This is an extraordinary story that deserves much wider coverage, as well as action in solidarity everywhere. Watch especially the Democracy Now video: “People locked up in tiny cells for multiple decades with indefinite sentences . . . We never had to get into rendition if we are to allow torture in the prisons of California . . . I’m scared people are going to start dying, fasting to death. I think they’re [the fasting prisoners] betting on the compassion of people who live in California, the United States. What scares me is I don’t know if that compassion exists . . .”
Pelican Bay prisoners have been fasting for two weeks already. Many of them are old, with pre-existing medical conditions. “Historically, people have used civil disobedience to prevent mass death. And that’s the situation we are in now.”
If this doesn’t have the power to become our Tahrir Square, I don’t know what does.
Thanks to firedoglake.com
by Kevin Gosztole
July 16, 2011
There will be much more to report on this on Monday, but here is some news on the prisoner hunger strike at Pelican Bay. The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition reports:
This afternoon leaders of the Pelican Bay hunger strike unanimously rejected a proposal from the [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] to end the strike. In response to the prisoners’ five, straightforward demands, the CDCR distributed a vaguely worded document stating that it would “effect a comprehensive assessment of its existing policy and procedure” about the secure housing units (SHUs). The document gave no indication if any changes would be made at all.
While the CDCR has claimed that there is no medical crisis, mediators report that the principal hunger strikers have lost 25-35 pounds each and have underlying medical conditions of concern. Despite the promises from the federal Receiver overseeing the CDCR, no one has received salt tablets or vitamins.
The report notes that the “settlement document distributed last night to all hunger strikers at Pelican Bay prison” was so dismaying to those who had engaged in prison resistance that it “resulted in some people who have gone off the strike to resume refusing food.”
Organizers now say supporters have a challenge to “match the courage of the hunger strikers” and “effectively pressure the CDCR to immediately negotiate on the standards any negotiation should follow: with the prisoners in good faith, addressing all of the demands, and with the prisoner-approved outside mediation team.”
For supporters, there will be a demonstration outside CDCR headquarters on July 18th from 1-4 pm.
Solitary Watch previously reported on the protest that was launched in response to prison conditions of solitary confinement:
The responses thus far from the CDCR have been uniformly hostile and sometimes dismissive. Thornton told a California public radio reporter that prisoners might be clandestinely eating. “Some inmates have been seen eating food items that they’ve purchased from the canteen,” she claimed. “Some have not. Some inmates are refusing to be weighed. That may be an indication that they are eating. It’s really hard to say because they’re refusing that medical evaluation.”
California prisons are being monitored by the federal government, in response conditions so poor as to be “intolerable with the concept of human dignity,” according to a recent landmark decision by the Supreme Court. But the court-appointed federal receiver in charge of prison health care, likewise dismissed reports that some prisoners’ health problems were growing dire. ”I think the information that’s in the news release is largely exaggerated,” Nancy Kincaid told the radio station. “At this time we have no inmates who are refusing liquids and we have no report of inmates who are refusing medication. There are inmates who are refusing medical care. They have the right to do that.”
For those who are unaware of details on prison conditions at Pelican Bay and why the prisoners are striking, here’s Democracy Now!‘s segment on the strike from Friday’s broadcast: