By Sharon Danann
Published in Worker's World. Jan 22, 2011
Cars piled into the parking lot of the church next to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. The parked cars left just enough room for a contingent of friends and family members of the hunger strikers to defy the frostbite weather and gather with colorful banners and signs. The contingent drove to the prison to deliver nearly 1,200 names on a petition collected through the Internet, including more than 600 collected through www.iacenter.org.
|March to supermax prison in Ohio.|
Carloads had come from Columbus and Cleveland and included many relatives of hunger striker Keith
LaMar, also known by his chosen name Bomani Hondo Shakur. Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb and Shakur, all with false convictions for their leadership roles in the prison rebellion in Lucasville, Ohio, in 1993, had been refusing food since Jan. 3 to protest their extremely stringent lockdown conditions for the past 12 years.
Demonstrators marched in a circle around the church parking lot, chanting, “Our fight, our goal, free our brothers from the hole!” and “Warden Bobby, shame, shame! No more torture in our name!”
The slogans were militant, but the mood was that of a victory celebration. It was announced that in the face of the hunger strikers’ determination and support pouring in from around the world, the prison authorities had crumbled “like wet toilet paper,” as one rally participant shouted.
A break-away contingent spontaneously took off across the knee-deep snow toward the monster supermax prison with the 12-foot “Stop the Executions” banner and many other signs, chanting as they went. After they crossed 400 yards of OSP property, security vehicles stopped them at the parking lot. The activists knew they had managed to get close enough to the prison windows that inmates on the east side of the supermax, including Shakur, would be able to see them and take heart in their defiance.
The crowd then gathered in a church in downtown Youngstown for a reception hosted by the prisoner advocacy group LOOP or Loved Ones Of Prisoners. The packed room rocked with cheers at the announcement that Warden David Bobby had agreed to meet and even go beyond the demands of the “long-termers.” Shakur’s aunt, Carolyn Dailey, spoke of how she will be using the new semi-contact visit privileges to feed him “like I’ve always fed my nephew.” Tears were shed amid talk of kissing relatives not kissed for nearly 18 years.
Access to the computerized database for legal research is also vitally important, given the sobering news that a judge had abruptly sent back Shakur’s habeas corpus petition without the usual two years of consideration. The other awards of commissary and catalog-ordering privileges and additional phone time, while important concessions to fairness, are also ways prison contractors can make additional profits. The extra eight hours per week out of their cells will ease the inmates’ isolation marginally, but the warden did not agree to house them with other death-row prisoners.
The enormous Ohio-wide, nationwide and international movement that swung into action in support of the Lucasville hunger strikers now has to shift focus toward overturning their convictions and halting their executions. As of noon on Jan. 15, all three men had resumed eating. Robb sent this message out to the many thousands of supporters: “Thank you. Your voices were heard. We will be back in touch for the next round.”
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