New film on Attica uprising shows a fight for human rights

The Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Workers World Party will be sponsoring a free zoom showing Dec. 10 of the new documentary, “Attica,” directed by Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry, which premiered on Showtime. One of the surviving participants of the rebellion and a member of the Young Lords, Che Nieves, who was interviewed for the documentary, will be leading a Q&A session. 

Heroic Attica rebellion, Sept. 10, 1971

The discussion will connect the legacy of Attica with the ongoing struggle to free political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, falsely arrested 40 years ago on Dec. 9 in Philadelphia for killing a white police officer.

The zoom showing is scheduled for Dec. 10 because both the Attica rebellion and Mumia’s struggle have connections with the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948, which has come to be known as Human Rights Day.

The Declaration proclaims “the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” It has been translated into 500 languages, more than any other document worldwide. (tinyurl.com/3fz2yp5y)

Every year, the U.N. projects a theme for HRD. The theme for 2021 will be “Equality” as it relates to Article 1 of the Declaration, which states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” 

Even the U.N. acknowledges that what was declared almost 73 years ago is far from meeting today’s goal. In fact, the majority of the world will not be born free as long as poverty, inequality, racism, misogyny, gender oppression, militarism and other class divisions exist due to an economic system that prioritizes profits, not human needs — capitalism.

Back in 1951, a prominent group of mainly Black activists presented a petition to the U.N. entitled “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People” to bring international attention to lynchings, Jim Crow and other forms of racist discrimination suffered by people of African descent. 

This group presented facts using articles from the UDHR and other U.N. declarations. And just this past October, a panel of international jurists found the U.S. guilty of six major counts of human rights violations against Black, Latinx and Indigenous peoples during a “Spirit of [Nelson] Mandela” tribunal, with the rallying cry of “We still charge genocide.” (Read at workers.org/2021/11/59858/) 

‘Attica means fight back’

This past Sept. 9-13 was the 50th anniversary of the largest prison rebellion in U.S. history, the Attica uprising in upstate New York. To repress this rebellion, Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s state troopers and local police slaughtered more than 30 unarmed prisoners and 10 prison employees, with hundreds more prisoners tortured. 

These incarcerated human beings — Black, Latinx and white — were demanding their rights as stated under the UDHR. The legacy of Attica remains 50 years later as a powerful reminder of the universal struggle to break once and for all the chains of all forms of capitalist exploitation by all workers united by any means necessary. 

Che Nieves told WW, “We made a commitment on September 9, 1971, and said that Attica means ‘Fight Back.’ And we fought back for human decency and human rights. That fight is still going on. We want all prisoners to be free and all prisons destroyed.”

Monica Moorehead

Monica.Moorehead@workers.org

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Monica Moorehead

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