August 20, 2015

Death and Life of Hugo Pinell

     It was with true sadness that , on August 13th, I received the news that legendary California prison activist Hugo Pinell, was killed in a California prison.  This is Jaan Laaman, your political prisoner voice and let me share a few thoughts about the life and death of this extraordinary man.
     I never personally knew Hugo Pinell.  The simple reason for that is because Hugo Pinell was locked up in California state prisons for 50 years!  That is insane.  It is hard to wrap you mind around the reality of someone being held captive for 50 years.  Even more insane, for most of those years he was held in isolation-segregation cells.
     Hugo was just released from segregation and it is being reported that he was killed by two white prisoners.  There was a serious uprising or riot that also took place at this time.
     Hugo Pinell spent decades teaching, advocating and struggling for Human Rights, justice and dignity for prisoners.  He taught and fought for racial and revolutionary unity among all prisoners.  Locked up in 1965, like many other prisoners at that time, Hugo became politicized inside the California prison system.  In addition to exploring his Nicaraguan heritage, Hugo was influenced by activists like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, as well as his comrades inside, including George Jackson.  His leadership in combating the racism and brutality of prison officials made him a prime target for retribution and Hugo soon found himself in the notorious San Quentin Adjustment Center.
     While in San Quentin, Hugo and five other politically conscious prisoners were charged with participating in the August 21, 1971 rebellion, which resulted in the assassination of George Jackson by prison guards on that day.  Hugo Pinell, Willie Tate, Johnny Spain, David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo and Luis Talamantez became known as the San Quentin Six.  They had a very public 16 month trial.  The San Quentin Six became a global symbol of unyielding resistance against the prison system and its violent, racist design.  Hugo spent decades in segregation, but continued to work for racial unity and human rights for prisoners.
     Personally, I am of course upset that a brother like Hugo was killed, by what I have to assume were some reactionary fascist minded prisoners.  But truly what I mainly feel is sadness, profound sadness at this news.
     Hugo Pinell is gone.  His bid, his sentence is now ended.  After 50 years of captivity, that is not a bad thing.  Even as an elderly person, in his 70's, Hugo Pinell died in the struggle. The hands that struck him down, it is reported, were prisoners, but the actual force that killed him was the capitalist police state prison system that holds 2.2 million men, women and children in captivity.
     Hugo Pinell, we will remember you brother and your strong life long example of resistance.  We will continue this resistance and this struggle for Freedom.
     This is Jaan Laaman." 10372-016 USP Tucson, AZ 85734


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