his actions."

My point is, I was "convicted" inside the gulag for "encouraging prisoners to refrain from commissary purchases." This action is not a violation of the rules because no prisoner is required to purchase commissary. So the reasons that I encouraged prisoners not to purchase commissary - or my beliefs - are supposed to be immune from punishment. Yet the Virginia Department of Corruptions explicitly stated I was punished not for what I did but for why I did it.

I'm having the decision of the Virginia Department of Corruptions reviewed by some associates for consideration of filing a lawsuit. But to be frank, it has been my experience that for a prisoner in the gulag, the Constitution of the United States is most useful only when my roll of toilet paper is empty.

A paper document has no power. Ask the crime victims who've been beaten by the perpetrators who stepped across the boundaries of the "protective orders." Ask the black and brown people of the south who were beaten for voting even when a piece of paper stated this harassment was unlawful. The Constitution of the United Snakes says we have protected liberties, but the festered minds of the so-called "justices" are filled with pus, and they repeatedly ooze phrases telling us prisoners that the Constitution really does not say what is written therein. These pus-filled minds are fond of saying, in the prison context these god-given rights for humanity are subjugated to the objectives of the go-vermine-ment.

Think about that, my friends. Supposedly, the Constitution of the United States grants the God-given liberties that are basic and essential to human life, but those liberties are permitted in prison only as long as they are not contrary to a legitimate government objective. (read Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401 (1989)). By implication, this means the government has objectives that are contrary to what is basic and essential to human life.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This prisoner's report comes in as we are building for the September 9 Solidarity Demonstration this year. This day of peaceful unity and protest, commemorating the date of the Attica uprising has resulted in punishment of participants in past years. We cannot let them frighten us into inaction, but organizers need to take account of local conditions when deciding what actions to take on September 9. Prisoners can write to us for the September 9 organizing materials, which includes some background on the Attica uprising.

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[Censorship] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 39]
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Illinois Court Rules Medical Books Not Allowed to Prisoners

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has just rejected an Illinois prisoner's lawsuit pertaining to the refusal of the prison to allow him to receive the Physician's Desk Reference and the Complete Guide to Prescription Drugs 2009. The court's rationale for this rejection was rather convoluted:


"Quite simply, the prison gave the books' drug related content as one of the reasons justifying its decision to restrict Muson's access to the books, and we don't need to look beyond the books' title and the content to know the books contain information about drugs."

By reading this statement, one would assume that the prison was afraid of the information that the prisoner would learn from reading these books, but later in the opinion, the Court indicated that the same books were available to be read in the prison's law library.

The Seventh Circuit has been issuing some rather head-scratching decisions lately concerning prisoners' rights, and this is simply another one. If the prison we are confined in does not have these books available in the prison library this is a point we as prisoners can raise around this case.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This court ruling demonstrates the arbitrary and unjust basis for censorship of prisoners' mail and reading material. The difficulty with fighting these decisions, which start with the mail room rejections, is that courts often uphold censorship with arbitrary and contradictory reasoning. We need the help of jailhouse lawyers and street lawyers alike so that we can take on some of these battles and expand prisoners' access to revolutionary literature in particular.

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[Control Units] [Campaigns] [California] [ULK Issue 39]
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California SHU Battle Part of Anti-Imperialist Struggle

"It shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances." - Karl Marx in the German ideology

Can we say that a new phenomenon is brewing behind these walls? We can all see the new level of political consciousness in California prisons, where prisoners are resisting the repressive policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in a more collective manner. Change has been slow, but progress is evident. The root of this is us prisoners with a little political and legal education to enlighten others and at the same time inspire others to participate in progressive action.

The California hunger strikes weren't spontaneous demonstrations against injust human rights violations in the Security Housing Units (SHUs), but rather carefully laid out plans to get outside attention and assistance. It was years of suppression that brought a few together to gather many in a common purpose that serves all of our interests. Some men are mentally broken while others carry on in these SHU conditions.

This is but a simple dialectic; or two sides of a contradiction forming a unity. On one hand we have those who deteriorate under these conditions and seek any way out, while on the other hand we have those prisoners who adapt and at the same time find ways to better themselves by educating themselves in law, reading good books, or picking up hobbies to keep themselves occupied. It is through these individuals who know the conditions in the SHU who are capable of creating campaigns for abolishing its policies, especially the gang validation policies that so many prisoners fall victim to.

Exposure and propaganda play a vital role on our behalf. This is where USW comrades come in, not just as advocates for human rights, but as advocates of an overall anti-imperialist campaign, as everything is connected to the imperialist system. The SHUs within CDCR are an aspect of imperialism, utilized for social control. And the oppressive conditions within are nothing more but to assert more social control behind prisons. It is through current events that this new phenomenon is manifesting a wave of politically conscious prisoners creating new circumstances. More validated prisoners are leaving the SHUs but more are taking their place. It is possible that one day through a collective effort the gang validation will be dismantled entirely and a SHU cap may be part of our future. I think it is.

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[Theory] [ULK Issue 39]
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On Revolutionary Discipline

A persyn can proceed no further than the knowledge they have will carry them. To advance the revolutionary nationalist struggle for land, independence and socialism, we have to have a knowledge — a scientific understanding of the world around us — and we must study hystory. In order to do this, we must acquire discipline, revolutionary discipline. Revolutionary discipline is not something we are born with, it must be developed.

Discipline implies self-control, a willingness to submit yourself to the rules and code of conduct of an organization that is dedicated to independence. It means doing what is necessary to advance the objectives of the movement and doing what you say.

A unity of will and purpose cannot be accomplished without conscious efforts of all of the members or potential members of a revolutionary organization to strive to achieve maximum strength thru the exercise of maximum discipline and vigilance.

Many organizations have been destroyed because a member or group of members failed to keep their word. Revolutionary work has been retarded because this or that comrade has said they would take on a task and failed to deliver at the proper moment.

When we embrace or join an organization we have pledged to give something of ourselves for a greater unity and we must expect greater unity to exercise some control over our actions. We can no longer just think of ourselves, but of the group, the family and the movement — the nation.

Often times we wanna disregard the revolutionary discipline that we've committed to to pursue some persynal project. This happens because we have not rid ourselves of the disease of individualism. Thus, to build revolutionary discipline and eliminate individualism, we must stress constant study and practice, criticism and self-criticism.

Ultimately, we must purge from our ranks the weak links in our movement if we are to be strong, organized and about our work.

New Afrika's struggle is about land, independence and socialism. BORO is internationalist in our perspective and worldview and supports the struggle of all people to be free of imperialist aggression, patriarchy, gender and all forms of oppression.

Heighten your Discipline to improve yourselves.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 39]
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Walking Around With Your Eyes Wide Shut


Thinking back on all the times we spent
Running here, running there
Never taking the first step.
Conditioned to what's around you
Living in the puppet show of life

Dancing along, singing their song
Slowly stirring from slumber
All the bright colors often dimmed to their liking
Seeing with new eyes all the wonder
Pulling at the chains as they get tighter

The more you see, things ain't what they seem
The more you learn, things ain't what they should be
The more you know, running from their rules
You're living in their fantasy
It's time to wake up and break the chains!

Walking around with your eyes wide shut
Thinking you're in a land of the free
Seeing it's only the land of deceit
Speaking your mind is an act of terrorism
Breaking the chains piece by piece

Get a new state of mind
Relearning what never should have been forgotten
Bracing yourself for what is yet to come
Praying for strength to carry on
Holding true to your beliefs.

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