Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Oscar López Rivera’s 32 Years of Resistance to Torture --Will President Obama pardon the longest held Independentista?

Oscar López Rivera’s 32 Years of Resistance to Torture
--Will President Obama pardon the longest held Independentista?

By Hans Bennett

(First published by Upside Down World on May 29, 2013. Permission is granted to reprint in full as long as Upside Down World is cited, with a link to the original article.)

“It is much easier not to struggle, to give up and take the path of the living dead. But if we want to live, we must struggle.” –Oscar López Rivera, 1991

Today, May 29, marks 32 years since Puerto Rican activist Oscar López Rivera was arrested and later convicted of “seditious conspiracy,” a questionable charge that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has interpreted to mean “conspiring to free his people from the shackles of imperial injustice.”

Today, 70-year-old Oscar López Rivera, never accused of hurting anyone, remains in a cell at FCI Terre Haute, in Indiana. Supporters around the world continue to seek his release, most recently by asking US President Barack Obama for a commutation of his sentence. Similar pardons granted by President Truman in 1952, President Carter in 1979, and President Clinton in 1999, were the legal bases for the release of many other Puerto Rican political prisoners.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Torture of Mumia Abu-Jamal Continues off Death Row

On December 7, following the US Supreme Court’s refusal to consider the Philadelphia District Attorney’s final avenue of appeal, current DA Seth Williams announced that he would no longer be seeking a death sentence for the world-renowned death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal--on death row following his conviction at a 1982 trial deemed unfair by Amnesty International, the European Parliament, the Japanese Diet, Nelson Mandela, and many others. Abu-Jamal’s sentence of execution was first “overturned” by a federal court in December, 2001, and during the next ten years, he was never transferred from death row at the level five supermax prison, SCI Greene, in rural western Pennsylvania.

Read the full article, written for Prison Radio, here.

UPDATE: We won! Mumia is in general population. Below is a photo of his second visit (the first photo of him since the mid 1990s):

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Media Justice on Trial in Philadelphia - the Duel of Two Films About Mumia Abu-Jamal

JUSTICE ON TRIAL - The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal from Big Noise Films on Vimeo.

A new film, entitled "The Barrel of a Gun" was unveiled in Philadelphia on September 21. The film is officially endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and "Murdered by Mumia" authors Michael Smerconish and Maureen Faulkner, and based on the two trailers that have been released and public statements by the filmmaker, Tigre Hill, that he believes death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal is unequivocally guilty, we can safely expect that the film will be biased against Abu-Jamal, as is the case with the majority of mainstream media coverage about Abu-Jamal, particularly so in Philadelphia.

Supporters of Abu-Jamal mobilized to confront Hill's film. This film can be particularly dangerous now because of Abu-Jamal's current legal situation, where the death penalty may be reinstated by the US Third Circuit Court. In response, Journalists for Mumia has just published the latest issue of our newspaper (viewable here), where we confront Hill by laying out evidence of innocence and why Mumia's trial was unfair.

Read the full article, co-written with German author Michael Schiffmann, published by Truthout, here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

book review -- The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith in Prison, & Fighting for Those Left Behind

The late Safiya Bukhari (1950-2003) is not the most famous veteran of the Black Panther Party (BPP), but the compilation of her writings, The War Before, edited by former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn at the request of Bukhari's daughter, Wonda Jones, should be required reading alongside the memoirs of BPP cofounders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.

The War Before makes many significant contributions to scholarship, including its examination of women in the BPP. Bukhari recognizes serious problems of sexism and misogyny, but argues that this was symptomatic of the Left in general and, relative to other leftist groups, the Panthers had gone much further to address the problem. Women were involved in the party at every level and, in 1970, Huey Newton issued an important public statement of support for the women's and gay liberation movements. Bukhari writes that the Panthers "may not have completed the task of eradicating sexist attitudes within the Party and in the community. But we did bring the problem out in the open and put the question on the floor."

This book review was published in the April issue of Z Magazine. Read the full article here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Voices of Participatory Democracy in Venezuela --A review of Venezuela Speaks! Voices from the Grassroots

There are many different ways that the corporate media continues to misrepresent the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Many critics of this biased media coverage have directly challenged the demonization of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but very few critics, if any, have exposed the media’s virtual erasure of the vibrant and growing participatory democracy in Venezuela. Alas, the new book entitled Venezuela Speaks! Voices from the Grassroots (PM Press, 2010) offers a powerful correction to this misrepresentation by spotlighting a wide range of people and movements that are actively governing themselves with official governmental structures created since the 1998 election of President Chavez, and the growing non-governmental social movements that have existed for several decades.

Read the full article at Upside Down World. This article has also been reprinted by Truthout, Dissident Voice, The Statesmen, Axis of Logic, Venezuela Analysis, Venezuela Indymedia, Infoshop, Mostly Water, Op Ed News, Philly IMC, and Indybay.

Watch the interview with co-author Carlos Martinez below.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

book review - This Country Must Change: Essays on the Necessity of Revolution in the USA

From 1997 to 2001, Craig Rosebraugh acted as a public spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a self-described “international, underground movement consisting of autonomous groups of people who carry out direct action in defense of the planet.”

On February 12, 2002, Rosebraugh was made to testify against his will before the US Congress’ House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. The FBI had recently declared the ELF the #1 domestic terrorist threat, and Congress had subpoenaed Rosebraugh demanding he help them investigate “eco-terrorism.” Rosebraugh had already received seven grand jury subpoenas from various federal investigations, but had always refused to cooperate. After he rejected this particular Subcommittee’s offer to voluntarily testify, they seemed to think that intimidation might help. They were wrong.

Rosebraugh invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 54 times that day, instead issuing his now-famous 11-page statement declaring that “the US government by far has been the most extreme terrorist organization in planetary history,” He cited a long list of crimes, beginning with the history of Black chattel slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples, and concluding with a long list of US military interventions since WWII. He argued that it was hypocritical to label the ELF “terrorist,” since all ELF actions had been directed towards corporate property, and had never injured anyone: “This noble pursuit does not constitute terrorism, but rather seeks to abolish it.”

Rosebraugh has since continued his public advocacy of direct action and has edited a new book entitled This Country Must Change: Essays on the Necessity of Revolution in the USA.

Read this full review at

Monday, November 02, 2009

book review - The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther

This new book was released on November 1, and my review of it is featured at, a progressive perspective on world events. Below is an excerpt. Please read the full article here.

On the morning of December 4, 1969, lawyer Jeffrey Haas received a call from his partner at the People’s Law Office, informing him that early that morning Chicago police had raided the apartment of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton at 2337 West Monroe Street in Chicago. Tragically, Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark had both been shot dead, and four other Panthers in the apartment had critical gunshot wounds. Police were uninjured and had fired their guns 90-99 times. In sharp contrast, the Panthers had shot once, from the shotgun held by Mark Clark, which had most likely been fired after Clark had been fatally shot in the heart and was falling to the ground.

Haas went straight to the police station to speak with Hampton’s fiancée, Deborah Johnson, who was then eight months pregnant with Hampton’s son. She had been sleeping in bed next to Hampton when the police attacked and began shooting into the apartment and towards the bedroom where they were sleeping. Miraculously, Johnson had not been shot, but her account given to Haas was chilling. Throughout the assault Hampton had remained unconscious (strong evidence emerged later that a paid FBI informant had given Hampton a sedative that prevented him from waking up) and after police forced Johnson out of the bedroom, two officers entered the room where Hampton still lay unconscious. Johnson heard one officer ask, "Is he still alive?" After two gunshots were fired inside the room, the other officer said, "He’s good and dead now."

This article has also been featured at Black Commentator, Z Net, Infoshop, Philly IMC, Peoples' Voice, Daily Kos, Mostly Water,, Eat The State!, Political Affairs mediaLeft, and Assata Shakur Speaks.

Also, be sure and check out the review by Ernesto Aguilar here. and another review at the Why Am I Not Suprised? blog here.

(In this photo, reminiscent of the photos of southern lynchings, smiling police carry away Fred Hampton's body)

Watch the 1971 film "The Murder of Fred Hampton."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Color Lines book review: Other: An Asian & Pacific Islander Prisoners’ Anthology

Below is my new review that appears in the November/December issue of ColorLines Magazine.

Other: An Asian & Pacific Islander Prisoners’ Anthology (AK Press) is an impressive book featuring writing and art by 22 people imprisoned in the U.S. The publisher, the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, writes that it “works with API (Asian and Pacific Islander) prisoners to educate the broader community about the growing number of APIs in the U.S. being imprisoned, detained and deported.”

Other contributes significantly to both prison-abolitionist and ethnic-studies literature, each of which has badly neglected this issue. In the preface, journalist Helen Zia argues that the resulting invisibility of API prisoners extends to the “mainstream media and ethnic media alike,” where they essentially “do not exist.” While the arrest rate among API youth is increasing, APIs still do have a lower arrest and incarceration rate than other racial groups; however, in 2004, the Services and Advocacy for Asian Youth Consortium in San Francisco reported that the API conviction rate is 28 percent higher than other racial groups.

The plight of API prisoners who were legal residents with green cards at the time of their arrest is illustrated by the story of coeditor Eddy Zheng. When granted parole in March 2005, Zheng was ordered deported and was immediately transferred to immigration detention. He promptly appealed the deportation order but was held in detention until February 2007, when he was released after an outpouring of public support. As of this writing, his deportation appeal was pending at the Ninth Circuit Court.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Book Review: "Anarchy Alive!: Anti-authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory"

When Israeli anarchist Uri Gordon first moved to Europe in the fall of 2000 to begin his doctoral studies at Oxford University, he was planning to study environmental ethics. However, Gordon explains that “the IMF/World Bank protests in Prague had just happened, the fresh buzz of anti-capitalism was palpably in the air, and I was eager to get a piece of the action.” After attending a report-back from locals that had traveled to Prague, he quickly became involved in protests locally and around Europe. “I soon ended up doing much more activism than studying,” writes Gordon, who had now been “tear-gassed in Nice, corralled in London and narrowly escaped a pretty horrible beating in Genoa.” He soon decided to shift the focus of his PhD thesis to anarchist politics. The completed thesis has now been published as Anarchy Alive!

Read the rest of the article in this month's Z Magazine. here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chaim Leib Weinberg: A Jewish Anarchist in Philadelphia

--A Review of "Forty Years in the Struggle; The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist," by Chaim Leib Weinberg; English Translation by Naomi Cohen; Edited by Robert Helms; Litwin Books, 2008.

The “Old City” neighborhood of Philadelphia is renowned for its many historic sites related to the “founding fathers” and the US colonial era. Yet, very few know about this same neighborhood’s significant anarchist history. Since 1997, local historian Robert Helms has led an “Anarchist Historical Walking Tour” that presents this history of resistance from the poor and working classes, who viewed the rhetoric about “American Democracy” as a fraud, and organized themselves to challenge the power of the ruling class. Helms is the editor of the just-released English translation of Chaim Leib Weinberg’s (1869-1939) autobiography: Forty Years in the Struggle; The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist.

This article was published in the July/August issue of Z Magazine. You can read the full article here.

(PHOTO: Chaim Leib Weinberg)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Neoliberalism Needs Death Squads in Colombia

My review of the new book Blood & Capital: The Paramilitarization of Colombia was published today by Upside Down World. Check out the full review here. Below is a short excerpt:

As the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere, Colombia has long been the US’ most important ally in Latin America. Simultaneously, Colombia has also become the hemisphere’s worst human rights violator, with Colombia’s numerous paramilitary organizations recently taking center stage, as they’ve gradually become directly responsible for more human rights atrocities than the formal military and police. In the name of fighting “narco-terrorism,” poor people and dissidents are massacred, assassinated, tortured, and disappeared, among other atrocities—done to eliminate particular individuals and to “set an example” by intimidating others in the community. 97 percent of human rights abuses remain unpunished.

Throughout Blood & Capital, author Jasmin Hristov seeks to expose the rational motivations behind state violence for capitalism’s economic elites in the US and Colombia. In meticulous detail, Hristov shows how the super-rich benefit from state repression and how the violators of human rights have essentially become immune from any consequences for their actions. If death squads are truly to be abolished in Colombia, we must look honestly at how and why they exist today. Hristov’s new book is a powerful tool for exposing who truly calls the shots.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beyond Attica: The Untold Story of Women's Resistance Behind Bars

My review of Victoria Law's new book Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women was published today at Alternet. You can read the full article at Alternet, but here is an excerpt:

The central thesis of Resistance Behind Bars is truly profound. In clear, non-academic language, Law argues that recent scholarship documenting and radically criticizing the increased incarceration rates and mistreatment of women prisoners "largely ignores what the women themselves do to change or protest these circumstances, thus reinforcing the belief that incarcerated women do not organize." Alongside academia, Law also harshly criticizes radical prison activists, arguing that "just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s downplayed the role of women in favor of highlighting male spokesmen and leaders, the prisoners' rights movement has focused and continues to focus on men to speak for the masses."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Anarchism, Marxism, and Zapatismo

Both Staughton Lynd (a Marxist from the US) and his co-author Andrej Grubacic (an anarchist from the Balkans) of the book Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History, are public supporters of the Zapatistas, who they argue have set a powerful example of revolutionary organizing that should influence anti-capitalists around the world. Much like the historical traditions of the Haymarket Martyrs and the ‘Wobblies’ (the Industrial Workers of the World) in the United States, Lynd and Grubacic argue that the Zapatistas have synthesized the best aspects of both the Marxist and anarchist traditions.

Staughton Lynd, coming from the Marxist perspective, harshly criticizes the influence of vanguard politics on Marxist revolutionary movements, whereby these movements have adopted authoritarian and anti-democratic practices, with these abuses of power being justified by the argument that their particular group is the vanguard of the revolution, and is therefore entitled to lead the revolution as it sees fit. Lynd sees the Zapatistas’ rejection of vanguard politics as representing a “fresh synthesis of what is best in the Marxist and anarchist traditions.” The Zapatistas, Lynd writes, “have given us a new hypothesis. It combines Marxist analysis of the dynamics of capitalism with a traditional spirituality, whether Native American or Christian, or a combination of the two. It rejects the goal of taking state power and sets forth the objective of building a horizontal network of centers of self-activity. Above all the Zapatistas have encouraged young people all over the earth to affirm: We must have a qualitatively different society! Another world is possible! Let us begin to create it, here and now!”

Read the full book review at Upside Down World.

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Book Surveys Oaxaca Uprising to Teach Rebellion

“I am 77 years old. I have two children, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren… My children are scared for me. It’s just that they love me. Everyone loves the little old granny, the mother hen of all those eggs. They say ‘They’re going to send someone to kill you. They’ll put a bullet through you.’ But I tell them, ‘I don’t care if it’s two bullets.’ I’ve become fearless like that. God gave me life and He will take it away when it is His will. If I get killed, I’ll be remembered as the old lady who fought the good fight, a heroine, even, who worked for peace…Hasta la victoria siempre. That’s what I believe,” says Marinita, a lifetime resident of Oaxaca, Mexico. Marinita was one of the many participants in the 2006 Oaxaca rebellion, whose first-hand account is featured in the new book released by PM Press, titled Teaching Rebellion: Stories from the Grassroots Mobilization in Oaxaca.

--This is the first paragraph in my new article, which can be read in full at

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Citing withheld evidence, supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal call for civil rights investigation

The San Francisco Bay View Newspaper has just released my new article spotlighting the campaign to get a federal civil rights investigation into Mumia's case. This 6,000 word piece is the longest Mumia article I've ever written, but it is broken into five sections, to examine five key pieces of evidence that Mumia was unable to present to the jury:

The DA’s office withheld two items from Abu-Jamal’s defense: the actual location of the driver’s license application found in Officer Faulkner’s pocket; and Pedro Polakoff’s crime scene photos. Then, at the request of prosecutor McGill, Judge Sabo ruled to block three items from the jury: prosecution eyewitness Robert Chobert’s probation status and criminal history; testimony from defense eyewitness Veronica Jones about police attempts to solicit false testimony; and testimony from Police Officer Gary Waskshul.

Read the full SF Bay View article here.

--Download the 4 page PDF version of this article here.

--Take action supporting the campaign at!

--Read letters to Attorney General Eric Holder from
Cynthia McKinney and U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

**This article has also been featured by Philly IMC, Black Commentator, Z Net, Dissident Voice, Infoshop, Op Ed News, Daily Kos, Poor Magazine, Guerrilla News Network, The People's Voice, Workers World, Free Peltier Now Blog, Mostly Water, Break All Chains Blog, and others.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Appalachia and Colombia: The People Behind the Coal --An interview with Aviva Chomsky

(PHOTO: Aviva Chomsky with delegate Sandra Díaz from Appalachian Voices)

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and Latin American Studies at Salem State College in Massachusetts. The most recent books she has written are Linked Labor Histories: New England, Colombia, and the Making of a Global Working Class. (Duke University Press, 2008) and They Take Our Jobs! And Twenty Other Myths about Immigration. (Beacon Press, 2007). She has also recently co-edited The People Behind Colombian Coal: Mining, Multinationals and Human Rights/Bajo el manto del carbón: Pueblos y multinacionales en las minas del Cerrejón, Colombia (Casa Editorial Pisando Callos, 2007) and The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University Press, 2003).

Chomsky is also a founder of the North Shore Colombia Solidarity Committee, which has been working since 2002 with Colombian labor and popular movements, especially those affected by the foreign-owned mining sector. She just returned from the Witness for Peace delegation (May 28 – June 6) that traveled to two regions devastated by coal mining: the state of Kentucky and to northern Colombia. The Kentucky segment was sponsored by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC), where participants witnessed the impact of Mountain Top Removal mining and Valley Fills on local communities. In Colombia the delegation met with human rights activists, trade unionists, members of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, and others affected by coal production in Colombia.

Read the full interview here.

PHOTO: Cerrejón mine, Colombia

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Angola Three: Torture and Slavery in the United States

(PHOTO: left to right: Herman Wallace, Robert King, and Albert Woodfox)

The Angola Three: Torture in Our Own Backyard

By Hans Bennett

(, May 2, 2009)

“My soul cries from all that I witnessed and endured. It does more than cry, it mourns continuously,” said Black Panther Robert Hillary King, following his release from the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in 2001, after serving his last 29 years in continuous solitary confinement. King argues that slavery persists in Angola and other US prisons, citing the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which legalizes slavery in prisons as “a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." King says: “You can be legally incarcerated but morally innocent.”

Robert King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace are known as the ‘Angola Three,’ a trio of political prisoners whose supporters include Amnesty International, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Congressman John Conyers, and the ACLU. Kgalema Mothlante, the President of South Africa says their case “has the potential of laying bare, exposing the shortcomings, in the entire US system.” Woodfox and Wallace are the two co-founders of the Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP)—the only official prison chapter of the BPP. Both convicted in the highly contested stabbing death of white prison guard Brent Miller, Woodfox and Wallace have now spent over 36 years in solitary confinement.

The joint federal civil rights lawsuit of King, Woodfox, and Wallace, alleging that their time in solitary confinement is “cruel and unusual punishment,” will go to trial any month in Baton Rouge, at the U.S. Middle District Court. Herman Wallace’s appeal against his murder conviction is currently pending in the Louisiana Supreme Court, and on March 18, he was transferred to the Hunt Correctional Facility in St. Gabrielo, Louisiana, where he remains in solitary confinement. On March 2, the US Fifth Circuit Court heard oral arguments regarding Albert Woodfox’s conviction, after the Louisiana Attorney General appealed a lower court’s ruling that overturned the conviction.

An 18,000-acre former slave plantation in rural Louisiana, Angola is the largest prison in the US. Today, with African Americans composing over 75% of Angola’s 5,108 prisoners, prison guards known as “free men,” a forced 40-hour workweek, and four cents an hour as minimum wage, the resemblance to antebellum US slavery is striking. In the early 1970s, it was even worse, as prisoners were forced to work 96-hour weeks (16 hours a day / 6 days a week) with two cents an hour as minimum wage. Officially considered (according to its own website) the “Bloodiest Prison in the South” at this time, violence from guards and between prisoners was endemic. Prison authorities sanctioned prisoner rape, and according to former Prison Warden Murray Henderson, the prison guards actually helped facilitate a brutal system of sexual slavery where the younger and physically weaker prisoners were bought and sold into submission. As part of the notorious “inmate trusty guard” system, responsible for killing 40 prisoners and seriously maiming 350 from 1972-75, some prisoners were given state-issued weapons and ordered to enforce this sexual slavery, as well as the prison’s many other injustices. Life at Angola was living hell—a 20th century slave plantation.

The Angola Panthers saw life at Angola as modern-day slavery and fought back with non-violent hunger strikes and work strikes. Prison authorities were outraged by the BPP’s organizing, and overwhelming evidence has since emerged that authorities retaliated by framing these three BPP organizers for murders that they did not commit.

Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace

Both convicted of murder for the April 17, 1972 stabbing death of white prison guard Brent Miller, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have recently had major victories in court that may soon lead to their release. In response, Angola Warden Burl Cain and the Louisiana State Attorney General, James “Buddy” Caldwell, are doing everything they can to resist this and to keep the two in solitary confinement. In sharp contrast, Miller’s widow, Leontine Verrett, now questions their guilt. Interviewed in March, 2008, by NBC Nightly News, she called for a new investigation into the case: “What I want is justice. If these two men did not do this, I think they need to be out.”

Woodfox and Wallace were inmates at Angola, resulting from separate robbery convictions, when they co-founded the Angola BPP chapter in 1971. Woodfox had escaped from New Orleans Parish Prison and fled to New York City, where he met BPP members, including the New York 21, before he was recaptured and sent to Angola. Wallace had met members of the Louisiana State Chapter of the BPP, including the New Orleans 12, while imprisoned at Orleans Parish.

On September 19, 2006, State Judicial Commissioner Rachel Morgan recommended overturning Wallace’s conviction, on grounds that prison officials had withheld evidence from the jury that prison officials had bribed the prosecution’s key eyewitness, Hezekiah Brown, in return for his testimony. However, in May 2008, in a 2-1 vote, the State Appeals Court rejected Morgan’s recommendation and refused to overturn the conviction. Wallace’s appeal is now pending in the State Supreme Court, with a decision expected any month.

On June 10th, 2008, Federal Magistrate Christine Noland recommended overturning Woodfox’s conviction, citing evidence of inadequate representation, prosecutorial misconduct, suppression of exculpatory evidence, and racial discrimination. Then, on November 25, US District Court Judge James Brady upheld Noland’s recommendation, overturned the conviction, and granted bail. Attorney General Caldwell responded by appealing to the US Fifth Circuit. In December, the Fifth Circuit granted Caldwell’s request to deny Woodfox bail, but indicated sympathy for the overturning of the conviction, writing: "We are not now convinced that the State has established a likelihood of success on the merits." On March 3, oral arguments were heard by appellate Judges Carolyn Dineen King, Carl E. Steart and Leslie H. Southwick, and a decision from them is now expected within six months. If the three judge panel affirms the overturning of Woodfox’s conviction, the state will have 120 days to either accept the ruling or to retry Woodfox. The state has already vowed to retry him if necessary. If the Fifth Circuit rules for the state, Woodfox’s conviction will be reinstated.

Ira Glasser, formerly of the ACLU, criticized AG Caldwell, writing that following the October 2008 announcement that Woodfox’s niece had agreed to take him in if granted bail, Caldwell “embarked upon a public scare campaign reminiscent of the kind of inflammatory hysteria that once was used to provoke lynch mobs. He called Woodfox a violent rapist, even though he had never been charged, let alone convicted, of rape; he sent emails to [Woodfox’s niece’s] neighbors calling Woodfox a convicted murderer and violent rapist; and neighbors were urged to sign petitions opposing his release. In the end, his niece and family were sufficiently frightened and threatened that Woodfox rejected the plan to live with them while on bail.” In his Nov. 25 ruling, Judge Brady himself criticized the intimidation campaign: “it is apparent that the [neighborhood] association was not told Mr. Woodfox is frail, sickly, and has a clean conduct record for more than twenty years.”

When the October 27-29 National Public Radio (NPR) series on the case reported directly from Angola, reporter Laura Sullivan observed, “a hundred black men are in the field, bent over picking tomatoes. A single white officer on a horse sits above them, a shotgun in his lap…It's the same as it looked 40 years ago, and 100 years ago.” Commenting that many at Angola today “seem to want to bury this case in a place no one will find it,” NPR reported that Warden Burl Cain and others refused to comment. However, Caldwell told NPR he is convinced that Woodfox and Wallace are guilty, and that he will appeal Woodfox’s case all the way to the US Supreme Court. "This is a very dangerous person," Caldwell says. "This is the most dangerous person on the planet."

As NPR documented, there is no physical evidence linking Woodfox or Wallace to the murder. A bloody fingerprint was found at the scene but it matches neither prisoner’s prints. Prison officials have always refused to test that fingerprint against their own inmate fingerprint database. Caldwell vows to continue this policy, telling NPR: "A fingerprint can come from anywhere…We're not going to be fooled by that."

Caldwell also told NPR that he firmly believes the testimony of the prosecution’s key eyewitness, Hezekiah Brown, a serial rapist who had been sentenced to life without parole. Brown first told prison officials that he didn’t know anything, but he later testified to seeing Miller stabbed to death by four inmates: Woodfox and Wallace, and two others who are now deceased: Chester Jackson (who testified for the state and pled guilty to a lesser charge) and Gilbert Montegut (who was acquitted after an officer provided an alibi).

Pardoned in 1986, and now deceased, Brown always denied receiving special favors from prison authorities in exchange for his testimony. However, prison documents reveal special treatment, including special housing and a carton of cigarettes given to him every week. Testifying at Woodfox’s 1998 retrial, former Warden Murray Henderson admitted telling Brown that if he provided testimony helping to “crack the case,” he would reward him by lobbying for his pardon.

Solitary Confinement for “Black Pantherism”

In early 2008, a 25,000-signature petition initiated by, calling for an investigation into Woodfox and Wallace’s convictions and solitary confinement, was delivered to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal by the head of the State Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, Cedric Richmond. To this day, Jindal remains silent on the case.

In March, 2008, following a visit from Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee; Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck; and Cedric Richmond, Wallace and Woodfox were transferred from solitary and housed together in a newly-built maximum security dormitory for twenty men. This temporary release from solitary lasted for eight months, during which time Woodfox reflected: “The thing I noticed most about being with Herman is the laughing, the talking, the bumping up against one another…we’ve been denied this for so long. And every once in a while he’ll put his arm around me or I’ll put my arm around him. It’s those kinds of things that make you human. And we’re truly enjoying that.”

In April, following his visit, Conyers wrote a letter to the FBI requesting their documents relating to the case, stating: “I am deeply troubled by what evidence suggests was a tragic miscarriage of justice with regard to these men. There is significant evidence that suggests not only their innocence, but also troubling misconduct by prison officials.” The FBI responded by claiming that they had no files on the case, because, they had supposedly been destroyed.

In his deposition taken October 22, 2008, Warden Burl Cain explained why he opposed granting Woodfox bail and removing him from solitary confinement. Asked what gave him “such concern” about Woodfox, Cain stated: “He wants to demonstrate. He wants to organize. He wants to be defiant…A hunger strike is really, really bad, because you could see he admitted that he was organizing a peaceful demonstration. There is no such thing as a peaceful demonstration in prison.” Cain then stated that even if Woodfox were innocent of the murder, he would still want to keep him in solitary, because “I still know he has a propensity for violence…he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kinds of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them. I would have chaos and conflict, and I believe that.”

The only other known US prisoner to have spent so many years in solitary confinement is Hugo Pinell, in California. One of the San Quentin Six, Pinell was a close comrade of Black Panther and prison author, George Jackson. Currently housed in Pelican Bay State Prison’s notorious “Security Housing Unit”, Pinell has been in continuous solitary since at least 1971. The recently freed Angola 3 prisoner Robert Hillary King says Pinell “is a clear example of a political prisoner.” This January, Pinell was denied parole for the next 15 years, which King says “is a sentence to die in prison. This is cruel and unusual punishment, which may be legal but is definitely not moral.”

Robert Hillary King

From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King

The new book From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Robert Hillary King has just been released by PM Press, and King is currently touring the East Coast to promote the book. This inspiring book tells of King’s triumph over the horrors of Angola. Born poor in rural Louisiana, he was raised mostly by his heroic grandmother, who King recounts “worked the sugar cane fields from sun up ‘til sun down for less than a dollar a day. During the off-season, she washed, ironed clothes, and scrubbed floors for whites for pennies a day or for leftover food. Her bunions and blisters told a bitter but vivid tale of her travails.”

King first entered Angola at the age of 18, for a robbery conviction. In his book, he admits to doing some non-violent burglaries at the time, but maintains his innocence regarding this conviction and every one since. Granted parole in 1965, at the age of 22, he returned to New Orleans, got married, and began a brief semi-pro boxing career as “Speedy King.” He was then arrested on charges of robbery, just weeks before his wife Clara gave birth to their son. After being held for over 11 months, his friend pled guilty to a lesser charge and was released on time served. Simultaneously, the DA dropped the charges against King, but he was not released, because his arrest, coupled with his friend’s guilty plea was deemed a parole violation. Therefore, King was sent back to Angola where he served 15 months and was released again in 1969.

Upon release, King was again arrested on robbery charges, and was convicted, even though his co-defendant testified that he had only picked King out of a mug shot lineup after being tortured by police into making a false statement. King appealed, and while being held at New Orleans Parish Prison, he escaped, but was re-captured weeks later. Upon returning to Orleans Parish he met some of the New Orleans 12--BPP members arrested after a confrontation with police at a housing project. He was radicalized and worked with the Panthers organizing non-violent hunger strikes, and engaging in self-defense against violent attacks from prison authorities.

In 1972, King moved to Angola shortly after the death of prison guard Brent Miller. Upon arrival, on grounds that King “wanted to play lawyer for another inmate,” he was immediately put into solitary confinement: first in the “dungeon,” then the “Red Hat,” and finally to the Closed Correction Cell (CCR) unit, where he remained until his 2001 release. At CCR, King writes that the Angola BPP chapter and others continued to struggle, using the one hour a day outside their cells (when they were allowed to shower and interact in the walkway) to organize: “That was how we talked, passed papers, educated each other, and coordinated our actions.”

King writes about the fight, started in 1977, to end the practice of routine rectal searches of prisoners: “Coming to a consensus conclusion that this practice was a carryover from slavery (before being sold, the slave had to be stripped and subjected to anal examination), and after months of appealing to our keepers, we decided to take a bold step: we would simply refuse a voluntary anal search. We would not be willing participants in our own degradation.” When King and others refused, they were viciously beaten. Woodfox hired a lawyer on the prisoners’ behalf and they filed a successful civil suit. The court ruled to ban “routine anal searches.” Another victory came after a one month hunger strike that stopped the unhealthy and dehumanizing practice of putting the inmate’s food on the floor to be slid underneath the cell door, whereby food would often be lost and the remaining food would usually get dirty.

In 1973, King was accused of murdering another prisoner, and was convicted at a trial where he was bound and gagged. After years of maintaining his innocence and appealing, his conviction was overturned in 2001, after he reluctantly pled guilty to a lesser charge of “conspiracy to commit murder” and was released on time served.

Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore

On June 21, 2008, Robert King attended the unveiling of a 40-foot mosaic dedicated to Angola prisoner and Angola BPP member Kenneth “Zulu” Whitmore, launching the “Free Zulu” campaign. King is working to publicize his case, saying “Zulu is a true warrior, Panther, a servant of the people. He has fought a good battle, for so long, unrecognized, unsupported!”

The mosaic adorns the back of activist/artist Carrie Reichardt’s home in the West London suburb of Chiswick. Reichardt says “we chose to base the design around a modern day interpretation of the Goddess Kali. She is considered the goddess of liberation, time and transformation. We wanted to use a strong, positive image of a female that would give hope and encourage others to join the struggle to bring about social change. Her speech bubble says 'The revolution is now'.”

Imprisoned since 1977, Whitmore met Herman Wallace while imprisoned in 1973 at the East Baton Rouge Prison. Whitmore was released but then arrested and subsequently imprisoned at Angola when he was convicted of robbery and second-degree murder after he had returned to the community and been a political organizer. Just like the Angola 3, the case against him is full of holes, and he is appealing his conviction. Whitmore does not have a lawyer yet, so the website is raising money to support his appeal.

Angola: The Last Slave Plantation

The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation

Three court cases are now pending: the federal civil rights lawsuit at the US Middle District Court, Albert Woodfox’s appeal at the US Fifth Circuit, and Wallace’s appeal at the State Supreme Court. At this critical stage, a new DVD has just been released by PM Press, titled The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation. The DVD is narrated by death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, and features footage of King’s 2001 release, as well as an interview with King and a variety of former Panthers and other supporters of the Angola 3, including Bo Brown, David Hilliard, Geronimo Ji Jaga (formerly Pratt), Marion Brown, Luis Talamantez, Noelle Hanrahan, Malik Rahim, and the late Anita Roddick.

The perpetuation of white supremacy and slavery at Angola is a central theme throughout the film. Fred Hampton Jr., emphasizes that “we’ve got to make the connection between these modern day plantations, and what went down with chattel slavery.” Scott Fleming, a lawyer for the Angola 3, says: “That prison is still run like a slave plantation…People like Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace are the example of what will happen to you if you resist that system.”

Longtime Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama says that Woodfox and Wallace “love people and will fight for justice even if it puts them on the spot. I think of them as real heroes…who hated to see people in the prison get hurt.” San Francisco journalist and former BPP member Kiilu Nyasha adds that “it behooves us to not forget those who were on the frontlines for us….We need to come to their rescue because they came to ours.”

The many years of repression and torture have failed to extinguish the Angola 3’s spirit or will to resist, as Woodfox explains in the DVD: “At heart, mind and spirit, we’re still Black Panthers. We still believe in the same principles as the BPP, we still advocate the ten point program. We still advocate that all prisoners, black or white, are human beings. They deserve to be treated as human beings.”

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Hans Bennett is an independent multi-media journalist ( and co-founder of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal (

640_poppy_in_angola_009.jpg original image ( 1184x1728)

11-year old Brit "Poppy" visited Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace for four hours on August 8, 2008. Poppy said afterwards: “When I first saw Herman and Albert I ran up to them and gave them a huge hug. It was weird to think that this is a rare treat for them, just to have a hug from another human being.”

VIDEO: Robert King Wilkerson (one of the Angola 3) and Louisiana House Judiciary Chairman Cedric Richmond deliver 25,000 petition signatures from members calling on Governor Jindal to investigate and intervene in the Angola 3 case.

VIDEO: Outraged by the injustice of their situation after having visited Herman and Albert in March of 2008, Conyers spoke about the case at the Student National Medical Association's (SNMA) annual conference.

VIDEO: The first official act from the Angola 3 London - an unveiling of a mosaic on the back of The Treatment Rooms in Chiswick, by Baroness von Reichardt. The mosaic is dedicated to the memory of Anita Roddick who first introduced the Baroness to Herman Wallace one of the Angola 3 in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary - "The Farm". The ceramics within the mural contain life enriching quotes from both Herman and Anita. Power to the People!

Created by To raise awareness of The Angola 3. Sung by The Gospel Choir of Chowchilla Female Prison, California.