Perilous Chronicle is a digital research and media project as well as an historical archive that documents prison uprisings, protests, strikes and other disturbances within jails, prisons and detention centers in the US and Canada.
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Hunger Strikes at Adelanto ICE Processing Center and Otay Mesa Detention Center
Welcome back to the Perilous Podcast, a news and oral history project featuring original interviews with prisoners and detainees who have participated in or witnessed protests, uprisings and other forms of unrest behind bars. We also gather analysis and insight from researchers and advocates in an effort to build a better understanding of systems of incarceration and collective action and strategy.
This week, we cover the hunger strike that occurred in early June at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center. The hunger strike, which began on June 4 and lasted about 5 days, involved at least 70 detainees, although the exact number is unknown. The strikers released a statement expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. They wrote,
We, the detained people of dormitories A, B, and C at Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility, are protesting and on hunger strike in solidarity with the detained people at Otay Mesa Detention Center. We begin our protest in memory of our comrades George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, and Tony McDade. Almost all of us have also suffered through our country's corrupt and racist criminal justice system before being pushed into the hands of ICE.
Mr. Asif Qazi, a detainee at Mesa Verde, went on to explain what he and his fellow strikers were attempting to do:
We support their cause for protesting against a corrupt justice system and corrupt law officials. We’re trying to intertwine our causes in one general fight for justice, and we believe ICE falls in the category of corrupt justice officials.
The detainees later released a video statement, further expressing their solidarity with the uprising against the murder of George Floyd and linking their efforts to the one in streets.
In order to better understand what happened at Mesa Verde, we interviewed Jack Herrera about his coverage of the strike. Jack Herrera is an independent journalist focusing on immigration, refugee issues, and human rights. His work has appeared in The Nation, Politico Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, Popular Science, TruthOut, Pacific Standard and more. He is currently based in San Francisco and frequently travels to Mexico. His article about the hunger strike at Mesa Verde was published in PRISM. In addition to agreeing to do an interview with us, Mr. Herrera also shared with us audio from his interview with Mr. Qazi, which we’ll play for you throughout the show. Special thanks to Mr. Herrera for his help in telling this story.
Perilous Chronicle is run by a small group of dedicated volunteers and very little funding. If you value our work, please support us by visiting our website and donating via PayPal or Patreon and rate and follow us on iTunes. With your help, we can expand our efforts to track, document and archive the stories of prisoners and detainees who are standing up for themselves in the midst of overwhelming odds. Perilous relies on crowdsourced information for our grassroots tracking and archival efforts. If you have information or are in touch with a prisoner or detainee who has witnessed or been involved in a protest or other form of unrest, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, we have a very special interview with Dr. Heather Ann Thompson, historian at the University of Michigan, and the Pulitzer Prize and Bancroft Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy and Whose Detroit? Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City.
Perilous Researchers Ryan Fatica and Duncan Tarr spoke with Dr. Thompson about the wave of unrest sweeping the country in jails, prisons and detention centers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late April, Dr. Thompson made this prescient statement in an interview with Jacobin: “I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but these are unstable times. You cannot shut down the US economy for this long, with income inequality at the highest rate it has been since the Gilded Age, without expecting some social unrest. I don’t doubt that people will protest, and they will have every right to do so. But I worry about the repression.” Just one month later, multiple American cities were on fire as people reacted to the murder of George Floyd and the systematic racism and out of control police violence it represented.
The interview was recorded days before the murder of George Floyd so Dr. Thompson, a scholar of popular uprisings, does not reflect directly upon the movement that has since emerged and which is currently reshaping the world, but much of our conversation about the wave of prison rebellion that immediately preceded the George Floyd Uprisings is applicable to our current task of analyzing our present moment.
This week, we spoke with Diego Alcala, a criminal defense and human rights attorney based in Puerto Rico about a hunger strike that occurred on March 20 at a prison in Guayama, Puerto Rico and we also read a letter from the hunger strikers that was recently translated to English by friends of Perilous Chronicle. The hunger strike at Guayama has not been covered by English language news, evidence of the lack of attention given on the mainland US to both the suffering and the brave resistance of those living in this US territory.
For links to our article about the hunger strike at Guayama, the original Spanish-language article from Primera Hora and to see Diego’s report, which has been recently translated to English, please check out our show notes.
Perilous Chronicle is run by a small group of dedicated volunteers and very little funding. If you value our work, please support us by visiting our website and donating via PayPal or Patreon. With your help, we can expand our efforts to track, document and archive the stories of prisoners and detainees who are standing up for themselves in the midst of overwhelming odds. Perilous relies on crowdsourced information for our grassroots tracking and archival efforts. If you have information or are in touch with a prisoner or detainee who has witnessed or been involved in a protest or other form of unrest, please get in touch with us at email@example.com
This week, we spoke with prisoner rights advocates in Canada about protests at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in response to Covid-19 restrictions. We also have an audio statement from a detainee in the women’s unit at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center who says detainees there are going on strike, as Democracy Now reports that, as of May 1, the hunger strike in the men’s unit of Adelanto was also ongoing.
Perilous Podcast is a news and oral history project featuring original interviews with prisoners and detainees who have participated in or witnessed protests, uprisings and other forms of unrest behind bars. We also gather analysis and insight from researchers and advocates in an effort to build a better understanding of systems of incarceration and collective action and strategy.
Today we have an interview with Marcos Duran, a detainee at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center who participated in a hunger strike at the facility in early April and Lizbeth Mateo, an immigration attorney who represents Duran.
Later in the program, we have a group audio statement from detainees at the Otay Mesa Detention Center who are on hunger strike demanding sanitation measures in response to Covid-19.
Detainees at the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama staged a protest on March 20 after three new detainees were brought into the facility with flu symptoms. Detainees stood on the upper tier of their dorm with bed sheets tied around their necks, threatening to kill themselves if the facility failed to institute effective quarantine measures to protect detainees against the spread of COVID-10.Tefsa Miller, one of the detainees who stood on the ledge threatening suicide, spoke with Perilous Chronicle about his experience at the facility and his decision to protest.