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We Must Open Our Eyes to America’s Political Prisoners

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    by Danny Pforte

    The United States, with by far the largest prison population in the world, denies that it holds even one person for political reasons. In reality, the very size and ferocity of the American Gulag sends a clear political message to all: “challenging the US imperial order, or merely being disruptive to the dictates of private property, can lead to human disappearance.”


    We Must Open Our Eyes to America’s Political Prisoners

    by Danny Pforte

    They are locked away because their existence is dangerous to the American imperial order.”

    Herman Wallace perished one day after his release from Angola prison. Herman’s death comes just weeks after President Obama begged for “humanitarian” missile strikes on Syria. His death happened days after the conveniently timed shootings in DC, Chicago, and Nairobi. The corporate media is too busy hiding the US military apparatus’s criminality in each of these events to make Herman Wallace’s passing, Lynne Stewart’s declining health, and the stories of all the caged political prisoners in America a priority. After all, doing so would undermine the contracts and special privileges corporate media giants receive for being committed mouthpieces for US imperial policy.

    The late Herman Wallace and the dying Lynne Stewart are among the numerous prisoners the US keeps caged away for their political activity. Herman Wallace was framed for murder for helping organize a Black Panther Party chapter in the Angola Prison of Louisiana. His battle against the racist prison system won him over 41 years in solitary confinement. Herman died of lung cancer and was never able to undergo treatment. Lynne Stewart, a people’s lawyer, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for “zealously defending her client.” Her client was accused of “terrorism” by the U.S. “war on terror” machine. Lynne is now dying of Stage IV breast cancer in federal prison and has been refused compassionate release for medical treatment by the Obama Administration.

    US politicians cheered and clapped after police shot an unarmed Black woman who drove her car into White House territory. They shed crocodile tears over the children who were affected by the chemical weapons attack in Syria. They condemned the mall shooting in Nairobi. But no condemnations, words of remorse, or tears are shed for America’s own political prisoners. President Obama’s only concern is to ensure that the ruling classes of capital are provided with the conditions necessary for the super-exploitation of America’s poor, Black, and struggling classes. The American empire’s political survival is at stake after the embarrassing outcome in Syria that has capped 4.5 years of Bush-on-steroids policies under the guise of “war on terror” and “humanitarian” motivations. It is time to realize the dogs of capital in the White House cannot learn new tricks. They will continue to remain silent on the very existence of political prisoners (let alone their release) while loudly barking about their love of freedom and democracy.

    This imprisonment is not random; it is for the purposes of racist and capitalist hegemony.”

    It is our responsibility to correctly explain to everyone and anyone willing to listen that America is a political prison. The US has the largest prison population in the world and no other country comes close in comparison. But this imprisonment is not random; it is for the purposes of racist and capitalist hegemony and American empire building. Lynne Stewart, Herman Wallace, Mutulu Shakur, and Mumia Abdul-Jamal dedicated their lives to liberating Black people and oppressed people from all forms of American enslavement and terrorism. They are locked away because their existence is dangerous to the American imperial order. Ruth Wilson Gilmore has written extensively about the ideological meaning of prisons. Prisons, and political prisoners within them, send a clear message that challenging the US imperial order, or merely being disruptive to the dictates of private property, can lead to human disappearance.

    The US imperial order’s belly is on fire. The military-state continues to conduct surveillance and war while 800,000 workers are laid off and services like SNAP and WIC are reduced. Our very existence on this planet is endangered every day that US imperialism is allowed to live on. The dominance of the US corporate media makes it more likely for a person to watch Miley Cirus’s new documentary than to know the story of Herman Wallace, Lynne Stewart, or any US political prisoner. We need to bring our repressed and forgotten heroes into any popular movement that seeks to stand up to the national security surveillance state, mass Black imprisonment, and US imperialism’s social, political, and economic oppression in general.

    On November 1st in Roxbury, activists in the International Action Center are screening Mumia Abu Jamal’s film Long Distance Revolutionary as a small step toward forwarding the struggle to free all political prisoners. Viewers of this film will quickly understand that Mumia, Herman, and Lynne are not the result of bad government policy. Political imprisonment is intentional, and part and parcel of a decaying empire. We must celebrate Herman Wallace’s life and work to save Lynne’s and all political prisoners who remain in America’s gulags. If they aren’t free, none of us can ever be free.

    Danny is a social worker for the homeless in the Greater Boston Area. Danny has primarily been involved in struggle around race, class, and US empire.  He can be contacted at

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