Letter from a Hunger-Striking Prisoner: “Today this ride stops!”

Today me and thousands of other prisoners in California and beyond have begun our peaceful protest against the inhumane conditions that we have been living under for so many years. This hunger/work strike is an act of desperation that we have chosen where our health is put on the line – even those prisoners with known medical conditions have decided there simply is no other choice for us to stop the injustice that has been the norm in so many U.S. prisons for so very long.

Here in Pelican Bay SHU human beings have been held in living conditions that are sadly unfit for a dog. We are held in solitary confinement, in windowless cells with no human contact for years and decades and for many the rest of their lives will be in this state of perpetual psychological waterboarding. We are being tortured en masse and yet there is no mention of this Amerikan torture, we are given as much notice as some weeds on the side of a highway. But we are living breathing people with families, friends, ideas and aspirations. Some have done bad things and yet many have committed no crimes to be placed in this supermax, our “crime” is having ideas that do not conform to the state. Many are placed in the state’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) for having revolutionary ideas or attempting to learn the history of the colonized people in Amerikkka. For this “crime” we are labeled as “gang members” and locked forever in SHU.

What the people of the world must know is that the false label of “gang member” is used to whitewash the reality of the U.S. holding political prisoners in its prisons. It is precisely the reality of us being locked in these isolation torture chambers for thought crimes that defines us as political prisoners. The purpose of us being tortured is to compel us to snitch and compromise others, make up accusations or simply end our resistance against this beast and yet we continue to defy the lash and stand on the same path as others took to resist the oppressor before us. Those prisoners who were captured under an occupied state and who continued to struggle for a better life for future generations and who suffered dearly for this and even gave the ultimate sacrifice, we follow this tradition of refusing to be tortured no matter how strong our captors may be today or what force controls them to do the unthinkable to us. We use the only weapon we have in our separate isolation chambers and that weapon is our will to go on as human beings even if this means our breaths are shortened, if being human means to enact that inherent survival mode that exists in every person on Earth, even if this survival mode leads to our demise then we shall live our last days, minutes and seconds of our lives as humans until our last breath.

A hunger strike is not taken lightly by us, we are not suicidal, rather we hope to save lives. We may not be able to save our lives. But we have come to identify our existence in SHU as a conveyor belt leading into an oven of inferno. And we may indeed by strapped onto this conveyor belt with no way out as we have continued for years to watch our comrades fall into the abyss of the oven in psychosis, suicide or other chronic illness. And we may not be able to stop our ride from dropping us into the abyss but we will stop this conveyor belt for future generations to come. Today this ride stops!

History will decide what side of the battle we fell on, but no longer will we stay silent to this torture. Chicanos today are held in SHU at higher rates than any other peoples in California SHUs, i.e. Chicanos are being tortured moreso than any other prisoners in California. Just as Arab men are being tortured in Guantanamo Bay at higher rates than any other peoples. This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by Chicano prisoners here in Pelican Bay, it is a part of many conversations going on here and many have drawn strength and inspiration from the hunger strike currently in Guantanamo Bay. We hope to shine the light on U.S. torture a little brighter for the world to see that U.S. “democracy” is really U.S. lynchocracy and we as colonized people, as U.S. prisoners and thus as survivors of capitalism stand with other torture survivors in our common march toward liberation, no matter what form this liberation takes.

What the SHU has done for prisoners is it has made it possible for us to understand where our oppression comes from. This horrific repression has created a reason for us to dig deep and search for the reason why we are held in such unnatural living conditions. Our discovery has led to the realization that our oppression like throughout the U.S. empire and worldwide has a class character, that is as prisoners we exist as a class, a prison class. This realization took years for it to finally be grasped by all prisoners being tortured here. This realization crept cell to cell, torture chamber to torture chamber until after much debate and discussion prisoners finally understand that our oppression unites us and only via a united front will we make progress. Only when we act as a class in a class struggle will we make advances as a class.

It is essential that the public understands that at the heart of our nonviolent peaceful protest lies not some cries for a piece of the pie, we are not wanting in with some corporate parasite or other nonsense, rather at the core of our demands are to stop the torture! At the heart of our efforts is the demand to be treated as human. We are demanding our human rights and not just picketing for this to come to fruition, we are putting our very lives on the line for our demands. It is expected that there will be more strike-related deaths just as there was in 2011. It is also possible that any one of us will not see the fruits of our peaceful protest but we all are going into this fully understanding what this all entails and are at peace knowing that our fellow prisoners will see and experience the changes we know are coming.

Our resistance will never stop, this is a matter of us stopping the torture or dying. If we must continue to resist torture again and many more fall to strike-related deaths then this is the price but our resistance will never stop!

Pains of hunger have now become my companion but this hunger and the pains i feel are nothing compared to my pains and hunger for freedom and justice. And no matter what the future brings from this struggle it’s known that we will never be the same because of these strikes, nor will California prisons ever be the same because of these strikes. These strikes because of their very nature have helped to raise the consciousness of thousands of prisoners who yesterday saw the prisoner next to them as the problem but today see the state as the problem and rightly so.

The development coming out of these SHU strikes is enabling a qualitative leap to arise within the prisoners’ rights movement and prisoners are growing politically because of it.

Today we throw ourselves to the barricades because we are the ones who suffer the most and have nothing to lose but our torture, we are currently the ones targeted like our counterparts in Guantanamo and others throughout the Third World but the future is on our side and one day we, the most oppressed, will lead in making our liberation a reality just as we are leading in ending our current torture. Our struggles today are practice runs, drills for future struggles for justice. We may be help in these concentration kamps like hulls of old slave ships, but even in these hulls shackled by the foot without food or water, without sunlight or freedom even here we serve the people and resist the oppressor!

Dare to Struggle and Dare to Win!
Free the people! Free the Land!

Jose H. Villarreal #H84098
PBSP – SHU-C11-106
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95532

 

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