We here just finished commemorating the 40th anniversary of the
assassination of our beloved Comrade George Jackson. Not forgotten by
us was the horrific massacre perpetrated by the state of New York at Attica.
At the time we were in the adjustment center at San Quentin mourning
our loss and recovering from the brutality inflicted upon us in the
aftermath of the August 21st incident when the state murdered our
Comrade. In spite of our isolation (we were denied access to
newspapers, magazines and radio reports) death row prisoners who were
housed above us and who had access to these mediums used the air
vents and pumped out toilets to convey the news of the Attica Rebellion to us.
The news of the Rebellion gave our spirits a much needed lift. To
know that the struggle continues to secure the basic human right to
be treated as a human being, regardless of the transgressions we may
have committed in such a dysfunctional society reinforced our
determination to remain strong in the face of unmitigated terrorism.
We had no other choice even in our most fearful moments.
A uniform, badge, and gun give no one the right to treat us less than
human beings. To know that in the course of your struggle you express
solidarity by honoring Comrade George served to reinforce our resolve.
We knew all too well the nature of the system those comrades were
challenging. We had witnessed first-hand how they respond when
confronted; first, in 1970 at the Marin County court house and
secondly, on August the 21st. They made it clear to us that we were
at war. Yet, we held out hopes that a just and peaceful resolution
could be reached at Attica.
No words can express the pain we felt upon hearing the news of the
murderous assault and brutality unleashed by the state of New York on
the comrades at Attica. Another painful reminder of violent and
vicious extremes this government will go to in order to repress those
who oppose it.
At this point I want to offer some historical back ground to show how
interconnected our struggles are. Its corresponds to one of the many
premises advanced by the Comrade, "our goal is to build a movement, a
united front in this struggle that, regardless of the repression
brought to bear, will not be suppressed."
In 1970 while confined in San Quentin's segregation unit known as "B"
section, a collective was formed consisting of representatives from
all the races. As a part of that collective, we set about the task of
drafting a document outlining certain demands regarding our legal and
human rights which would be presented to the prison administration -
A document that all prisoners could unite behind and support. Once
all the prisoners in "B" section got behind it we tore up our cells
breaking the toilets and beds off the wall rendering our cells
unlivable. We were issued buckets to replace the toilets. A judge
condemned "B" section which meant no prisoner could be placed in "B"
section for any prison rule violation.
This document was sent to the mainline at San Quentin and set the
stage for a general work strike - our document became known as a
manifesto. To break the strike the prison started sending prisoners
from San Quentin to Folsom prison. Our document was smuggled to
Folsom and became a rallying point to start a general work strike at Folsom.
Our document became known as the "Folsom Prison Manifesto." We were
honored that the comrades at Attica thought highly enough of our
document that the "Attica Declaration" mirrored many of the same demands.
On the 40th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion those same demands
are still valid and worth fighting for and defending today. We will
never forget the courage and sacrifices of those comrades.
Bob Marley once said:
Every man gotta right
To decide his own destiny
And in this judgment
There is no partiality
We fought for it then and we must fight for it today.
David Johnson, 'Willie' Sundiata Tate, and Luis Talamantez
San Quentin Six