A march from Kennedy Plaza to the Providence Public Safety Complex, with a brief, tense stop in front of the Providence Place Mall was held in Providence Friday evening in solidarity with a National Prison Strike, on the 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising.
After gathering in Kennedy Plaza, across from Providence City Hall, the march headed for the Providence Place Mall, where it came to a stop, blocking one direction of traffic. Providence Police, lead by Lt. Oscar Perez, had until this time been clearing traffic ahead of the march, but here, with traffic stopped, there was a tense five minutes where a threat of arrest seemed imminent. No arrests took place.
Still, many of the participants felt the police showed their hand in front of the mall. At the Providence Public Safety Complex, after the march, a speaker maintained that though the police were saying that they were “trying to keep us all safe… the second we stopped at the mall… we were threatened with arrest… Safety goes out the window when it comes to capital. They’re here to protect and serve, just not us. They’re here to protect fucking capital.”
On my way back to Kennedy Plaza after the event Lt. Perez told me, half jokingly, that “those kids kind of hurt my feelings.”
The problems with capitalism, though, is one of the points this strike and the supportve march is trying to make. As the march organizers say on their event page, “Slavery is legal in America. Written into the 13th Amendment, it is legal to work someone that is incarcerated for free or almost free. Since the Civil War, tens of millions of people – most arrested for non-violent offenses – have been used as slaves for the sake of generating massive profits for multi-national corporations and the US government. Today, prison labor is a multi-billion dollar industry which helps generate enormous wealth for key industries such as fossil fuels, fast food, telecommunications, technology, the US military, and everyday house hold products…
“This is not just a prison strike for better wages or conditions, it is a strike against white supremacy, capitalism, and slavery itself.”
This is the context for the stop at the mall. The mall sells products made by prison labor. Not paying prisoners wages for the work they do, or paying them a fraction of what workers outside prisons make, depress the wages of everyone. The slavery system of prison labor has real consequences for everyone, especially the poor and marginalized, who are often only one bad day away from being in prison themselves.
Nationally, the strike is being led by groups such as the Free Alabama Movement, Free Texas Movement, Free Ohio Movement, Free Virginia Movement, Free Mississippi Movement, and many more. Locally, the march was organized by the Providence chapter of the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee [IWOC].
The strike is certainly not a one day event. Today, at the Adult Correctional
For more information:
Here’s video from the speak out: