The Call to Shut Down Rikers

October 23, Non-Violent Direct Action as Part of #RiseUpOctober

Just 300 yards from the runways at LaGuardia Airport, just a few miles from a glistening city, an island sits dedicated to confinement, brutality, and torture of our youth and others. Human beings languish for weeks, months, sometimes years awaiting trial. Almost all Black or Latino. Many simply for lack of money for bail. Many locked down for weeks and months in solitary confinement. Guards inflict a culture of violence—fractured jaws, broken bones, denial of medical care, cover-ups and retaliation against those who report, and rampant sexual violence against the women and LGBT people as well as the men. Rikers typifies and concentrates the immorality and illegitimacy of mass incarceration in the U.S.

It is difficult to say which is a greater shock to the conscience: that this torture and brutality goes on day in and day out, or that millions go about their daily lives accepting this as normal just miles away.

The violence against inmates at Rikers has been studied. It has been exposed. Guards have been sued. Settlements have been paid. The deaths inflicted through brutality and negligence have been documented. The life-long trauma and dysfunction imposed on inmates has been proven. Yet the brutality continues day in and day out. All this is plain for the whole world to see.

The time for wringing our hands is over. The time for cosmetic but essentially meaningless reforms is over. A line must be drawn. People of conscience must put our bodies on the line to stop this depravity and barbarity, else we ourselves are complicit.


This call was initiated by:

Nellie Bailey, Harlem activist
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and co-initiator of Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Willie Francois, Associate Pastor, First Corinthians Baptist Church, Harlem*
Rev. Jerome McCorry and Candace McCorry, RiseUpOctober Faith Task Force
Rev. Stephen Phelps, member, Presbytery of New York City*
Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan, killed in unjust U.S. war on Iraq, 2004
Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper, initiator of
Mia Thornton, NYU student activist
James Vrettos, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*

* for identification purposes only 

#RiseUpOctober was three powerful days of action to STOP Police Terror and Murder and to challenge everyone in society: Which side are you on? Learn more about it here 

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