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Friday, July 15, 2011

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Supporters Plan to Rally, Possibly Disrupt the Evening Commute

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge Maybe commuters should start protesting protesters
  • Maybe commuters should start protesting protesters

What we learned from the BART protest earlier this week is that activists can bring commute traffic to a screeching halt. Which is why we are delivering this warning now: Duck out of work early today unless you want to get stuck in yet another protest planned during the Friday commute.

But this one has nothing to do with the BART shooting of 45-year-old Charles Hill. Rather, activists are planning to march down Market Street at the peak of commute hour this evening to show support for the Pelican Bay inmates who have been on hunger strike since July 1.

A coalition of groups, including Communities for Peace and Justice, Poor magazine, the Revolution Club, World Can't Wait, and Youth Defending Youth, plan to meet up at the United Nations Plaza at 5 p.m. where the shouting will start.

"We'll be marching a long ways, and traffic could be disrupted," says Sam Rubin, who helped organize the rally. "It will be a bold protest to amplify the demands of the prisoners."

Inmates at the Pelican Bay state prison started refusing meals in a hunger strike on July 1, to protest the "inhumane conditions of confinement." The protest is aimed specifically at Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit (SHU), where prisoners are confined in small, windowless cells, without human contact or access to open space for extended periods of time. Pelican Bay is one of a select group of state prisons and one federal prison classified as a "supermax" facility intended to house extremely dangerous inmates.

The hunger strike quickly spread to other prisons in the state, with thousands of inmates joining their fellow prisoners in refusing the state-issued meals. Earlier this week, activists said participating inmates were started to show signs of health deterioration; some were getting sick and weak to the point that they could soon die. Yet prison officials have called the hunger strike a ploy by prison gangs to demonstrate their influence over the system.

"These are human beings," Rubin tells SF Weekly. "We are fighting against the idea that these are animals and they are the worst of the worst. Saying this is gang related totally diminishes and discredits the conscious actions of resistance to what's going on in the prisons."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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