Protesters support prisoners’ hunger strike

Pol Rebaque/Staff

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About 15 protesters gathered at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue on Monday in support of a hunger strike by Pelican Bay State Prison inmates in solitary confinement.

In February, prisoners at Pelican Bay announced that on July 8, they would resume their ongoing hunger strike protesting the solitary confinement conditions if the prison’s Security Housing Unit of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not meet the “five core demands” that the prisoners outlined in 2011.

The campus organization Human Rights of the Incarcerated at Cal organized Monday’s event and developed a rolling solidarity fast in conjunction with the statewide Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition to bolster support and participation in the protest.

Protester Danny Murillo said that for the rolling fast, students and supporters will take turns fasting for just one day each so that the hunger strike can go on.

Murillo, who spent five years in solitary confinement, said that indefinite isolation is an ineffective means of controlling inmates.

“The logic of solitary confinement and the idea that it would keep prisoners safe from violence has not worked,” Murillo said. “I don’t have a solution, but I know what has been going on right now has not been working.”

UC Berkeley student Steven Czifra, who spent a total of eight years in solitary confinement, five of which were in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit, said the protest is necessary.

“The hunger strike will go on until the prison administration comes to the bargaining table and meets our five reasonable demands,” Czifra said. “We won’t stop until the CDCR agrees to a legally binding document.”

Prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison initiated two hunger strikes in 2011 in which thousands of prisoners participated, but the strike ended when the CDCR said they would address their concerns. However, prisoners resumed their protests in July because they said isolation continues to be common practice in prisons throughout California.

According to Czifra, prison administrators employ solitary confinement as a method of punishment for inmates they believe to be a risk to the general population.

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition will also organize a demonstration at California State Prison, Corcoran, on July 13.

Contact Stephanie Petrillo at [email protected].