Abolitionist Conferences & Convergences of the 90s-00s: a working archive

 1998

Jericho ’98 March – Amnesty and Freedom

for All Political Prisoners

“With Jericho `98 we are pushing for the admission on the part of the United States’ government that our political prisoners and prisoners of war do exist inside the prisons of the United States. We are pushing for recognition in the international arena and therefore changing how the world views our liberation struggles inside the belly of the beast.” 

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1998

 Critical Resistance:

Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex

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Members of the Critical Resistance (CR) conference organizing committee reflect on the conference and its aftermath.


 

 

2000

Color of Violence

In 2000, INCITE! founders organized a little conference. It was primarily for a small group of impassioned women of color activists who were fed up with existing organizations that couldn’t (or wouldn’t) address violence faced by women of color. They wanted to understand and actively confront violence while placing women of color at the center. 



 

 

2001

Critical Resistance East:

Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex

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2002

North American

Anarchist Black Cross Network 

Excerpt of invite from 2001/2:

“The first Anarchist Black Cross conference in North America since 1994 will be held July 26-28, 2002, in Austin, Texas. Founded in the early 20th century, the Anarchist Black Cross movement seeks to bring attention to issues related to incarceration, criminalization and the treatment of adults and juveniles in state, private and federal correctional facilities. While ABC groups do attempt to address grievances through various channels, historically the ABC tendency has not been geared purely toward reform. ABCs differ from reform groups in that they strive to build a movement to end the prison-industrial complex, and initiate work with this goal in mind. Prisons, organizers state, have become a replacement for social needs and are disproportionately applied against economically disadvantaged people and people of color (especially Black and Chicano/Latino people). Repression or prisons, they add, do not make people fundamentally safer. A decrease in anti-social crime is only likely to happen when it is accompanied by a dramatic change in our economic, social and political systems. These conditions lie at the root of both crime and the reasons for a prison system.

The event, hosted by the autonomous Austin ABC collective and former political prisoner and Texas anarchist Chris Plummer, comes on the heels of the release of “A New Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network,” which advocated the creation of a new network of anarchist anti-prison groups. Organizers say they expect this conference will bring together organizers to network around issues of prisoner support, prison abolition and anti-authoritarian struggle; and for founding the Anarchist Black Cross Network. The initiative was recently covered by the Berkeley newspaper Slingshot.

Some goals of this meeting include: to build our solidarity and communications among the various autonomous prisoner support tendencies; to learn together and from one another via our experiences, and educate on the ins and out of prisoner support, freedom campaigns, etc.; to get autonomous anarchist anti-prison groups acquainted and developing an ABC network; and to help people interested in prisoner support work to organize effective ABC groups in their communities. Those affiliated with an autonomous Anarchist Black Cross group, anti-prison group, prisoner support collective or who are active in the movement against prisons, criminalization and incarceration; and those interested in forming an ABC group or in being involved in supporting the movement against prisons and in support of prisoners are welcome to attend.

The last North American Anarchist Black Cross conference was held in New York City in 1994.”

Note from Slingshot Collective, prior to conference:

A new network of Anarchist Black Cross groups, structured around anti-authoritarian principles and the original vision of prison abolition, is forming, and is seeking input from everyone.

In November, Austin ABC, Antiprison in Europe and a Houston organizing group presented “A New Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network.” The new proposal was inspired by Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin’s “A Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network,” which he wrote in 1979 to take the anarchist anti-prison struggle toward concrete solutions. The new proposal suggests a new, decentralized, consensus-based coalition of grassroots collectives inspired by the ABC movement’s original vision — a vision that sees prisons and criminalization as tools to repression of the state, that sees the support of all prisoners as important, and that sees injecting anarchist viewpoints in the mix.

Over the last 15 years, the Anarchist Black Cross movement in North America has faced a number of troubles. Throughout the 1990’s many ABC collectives disappeared, including Toronto ABC, Minneapolis ABC, Brew City (Milwaukee) ABC, Fourth World ABC, Nightcrawlers ABC and Wind Chill Factor/Chicago ABC. Along with that trend was the rise of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation, which since its inception has been the subject of controversy among many anarchists for conflicts with several anarchist prisoners; its lack of support efforts for social prisoners, earth liberation prisoners and prison organizers; and emphasis on firearms trainings (via its Tactical Defense Caucus). ABCF itself had a split in 1995 over similar issues.

The new network seems to be a departure from ABCF’s work in that its focus is geared at serving all prisoners, relating anti-prison politics back into the support work, and making a break from vanguardist mindsets of past efforts. Most notable in the proposal:

“There should be no ‘party line’ of the ABC Network. As anarchists, we believe in building a culture of resistance rather than legislating it. How you or your group conducts your effort must solely up to you, although you may want to link up to some activists and resources, work through ideas, learn together and help in others’ campaigns. But regardless, how you organize your group must still be up to your local conditions and membership.

“The ABC Network should do its work in a broad, nonsectarian manner. You should not have to be explicitly named an ABC group to join. Conformity to certain naming, uniform moral/”security” codes, focus, etc., all correctly criticized in previous work, cannot be part of a successful initiative. This is a fundamental difference between the proposed Network and previous initiatives — having the involvement, input, comments, criticisms and efforts of local organizers, prisoners and groups is a necessity and privilege for an ABC Network to take shape. It is not a necessity or privilege for a network to form and communicate with activists… loose, unannounced networks are already happening. This is merely an effort to make it stronger and unite many around the ideas we’re already struggling toward.”

One of the proposal’s organizers said they authors tried to involve a diversity of movements, acknowledging that, while there may be disagreements, the fight against incarceration was important.

“We made great efforts to reflect the good tendency of many anarchist anti-prison activists who work on a class-struggle basis, rather than a dogmatic one,” wrote Ernesto Aguilar, a co-author of the new network proposal and a onetime ABCF organizer, recently. “It is essential that we legitimize, support, foster and celebrate the many facets of resistance — from the struggles waged by the Black Liberation Army to eco-sabotage against the destroyers of the planet to civil disobedience against oppressive, sexist, racist, classist laws to women’s resistance against oppression (among the most discredited and undervalued struggle today, primarily because it isn’t regarded as “political” enough to the mainly male prison movement) to the idealistic youth facing batons and pepper spray for the first time in the name of animal liberation to the anti-colonial/independence/indigenous endeavors in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the ‘First World.’ Obviously we could get into specifics of good and bad for each of these examples — what we agree with, what we don’t, etc. — but the bottom line is that, in the endgame, we’re no different from each other in the eyes of the state, and we become targets as we pose a greater challenge to their ‘way of life’ and social control.

“Ali Khalid Abdullah put the idea of solidarity (despite differences) in a very honest way in his piece on the Chattanooga Three: ‘I would give my life to defend any comrade who is being denied justice. If I felt any other way then I am fooling all of you with my pretense of being an anarchist. Of being for complete and total revolutionary change for all people, not just for some people, or one group or segment of people. I fight injustice everywhere and anywhere I see it because if I don’t that same injustice done to someone else will eventually be done to me. This is how we should be thinking and should feel about one another in the struggle for anarchist principles. But to leave one dangling and having to beg and scrounge to find the means to fight against the evils of oppression is flat out wrong and unjustifiable.’ More clearly, and from a personal level, I may not be a vegan animal liberationist, an independista, etc., but I’ll stand up with them any day against oppression.”

Last year, ABC groups across Europe, where the prisoner support movement has remained strong, agreed at a meeting in Belgium to start to build a network on their own, and indications are that they’ll connect to the new network. The forming network has set as its initial goals the growth and support of new ABC groups, getting feedback on its network proposal and eventually sponsoring an ABC meeting in North America in 2002. The last North American ABC gathering was in 1994.


 

2002

Color of Violence II: Building a Movement

 

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2003

Critical Resistance South:

Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex

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https://www.freedomarchives.org/Documents/Finder/DOC510_scans/Critical_Resistance/510.critical.resistance.south.2003.pdf

 


2003

Break the Chains

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2004

North American

Anarchist Black Cross Network

 

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http://www.freedomarchives.org/Documents/Finder/DOC510_scans/Anarchist_Black_Cross/510.abc.network.newsletter.Winter-Spring.2004.pdf



2005

Color of Violence III: 

Stopping The War On Women of Color

 

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2005 

Attica to Abu Ghraib:

Human Rights, Torture, and Resistance

 

held Friday, April 22nd & Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

at UC Berkeley – Berkeley, CA

audio: http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=109087

overview: itsabouttimebpp.com/Political_Prisoners/ATTICA_TO_ABU_GHRAIB_CONFERENCE.html

 

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The International Human Rights Initiative (IHRI) was a broad based human rights coalition that desired an international campaign to hold the United States government and its surrogates accountable for their human rights abuses, violations, and crimes including torture, secret detention, and assassination.

The IHRI was, at the time of the conference, composed of the following organizations:

  • American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
  • Black Radical Congress
  • Critical Resistance
  • Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
  • GABRIELA Network
  • Global Exchange
  • Haiti Action Committee
  • Jericho Movement
  • Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
  • Prison Activist Resource Center
  • SUSTAIN Bay Area

The IHRI was initiated in early 2004 by a wide range of human rights activists, academics and lawyers from the Bay Area, Boston and New York City. The coalition sought to develop links with grassroots activists, academics, research groups, legal groups, unions, and human rights organizations throughout the United States and the world to pursue three goals: To initiate an international campaign to stop the US governments systematic use of torture, illegal detentions, grand juries, immigration raids and registrations, and other human rights violations that support its subjugation of people of color within and outside the U.S. and repress opposition to the same. To support and defend the civil and human rights of Political Detainees, Political Prisoners, and Prisoners of War – those detained both before and after 9/11/04. To indict the United States government for its systematic human rights abuses domestically and internationally, and to develop documentation that will enable us to question the US government before the international community to hold it accountable for its human rights record and policies.


2007 

Transforming Justice:

Ending the Criminalization and Imprisonment of

Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People

In April 2006, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York City contacted LGBT, prisoner rights, and human rights activists and attorneys across the country to create a national conversation about transgender imprisonment issues. Over the next year and a half, a vibrant coalition of local and national organizations came together to plan Transforming Justice, the first-ever national gathering of LGBTIQQ former prisoners, activists, attorneys, and community members to develop national priorities towards ending the criminalization and imprisonment of transgender communities….

 

Over 250 people from 14 states attended Transforming Justice, with over 100 participating for the entire event. Twenty scholarships to low-income former prisoners were distributed. Approximately 60% percent of the conference attendees were transgender and gender non-conforming people who had at some point in their lives been in prison, jail, or juvenile or immigration detention. Though the conference was free, simultaneous translation, childcare, and meals were provided….

The program booklets contained personal testimonies from four transgender women who were currently imprisoned, and as attendees arrived, they were asked to write letters to imprisoned transgender and gender non-conforming people whose photographs adorned the meeting room….

In the last part of the day, the facilitators led a session with the goal of building points of unity that participants could bring back to their organizations and communities for further discussion. The following are the five points of unity that we explored in this conversation:  

  • We recognize cycles of poverty, criminalization and imprisonment as urgent human rights issues for transgender and gender non-conforming people.
  • We agree to promote, centralize, and support the leadership of transgender and gender non-conforming people most impacted by prisons, policing, and poverty in this work.
  • We plan to organize to build on and expand a national movement to liberate our communities and specifically transgender and gender non-conforming people from poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, racism, ageism, transphobia, classism, sexism, ableism, immigration discrimination, violence and the brutality of the prison industrial complex.
  • We commit to ending the abuse and discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in all aspects of society, with the long-term goal of ending the prison industrial complex.
  • We agree to continue discussing with each other what it means to work towards ending the prison industrial complex while addressing immediate human rights crises.

Conference attendees agreed to continue discussions in our home communities on these points of unity, particularly focusing on point #4 as an exciting and fertile place to begin building solutions to the prison-poverty crisis….


 

 

2008

CR 10: Strategy & Struggle to Abolish

the Prison Industrial Complex

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