Much has happened in the last month: Nobel laureates and interfaith leaders have called for the release of political prisoner David Gilbert (also a fellow Certain Days collective member); New Jersey released 2,258 prisoners in one day (with many being detained by ICE shortly thereafter); and the U.S. voted for the author of the draconian 1994 Crime Bill and his sidekick super-cop. New York Governor Cuomo continues to deny freedom and safety for those locked in New York prisons and jails, as Trump accelerates Federal executions, with several scheduled for his remaining weeks in office.
In mid-November it was announced that longtime political prisoner and respected elder Russell Maroon Shoatz, who is currently suffering from stage 4 cancer, tested positive for COVID-19. On November 25, we learned that political prisoner Dr. Mutulu Shakur has also tested positive for COVID-19. And on November 26, word spread that political prisoner Eric King and his cellmate have also tested positive for the virus. Fellow longtime Black liberation political prisoner Ed Poindexter, who at 75 years old is at high-risk for COVID-19, is on a wait-list for commutation applicants.
Meanwhile, recently released Black liberation political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim has been released on his own recognizance after being arrested for trying to vote in Rochester, NY. Grand Jury proceedings were postponed in early-November, and Muntaqim, who is recovering from COVID-19, continues to fight for his freedom. Muntaqim was recently issued a voting pardon, restoring his right to vote (subsequently denied by Governor Cuomo), though it is uncertain what this means in terms of his ongoing case.
It’s December, which means you’ll be flipping your 2020 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners calendar for the last time. Don’t worry, the new 2021 calendars—our 20th edition—are now available around the globe. And they make amazing holiday gifts! The art for December is by Brooklyn activist and calendar friend, teev, a beautiful rendition of a well known Assata Shakur quote (“A wall is just a wall / And nothing more at all / It can be broken down”). The essay for the month, by No New Jails NYC, discusses why building new jails to replace a to-be-closed Rikers Island is not the answer.
Here’s a look at what happened in November and what’s ahead in December.
Political Prisoner Birthdays
There are three political prisoner birthdays in December, so this would be a great time to throw an online prisoner letter-writing party! With the holidays fast approaching this is also a great time to send holiday cards/notes to those locked away. The personal touch of a birthday card means so much to those inside, so write a letter, and show your solidarity with those fighting for a better world. Remember that prisoners at Federal prisons (USPs and FCIs) cannot receive cards, colored paper, or colored ink.
Reality Winner, #22056-021
PO Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127
Fred Burton*, #AF3896
Smart Communications / PA DOC
PO Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733
*Address envelope to Fred, letter to Muhammad.
Casey Brezik, #1154765
Western Missouri Correctional Center
609 E. Pence Rd.
Cameron, MO 64429
NATO 3 political prisoner Jay Chase was released from prison on November 6 after serving over 8 years in prison. He is now back in Chicago and supporters are trying to get him the medical care and insurance he needs. For now, there is a need to bridge the gap on expenses until insurance kicks in. You can contribute here. Welcome home, Jay!
Jay Chase of the NATO3 Is free! https://t.co/KQ9553zHzQ
— Chicago Commune (@chicago_commune) November 7, 2020
Hacktivist political prisoner Jeremy Hammond was released from prison to a halfway house on November 17. He was convicted in 2012 for allegedly disclosing information about a private security firm, and also spent time imprisoned as a Grand Jury Resistor in investigations surrounding WikiLeaks. Learn more about Jeremy and offer support here. Welcome home, Jeremy!
Jeremy Hammond has been released!
Longtime political prisoner and Black Liberation soldier Sundiata Acoli was denied parole yet again in mid-November. Acoli, 83 years old, was arrested in 1973 with Assata Shakur and has been imprisoned ever since. In what is essentially a death sentence, the 3-member parole board gave Acoli an extended hit, meaning he may not be seen by the parole board again for 10 or more years.
Just a reminder. Russell Shoatz is still Covid positive, being denied surgery.
Please keep applying pressure to @governortomwolf
Russell Shoatz’s inmate number: AF-3855
Ways to contact Tom Wolf:
— Russell Maroon Shoatz FreedomFighterExtraordinaire (@RussellMShoatz) November 30, 2020
If you correspond with Kojo Bomani Sababu, note his address change as USP Canaan has shifted to a privatized mail service.
Kojo Bomani Sababu* #39384-066
PO Box 30
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
*Address envelope to Grailing Brown.
Eric King’s mail ban has been lifted and his support crew is encouraging people to write to him. More info can be found here.
Eric King’s mail restriction, which has prevented him from receiving mail from anyone other than his wife, has now been lifted FOR NOW. Now would be a great time to write him and show him some love.
Eric King #27090-045
9595 West Quincy Avenue
Littleton, CO 80123 pic.twitter.com/23xHW7uVJ3
— Support_Eric_King (@SupportEricKing) November 30, 2020
As noted last month, Patrick O’Neill of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 was sentenced to 14 months in prison in mid-October, the second of the Catholic anti-nuclear defendants to be sentenced for nonviolent actions that occurred in April 2018 at the Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia. Codefendants Martha Hennessy, Carmen Trotta, and Clare Grady were just issued 10-12 month sentences, and co-defendant Mark Colville is expected to be sentenced later this month. Codefendants Elizabeth McAlister and Father Steve Kelley have been languishing in jail for over a year. All are undergoing harsh state violence due to their principled nonviolent resistance.
- Red Fawn Fallis (recently released to halfway house after being imprisoned for Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock.)
- Eric King (vegan anarchist political prisoner fighting additional charges carrying 20 more years; donations go to Eric’s lawyer and should be noted as “for Eric King defense.”)
- Chuck Africa (recently released MOVE 9 political prisoner receiving medical care for cancer.)
In Case You Missed It
- If you haven’t already, check out Dave Zirin’s latest piece on why Colin Kaepernick’s recent support for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is so important right now.
- San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin calls for the release of his imprisoned father, political prisoner David Gilbert.
- In mid-November the Philadelphia City Council voted to formally apologize for the 1985 city bombing of MOVE, which killed 11 people and destroyed 61 homes. MOVE survivor Ramona Africa is featured in a new VICE video about the bombing.
- Don’t miss this piece in Harper’s about the challenges we prison industrial complex abolitionists face post-election.
- This new piece examines the radical takeover of a decrepit New York hospital and created Lincoln Detox and used Eastern medicine to meet the needs of the local residents.
- Kaity Baril’s latest piece for ALC Court Watch details the violent evolution of police militarization against communities around the country.
- A recent interview with George Ciccariello-Maher examines the ongoing confrontations in Philadelphia following the police murder of Walter Wallace Jr.
- Victoria Law’s recent article looks at California Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act and how it fails to protect trans prisoners across the state.
- Don’t miss Susie Day’s latest interview with former political prisoners Eddie Conway and Jose Saldana about their continued resistance both inside and outside prison walls.
- Check out this detailed history of H. Bruce Franklin, the Venceremos, the SLA, and a revolution gone wrong.
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Certain Days to Keep in Mind
As you’ll notice in your Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners calendar, December is full of radical and commemorative dates. We mourn the passing of so many freedom fighters over the years—John Brown, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, Angel Rodriguez Cristobal, Kuwasi Balagoon, Sitting Bull, Mohamed Bouazizi, Seth Hayes, Bill Rodgers, and John Bowman. Each of their unique contributions to creating a better world serves as an example for us. Don’t forget to get your 2021 Certain Days calendar, packed full of new dates, captivating art, and moving essays.