In this episode of Rattling the Bars, Eddie Conway speaks with Krystal Roundtree, the lead organizer for the Millions for Prisoners March in D.C. It is a national day of action which seeks to abolish the Thirteenth Amendment in the U.S. constitution
Text: The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution legalizes slavery through the criminal justice system. 13th Amendment: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States … As you watch this, contemporary slavery exists in the world today, but the United States is the only country where it is legalized in its constitution. On August 19, anti-prison activists from around the country will convene in Washington, D.C. for the Millions for Prisoners March to end legalized slavery in the U.S. once and for all. Eddie Conway: Welcome to the Real News. I’m Eddie Conway. And thanks for joining me with this special edition of Rattling the Bars. Some months ago, prisoners and prisoner organizations decided that they would have a national march for human rights in Washington D.C. One of the key organizers joins me today, Krystal Roundtree, to give us an update. Thanks for joining me, Krystal. Krystal Roundtree: Thank you for having me, Eddie, today. Eddie Conway: It’s August the 19th. We’re just a few days out. Can you give us an update on what’s happening with this march? Krystal Roundtree: Yes, as you mentioned Eddie, we are in the zone for August 19th. Things are shaping up beautifully thanks to the support of the people around the nation who have answered the call of the prisoners. We are super excited about where we are at this stage. Of course as organizers for the issue, we’re still trying to make sure that have things right for the people when they come out to Washington, D.C. on the 19th. We’re still planning steadily, meeting daily almost in contact with the park service and all other officials to make sure that we have a successful event on the 19th. We’re pleased and proud to announce that in addition to the march that will be taking place in Washington, there are several other solidarity demonstrations that will be taking place across the nation. For the full list of those cities, please visit our website, which is IAMWEUBUNTU.COM, but right off the top of my head I know that there are events going on in Riverside, California; San Jose, California; Florida; Montgomery, Alabama; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Kansas City, Missouri; and several, several other cities. We also got word just this morning that Buffalo, New York as well as a city in Colorado will be hosting solidarity events. The people have again answered the call and we are excited about this fight, this demonstration to end legalized slavery and to highlight the movement against the prison-industrial slave complex. Eddie Conway: Okay, so now those people that are traveling to Washington D.C., where will they be meeting and what time will the gathering take place? Krystal Roundtree: On Saturday, August 19th, we are asking people to meet at Freedom Plaza starting as early as 9:00 am; however, the request time is for people to be there at least by 11:00 am. During that time from 9:00 am until 11:00 am there will be an opportunity for people to meet, network, talk, get on our bull horns and microphones and represent their cities, and their issues, and their causes, and to share with the world why they have chosen to come out and support of the Millions for Prisoners human rights march. It will also be an opportunity for media outlets to interview and speak with not only some of the speakers but the participants as well. Starting at 11:30 am we will be marching from Freedom Plaza down Pennsylvania Avenue to Lafayette Park, where the rally will kick off at 12:00. Eddie Conway: What’s the requests? What are you asking for or demanding? Krystal Roundtree: Well, the theme of this event is ending legalized slavery. We want to highlight and bring mass attention to the 13th amendment of the US constitution. It’s our aim to amend that amendment and to have that exception clause removed. We’re currently in discussions and in the process of forming a very solid and strong coalition where we can continue the work after the march. As I said yesterday on social media, this is just the beginning. We’re not going anywhere. We will be in your communities, in your meetings and everywhere continuing to push this message. Right now we do have a petition that we are pushing. It was started by the OPJ. The organizational procedural justice and it is that. It’s a petition that will be delivered to the U.S. House of Representatives and to members of the U.S. Senate demanding attention to the 13th Amendment exception clause as well as its removal. The purpose of this coalition is to make sure that the things that we start here on the 19th will continue to go forward and that we can be successful in our goals to end legalized slavery. Not only that. We’re going to be talking about all types of things as it pertains to our criminal and justice system. We’re certainly going to be highlighting all of the police terror and the killings that are taking place in our communities. We’ve got some dynamic speakers lined up that I’m excited personally to hear. Some of our DC locals include April Goggans, we’ve got Eugene Puryear, as well as Sister Tomiko Shine that will have a dynamic message there for the crowd as well. For a full list of our speakers, again, people are welcome to visit our IAMWEUBUNTU.COM. That does contain our list of fantastic speakers, who some again are local and some have come from far away to make sure that they are in support and to be there on the 19th in Washington, D.C. Eddie Conway: I noticed that while this was building and being organized, there was divestment campaigns against multinational corporations that used prison slave labor and so on. Is that going to be part of the theme of this to divest from those people that are making profits? Krystal Roundtree: Absolutely. We’re calling them all out. Private prison companies. The government. Anyone who had banks and corporations. Anyone who has invested into the continuation of the injustice, of the inhumane treatment of prisoners and profit from that, they certainly will be addressed there on August 19th and beyond. Eddie Conway: Okay well one final question, is it anything the public needs to know? Things they need to bring, they need to be aware of or just anything you want to share in relationship to this march? Krystal Roundtree: Absolutely. I want people to know that it is August, and it is in Washington, D.C., and it is hot, and it will be a long day, so we strongly encourage people to be prepared for the weather. To dress appropriately. Unfortunately Lafayette Park is right in front of the White House, and so we have had to cut all types of red tape and follow all types of rules and specifications that the park service, and secret service and the metropolitan police have requested of us. I do want people to be aware of certain things. There will be no seating out there and it is a very long event. Again, the program time is from 12:00 until 5:00 pm, so that is a long day. We encourage people to bring water bottles, you’re certainly welcome to bring bags, but again if you do bring bags, one of the park service regulations is that they can’t be left unattended. People are welcome to bring banners and signs so they have to be hand held. People are welcome to film, and video, et cetera, but no tripods are allowed in this particular area right in front of the White House. We hope that this will be a peaceful, nonviolent, direct action movement that will propel people to take action going forward both in meetings, on paper, but also in action in their cities. We’re excited about the 19th, which is just a few days away. I’ll be thanking these organizers forever. We’ve got an awesome group of people there in D.C. that are really organizing and making things happen. They are helping me sort out the fine details. Of course, I’m here in North Carolina and I do what I can to travel back up to D.C., but I rely heavily on a lot of the organizers, not only in DC, but across the country. I’m excited about it. Look forward to great things on the 19th, as well as after the 19th. We will continue to call on the people to support this mission. I can say without a doubt, the prisoners, they’re cheering us on. They’re rooting for us. I have got a stack, a stack of letters, and poems, and cards, and just expressions of gratitude from the men and women behind the walls who know that we are doing this for them. I encourage people, families, friends, loved ones, everyone show up and show out on August 19th on behalf of prisoners and their human rights. Thank you so much. Eddie Conway: Okay. Thank you, and I’m looking forward to seeing you on the 19th myself. Krystal Roundtree: Thank you so much Eddie. I look forward to seeing you as well. I also want to thank you and the Real News for promoting this march and giving us a platform to share what this is all about. You have been strong supporters of this right from the beginning and so we certainly appreciate you. Eddie Conway: Okay, thank you. And thank you for joining this edition of Rattling the Bars.