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10 January 2014

PDC Holiday Appeal: Greetings from the Class-War Prisoners

The Partisan Defense Committee held its 28th annual Holiday Appeal events in December to raise funds for monthly stipends and holiday gifts to class-war prisoners and their families. At the December 15 event in Chicago, Spartacist League spokesman Patricia Kepler explained how the Holiday Appeal is an elementary act of solidarity: “We are here today to honor those who have been thrown behind bars, framed up, tortured by this country’s many governments—Republican and Democrat—for the simple reason that they stood up, spoke up and fought against the crimes of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad. Their fight is our fight.” She continued: “Although many look to the Democratic Party as a lesser evil, the simple fact is that Obama has done the job that the main body of the ruling class selected him for: overseer for the capitalist profit system that criminalizes young black men and chews up working people, spitting them out when their labor is no longer needed.”

In Chicago, the audience heard a recorded greeting from Alex Stuck, who had just been released from prison. He is one of the Tinley Park 5, a group of anti-racist militants thrown into prison for dispersing a meeting of fascists outside Chicago in May 2012. They are the most recent additions to the stipend program. In his greeting, Stuck stressed the importance to prisoners of knowing that there are people on the outside fighting for them: (read more...)

10 January 2014

The World We’re In

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

The following commentary dated 21 November 2013 was read at the Holiday Appeal event for class-war prisoners in New York City, December 15.

Who believed that the world that we see before us would be here, like this, when the last 2 elections were held?

OK—perhaps some of you had a clue. But for most of us, deep down, we believed we were on the brink of epic change. We thought that the social problems gnawing at the community, joblessness, the immense and monstrous mass incarceration system, homelessness, and the serious social problems of schools would be—well, at the very least, addressed. (read more...)

10 January 2014

Defiant Lynne Stewart Finally Released

On December 31, leftist attorney Lynne Stewart finally left behind her the prison walls that have been “home” for the past four years after her frame-up conviction in a “war on terror” show trial. Terminally ill with Stage IV breast cancer, the 74-year-old Stewart walked out of the Federal Medical Center Carswell, a women’s prison hospital in Texas, and flew home to New York City, where she was greeted by family and friends. This brought to a close her months-long fight for the right to die at home surrounded by loved ones, a demand supported by more than 40,000 petitioners worldwide.

After months of obstruction, the Justice Department finally allowed U.S. District Judge John Koeltl, Stewart’s trial judge, to order her release on the grounds of her “terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy.” The relief of Stewart’s supporters is tinged with the bitter knowledge that federal authorities had vindictively prolonged her imprisonment knowing her terminal condition. In fact, from the working-class point of view, this partisan of the downtrodden and oppressed should not have spent a single day behind bars. (read more...)

13 December 2013

Drop Charges Against CUNY Protesters!

Over the past semester, the City University of New York (CUNY) administration has been on a tear to suppress leftist political activity. Its latest reprisal was to bring criminal charges against Khalil Vasquez and Tafadar Sourov for their role in protesting the closure of the Morales/Shakur Center at City College of New York (CCNY) on October 24. The administration had shut down the center, a meeting space for leftist, minority and other student and community groups, after weeks of demonstrations against war criminal David Petraeus teaching at CUNY and the return of the Reserve Officers Training Corps to campus.

Vasquez and Sourov, both of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, had already been suspended from CCNY following the October 24 protest, as reported in our Young Spartacus pages (see “Rescind Suspensions of CCNY Protesters!”, WV No. 1034, 15 November). On November 22, at a CCNY disciplinary hearing regarding their suspension, both students pleaded “no contest and no admission of guilt.” As a result, they will be allowed to return to CCNY next semester, but the suspension will only be expunged from their record provided they stay in line by the lights of the administration. (read more...)

6 September 2013

Sentenced to 35 Years

Free Chelsea Manning!

Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning was sentenced by a military judge at the end of her court martial on August 21 to 35 years in prison with a dishonorable discharge for giving more than 700,000 classified military documents, diplomatic cables and war footage to WikiLeaks. After over three years of pretrial detention, which included torture in solitary confinement, she has been demoted and is now incarcerated in the military’s maximum-security prison at Leavenworth undergoing “the indoctrination process,” according to Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, during which all contact with the outside world is cut off. The persecution of Manning is a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s campaign against whistle-blowers and significantly its first conviction under the 1917 Espionage Act. It serves as a warning of what the government has in store for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and Edward Snowden for publicizing details of U.S. war atrocities and massive routine domestic spying.

In a statement to Obama requesting a presidential pardon, Manning referenced the crimes of U.S. imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, and continued: “Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.” Manning released the classified documents in order to expose inhumanity and torture. In so doing, Manning performed a service to the working class internationally in helping lift the veil on U.S. imperialist barbarity. (read more...)

6 September 2013

Medical Release Denied

Free Lynne Stewart!

Lynne Stewart, 73 years old and terminally ill with Stage IV breast cancer, was again denied medical release from prison on August 9. Judge John G. Koeltl turned down her latest request on the grounds that the Federal Bureau of Prisons must first make a motion in favor of such a release. This ruling throws the case back to the very prison authorities carrying out the vendetta against this outspoken leftist lawyer with a history of defending radicals, black militants and the poor. Federal prison director, Charles E. Samuels Jr., refused to release Stewart last June, falsely and vindictively citing an improvement in her health! Stewart, whose cancer has metastasized to her lungs, bones, lymph nodes and shoulder, is facing death within the prison walls if she is not released soon.

In a 2005 “war on terror” show trial, Stewart was framed up and convicted for giving material support to terrorism when representing Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. The alleged “material support” was to communicate her client’s views to Reuters news service. This verdict gave the government a green light to prosecute lawyers for the alleged crimes of their clients and trampled on the basic right to counsel and free speech. (read more...)

12 July 2013

Asylum Now for Edward Snowden!

JULY 8—Five weeks after the London Guardian printed accounts of the massive collection of phone records and Internet spying by the National Security Agency (NSA), former agency contractor Edward Snowden, who provided the documentation, by all accounts remains holed up in the transit section of a Moscow airport. Stung by Snowden’s revelations, the U.S. imperialists are seeking their pound of flesh. The State Department weeks ago revoked Snowden’s passport to prevent his travel as Washington fights to return him to the U.S., where he would face decades in prison on charges of espionage, theft and conversion of government property. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia to their credit have offered him political asylum. In tearing yet another veil off the U.S. spying machine, Snowden performed a great service to workers and the oppressed, in the U.S. and internationally, who are the ultimate target of the capitalist rulers’ apparatus of state repression.

Early speculation that Ecuador would offer asylum to Snowden was dashed when President Rafael Correa backtracked, stating on June 27 that such a request could only be considered if Snowden were on Ecuadorian territory. This came after Vice President Joe Biden worked the phones to put pressure on leaders of Snowden’s possible destination countries. The arm-twisting culminated last week in a chilling act of imperial arrogance against the president of impoverished Bolivia, Evo Morales. After Morales announced in Moscow that he would consider giving asylum to Snowden, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, clearly acting at the behest of the U.S., closed their airspace on July 2 to block Morales’ plane on the return trip to La Paz, claiming they had information that Snowden was on board. Diverted from their planned route, which had been agreed to in advance, pilots in fear of running out of fuel were forced to land in Vienna, where the plane was kept for 14 hours before being allowed to depart. (read more...)

12 July 2013

Sadistic Feds Deny Lynne Stewart Release

Free Her Now!

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Charles E. Samuels Jr., has denied compassionate release for 73-year-old leftist lawyer Lynne Stewart, whose health is rapidly deteriorating due to Stage IV breast cancer that has spread to her lungs, lymph nodes and shoulders. With a long history of defending radicals, black militants and the poor, Stewart was convicted in 2005 in a “war on terror” show trial, along with her interpreter, Mohamed Yousry, and her paralegal, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, for her vigorous defense of a blind Egyptian cleric imprisoned for an alleged plot to blow up New York City landmarks in the 1990s. Originally sentenced to 28 months in prison, Stewart was resentenced in 2010 to ten years at the instigation of the Obama administration. We noted at the time that this was effectively a death sentence, which the Feds are clearly determined to carry out.

Samuels, appointed head of America’s vast dungeon system by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2011, has spat on the demands of over 20,000 people who have signed a petition for Stewart’s release, ignoring as well the recommendations of the warden of the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Texas, where Stewart languishes. Stewart is too weak to receive medical treatment to arrest the cancer, and her white blood cell count has dropped to dangerous levels. Her husband, Ralph Poynter, has fought valiantly for her release and return to her family in New York City. In a statement following the Feds’ decision—an act of calculated cruelty—Poynter declared, “We shall not stand by idly while the Federal Bureau of Prisons murders Lynne Stewart.” (read more...)

12 July 2013

Guantánamo: Fear and Hunger

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

We print below a column by class-war prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal transcribed from a June 6 recording.

The word “Guantánamo” has become a watchword for the world. It is a temple of state terror, of imperial fear and American hypocrisy.

Since 2002, it has been transformed from a U.S. naval base on Cuban soil—against the wishes of the Cuban government, it must be said—to a global torture center and an interrogation chamber. Opened under Bush/Cheney and maintained under Obama, it has been a detention center designed for perpetual detention to hundreds of men and boys. An international outcry forced the government to release over 500 men back to half a dozen countries. (read more...)

12 July 2013

Protest Prison Harassment of Mumia Abu-Jamal!

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, renowned journalist and supporter of the Philadelphia MOVE organization, is America’s foremost class-war prisoner. Mumia was railroaded to death row in 1982 on false charges of killing a police officer. In December 2011, the death sentence was removed, but Mumia still remains sentenced to life in prison without parole. The following is a July 6 letter from the Partisan Defense Committee to John E. Wetzel of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

We write to protest recent administrative measures taken against political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Prison officials suspended Mr. Jamal’s access to telephone communication for two weeks as punishment for a phone interview with Philadelphia attorney Michael Coard, on his WURD program, “Radio Courtroom.” (read more...)

14 June 2013

Exposed U.S. Atrocities and Lies

Truth-Teller on Trial: Free Bradley Manning!

FORT MEADE—On June 3, the court-martial of Bradley Manning, an army intelligence analyst who released classified information in order to expose the barbarism of U.S. military occupation and domination in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, finally began. In more than three years of pretrial detention aimed at destroying the mind, body and soul of this whistleblower, Manning was held in torturous conditions of solitary confinement, deprived of sleep, clothing and even his eyeglasses, while being taunted and poked at continually by sadistic guards. Yet Manning courageously held fast to his political purpose: to expose evidence of monstrous war crimes and everyday U.S. overlordship of Third World countries.

On Saturday, June 1, some 1,000 supporters rallied in blistering heat outside the Fort Meade Army base near Washington, D.C., to demand freedom for Bradley Manning. Police blocked roads leading to the protest to obstruct people from joining or seeing the rally and march. Print, radio and television journalists from a large number of countries covered the protest, but the only mainstream American media present was the right-wing Fox News. The conspicuous absence of the U.S. capitalist press was consistent with its deliberate efforts to bury Bradley Manning’s case because his truth-telling effectively puts the U.S. government on trial. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg proclaimed Manning a hero for all humanity, addressing the audience of military veterans, lesbian and gay rights activists, civil libertarians, antiwar radicals and left organizations. (read more...)

31 May 2013

Remember the MOVE Massacre

May 1985 Bombing: Racist State Terror

On 13 May 1985, the Philadelphia police, with the cooperation of Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI, consciously carried out racist state murder. Acting on the orders of black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode and the Reagan White House, the cops dropped a satchel with C-4 explosives onto the MOVE organization’s Osage Avenue home. The explosion and ensuing firestorm killed eleven black people, including five children, and destroyed an entire city block, leaving hundreds homeless. The bombing capped a 12-hour cop siege during which over 10,000 rounds of ammunition were fired into the house. Firefighters were prevented by police from tackling the blaze for more than an hour, and the cops shot at anyone trying to escape the inferno. There were only two survivors: 13-year-old Birdie Africa and Ramona Africa, who was sent to prison for seven years for the “crime” of still being alive.

This massacre was the culmination of years of police harassment, beatings and hundreds of arrests of members of this mostly black back-to-nature commune known for denouncing “the system” and defending its right to armed self-defense. In August 1978, 600 Philly cops had surrounded and attacked MOVE’s Powelton Village compound, unleashing a barrage of gunfire. Nine MOVE members were framed up and sentenced to between 30 and 100 years in prison after a cop was killed in the ferocious police crossfire. Merle Africa died in prison in 1998; the others are still locked away in Pennsylvania’s prison hellholes. (read more...)

26 May 2013

Drop the Charges Against Victimized USC Students

The following letter to Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer was written in response to a racist cop rampage against a black student party at the University of Southern California.

The Partisan Defense Committee demands that all charges be dropped against the six black USC students assaulted and arrested after the Los Angeles Police Department broke up a largely black party at USC on May 4th. Following an alleged noise complaint, some 79 armed cops in riot gear insulted, beat and arrested students. One is facing a trumped up felony charge of interfering with the police and five others are facing misdemeanor charges of failing to disperse.

The police attack on this black graduation party was a racist provocation intended to intimidate all minority students at USC, where blacks make up only 5% of the student body. These arrests are just the most recent in a string of police harassment and assaults against black and Latino students on campus, including increased ID checks and manhandling of minority students. The PDC stands in solidarity with the protests against this racist LAPD raid and we demand that all the charges be dropped now!

17 May 2013

USC: Riot Cops Raid Black Student Party

LOS ANGELES—In the early morning hours on May 4, University of Southern California (USC) students celebrating the end of classes were attending two off-campus parties across the street from each other. One party attracted mainly white students, the other mostly black and Latino students. When cops responded to complaints of noise, the former gathering was “treated with respect,” according to one participant, while the other was treated to a phalanx of 79 fully armed cops in riot gear, with a helicopter hovering overhead. The students “were herded like animals, beaten, arrested, insulted, and quite frankly, abused,” said one partygoer. It made no difference that the party had been registered with the university and that student IDs were checked at the door. Cops piled on top of students and assaulted them, inflicting multiple injuries. Six students were arrested and jailed overnight. “They were acting like they were going to war with us,” said Jason Sneed, one of the arrested black students. Now free on bail, they still face trumped-up charges, such as failing to disperse and interfering with the police. We demand: drop all the charges!

This cop rampage was a direct provocation against minority students, intended to send a graphic message of intimidation. But it did not go down without protest. On May 6, more than a hundred students held a sit-in on campus. The next day, at an open forum moderated by members of the USC administration and the LAPD, the 1,200-seat ballroom could not hold all the students, community members and alumni of all races who showed up to protest the cop attack, including attendees from both of the parties. For the campus administration, the forum was, in the words of an organizer, “an attempt at reconciliation and at collaboration” designed to head off any further protest. The LAPD, naturally, blamed the victims of the police brutality by claiming that “a can or bottle was thrown” and brazenly denying that the cop rampage was “race-based.” But when the LAPD’s South Bureau commander Bill Scott asked, “How many people—just by a show of hands—think this incident was based on race?” the hands of virtually everybody in the room shot up. One woman asked if she could raise two. (read more...)

The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which champions cases and causes in the interest of the whole of the working people. This purpose is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League. Our heritage is the working-class defense policies of the International Labor Defense (ILD), under its founder and first secretary from 1925-1928, James P. Cannon. The PDC was initiated by the Spartacist League in 1974, and stands on the record of principled defense work conducted by the Spartacist League.

The PDC is partisan: we stand unconditionally on the side of working people and their allies in struggle against their exploiters and oppressors. We place all our faith in the power of the masses and no faith whatever in the “justice” of the courts. While favoring all possible legal proceedings for the cases we support, we recognize that the courts, prisons and police exist to maintain through organized violence and terror the rule of one class over others. In its partisanship, the PDC is also anti-sectarian. We champion causes and defend cases whose victorious outcomes are in the interest of working people, irrespective of particular political views. We defend, in the words of James P. Cannon, “any member of the workers movement, regardless of his views, who suffered persecution by the capitalist courts because of his activities or his opinion” (The First Ten Years of American Communism).