On Saturday, April 2, a team from the NYC Stop Mass Incarceration Network converged on the Hub in the Bronx to build support for Clark Kissinger and Miles Solay, the two #ShutDownRikers freedom fighters who are targeted and facing serious charges for nonviolent civil disobedience at the RiseUpOctober action to Shut Down Rikers on October 23, 2015. The Hub, located at the intersection of 149th Street and 3d Avenue, is a major shopping and commercial district for the walking class Black and Latino residents of the Bronx. Many people in the Bronx have had family members, or themselves, have been incarcerated on Rikers Island.
Our aim this Saturday was to draw on the life experiences of people in this community -- where many young people cannot find jobs, and who are subjected to daily police harassment and stints on Rikers -- to build support for Clark and Miles with the call to Shut Down Rikers!
The Rikers Island jail complex, one of the largest jails in the world, holds approximately 10,000 prisoners. Almost 90% are Black and Latino, many are juveniles, and most are there awaiting trials because they cannot afford to make bail and have not been convicted of any crime — making Rikers Island a giant debtor’s prison. Rikers Island also the site of horrendous acts of cruelty, beatings, rape, medical neglect by guards and the administration, along with the wide use of prolonged solitary confinement -- internationally identified as a form of torture.
In the almost two hours we were there, we ran into many people, young and old, who united with the call to #ShutDownRikers. It was a quite lively scene on the corner with our literature table as we distributed the Rikers Fact Sheet, the flyer to defend Clark and Miles and #ShutDownRikers buttons.
As we engaged people, important questions surfaced about what would happen once Rikers was shut down, and what to be done about black-on-black crime in the community. One of us responded that this shows the crying need for revolution because this system has no future for Black and Latino youth -- along with stop-and-frisk, mass incarceration and police terror -- crime is a genocidal consequence when people are forced into grave conditions of oppressive, dog-eat-dog situations for survival.
Most people did not know about the #ShutDownRikers action and the charges Clark and Miles faced, but they enthusiastically signed the petition in support of the two freedom fighters. One older woman recounted the dehumanizing treatment by the Rikers prison staff whenever she and many other when they had to visit loved ones held on Rikers.
Said one member of our team, herself a Bronx resident who participated in the October 23 #ShutDownRikers action, about our experience on Saturday, “People were happy we were taking a stand!” Join us to continue outreach efforts in support of Clark and Miles and call to Shut Down Rikers as we approach their April 12 court date.