Thursday, May 24, 2012

Strike Update

Status Update: On Day 2 of the Red Onion Hunger Strike, Solidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers was able to make contact with a hunger striker through a personal visit to the mountain prison. In that meeting we learned the following: 

1.) The men participating in the hunger strike are in good spirits and are encouraged by the outside attention and response to their call for solidarity and support from their communities.

2.) In addition to refusing to eat, the men are also refusing the three weekly showers they are allowed and the one hour of recreation they are permitted each day. They do not want to leave their cells until they are able to talk with a third party outside observer.  

3.) On Tuesday, strikers in one of the segregation pods were informed that the phone in their pod had “broken.” 

4.) Strikers expect they will soon be split apart into separate pods (or cell blocks) in an attempt to break the strike. While being separated is not ideal, strikers also realize this could help them to spread word about the strike.    
5.) On Tuesday, one striker was moved from his pod to a different pod in segregation, and was threatened with losing his prison job and being charged with a false charge if he did not stop striking.  

6.) The latest statement from Red Onion officials claims there are 15 men refusing meals but that this “does not constitute a hunger strike.” As of now we do not have a report from the strikers on the total number of participants in the strike. Because of the lack of contact between different pods in segregation, the men striking do not themselves know the total number of strikers in the prison.  

As we move into DAY 4 of the Red Onion State Prison Hunger Strike, we must all, as outside supporters, do whatever we can to support these courageous men and make sure their voices and cause ring out far and wide. Their lives hang in the balance.

One powerful way to get beyond the prison walls and build inside-outside communication is to call in and leave a message for WMMT’s Calls from Home radio show.  Every Monday night between 7-9 PM the show records phone messages from friends and families members of those incarcerated in the region’s prison system, and then plays the messages over the radio between 9-10 PM.  The number to call is 1-888-396-1208, between 7-9 PM on Monday. More information on the show can be found here:  

To make sure your call can be aired, please make sure you leave calls of support as opposed to anything that could be construed as “incitement.” For example, “We support you and stand in solidarity” as opposed to “Now is the time to rise up and defend yourselves.” If you any questions about what is/isn’t okay to say before you record your message, just ask the DJ who answers your call.

In addition to the phone calls, our website: provides you with many other ways you can support the strike.

"It's impossible to understand the conditions prisoners are living under, especially in a supermax and at Red Onion in particular. These guys are organizing for the demand of basic human rights. The way the current system is set up, it’s like you forfeit your human dignity. Five point restraints...They have you strapped down for days on end. Can’t begin to explain how dehumanizing that process is. To lay in your own waste.  Then the disconnection from your family. Honestly, hunger striking is one of the most significant forms of protest, because it shows that we’re willing to risk everything. The consumption of food is an essential part of existence. Hunger strikes, unlike other forms of resistance, cannot go on forever.  This is their lives and that’s what’s at stake here.” – former Red Onion prisoner, Mac Gaskins.

1 comment:

  1. FYI - the Fars News Agency, described in the West as being close to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, translated into Farsi the piece I sent out about the hunger strike and posted it on their website.

    The Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement has posted info on its website asking people to contact the DOC chief, Red Onion warden and McDonnell. (

    And the International League for People's Struggle, which has some international prestige among lefties, has done the same. It won't move the state officials, but since the strikers are identifying themselves as revolutionaries, it might be a morale raiser if they know.

    Phil Wilayto
    Editor - The Virginia Defender