At least two dozen prisoners in the Alameda County Jail (“Santa Rita”) are continuing a hunger strike which began on January 8, 2022 to protest an increase in the jail’s commissary prices. Prices increased on December 27, 2021; the second price increase during the COVID-19 pandemic alone. Many people rely on commissary items for daily sustenance due to the poor quality and small portions of County food.
Simultaneously, across the continent, hundreds of people incarcerated in NYC’s Rikers Island jails had also initiated a hunger strike against unsafe, unsanitary and inhumane conditions.
“We stand with you because it’s the same everywhere.”
In close touch with outside supporters, the Santa Rita hunger strikers, spread out over four housing units, learned of the parallel struggle in NYC and jumped at the chance to send their support across the country and into Rikers Island cells.
Here we share a collection of statements of solidarity statements (and advice) from current hunger strikers incarcerated in Santa Rita Jail:
“Keep fighting! Know your cause and know your limits. As a unit, you can achieve positive change even if you have to sacrifice your own body. It’s not right for us to be treated unjustly just because we’re prisoners, many innocent until proven guilty – we should be treated as such. Our sacrifice may be small, but in the future and for those behind us, the effects will be loud. They will have the changes we fought for.”
“I’m in solidarity with you as someone from New York myself. We share the same sentiments, the struggle is the same, and the underlying issues are the same. Follow the money in any situation – it’s a litany of greed, and these institutions need to be held to account. We stand with you because it’s the same everywhere.”
“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. This is as good a cause as any. If you’re not going to strike, don’t discourage those who are.”
“If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. Strikers in Rikers can be heard all the way over here on the west coast. Keep making loud noise. I get strength from knowing about strikers on the other side of the country.”
“My friends and brothers, I hope this finds you well, or at the very least, brings you some solace. My name is Timothy and I am currently incarcerated at the Santa Rita Jail near Oakland, California. I just recently learned of your organized efforts to raise awareness to your valid grievances. I want to assure you that you guys are not alone and many of us here in Northern California stand with you during this perpetual struggle. We understand what you are going through – battling the wanton treatment and inhumane conditions inflicted by jail authorities. Keep in mind that personally speaking, I believe that hunger strikes can be a viable form of peaceful protest. I would humbly offer this added piece of advice: whichever tactics or strategies you undertake, it is vital to “organize” – which entails: effective communication, solidarity, support, and maybe some mutual compromising. The old adage, “teamwork makes the dream work” is very real! I want to close by letting all of you know that you are in our sincere thoughts and prayers. Our community activists and supporters are keeping us updated regularly as to how you guys are doing.
And finally, I’d like to share this very pertinent quote from Dr. King: “the true measure of a man is not where he stands during comfort and convenience, but rather where he stands during crisis and controversy.”