Maybe these “peaceful” folks just wanted to get a look at their future residence or something.
As many as 700 peaceful Occupy demonstrators gathered outside San Quentin State Prison this afternoon as part of a nationwide effort to call for prison reform.
“It’s been an amazing day,” said Crystal Bybee, a spokeswoman for the local Occupy 4 Prisoners group. “We’ve had hundreds of people out here reading messages from prisoners and speaking out about issues that are important to us.”
Among the reforms protest organizers are calling for are elimination of solitary confinement, a ban on the death penalty and an end to California’s “three-strikes” law. The protest was one of about 15 taking place at prisons across the country today.
A spokesman for the Marin County Sheriff’s Office described the protest as peaceful.
The crowd included activists Sara Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who served time in an Iranian prison after being arrested by Iranian authorities while hiking along the Iraq border in July 2009.
Shourd was freed in September 2010, and Bauer and Fattal were released about a year later.
Speaking at today’s rally, Shourd said, “The prison officials say they need more time to end solitary confinement … I say we need to keep the pressure on and we need to end solitary confinement now.”
Occupy Wall Street protesters gathered in Harlem Monday to protest what they call mass incarceration of minority men by a racist prison system.
Demonstrators dubbed criminal justice policies in the U.S. as the “new Jim Crow,” pointing to a prison population made up mostly of blacks and Latinos.
Much like the messages heard in the broader Occupy Wall Street movement, the chants outside Lincoln Correctional Facility on West 110th Street called for wide-ranging, all-encompassing change to the criminal justice system.
The crowd rallied against not only the racial disparities in the prison population, but also against immigrant detention, the use of solitary confinement in detention facilities, the NYPD’s high rate of marijuana arrests and stop-and-frisks, and the mass unemployment and disruption to families caused by imprisonment.
But protester Laura Whitehorn said most people caught up in the criminal justice system simply grew up in the wrong neighborhoods.”I’m here today because when you walk out of prison, you’re very aware that there are a lot of women in there who have no business being in prison for so long,” said Whitehorn. “They’re just locked up because they’re black or because they were poor and they got involved in low-level crimes.”