We are Staten Islanders who were shocked, saddened, angered, and ultimately moved to action by the NYPD’s harassment and murder of Eric Garner which took place on July 17th, 2014, and the subsequent miscarriage of justice when one of his murderers, Daniel Pantaleo, received a non-indictment in December of that year. Staten Island Against Racism and Police Brutality (Siarapb) subsequently formed as a diverse multi-racial and multi-ethnic group of students, faculty, and members of the community on the eve of the non-indictment that had had enough with the harassment, murder and impunity of the NYPD, and the larger patterns of police brutality, mass incarceration, and Stop & Frisk, Broken Windows, and Quality of Life policing which disproportionately targets people and communities of color here in Staten Island and across the United States.
As we write this, we are coming up on two years of justice denied, as Eric’s children are deprived of their father, while the officer that killed him walks free. It has also been two years of justice misplaced, as his friend, Ramsey Orta, who filmed and released the video of Eric’s murder, continues to be subjected to a prosecutorial witch hunt for challenging the authority of the NYPD. Two years later we are still calling for justice to be brought to the parties responsible for Eric Garner’s death and for greater accountability from our justice system.
We find it a tragic fact that our country has found it more profitable to lock people up than to educate and ensure their general well-being. Many states contracted out the management of their prisons to private for-profit corporations, often with a guarantee that the prisons will remain at a given percentage of capacity at all times, or else subsidize the corporation for loss-of-income. This of course is to the detriment of the children and adults who, whether through the school-to-prison pipeline or the police terror which blacks, immigrants and poor are subjected to daily, are funneled into a system that was designed to profit off their misery. Incarcerated people in the United States are often made to endure substandard living conditions and subjected to various cruel reprimands. This includes toxic food or starvation rations, abuse, including verbal or sexual assault by guards or other prisoners and denial of visitation rights or parole. They are also often forced to work for little or no pay, despite the fact that the prison commissaries charge extortionate prices for everyday necessities and basic medical services come at prohibitively expensive costs. Private corporations have been making exorbitant profits off of prisoners’ misery as some items sold with the label “Made in the USA” are made using forced and unpaid prison labor. A Call to Action (https://iwoc.noblogs.org/post/2016/04/01/announcement-of-nationally-coordinated-prisoner-workstoppage-for-sept-9-2016/) was written by prisoners in Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, and Virginia, in which they rightly labeled this practice as slavery. This is no accident, as the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution did not abolish slavery and involuntary servitude when used “as punishment for a crime.” Slavery continues to this day in the form of forced prison labor.
Slavery in the United States will end, and prisoners will be the ones to end it. In April of this year, prisoners affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) led a three week prison strike in Texas. In May, the Free Alabama Movement led a 10 day prison strike which culminated in the state of Alabama rejecting a bill that would expand the prison system. In June, prisoners in two prisons in Wisconsin went on hunger strike against the use of long-term solitary confinement, which the United Nations has determined constitutes torture, and they did so with the support of people on the outside. This momentum will carry on.
Siara PB is proud to join many organizations across the country in a Call to Action for a Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Work Stoppage on September 9th, 2016, and we encourage other groups to also give their endorsement!!