Are there political prisoners in the United States?
Officially, the answer is no.
But look very closely and it’s not that simple, according to Vermont Action for Political Prisoners and kindred groups across the country. There are people in prison for offending the government who have caused no other provable harm.
One of them, according to the Bradley Manning Support Group, is former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked a video of American soldiers in an Apache helicopter shooting civilians in Iraq—including a photographer from the Reuters news agency and his driver—and classified U.S. government cables, all of which were published by Wikileaks. Manning has been in solitary confinement since May, 2010.
American prisons hold others from all ethnic groups who have been imprisoned for activities related to their participation in social justice, anti-war, environmentalist and animal rights movements.
Though many such people were convicted on specific charges, particularly trespass charges, very often the penalties (maximum sentences, punitive treatment such as protracted pre-trial confinement and solitary confinement in prison) were disproportional to the stated offense—a clue, their advocates say, that the imprisonment was politically motivated.
On Sunday, August 7 (rain date August 14), Vermont Action for Political Prisoners and the Prison Book Project of Western Massachusetts will sponsor the second annual Connecticut River Running Down the Walls, a five-kilometer run, walk and bike ride to benefit U.S. political prisoners.
Running Down the Walls is timed to coincide with similar events in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Tucson, and Guelph, Ontario.
The Massachusetts event starts at Greenfield Community College at 10 a.m. Participants are asked to wear red. According to the organizers, the route is accessible to people at all levels of ability. Everyone participating will get free refreshments and a free lunch.
Those entering the event—runners, walkers, cyclists—should have as many sponsors as possible, or, if unsponsored, should be ready to donate $12. Proceeds go to Vermont Action for Political Prisoners and the Bradley Manning Support Group.
Sponsors should make checks payable to Carrie Doggett with “CRRDTW 2011” in the note line, or to the participant, who may then turn in cash amounting to the total of the checks made out to him/her.
Those who want to take part in the event may RSVP on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/event php?eid=102933346469185. For more information—and if you want to donate $50 or more—e-mail VAPP at firstname.lastname@example.org.