Atlantans Rally in Support of Largest Prison Strike in U.S. History
(APN) ATLANTA — The largest coordinated work stoppage and hunger strikes in U.S. history began on Friday, September 09, 2016–the 45th anniversary of the infamous and brutally suppressed prison uprising at Attica State Prison in New York–and is currently still in progress.
The prison strike encompasses at least forty prisons in 24 U.S. states, with prisoners demanding an end to slave-like working conditions, unpaid labor, illegal reprisals, long-term solitary confinement, inadequate health care, and inhumane working conditions.
The call for this action can be found here:
Rallies were held in sixty cities in support of the prison work stoppage.
In Atlanta, more than one hundred people rallied and marched in solidarity with the prisoners’ action, briefly disrupting business at several fast food restaurants in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood in an effort to expose corporations that exploit and profit from prison labor.
Targets included McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Starbucks, and Aramark, which, among other things, provides uniforms for service industry jobs.
“McDonald’s uniforms are produced by prison labor and the silverware [plasticware] in your Happy Meal bag is produced by prisoners who are working for nothing or almost nothing,” Marlin Kautz, an organizer with Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“There is a long list of corporations that make money of off forced labor in prisons. We don’t think they should be allowed to do that without being exposed. We think that is unethical and we are trying to support the prisoners who are striking by taking actions on the outside,” Kautz said.
Inmates make many products for corporations, build furniture for government offices, make uniforms for fast food restaurants, make military equipment and home appliances, train seeing-eye dogs, and so much more.
In some states, like Georgia, inmates are not paid anything for their labor. In federal prison, inmates earn about 12 to 40 cents an hour.
Meanwhile, prisoners also work to maintain the prisons by cleaning, cooking, cutting grass, and washing clothes.
“In 1865, when they banned slavery, companies started using prisoners and that is how the new slavery started,” Haroun Wakil, founder of Street Groomers–an organization that holds community clean-ups in under-served Atlanta communities–said.
“What’s going on is these prisoners are being treated like slaves, earning as little as two cents a day,” Wakil said.
“That’s why it’s so hard to get jobs out here because a lot of these business are profiting off of prisoner labor,” Wakil said, noting the irony that these same prisoners are unable to obtain jobs when they are released from prison because of their criminal background.
“How can a company say that when I get out of prison that I can’t work for you, but behind bars I can work for you?” he said.
“The inmates are letting us know that they are not satisfied with their conditions and they deserve to be treated as human beings, regardless of the circumstances that put them in prison,” Sekou Kimathi, also of Street Groomers, told APN.
The march on Boulevard from Angier Park to Ponce de Leon was spirited and sometimes confrontational.
One APD officer, Wayne McCalls, was particularly antagonistic towards the marchers.
McCalls used his squad car to bump and push marchers, according to eyewitnesses. Other witnesses said that McCalls had “anger issues” and seemed to have a personal vendetta against the marchers.
McCalls has a record of abuse, with multiple complaints lodged against him for use of excessive force, according to observers from Cop Watch.
ALTERCATION AT STARBUCKS
An altercation between a customer and a protester at Starbucks spilled out to the sidewalk, where, according to witnesses, the police seemingly indiscriminately used pepper spray on marchers, bystanders, and even other police officers.
The march ended with the arrest of three marchers outside Starbucks. The arrestees were identified as Katherine Carson, Casey Martinson, and Nicholas Wolf.
Carson and Casey are charged with aggravated assault, criminal damage to property, and obstruction of law enforcement officers. Casey is also charged with making terroristic threats.
The charges against Wolf are unknown, but the Atlanta Police Department confirmed that he had three charges pending. All three posted bail and were released on Sunday, September 11.