San Jose A19 report-back

Republished, with permission, from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

On a sunny Saturday, August 19, 2017, people across the country gathered, marched, and rallied in solidarity to support prisoners human rights and amending the 13th.
What an audacious and loving act! 

Hundreds gathered in San Jose, CA at Raymond Bernal Jr. Park, where we kicked off the march with a recorded speech by founding member of the Amend the 13th campaign, Heshima Jinsai (Denham). Followed by Troy Williams of SF Bay Viewsetting the tone for a peaceful march.

As we marched and chanted “Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall, We Will Make your Prisons Fall” and “Human Rights Apply to All, Even Those Behind a Wall,” this prisoner-inspired call to action united our community on both sides of the prison walls to join the momentum of the New Abolitionist Movement. Patrons of restaurants, folks on foot, trains, and cars we passed along our route stood to applaud, cheer, and honk their support and encouragement.

The beautiful 1.3 mile route through the Japantown neighborhood led us to the James P. McEntee Plaza just across from the county jail where Michael Tyree had been murdered by three guards, only two years before.

Watani Stiner, despite decades of incarceration and abuse, welcomed the rally participants with exuberance, love, and inclusion, setting the stage for stories to come. We stood in rapt attention as Raymond Aguilar shared his experience of juveniles sentenced to life without parole. Julia Arroyo, on behalf of Mianta McKnight brought to light the lack of resources available to those returning home, especially to girls and women of color. Laurie Valdez spoke on the murder of her young child’s father at the hands of San Jose State University police. 

One by one speakers continued to share their lived experience. We encouraged and cheered the speakers, who moved us to anger and sadness, and also motivated us with words of hope and possibility. As we engaged in the dynamic of giver and receiver we created a bond of shared humanity. We were called to listen and to act. And together we closed the rally committed to the work to come. In unity, we will become stronger, more dedicated, and more resolved. We stand firm in our belief that all people, including those incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, deserve their Human Rights. We stand committed to the New Abolitionist Movement to end slavery in America once and for all.