Monday, October 5, 2009

Around a Rainy Pond or A Prison Yard, We Are Running Down the Walls

Around a Rainy Pond or A Prison Yard, We Are Running Down the Walls
by Jake Carman

On September 12th, 23 people braved the cold rains to participate in Running Down the Walls, an annual 5K run around Jamaica Pond. Participants of all ages and backgrounds raised $500 for political prisoners, an amount the events’ local organizers, Jericho Boston, vowed to match. According to a statement from the group, Jericho will “send $500 each to the Leonard Peltier Defense/Offense Committee and to Ojore Lutalo, a New Afrikan anarchist prisoner of war who has recently been released.”

Running Down the Walls began inside Leavenworth prison in Kansas in 1994. “We’ve been doing this in Boston for about 5 years now,” said Kazi Toure, a former United Freedom Front political prisoner and current Jericho Boston organizer. This year, 12 US cities participated, and current prisoners ran around their prison yards.

According to Jericho Boston’s statement, Jaan Laaman, a political prisoner currently serving a 53-year term for alleged involvement in the United Freedom Front (UFF) anti-imperialist bombing campaign and murders of police officers, “organized more than 30 prisoners to run this year.” In Boston, runners listened to an encouraging statement Laaman recorded inside a Tucson Arizona penitentiary before setting off around the pond.

Organizers were pleased with the turnout. Henekis Stoddard, daughter of the late Richard Williams, another UFF political prisoner, said, “With 23 people, it’s a better turn out than last year, even though its raining.”

Erin Ryan, a member of Rising Tide Boston, said “It wasn’t hard to run in the rain. While we ran around a beautiful pond with swans, our comrades ran around prison yards.”

Rick Laaman, son of Jaan Laaman and member of the Jericho Movement and the Jaan Laaman Freedom Fund, said about running in the rain, “All I had to do was think about (my father’s) words. I knew I couldn’t give up.”

The youngest participant, 9-month old Antonio, rolled along the path in a stroller with his parents, Northeast Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC) and Jericho Boston members Diana and Dominic. “It was Antonio’s 2nd time. The first he was in utero,” Diana said. “It’s so important not only for children to get used to this, but it’s also the responsibility of the movement to be open and helpful to parents...if we expect parents to be involved.”

As Jericho’s statement read, “After the run, we were joined by members of the Mashpee Wampanoag community, who talked about the struggle of justice for Leonard Peltier and drummed in his honor.” They sang two songs, the American Indian Movement anthem and one called “the Peltier song,” while they played on one large drum held between them, decorated with a “Red Power” sticker. Leonard Peltier is serving a 33 year sentence for the killing of 2 FBI agents who were firing on the home of elders on the Pine Ridge reservation. Attacks on Pine Ridge folk occurred regularly, and Peltier had been asked to defend the elders’ home. There were 62 uninvestigated murders of Pine Ridge residents during that time, and, according to one of the drummers, “the first two people brought to trial (for the FBI murders) were acquitted for self defense.”

“Next year,” Kazi Toure called out after the 2-lap, 5k run, “we’ll do 4 laps!” The exhausted comrades talked him down to three. Runners left with a heightened spirit of resistance, and hopefully the dedication to physical fitness and support for comrades behind bars will carry over until next year’s run.

“I’ll run next year. I was here last year, and I participated in LA when I lived there. There’s nothing quite like it,” said Brian from NEFAC, summing up the spirit of the day.

Excerpted from the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement Newsletter, #26:

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