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Jun 15th, 2024

Rattling the Cages

Continuing the Struggle Inside & Out

In this second panel discussion related to Rattling the Cages, four former political prisoners—Eric King, Ann Hansen, Ashanti Alston, and Ray Luc Levasseur—discuss their experience behind bars, fighting back on both sides of prison walls, and the importance and significance of international solidarity, then and now.

Recently published by AK Press, Rattling the Cages: Oral Histories of North American Political Prisoners is a project of abolitionist Josh Davidson and Eric King. The book is filled with the experience and wisdom of over thirty current and former North American political prisoners. It provides first-hand details of prison life and the political commitments that continue to lead prisoners into direct confrontation with state authorities and institutions.

If you missed the first panel discussion between Eric King, Susan Rosenberg, Herman Bell, and David Gilbert, you can watch the recording here.

Eric King is a father, poet, author, and activist. Last December, he was released after spending nearly ten years as a political prisoner for an act of protest over the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. He was held in solitary confinement for years on end and has been assaulted by both guards and white supremacists. Eric has published three zines: Battle Tested (2015), Antifa in Prison (2019), and Pacing in My Cell (2019). His sentencing statement is included in the book Defiance: Anarchist Statements Before Judge and Jury (2019).

Ann Hansen stood trial as one of the Squamish Five, members of a radical Canadian anarchist group known as Direct Action who sabotaged government and corporate property in the 1980s. Ann was handed a life sentence but was released from Canada’s infamous Prison for Women (P4W) after nearly eight years. She spent over thirty years in prison and on parole and has returned to prison twice for parole violations. Now on the outside, Ann tirelessly continues her abolitionist efforts and continues to inspire younger generations. She has published two books, Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerrilla (AK Press, 2002) and Taking the Rap: Women Doing Time for Society’s Crimes (Between the Lines, 2018)

Ashanti Alston is an anarchist who was imprisoned for 14 years for his involvement with the Black Liberation Army. Prior to his arrest, Ashanti was a member of the BLA and the Black Panther Party, and since his release he has played an important role on the steering committee of the National Jericho Movement to free US political prisoners. Ashanti wrote the afterword to the political prisoner anthology Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners (2008).

Ray Luc Levasseur spent over twenty years in prison for his involvement in the United Freedom Front and the Sam Melville–Jonathan Jackson Unit, which carried out actions against US military facilities, recruitment centers, and corporate headquarters in solidarity with the people of South Africa and Central America, who were bearing the brunt of US imperialism. Ray spent twenty-one months imprisoned in Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville and at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee, between 1969 and 1971, before spending twenty years imprisoned from 1984 to 2004 for his actions with the UFF. Ray has published three zines—Family Values; Letters from Exile; and The Trial Statements of Ray Luc Levasseur—all of which are to be republished by Kersplebedeb and Burning Books in 2024.

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