See what I did there? I know, I’m a genius..
This post will be on two people who put pen to paper during incarceration. The post isn’t culminating towards a point, it is just that in light of the many different recent protests, I thought I would write about some past ones that are interesting to me.
Bobby Sands, MP
The year is 1976 and Provisional IRA member Bobby Sands is in prison for a second time, previously on possession of fire arms, now for implications in a bombing. The Labour Party, in power at the time, attempted to tame the activism in Northern Ireland by receding on a previously agreed law envoking Special Category Status. Republicans did not see themselves as criminals, after all they were fighting a political battle as much as a physical one.
This began the Blanket Protests. Oppossing the criminal uniform, protesters served time naked with just a blanket. During this time inmates were often attacked whilst slopping out, which escolated into the Dirty Protests where inmates refused to wash and smeared cell walls with faeces. In 1980 seven prisoners attempted a hunger strike, which ended 53 days later.
During this time Bobby had been a poet and journalist (books on Amazon). Writing on toilet paper with biro and consealing it within himself, he wrote eloquently and revolutionarily. Sands was well respected by this point and organised a new hunger strike where the inmates would strike in cannon instead of at the same time. During the strike Sands was elected as a Member of Parliament and alongside nine other prisoners, Bobby Sands died.
– The year is 1981 –
Mumia Abu Jamal
From the death of one Irish Catholic to another: On December 9th in Philadelphia, Officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed in a gunfight that escolated from a traffic stop. Mumia was accross the road when he saw a dispute between an officer and his younger brother William Cook so he ran over. At the traffic stop, there was an exchange of fire. Both Officer Faulkner and Abu-Jamal were wounded, and Faulkner died.
As a former Black Panther Party member, Mumia was no stranger to activism, but after being convicted of first degree murder, he has spent the past 30 years on death row. Retaining the statement that he is innocent – Mumia often writes about prison, justice and civil rights (books on Amazon), Mumia became the face of many anti-death penalty protests and an icon for the injustice of the system. Before prison, during his broadcasting career, his high-profile interviews included Julius Erving, Bob Marley, and Alex Haley, and he was elected president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. This quality shows in the interviews he gives and talks he makes through Prison Radio.
To be noted:
- Earlier this year Mumia Abu-Jamal’s sentenced was reduced (BBC link) to life imprisonment without parole.
- Bobby Sands’ funeral was attended by over 100,000 people and it re-ignited republican activism giving the Sinn Féin a much larger following.