Police Attempt To Stop Demonstration in Support of Hunger Site
(Chicano Press Association/La Verdad Publications)
SAN DIEGO- On Friday, July 27, 2001, despite efforts by Federal Guards to prevent them from going forward with a scheduled demonstration, over 40 people demonstrated in front of the Federal Court Building in downtown San Diego. Standing in front of the Federal Court Building, members and supporters of the the Chicano Mexicano Prison Project (CMPP) and the Raza Rights Coalition (RRC), carried signs and banners that read, "The Real Criminals Are The Politicians", "End Prison Torture", "Stop The Mass Imprisonment Of Our Youth", and the "SHUs Are Torture Chambers". Accordin to representatives of the RRC and the CMPP, the demonstration was in solidarity with prisoners, who in their efforts to put an end to the inhumane and illegal isolation of prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), had recently staged a massive hunger strike of over 600 prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Within minutes of the start of the manifestation, organizers were
confronted by Federal Guards who demanded to see a city-issued permit authorizing the demonstration, threatening to call the police and have everyone arrested, if a permit was not immediately presented to them. The organizers responded by explaining that they didn't need a permit to peacefully express their opinion on public property. Furthermore, that they were not intimated by the threat to call the police. Within minutes, three San Diego police cars arrived. The police and federal guards conversed among themselves, stared at the protesters, but did not attempt to break up the demonstration. The demonstrators' determination and militancy prevailed and the demonstration continued.
During the demonstration and in publicity statements, the RRC and CMPP, organizers explained that that the primary reason for the protest was to show solidarity for the demands of the Pelican Bay SHU prison hunger strikers and to expose how, in clear violation of the United Nation's position on the rights of prisoners, the California Department of Corrections (CDC) has for years practiced a policy of confining in (torture) chambers called Security Housing Units (SHU), those inmates who prison officials claim to be "problem prisoners". SHU inmates are routinely isolated for 23 hours a day in closet-size cells for up to five, ten, fifteen years, or more. This brutal and inhumane practice often leads to
permanent psychological and physical damage of inmates.
CAPITALIST-CONTROLLED MEDIA WORKS AGAINST THE DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS OF MEXICANOS AND OTHER OPPRESSED PEOPLE
As has been historically the case, the corporate-controlled media, failed to cover the demonstration, effectively imposing a black out on an alternative view which they see as a danger to the profits made by their bosses. Only La Verdad (newspaper of Union del Barrio) and Zenger's (white alternative liberal-progressive community news magazine) were present to cover the event. Yet, the presence of these two publications ensured that the voice of
the poor and working class were not silenced by the capitalist controlled media.
After an hour of demonstrating in front of the Federal Court House, the participants gather for a rally. Speaking through bull horns,
representatives of the RRC and CMPP addressed those participating in demonstration. In reference to the attempt by the federal guards to intimidate the demonstrators and to keep the demonstration from taking place, Pablo Aceves, a veterano activist and representative of the RRC told those at the demonstration that, "We will not be intimidated by these custodians [pointing to the federal guards] or the city's watch dogs [pointing toward the police]. We will continue to fight for the rights of La Raza and all oppressed and poor people. We will never give up our democratic right to voice our opinion!
KEY DEMANDS OF PRISONERS' STRUGGLE FOR HUMAN JUSTICE
While Cathy Espitia, coordinator of the Chicano Mexicano Prison Project thanked everyone for "sacrificing and making time to come out and support struggle of the Pelican Bay SHU Prisoner Hunger Strikers." Cathy Espitia summed-up the key demands of the Pelican Bay Strikers as:
.The right, as guaranteed by California law, to due process and to defend oneself by presenting evidence on one's behalf. In most cases, inmates are arbitrarily sent to the SHU without any legal process or legitimate justification.
.No SHU terms given for alleged association with a gang; proof of guilt must be a required for all SHU terms.
.Released form SHU of those who are no longer active gang members; some inmates have been kept in the SHU for 15 years or more.
.The re-establishing and maintaining of dialogue amongst prisoners and staff to bring about conflict resolution. Inmates want to end the vicious racial violence that exist between the various nationalities currently locked up in the state prisons.
Others present at the demonstration included members of the Chicano Park Steering Committee, Committee Against Police Brutality, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, MEChA, and the campaign to Free Mumia Coalition. Cathy Espitia also made it a point to thank the California Prison Focus (from the San Francisco Bay Area) for their efforts in keeping an active network of activists united in the struggle to support the human rights of prisoners.
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