Revolutionary Worker #1160, July 28, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
We received the following correspondence:
Dear friends in the struggle,
June 22 marked two years since the State of Texas murdered brother Shaka Sankofa. On June 22, 2000, the Huntsville 8 were arrested for protesting and pulling down the barricades outside the Walls Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (sic) in Huntsville, Texas, where Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham) was about to be executed. We ran toward the doors of the death house expressing the outrage of thousands worldwide, "Stop the murder of Shaka Sankofa!"
Since this day, we have always made our view clear: the only crime committed on June 22, 2000, was the legal lynching of political prisoner Shaka Sankofa by the State of Texas.
On May 30, 2002, after two years of refusing to drop our charges, Walker County made its move to convict the Huntsville 8, sentencing seven of us on charges of criminal trespass. (The eighth defendant still awaits arraignment and trial on a bogus felony charge of assault on a prison warden with a plastic Gatorade bottle!) The pursuit of these charges for two years has been a clear attempt to criminalize dissent. The state took advantage of the current repressive climate to try to silence voices that have been exposing the real criminals behind the Texas Death Machine.
Each of us was sentenced to ten days in the Walker County Jail (suspended as long as we each complete six months of probation), a $1,000 fine, $200 in court costs, $150 probation fee, and 100 hours of community service. The total is $9,450. Considering that the average punishment for criminal trespass is a $300 fine, this is clearly an attempt to punish protest and dissent and keep activists out of the struggle. It will not be successful. Shaka's legacy of a strong fighting spirit and his dedication to serving the people continues to inspire us!
A probation officer in Huntsville made it clear why we were being punished when she denied one of the defendant's application to do her community service with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, a non-profit organization which met all the official criteria. She said, "Working there would be a conflict of interest with what you're on probation for." When the defendant argued that we were arrested for criminal trespass, the probation officer said, "Criminal trespass for what? A protest for what? But you were protesting the death penalty. You don't need to be doing community service for a group like that." Case closed!
Revolutionary brother Mumia Abu-Jamal has written much about Shaka's case. Mumia points out, "The strong rebellious spirit of Sankofa drew hundreds of supporters to the city of death, Huntsville, Texas, to protest in favor of his life. The Sankofa case, which poses the spectacle of the broken Texas Death Machine killing an innocent young man, is an indictment of a system that is, in essence, one built upon the most premeditated of murders."
I would like to especially note that Shaka spent over half his life in a hellish prison cell, yet was strong enough to become a revolutionary who was most deeply conscious of his individual and collective self and of his place in history. As Mumia noted, "It is a crime in a racist nation for a Black youth to be conscious and thinking in political and collective terms." But Shaka was strong and left the legacy of never backing down and always resisting injustice, even up to the last minutes of his life.
Since our arrest two years ago, together with our Defense Committee, we have always relied on the people to use this legal case to expose the real criminals. As a result, supporters across the country and around the world have contributed generously. Donations poured in for bail bonds, flyers, legal fees, and especially the publishing of a major ad. The ad was signed by many, including the family of Shaka, community organizations, activists of all kinds, prominent people, and others, and it publicly called for our charges to be dropped.
This support for the Huntsville 8 has in no way diminished. But for two years the state has strung along this case, making it impossible to be on a constant state of alert and vigilance. Now, in the post-9/11 world, many people have focused their efforts on opposing the increased domestic repression and Bush's declaration of a war without end. It was in this context that the State of Texas made its move to quickly bring us to trial or force a deal with ridiculous conditions.
For two years, the Huntsville 8 stood firm, refusing to accept any jail time, so the authorities could not use us as their example of what will happen to those who dare to resist. Then, unexpectedly, Walker County Judge Barbara Hale gave us an ultimatum: If our cases were not disposed of by May 30, we would go to trial on June 3. Rather than risk six months in jail, we decided to go with fines and community service. No jail time after carrying out the civil resistance we did on June 22, 2000, while the whole world was watching! The protest was in the face of thousands of the government's forces of repression that were in place to control the protesters and make it possible for the State to carry out its murder. In the spirit of Shaka, and as a voice for thousands more, we refused to be silent.
The Huntsville 8 call on people everywhere to send a loud and clear message to the government that the people will defend and support those persecuted for their political beliefs and actions. This is extremely important in the post-9/11 world where protest and dissent are being suppressed and criminalized in new and extreme ways. Let them know that no matter what they do, Shaka's legacy of resistance will continue to inspire us always.
We urge you to generously contribute to pay off the total ransom of $9,450 demanded by the State of Texas from seven of the Huntsville 8!
Please make checks payable to "Huntsville 8 Defense Committee," and mail them to:
Huntsville 8 Defense Committee
5380 W. 34th St. #386
Houston, TX 77092
You can also contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 281.725.1948.
The Huntsville 8
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