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We Kill Our Revolutionaries
Posted on Feb 22, 2015
By Chris Hedges
“Stabbin’. Killin’. Hangin’. This was not [an intended] part of the uprising,” he said. “Things got out of hand. You had a lot of prisoners with a lot of grudges, animosities and hatred in their hearts for prisoners and nonprisoners. These people had snitched on them or abused them. People settled old scores with other prisoners and with guards. That’s what happened. That’s what went wrong.”
Rape, too, was a problem during the uprising. Prisoners who committed rapes during the revolt were locked in cells. Hasan said one black prisoner, Bruce Harris, raped a white prisoner. Other white prisoners, when they heard of the rape, wanted to kill Harris. Hasan intervened.
It was agreed that a prisoner from each of the three main prison factions—the Aryan Brotherhood, the Muslims and the Black Gangster Disciples—would punish Harris. They took Harris into the corridor and beat him for three minutes. Then they took him to the gym and beat him again for three minutes. After that, they locked him in a cell.
“Bruce was nervous that they were going to kill him and he started tearing up the cell,” Hasan said. “He tore the porcelain toilet off the wall and smashed it to pieces, disturbing the Muslims, who were praying. I went to Bruce. I asked him to stop. I assured Bruce that he was not going to die. I told him I would escort him out to the prison authorities when the time came to end the riot. He promised to stop making a ruckus.”
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“When there is disorder and no law, people have the tendency to do evil things,” Hasan said.
“What is the cause of any uprising?” he asked. “Simply put, it’s man’s injustice to man. We could not expect freedom, but we could expect freedom from oppression, tyranny, persecution and gross miscarriages of justice that go on in institutional life. Prisons are here to stay. Be realistic. It’s about the money, the control and the power. But if you take over a prison you can confront the evil and the corruption, you can make some changes.”
The captured guards, he said, suddenly began calling him Mr. Sanders, something that was unthinkable when he was under their domination.
“The guards were all saying they were sorry, they were just doing their jobs,” he said.
The white prisoners, many of them members of the Aryan Brotherhood, gathered nervously in the gym in the first hours of the revolt. They feared that the blacks would turn on them. All of the alleged snitches killed in the first few hours were white. A few blacks believed to be snitches had been beaten but had survived. Hasan called the Muslims to prayer in the gym. He demanded that the non-Muslim prisoners be quiet and respectful during prayer. When it was over he announced that any other religious group that wanted to worship would be given the same respect shown to the Muslims. That promise of respect broke down the racial walls and made possible an alliance between whites and blacks. Prisoners began to paint slogans such as “Convict Race,” “Convict Unity” and “White and Black Together” on the walls.
“I did what I did with the choices that were available,” Hasan said. “I had to do something. I am a revolutionary. To be a revolutionary is to be an agent of change, which is impossible if one doesn’t know what needs to be changed. For there to be a revolution there must be revolutionary consciousness. A prisonwide hunger strike, a prisonwide work stoppage, would have been more effective. But then it would not have been about the Muslims. You would have had to take it to the whole convict body.”
On death row all who rebel against empire are comrades.
“People, Muslim and non-Muslim, admire ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria],” he said. “They are happy to see ISIS stand up against the U.S. government and Israel. A lot of us may not agree with all their tactics, but we know what it is like to be pushed to the edge. We also know that al-Qaida carried out the attacks of 9/11 against the symbols of American power, the Pentagon and the financial institutions. If they only wanted to kill Americans they could have flown the planes into a stadium with 80,000 or 90,000 people during a pro football game. Prisoners, because they are oppressed, like seeing anyone stand up to the big bad wolf.”
The Lucasville uprising was settled peacefully. The state promised not to carry out reprisals against the leaders, a promise it broke once it regained control.
The state should not be able to murder people, no matter what these people have done. But what of a state that places a person such as Hasan on death row when it knows he never committed murder? What of a state that cut a plea deal with the actual killer of the corrections officer so it could execute Hasan? The message sent by the state is clear: It does not fear criminals. It fears rebels.
Hasan, who is fighting his own death sentence in the courts, has seen several men taken to the death chamber. Two of those executed—Abdul-Hakim Zakiy and Abdullah Sharif Kaazim Mahdi—were close friends. The last conversations before execution haunt him.
“Brother Mahdi didn’t get a lot of visits in prison,” he said. “He would not participate in the final process. He didn’t want a last meal. He spent the day fasting and reading the Koran. He asked for a little olive oil and some Islamic dates. I told him he would be dearly missed. I told him I knew he had a strong faith. I told him I knew he believed in Allah. I told him to accept that all life is transitory. I told him to hope that Allah would accept his worship, the sincerity of his belief and grant him paradise. I told him I loved him. I felt helpless.”
“He did not want his family to get his body,” he went on. “He wanted his body washed and buried according to Islam. He wanted to rest in the prison burial plot with the other Muslim prisoners. It is hard to see someone you love and admire go through that. I believe I will see him in the next life. I can’t imagine going through that without my faith.”
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Keith LaMar, now known as Bomani Shakur, was sentenced to death for killing a guard in the Lucasville prison riot. LaMar received the sentence for his alleged leadership of a group that killed other prisoners.
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