Gray Panthers of San Francisco
November 2007 Newsletter

Political Activists/Political Prisoners, Parts 1 & 2


Part One

“A political prisoner is someone held in prison or otherwise detained, perhaps under house arrest, because their ideas or image are deemed by a government to either challenge or threaten the authority of the state.”—Wikipedia

Today’s most famous US political prisoners—Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, the Panther 8, the Cuban 5—are mentioned frequently in the alternative press. But there are many others. The Prison Activist Resource Center ( maintains a long list—currently 108—of prisoners they believe are incarcerated for political reasons: members of the black liberation movement, environmentalists, Native American activists, anti-nuclear protesters, anarchists, animal rights activists, anti-imperialist and anti-war protesters. Many have been in prison for decades, some are newly incarcerated and sentenced to decades. Not on the list are the prisoners held as “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo Bay Prison.

One government tactic against political activists is to threaten some of them with life in prison in order to get them to testify against the others, then to ask for terrorism enhancement of many of the resulting charges, which can increase prison time by as much as twenty years. Thus “ecoterrorist” Jeff Luers, who torched three SUVs, is serving 22 years in Oregon State Penitentiary. By contrast, the Forest Service worker convicted of setting 35 fires to collect more overtime pay was sentenced to brief house arrest and three years probation.

Even more alarming are two recent prosecutions of animal rights activists (the Shac 7 and Rod Coronado) who were charged with multiple federal felonies merely for advocating actions against animal research facilities. Six of them, convicted of terrorism and internet stalking, are currently serving three to six years in federal prison.

In the Bay Area, we have many opportunities to oppose this injustice, most recently the case of the Panther 8. Check the newsletter or the Gray Panthers website for updates.

Part Two

Two Bay Area priests, Father Louis Vitale and Father Steve Kelley, have begun serving their sentences of five months in federal prison. They were arrested and convicted for praying in front of the gates of Fort Huachuca, where torture interrogation techniques are taught, after being prevented from delivering a statement against torture.


(back to November 2007 Newsletter front page)