We Have to Change an Unjust Situation

Speech by Mary Ann Thomas, World Can’t Wait San Francisco, at April 19th rally saying No to Mass Incarceration

[Mary Ann began by walking to the podium in an orange jumpsuit & black hood, then taking the hood off.]

I'm MaryAnn Thomas, and I work with World Cant Wait.

Do I look like a Guantanamo Torture Victim? I should -- because this, my jumpsuit and hood,  is what they have worn since the prison at Guantanamo opened. The prison at Guantanamo – where the U.S. has detained, imprisoned, and tortured 100’s of prisoners from across the Middle East and South Asia. 

Guantanamo is a place of war crimes committed by the government of the United States.   

Indefinite detention – detention without criminal charges, legal cases cooked up against people who’ve been  kidnapped – the total destruction of any level of due process for the accused – and all of this combined with torture, which is itself a war crime and a crime against humanity.  This is the practice of our government running its “War On Terror.”-

What does that have to do with Mass Incarceration inside the U.S.?  Or with Trayvon Martin’s death? 

This is the wealthiest country in the world and calls itself the home of freedom and democracy.  YET somehow America has more people behind bars – than any other country in the world.  And looking at the people in the prison system, their numbers are very disproportionately Black and Brown. 

Racial profiling – is how Trayvon Martin was marked for death.  Racial profiling encouraged a racist wanna-be cop to assault and then murder Trayvon Martin, for the crime of being young, Black, and walking while wearing a hoodie. 

Racial profiling – is how hundreds of thousands of people have been entered into the system such as through encounters like “Stop and Frisk” – setting people up for encounters with the police that criminalize young people. 

I've seen my own son in the Orange jumpsuit and chains, walking into court to be judged.  My heart broke. My son has been incarcerated off & on since he was 18.  He's 39 now. He has been in isolation for various periods of time, most more that 1 month at a time

Now that he's out he can't be in crowds.

The so-called justice system in this country produces nothing but Injustice, and my son is only one of over 2.4 million people who are today living inside the Injustice System’s prisons.

We have to ask WHY and we have to demand answers.  And as we do this, we have to act to CHANGE a terribly unjust situation.

World Can't Wait's mission is to stand up for and demand justice.  Specifically, we work to mobilize people living in this country to stop the crimes of our government.  Our call resonates powerfully abroad, and within the U.S. In 2011, we organized support for the California prison hunger strikers protesting their torturous, inhumane conditions.  And now we join with you, with Cornel West, Carl Dix, academics, and religious leaders in a broad call to stop mass incarceration. 

We are not choosing whether our governments crimes are worse at home, or abroad. We say "stop mass incarceration by the U.S. government, at home and abroad."

This country under both Bush & Obama is responsible for Crimes against humanity at home and abroad.  These crimes need to stop and the criminals must be prosecuted, and brought to justice.

OUR energy needs to be directed at stopping these CRIMES, replacing mass incarceration with mass education, mass respect, mass love.  So we can work together with all our visions of seeing a world that we’d all want to live in, when we are fighting for it.   On the way to that future, we who want to get there really need to stand together today because We, YOU & ME, need to wake people up to the crimes of this government – and mobilize them into resistance and doing work that is about actually STOPPING these crimes against all of us.