Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Abolish the Security Housing Units: MIM

March 6 - Abolish the Security Housing Units protests across California

Maoist Internationalist Movement

March 6 -- Protesters took to the streets in cities across the state of California to demand California prisons shut down the Security Housing Units (SHU). Like other control unit prisons across the country, the SHU are prisons within a prison. They are solitary confinement cells where prisoners are locked up 23 hours a day for years at a time. The one hour a day these prisoner sometimes get outside of their cell is spent alone in an exercise pen not much larger than their cell, with no direct sunlight.

This long term isolation causes serious mental and physical health problems for many prisoners. And these torture cells are used to target politically active prisoners using a system of classification that makes it impossible for prisoners to appeal their assignment.

Activist groups in California have initiated a United Front to shut down the Security Housing Units. Organizations and individuals have come together to coordinate our actions and raise the struggle against the SHU.

The United Front recently convened a meeting that included the Barrio Defense Committee, the Maoist Internationalist Movement, the African People's Socialist Party, Aztecs of North America Inc, African People's Solidarity Committee, Justice for Palestinians, Zami! Cooperative, and California Prison Focus. Participants also include family members of SHU prisoners and former prisoners themselves.

In cities across the state, participants in the United Front will be holding protests the first Saturday of every month. We are collecting petition signatures and educating people about the SHU torture and why it must be shut down.

Participants in this United Front see the fight against the SHU as part of a larger battle against the criminal injustice system as a whole. And many participants also have an understanding of the corrupt system of Amerikan imperialism that uses prisons as a tool of social control and national oppression. We bring these lessons to the people on the streets as we build this movement to shut down the SHU.

In the city of San Francisco MIM led the protest against the SHU this month at the corner of Powell and Market streets. We set up a literature table with flyers, newspapers, magazines and petitions. Our signs demanding the SHU be shut down caught the eye of many passers by who stopped to ask about the campaign.

Many of the Black men walking by stopped to support the struggle, having experienced the prison system first hand. And many Black wimmin also stopped based on their experience of having relatives locked up.

Prisons are tools of social control which are being used to perpetuate this national oppression. Amerika locks up a higher proportion of Black men than were in prison in South Africa under the openly racist system of apartheid.

In recent petitioning work in the Mission district, where there is a large number of Mexicanos, MIM has also found significant interest in supporting the fight against the SHU. In California the SHU is disproportionately made up of Latinos. As many prisoners have reported to us, being Mexicano/Latinos/La Raza immediately gets you classified into a gang when you get into prison, which can lead to lockdown in the SHU because of the CDC's gang classification policy.

Students from the University of Santa Cruz tabled on Pacific Ave, the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. We collected 75 signatures and handed out flyers to Free Jose Luis Avina, who is currently in a SHU in Corcoran State Prison.

While incarcerated for defending himself against a North Amerikan in 1995, Jose Luis participated in the November 1999 hunger strike in New Folsom Prison during which 68 prisoners exposed the brutality there. Governor Gray Davis responded by shipping Jose Luis to the SHU along with six other hunger strikers. His mother, Quetzaoceloaciua, started the Barrio Defense Committee in San Jose to protect their neighborhoods from police assault and to free her son.

In San Jose the Barrio Defense Committee and Justice for Palestinians set up a mock SHU at the Berryessa Flea Market in San Jose from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 noon collecting signatures for the Petition to Shut Down the SHU and to Free Jose Luis Avina from the SHU. Flyers were passed out informing people of what control units are. Comrades handed out fliers with a bulleted list of SHU conditions, shortening the extensive explanation by MIM, which was very effective. They also advertised for a community discussion around the SHU at the Pena Cultural de la Raza the next day.

The display in San Jose was strengthened by a mock SHU constructed of wood, matching the 6 x 8 dimensions of an actual cell. The mock SHU is very effective because people can better imagine the effects of these torture units. Being big enough to attract a lot of attention, once people find out what it is they are usually shocked at how small it is.

We successfully made contact with people who want to support the Campaign to shut down the SHU. The first Sunday of the month, the Barrio Defense Committee organizes cultural programs within the Mexican community and the discussion of the SHU was had within the community following this demonstration. This meeting was effective in recruiting people to collect signatures and hand out fliers in Sonoma.

Studies for the Liberation of Aztlan and Latin America (SLALA) & the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL) did a two-locale petitioning drive to shut down the SHU in Los Angeles. We petitioned first in MacArthur Park a good place to go to reach Mexicans and others from Latin America, but outreach must be conducted in Spanish then moved on to an anti-3 strikes law protest in Inglewood, which was extremely friendly and pretty correct in overall orientation. Demo organizers read our petition over the PA system in the park where the protest was held and told demonstrators not to leave without signing.

For the next Saturday, we are planning to petition at the Silver Lake Farmer's Market at Sunset Blvd. and Griffith Park Blvd. (south of Santa Monica Blvd., north of Silver Lake Blvd., across from the 99-cent store, accessible by the Silver Lake Blvd. exit of the 101). We'll be there from 10am to Noon as the market ends at noon.

The United Front will be holding its next statewide meeting in Oakland on Saturday, April 10th at noon at the Uhuru House on 7911 MacArthur Blvd. People in California can also join our email list to get involved in these organizing efforts. Information, petitions and fliers regarding the Abolish the Control Units campaign across the country can be found at MIM s website.

To get involved contact us at:

By MIM posted 24 March 04


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