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[Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 10]
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Hip Hop in the Scopes of the State

Show them as scurrilous and depraved... Have members arrested on marijuana charges. Investigate personal conflicts or animosities between them. Send articles to the newspapers showing their depravity. Use narcotics and free sex to entrap... Obtain specimens of their handwriting. Provoke target groups into rivalries that may result in death. - FBI COINTELPRO tactics documented to be used against political musicians(1)

I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. - Mao Zedong. To Be Attacked by the Enemy Is Not a Bad Thing but a Good Thing (May 26, 1939)

Public Enemy in the scope

One indication of the revolutionary potential of hip hop is the bourgeois state's reaction to it. Just this summer, police arrested Paradise Gray of X-clan, and the Zulu Nation, which played a big role in shaping hip hop in its earlier years. Gray was arrested while he was filming a demonstration against gentrification. (2) Paralleling some of Tupac's efforts discussed below, Gray is currently working with 1Hood to promote peace among the oppressed nation youth in Pittsburgh, PA. There's nothing the government fears more than for the oppressed to stop killing themselves and each other.

While the popular culture likes to see Reality Rap, now known as Gangsta Rap, as the beginning of the ultimate corruption of hip hop, the truth is that pioneers Ice-T, NWA and Tupac were unabashedly opposed to the state and received a lot of heat for it. Their shows were canceled, their records delayed, their songs were censored and they faced constant surveillance and regular harassment.

While the forms of art that originated in hip hop culture have been greatly co-opted through the corporate media to serve the state itself, the potential threat of a culture that keeps strong roots in the oppressed nations remains. John Potash put out a detailed documentation of the history of the state's use of COINTELPRO against musicians, connecting it to operations against revolutionaries who preceded and often inspired them. He describes how the NYPD formed the first rap unit with COINTELPRO training, and then went on to train other metropolitan cops around the country. His book centers around the life and murder of Tupac Shakur.

Tupac Shakur's step-father was former Black Liberation Army and revolutionary physician, turned prisoner of war, Mutulu Shakur. He was one of a number of influential elders in Tupac's life as he grew up that were part of the Black Power movement. In his meetings with Tupac he says that he pushed Tupac to question and define this Thug Life thing, which they eventually did together in a 26 point code that was accepted by Bloods and Crips (and later others) at the 1992 peace summit in Los Angeles. (3) This led to a major counterintelligence operation targeting those involved, including Mutulu who has been caged in a federal control unit ever since.

Sanyika Shakur, a former Crip leader, was one who was inspired to support these efforts. He was also targeted for isolation in the California prison system where he currently sits (such peacemakers are the so-called "worst of the worst" that fill these torture cells). As he pointed out, the government had reason to be concerned about these efforts to unite Black and Latino youth as the street organizations in South Central were recruiting more young people each year than the four armed forces of the united $tates combined. (4)

John Potash's detailed research into 2pac and other musicians and Black leaders, show clear connections between government black operations and the repression of those who mobilized oppressed people. The primary role that Tupac played in the "East vs. West" feud in the hip hop scene was ironic after his work to unite warring sets in Los Angeles. But Potash paints a picture of state-led manipulation that led Tupac to play into their plans.

Potash traces the use of sex and drugs to manipulate both activists and musicians as described in the FBI document quoted above. The sexual assault charges brought against Tupac were one example of this. (5) Death Row Records, who he paints as an FBI front, kept 2pac swimming in alcohol and weed, like the FBI did to his mother when he was a kid using a drug dealer who got close to her. Death Row even turned Dr. Dre, who once rapped "yo I don't smoke weed or sess cause it's known to give a brother brain damage", into a giant weed ad with his debut solo album, "The Chronic." In the decade that followed, regular marijuana use increased significantly among Black and Latino youth, with greater disabling addiction problems, perhaps do to increased potency of the drug. (6) Today, weed and alcohol are constantly praised by rappers.

In his last days, Pac was sober, reading Mao and talking about uniting Blacks across the country. He was soon killed and no one was charged with the murder even though he was being closely watched by multiple state agencies at the time, just as Biggie was at the time of his death.

A big lesson to take from "The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders" is that the government has a strategy for neutralizing potential leaders that they use over and over. To counter this, activists need to be aware of the strategies and develop strategies to counter them. As an individual Tupac was easily manipulated, but even a disciplined party like the Black Panthers was manipulated into a similar East vs. West coast division that could have been avoided. In both cases, the FBI took advantage of internal contradictions among the people involved. So, while studying FBI tactics is a useful way to defend ourselves, more importantly we must put politics in command to make a movement that is difficult to knock off course.

notes: (1) Potash, John. The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders. Progressive Left Press, Baltimore. 1997. p.56. (available from AK Press)
(2) http://hiphopandpolitics.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/first-wise-intelligent-now-hip-hop-pioneer-paradise-of-x-clan-get-arrested-on-trumped-up-charges/
(3) Potash. p. 63.
(4) Shakur, Sanyika. Monster. Grove Press, New York. 1993.
(5) see Communist Opinion on the Kobe Bryant Case for more on the ridiculousness of such lynching campaigns
(6) Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 291 No. 17, May 5, 2004.

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[Political Repression] [Hughes Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 10]
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Texas Prison Officers Label ULK Recipients Gang Members

Here on Hughes Unit the gang officers put us on file as members of a gang called ULK. A few weeks ago when I was called to the gang offices I was asked a lot of things about your newsletter. I don't see how they can do this when there is no gang called ULK at all. I would like you to let all comrades know about what's going on in Texas and what they do to prisoners who get Under Lock & Key on Alfred Hughes Unit. Once they put us on gang file they can read all mail that comes to us from anyone, and they can withhold mail and send it back to people. Please send me help to fight this.

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[Spanish] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 17]
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El Buro Federal de Investigación Arresto a un Hacedor de Paz

Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos
Hace dos ediciones que “Bajo clavo y llave” publicó el número de “paz.” Ahora estamos trabajando en una publicación sobre migrantes y no ciudadanos en las prisiones estadounidenses. El secuestro del director de “Homies Unidos”, Alex Sánchez, por el FBI ayer demuestra la relación estrecha de las prisiones, emigración, represión y paz.

“Homies Unidos” se inició en El Salvador por 20 personas que fueron deportadas de los Estados Unidos debido a leyes de inmigración de la era Clinton después de cumplir penas de prisión. Alex Sánchez jugó un papel clave en fundar el capítulo de Los Ángeles dos años después, construyendo un importante vínculo al origen de los problemas de pandilla aquí en el estomago de la bestia.

El apuntamiento y arresto de Alex por el FBI es no más que un ejemplo más que soporta nuestro argumento en la publicación número 7, que el estado no quiere paz. Hay pocas quienes pueden decir que han hecho más para traer paz a algunas de las peores áreas mundiales afectada por las pandillas, sin embargo el estado lo mira como una amenaza.

En los 1980, la gente por todo Centro América se había unido por un nuevo sistema económico que servía las necesidades de la gente. Los Estados Unidos respondieron por medio de armar y entrenar escuadrones de la muerte para combatir esos movimientos. Ellos usaron el terrorismo, matando a las familias locales en el genocidio en masa, y haciendo brutalidades similares contra los partidarios de otros países para desentusiasmar el internacionalismo. Como la mayoría de la gente con quien “Homies Unidos” trabaja, Alex sí mismo se fue víctima del desplazamiento masivo de gente por Centro América causado por una década de intervención estadounidense. Este periodo de brutalidad fue seguida por políticas económicas que ofrecieron una opción de trabajo para las niñas de la guerra: corriendo producto para la economía de drogas multi-billonaria estadounidense.

Aunque la mayoría que viajaron a los Estados Unidos busca el trabajo, otras fueron traídos aquí por sus puestos en el mercado negro de intercambio de drogas. De cualquier forma, esos recién llegados son perseguidos por el encarcelamiento del sistema injusticia estadounidense, que ayudó a consolidar y reforzar la vida pandillera criminal como la única opción para casi todos los jóvenes masculinos. Al igual que los que vinieron antes que ellos, los salvadoreños en las calles y prisiones formaron grupos para defenderse de una sociedad quien les temía y atacó a los recién llegados.

El arresto de Alex es un ataque flagrante que forma parte del mismo sistema que ha atacado a millones procedentes del mismo lugar donde el vino. Pero su apuntamiento ha sido muy especifico y constante por sus esfuerzos para organizar la paz mediante el construir de alternativas a los delitos violentos como una forma de sobrevivir. Él apareció una amenaza demasiado grande para el sistema que controla a cafés y negros jóvenes en este país por medio de drogas y intensidad baja de guerra, mientras al mismo tiempo amenazando el flujo de drogas dentro del mercado más ricos del mundo.

Previamente, Alex fue perseguido por la unidad CRASH Murallas(Ramparts CRASH Unit) que condujo a la infame escándalo en el Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles(LAPD), donde los policías trabajaban con el INS para deportar a los traficantes de drogas que no trabajaría con el LAPD. En ese momento fue amenazado con la deportación. Él respondió, tratando de obtener asilo debido a posición social en El Salvador, donde miembros de la principal organización lumpen allá son perseguidos por encarcelamiento y asesinato con más impunidad que ellos son en los Estados Unidos. Esto habría proveído una salida para millones de jóvenes atrapados en el ciclo violento. Pero las cortes americanas no irían por este argumento, y le concedieron asilo en la base de sus creencias politicas en su lugar.

Alex continuamente ha puesto su mismo en la línea por los intereses de la clase lumpen, que todavía no han devuelto el favor. Parte del desarrollo de conciencia de los lumpen es organizando la defensa (y apoyo) a los que están haciendo lo mayoría para servir a los lumpen.

Lección para la mente criminal

Hay dos posibles lecciones que miembros de la organización lumpen no política pueden tomar de esto. Hay el mensaje del FBI, que no hay esperanza trabajar contra los imperialistas estadounidenses, así que te encuentras mejor trabajando con el gobierno y sus operaciones de drogar y pacificar las comunidades oprimidas y espera tu no seas golpeado por la violencia o adicción tu mismo. Este es el termino corto, punto de vista individualista.

Entonces hay la lección que MIM(Prisión) aprovecha de esto. Si es verdad quien haga el trabajo verdadero para ayudar los jóvenes lumpen mejorar sus vidas será perseguido por el gobierno estadounidense. Pero en vez de acudir a la desesperación y la capitulación, promovemos el mensaje que entusiasma la gente a mirar a la foto grande y abandonar sus miedos como individuales. Esta lección nos lleva a reconocer la necesidad de varias estrategias. Una de estas estrategias es el cambiar del enfoque de las organizaciones lumpen para proveer verdadero apoyo para organizaciones independientes que están ayudando verdaderamente a jóvenes lumpen. Pero con eso vienen riesgos. Otra lección es que la criminalidad de los lumpen lo hace más difícil para los lideres para ayudar de lumpen como clase. En otras palabras, mejorando tu compartir lo hace más fácil para nosotros trabajar juntos.

En respuesta a los recientes arrestos, muchas estadunidenses ya ha condenado a Alex de los delitos imputados, porque según al idealismo burgués la gente se nace mala y no puede cambiar. Lo que pasa es que la gente quien se nace malo usualmente tienen piel más oscura. Tal idealismo es solamente consistente con una ideología de racismo.

Como MIM(Prisons) Homies Unidos hizo hincapié de la educación del lumpen de entender por qué están donde están, mientras trabajan para formar lideres para cambiar esa realidad. Los que se benefician de la opresión y explotación de otros no quieren que ese cambio tenga lugar. Se promoverá que los individuos escapar de la vida criminal como ejemplos que cualquiera puede tener éxito (si lo intentan). El lumpen sabe que esta es una mierda, pero el lumpen necesita estudiar para mirar cuáles son las verdaderas soluciones.

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[Political Repression] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 9]
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FBI Arrests Peacemaker

Alex Sanchez Homies Unidos
Two issues ago Under Lock & Key released the Peace Issue. Now we are working on an issue on migrants and non-citizens in u$ prisons. The kidnapping of Homies Unidos director Alex Sanchez by the FBI yesterday demonstrates the close relationship between prisons, immigration, repression and peace.

Homies Unidos was started in El Salvador by 20 people who were deported from the united $tates due to Clinton-era immigration legislation after serving prison terms. Alex Sanchez played a key role in founding the Los Angeles chapter 2 years later, building an important link to the source of gang problems here in the belly of the beast.

The targeting and arrest of Alex by the FBI is just one more example to support our argument in issue 7 that the state does not want peace. There are few who can claim to have done more to bring peace to some of the worst affected gang areas in the world, yet the state sees him as a threat.

In the 1980s people across Central America united for a new economic system that served people's needs. The united $tates responded by arming and training death squads to combat these movements. They used terrorism, killing local families in mass genocide, and carrying out similar brutality against supporters from other countries to discourage internationalism. Like most who Homies Unidos works with, Alex himself was a victim of the mass displacement of people across Central America caused by a decade of amerikan intervention. This period of brutality was followed by economic policies that offered one job option for the children of war: running product for the multi-billion dollar amerikan drug economy.

While most travelled to the united $tates looking for jobs, others were brought here via their jobs in the black market drug trade. Either way, these new arrivers are targeted for imprisonment by the u$ injustice system, which helped to consolidate and reinforce the criminal gang life as the only option for mostly male youth. Just like those who came before them, Salvadorans on the streets and in prisons formed groups to defend themselves from a society who feared and attacked new comers.

Alex's arrest is a blatant attack that is part of the same system that has attacked millions coming from the same place he came from. But his targeting has been very specific and ongoing because of his efforts to organize for peace by building alternatives to violent crime as a means of survival. He posed too great of a threat to the system of control of Brown and Black youth in this country through drugs and low intensity warfare, while simultaneously threatening the flow of drugs into the richest market in the world.

Previously, Alex was targeted by the Ramparts CRASH unit leading up to the infamous scandal within the Los Angeles Police Department, where cops worked with the INS to deport drug dealers who wouldn't work with the LAPD. At that time he was threatened with deportation. He responded by attempting to get asylum because of his social position in El Salvador, where members of the main lumpen organization there are targeted for imprisonment and assassination with more impunity than they are in the united $tates. This would have provided a way out for millions of youth stuck in the violent cycle. But the amerikan courts would not go for this argument, and granted him asylum on the basis of his political beliefs instead.

Alex has continuously put himself on the line for the interests of the lumpen class, who on the whole have yet to return the favor. Part of developing the consciousness of the lumpen is organizing the defense (and support) of those who are doing the most to serve the lumpen.

Lesson for the Criminal Minded

There are two possible lessons that members of the unpoliticized lumpen organizations can take from this. There is the message of the FBI, that it is hopeless to work against the u$ imperialists, so you're better off working with government operations to drug and pacify oppressed communities and hope you don't get hit by the violence or addiction yourself. This is the short-term, individualist view.

Then there is the lesson that MIM(Prisons) takes from this. Yes it is true, anyone who does real work to help lumpen youth improve their lives will be targeted by the u$ government. But rather than turning to despair and capitulation we promote a message that encourages people to look at the big picture and drop their fears as individuals. This lesson leads one to recognize the necessity of a number of strategies. One such strategy is shifting the focus of existing lumpen organizations to provide real support for independent organizations that are really helping lumpen youth. But with that comes risks, so another lesson is that the criminality of the lumpen makes it harder for leaders to help the lumpen as a class. In other words, cleaning up your act makes it easier for us to work together.

In response to the recent arrests, many amerikans have already convicted Alex of the accused crimes, because according to bourgeois idealism people are born bad and cannot change. It just so happens that people who are born bad usually have darker skin. Such idealism is only consistent with an ideology of racism.

Like MIM(Prisons), Homies Unidos stressed education of the lumpen to understand why they are where they are, while working to build leaders to change that reality. Those who benefit from the oppression and exploitation of others do not want such change to take place. They will promote individuals who escape criminal life as examples that anyone can succeed in this system (if they try). The lumpen know this is bullshit, but the lumpen need to study to see what real solutions are.

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[Political Repression] [California]
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Prisoner Punished for Seeing Things Greater than Himself

... All of [my grievances against censorship are] of course used against me. In my annual review report it was written that, "He does display some twisted thinking with moral reasoning... When the topic goes too close to personal issues, [XYZ]'s defense is to move the discussion to grander political issues." The institution that I'm in would have me believe that my being incarcerated had all to do with poor decision making skills. How I wish it was that simple.

When I look at my community I can see that everyone I knew had a family member who was doing or did time. Going away to do time was deemed normal, and I don't say that to minimize my own actions. You do better once you know better, but yet here I am attempting to learn better but they're refusing me that knowledge. Why? Because knowledge turns into wisdom and wisdom is authority.

Well, here I am comrades, inside of one re-education camp of America. A place where they attempt to teach me that my community is fine, the system works, it's me that has the problem. They want me to get out and worry about myself. Get all the nice things that money can buy, so that I can sit in luxury and watch my people suffer inside of poverty. They can keep attempting, because I will not reform. I will fight the battles in my reach to continue our progression, and that will be until victory or death.

MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of how bourgeois society pushes individualism on people, and how psychology serves that purpose. The so-called "corrections" profession in amerika would have you believe that they are doing the objective work of punishing those who did "bad." But to those in the system, it is much clearer what is really going on. And when people start to develop consciousness of how the system works, the system does all it can to keep people thinking in narrow individualist terms.

Individualism serves the capitalist system where few prosper and many suffer. The system is threatened when the oppressed masses act as a united majority instead of as individuals going up against powerful institutions all alone. The individualist world outlook has repercussions that go much further than the u$ injustice system. It is crucial for all aspects of maintaining a system where a few nations benefit off of the many. That is why we struggle for a socialist society, where re-education camps actually encourage people to look at the systematic level and see things from a perspective much greater than themselves. Only by building on the accumulated knowledge of our whole society can we progress to a more peaceful, harmonious world.

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[Political Repression] [Campaigns] [Kern Valley State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 9]
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Contaminated Water OK by CDCR

Today I received a response to my Administrator's Appeal (602) on the contaminated water here, from the director of California Corrections and they denied it of course, stating that the levels of arsenic in the water here are not high enough to pose a threat that'll put our (the prisoners') health at risk enough to grant the prisoners clean drinking water. But I say it's bullshit!

I first found out about the high levels of arsenic in the water here at Kern Valley State Prison from the Institution TV Network. They had released a CDC memo stating that the prison's water was contaminated with arsenic and lead levels that are over the EPA's legal limit, and some people who drink such water may be put at risk of having cancer. [Prisoners at Kern Valley have been fighting this battle for over a year.]

[In other news]...Early this week the pigs got mad at me because I'm aiding and assisting this brother to get paid off. The pigs fucked up and put a level 4 prisoner in the cell with a level three, and the level 4 attacked the level three, so I put him up on the game of getting free money from these pigs.

They tried to play me and my cellie against each other by tearing up his personal property and belongings, then leaving my things as they were. We just laughed at the shit though! We see what they were doing from a mile away, and the struggle goes on. They can't stop our forward motion or development.

MIM(Prisons) adds: Once again, state employees are trying to promote violence in state prisons and comrades of MIM(Prisons) are avoiding conflict, while struggling for justice. The CDCR claims to censor MIM(Prisons) because we are a threat to security. If prisoners can no longer be manipulated by staff into fighting each other then the security of the institution is at risk according to the CDCR logic.

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[Political Repression] [Organizing] [George-Greene Regional Correctional Facility] [Mississippi] [ULK Issue 9]
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Fighting Corruption in Mi$$i$$ippi Leads to Retaliation

It seems that to go to war with these corruptors (the MDOC) and win is impossible in the good ol' boy state of Mississippi. A while back I filed a Federal Civil Complaint against the South Mi$$i$$ippi Correctional Institute, AKA Green County, under the 1st, 8th and 14th Amendment. The mailroom staff at Green County was censoring my mail, as well as forcing me, as a pulmonary patient, to be housed in a building filled with 85%-plus smokers. Prior to the pre-trial hearing, staff surrendered on the censorship complaints making that issue/claim a moot one. This to me is total b.s., but the judicial law system allows such, and I must bear these costs. It seems that on the 8th amendment violation they thought they could just steamroll over me.

So in February 2009 I went to trial as a pro se litigant, and took on the corrupt state of Mi$$i$$ippi's representatives in the form of two states attorney generals, and the general counsel for the MDOC. They are all highly educated, qualified, and experienced oppressors of the state of Mi$$i$$ippi. I defeated them, even with all their arrogance, with their own rules and on their own grounds. Well they do say payback can be a bitch, and this beastly system has decided to retaliate against me as only they can. In doing so to me, they hope to deter others from daring to challenge the good ol' boys system.

First I was transferred from Green County to Rankin County, Central MS Correctional Facility. Prior to leaving Green County I was shakendown and had a lot of my personal property taken. At Central MS I stayed overnight in transit, was shakendown again, and lost more stuff. Next stop was the Parchman plantation prison where I was housed overnight at Unit 29, affectionately called Castle Greyskull, where upon I lost even more of what little stuff I had left. After a night there I was transferred to our supermax unit, stripped of my minimum custody, and lost even more of what little property I had left, and I am now in a cell with next to nothing.

Previously I spent 6 calendar years in this dungeon from 1996 to 2002. This prior commitment to US2 was because of my length of sentence and nature of crime. Now I am once again housed in Unit 32 behind razor wire, electric wire, NASA technology type cameras, and rollers with vests and super styled chemical agents on their persons, which they seem to use with impunity.

So here I am 53 soon to be 54. I'm cut off from the world, locked in a cell again with little to nothing and no way to get back on my feet. I depend on my oppressors to meet my needs, most of these needs I am fighting for as they do their utmost to keep me from having even the limited amount I am allowed.

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[Political Repression] [Legal] [U.S. Penitentiary Florence] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 9]
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Fighting the Real Gangs with Paperwork

I got a hold of your March 2009 No 7 issue. It was the first time I ever saw a MIM(Prisons)'s Under Lock & Key newsletter. One of your articles really reached out to me, about the administration being the real gang. I’m in the feds at USP Florence. I’m currently going through the administrative remedy process for 2 reasons. #1 is my case manager not doing his job. I was supposed to be out February 12th but my case manager has messed my paperwork up so bad, and on more than one occasion, so that I won’t be out until May 14th. The only reason I’m even getting out in May is because my family on the street applied pressure to the proper offices. And my derelict case manager doesn’t even have so much as a reprimand in his file. Just to give you an example of his shoddy work, check this: I’m from Washington DC, and when Mr. Pacheko presented me with my initial release papers they were for an address in Southern California.

The second grievance I’m filing is in relation to a shakedown. I’m currently in SHU on admin-seg. The captain and riot squad came and took everybody to the rec cage area and made us all strip and spread eagle. This took place on 3-25-09 when the temp was below 30 degrees. This strip search was in direct violation of FBOP program statement 5521.04, the 6th circuit ruling in Cornwell v. Dahlberg, and the 4th amendment to the US Constitution. Since I’m in SHU I have to wait for a member of my unit team to respond to get administrative remedies. Since I filed the first remedy, nobody from my unit team has been to see me. Effectively they are killing my ability to file anything further.

To any prisoner anywhere who reads this, I want you to know that prison guards and administrators don’t care if you have a violent outburst to staff misconduct. That’s exactly what they want you to do. So then they can gas you, assault you, and then write you an incident report. The only things these people care about is filing paperwork. I’ve been put out of two institutions for “disrupting the orderly running of the institution” because I file lots of paperwork on behalf of myself and others. Remember, if you do something wrong they write you up. So you have to write them back up.

MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that it's important we use the legal system to fight the abuses of the criminal injustice system. When you take on the system you can also use the pages of Under Lock and Key to expose the injustice and publicize your battles.

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[Political Repression] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 7]
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Peace in the Streets

street orgs in revolutionary unityFor our Peace Issue, MIM(Prisons) had solicited a number of allies who are doing work for peace among the lumpen on the streets. Though the Peace Issue is done, our pages remain open to those who are doing such work, as we want to build as many connections as we can between what is going on in the streets and behind prison walls. This article will make some of those connections in a mostly historical way. Similar stories can be told about the largest street organizations based in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and beyond. And as we'll see, the use of prisons to isolate the peace makers is having a very real impact on efforts in oppressed communities.

Chicago

The Chicago story could start in the late 1960's with Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party, who was shot in his sleep by the FBI for attempting to unite street and youth organizations under a revolutionary banner of the original "rainbow coalition." While some legacies of that work remain, COINTELPRO was quite effective in preventing thousands of lumpen youth from joining the anti-imperialist United Front. During the same period, other street organizations were joining a coalition with city and business leaders in Chicago. The Conservative Vice Lords (CVL) were one of these groups who became a significant force for building Black businesses and serving the lumpen youth of the community. Despite their turn from petty crime and street fighting to a positive community organization, their attempts to work with the pigs and the business establishment failed again and again. Eventually their leaders were targeted for frame ups and put in prison like the revolutionary Panthers, despite a program that never attempted anything but integration into mainstream capitalist society. Their differences with the Panthers seemed to be based on misunderstandings of the Panther strategy (1), which others have suggested were a result of COINTELPRO misinformation campaigns.

In the end the CVL leadership saw that the next generation was coming up looking to undo everything they had built. And sure enough the streets of Chicago succumbed to more violence and chemical warfare following the destruction of the Panthers and efforts like those of CVL. The next generation produced Larry Hoover who also came around from the criminal mentality to create institutions like "Save the Children," support legal Black business development and register thousands of people to vote. After being imprisoned, Hoover's Gangster Disciples (GDs) hosted perhaps the largest peace summit in u$ lumpen history in Chicago in 1993. After his 13th parole denial Hoover released a statement in which he said things such as:

Drugs are our enemy, destroying many of us with the lure of profit, more of us with addiction, and still more with the crime that results; we must join our voices with those across the land, of whites and blacks, churchgoers and convicts, gays and straights - all who share the purpose of taking the profit out of drugs and ending the slaughter made easy by guns. (2)

And this was not just talk, as the GD's had demonstrated their ability to achieve such goals. The biggest immediate threat to the imperialist establishment that the lumpen can make is to end the meaningless destruction of oppressed youth life while destroying the profits from chemical warfare thru imperialist-run drug cartels. The state responded by sending Hoover to the federal supermax prison ADX in Colorado for conspiracy charges to deal drugs.

New York

In New York City the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation is a well-documented (if not always accurately) example of the modern repression of progressive mass organizations of lumpen youth. With constant targeting by police, most of the local leadership ended up in prison. The main architect behind the Nation's growth in New York, King Blood, has spent 12 years in complete isolation. King Tone, who was the popular spokespersyn for the Nation in NYC during their politicization in the mid-1990's has also been in prison since those tumultuous years. Their pro-Puerto Rican community organizing made them greater targets than they had been as a street gang engaged in criminal activities. Statements like,

"We are not AMERICAN, we are one of 22 million Puerto Ricans who are victims of Americanism... We are Revolutionary Nationalists but we are remembered as proletarian internationalists, heroic fighters in the struggle against oppression and imperialism." (3)

led one pig to state,

There's no way we're gonna let a bunch of gang-bangers think they're the Panthers or the Young Lords.

As more Kings & Queens went to prison, they took their goals with them and began to build educational programs and promote peace within the new gang units that were popping up at the time. MIM's Free Books to Prisoners Program helped comrades in New Jersey build a library of thousands of books where Kings were not just teaching other Kings, but also members of the United Blood Nation and others to read. UBN, like the New York ALKQN, was formed within the New York prison system. And like King Blood, one of UBN's co-founders, is in a control unit for his organizing, just recently getting his sentence there extended to 2021 by the NYSDOCS; greatly limiting his contact with the outside world. He reports that extensive COINTELPRO tactics were used against them in conjunction with the ALKQN.

Today the ALKQN is clear that none of its senior leadership is involved in any illegal activities and the leadership continues to define it as an organization for the betterment of the community and the self-determination of oppressed nations. As with all of the mass organizations discussed here, whose popularity has exploded, often beyond the influence of its founders, there are many who claim the flags that play into government efforts to dirty their names.

Los Angeles

Perhaps the most well-known peace effort came in Los Angeles around the time of the Rodney King verdicts and the uprising that followed. The state responded swiftly when Bloods & Crips came together in the streets. Not to mention that the unity in action also included a majority of Mexicans and a significant proportion of white participants.

As discussed in the article We Want Peace! They want Security. the unity of the oppressed is a response to the unity of the oppressor against them. Therefore, when the Panthers were destroyed, the Crips came up from a history of Black street organizations that formed to protect themselves from white violence. Eventually, other Black groups united under the Blood flag to protect themselves from the Crips.

When these groups came together for peace in the early '90's, once again we saw the targeting of leaders of the oppressed by the state. Just to mention some of the most high profile attacks, Crip leader Sanyika Shakur (aka Monster) who had taken up Black Nationalism was sent to a Security Housing Unit (SHU). Imprisoned Black Liberation fighter Mutulu Shakur had worked from a distance to develop the Thug Life code promoted at the peace meetings by his step-son Tupac. Federal Bureau of Prisons papers document that Mutulu Shakur was moved to the original control unit in Marion because he was effectively organizing young Black prisoners. The warden of Lewisburg, in recommending his transfer, wrote the following: "I firmly believe Shakur needs the controls of Marion, as he appears to manipulate the entire system. This shrewd behavior coupled with his outside contacts and influence over the younger Black element will have adverse affects on the mission." (4) Mutulu continues to be isolated in the newer federal supermax prison, ADX, while Tupac was assassinated following his work around the peace treaty.

Over a decade later, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent Tookie Williams to be executed because he had dedicated his books to leaders in the Black Liberation struggle. A Crip co-founder, Tookie spent many years in prison writing children's books to counter the anti-people activities of street organizations, while drafting up peace protocol for those who were involved in the gang wars. He was a shining example of rehabilitation (no thanks to the state), which the CDCR added to its name and allegedly to its mission around the same time.

The state's success led to the bloodiest years the California ghettos, barrios and prisons have seen. Those who could do something to stop all the violence were part of the first large scale experimentation in long-term isolated captivity of humyn beings (or were dead). In this context, the leadership became more concentrated within the prison system, where the state had already begun dividing the system up along the lines of Blacks, whites, northern and southern Mexicans. These became the battle lines for the years of "race wars" that continue to this day.

One of the most violent battles took place in Pelican Bay State Prison in 2001. Prisoners responded by calling on leaders representing each group, who were being held in SHU, to negotiate a truce. (5) This truce seemed to be on the road to success when the CDCR's Institutional Gang Investigation unit intervened, along with others in the department, to carry out a negative propaganda campaign, similar to what has happened every time prisoners have tried to come together in peace. (see We Want Peace! They want Security.)

As one prisoner explained what happened,

I have yet to hear of any of this, however, I did hear about the 2001 attempted peace treaty. Which of course was purposely sabotaged by CDC. The very last thing these bastards (CDC) wants is peace amongst the races here in prison. It is not in the material interest of the white middle class who work for CDC to have this violence come to an end. Any time an institution goes on lock down, prison officials automatically get what's called "Hazard Pay" which doubles their pay. So for every violent incident they (CDC) can provoke, they stand to profit from it.

And it's not only the CDC that stands to profit. Other outside organizations are also profiting from what the CDC has created. Organizations such as the Sheriffs department and other police agencies, which of course are staffed with middle class white amerikans. Every time an incident from in here spills out into our occupied communities, it is these organizations that come in and lock up everyone in sight, not to mention harass, beat and even murder us.

According to those involved in the 2001 peace talks, the failure stemmed from a lack of community support. This allowed the pigs to spread the rumors and squash the organizing efforts. This is why it is crucial to develop links between the peace efforts on the street and behind bars.

Only with growing mass support, inside and outside prisons, will the CDCR agree to allow for a peace process. That is why MIM(Prisons) is promoting the petition initiated in 2006 to restart the process. (6) As one veteran leader of the California prison movement said in an interview regarding the Pelican Bay Peace Summit,

A peace accord, or a peace summit itself. If that's real. Then I wanna bet it's real in a sense that both your politically motivated SHU prisoners and your regular gang member- motivated prisoners have both come to the realization that they are both doomed to hell! No matter how many differences exist between them, that they are united in the fact that they are doomed prisoners. And that's the only way that they're going to get that condemnation off of them, is if they join forces to change the policies that allows them to live in the naked abyss. And that means that they would have to work together. And in order to work together they would first have to arrange a successful peace summit. So that they could combine forces. Now I kinda think that that's a natural course of events. That they would come to that conclusion, whether they wanted to or not, the conditions are gonna force them to come to those conclusions.

...I know that a peace summit has to be a prelude to something more significant. And that something more significant has to be what we always fought for, you know what I'm saying, the humyn rights of all prisoners in general, regardless of what clique or what race they're from.

The story we see over and over again is that state attacks on lumpen organizations are superficial as long as the organization is engaged in activities murdering and poisoning their own people. It is only when these groups begin to help their communities that they are crushed by the state.

COINTELPRO continues its misinformation campaigns against lumpen organizations today and historically through the mainstream media like National Geographic and BET who have jumped on the sensationalized gang life bandwagon. They pretend to investigate both sides of the story while painting all of these organizations as evil. Part of this is a continued campaign against the Black Panthers almost four decades after they were effectively neutralized. Organizers today need to be prepared for the attacks by representatives of the State who claim they want peace, but in reality only want peaceful submission to imperialist profit.

notes:
(1) Dawley, David. A Nation of Lords: The Autobiography of the Vice Lords. Waveland Press, 1993. 2nd edition (orig. 1973).
On p.112, the Vice Lords claim that the Panthers tried to convince all of the street organizations to go on a rampage burning the city down. This would have been contrary to the consistent line and strategy of Fred Hampton and Huey Newton. The Vice Lords do admit to breaking up underground organizing in response to the assassination of MLK as part of their partnership with Chicago business interests. Yet, still the establishment never came thru with their end of the deal of providing loans and other business development support.
(2) Hayden, Tom. Street Wars. The New Press, 2004. p. 284.
(3) Brotherton, David C. & Luis Barrios. The Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. Columbia University Press, 2004. p. 298.
(4) http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~kastor/walking-steel-95/ws-florence.html
(5) Support Pelican Bay Peace Process
(6) for more info on this campaign and petition click here

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[Theory] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 7]
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We Want Peace! They Want Security.

The main purpose of issue 7 of Under Lock & Key is to show who wants peace and who does not. We will also focus on our long-held line that prisoners accomplish nothing by lashing out and fighting each other or prison staff. Every prison that censors this newsletter is acknowledging that peace among prisoners is contrary to their goal of so-called "security," further substantiating our thesis presented below.

Time has proved . . . that blind deference to correctional officials does no real service to them. Judicial concern with procedural regularity has a direct bearing upon the maintenance of institutional order; the orderly care with which decisions are made by the prison authority is intimately related to the level of respect with which prisoners regard that authority.

There is nothing more corrosive to the fabric of a public institution such as a prison than a feeling among those whom it contains that they are being treated unfairly." Palmigiano v. Baxter, 487 F.2d 1280, 1283 (CA1 1973). As THE CHIEF JUSTICE noted in Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. at 408 U. S. 484, "fair treatment . . . will enhance the chance of rehabilitation by avoiding reactions to arbitrariness.
-dissenting opinion from Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974)

Our track record speaks for itself. At least dozens of prisoners and former prisoners have given up lives that once included physical attacks on cops, and often fights with other people as well, after taking up the anti-imperialist struggle through MIM. Unfortunately, our data is a little skewed since we can only speak for prisoners who we are in contact with. It is up to an ambitious researcher to demonstrate statistically that those involved in anti-imperialism are less violent than those who aren't (or more so as the prison mail rooms across the country claim is the case).

In the meantime, there are plenty of studies showing how all sorts of educational and family programs help reduce violence and anti-social behavior. (1) Unfortunately, in a system focused on punishment and ostracizing groups of people, these programs are used to manipulate rather than rehabilitate. U$ prisons that do offer these programs do so in an effort to tempt prisoners with a carrot. By taking this individualist approach they are not actually investing in peace or progress. When priorities change and a prisoner loses his job or can no longer see his loved one, then there is no longer the incentive to be peaceful. In contrast, a dedication to the struggle for a world without oppression cannot be taken away by future prison administrators.

Facts:Peace Sign

  1. In decades of work the Maoist Internationalist Movement has never broken bourgeois laws. In years of work, neither has MIM(Prisons).

  2. Members of MIM and members of MIM(Prisons) have always been forbidden from breaking the law.

  3. MIM literature has never promoted breaking the law or taking up arms against the united states government, or any local government or organization, for that matter.

  4. Every issue of Under Lock & Key, the newsletter of MIM(Prisons), encourages prisoners to obey the laws and to avoid physical conflicts.

  5. Anecdotal experience provides evidence of a pattern of reduced violence among prisoners who become involved in MIM-led educational programs and/or organizational campaigns.

Despite the facts listed above, our programs and materials are routinely denied to prisoners all across the united $tates. In late 2007, we launched our website where we have since recorded 509 incidents of censorship. Most of those are censoring MIM(Prisons). Of them, 11 cite "STG" or "Security Threat Group", 34 cite "security" in general, 14 cite a threat of "violence," and 26 cite our threat to the "law" as the reason they are censored. In addition, 164 took place in California, where all MIM mail was banned because it allegedly "advocates seizing public power through armed struggle and overturning prison administrations 'by stripping them of control.'" (2) While the recent legal struggles of one comrade in California brought to light a document overturning this ban, it continues to be applied in many of the prisons where MIM(Prisons) used to have a large readership. Most of the rest of the incidents of censorship fall into the various categories of "unacceptable", "disallowed", "unauthorized", "refused" or there was just no reason given whatsoever.

Security Threat Group (STG) is the buzz word developed in the 1990's to apply to a range of street and political organizations. Many so-called "correctional professionals" claim MIM(Prisons) is an STG. But exactly what are we a threat to the security of? Copying the language of precedent setting case law, it is often phrased as being "detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution or [...] it might facilitate criminal activity.") The problem with the phrasing in this court decision is that many prisons interpret that to mean that if you tell prisoners to file complaints, write the press, join organizations or build lawsuits in response to torture, physical abuse, lack of medical care, censorship, etc. then you are threatening the "good order or discipline of the institution." (THORNBURGH v. ABBOTT, 490 U.S. 401 (1989)

Reviews of this and other case law demonstrate that under capitalism in amerika, prisoners actually do have rights and the above interpretation is a violation of them. The real meaning of this law should be to allow prison administrators to censor materials that promote real and immediate threats to safety and security, such as plans to attack someone else in the prison or to smuggle in weapons. The most recent case condemning prisoncrats for preventing prisoners from receiving materials that promote legal resistance was just last year when a comrade in Wisconsin won his suit in federal court. (3)

In some cases the prison administration has interpreted the law the same way we do, but still claims we violate it by posing an immediate threat to safety and security. The California ban letter cited above is one example of this. In these cases we also disagree to the point of getting the bourgeois courts involved.

The October 2006 memo from CDCR Director Scott Kernan banning MIM publications (supposedly not all our mail) has completely inaccurate statements in it, such as the one quoted above. If it were possible to demonstrate that MIM promoted violence in prisons or breaking the law without lying, one of the state lawyers would have done it by now. Their favorite defense in many states is to hide behind prison walls, rather than lie like Scott Kernan did. That is why state officials need to be publicly accountable in any society claiming democracy in any form.

From the CO's up to the director, they play the text book role of the bureaucrat attempting to defend their corrupt institution, and by proxy their own lucrative jobs. We admit to being a threat to the jobs of corrupt officials and abusive institutions, as any conscious and active citizen should be.

In this issue you'll read stories of foiled peace plans, violent set-ups and hazard pay for CO's. The various unions representing so-called peace officers are some of the strongest in the country and their main leverage tool is persynal safety. They say, "we're putting our lives at stake to protect your shit, you better pay us good." Hence the built in motivation for more violence, more riots, more "validated" gang members and more maximum security and supermax prisons. It all means more money in their pockets.

More generally, amerikans as a whole benefit from their positions of power over the oppressed. Middle class amerikan citizens benefit from being members of the group of people who can be cops or get similar jobs as oppressors in the criminal injustice system, and they benefit from the services the cops provide in maintaining lines between social groups. So it is not just an individualist motivation for higher pay, it is also a national consciousness that is necessary to create the us vs. them mentality necessary to run prisons the way they do in the united $tates. One example of this consciousness came up during the Giuliani reign of terror in New York City in the 1990s, when the New York Times reported that most white residents were comfortable with the police behavior they saw, while nine out of ten Blacks felt that "the police often engaged in brutality against blacks." (4)

These national lines of us vs. them were created by the white settlers and is deep in that history of land grab and slave trading. Over time this forces the oppressed to see the world in a similarly divided way, leaving the oppressors with two choices: they can turn around and use it as a justification for their own brutality, or they can de-escalate the contradiction. Our analysis of imperialism and the principal contradiction predicts that amerikans cannot de-escalate the contradiction, and so far we've been proven right. And that is why u$ prisons have become a perversely violent microcosm of amerikan society.

While we believe that in general cops and CO's have a vested interest in opposing our efforts to promote peace, we are also acting in United Front with those employed by the vast u$ criminal justice system who are more interested in making it home to their family each night than getting hazard pay and new high tech toys to play with. This is unlikely in places like California where history has already demonstrated what happens to prison staff who speak against these interests. On a related note, MIM(Prisons) does not threaten people's lives, berate people into suicide, or carry out assassinations.

Many prison staff claim MIM(Prisons) is a threat because we encourage prisoners to organize. We look to history again, and help quell those fears by taking a look at two of the greatest examples of prisoners organizing themselves. In the Attica rebellion in 1971, no CO's were killed until the National Guard came in and shot 11 employees dead, along with 29 prisoners. Up until that point the prisoners of Attica had organized a democratically run society within the prison walls, including such things as their own food and medical services, while negotiating with the state on behalf of all prisoners. Guards were given superior treatment the whole time.

A couple years later prisoners in Walpole were left to run the prison on their own when the guard union went on strike. They set up similar services as the prisoners in Attica, and actually increased the efficiency of the operating of the prison with the guards and bureaucrats out of the way. This shows that as early as the early 1970's prison guards were paid high wages for doing nothing. Since then the prison population has increased 8-fold, fattening the labor aristocracy with high paying jobs along the way.

The prisoners peacefully functioning without overseers shocked the pigs, who then began to spread rumors about riots in Walpole. The riots never happened, and in fact there was an end to all violence and rape during the weeks while the prison guards were absent, and for some time to follow. This kind of rumor mongering is not unique to a particular group of mean-spirited CO's. Rather, they were representing the inherit self-interest of this class of people. In the last 15 to 20 years in California, they have succeeded in creating a constant atmosphere of disturbance and violence. Only the minority see their self-interest in peace, because it is a threat to their jobs as a class.

Unfortunately, we can expect much violence from the oppressors before we can expect an honest assessment of what is going on in these secretive dungeons. The people want peace now. Communities that are being occupied, imprisoned and bombed want an immediate end to violence.

Huey P. Newton said it is up to the oppressor whether meeting such demands of the oppressed happens in a peaceful way or a violent way. Fanon said violence is part of the development of a humynism and new consciousness among the people. Even if Fanon is right, it takes a lot to push the masses to the point of violence as Huey pointed out. This is obvious by the many more people who have spent many more days in peaceful submission than those who have not. Violent resistance from the people will only arise as it is necessitated by those who monopolize violence through their own power.

MIM(Prisons) only engages in and promotes legal means of combating injustice. When the prison staff represses every educational and legal outlet for prisoners to redress their complaints then it is clear what kind of strategies they are promoting. In those prisons, we predict there will be violence, and they cannot blame it on us because they have kept us out. This is similar to what we say about all struggles for justice around the world. We believe violence is necessary to end injustice because history has demonstrated that the oppressor never stops oppressing any other way. We do not want or promote violence, we are merely stating our conclusion from reading history. In every case of revolutionary war, it was up to the oppressor to decide whether violence was used or not. History shows that the same has been true in the prison rights movement; the struggle for prisoner rights has only become violent when the state initiated such violence.

Notes:

(1) "Since 1990, the literature has shown that prisoners who attend educational programs while they are incarcerated are less likely to return to prison following their release. Studies in several states have indicated that recidivism rates have declined where inmates have received an appropriate education. Furthermore, the right kind of educational program leads to less violence by inmates involved in the programs and a more positive prison environment." Journal of Correctional Education, v55 n4, p297-305, December 2004.

See also The Nation, March 4, 2005: "Studies have clearly shown that participants in prison education, vocation and work programs have recidivism rates 20-60 percent lower than those of nonparticipants. Another recent major study of prisoners found that participants in education programs were 29 percent less likely to end up back in prison, and that participants earned higher wages upon release."

(2) the full text of this letter is available on our website along with tons of other documents related to the California ban: https://www.prisoncensorship.info/campaigns/ca/ (if you're a California prisoner you've probably already seen it)

(3) Lorenzo Johnson v. Rick Raemisch, Daniel Westfield, and Michael Thurmer, Case No. 07-C-390-C US District Court Western District of Wisconsin
available soon on our archive page

(4) Hayden, Tom. Street Wars. The New Press, 2005. p. 108.

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