Saturday, April 25, 2015

Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement Continue

Statewide coordinated actions to end solitary confinement continued on April 23, and were held in Eureka, Los Angeles, Oakland, Point Reyes, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, and nationally in Philadelphia. In Santa Cruz, community members held their second monthly vigil overlooking the sea at the Santa Cruz Lighthouse. Across the state, activists have begun to coordinate vigils and protests on the 23rd in response to a call from the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers to designate a certain date each month as Prisoner Rights Day to call attention to prison conditions. The Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers were among an estimated 30,000 California prisoners who refused meals and work assignments in a 2013 strike. Their principle demand was to end the state’s use of indefinite solitary confinement.

Actions are held on the 23rd of each month to represent the 23 hours or more per day inmates held in solitary typically spend in isolation.

"People are locked up in small concrete cells the size of a bathroom for years and decades, without fresh air, without sunlight, some for over 40 years," Willow Katz of Sin Barras said at the Santa Cruz vigil. Sin Barras is a Santa Cruz based group working to end solitary confinement and other inhumane prison and jail practices, and is one of the co-sponsors of the statewide coordinated actions.

Organizers chose West Cliff Drive for the location of the vigil because of its proximity to the sea. They have found that people incarcerated in solitary confinement often express a desire to be near the ocean.

At the vigil, community members formed a semi-circle in front of the Lighthouse. Speakers were heard, and Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs served food. An altar was arranged for Robert C. Fuentes, who passed in 2014. Fuentes was held in solitary confinement for over two decades in various prisons in California. His sister spoke to the inhumanity of solitary confinement at the previous vigil, and she is in close contact with members of Sin Barras.

The group participated in chants such as "Prisoners' Lives Matter, No More Deaths" and "Security for Who? Shut Down the SHU."

"SHU" stands for Security Housing Unit, and is pronounced "shoe." SHU facilities are the section of a prison dedicated to the long-term confinement of inmates in isolation cells.

A number of people using the Lighthouse area for recreation passed by the vigil, and some stopped to listen, or to read protest signs. One surfer wearing a wetsuit, and with a large board in hand, browsed through the information relating to prisons that was displayed on a table by activists near the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum.

Future actions were announced at the vigil. On May 23, community members in Santa Cruz will gather again at 11 am in front of Ideal Restaurant, between the Boardwalk and the wharf, and Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) is planning monthly actions to begin June 23 in Monterey County.

Altar for Robert C. Fuentes.

Willow Katz of Sin Barras.

Members of Sin Barras lead a group chant.

Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs.

Dru Glover of Project Pollinate speaks.

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