Friday, February 9, 2007

Ohio Political Prisoner: 'Fight or Die'

 Interview with Bomani Shakur, published in Worker's World, Feb 9, 2007 10:09 PM

Ohio prosecutors allege that Keith Lamar was the leader of a group of prisoners dubbed the death squad and was responsible for ordering the deaths of five inmates during Ohio’s longest and bloodiest prison uprising, at Lucasville in 1993. Since the uprising he has taken the African name Bomani Shakur.

Bomani Shakur has proclaimed his innocence. He reports that police beat him, left him naked in freezing conditions for long periods and in cells without plumbing in order to make him confess to acts he didn’t commit and to get him to become a witness for the state. He encouraged other prisoners not to make false confessions or turn state’s evidence.
He is now on death row as one of the Lucasville Five.
Following is an excerpt of an interview by Bomani Shakur’s cousin, Kevin Lowery. An earlier interview can be found at

Lowery: How is everything going, Bomani?
Bomani: Things are going surprisingly well. A lot has happened since we last spoke. [His self-published] book “Condemned” has been well received and is in the process of being reproduced for wider circulation. I’ve also won several crucial decisions in court and am one step closer to receiving a new trial. The court granted me an evidentiary hearing. I’ll be going back to court in mid-March.
Lowery: Great. For those of us who aren’t familiar with an evidentiary hearing, could you explain what it is?
Bomani: Sure. It’s a hearing that will allow me to present evidence. The best thing about a hearing of this sort is that I’ll get to put the state on the stand and question them about why they withheld certain things. This will allow me to further expand the official record and give the court a more in-depth rendering of the issues.
Lowery: In speaking about the riot, what are some of the things you want people to keep in mind?
Bomani: Well, first and foremost, people should keep their minds open and let the facts speak for themselves. As time goes by, it’s starting to come out that the state hid evidence, forced certain individuals to lie, paid for testimony, etc., etc. So people need to suspend judgment long enough to look into what actually took place.
I think when it’s all over, said and done, Lucasville will go down as one of the biggest fiascos ever. And the fact that five men were placed on death row will, I think, spearhead the movement to abolish the death penalty altogether here in Ohio.
When the public sees just how corrupt this system is and how politicians use capital punishment as a tool to further their political careers, people are going to call for change, just like they’re doing now concerning the war in Iraq. It’s all about getting the truth out, man. And the truth about capital punishment is that only the poor and underprivileged are being killed. I didn’t kill anybody in the riot and, inasmuch as my life is not for them to take, I intend to keep on fighting.
Lowery: Speaking of which, I just read about the rally in front of the supermax prison. Would you care to elaborate on that? I hear it was a big success.
Bomani: It was. Despite the horrible weather—it was raining real bad—quite a few people came out to lend their support. I felt a deep sense of thankfulness looking out my window and seeing all of them standing in the rain, speaking truth to power. It was a beautiful thing! Of course I was too far away to see individual faces or signs, but that made it all the more meaningful in that everyone became my brothers and sisters.The rally was done to protest against the death penalty, but we’re also trying to keep the Lucasville situation in focus. A lot of people—besides the 11 that were killed during the riot—lost their lives as a result of what happened and we’re trying to do something about that.
Lowery: Who are some of the other people involved?
Bomani: Well, besides the Lucasville Five—which consists of myself, S.A. Hasan, James Were (Namir Mateen), Jason Robb and George Skatzes—there are countless others who were sentenced to life in prison: Greg Curry, Derek Cannon, Eric Scales, Timothy Grinnell, Mosi Paki (Elvin Jones), and the list goes on. People can go to learn about some of these individuals.
Lowery: Bomani, you wrote in your book that the riot was a “set-up.” For those who haven’t had the chance to read your book yet, why don’t you elaborate on that.
Bomani: Yeah well, in the early 1990s, supermax prisons began to proliferate as the focus shifted from rehabilitation to warehousing, and Ohio wanted to get on board. The problem in making the shift came about because Ohio didn’t need another prison and therefore couldn’t convince the state legislature to provide the funding. To create the justification for a new supermax, prison officials began to implement repressive tactics to induce prisoners to revolt. I know this sounds outlandish, but it’s the standard modus operandi of those in power. ...We’re all connected. What is happening to people in the Middle East is happening to us as well. So Power to the People!
Lowery: Well said. Stay strong, Bomani.
Bomani: Always.
A copy of Bomani Shakur’s book, “Condemned,” can be obtained for $10 from the Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee, P.O. Box 5963, Cleveland, OH 44101.

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