San Quentin Protest Draws Hundreds

Event that organizers say has brought the Occupy movement and the prisoners' rights movement together seeks a number of prison reforms.


Hundreds of people have gathered outside San Quentin State Prison Monday afternoon for a protest that organizers are calling historic because they say it merges the Occupy and prisoners' rights movements.

Between 600 and 700 demonstrators were protesting peacefully outside the prison's East Gate as of 3 p.m., according to the Marin County Sheriff's Office.

The protest began at noon and was scheduled to continue until late Monday afternoon. A prison spokesman said San Quentin is on lockdown and that prisoners are being kept in their cells.

Organizer Barbara Becnel said the protesters are calling for a number of reforms, including the elimination of solitary confinement, the death penalty and California's "three strikes" law, and an end to the practice of trying some juveniles as adults.

The crowd included activists Sara Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who served time in an Iranian prison after being arrested by Iranian authorities while hiking along the Iraq border in July 2009.

Shourd was freed in September 2010, and Bauer and Fattal were released about a year later.

Speaking at today's rally, Shourd said, "The prison officials say they need more time to end solitary confinement ... I say we need to keep the pressure on and we need to end solitary confinement now."

Bectel said the protesters have already achieved one of their goals: bringing the Occupy movement and the prisoners' rights movement together. Occupy Oakland's website encourages its members to participate and lists carpool information for those who planned to attend.

She said the San Quentin rally is one of 15 taking place today at prisons throughout the country -- including in New York, Baltimore and Boston -- as part of National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners.

The groups are seeking change at both the state and federal levels, and are planning an "Occupy the Justice Department" action in Washington, D.C., on April 24.

Authorities have shut down the Interstate Highway 580 on- and off-ramps at East Francisco Boulevard while the protest continues.

--Bay City News Service

Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr February 22, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Would someone please consider placing victims' rights before prisoners' rights. We do need more state prison cells in California, but other than that prisoners are where they are because they cannot conform their conduct to a standard of not injuring others. For that, they should be separated from society.
Craig Belfor February 22, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Occupy San Quentin? Don't they have about a thousand people there doing that right now? It's easy to get into San Quentin. Just rob a bank. You'll get free legal help, free medical and dental coverage, a great cable package, 3 balanced meals a day, and high speed internet access, all for free, and liberals will bawl like branded calves for your rights. The problem is, you have to leave in 5 years. You need three strikes to get a longer term, so when you get out, rape a nun. That will get you another shot at the good life. When they kick you out again, kill a bunch kids. That'll finally get their attention. The deal is, 12 random people, some of them liberals, decided these people needed to be caged.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr February 22, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Only one argument with you Craig. A liberal is someone who gives a dollar to a homeless person. A leftist is someone who turns the world upside down in order to impose their view of utopia; right is wrong, wrong is right, good is bad, bad is good, on and on. So, why do Californians and the nation keep electing leftists like Kamala, Jerry, and Obama? One reason is that more than 50% of California Republicans did not even bother to cast a ballot in the 2008 election.
Tom Figueiredo February 22, 2012 at 06:35 PM
United States has the largest percent of It's population in prison in the world. 80% of them in for non violent drug busts. Many young people with long sentences for smoking a joint. Obama and Bush both admitted they did the same thing!
Scott February 22, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Utterly irrelevant. Very few, if any, San Quentin residents are there for doing what Obama, Bush and Clinton said they did.


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