DRIVE

DEATH ROW INNERCOMMUNALIST VANGUARD ENGAGEMENT

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As of January 1, 2007 I will proceed with a Hunger Strike. The only thing I will consume is water and the beautiful spirits smiling forth from my fellow brethren proceeding likewise. I sent a sick-call to medical this morning in front of Officer Davison notifying them that I’m not only going on a hunger strike, but as long as I do such, I will not take my high blood pressure medication. Though I’ve always contested my blood pressure is high only as a result of these oppressive conditions; take away these oppressive conditions, you’ll take away my high blood pressure. Of course they would rather medicate me.

 

I’ve never envisioned myself resisting in this manner (hunger strike) for any prolonged period of time. However, I’ve always been willing to do whatever necessary to bring attention to our humanity and these inhumane conditions. I can’t say how long I will be able to deny myself food, but I will go as long as I can, extending the love and solidarity to the some dozen others on this pod (not certain of the number on other pods) sacrificing their time and bodies for the cause of being recognized as a human being with unalienable right to life given by God and ratified through the US Constitution.

 

Yes! After a year, the movement is stronger and the solidarity still crosses color lines. In light of Hunger Strike 1, brothers see we are remaining dedicated to the cause we sat out on, and they are beginning to believe in the cause, believe in themselves, believe that WE can do something about our conditions.

 

We’re still encouraging activism, even if our encouragement means self-sacrifice of the highest kind. We want our death row community to continue to stand up! If not for the death row community of the now or future, for themselves. Break the chains of complacency and help balance the spirit of hope that has been deficient within these walls for so long.

 

Our Hunger Strike cries many things. One of which is highlighting the deficiencies in our Anti-Death Penalty Movement. Though we salute the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the Coalition to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) for their beautiful display of solidarity through the March on Austin, and taking initiative, we also need from other Texas Anti-Death Penalty organizations (e.g. TCADP and TD-PAM) solidarity in the areas of:

 

Abolition

We need a more aggressive campaign to disseminate Death Penalty facts.  Besides conferences, shops, and leaflet distribution, we need radio/TV commercials, articles in mainstream publications, and interviews not only disseminating Death Penalty facts, but juxtaposing our humanity to all the other myths and manipulative negativity conveyed through mainstream media to American people about Death Row prisoners.

 

Reform 

We need a more aggressive stance to be taken against these inhumane conditions. In other words, if this administration remains unwilling to change these abhorrent conditions, we need backing for civil litigation. Obviously TDC board meetings are not taking issues of concern raised by Anti-Death Penalty Organization representatives seriously.

 

If a national debate as to the pro’s and con’s of the Death Penalty was broadcast for all Americans to see, after which they are asked to either vote or participate in a poll which would decide on the abolishment of the Death Penalty-given the overwhelming weight of the cons American people would vote life over death.

 

Another reason the Death penalty persists, which spawns these conditions, is we are seen as something less than a human being, akin to a rabid dog or bloodthirsty demon. If the American people were exposed to who we actually are, they would see us as their extended family, imperfect human beings striving for perfection. They’ll see we cry, we dream, we need. What if they knew how we try to reach out to one another? What if they knew how we try to hug each other through the dayroom bars despite rules that disallow it? What if they knew how we, in a desperate attempt to break free from this sensory deprivation, chip holes in these walls designed to divide us, so we can share and console one another with intimate conversation instead of ear piercing yells; words of encouragement and laughter instead of destruction? These things are against the rules. What if they knew of the sisters and brothers that desire to reach out to the victim’s family to bridge the gap of hatred with understanding and maybe love, but are discouraged by all the restrictions TDC created? If they knew, the words of Hebrews 13:3 could be realized.” Remember the prisoners as if chained with them-those who are mistreated-since you yourselves are in the body also.”

 

Nevertheless, the light of our humanity flickers within these concrete walls, yet shining to the world. There’s no such force on this earth as the force of a man determined to rise; the human soul cannot be permanently chained.

 

This hunger strike shouts, “Something is obviously wrong with our conditions.” One person said to me “you do this (protest) to occupy your time.” There’s a myriad of things I would much rather be doing. If it weren’t for these conditions my conscience won’t allow me to accept, and my spirit which moves me against them; which also goes for the courageous brothers I stand with. My sisters and brothers are dying every day mentally, spiritually, and physically. And those of us God has blessed with the necessary strength and vision have an obligation to this service for Humanity. The highest service, a service to fight conditions that are counter to the progression of Humanity-which ultimately means fighting the mentality that creates and allows these inhumane conditions.

 

Try to imagine being forced to your knees in a line of thousands of sisters and brothers. Each of you have a revolver pointed to your head with a bullet in it. The state is holding the gun. Triggers are being pulled, including yours. You simultaneously hear “clicks” and gun blasts all around you. Then suddenly a blast erupts right next to you, taking with it the life of your brother or sister who was telling you “be strong, hold on, I love you.” The gun held to their heads click-click-clicked its way towards the end result of reciprocated hate, anger, and thus division: execution.

 

Each “click” is a denial of our appeals as it makes its way towards the Supreme Court, who only hears a handful of cases each session. We are systematically denied relief by the appellant courts (See Drive’s “Opposition Statement”). An evaluation of death Row cases by a Human Rights Commission will confirm this. Part of the reason for the systematic denial is because of the inadequate “representation” we receive. This brings to my mind the case of Lamont Reese (we miss you brother!) Here was a fellow death row brother from “Funky Town” (Fort Worth, TX) who in 2002-2003 went on a hunger strike to bring attention to how his attorney, though court-appointed to “represent” him, in fact, ignored every letter Lamont mailed him concerning issues he needed investigated and filed in his appeal, Who was this attorney “representing” then? The only thing Lamont’s hunger strike gained him was some losses. On 6-20-06, DRIVE engaged in a hunger strike while Lamont Reese’s mama banged her fist on the viewing glass as she watched the state suffocate her baby with a lethal injection (see more information on the chemical affects of the drugs on this site). However Lamont wasn’t the only one. The majority of brothers I’ve spoken to here on the row have the same experience with these shadow/assassin lawyers, lawyers appointed by the “adversarial process” (as the appellant courts refer to themselves) to fight the adversarial process.  I myself have been a victim of this. An evaluation by a human rights commission will confirm these facts.

 

As the Russian Roulette played against us by the adversarial process weighs on our hearts, minds, and spirits, we must also contend with the various forms of psychological warfare inherent in our sensory depriving conditions, which scratch and claw at whatever dignity, hope and spirit the threats of the gun didn’t already destroy (please read “Recognizing Psychological Warfare” on my section). The mailroom is still broken. For years this administration has refused us ALL incoming and outgoing mail on Saturdays, though mail is our only means of connection to the world. The grievance procedure is still broken. We must still file grievances through officers the grievances may very well be about. This is against their own policy. Then if we manage to get grievances filed, they are systematically denied, forcing us to file civil litigation, which is just another hurdle. If the civil suit, no matter how serious is not heard by the court before we receive an execution date, then the civil suit gets thrown out upon the execution. This may seem insignificant, but when you consider that Texas death Row appeals can be rushed through the appellant courts in as little as 5 years, if your appeal is halfway through the appellant process, a civil suit will virtually be a waste of time and money. Therefore, we are virtually forced to either accept the grievable, oppressive conditions, or find another way to oppose it.

 

It was because of this inherent corruption of the Death Penalty; Michael Dewayne Johnson (peace upon your soul and family my brother) took his own life.

If we must die, let us die fighting these forces that seek to render us less than human beings; those forces that seek to take our lives. SO WE FIGHT! And I assure you, if I die-or any of my comrades-as a result of this Hunger Strike 2, it will be because this administration worked their voodoo on some paperwork!

 

*We want our rightful status as human beings to be recognized and respected.

 

*We want the abolishment of the Death Penalty.

 

*We want a moratorium on execution so a human rights commission may investigate all the injustices judicially as well as inhumane prison conditions.

 

*We want as humane (because being imprisoned under the threat of death can NEVER be humane) treatment as possible as long as we must be confined.

 

*We want a more aggressive Anti-Death Penalty movement based upon the realization of these things.

 

Until then…Drive!

 

Love & Solidarity

From the trenches

Comrade

Reginald “Omari Huduma” Blanton

 

Typist Note: Due to the Postal Holidays Omari was unable to mail this until Wednesday at which time he was still going strong on his Hunger Strike!

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HUNGER STRIKE 2