Monthly Archives: October 2020

Kings Bay Plowshares Defendant Patrick O’Neill Offers Brilliant Defense, Will Appeal 14 Month Prison Sentence

Reposting this amazing testimony to the power of clear thinking about our culture of violence, including weapons of mass destruction almost impossible to imagine. Thankfully, activists like Patrick O’Neill can imagine a world without nuclear weapons, and what that future might look like for the next 7 generations.

BRUNSWICK, GA—In a decision likely unexpected by both the defendants and prosecutors, a federal judge today passed down a significantly lower prison sentence to one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7.

Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced Patrick O’Neill of Garner, NC, to 14 months in prison for his role in the nonviolent protest on April 4, 2018 at the Kings Bay Naval Base in St. Mary’s, GA.
“I’m grateful that we were able to pull the heartstrings of the judge and help her be as merciful as she can be under the circumstances,” Patrick said afterwards. “Mercy is not her forte.”
Wood began the proceedings by telling Patrick she’d “received quite a lengthy, quite tall stack of records, of letters on your behalf.” (The KBP7 and their support team thank everyone who has written Judge Wood on their behalf!)

Federal prosecutors argued Patrick, 64, should serve the full extent of the recommended prison sentence, up to 26 months, because of his “past criminal history” of nonviolent protest and “noncooperation” during them as well as his “criminal associations” with nonviolent protesters. They argued that Patrick was not remorseful, risked his life and the lives of the people on the base including security personnel, and helped cause more the $33,000 in damages. The prosecutors’ so-called “risk of death” argument is unprecedented in 40 years of Plowshares federal prosecutions.

Representing himself before the judge, and once referring to “the fool for a lawyer that I am,” Patrick objected to dozens of the prosecutors’ arguments. Over the course of the first hour the judge overruled all of Patrick’s objections to the prosecutors’ rationales for lengthening his prison sentence.

Countering the argument that lives were at risk by their action, Patrick said the seven activists were at the site for three hours and seen by guards who repeatedly passed by but kept going. When a guard finally approached Patrick and some of the others the Navy sergeant cracked a joke.
”Now you know you’re all in a bit of trouble don’t you?” he said.
“I don’t think he was feeling at risk of death at that time,” O’Neil told the judge.
Video from the body camera Patrick wore on his head the entire night provided the primary evidence against the defendants. “I went far beyond any acceptance of responsibility of any defendant. I signed a conspiratorial document with my codefendants,” he said.
“You brought to bear the possibility, the specter, of deadly use,” the judge replied. “Thank goodness that nobody was shot.”

Neither the judge nor prosecutor made mention that this protest took place at the locus of the most destructive weaponry in the known universe. When Wood asked the prosecutor if there are any “victims” of the Plowshares’ “crime” available to speak, the prosecutor said there were none.

Two of Patrick’s children testified on his behalf as character witnesses, as did his uncle who helped raise him after his father died when he was five years old. On a video link from his home in Connecticut, Patrick’s uncle Dennis O’Donnell, 80, described his pride of his long time as a soldier in the US Army and 35 years as a Yonkers, NY police officer. O’Donnell, a Trump supporter, then spoke of his long admiration of his nephew and his wife Mary Rider’s kindness and generosity.

“I don’t want to find fault with Patrick because I love him and the other parts of our family love him as well. He’s a committed pacifist and that’s not a dirty word. I’m not against the military in any way. I’m a proud soldier and so are my children. I’m proud of Patrick. I’m proud of Mary. And I’m proud of their children.”

Patrick’s daughter, Bernadette Naro, 32 and a campus minister at a Catholic school in Atlanta, then read a statement describing growing up in the Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker House founded by her parents. (The statement will be available at

“Women and children who were in crisis came to live alongside us,” she said. “My parents chose to live in this way because of their commitment to living out their Christian faith, their commitment to sharing all that they have with the poor, and to taking personal responsibility for the problems they saw in our world. They centered their life around a few questions: Who is Jesus? What was he all about? And, especially what does he require of us?  He taught me to dig into these questions as I grew up and considered what to do with my life.
“When we were younger, and my sister and I would argue, my dad’s approach was to sit me down, stand my sister in front of me and say to me emphatically, ‘See your sister in front of you? See her? She is the body of Christ.’ His life is guided by the question of what it means to be a Christian. Not in words, but as a lived reality.”

When Wood asked her if there should be consequences to her dad’s actions Bernadette replied, “I guess there already have been consequences.”
Timmy Patrick, 21, and a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said his father exemplifies “love incarnate, just positive intention towards everyone… (as opposed to) money and power and status.”
“He provides love and care not just for our family but for other people in our community, town, church community, and many of them receive substantial assistance in housing, food, and clothing, and human necessity from my father and mother.

“Dad’s service to community is extended through this action,” Timmy Patrick said. “The Plowshares movement is a very internally consistent group with very strong held religious beliefs who are inspired by the teachings of activists and theologians throughout history.”
His father and his codefendants see nuclear holocaust as “a matter of when. They express legitimate dissent against the hegemony of militarism and violence that exists throughout our nation.”

Although his family members are the most important people in the world to him and they all share the same perspective, they do not agree on all things, he told the court.
Judge Wood asked Timmy if it is possible to go too far in protesting nuclear weapons. He replied no, not compared to the trillions spent on war.
Seeming to some in the courtroom to be deflated following the testimony of the character witnesses, US Attorney Greg Gilluly referred to Patrick as “a man who has done so much good in this world and has a family to care for.”
He then read a litany of Patrick’s offenses repeating the phrase “Unlike Martin Luther King… Unlike Martin Luther King…” arguing the sentencing guidelines are appropriate.
Patrick then read a long statement to the judge. (It will be available at
“My hope is to never be vindicated. I hope the world can survive the nuclear arms race, and for global warming to turn out to be no big deal. I want our children and grandchildren to have a future with as much love, hope, and prosperity as most of you and I have enjoyed in our upbringings under First World circumstances.
“I want my efforts on April 4, 2018 to essentially be viewed as misguided, foolish and in vain. In essence, I want to be judged wrong — not just by the findings of this court — but by the world,” he said. “For me to be a failure and a fool would be so much better than the calamity I fear for future generations if the Kings Bay Plowshares´ message turns out to be the horror we fear will come.
“This court, by its refusal to consider the lawlessness of weapons of mass destruction, is essentially declaring the end of the world to be acceptable. If the trident D-5 missiles are ever launched and millions of people die, including many of you who reside here at the center of Ground Zero, one fact will remain clear: No laws were broken.
“Rather than criminals, we are messengers, just like the abolitionists were in the face of legalized slavery, or pacifists who went to prison rather than kill. And we took a chance, risked our freedom, and were mischaracterized by this court as threats to the safety of the community.”
The “decision to invent, build, deploy and possibly use nuclear weapons will not stand the test of time as good moral choices,” just as slavery and other historical wrongs have now been judged by history to have been horrible mistakes, he said.
Patrick reminded the court that only three more nations are now needed for global ratification of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Ratification is expected soon.
In response to the defendants’ prior petition under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, an earlier judge concluded their act was “prophetic, sacramental, symbolic denuclearization.” Judge Wood, Patrick said, concluded instead that the compelling interest the court has in is to protecting the sanctity of Naval Station Kings Bay. That makes the unusual nature and risk of the action necessary above, he said, lobbying and writing letters.
“No one in this room today can deny that the theatrical tactics of the Kings Bay Plowshares has gotten your attention and the attention of thousands of people all over the world in a way no letter or phone call to Congress could.”
“I want you to see incarceration from the perspective of the convicted,” he said. “For me, walking into this courtroom is agonizing, emotionally horrifying and makes me feel physically sick. A person coming here for sentencing is likely experiencing one of the worst days of his or her life.”
“Trident is the opposite of love. It is a machine of mass destruction, that robs our neighbors of love and hope.
“While I have not heard much support for us expressed by this court, my hope is that I have been part of an effort to plant a seed that will sprout and grow in your souls, and eventually bear the fruit of true peace in your hearts. And that all humanity will come together to reject war and trident and embrace the teachings of Jesus to Love One Another.”
Before passing her sentence Wood told Patrick, “You have a lot to put on the good side. And that must be counted for during sentencing…. But I have to take into consideration…. we are all bound by the laws of this country… There are consequences.”
Patrick must report to prison within 90 days. With time served and good behavior he might be eligible for release about 10 months later. He will then have supervised release for three years. Like the others, he is required to pay towards restitution to the Navy in the amount of $33,504 and $310 in special assessments. The judge ordered probation officers to have access to financial information, permission needed for getting credit, half of Patrick’s wages garnished.
The day before sentencing Patrick, Wood sentenced his codefendant, Jesuit Father Steve Kelly, to 33 months. Kelly has spent every day since the action in a southern Georgia jail and may be released soon, pending another judge’s decision about his probation violation from a protest at Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base in Washington state, the only other Trident submarine base in the US.
“Your criminal history is not a storied as Fr. Kelly’s,” she told Patrick. Codefendant Elizabeth McAlister was sentenced to time served in June. The remaining codefendants, Mark Colville, Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, and Carmen Trotta, go before Wood for sentencing on November 12 and 13.
Patrick intends to appeal.
It is perhaps a sideways victory. Patrick has received at least six months less time than expected. Still, he must serve a 14-month sentence in federal prison during a pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the United States alone. Twenty seven people, including a guard, have died of COVID at the Butner Federal Correction Institution, which Wood recommended for his sentence, Patrick said. He said 824 people there have contracted the disease.
But, standing before the judge with his hands behind his back he gave a thumbs up to his family and supporters in the courtoom when Wood read his sentence.
“I think she saw how I live my life and she decided she wasn’t going to give me the maximum,” he said afterwards. “I’m not going away for as long as I thought I was going to be.
“I think this is a good omen for my codefendants.”

We understand that many are struggling financially at this time. We ask for donations only if you are able and doing well. Thank you for all the support you have given through these past two and a half years. Your support for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 will help cover the ongoing costs surrounding the seven co-defendants while in prison and their families and communities. Checks can be sent to Plowshares, PO Box 3087, Washington, DC 20010. Or donate online here at this link:

EMAIL: [email protected]

Interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal

You Cannot Decarcerate by Using the Tools of Incarceration, Says Mumia Abu-Jamal

Maresi Starzmann – October 25, 2020

The somber baritone of Mumia Abu-Jamal is unmistakable. Before we can exchange greetings, one of several automated announcements interrupts the call, reminding us that our conversation will be subject to recording and monitoring. Abu-Jamal is phoning from State Correctional Institution Mahanoy, a medium-security prison in Pennsylvania. Convicted in 1982 for the alleged killing of white Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in a racially charged trial that, according to Amnesty International, failed to meet international standards, Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2011. In April 2019, a new path for Abu-Jamal to appeal his life sentence was opened by reform-leaning Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who withdrew his initial opposition for a new appeal to go forward in the courts. Yet, 64-year-old Abu-Jamal remains skeptical when it comes to criminal legal reform in the United States. Despite calls to defund the police and a string of electoral victories for more progressive prosecutors like Krasner, the current administration is actively rolling back reforms. Most notably, Donald Trump has lifted the 17-year moratorium on federal executions and reinstated Department of Justice contracts with private prisons. For Abu-Jamal, with whom I spoke about abolition, the history of slavery and racialized state violence in the United States, this fraught political moment requires an entirely different mindset that allows us to think about decarceration in new ways.

Maresi Starzmann: Donald Trump claims to have instituted prison reforms, because he introduced the First Step Act, a bipartisan federal sentencing and reform bill, and granted clemency to several select, high-profile or celebrity prisoners. What do you make of this?

Mumia Abu-Jamal: Trump is a wolf. He does not understand the meaning, much less the function of the word “empathy.” One cannot seek to help the people who are caged in this carceral state without empathy. Trump really has no substantive prison reform programs at all. But he takes a thimble and makes a bucket out of it. I’ve heard him in debates talking about prison reform, but that’s not really what he supports. It is a political tool meant to pry people away from other candidates in support of his reelection. While it is true that some people have gotten out on the First Step program, Trump has also supported the reinstitution of some of the most repressive institutions in the carceral state — private prisons. This takes us far back to post-Civil War traditions in American life when the state sublet its function to private corporate entities and Black people were forced into slavery by another name.

Can you explain this term, “slavery by another name”?

I refer to the post-Civil War era of the 1870s and the period after Reconstruction that resulted in the eruption of what can only be called a fascist state — openly at first in the Southern half of the United States, then suddenly and quietly in the rest of the country. Against Black life, Black freedom, Black liberty and ostensibly Reconstruction. The people, who were formerly enslaved, were now submitted to Black Codes — laws that only applied to Black people. It was a form of legalized bondage of African Americans under the power of the state. This continued throughout the beginning of the 20th century, which was itself marked by pogroms and race riots in major American cities against Blacks. At the time, white workers were mobilized, both north and south, because Black people were considered threats to their jobs. It was absurd and it was patently unconstitutional.

Can we still see remnants of this today?

Many Americans think that the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were introduced to grant freedom and equal rights to Black people. In fact, however, they did nothing of that kind. We are living in a period where Black people are attacked by forces and agents of the state, like the police, with very little control or comeback. This is the kind of unspoken, unwritten impunity that targets Black people in the North, in the South, in the East, in the West, in their homes, in their cars, on the streets, at the job, anywhere…. Black people speak openly about driving while Black, walking while Black and breathing while Black.

Could you talk more about the historical roots of this system, in particular with regards to American policing, and what this means for the present political moment?

American policing really differs from the police systems that emerged in European states. There is no co-referent to these systems, they are distinct. Most people lazily believe that American policing emerged as an offspring of Scotland Yard in London. Nothing could be further from the truth. The American police system emerged from the slave system and from a perpetual war against the freedom, movement and liberation of Black people from the land of their oppressors. It was designed to terrorize, humiliate and often destroy Black people as a message to other Black people, who dared to run away from slavery. Forces known as the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camelia, and similar organizations performed a super-policing of Black people through terrorism. This was fascism in every sense. Fascism is not [only] an Italian or even a German thing; in many ways, it’s an American thing. And we saw what that means when we looked at that video of George Floyd dying, begging for his life and calling for his mother. The cop kneeling on his neck could not be more nonchalant, more comfortable, more arrogant, because he is doing his job.

And yet, we also see reform movements in the criminal legal system, like the election of progressive prosecutors, many of whom are Black women who ran on platforms to reduce racial disparities in prosecution. Isn’t that a positive development?

Reform movements are playing around the edges of the problem. It is interesting that people think progressive prosecutors could mend this broken system, because, in the end, they are still prosecutors. Their job is to put people in prison. And why are we not talking about changing judges or legislators, who are also engines in this system? Or the media? The media play a remarkable role in driving mass incarceration in America. When people work their way out of the system after 20, 25, 30 or 35 years, it is the media making money by selling stories about the prisoners’ redemption. When you look at the scope of the problem — the fact that millions of people are incarcerated and that the prison system has become a generational employer for the white rural working class — then you see the kind of economic and political impediment to the abolition of this system. We will never heal the social wound of mass incarceration by changing the prosecutors.

Can you elaborate?

Reforms allow us to ignore the structural element that has created mass incarceration. You cannot decarcerate by using the tools of incarceration, because they have a specific function. Decarceration calls for a completely different mindset. I prefer the term adopted by Dr. Angela Y. Davis: abolition. We must move for what we want, not for what we think the system can produce, because the system is the problem, not the solution to the problem.

Given your own experiences with the system, do you at all believe that deep, systemic change is possible?

I obviously think all things are possible. The question is, is it probable? That’s an open political question, because freedom has always been contested in the land that claims to be the land of the free. This is also the land of the incarcerated. There is a reason we speak of “prison nation,” because the numbers in the millions are an American phenomenon. And mass incarceration is a direct response to freedom movements in the United States. Change is contested. But where there is struggle, there is progress. That’s the lesson of Frederick Douglass, and we do well to listen to the original abolitionists to get a sense of what is necessary for this moment. It is relentless, continuous struggle wherever it’s possible — and sometimes even in places where one may think it to be impossible.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. A German translation of this interview was published on October 2 by the German daily, Neues Deutschland. The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the Vera Institute of Justice. Questions and comments may be sent to [email protected]

Warchest Fund Report for October 2020

In our consistent effort to remain transparent, the ABCF provides a bi-monthly Warchest Fund Report so that our supporters can monitor the activities of the Warchest program. The Warchest Fund Report for October 2020 can be found here.

During the months of September and October, the ABCF Warchest has disbursed $1,520 in Warchest Funds and $3592.59 in Emergency Funds. All this would not be possible if it weren’t for the continuing support from the larger political prisoner support community. And because of that support, and due to the recent release of Jalil Muntaqim, the ABCF will soon be adding two more comrades to the ABCF Warchest (David Gilbert and Joshua Stafford). The ABCF will also be increasing the monthly stipend from $40 to $50 per month.

Once again, your support is critical to ensure that our comrades are not forgotten. So thank you for your continued support.

Joy Powell legal defense fundraiser

Donate at

As a pastor and a consistent activist against police brutality, violence and oppression in her community, Rev. Joy Powell was warned by the Rochester Police department that she was a target because of her speaking out against corruption. On many occasions, from 1995 to 2006, Rev. Joy had held rallies and spoke out against the police brutality and “police justifications” in Rochester NY. In 2006, she was accused and convicted of 1st Degree Burglary and Assault. Joy is sure the prosecution was politically motivated based on her activism through her organization, Equality and Justice For All.

An all-white jury tried her; the state provided no evidence and no eyewitnesses. Rev. Joy was not allowed to discuss her activism or say that she was a pastor. The person that testified for her was not allowed to tell the court that he knew Rev. Joy through their activist work and the church. Furthermore, Judge Francis Affronti promised he was going to give her a harsh sentence because he was biased against her. While serving a 16-year sentence for the conviction, a cold murder case was pinned on her. The trial was fraught with misconduct, yet she was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.

All funds will go to fees necessary for Joy’s family to do the important legal work that needs to be done to secure her freedom.

New version of NYCABC “Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners” (v.13.7)

We’ve finished the latest version of the NYC ABC “Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War” and it’s available for viewing (and download) his update includes updated mini-bios, photos, and address changes for several prisoners. We are thankful to remove Jalil Muntaqim (parole) and David Campbell (completion of sentence)!

Former political prisoner Zolo Azania needs help now

Zolo Azania was a Black Liberation Army fighter from Gary, IN who did 35 years and was sentenced to death twice. He got out in 2017 after beating the death sentence on appeal twice.

Since being out, he’s started a paralegal service and does a lot of pro bono work for comrades, and been organizing to establish a re-entry facility in Gary. Right now he’s facing eviction and needs to raise $2000 before Nov. 10.

Donate at
More information about Zolo here.

NYC ABC’s “Project Fang”

Project FANG
 is a much-needed attempt to fill a gap in the ongoing support work for earth and animal liberation prisoners in the United States. Below is detailed information about the fund; we extend an invitation for prisoners and their supporters to use it. For now, the fund is limited to earth and animal liberation prisoners in the United States and their visitors. With additional funding, we hope to expand access to the fund in the future.

As people with loved ones, friends, and comrades in prison (and in some cases, as people who have done time ourselves), we know how necessary and reinvigorating visits can be. They help us stay connected with one another and with the struggles we all care about. They help us overcome the separation of walls and wire. Unfortunately, visits are cost prohibitive for many of our friends, families, and comrades.

This project aims to help with the financial strain imposed on the families and loved ones of prisoners by providing cash allowances for travel expenses to and from prisons. The funds will be available in two separate amounts. Tier 1 will be a $300 allowance. Tier 2 will be a $500 allowance. If you will be using the fund, please carefully consider how much you, as a visitor, will need for travel expenses. Things to keep in mind might include: airfare/busfare/trainfare, car rental, hotel rental, money for the vending machines at the prison, et cetera. While we encourage you not to be afraid to ask for what you need, keep in mind that other people will be accessing this fund. If Tier 1 is enough to meet your needs, then that is what you should apply for. We also strongly encourage visitors to use any excess funds to further support prisoners, which might mean putting money toward commissary, ordering books for prisoners, or simply donating the money back to project FANG.

The size of the fund at any given time will guide how often you can apply for funds. Initially, each prisoner may apply for funds once per quarter (1st Quarter is January-March; 2nd Quarter is April-June; 3rd Quarter is July-September; 4th Quarter is October-December). Please remember that an application for funds does not ensure receipt of funds. We will do our best to accommodate all requests and we sincerely hope that we are able to do so. However, we might not always be able to meet everyone’s needs.

The process is simple and initiated by the prisoner.

We have already sent letters to all eligible prisoners—those imprisoned for taking action in defense of non-human animals and the earth (and who have subsequently not cooperated with the state). After the prisoner completes and mails in an application form, with contact information for up to four potential visitors, we will begin contacting their list of possible visitors to let them know they are eligible to receive funds. We ask that prisoners only include people who have been approved for visits by the facility they are in and they prioritize their list of visitors, as we will be starting by contacting the first person on their list and moving down the list from there. If the first potential visitor would like to receive the funds, they will fill out and submit an application form. If/when the application is accepted, we will mail a money order. If they do not wish to receive the funds, we will contact the next potential visitor on the list. Once someone accepts the money, that will count as the prisoner’s single use of the fund for the quarter.

If prisoners have any thoughts or ideas about project FANG or how to improve it, they are encouraged to include them with the response to the introductory letter we have sent to them. Prisoners know what their needs are better than we do, and the fund is here for them.

We realize that everyone is differently situated. If, for any reason, a prisoner you support is not able to respond to the introductory letter or to make direct requests for funds, we will not take it as a denial of need. We will make every effort to be in touch with support groups who might be better situated to correspond with groups such as ours.

Initially, project FANG will be facilitated by NYC Anarchist Black Cross and Sacramento Prisoner Support. More folks may become involved in the project should the need and interest arise. You can donate by going to projectFANG or sending a check or money order payable to NYC ABC to:

project FANG c/o NYC ABC
Post Office Box 110034
Brooklyn, New York 11211

Philly ABC letter writing event for Jamil Al-Amin 10.26

Join us on Monday, October 26th, 5:30 pm at the picnic bench just north of the playground at Clark Park. We’ll be writing letters to Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown).

Jamil became known as a Black liberation leader as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Justice Minister of the Black Panther Party. In the early ’70s, he did five years as a political prisoner before being paroled in 1976. Upon his release, he moved to Atlanta, GA and led one of the nation’s largest Muslim groups, Al-Ummah. He is known to have greatly improved social services to the West End community in Atlanta.

From 1992 to 1997, the FBI and Atlanta police investigated Imam Jamil in connection with everything from domestic terrorism to gunrunning to 14 homicides in Atlanta’s West End, according to police investigators’ reports, FBI documents and interviews. On March 16th, 2000, Fulton County Deputy Sheriff Ricky Kinchen is shot and later dies, while another deputy Aldranon English is wounded after being shot by a man outside Imam Jamil’s store. English identified the shooter in the March 16th incident as Imam Jamil, yet testified that he shot the assailant — who “had grey eyes” — in the exchange of gunfire. Imam Al-Amin’s eyes are brown, and he had no gunshot injury when he was captured just four days later.

Now that Fulton County has a Convictions Integrity Unit, there is a good chance that Imam Jamil’s case will be reopened due to the known incongruities. This is doubly important because he has medical challenges — symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome and smoldering myeloma (a form of blood cancer) as well as untreated cataracts. Due to his eyesight, write letters to him in large print if you are participating remotely.

Snacks and all the letter-writing supplies one could wish for will be provided. We will also sign birthday cards for political prisoners with birthdays in November: Ed Poindexter (the 1st), Joe Dibee (the 10th), and Josh Williams (the 25th).