Free the SF 8!

When I started this site, I wanted to find a way to connect historical movements with contemporary struggles. Unfortunately, I now have an opportunity to do that:

Eight men are in jail in San Francisco, charged with a 30 year old murder. All these guys were radicals a long, long time ago. When they were charged this year, some of them were still community activists, a couple were already serving prison time, mostly, they are older men who one would be hard-pressed to see as dangerous. In the words of 64-year old defendant Ray Boudreaux (an electrician who lives in Southern California), "…for the last 25 years I've lived a pretty peaceful and quiet life. My politics are still the same. It's just that I'm not active. People come to me sometimes as a peace-maker."

I'm aware that most of us progressives suffer from a certain overwhelm about the unjustly imprisoned. We marched to Free Mumia until our marches petered out into t-shirts and then occasional arguments and then, nothing. Mumia is still on death row. We've been carrying our "Free Peltier" signs since 1977 but with every rejected parole hearing, we say less about him. It's easy to give up when we feel so hopeless, and for that reason, it's important to find ways to stay connected to the people who are stuck behind bars.

Mostly, when I think about these guys in jail in San Francisco, I think about their families. I imagine my dad having to go to jail at this point in his life – how he'd feel – how I'd feel. You don't even have to know that they're innocent to agree that they should be given a reasonable bail (it was set at 3 million each) so they can go home while they deal with the legal proceedings that are still ahead of them. For me, a prison abolitionist, just knowing that eight former activists who are clearly not a threat to anyone now are in jail is enough to push me to want to do something. If you're better motivated by outrage, then you should know that the evidence that prosecutors say points to these men was obtained through torture.

There are eight men in jail now – there on the strength of a confession obtained under torture. That's ugly and worth fighting against. But its worth also wondering what the point of this is for the state. While I'm not going to suggest a conspiracy, it's pretty obvious what message this is sending to any radical activists now: take your movement beyond the choreographed protest march and you'll spend the rest of your life with the threat of prison hanging over you. It's important that we stick up for each other as activists, even 30 years after the movement is gone. Solidarity isn't a one-time action, it's a lifetime commitment.

All of this is a long introduction to what I want to say here, which is this: Tomorrow, Monday, August 6th, the San Francisco 8 will be having a hearing dealing with the terms of their bail and other matters, and your presence at that hearing would not only make a psychological difference for the guys, but would also help make a point to the court, prosecutors, and media, that we care about these men, and want to see them treated fairly. It doesn't take a lot of work to get down to 850 Bryant. I've made the trip twice, both times with kids (sure, I only made it through 15 minutes of hearings before I had to usher the bored and confused 4 and 5 year olds out of the courtroom, but I did manage to show up). Go down. Show your support. Check out the website. Put up a poster. Wear a button. Blog about them. Do what you can, because you can do something.

When a Grand Jury started calling former Panthers to testify about the murder case a couple years ago, four men were jailed for refusing to testify. At that time, Bay Area activists Andres Alegría, Claude Marks & others at The Freedom Archives made a video about the grand jury resistors called Legacy of Torture. It played at the Roxy and various venues around town. Here's the preview:

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