Last Thursday morning, thousands of Georgia prisoners went on strike, refusing to work, and locking down their cells in a peaceful protest for human rights.
The December 9 Strike has now become the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States. Male prisoners from Augusta, Hays, Macon, Smith, Baldwin, Hancock, and Telfair State Prisons went on strike in order to push the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to institute programs that address their human rights, and to be paid fairly for their work. The inmates organized the non-violent strike through the use of contraband cell phones over a series of months.
The group had the following demands:
- A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK
- EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
- DECENT HEALTH CARE
- AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS
- DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS
- NUTRITIONAL MEALS
- VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
- ACCESS TO FAMILIES
- JUST PAROLE DECISIONS
The prisoners’ strike was not racially exclusive. “Anybody that has some sort of dictatorship or leadership amongst the crowds,” Mike, one of several prisoners, told The New York Times, “We have to come together and set aside all differences, whites, blacks, those of us that are affiliated in gangs.”
The prisoners’ protest was non-violent, however the DOC attempted to violently force the men back to work, claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay. The CERT Team guards at the Augusta State Prison took six or seven inmates from their cells and beat them.
According to NewsOne, one of the male prisoners leading a group in the prisons released the following statement:
“ . . . Brothers, we have accomplished a major step in our struggle. . . . We must continue what we have started. . . . The only way to achieve our goals is to continue with our peaceful sit-down. . . . I ask each and every one of my Brothers in this struggle to continue the fight. ON MONDAY MORNING, WHEN THE DOORS OPEN, CLOSE THEM. DO NOT GO TO WORK. They cannot do anything to us that they haven’t already done at one time or another. Brothers, DON’T GIVE UP NOW. Make them come to the table. Be strong. DO NOT MAKE MONEY FOR THE STATE THAT THEY IN TURN USE TO KEEP US AS SLAVES. . . . ”