Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Modern Day Slave Plantation Exists, and It's Thriving in the Heart of America

This was written by Laura Dimon for PolicyMic
May 8, 2014

It was 1972. Thousands of American troops were battling communist forces in Vietnam. Nixon had won re-election by a landslide, but Watergate would soon usher in his demise. Space travel and technology were advancing rapidly.

Change was brewing across America, but one place stood still, frozen in time: Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola. When Robert King arrived that year, he felt as though he'd stepped into the past.

Read the full story here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Free Albert Woodfox! Take Action with Amnesty Intl: "Herman died a free man. Let's help Albert live as one."

Please take action for Albert Woodfox here!

(FLYER: Amnesty Intl actions for Albert Woodfox on Oct. 19 in New Orleans and Oct. 21 at the Capitol in Baton Rouge)

RELATED:  UN statement on Albert Woodfox

Today, Amnesty International kicked off a new campaign in support of Albert Woodfox. The email action alert and a separate press release are both reprinted below, in full:

------
Herman died a free man. Let's help Albert live as one.

Herman Wallace died nine days before his 72nd birthday. The famed ‘Angola 3' prisoner succumbed to liver cancer on Friday, 3 days after being released from prison. 

Herman survived more than 41 years of isolation, becoming a fierce activist calling for an end to the cruel, inhuman use of solitary confinement. 

He died a free man, but the search for justice is far from over. The third member of the Angola 3, Albert Woodfox, is STILL being held in solitary confinement.

Enough is enough — call on Louisiana authorities to free Albert Woodfox. 

Albert was placed in solitary after a 1972 murder that he maintains he did not commit. There is no physical evidence linking him to the crime. 

Albert's conviction has already been overturned three times — most recently by a federal district court — but the state obsessively appeals every time the court rules in his favor.

Tell the Louisiana authorities to free Albert Woodfox today.

Before he died, Herman said this about Albert and their struggle for human rights: 
"I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well...The state may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast."
I never met Herman, and yet I will always remember him as larger-than-life — a symbol of resistance to human rights abuses and injustice who refused to be silenced. More than 110,000 people like you rose up to free him — Now it's time to shine the light for Albert — take action. 

In solidarity,

Jasmine Heiss
Campaigner, Individuals and Communities at Risk
Amnesty International USA

(End of email alert. The Oct. 10 Amnesty USA press release begins.)

Louisiana Must End Campaign of 'Vengeance' Against Remaining Angola 3 Prisoner Albert Woodfox

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(NEW YORK) - Following the death of Herman Wallace, who was held in solitary confinement for nearly 40 years, Amnesty International today launches a campaign demanding the release of his co-defendant Albert Woodfox, who also has been held in cruel conditions of isolation following a deeply flawed trial.

'Enough is enough,' said Steven W. Hawkins, Amnesty International USA executive director. 'Nothing can justify the cruel treatment that the state of Louisiana has inflicted on Albert Woodfox. It's simply unconscionable for the state to hold him one day longer. His trial was flawed and his conviction has been overturned three separate times. Authorities must let the most recent court ruling stand and release Woodfox from prison. At this point, Louisiana officials seem to be out for vengeance; instead, we call on them to act in the interest of justice and see that he is released.'

Woodfox and Wallace were both convicted of the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. There was no physical evidence to link them to the crime and their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favorable treatment in return for his testimony.

Both men have robustly denied any involvement in the crime. They believe they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.

Earlier this year a federal judge overturned the conviction. However, Woodfox continues to languish in prison after the state of Louisiana appealed against his release.

During a legal process that has spanned four decades, Woodfox's conviction has been overturned three times.

'Were it not for the state of Louisiana's dogged determination to appeal against these rulings, Woodfox would almost certainly be a free man by now,' said Tessa Murphy, an Amnesty campaigner.

Wallace was released last week just days before he died of liver cancer. A federal judge who overturned his conviction said it would hold the state in contempt of court if it attempted to appeal the case.

For most of the last four decades, Woodfox has been confined to a small cell for 23 hours a day, denied access to meaningful human interaction and rehabilitation.

Prison records show that Albert has not committed any serious disciplinary infractions for years and that he doesn’t pose a threat to himself or others.

Take action: Demand the release of Albert Woodfox.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Herman Wallace: Turning grief into strength

From Angola3News:

What an unbelievable, surreal, momentous, and historic week it has been with Herman's amazing release after 42 years, the State's vindictive last ditch attempt of a reindictment, and his passing. This, all in a period of days. His family and friends are still in a whirlwind. 

Always larger than life, Herman leaves a huge hole in so many of our lives. Below is information about Herman's funeral service on Saturday and a benefit tomorrow to help the family pay for the service.

Also featured is today's incredible announcement about Albert from Juan Mendez, the U.N. Special Rapporteuer on torture and several of the most notable press and media releases.

Long live Herman Wallace!

Free Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners!

Abolish Solitary Confinement!


Herman Wallace, RIP
Sunrise: October 13, 1941
Sunset: October 4, 2013
Celebrating the Home-going of Herman (Hooks) Wallace

Please join the family and friends of Herman Wallace in celebrating Herman's life and spirit, on October 12, 2013, at the New Orleans Treme Center, 900 N. Villa St., New Orleans, LA

Viewing:                              9:00 am 
Service:                              10:00 am
Internment at Cemetery:    12:00 pm
Repast at Treme Center     2 - 4 pm

Officiant:  Rev. Kenneth J. Harrell of the Cummings -Wilson A.M.E. Church

For more information: (832) 494-4027



View large flyer here.
Message from Robert King About Oct. 8 Benefit for Herman's Family
Dear friends/supporters/ comrades, et al,

We' re sending this flyer out to all A3 supporters (especially those in New Orleans and Louisiana area) to come out in support of a benefit to raise funds to help cover the costs of Herman's burial.  For those far-away supporters who cannot attend and would like to help, donations can be made here.

The event will take place at Ashe Cultural Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in New Orleans at 6:30 pm, on Tuesday, October 8.

Please share and disseminate the attached flyer widely. 

Thanking all supporters in advance, hope to see you there on Tuesday.

As ever, 
King

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Demands the Immediate Release of Albert Woodfox From Solitary Confinement

"This is a sad case and it is not over" stressed United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez in today's statement. "The co-accused, Mr. Woodfox, remains in solitary confinement pending an appeal to the federal court and has been kept in isolation in a 8-foot-by-12 foot (2.5 x 3.5 m. Approx.) cell for up to 23 hours per day, with just one hour of exercise or solitary recreation."

"Keeping Albert Woodfox in solitary confinement for more than four decades clearly amounts to torture and it should be lifted immediately," said Mr. Méndez, who has repeatedly urged the US Government to abolish the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. "I am deeply concerned about his physical and mental condition."

"The circumstances of the incarceration of the so-called Angola Three clearly show that the use of solitary confinement in the US penitentiary system goes far beyond what is acceptable under international human rights law," the independent investigator on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment noted.

--Read the full release by the UN Human Rights Council here.

Herman Wallace and the Angola 3 in the News
--Special thanks to PBS, who is currently honoring Herman by streaming the film Herman's House. Watch the full movie here.

MEDIA COVERAGE:  NY Times  II  Amnesty International  II  Times-Picayune  II  The Advocate  II  ABC  II  Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC  II 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The "Muhammad Ali of the Criminal Justice System" Passes On

From: Angola3News:

--Special thanks to PBS, who is currently honoring Herman by  streaming the film Herman's House. Watch the full movie here.

MEDIA COVERAGE:  NY Times  II  Amnesty International  II  Times-Picayune  II  ABC  II  Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC  II  NBC  II  The Independent, UK  II  UPI  II  Common Dreams  II Toronto Sun / Reuters  II  NY Daily News / Associated Press 




This  morning we lost without a doubt the biggest, bravest, and brashest  personality in the political prisoner world.  It is with great sadness  that we write with the news of Herman Wallace's passing.

Herman never did anything half way.  He embraced his many quests and  adventures in life with a tenacious gusto and fearless determination  that will absolutely never be rivaled.  He was exceptionally loyal and  loving to those he considered friends, and always went out of his way to  stand up for those causes and individuals in need of a strong voice or  fierce advocate, no matter the consequences.

Anyone lucky enough to have spent any time with Herman knows that his  indomitable spirit will live on through his work and the example he left  behind.  May each of us aspire to be as dedicated to something as  Herman was to life, and to justice.

Below is a short obituary/press statement for those who didn't know him  well in case you wish to circulate something.  Tributes from those who  were closest to Herman and more information on how to help preserve his  legacy by keeping his struggle alive will soon follow.
------------------
 On October 4th, 2013, Herman Wallace, an icon of the  modern prison reform movement and an innocent man, died a free man  after spending an unimaginable 41 years in solitary confinement.

Herman spent the last four decades of his life fighting against all that  is unjust in the criminal justice system, making international the  inhuman plight that is long term solitary confinement, and struggling to  prove that he was an innocent man.  Just 3 days before his passing, he  succeeded, his conviction was overturned, and he was released  to spend his final hours surrounded by loved ones.  Despite his brief  moments of freedom, his case will now forever serve as a tragic example  that justice delayed is justice denied.

Herman Wallace's early life in New Orleans during the heyday of an  unforgiving and unjust Jim Crow south often found him on the wrong side  of the law and eventually he was sent to the Louisiana State  Penitentiary at Angola for armed robbery.  While there, he was  introduced to the Black Panther's powerful message of self determination  and collective community action and quickly became one of its most  persuasive and ardent practitioners.

Not long after he began to organize hunger and work strikes to protest  the continued segregation, endemic corruption, and horrific abuse  rampant at the prison, he and his fellow panther comrades Albert Woodfox  and Robert King were charged with murders they did not commit and  thrown in solitary.  Robert was released in 2001 after 29 years in  solitary but Herman remained there for an unprecedented 41 years, and  Albert is still in a 6x9 solitary cell.

Herman's criminal case ended with his passing, but his legacy will live  on through a civil lawsuit he filed jointly with Robert and Albert that  seeks to define and abolish long term solitary confinement as cruel and  unusual punishment, and through his comrade Albert Woodfox's still active and promising bid for freedom from the wrongful conviction they both shared.

Herman was only 9 days shy of 72 years old.

Services will be held in New Orleans. The date and location will be forthcoming.

For more information visit www.angola3.org and www.angola3news.com.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Free At Last! Herman Wallace Has Finally Been Released

 From: Angola3News




MEDIA COVERAGE:  Oct. 2 episode of Democracy Now (embedded above)  II  NY Times  II  CNN  II  Times-Picayune (with photos of Herman's release)  II  NBC  II  ABC / AP  II  South China Morning Post / AFP  II NY Daily News / Reuters  II  Huffington Post Live TV (w/ Robert King)  II WAFB CBS News Baton Rouge (video)  II  CBS National News  II  UPI  II  Catholic Online (w/ WGNO ABC video of Herman's arrive at LSU)  II  The Independent, UK  II  Medical Daily
(Herman upon release, on route to the LSU hospital. 
You can click on the photo above to enlarge.)
--View A3 Coalition photos from Herman's release at Flickr and Indybay.

After a long, dramatic day, we are humbled to report that the indomitable, irrepressible Herman Wallace has just been released after spending over 4 decades in solitary confinement.

Even after Judge Jackson's late evening ruling denying the State's attempt at a stay and again ordering his immediate release, the State continued to stall.  Once notified of the continued delay, Judge Jackson stoically refused to leave his quarters until Herman was released, and just minutes ago, Herman was driven away from the prison a free man, awake and able to revel in this miraculous turn of events.

The State will likely still appeal to the 5th Circuit and attempt to have the order reversed, and may even re-indict him, but it seems that Herman, against all odds, has won.

Despite all the exciting drama of the day, this is obviously a deeply bittersweet moment for all those involved in the campaign as we know Herman may not have much longer amongst us, but thanks to the unwavering commitment to justice that those on this list have demonstrated over the years on A3's behalf, he will not die in prison behind solitary bars.

Now we must resolve collectively to harness this rediscovered energy and excitement and dedicate ourselves to getting Albert the same result without delay.

If you happen to be in New Orleans, supporters are holding a vigil tonight starting in just a few moments at 8pm. Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate this incredible news. Coliseum Square was the original location, but it has been changed to LSU, outside the hospital emergency room, at 2021 Perdido St New Orleans, LA 70112.

With awe, bewilderment, and a renewed optimism, we will keep supporters updated.

Herman Wallace, April 2013: All Power to the People!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Herman Wallace's Conviction Overturned and Immediate Release Ordered!

From: Angola3News

-Read today's court ruling here

(Statement written by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3)

Miraculous news this morning! Judge Brian A. Jackson, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, has overturned Herman's conviction, granting him full habeas relief based on the systematic exclusion of women from the jury in violation of the 14th Amendment.

Even more astonishingly, the Judge clearly orders that "the State immediately release Mr. Wallace from custody."  No application for bail is required, and the State is given 30 days to notify Herman if they plan to re-indict him.

We pray that Herman can still hear this all-important decision that he's waited these four decades for.  Although the State will no doubt contest this decision, this is what Herman has been struggling for - and at the end of his life, he's won!

Albert Woodfox and Robert King are meeting at the prison this morning to say their farewells and and will instead have this amazing news to share with Herman and maybe even be able to take him home. To everyone that's pushed for this victory - thank you - it means the world to Herman.

--Today's ruling comes on the heels of recent media coverage, including:  Democracy Now (reprinted by Havana Times), The Atlantic, and the SF Bay View.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fighting Spirit: A Message from Herman Wallace

From: Angola3News:
Sept. 10th 2013

On Saturday. August 31st, I was transferred to LSU Hospital for evaluation. I was informed that the chemo treatments had failed and were making matters worse and so all treatment came to an end. The oncologists advised that nothing can be done for me medically within the standard care that they are authorized to provide. They recommended that I be admitted to hospice care to make my remaining days as comfortable as possible. I have been given 2 months to live.

I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We are just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in the American Gulag. We mourn for the family of Brent Miller and the many other victims of murder who will never be able to find closure for the loss of their loved ones due to the unjust criminal justice system in this country. We mourn for the loss of the families of those unjustly accused who suffer the loss of their loved ones as well.

Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have.  The State may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.

In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the people, and although I'm down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end.