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Sep 12, 21

#ShutEmDown2021 Actions Mark 50th Anniversary of Attica Uprising

On September 9th, with noise demos, banner drops, and direct actions, cities across the so-called US marked the 50th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, a historic revolt of over 1,000 inmates who took over part of a New York prison and issued a set of demands for better conditions and an end to systematic, racist abuse. The State’s brutal response to the uprising led to the mass murder of both prisoners and staff who were being held hostage. In the end, a total of 39 people were slaughtered at the hands of the police retaking the prison. While it would take years for the surviving inmates of Attica to receive anything resembling “justice,” the uprising helped give birth to a new wave of prisoner revolts and abolitionist organizing.

From LibCom:

On September 9. 1971, a series of conflicts between prisoners and guards ended with a relatively minor incident, involving a guard disciplining two prisoners. This was the spark that set off the revolt a group which began when a group of inmates from D Block broke through a gate with a defective weld and taking over one of the four prison yards, with forty guards as hostages.

Then followed five days in which the prisoners set up a remarkable community in the yard. A group of citizen-observers, invited by the prisoners, included New York Times columnist Tom Wicker, who wrote, A Time to Die: “The racial harmony that prevailed among the prisoners—it was absolutely astonishing… That prison yard was the first place I have ever seen where there was no racism.” One black prisoner later said: “I never thought whites could really get it on. . . . But I can’t tell you what the yard was like, I actually cried it was so close, everyone so together.” All the prisoners – black, Latino, white – who took part in the revolt were united. It was no “race riot” but a united class action.

The prisoners demanded removal of the warden, amnesty for those who had taken part in the revolt, and better conditions. The state agreed to 28 of the 33 demands but not amnesty. The prisoners were not willing to back down on this, as they knew repression would fall heavily on them.

After five days, the state lost patience. Governor Nelson Rockefeller approved a military attack on the prison. One thousand National Guardsmen, prison guards, and local police went in with automatic rifles, carbines, and submachine guns in a full-scale assault on the prisoners, who had no firearms. Thirty-one prisoners were killed. The first stories given the press by prison authorities said that nine guards held hostage had their throats slashed by the prisoners during the attack. The official autopsies almost immediately showed this to be false: the nine guards died in the same hail of bullets that killed the prisoners. Guards beat and tortured prisoners after the revolt.

The Attica rebellion remains a symbol of the prisoner class coming together across racial lines in revolt and continuities to inspire current prison rebels and the broader abolitionist movement. What follows is a roundup of actions marking both the Attica Prison uprising and the #ShutEmDown2021 call from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS).

Pacific Northwest

Tacoma, WA: Rally outside of the Northwest Detention facility.

Portland, OR: Online #ShutEmDown2021 forum held.

Southwest

Oakland, CA: Massive banners dropped on bay bridge reading “Remember Attica.”

Fairfield, CA: Noise demo and mutual aid event.

San Luis Obispo, CA: Car caravan and protest.

Midwest

Chicago, IL: Noise demo outside of the Cook County Jail.

Milwaukee, WI: Abolitionist rally and mobilization. Banner drop.

Minneapolis, MN: Protest and direct action at firm building new jail.

Southeast

Raleigh, NC: Protest rally outside of jail.

Washington DC: Educational event on Attica and Vaughn uprising by DC IWOC. Videos and audio here.

Atlanta, GA: Noise demonstration.

Columbia, SC: Noise demonstration.

Roanoke, VA: Noise demonstration.

 

Florida: #ShutEmDown2021 Banner Drops

Northeast

Philadelphia, PA: Demonstration with banners and fireworks outside of youth detention center.

Brooklyn, NY: Noise demonstration outside of the MDC.

Buffalo, NY: Noise demo.

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