Speech held on July 4, 2020: Slavery and Resistance in the US

by FREE MUMIA Berlin

Speech held in front of US Embassy in Berlin on July 4, 2020 as part of the demonstration Black Lives Matter! Free Mumia – Free Them All!

US Embassy, Pariser Platz 2/Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

In official history books, the date of the end of slavery in the U. S. is given as 1865. Far too few people know that the 13th amendment to the constitution, which presumably abolished slavery, simultaneously reintroduced it. Since that time, however, enslaved human beings have no longer been the property of private owners, but rather, the property of the state, which to this day arrogates to itself the right to deprive them of all their basic right, to exploit them, and to rent them to corporations to enable them to maximize their profits.

At present, around 2.14 million people in the U.S. are imprisoned, and an additional 4.2 million are under penal supervision and deprived of almost all their civil rights. No other country on earth comes even close to the falsely labeled “Land of the Free” with regard to its incarceration rate. Most prisoners don’t have the financial means to defend themselves against a criminal justice system that sends 97 % of them to prison without even granting them a trial. Not by accident, a disproportionally large part of them are People of Color, mostly African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or Native Americans.

One of the driving factors of mass incarceration is the economic incentive embodied by the almost cost-free exploitation of the labor of these prisoners by the state and private prison industry. Just as in the case of its emulators in Australia, the UK, or the European Union, this industry is one of the few “guarantors” for profit in the competition for low-wage production.

At present, the extent of mass incarceration in the United States is without parallel; it is nothing but the continuation of slavery by another name. But both within and outside the prisons, resistance against this lack of rights and a society that enslaves people while denying them any participation is mounting. The U.S. prison industry generates profits to the tune of billions by exploiting the prisoners. Since around 2010, however, it is faced with numerous actions and strikes demanding an abolition of this kind of slavery.

Whether in California, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, or New York – almost everywhere in the country, tens of thousands of prisoners have been participating in various forms of labor struggles. Since 2016, the central, nation-wide demand from within the prisons has been the END of this modern form of slavery. By now, hundreds of organizations as well as relatives and local alliances also support these struggles from outside the prisons. Unfortunately, the U.S. media have barely been reporting this for the last two years.

But despite the blackout on the part of the market-dominating corporate media, the prisoners succeed in making their voices heard. Today, even conservative politicians can no longer avoid demanding so-called “penal reforms” and calling for the deletion of various minor defenses from the penal catalogue.

Whether this kind of slavery in the U.S. will really fall or whether the protest will simply be deprived of its urgency by some reforms will also depend on the willingness of all of us to support the struggles of the prisoners. Despite being subjected to massive violence, decades of solitary confinement and others forms of degrading treatment, tens of thousands of prisoners have openly declared their “refusal of being slaves.” Their voices within the U.S. prisons are growing louder and louder.

And by now, we are hearing similar demands in Europe, as in Belgium, Spain, and Germany, where prisoners have even been able to build their own prison union.

Prisons and deportation camps are areas of experimentation for the refinement of state repression. By supporting and defending the prisoners, we are also fighting for our own rights “on the outside.” The current struggles of the prisoners – such as the ones in the United States – are already showing us our own future labor struggles. By resolutely resisting the profit-oriented exploitation of prisoners, that is, legalized slavery, we are simultaneously defending our own conditions of life.

What we want to pass on to the CIA from here, in front of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, for your report to the State Department in Washington D.C. is the message that we know what is happening in the prisons of the United States and that we stand side by side with all those wo “refuse to be slaves” anymore.


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