Lucasville prisoners end hunger strike in triumph
MLK birthday victory rally at Ohio supermax prison
Published Jan 22, 2011 10:59 AM
Cars piled into the parking lot of the church next to the Ohio State
Penitentiary in Youngstown. The parked cars left just enough room for a
contingent of friends and family members of the hunger strikers to defy the
frostbite weather and gather with colorful banners and signs. The contingent
drove to the prison to deliver nearly 1,200 names on a petition collected
through the Internet, including more than 600 collected through
March to supermax prison in Ohio.
WW photo: Susan Schnur
Carloads had come from Columbus and Cleveland and included many relatives of
hunger striker Keith LaMar, also known by his chosen name Bomani Hondo Shakur.
Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb and Shakur, all with false convictions for
their leadership roles in the prison rebellion in Lucasville, Ohio, in 1993,
had been refusing food since Jan. 3 to protest their extremely stringent
lockdown conditions for the past 12 years.
Demonstrators marched in a circle around the church parking lot, chanting,
“Our fight, our goal, free our brothers from the hole!” and
“Warden Bobby, shame, shame! No more torture in our name!”
The slogans were militant, but the mood was that of a victory celebration. It
was announced that in the face of the hunger strikers’ determination and
support pouring in from around the world, the prison authorities had crumbled
“like wet toilet paper,” as one rally participant shouted.
A break-away contingent spontaneously took off across the knee-deep snow toward
the monster supermax prison with the 12-foot “Stop the Executions”
banner and many other signs, chanting as they went. After they crossed 400
yards of OSP property, security vehicles stopped them at the parking lot. The
activists knew they had managed to get close enough to the prison windows that
inmates on the east side of the supermax, including Shakur, would be able to
see them and take heart in their defiance.
The crowd then gathered in a church in downtown Youngstown for a reception
hosted by the prisoner advocacy group LOOP or Loved Ones Of Prisoners. The
packed room rocked with cheers at the announcement that Warden David Bobby had
agreed to meet and even go beyond the demands of the
“long-termers.” Shakur’s aunt, Carolyn Dailey, spoke of how
she will be using the new semi-contact visit privileges to feed him “like
I’ve always fed my nephew.” Tears were shed amid talk of kissing
relatives not kissed for nearly 18 years.
Access to the computerized database for legal research is also vitally
important, given the sobering news that a judge had abruptly sent back
Shakur’s habeas corpus petition without the usual two years of
consideration. The other awards of commissary and catalog-ordering privileges
and additional phone time, while important concessions to fairness, are also
ways prison contractors can make additional profits. The extra eight hours per
week out of their cells will ease the inmates’ isolation marginally, but
the warden did not agree to house them with other death-row prisoners.
The enormous Ohio-wide, nationwide and international movement that swung into
action in support of the Lucasville hunger strikers now has to shift focus
toward overturning their convictions and halting their executions. As of noon
on Jan. 15, all three men had resumed eating. Robb sent this message out to the
many thousands of supporters: “Thank you. Your voices were heard. We will
be back in touch for the next round.”
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