May Day: Building on Our Radical Past

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IWW Scotland

Our May Day History

May Day has been a festive holiday for centuries. As a workers’ holiday, May Day arises from events that took place in Chicago in 1886 when a bomb exploded as police charged a rally. Four of the organizers were unjustly executed although they were not responsible for the bomb. In July 1889, the Socialist International called for rallies on May 1st, 1890, out of respect for those executed and for the solidarity of the international working class.

On the first Sunday of May in 1891 the first May Day event in Glasgow took place on the Glasgow Green.

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Four Imprisoned Rhode Islanders Punished With Solitary Confinement at the ACI for Possession of Legally-Protected Union Literature

iwoc-logo_0Providence, RI March 5th, 2019 – The RI DOC (Department of Corrections) has held four men for over ten days in solitary confinement at the ACI (Adult Correctional Institution) for allegedly possessing union literature, according to a statement provided to the press. The four men — Joseph Shepard, Ryan Callahan, Anthony Meo, and a fourth whose name is unknown — were transferred from the general population of the ACI’s John J. Moran Medium 1 Facility into solitary confinement between February 21-22, in an apparent attempt by the DOC to prevent legitimate and legal efforts towards addressing the inhumane conditions at the ACI.  As of Friday March 1st, at least two of the four men have yet to even be booked for the alleged violations on which they are being held.

While under solitary confinement — or “disciplinary confinement”, as it’s referred to by the DOC —  all four are being denied access to legal documents, rehabilitative and therapeutic programs, adequate medical care, and contact with their families and supporters is limited to a single ten-minute phone call each day. A lawyer with knowledge of the case said,

“A filing deadline in one of the men’s cases against the Department of Corrections has already been missed for lack of access to legal documents, and the restrictions will almost certainly interfere with the individual’s ability to show up in court. “

In a preliminary statement about the situation, Callahan comments:

“I was [brought] down here without any answers, without any [of my] property. I’ve been down here for over a week now and have not been booked. […] I have not been able to speak with the psychiatrist whom I have an appointment with and missed. That appointment has not been rescheduled. The orthotic insole to my shoe has not been provided to me. As far as medicine, I have been receiving just the medicine that I’m prescribed. I have basically been kicked out of all the programs I was attending (Providence Center, 9 Yards, CCRI, College Unbound, and parenting).”

Prior to this current solitary confinement, two of the people being held – Joseph Shepard and Ryan Callahan – had filed separate federal lawsuits against the RIDOC. In one of those lawsuits, among other grievances, Shepard cites prison conditions and disciplinary practices that he argues amount to “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of rights that are supposed to be protected by the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Shepard also recently sent an extensive 150 page letter to various RIDOC officials with detailed grievances about conditions at the ACI as well as problems with DOC policies such as the official grievance process itself and arbitrary requirements which severely restrict access to core rehabilitative programs that many inmates need for parole – programs which Shepard and the other three people are at risk of losing access to due to their placement in solitary confinement. That 150 page letter also included clear requests and proposals for how to address the problems outlined in the grievances.

When Joseph Shepard asked the  the Warden about the letter of grievances, “he said that I wouldn’t be getting a response then he smiled and continued to walk off when I further asked him about the progress of the investigation.“ This has led Sheard to view his being placed in solitary as retaliatory in nature “because I continue, in a positive way, to directly address the harsh confinement of prison conditions not only on behalf of myself, but on behalf of the prison population.”

In 2011, The United Nations UN Special Rapporteur on Torture “called on all countries to ban the solitary confinement of prisoners except in very exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible … saying the practice could amount to torture.” The Rhode Island DOC plans to hold the men for up to 90 days while investigating them, where the same UN report recommended an “absolute prohibition” of “solitary confinement in excess of 15 days”, citing scientific evidence for lasting mental damage beyond a few days of social isolation. The 90-day detention policy also flies in the face of RI’s own 2017 legislative commission report recommending that “only those who commit the most serious predatory offenses will be subject to segregation for more than 31 days [..] Non-predatory Class 1 offenses would be limited to 30 days and Class 2 offenses would be capped at 20.”

The four individuals stand accused of attempting to ‘organize a demonstration’ because of their alleged possession of literature produced by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), an NLRB-certified labor union with a significant membership in prisons across the country. Additionally, they are also being accused of ‘signing into an illegal contract’ for filling out union membership forms. Others at the facility report having been threatened with the same “disciplinary confinement” if they are found in possession of IWW or IWOC literature, or caught talking about the union, indicating that the union’s literature is being treated as contraband by the RIDOC.

Shepard expressed further thoughts in his statement to the press:

“I use my words on paper to articulate these harsh conditions of confinement and here I sit in segregation, wasting away. My programs have been taken away from me, my CCRI classes, my phone calls, my rec, my visits. I’m on 23 hour lockdown. I deal with PTSD and anxiety and I feel as the days go by that it’s just getting worse. I’m trying to change things for the better but they are specifically trying to deter me and other inmates from filing grievances and from being outspoken about the conditions of confinement.”

About Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee:  The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) is a prisoner-led section of the Industrial Workers of the World working to end prison abuse and exploitation.

Contact:

Servio (401) 401-484-7288 or Liam (401) 649-0579

PO Box 27913 Providence, RI 02907
providence@incarceratedworkers.org

Notes to editors

[1] Ryan Callahan – Statement for the press (3-1-2019): https://drive.google.com/open?id=1cdakPOcLRwBDM73mSg4apOIi897Zvam1

[2] Joseph Shepard – Statement for the press (3-1-2019): https://drive.google.com/open?id=1lzzwRvNTbp0eajeAFMObs-GgoDhB7QyF

[3] UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, 2011 report  https://news.un.org/en/story/2011/10/392012-solitary-confinement-should-be-banned-most-cases-un-expert-says#.UdsQoT5gaBg

[4] Packet of Grievances About RIDOC and ACI Medium 1 by Joseph W Shepard: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Ey4qDfsiQizQxCI3aTD6uNOEyQyshN7W

[5] Rhode Island legislative committee report on solitary confinement: http://www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease/_layouts/RIL.PressRelease.ListStructure/Form/DisplayForm.aspx?List=c8baae31%2D3c10%2D431c%2D8dcd%2D9dbbe21ce3e9&ID=13084&Web=2bab1515%2D0dcc%2D4176%2Da2f8%2D8d4beebdf488

[6] The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) is part of the Industrial Workers of the World, a grassroots union for all workers. More information about IWOC is available on the website, https://incarceratedworkers.org

[7] On Monday February 24th, the Deputy Warden of ACI Medium confirmed that at least one of the men was in “disciplinary confinement as part of an ongoing investigation” during a phone call with a union volunteer.

Trans/intersex Solidarity Gathering in Bournemouth.

On Sunday 28th October four Dorset branch members attended a rally in Bournemouth square to show solidarity with trans/intersex comrades in the USA, who are now threatened with highly repressive legislation, that if passed would set them back half a century at least. The category of gender would be replaced by a legal definition of ‘sex’ to be determined by a physical examination of external genitalia at the moment of birth, disputes to be settled by ‘genetic testing’.

This is not only bad politics it’s crank science, promoted by ignorant fundamentalists who don’t even believe in evolution or climate change. Nevertheless it’s already drawn approval from the far-right and TERFs on this side of the Atlantic. It’s got to be worth a fight, hasn’t it?

The event was hastily arranged on face book. We were glad to be part of a good-natured gathering of Working Class trans-,cis-, non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals. We recognised none of the stereotypes being pushed by the reactionary journalists and pundits, nor did we see any evidence of suspicious funding sources or middle-class entitlement. The only aggression displayed was a heckle from a self-parodying religious fanatic. We are content to let them pursue their mediaeval dogma unmolested; some of the demonstrators expressed religious beliefs and affiliations of their own.

The IWW is One Big Union for All Workers – join us!


Trans/intersex Solidarity Gathering Bournemouth 28th October.

Fellow Workers! Stand by our trans and intersex comrades in the U.S.A. An injury to one is an injury to all. 13:00 hrs Bournemouth Square (remember to put your clock back).

Donald Trump really doesn’t want you to do this, he’s counting on you not giving a shit.

From the organisers: “This is a gathering in solidarity with our trans and intersex family in the States dealing with the potential disgusting changes to the US definition of gender and sex.

The Trump administration wants to remove the word ‘gender’ from two key laws and replace it with ‘sex’, specifically they want to ‘define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with’, which goes against scientific and medical evidence from the AMA and APA.

This would remove protection from discrimination in the workplace, in schools, housing and healthcare to name a few.

Combine this with the recent changes to passport gender markers (to ‘sex marker’) and the resulting difficulty trans people have faced in accessing a passport, and you can form your own conclusions.

We gather in solidarity with our trans family, and our intersex family, to show that we #WontBeErased and #weseeyou

PRISONER STRIKES AND SUPPORTER PROTESTS SWEEP THE NATION – from IWOC

iwwredPRESS RELEASE Monday Sept 12th, 2016

Contact: Azzurra Crispino Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) Media Co-Chair 512-300-5559, iwoc@riseup.net

PRISONER STRIKES AND SUPPORTER PROTESTS SWEEP THE NATION

ATMORE, AL – Over the weekend more than 50 protests erupted across the country and around the world in solidarity with the September 9th nation-wide prisoner work stoppage and protest. Mothers and Families, the outside support organization for the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) rallied with drums and noisemakers outside of Holman Prison while workers kicked off their strike inside. “Officers are performing all tasks” a prisoner texted outside supporters indicating the prisoner work stoppage was successful.

Although the full extent of facilities participating in the strike will not be known for another two weeks, we have received early reports of work stoppage and resistance from Holmes, Gulf and Mayo units in FL, Fluvanna prison in Troy VA, and unnamed units in North Carolina and South Carolina. Central California Women’s Facility, Oregon State Penitentiary and St Cloud Correctional Facility in Minnesota were on lockdown in response to organizing on Friday. Hundreds of prisoners started fires, attacked surveillance cameras and damaged the facilities at Kinross Correctional in Northern Michigan and Holmes Correctional in Florida. No one was seriously injured and prisoners are refusing to
work.

There are confirmed hunger strikes underway in Wisconsin, Ohio, California and Guantanamo Bay. At Merced County Jail in Central California family of inmates have reported that the hunger strikers were threatened with shotguns and dogs. In Ohio there are at least two prisons, Lucasville and Ohio State Penitentiary, where prisoners went on hunger strike beginning September 9th. Prisoners at both Ohio prisons have reported being threatened with being stripped of their contact visits in retaliation for going on strike. We stand in solidarity with prominent US Army whistle blower Chelsea Manning, who initiated a hunger strike on September 9th to protest lack of adequate medical care for trans prisoners.

In Greece and across the US, protests occurred outside of jail, prison and immigrant detention centers. Three large banners were held up facing the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville Ohio, the site of a massive and deadly prisoner uprising in 1993. The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons rallied outside Buckeye State Prison in Arizona, one of many prisons where pollution and contaminated water harm prisoners.

US Embassy protests occurred in England, Australia, Sweden and Germany. From Oregon to Florida and in between, companies profiting off prison were targeted by outside protesters, including Bank of America, McDonalds, Aramark, AT&T and Starbucks. In Lansing Michigan protesters blocked a downtown intersection for hours with a large UHaul truck. In New York City and Durham North Carolina they blocked freeways. In Portland OR protesters disrupted an AT&T and McDonalds, both corporations which use prison labor, as well as held a noise demonstration outside a local jail, then they shut down traffic. There were arrests in: Oakland, CA; Milwaukee Wisconsin; Nashville, Tennessee; and Atlanta, Georgia. Most were quickly released, but at least three protesters in GA are facing multiple felonies.

Additional Information:

Up-to-date list of institutions striking and solidarity actions here [1]
Organizations Endorsing the Strike here [2]

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: PRISONERS, FORMERLY INCARCERATED WORKERS, FAMILY MEMBERS, AND LOCAL ACTIVISTS ARE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS WITH LOCAL AND NATIONAL MEDIA.

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