A Report Back from IWOC-NYC:
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee- New York City. October 23rd, 2019. United Nations Headquarters, New York City.
In the face of long standing and severe abuses, our incarcerated comrades in South Carolina wrote a letter asking for humanitarian intervention to the United Nations, and asked for outside support in delivering it. As a group of New Yorkers, we travelled to the UN headquarters in solidarity and requested to give their letter to the High Human Rights Commissioner, Michele Bachelet. On the same date, comrades in the UK, Washington DC, and Jamaica were also delivering the letter to local UN offices in a show of widespread support.
[Members of IWOC-NYC Prepare to go through security and deliver the demands of South Carolina Prisoners to the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York City.]
At the headquarters, we passed through security and walked to the information desk, letter in hand, explaining we there to ensure the letter was delivered as our comrades had asked. Immediately, security told us to put the letter away. We then tried to walk further into the visitors’ center, but we were told to leave, despite only having tried to hand them a letter.
As we were being forced out of the building, we read the prisoners’ demands aloud and tried to unravel a banner, but they snatched our banner away from us and called a group of about a dozen security personnel. We were told we were not allowed to take photographs, even though they were photographing us repeatedly. They asked us to “go downstairs to talk it out”, but seeing as they were not detaining us, we exited the premises on our own accord.
[Before being forced out by armed security members of IWOC-NYC are able to read aloud the full demand letter from South Carolina prisoners to the UN representatives present.]
They said it is against UN policy for us to partake in any form of protest. However, it is also against UN policy to hold people in solitary confinement for 15 consecutive days, which is what is happening in South Carolina and across this nation. We engaged in a peaceful demonstration on behalf of prisoners’ who cannot deliver their own demands, due to being held in a cage without sunlight or recreation. We have learned from our comrades that prison is torturous. For us, human rights are more than something that should be codified in a tower and ratified by the elites of this world. For us, the expansion of human rights requires us to fight for those who are being oppressed.
[Armed Security at the UN Headquarters quickly grabbed the banner that was made before it was unfurled.]
We have seen the video of Allen Capers being left to die by correctional officers in South Carolina, we believe that to do nothing is to leave so many others to die. We know the history of the UN. We know human rights have always been abstractions to them, dating back to when the term was first introduced into their charter by Jan Smuts, formerly the Prime Minister of South Africa during a time period when the native people of his country were not even allowed the right to vote. We know the UN headquarters is built on land stolen from the Lenape people in a city whose government just last week voted to expand the prison industrial complex, has done nothing to prevent gentrification/mass displacement/homelessness, and whose police force criminalize and terrorize communities of color every single day. As such, we felt it was our responsibility to disrupt the UN in solidarity with our comrades, in hopes that the UN would confront the human rights abuses they are not only permitting but actively supporting every day.
To our comrades in South Carolina, we love you, we support you, and we will do whatever we can to continue supporting you, with the belief that we not only should, but can, abolish the prison industrial complex.
[15 comrades gathered outside the UN Headquarters in New York City to attempt to deliver the demands of those incarcerated in South Carolina. While turned away by armed security they were still able to pass out hundreds of flyers to folks on the street informing them of the situation.]
[A comrade from IWOC-NYC re-reads the demand letter outside the United Nations Headquarters.]
[Armed UN Security guards still attempting to garb the banner in solidarity with South Carolina Prisoners even outside the building.]
Want to help this effort? Call the South Carolina Department of Corrections and tell them we won’t rest until these demands are met! And then spread it around to all your friends!