Prisoners sentenced to extra years for protesting execution of Ziyon Yisrayah
When we think of political prisoners in the U.S., we think of people who were political activists and were framed up by the cops, such as Geronimo Pratt. Or we think of people who may have committed some illegal act, but because of their political stand received a sentence ten times harsher than that of a common criminal, such as Laura Whitehorn. But there's a third category of political prisoner--people in prison who became political, protested conditions or treatment of others, and then got punished with additional time.
This is what happened to five New Afrikan prisoners in Indiana had years added to their original sentences, all to be served in isolation in supermaximum security, like the control units and other torture chambers that are set up all over the country. You see, they are locked up in the Indiana prison where Ziyon Yisrayah was murdered by the state in July. (See box).
On Memorial day 1996, as the date of Yisrayah's execution approached, "The top half of D-Cell House, approximately 150 prisoners of all nationalities ate their afternoon meal in complete silence to protest the planned premeditated murder of an innocent man," according to Shaka Shakur, one of the prisoners. In retaliation for this protest, ten of the most politically aware prisoners were arrested and charged with "attempts to riot" and "threatening". They were yanked from their cells, their personal belongings and papers confiscated, and they were locked down in maximum security. Then the "attempt to riot" charge was changed to "conspiracy to riot" and they were labelled gang leaders and members. "We uncovered evidence and documentation that the investigator outright hid in his report and manufactured evidence." Shakur relates. "Our staff witnesses who were to testify on our behalf were threatened and brought up on charges before the Internal Affairs Department for 'breaking security' and 'fraternizing with inmates.' As we tried to prepare a defense the Department of Corrections refused to give us our personal property and legal materials. As we tried to alert people on the streets to the repressive and unethical conduct of the D.O.C. all our incoming and outgoing mail started being delayed for weeks at a time."
After the arrests, Shakur asked, "Do prisoners have a right to express outrage at a decision made by the state to kill an innocent man? ... Do we not have the right to be critical of the state when it plans to take one of Us into a cold sterile room, strap Us to a gurney and stab us all over our bodies with needles so they can inject Us with their poison cocktail? ... We refuse to allow a racist and genocidal system to ... destroy and murder Us and say nothing! We got a right to speak!"
Shakur had four years added to the 30 he is already serving for an attempted robbery at age 16. Of the ten men, six were found guilty and given additional time. (Kopano Muhammad has been released for reasons not related to this protest.) Anane Baye Camara received an additional 3 years, Idrix Malik 1 year, and Sekou B. Majekodunmi, 3 years.
Akono G. Olatunji had fiveyears added to his sentence. In a recent pamphlet "Who are the Indiana Six?" he stated: "I'm 29 years old, Black and in prison--an all too common profile for many young black males in Amerikkka. But while this unfortunate truth is readily available to Amerikkka's public, what is not so readily available is the truth as it relates to the pressures, persecutions and sometimes prosecutions of Black prisoners who dare to undertake the task (neglected by the state) of rehabilitating ourselves.
"As strange as it may sound to some the fact is that the very institutions designated to correct anti-social thought patterns and likewise behavior, is in fact punishing those of us who have opted to change our criminal disposition to one of responsible, upright Black men.
"One such situation arose here at the Indiana State Prison involving myself and nine other Black prisoners. We have been singled out for persecution for merely having an opinion about the death penalty and it's unjustly being applied in the case to Tommie 'Ziyon' Smith [Yisrayah]. On 5/20/96 Indiana State Prison administrators launched a full scale 'COINTELPRO' like investigation that has since led to such unprecedented, harsh and punitive treatment of myself and the other nine prisoners that communities and progressive organizations nation-wide have been compelled to call, fax, and send letters to voice their outrage concerning our plight.
"As prisoners we realize that our civil rights are not as extensive as non-prisoners, however, it is my belief that when taking a position on an issue as emotional and controversial as the death penalty can literally lead to one being corralled from his bed in the middle of the night by paramilitary special teams brigades, and then chained and shackled and shipped to the infamous Maximum Control Complex, as was done in our case, represents blatant repression of human rights..."
Of the attempt to paint the six as gang leaders, Sekou B. Majekodunmi states that when he came to prison eleven years ago he was known as a gang member, and in the preparations to prosecute the accused as members of a gang, they used this history. "They make no reference to my becoming a Muslim and legally changing my name on July 20, 1994." Majekondunmi states. "But I realize it's not about me being involved in any gang, its about me being capable of leading ones that has them so afraid. It's about me becoming conscious and speaking out against the injustice that's taking place at this prison. No, it's far more of a threat to them that I'm no longer criminal minded, but that I'm striving to make conscious decisions not just for myself but for all oppressed people as a whole."
Shakur states: "For taking a stance against inhumanity, for the next several years we shall be buried alive in a supermax prison. Denied all human contact with other prisoners, subjected to social isolation and sensory deprivation. Locked down in an all white cage with a 24 hours shining light for 23 hours a day.
"People, if Indiana is allowed to single out New Afrikan prisoners who are politically conscious and active because they spoke out ... if the D.O.C. is allowed to frame us on bogus charges with no outcry from the public and the political community it will set an ugly and dangerous precedent. ... Support us because tomorrow it could be you or someone you love strapped to that gurney or electric chair. It could be you who speak out only to be terrorized and tortured. The D.O.C. must not be allowed to carry on its racist tradition of singling out New African prisoners for persecution because they are political. They must not be allowed to terrorize into silence the hundreds of young New Afrikan men who are slowly throwing off the chains of a slave and parasitical kkkriminal mentality to reclaim their humanity. Take a stance on our behalf and the countless others. Take a stance because we did!"
Organizers are focussing on getting the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus to launch in investigation into the racist rhetoric and discriminatory practices toward Afrikan prisoners at the Indiana State Prison by Superintendent Al Parke and to investigate the execution of Ziyon Yisrayah, where the lethal injection took 80 minutes and was not allowed to be seen by official witnesses. In addition, you can urge the caucus to investigate why these prisoners are being punished. Write: Black Legislative Caucus, Indiana House of Representatives, Indianapolis, IN 46204 or contact Black Legislative Caucus member Dr. Vernon G. Smith, P.O. Box M622, Gary, IN 46401.
In addition, contact Commissioner Ed Cohen at the Indiana Department of Corrections, E334 Indiana Government Center South, 302 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204. Phone 317 232#5715, fax 317#232#6798. All the charges should be dropped against all prisoners affected by this investigation (they are currently on appeal). All the prisoners affected should be returned to general population and removed from control and lock#up units.
The pamphlet "Who are the Indiana Six?" is available at the Civic Media Center, 1021 W. Univ. Ave.
You can write to the prisoners where they have been moved at various locations: Akono G. Olatunji (slave name D. Bellamy) #862113 and Shaka Shakur #28443 are at the Maximum Control Complex, P.O. Box 557, Westville, IN 46391.
Anane Baye Camara #16091, Sekou Majekodunmi (s/n Michael Ford) # 855831, and Idrix Malik (s/n Kevin Hollifield) #22275 are at Wabash Valley Corr. Inst., Special Housing Unit, P.O. Box 111, Carlisle, IN 47838.
For more information and updates on the cases, you can contact the prisoners or the Brew City Anti-Authoritarian Collective, P.O. Box 93312, Milwaukee, WI 53203. (414) 264-1936. Please send copies of any letters you write to public officials to the folks in Milwaukee.
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