Magazine article In These Times

The Original Attica Manifesto

Magazine article In These Times

The Original Attica Manifesto

Article excerpt

In Blood In the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, Heather Ann Thompson explores what is known-and not known-about what happened at the Attica Correctional Facility 45 years ago.

On June 16, 1971, a surprise cell search turned up a draft of demands. ... Two weeks later, Commissioner Oswald received the same set of demands in a letter signed by a group of five men calling themselves the Attica Liberation Faction....

"Dear Sir, Enclosed is a copy... in order for you to be aware of our needs and the need for prison reform. We hope that your department don't cause us any hardships in the future because we are informing you of prison conditions. We are doing this in a democratic manner; and we do hope that you will aid us."

If Oswald was relieved that the letter's opening was neither threatening nor abusive, he was still greatly unsettled by the passion of its attached manifesto. "We the inmates of Attica Prison," that document began, "have come to recognize that because of our posture as prisoners and branded characters as alleged criminals, the administration and prison employees no longer consider or respect us as human beings but rather as domesticated animals selected to do their bidding and slave labor and furnished as a personal whipping dog for their sadistic psychopathic hate. …

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