Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz (Capo) - RDTW 2021

My name is Capo. I’m speaking on behalf of myself & my brothers of the Vaughn 17 who are participating in Running Down the Walls today.

First & foremost, I wanted to thank you all for your solidarity. If you’re listening to this, then you’re at least open to the idea of bringing much needed change. That’s definitely the first step. But I’m not here to speak on the early steps of this struggle. My focus is on what’s necessary to bring REAL change. That comes from physically forcing this machine to release those that are enslaved.

50 years ago marks the death of the dozens of martyred warriors of Attica. Their death highlights an issue that still plagues the people of this country: Modern day slavery. It also gave us, the prisoners, the insight into the realization that WE have the power. All we have to do is take it.

For a long time, the administrators of these modern-day plantations have used one primary thing to control us: Hope. Hope that one day they would grant us parole, commute our sentences, or that one day we’ll be able to get our case back into court. That one word is what keeps a lifer from annihilating the overseer that oppresses him on a daily basis. By waving this empty promise in their face, it makes the difference between an overseer going home at night or not.

It’s time for us to shift our priorities. We need to start to hope for something more than a chance to get our physical freedom. We need to hope for a better future for the next generation. The cycle of oppression & incarceration that has plagued our people since the 13th amendment shifted the slave trade to the department of injustice will continue as long as we let it. Once we put aside our selfish hope, we then can prepare ourselves to make the action that can turn the tides of this war.

But that will never happen as long as we continue to hypothesize & talk about what needs to be done. Only action will give our children the future that they deserve, my action & yours. For too long people have been shouting for prison reform as if that would be the end all to the issues. All that would do is perpetuate the same issues that have been happening for generations. 50 years after Attica, we’re STILL asking for the same concessions that those brothers were. All that talking is going to do is bring us 50 more years of oppression & slavery. The policy reforms & less oppressive laws don’t change the fact that there are more enslaved people in this country then the next 3 countries with the largest prison populations COMBINED!

Our freedom doesn’t come retroactively with these meaningless reforms that either don’t apply to the majority or are impossible to get applied to your case. It’s nothing but window dressing. We need to focus on what’s necessary to bring real change. We must TAKE our freedom back, we must destroy the system. That comes from physically forcing them to release those who are enslaved, while simultaneously destroying the system itself.

As prisoners, we can riot & take control of the prison at any time, but that won’t relieve us of this living death. We need our comrades in the world to take the fight out of the corrupt halls of legislation & to the prison walls themselves. Only then can we actually end this war. An assault on both fronts would make the difference between us banging on the walls & us breaking them down. When the world sees this, it will show that the facade of invincibility that the system has cultivated over generations of slavery is just that: an illusion.

Once we illuminate that, we can see the truth. That the machine has only ruled this long because we allowed it. We power the system, the people ARE the power! Once we refocus the power against the system, it will fail, it’s inevitable.

Every step towards the abolishment of prisons should be attributed to the spirit of the Warriors of Attica. Their energy embodies every imprisoned warrior that is willing to physically rebel for the greater good. The radiance of their spirit is what shines our way through the darkness of these cells. Their blood helped loosen the foundation of the prison industrial complex. It’s our duty to finish the job, so their sacrifice wasn’t without purpose. We now live in a time when we have the chance to live without the threat of slavery. When will we take it???