The Death of Bobby Sands
Back in the day on May 5th, 1981, Provisional Irish Republican Army militant Bobby Sands died in prison. Serving time for being arrested on a gun possession charge, the hunger striker had refused food for sixty-six days in protest of British authorities before dying. Sands, in solidarity with other prisoners, was opposed to the retraction of “special category status” that criminalized political inmates like him who would have otherwise previously been treated as prisoners of war.
The hunger strike, launched on the fifth anniversary of the reclassification, demanded that five core privileges be reinstated such as free association time, visitation, and work rights. More than a month into the protest, Sands was elected from his prison cell to a vacant seat of the British Parliament. Just twenty-seven years of age at the time of his death, the Irishman refused outside pleas to give up the strike. Having lost significant weight, Sands fell into a coma and was pronounced dead forty-eight hours later.
The British Government allowed nine other prisoners to die in the course of the strike before it came to an end in early October that same year.