Free all political prisoners still behind bars in the US

free all political prisoners

In a victory for campaigners in the US and worldwide, 539 prisoners were granted clemency by outgoing President Obama in January 2017, including notable political prisoners:

• Chelsea Manning, a US Army whistleblower. She was arrested in 2010 and convicted in 2013 for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, exposing the brutality of the Iraq war, and sentenced to 35 years in military prison. Manning is a trans woman, and was denied the right to live as her gender or even grow her hair until 2015. In 2016, after undergoing a five-day hunger strike she was granted a request for genital reassignment surgery, considered life saving by many transgender people. She will be released in May.

• Oscar Lopez Rivera, a member of the Armed Forces for National Liberation, a communist organisation which fought for the independence of US colony Puerto Rico. He was captured by the FBI in 1981 and accused of ‘conspiracy’. He declared himself a prisoner of war, which would have prevented him from being prosecuted under the Geneva Convention. This was not recognised and he was sentenced to 55 years in prison, which was increased to 70 years after an attempted escape. Twelve of those years were spent in solitary confinement. He will be released in May.

• Ten prisoners have been released from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre on occupied Cuban soil and transferred to Oman.

However, many other prominent political prisoners remain in US prisons, including:

Leonard Peltier, an activist in the American Indian Movement, was falsely convicted of the first degree murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975. He was given two life sentences, and has been denied release multiple times despite evidence existing of his innocence. He will not be eligible for parole until 2024.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a revolutionary black journalist and former member of the Black Panther Party, was framed for the 1981 shooting of a police officer. He was sentenced to death and remained on death row for 30 years. In 2011 his death sentence was commuted, but he is now serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. He and countless activists continue to fight for his freedom. Recently in 2015 he was denied Hepatitis C treatment but won a victory to get this after an international campaign.

Mutulu Shakur, Black Liberation Army member and stepfather of Tupac Shakur, has been in prison since 1986 on charges of ‘conspiracy to aid bank expropriation’.

Simon Trinidad, foreign minister of the Colombian guerrilla army FARC. He was arrested in Ecuador in 2004, deported to Colombia, then extradited to the US on false charges and sentenced to 60 years.

• 14 other Black Panther Party members remain in US prisons; all but two of them have been incarcerated since the 1970s.

Saoirse Nic an tSaoi

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 255 February/March 2017

The ‘Global Gag Rule’: a death sentence for women around the world

abortion us

President Trump’s reinstatement of the anti-abortion Mexico City Policy, dubbed the ‘global gag rule’, is a direct attack on the lives and health of women - primarily poor and black women - around the world. The policy, introduced by US President Reagan in 1984 and subsequently twice rescinded by Democrats and bought in again by Republicans, prevents US-funded overseas recipients from discussing abortion. Trump’s position on abortion has moved rapidly from a very limited ‘pro-choice’ stance to a deeply conservative position condemning abortion – he says he ‘hates’ it - and to public support for the reactionary, Christian, large and active ‘pro-life’ movement in the US, who are overwhelmingly his supporters. Trump’s latest incarnation of the gag rule, signed on 23 January, on his fourth day in office, is even more restrictive, reactionary and dangerous than has been seen before.

An attack on global health

US foreign aid has not been able to fund abortions directly since the 1973 Helms Amendment. The Mexico City Policy goes further, preventing international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from receiving US money if they offer abortion-related information, services or referrals. Spending from other donors cannot be used for this purpose, including in countries where abortion is legal. Trump’s additions to the rule mean that not only will the $620 million USAID money, set aside yearly for family planning, be withheld from organisations offering abortion counselling or referrals, now so will the estimated $9.5 billion for ‘global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies’.

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Trump in power - What is really going on?

Trump

A thick cloud of controversies swirled round Donald Trump as he took the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States at his inauguration as the country’s 45th President on 20 January. Quite apart from his racism, misogyny and Islamophobia, rumours circulate about his relationship with Russia and President Putin. On China, will his stance be the end of the ‘one China’ principle held by the US since 1979? His rants insisting on protectionism, his insulting attack on Civil Rights icon John Lewis, his decree that citizens of seven Muslim countries are banned from the US: all these and more raise more questions than answers. So what is really going on? Steve Palmer reports.

‘But what the hell? I’ll wing it and things will work out.’ – Trump

Donald Trump is not a politician, not even a businessman, but a salesman: he lives for ‘The Deal’. He is a lousy businessman, driving his companies into bankruptcy on six occasions. There is one, and only one product which matters to him: Donald Trump. ‘The show is “Trump” and performances are sold out everywhere,’ he says. All his pronouncements and tweets are fundamentally about promoting Brand Trump. In his book The Art of The Deal (p58), published in 1987, he writes: ‘The key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies … a little hyperbole never hurts. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration, a very effective form of promotion.’ In short, in English, he is a liar.

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Protesters brave police brutality and freezing weather at Standing Rock

Standing Rock solidarity march in San Francisco November 2016
Standing Rock solidarity march in San Francisco, November 2016

FRFI is pleased to publish this guest article by Taryn Fivek from the Workers World Party in the US, where self-described water protectors – Native Americans and allied opponents of the planned Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens to poison water supplies and sacred native lands – have been staging a peaceful occupation since August to protect the indigenous reservation of Standing Rock in the state of North Dakota.

Since writing, despite growing international support for the protesters, police have stepped up repression by firing water cannon on protesters and their camps. Used in freezing temperatures, there are serious concerns that protesters could develop severe hypothermia as a result. Police have also fired flash bang grenades, rubber bullets, Long-Range Acoustic Devices and tear gas. Among many serious injuries, a 21-year-old woman from New York is likely to have what remains of her left arm amputated after being hit by a concussion grenade. The CEO of pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners has reportedly offered to reimburse the state for law enforcement costs which have spiralled to $10.9m. You can follow Taryn on Twitter at @fivek.

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Racist Trump elected as US president

Trump election us

The election is over, the dust has cleared. Just as the Brexit referendum result shocked liberal commentators, so has the outcome of the US election. Polls, we were told, predicted a close but definite win for Hillary Clinton. There were even detailed analyses of the failings of the few ‘rogue polls’ which did predict a Trump win. Yet Trump defied the polls, and the immediate hopes of the US ruling class, to win the US Presidential general election. And so the ‘world’s greatest democracy’ is saddled with President Trump. Democrats are shell-shocked, seeming not to realise what has happened and why. Trump supporters are euphoric. Steve Palmer reports.

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