WASHINGTON - Over 25,000 people attended the Jewish Voice for Peace rally to Free All Prisoners from Rikers Island to Palestine, held on Zoom and Facebook. Commemorating Palestinian Prisoners Day, an international panel of speakers called for a world without prisons. The rally can be watched here on Facebook.
Stefanie Fox, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, opened the rally by declaring: "We are here together because, across the world, prisons are incubating death for our loved ones. Today is Palestinian Prisoners Day – and we gather in urgency to support the freedom struggle against prions in U.S. and for freedom in Palestine!"
From Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian youth activist held in an Israeli prison for eight months when she was 16, to black rights grassroots activist and academic Marc Lamont Hill, to Dareen Tatour, the Palestinian poet imprisoned by the Israeli government for her writing, to Andrea James founder of the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, speakers called out the inhumanity of prisons and demanded freedom for prisoners and detainees everywhere.
During the rally online actions were held to boost the #PalestinianPrisonersDay twitterstorm, hundreds of calls were made to elected officials to support the Federal Immigrant Release for Safety and Security Together Act (FIRST Act), and participants were encouraged to donate to the National Bail Fund Network Fund.
Quotes from the speakers, bios follow below. Some speakers are available to speak with the media.
Marc Lamont Hill: "COVID is forcing us to recognize how unsafe and how dangerous prisons are. The overcrowding in prisons in Palestine and the U.S. means that if you are arrested for throwing a rock, or writing a poem, or for politically dissenting, you aren't being imprisoned for a few months – you're getting a death sentence. Free the land, free political prisoner, free Palestine, free Mumia!"
Ahed Tamimi: "We have to – as people – stand and support Palestinian prisoners because our humanity commands us to do so. The Israeli government treats Palestinian prisoners like animals. But our support for Palestinian prisoners isn't just today, but every day, in all places, from all people – we keep organizing so that even if we aren't able to free them all, Palestinian prisoners will at least know we haven't forgotten them."
Dareen Tatour: "Our prisoners are rotting in Israeli prisons and they have been there for years. Their health is deteriorating daily because they are thrown in small cells with no windows, light or air. Our prisoners are suffering daily from the epidemic of occupation, oppression, suffering and medical neglect. In these difficult days of coronavirus, the prison administration is taking advantage of this pandemic and global crisis. On Palestinian Prisoners Day, we unite in our commitment to work together until Palestinians are liberated and Palestinian prisoners are set free, and we finally are all cured from this disease."
Mariame Kaba: "Our future and imaginations are important because the horizon I work for is one I've never seen – a world without prisons, without policing or surveillance. In order to create these pathways, we have to lead with imagination and envision: What can we grow instead of punishment and suffering?"
Arab Marwan Barghouti: "As a son whose father is in prison, I am really worried. In prisons, everything is common and no one is safe. But I know the only times we feel weak are the times we feel alone, but when everyone understands this is a humane issue, and we protest together, our demands will be answered."
Randa Wahbe: "While the entire world is sheltering in place, Israel is continuing to entrench its military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land. As Palestinians are working to save their communities from coronavirus and are faced with a dire lack of medical supplies, the Israeli military continues to make daily raids on Palestinian refugee camps, ransacking homes, making arrests and interrogations - 357 Palestinians (48 of whom are children) were arrested since the beginning of March."
Andrea James: "Incarcerated people are exempt from CDC guidelines. Formerly incarcerated women were the first to lose their jobs. We need mass release, stimulus money for housing, free phone calls for people incarcerated, soap, masks... Release needs to be at the forefront of what everyone is calling for. Free her, but also free them all!"
Biographies of speakers:
Marc Lamont Hill is the Steve Charles Professor of Media, Cities, and Solutions at Temple University, a renowned author and grassroots activist. He's currently the host of BET News, the host of the digital talk series Black Coffee, and the owner of Uncle Bobbie's coffee and books in Philadelphia.
Ahed and Bassem Tamimi Daughter and father, they are freedom fighters and land defenders from Nabi Saleh, a village that has been resisting Israel's land grabs and the construction of Israel's separation wall for decades. Both have spent time incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Both are leaders inspiring a generation of anti-colonial, anti-imperialist grassroots activists and organizers around the world.
Mariame Kaba is a community organizer, educator, and curator. Mariame has founded and led a number of incredible abolitionist organizations, including Project Nia, We Charge Genocide, and Survived and Punished. She is the voice behind the prolific abolitionist twitter account @PICAbolitionist!
Randa Wahbe is a policy member for Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, and an elected board member for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, as well as a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Harvard University. Randa previously headed the International Advocacy Unit at Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association in Ramallah, Palestine.
Arab Marwan Barghouti is the son of incarcerated Palestinian political leader and organizer Marwan Barghouti. Arab led one of the most powerful transnational prisoner solidarity actions in 2017 -- the saltwater challenge -- in support of his father and other Palestinian hunger strikers.
Dareen Tatour is a Palestinian poet and activist from the Gallilee region. In 2015, in an effort to censor the power of her poetry and political speech, Israeli occupation forces arrested Dareen on charges of political incitement. She spent many months in jail and years under house arrest. In 2019 she was awarded the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression.
Andrea James is the Founder and Executive Director of the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, founder of Families for Justice as Healing, and author of Upper Bunkies Unite: And Other Thoughts On the Politics of Mass Incarceration.
Brad Parker is the Senior Policy & Advocacy Adviser and an attorney at Defense for Children International - Palestine, where he co-leads the No Way to Treat a Child campaign. He's also an adjunct professor @CUNYLaw and a Legislative Consultant at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Azadeh Shahshahani is the Legal & Advocacy Director at Project South, a Southern-based leadership development organization that creates spaces for movement building. She previously served as president of the National Lawyers Guild and as National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project Director with the ACLU of Georgia.
Lex Steppling is the Director of Policy and Campaigns at Dignity and Power Now, a Los Angeles based grassroots organization that fights for the dignity and power of all incarcerated people, their families, and communities.