In Commemoration of the Attica Uprising and the Prison Strike


Posted: 13 Sep 2017

Bail is Ransom. Prison is Slavery

Statement by RAM-NYC

For the anniversary of the Attica uprising, and the one year anniversary of the 2016 nationwide prison strike, we dropped two banners in Queens by the Department of Corrections. We call on all those engaged in the revolutionary and anti-fascist struggle to join us in the fight for abolition. On this anniversary revolutionaries are in a battle against the far right. The white nationalist movement now sits at the helm of state power, and once again, America’s racist foundation is laid bare for the world to see. As we look back to the Attica uprising and the remarkable prison strike, and acknowledge the political tenor of the time, we should note that the MAGA supporter, or the Klansman are not fringe anomalies in the US, but they are the essence of America itself. These moments of revolt, then, are monuments to our historical resistance against slavery and slave society. Attica, like all prisons, and Trump’s campaign, like all US political campaigns, are rooted in a fundamental anti-blackness that makes the political and social system in America operational. To end this system of slavery we must look to the Attica uprising and the prison strike as concrete examples of revolutionary potential.

On September 9, 1971 prisoners in the notorious Attica “Correctional” Facility revolted in the face of continued mistreatment and horrendous conditions. The prison uprising turned into a hostage negotiation, not for the prisoner’s freedom, but for the most modest demands: better treatment. The basis of the demands – to be treated like men not “beasts” – articulated the very demand which could never be met. Dehumanization is the sole purpose of the prison system, and one of the main instruments white supremacy uses to maintain its dominance.

Elliott James “L.D.” Barkley, the young negotiator for the uprising, knew that the possibility of not resolving this situation well, “threatens the lives of not only us [prisoners], but of each and every one of you, as well.” In a horrendous reassertion of authority’s dominion, and to tragically confirm Barkley’s assertion, officers shot Barkley in the back.

Almost half a century later in 2016, with the specter of the massacre at Attica still haunting every penal institution in America, inmates bravely proclaimed that prison is, in fact, modern day slavery, and must be combatted as such. On Sept 9th, they launched a nationwide prison strike – the largest in US history – that spread to 46 facilities. The Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement would like to pay homage to the rebels from Kinross facility to Holman in Alabama. We acknowledge the strikes importance and significance for the revolutionary movement, and the war against slavery, which is a mainstay of American society, will continue indefinitely.

We salute these brave inmates from Attica to the 2016 prison strike, and salute all the prison rebels who have fought against the white supremacist prison system. Those who fight while inside are fighting for everyone, and battling in the most draconian conditions. Let us join them in their bravery, and take lessons from their actions as we engage in a shared revolutionary struggle. If we are to succeed as anti-fascists, we must also be abolitionists. If we are to be abolitionists, we must destroy the prison, burn down the plantation, and abolish the state that constructed them.

Prisons are slavery!

Bail is ransom!

Let the crops rot in the fields!

Burn Down the American Plantation!