Black Panther On US Prison Abuse
- Statement to the Human Rights Conference on Torture
April 28, 2005
Greetings, IHRI (International Human Rights Initiative) conference!
First I want to congratulate the keynote speaker, the Honorable
Congresswoman Sister Cynthia McKinney, on her triumphant return to
Congress. But more so I want to personally thank her as being the only
Congressional official who had courage or concern enough to make a
determined effort toward my release when I was rounded up on Sept. 11,
2001, and held incommunicado from my family, my attorneys and the
entire outside world.
Meanwhile, prison officials torturously interrogated me, looking for
any connection on my part to the destruction of the World Trade Center
or the later spread of anthrax through the postal system. They openly
threatened to hold me in total isolation for the rest of my life, and
their implied threat was to seek the death penalty.
So torture is nothing new to U.S. Political Prisoners and POWs, nor to
everyday people of color and others oppressed in the ghettoes,
barrios, reservations, towns and cities throughout Amerika. They don't
call the Bronx's 44th Precinct "Fort Apache" for nothing or because
they serve "tea and cookies" there. They call it "Fort Apache" because
they whip heads there, bust lips, knock out teeth, blacken eyes, break
ribs and even rape and kill there ... and it goes on to one degree or
another in every police station across the country, big or small.
Abu Ghraib is not an aberration. Most U.S. prisoners instantly
recognized Amerika's fingerprints all over Ghraib; they match its
prints in U.S. police stations, jails and prisons. The Ghraib
perversions trace a straight line back home to White amerika's
psychotic obsession with the genitals of Blacks it lynched. The same
perverted grins seen at Ghraib can be found in the faces and photos of
White lynch mobs in the U.S. swarmed around Black bodies hung from trees.
It's a perversion born in this country's racial-sexual degradation of
its Black slaves and others of color since its beginning, and the lies
told since then to cover it up. That same "cover-up" mindset also
keeps most of the Amerikan press silent about the many Iraqi women and
children, young boys and girls, who were also raped, and probably
still are being raped, at Abu Ghraib. Photographic proof exists and
the San Francisco Bay View newspaper has it. For those adults who have
legitimate need for such proof, the photos are available upon email
request for them at editor @ sfbayview.com.
Now for some of my personal experiences with torture:
In 1969, New York cops kicked in my door for two other Panthers, Sekou
Odinga and Kuwasi Balagoon, and without saying a word beat and stomped
me unmercifully. Then they took me to the 32nd Precinct, Harlem, and
threw me in the holding tank with Joan Bird, another Harlem Panther,
whose lip was so busted and swollen, and eyes so blackened and swollen
shut that I barely recognized her. She said that at one point during
her beating they hung her out of the third floor window by the ankles,
made sexual taunts and threatened to drop her if she didn't tell the
whereabouts of Sekou and Kuwasi. They didn't find them, and after
holding us in jail for a month they released us.
In 1970 during the New York Panther 21 trial, we defendants were
assaulted numerous times while cuffed by Riker's Island jail guards
who transported us back and forth to court each day.
In 1973, after my arrest in the New Jersey Turnpike case, I was held
in strict isolation at Middlesex County Jail, N.J. Because of my
placement there, and even though I was allowed no visitors except my
lawyer, the jail implemented harsh visiting rules on all visitors,
which caused the prisoners to protest by refusing to lock in their cells.
New Jersey state troopers came in with shotguns, shot prisoners in the
face and torso with bean-bags that broke noses, blackened eyes and
bruised ribs, shot teargas that choked, blinded and burned, and drove
prisoners back into their cells. I was already under 24/7 lockdown so
they simply shot teargas into my cell, turned the water off and heat
on, in mid-summer, which left me and similar prisoners to wallow in
pain from the sweat-reactivated tear gas, which we had no means to
In 1976 at Trenton State Prison (TSP), NJ, I and other Management
Control Unit (MCU) prisoners were subjected to two hours of gunfire by
Jersey state troopers raking the Unit back and forth, trying to shoot
into our cells. John Andaliwa Clark was killed by a double-ought
shotgun blast to the chest, and another prisoner, "Gunner," who came
out with his hands in the air, was shot by an M-14 rifle that was
aimed at his head but tore through his elbow instead. I and numerous
other MCU prisoners were hit by shrapnel from bullets that ricocheted
off the bars into our cells.
In 1977, MCU guards suddenly began demands to probe the anus of random
MCU prisoners during their normal strip-search of us each time we were
taken out or returned to our cells. And of course, we refused to
submit willingly to such a degrading and asinine demand. All who
resisted were jumped by the guards, beaten, wrestled to the floor and
anus probed, then charged with assault on the guards, which carried an
additional seven-year sentence upon conviction.
To avoid further anus probes, for the next seven months we refused all
family visits, attorney visits, doctor, dental visits or anything else
that required us to leave our cells. Prison officials then instituted
a policy of "random" mandatory cell-changes so that they could
continue to subject selected prisoners to "random" beatings, abuse and
forced anal probes under the guise of changing our cells. The
situation became so volatile and our families, attorneys and friends
were so alarmed that a federal judge stepped in, forbade the prison to
continue anal probes, declared that a metal detector was just as
effective as a search tool and that it be used instead of the anal
probe and then summarily dismissed all assault charges that had been
filed against us MCU prisoners.
In 1983, at USP Marion, Ill., a federal penitentiary, guards locked
down the prison and went on a six-month rampage, roaming the prison
and beating prisoners at will and randomly subjecting some to forced
anal probes. During that period I was sent to "the hole" whose floor
and walls were covered with feces thrown by prisoners who had been
beaten and anal probed. It was mid-summer, the heat was intense, the
smell incredible, the windows were closed and I was confined 60 days
there without fresh air or relief.
Later in the summer of '83 I was taken by bus in chains to testify at
Sekou Odinga's trial in New York where he and other comrades were
charged with robbery of a Brinks armored truck and with liberating
Assata Shakur from prison. After I dressed out for the bus ride, the
guard put a black box over my handcuffs, which is supposedly for high
Any prisoner who's ever worn it will tell you that after a half-hour
the box gnaws into your wrists and sets them on fire with pain. I had
to endure the three-day bus ride with the black-box gnawing into my
wrists all day, plus no smoking was permitted on the bus nor at any of
its stopovers along the way, which in itself was also torture to me
with a then 30-year cigarette habit.
At MCC-NY, the City's federal jail, they put me in isolation wearing
only a T-shirt, pants and shower shoes, then turned the air
conditioner to near freezing level so that I had no choice but to do
push-ups day and night to keep warm. After three days of freezing and
going without cigarettes, I testified in Sekou's defense and was
immediately put back on the bus, cuffed in the black-box, for another
agonizing three-day trip back to Marion, Ill.
In 1988 at USP Leavenworth, Ks., as happened on several occasions
during my sojourn in prison, I was caught up as an innocent bystander
during a major prison disturbance. In such situations bystanders and
participants alike suffer the same abuse by the intervening guards.
This time it happened in the yard when a gang war broke out between
the Texas Syndicate and the EMEs, two Mexican street organizations. In
the ensuing melee, Rene, leader of the Syndicate, was stabbed to
death, and both groups sustained numerous stab wounds. Tower gunfire
stopped the carnage as guards moved in to teargas and handcuff
everyone, including me and other bystanders, facedown on the
blistering summer asphalt, then lifted us by the cuffs and threw us in
the dilapidated and condemned "Building 63" without food or water
until the whole thing was sorted out days later.
And last, in 2001, Sept. 11, at USP Allenwood, Pa., I was rounded up,
held incommunicado and tortured four months with interrogations about
the WTC and the spread of anthrax before being released back into
prison population due to the efforts of Congresswoman Cynthia
McKinney, my attorneys and many other concerned people.
The "Attica to Abu Ghraib Conference: Human Rights, Torture and
Resistance," presented by the International Human Rights Initiative
(IHRI), was held Saturday, April 23, at UC Berkeley in Barrows Hall.
Learn more about brilliant mathematician and heroic revolutionary
Sundiata Acoli at http://www.afrikan.net/sundiata and
http://www.assatashakur.org and write to him at: Sundiata Acoli,
39794-066, P.O. Box 3000, USP Allenwood, White Deer, PA 17887.
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