Black prisoners were grabbed from their bunks and corralled without masks.


Story Transcript

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

Speaker 1: In July of this year, 200 black prisoners were taken from their cells in the middle of the night and corralled in the mess hall in Soledad prison, by all-white and Latino guards. There were no black guards involved.

Speaker 2: Everybody was either smashed off the top bunk, thrown against the wall, one brother actually got pushed down the stairs. Another guy got his finger broke, another guy got thrown off the top bunk and slammed on his head, literally, and all three of them got taken directly from their cells to medical. They didn’t even make it to the kitchen. One of them I seen getting rolled by in a wheelchair.

Speaker 1: In the midst of this pandemic, they were handcuffed with zip ties, they were seated shoulder to shoulder, back to back, without any masks, no social distancing was respected. The guards were in full riot gear and in addition to putting all their lives in jeopardy, a sniper was positioned to be able to shoot them if necessary.

Speaker 3: So the sniper they actually called in and he walked above the building, just to where they could see him. So he wasn’t in the chow hall with them, but he was one of the guard snipers.

Speaker 1: One prisoner contacted his wife and explained what happened. She wrote a article about it in the San Francisco Bay View.

Speaker 3: Well, according to the warden it was an investigation into security threat groups, which are prison gangs, but the people that I’ve spoken to on the inside are not affiliated in any way with any gangs and when they were actually pulled back, they were questioned about things like Black Lives Matter.

Speaker 1: This is the horrifying story that Tasha Williams’ husband recounted to her inside Soledad.

Speaker 4: So they called me into the office and first they tried to act cool like, “We’re here just to question you about a few things.” Then they immediately started asking me about Black Lives Matter, how I felt about it, George Floyd, if what’s happening on the streets is going to spill over into the prison system? And I’m like, “Dude, you all pulled me out of my cell at three o’clock in the morning, rammed my head up against the wall, cuffed me to the point to where my hands turned blue, because of Black Lives Matter.” They’re like, “Oh well, it’s not that, we always want to question you but just it’s a lot going on in the world. I see you’re Muslim. How do you feel about police brutality?” And it’s like, all these questions don’t make any sense. So I’m like, “Man, well what’s going on you all? Is this really what you guys are here to question everybody about, because the only individuals you have inside the room were black.”

Speaker 1: We reached out to the prison officials in California. They responded with a statement saying what they usually respond, that they were looking out for the best interests of the prisoners and they wanted to make prisoner’s lives safer in the future, when in fact they put all 200 of those prisoners at risk of catching COVID-19 with the way in which they handled this whole situation.
Nearly 50 years ago, there was a murder of three black prisoners in the courtyard of the prison by guards shooting from gun towers. It was totally unnecessary. It was a targeted assassination. Three of the revolutionary leaders of an organization that was operating in Soledad were killed. Prisoners staged a hunger strike. They demanded that something happen. Inquiries were made. The guards were exonerated.

No prisoners were allowed to testify to tell what had happened and so pretty much they got away with murdering three prisoners. The result of this was that at some point later on one guard was tossed off of the fourth tier and three other prisoners were charged with that. And there begins the saga of George Jackson and the Soledad Brothers. That was 50 years ago and 50 years later, the same thing is still happening.

Speaker 5: The term Soledad Brother doesn’t apply to us three only, you understand? It applies to all of us brothers down in Soledad who’ve been making moves and who are working on the idea that concentration camps won’t work on black folks and oppressed people here in the United States. We’re just not going for it and we’re trying to break down that thing there and pursue our present goal, the proof that it won’t work on us.

Eddie Conway

Executive Producer

Eddie Conway is an Executive Producer of The Real News Network. He is the host of the TRNN show Rattling the Bars. He is Chairman of the Board of Ida B's Restaurant, and the author of two books: Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther and The Greatest Threat: The Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO. A former member of the Black Panther Party, Eddie Conway is an internationally known political prisoner for over 43 years, a long time prisoners' rights organizer in Maryland, the co-founder of the Friend of a Friend mentoring program, and the President of Tubman House Inc. of Baltimore. He is a national and international speaker and has several degrees.