SRDC Position Paper: America’s Political Prisoners

The recent release of Veteran Baltimore Black Panther Marshall “Eddie” Conway after nearly 44 years of imprisonment gives us cause to remember the scores of men and women who, like Eddie, were targeted, tried and imprisoned because of their political beliefs.

These are America’s Political Prisoners.

The Free Dictionary calls them people “who have been imprisoned for holding or advocating dissenting political views … for holding, expressing, or acting in accord with particular political beliefs.”
        – Stephen Lendman, Political Prisoners In America,
for the Black Agenda Report

Community activists and organizers have been under attack in the United States for decades. This was especially true in the 1960’s and 1970’s, a time when the FBI’s COINTELPRO and related law enforcement programs worked to destroy organizations, like the Black Panther Party, that dared challenge the authority of the US Government. These activists, people like Eddie Conway, were placed under surveillance. They were harassed. They were attacked by police raids. They were terrorized. They were killed. They were arrested, tried on trumped-up charges and imprisoned.

There are an estimated 150 – 200 people currently being held in jails, prisons and penitentiaries in the United States as a direct result of their political community work.

These are America’s Political Prisoners.

Because of the US Constitution, one cannot be imprisoned simply because they oppose the actions of their government, or even because they organize their communities based on that belief. Instead, they are charged with criminal offenses and convicted by gullible juries after “kangaroo-court” trials riddled with misconduct by police, prosecutors and even judges. Withheld evidence that could exonerate them, manufactured evidence that could convict them, “jailhouse informants” who claim the defendants confessed to the crimes charged and threats against witnesses for the defense were common in the trials of the 1960’s and 1970’s against political dissidents.

Political prisoners are also arrested and tried with a veneer of legality where false criminal charges, manufactured evidence, and unfair trials (kangaroo courts, show trials) are used to disguise the fact that an individual is a political prisoner. This is common in situations which may otherwise be decried nationally and internationally as a human rights violation or suppression of a political dissident.
        – Wikipedia

Today’s Political Prisoners are members of a wide variety of community, anarchist and revolutionary organizations, but the most prominent ones were members of the Black Panther Party, American Indian Movement and related organizations:

Mumia Abu-Jamal, perhaps the best-known Political Prisoner, in Pennsylvania (33 years), was a member of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia and is a current supporter of the MOVE Organization. His death sentence was recently commuted to Life Without Parole. He remains a Political Prisoner in Pennsylvania.

Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement is serving two consecutive Life terms in Florida.

The MOVE Nine were sentenced to terms of 30 to 100 years after a confrontation in Philadelphia in which a police officer was killed. They are being held in several prisons across Pennsylvania (35 years), and prosecutors intend to force them to serve out the entire 100 years of their sentences.

Among the longest-held current Political Prisoners are Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald in California (44 years); Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter in Nebraska (42 years); Sundiata Acoli in Maryland (40 years); and Mutulu Shakur in California (28 years).

Find Out More About America’s Political Prisoners:

There are dozens more Political Prisoners all across the United States. To find out more about Political Prisoners, here are a few places to look.

The Jericho Movement,

International Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal,

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