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(en) US, Grassroots Prison Campaign by Dan Horowitz de Garcia

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(Mike Kramer mkramer666-A-yahoo.com)
Date Fri, 21 Jan 2005 09:56:28 +0100 (CET)

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[This talk was originally given at the Life After
Capitalism conference in New York City on August 20, 2004.]
All organizers say where they work is rougher than anywhere
else. The difference is Iím from the South, so Iím right.
According to the Department of Corrections, the state
of Georgia has 600,000 on prison visitation lists. In
addition there are a total of 400,000 who are under or
have been under state supervision. That is one million
people who are directly affected by the criminal
justice system in this state. To add some perspective,
the current population in Greater Atlanta area is four
million. There are only 8.6 million people in the
whole state.

Communities United for Action, Power & Justice is an
effort to organize about one percent of these people,
concentrating on family members of prisoners. The
Grassroots Prison Campaign is a project of Bring the
Ruckus* aimed at bringing cadre members to Georgia to
participate with Communities United in this organizing

This project was proposed and accepted for the same
reason anti-prison and anti-police work was proposed
and accepted Ė we believe this is a point of
revolutionary struggle. Sixty-five percent of those
incarcerated in Georgia are Black men and I guarantee
they arenít rich. To organize that one percent I
talked about earlier, means organizing a base of poor
people of color. This is an environment in which women
are on the outside trying to survive economic
strangulation and men are on the inside trying to
survive being brutalized. Race and class are front and
center in a concrete way. But of course itís not
limited to this. Why are men such a large percentage
of the prison population? Why are women the fastest
growing prison group? Why are queer people never
talked about? Gender and sexuality are also front and
center. It is the intersection of oppression.

There is nothing abstract about this work. How does
the state use the intersection of oppression to
advance social control? Look to peopleís lived
experience with prisons, the police, etc. and we have
a concrete answer. This is a point of revolutionary
struggle because itís a concrete fight that, taken to
its logical conclusion, ends in revolution. Through a
very intentional educational process, people are able
to articulate the larger system of social control,
analyze its weaknesses and effectively organize to
take advantage of those weaknesses. And they stay
involved because they have a concrete reason: the life
of someone they love.

Recently there was a mass meeting in Georgia to talk
about conditions at Lee Arendale prison, which holds
some juveniles. There were three groups of parents
present: those whose kids have been killed, those
whose kids have been raped, and those whose kids just
got there. You bet your ass these parents are staying

Keeping this on the concrete, Communities United is
participating in Operation Open Book, a campaign to
remove the state secret status of parole files.
Georgia has an exemption in the open records law that
keeps all parole information a secret unless the
parole board votes to release it. This means the Board
doesnít have to justify any of its decisions or even
explain the process for reaching those decisions. This
campaign is about busting through that wall of
secrecy. Weíre going to do that by building a
coalition where those most affected are the focus.
They get to tell the policy wonks and organizers what
to do.

BtRís participation is obviously a help to Communities
United. Although weíre a small group, by placing folks
on the ground at a strategic time we can have a
significant impact. Weíre borrowing from a labor
tactic to make this happen. Itís called The Blitz. In
labor organizing a mass of organizers visits every
worker in a shop in one weekend. The workers can build
an organizational base before the boss has a chance to
react. Weíre going to do the same thing but in the
community instead of a workplace.

BtR cadre will come to Georgia for a period of time,
maybe a week or two. Theyíll visit prisons to talk to
folks coming to visitation as well as parole offices.
They go to beauty parlors and check cashing stores. At
the end of the process there will be a community
meeting where those whoíve been reached out to will be
plugged into the campaign. Done at a strategic time,
this will allow us to rapidly expand our base before
the parole board has a chance to react.

This is also a chance for cadre members to learn
practical organizing skills and improve the level of
political discussion. This kind of face-to-face work
creates a different dynamic when discussing the
politics. Itís a practical place for us to test our
theories and learn. Thatís what praxis is all about.

Dan Horowitz de Garcia is a member of Bring the

For more information about the campaign go to

[Note: There's still time to volunteer for the GPC,
but people should move quickly. The spots are filling
up. Anyone interested should contact Dan at
daniel@agitatorindex.org or at the Communities United
office (404.223.6773).]

To see the agenda for the Grassroots Prison Campaign
January 29 - February 12, 2005 go to http://www.agitatorindex.org/articles/gpc_agenda.htm
* Bring The Rukus is an antiauthotitarian anticapitalist
direct action revolutionary initiative.

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