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Nov 12, 18

On the Importance of the Smyrna 17 Case

Ma’Salaam Fariha reports from the trial of the continuing Vaughn (Smyrna) 17 case.

Welcome to James T. Vaughn State Prison, its physical address is on Paddock Road, for those unfamiliar with the word Paddock here is an introduction: as noun its used as a small field or enclosure where horses are kept or exercised, and as a verb it is used to keep or enclose a horse in paddock.

I been part of a small support group for the inmates from Washington D.C., we try to drive up there at least twice a week, we usually take notes, and think of creative ways to bring attention to the case. I am going to refrain from reporting too much about what was said and focus on the most important facts.

“For nearly 18 hours on Feb. 1, 2017, inmates seized the building, taking hostages and demanding better programming, education, and treatment from prison staff,” a Delaware news outlet recently reported, they continued by stating that Forty-five years ago, in what is now Building C at Vaughn, a group of young, black men was part of a similar occurrence with the acceptation that this time one CO was killed.

What every article, or report about this case failed to report is that there is no evidence tying the defendants to the murder of this CO, as a matter of fact, the governments star witness is a former co-defendant by the name of Royal Diamond Downs aka Master Splinter (former BGF member and Baltimore native. About 14 years ago he was transferred from Maryland to Delaware in a state agreement for snitching on people in Baltimore in another riot case, as a matter of fact one time throughout trial one radio communication piece that was played, as the negotiator was a witness called in by the government. Identified Downs’s voice clearly saying, “this is not a game, if you do not bring me the media and the governor your staff is going down.”

I had the honor to meet two of the former Smyrna 5, and had a conversation with another elder black Muslim brother, the topic was Delaware, specifically Wilmington, I mean why was this little city hauling around with a nickname such as “murder town USA.” According to the census bureau Wilmington Delaware Wilmington, DE has a population of 71,502 people, the is 56.6% Black, 27.6% White, and 12.2% Hispanic. 12.3% of the people in Wilmington, DE speak a non-English language. It is also the corporation capital, which means most corporations have either an address there or their headquarters, but they do NOT hire, and I quote “any of the young folks here, and people got to eat” (as stated by the elder). I am not sure where the so-called white population lives, because I have not seen them driving or walking through Wilmington, as communicated to me, they live in the outskirts, and most of them seem to have been relocated from somewhere by these corporations.

I want to take the attention back to the case of the Vaughn 17 aka Smyrna 17, being regularly present throughout the trial days, left me multiple times, shocked and confused, for example finding out that one lead investigator being present testifying for the government, being able to answer all questions without hesitation but not presenting answers to questions asked by defendants lawyer or by the defendants who go per SE.

At one point I remember very well, the investigator was asked if he was aware that the governments star witnesses Al Salafi and R. Diamond Dawns were indeed named as lead suspects by another detective and he responded that he was not even aware that this report existed.

Speaking of confusions, one of the inmates kite’s was brought up as so-called evidence, this kite as stated by the investigator was given to R.Diamond’s sister by Dawns himself, at one visit ( so far so good ), but how was this inmate able to transfer this kite to his sister as he claimed? Royal Diamond was at the time of alleged visit located in the SHU [Special Housing Unite – a ‘prison within a prison], inmates who are placed in the SHU, are not allowed to have visitation, and as asked about this visit and how this was possible, the investigator had no response.

So far the Government has not presented any DNA evidence, as claimed the scene was too tainted, and sending in for DNA would have corrupted the Investigation, so the government decided to start interviewing the inmates.

And “coincidentally” all of the governments star witnesses have the exact stories, now this might not be too much of a surprise for anyone who has never been in a chaotic and tense situation, but trust me, it is very unlikely that stories have such exact much.

The human body does not operated like that, for example if you would ask a group of people living under war, each one most likely would tell you a different scenario of their realities, and usually our minds go into protection mode rather than ” let me hang out here and watch someone allegedly getting murdered”.

Mass incarnation has been a problem in the US for a very long time, no only does it the highest incarceration rate in the world, the laws made by corporations aka lobby groups have made it easy for white supremacist lawmakers to put people of color behind bars. The vast majority of incarcerated people are held in facilities controlled by state and local governments, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. The war on drugs, drug laws and extreme sentencing requirements have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for people of color. Although rates of drug use and sales are similar across racial and ethnic lines, black and Latino people are far more likely to be criminalized than white people. Research by the U.S. Census Bureau; Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same offense.

Reading through Annual Report of the DOC in Delaware, you will come across their in-depth praise of how well they take care of their inmates, and the importance of mental health, but that does not seem to reflect the reality. Talking to various previous Inmates and reading through the letters that the Inmates put together after the alleged Smyrna uprising in James T. Vaughn the understaffed facility has been known to have abusive Correctional Officers, programs for mental health is limited to certain offenders only. In 2015, the prison became a subject of an ACLU lawsuit, due to the use of solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates. “Further lawsuits have been filed due to the Delaware State Correction’s decision to feed some inmates “baked slop,” while other states have discontinued the use of such meals”.

Take Action! One former inmate of James T. Vaughn, an inmate who was part of the uprising in 1974 stated to me, “We had so much more support back in the day.” If you are reading I need you to understand that this was not a situation of a “bunch of offenders just trying to start violent useless acts of interruptions,” this goes much deeper.

Something that was a sore eye for me immediately after entering the court room, on day one of the trial, was the Swedish flag along side other colonizer flags, placed behind the judge.

If you call yourself an activist, if you do prison/ inmate work I need you to get connected with the case, even if you just start writing letters to the inmates, do it! Importantly show up to court, we are a small group, granted we kick ass and have the power of a million, we need you to show up, because this case and the political statements made by the inmates is for you and me. Show up to court, especially if you are of privilege, take notes, and join us in small actions if you need ideas and you have questions please feel free to email me.

Let the state of Delaware know that we will not allow them to falsely charge these brothers ! Most importantly let the Inmates know that we are supporting them!

Fuck the Police, Fuck Mass Incarnation, Decolonize!

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