“Gentlemen, the Dragon Will Fly Out”
In Support of September 9th Mobilization in US Prisons
“Gentlemen, the dragon will fly out” is a saying attributed to prisoner George Jackson. On August 21st 1971, holding a pistol, he opened all the cells in an adjustment unit, taking jailers hostage. George Jackson was killed in his attempt to escape…
Since September 9th, prisoners in the United States have called for action against slavery.
A multitude of “invisible” slaves (there are about 2.5 million prisoners in the United States) are condemned to forced labor, or as jailers of their own selves (internal work in prisons, cleaning, repairs, technical operations), or as cheap meat in the service of corporate behemoths (Honda, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, and many others). Besides, the 13th amendment to the US constitution clearly states: “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted…” To put it simply, detainees are considered slaves as part of their punishment.
Prisons in America—and not just there–aren’t only bars, walls, surveillance cameras or lockdowns. They’re also an enormous lucrative business. Prisons are a dirty dealing for continuously supplied shackled labor force without name and without voice. They represent a modern slave trade, making billion-dollar profit, that not only supplies the companies-caretakers but also the industry of lawyers, judges, cops, corrections officers, private prisons.
Not long ago yet another judicial scandal, the “kids for cash” case, was revealed. President Judge Mark Ciavarella convicted juveniles (from 10 to 18 years of age) for the slightest offense, taking million-dollar kickbacks from the owners of private prisons Powell and Mericle with the purpose of supplying them with thousands of children prison slaves.
In Greece, incarceration is much more “velvet”, but it doesn’t cease to be incarceration. Greek prisons may not supply multinational companies with slaves, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a well-staged business operation. Not only do prisons fund an army of leeches (lawyers, cops, corrections officers, judges), but they make big business with construction companies (through overpriced contracts), pharmaceutical companies (after Greek hospitals, Greek prisons are the second best customer of the pharmaceutical industry, since handfuls of psychiatric drugs are administered to prisoners to keep them asleep), and large supermarket chains (always making sure to overprice items sold to prisoners).
Throughout America, massive arrests of suspects—that include humiliations, beatings, and shootings in the back—do not just serve “the restoration of the law”, but are a modern slave hunt for exploitation.
“Let the crops rot in the plantation fields,” write the prisoners in their callout against slavery, recalling the history of slaves in America; because sometimes, to move forward, you must go back to the roots, into the past. For every story of slaves there’s a story of a Spartacus.
Prisoners didn’t randomly choose the date of September 9th to begin their struggle. Forty five years ago, on September 9th 1971, a unique day was written in the calendar of dignity and struggle. It was on the fourth day of Attica riots that 1,000 cops stormed the prison, leaving behind 43 dead, including 33 inmates and 10 hostages (corrections officers and civilian employees), and 250 wounded. Back then, prisoners demanded amnesty, the release of political prisoners, and an end to torture. Now, they want to stop being slaves.
The Attica prison rebellion wasn’t a firework but the culmination of a decision taken by prisoners, expressed through slogans like: “If we cannot live as human beings, we will at least try to die as humans.” With so much blood already shed in a tide of events and acts, they had ruled out any possibility of making a return to prison normalcy.
Prisoners George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette, known as the “Soledad Brothers”, were accused of killing a prison guard at Soledad prison on January 16th 1970, in retaliation for the murder of three fellow prisoners by a corrections officer during a fight between inmates three days prior.
On August 7th 1970, George Jackson’s brother, Jonathan, stormed the Marin County courthouse armed with a shotgun and revolvers and alongside three prisoners, who attended a trial inside, took the Judge, the District Attorney and three jurors hostage. Jonathan and the prisoners demanded the release of the “Soledad Brothers”. The court was surrounded, and a shootout with cops and jailers ensued. Two of the prisoners, Jonathan Jackson and the judge held hostage were gunned down.
On August 21st 1971, George Jackson was shot to death by a guard at San Quentin prison. Jackson was carrying a gun and intended to escape. A disturbance in the prison occurred just before the killing, when three guards and two inmates-snitches were executed.
All these individual acts of rebellion were not detached from the collective power that the prisoners had begun to develop. These actions exceeded the prison walls and nurtured, and were nurtured by, the rebellions of blacks against racism and the movement against the Vietnam War at the time. Nowadays, the struggle of prisoners in the US against slavery is also tied to the movement in protest of police violence and shootings against black people.
Naturally, such struggles are closer to civil rights movements rather than total liberation movements. However, the prisoners themselves state: “We are not making demands or requests of our captors.”
Oftentimes in these struggles, such as we’ve experienced in Greek prisons, there’s a large portion of the prison population who insist on non-violence and “negotiating unionism” logic that leads to wire-pulling and emergence of representatives with personal ambitions. We therefore don’t want to falsify the characteristics of an intermediate struggle to make it appear as anarchic.
Anarchist prisoner Michael Kimble, apparently designated as a “ringleader” of rebellions, has criticized the pacifism that lurks in such mobilizations, stating: “I struggle within F.A.M. (Free Alabama Movement) not because I believe in the system, but because it causes pain to the state, but in no way do I think F.A.M. or any of the Freedom movements are going to topple the state.”
Intermediate struggles, when restricted in sectional demands, maim any total liberation perspective. The interest of an anarchist towards intermediate struggles is, through their intervention, to turn them into the accelerator of insurgency and revolution. There were plenty of moments when instances of prison struggle and armed urban guerrilla experiences mutually fed into one another. In the US, the Weather Underground organization attacked courts (Marin County courthouse, Long Island courthouse, and corrections offices) in solidarity with rebellious prisoners. In Germany, the RAF attacked several judicial officers and prosecutors in retaliation for the isolation of their imprisoned comrades, while in 1993 they literally blew up the Weiterstadt prison. In Italy, the Red Brigades, NAP (organization originating within prison walls), Prima Linea and many more armed cells organized escapes and kidnappings to release their comrades, and executed judges. On October 2nd 1979, political prisoners revolted and set fire to the Asinara maximum security prison. In Spain, GRAPO targeted prison governors and prison doctors.
In Greece, Conspiracy of Cells of Fire blew up the Thessaloniki courthouse and the Athens administrative court of first instance, placed a bomb outside Koridallos prison in 2010, and in cooperation with the Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI) attacked interrogating judges, prison directors and corrections officers.
In every part of the Earth, prisons are a monument of people’s enslavement. Prisons are the most concentrated form of tyranny; the face of Power, without any makeup; the punitive nature of democracy; the vengeful sense of its justice. Every attack, every act of rebellion, every mobilization that disturbs the operation of prisons is a kick in the guts of oppression. It challenges its omnipotence, within its own walls. Certainly, the September 9th mobilization against slavery in US prisons may not be the anarchic utopia of freedom we wish for, but it can be a pebble in the pond that creates small ripples in the water. And oftentimes these ripples precede the outbreak of an enormous tide…
For nine months before the state police came
and opened fire at Attica penitentiary
prison doctors said to sick Puerto Ricans
who understood only Spanish
“First learn English, then you can come back.”
It’s difficult to learn English when you’re dead
but they will come back for sure…
(Erich Fried, “The Return: Attica State Prison”)
Conspiracy of Cells of Fire / Urban Guerrilla Cell
September 9th 2016
Koridallos prisons (Athens, Greece)