New York — Several dozen activists, including large numbers of students, rallied in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park on April 17 to mark the 42nd annual Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and launch the second Prison Divestment National Week of Action. They then marched to Hillary Clinton’s nearby campaign headquarters, where they joined a larger protest against the Democratic presidential candidate’s pro-war political record.
Palestinian Prisoners’ Day commemorates the 1974 release of Mahmoud Baker Hijazi, the first Palestinian prisoner freed by Israel in a prisoner exchange with resistance groups, and shows solidarity with 7,000 current detainees, including 700 “administrative detainees,” 438 children and six elected members of the Palestinian parliament. The “detainees” are imprisoned without even going through Israeli military trials, known for their 99.74 percent conviction rate against Palestinian defendants.
Marches, rallies and strikes have marked the day throughout the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1948 and 1967, while growing numbers of Palestinian and solidarity groups elsewhere hold protests and educational events.
This year, the day coincided with a nationwide mobilization against Real Estate Investment Trust tax breaks used by the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group to avoid property taxes on their private prisons.
This de facto subsidy, critics charge, not only increases the profitability of private imprisonment but also allows prison companies to pour donations into the campaigns of politicians whose policies of criminalization benefit them.
Speakers in Cadman Plaza included representatives of Cop Watch, HDK New York, the International Action Center, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Students for Justice in Palestine, Students Without Borders and Queens Neighborhoods United. Many of the speakers connected domestic struggles against mass incarceration and police repression, as well as liberation movements in Kurdistan and elsewhere, with the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and the fight for a free Palestine.
Following a march, with chants of “Smash the settler Zionist state!” and “Hillary, Obama: You will feel the Intifada!” the group joined 100 picketers from the Committee Opposed to Hillary Clinton’s Interventionism outside the Clinton headquarters.
Chants and speakers criticized Clinton’s record of intervention, from Haiti and Honduras to Ukraine, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Palestine.
Catron is a member of Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition and an organizer with Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.