Today, Gregory Koger was sentenced to 300 days in jail, and denied bail during his appeal, for “crimes” that never happened. Convicted of trespassing, simple battery (on a police officer) and resisting arrest for using his iphone to film events at a public meeting, Gregory never received an ounce of the much vaunted “rights and protections” allegedly afforded by the U.S. legal justice system. Instead, in what can only be described as a vindictive political railroad, he has been targeted with police brutality and lies, political persecution, and outrageous imprisonment.
The charges against Gregory stem from an incident last November when he filmed me making a short statement at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago before their service began. I was objecting to their politically motivated dis-invitation of me from a talk I had been scheduled to give. But what started as a shameful act of political suppression by the EHSC has transformed into an extremely grave political railroad and imprisonment of an innocent and righteous revolutionary.
Gregory Koger lived a life like millions of others trapped and forgotten the bottom of this society. Growing up, he and his family were homeless at times and struggling tremendously. As a teenager he got caught up in gang activity and ended up serving 11 years in prison. All that, frankly, is not that uncommon under this capitalist-imperialist system that offers millions and millions of youth no greater purpose than crime and punishment, to kill or be killed in the streets, or to sign up and become a mindless killing machine in this system’s wars and occupations.
“Within a few years I was placed in segregation—solitary confinement—for an indeterminate period of time, and faced the prospect of languishing in isolation devoid of human contact in a concrete tomb until my release. It was in the midst of this—the pepper spray choking the whole cell house, the tactical team stomping down the gallery to drag someone out of their cell and beat them down, the constant agony of men straining against the solitude crying out for some kind of conversation or contact—that I first read Revolution newspaper.
“Revolution began to open my eyes to a whole other way that society could be organized and a whole other way of thinking. Instead of focusing intently on revenge and my own personal oppression or wrongs, I began to see that this capitalist-imperialist system is fundamentally based on the exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of humanity at the hands of the few within the ruling class who own and control the means of production. And that the basis exists to emancipate all of humanity from the oppressive relations of class society, and unleash people to flourish in ways undreamed of under the confines of this capitalist system.”
In other words, Gregory Koger did what the entirety of the U.S. prison system is set up to prevent; he transformed himself into someone dedicated to the emancipation of all humanity.
The radical transformation of Gregory Koger’s character was something that many people testified to in court today. This included professors who had taught Gregory, students who had learned from his public speaking, former members of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago who had come to know and deeply regard him, a priest who is regarded highly nation-wide, and others. Many more people wrote letters testifying to Gregory’s gentle demeanor and attentive listening, his dedication to making known the injustices of prison and the desperation of street life to all who are willing to listen, and his commitment to utilizing his own recent freedom from prison to serve not only himself but humanity’s struggle for emancipation. His activities have included defending abortion doctors, speaking out against police murder, protesting torture while dressed in the orange jumpsuit of Guantanamo detainees and much more.
But, did the judge consider any of this testimony in her sentencing? No! Instead, Judge Marguerite Quinn insisted that Gregory had been a danger to everyone present on the day of his arrest, that his criminal record proved he had a volatile “nature” and that he was not a productive member of society. Then, she gave him the near-maximum possible sentence of 300 days in jail!
All this came after the judge had worked systematically to assist the police and prosecution in jerry-rigging evidence and suppressing truth in such a way as to convict Gregory in the first place.
At every step along the way, Gregory’s trial has been a complete sham.
To site just a little of how this is so, the day before his trial, Gregory’s defense lawyers released as evidence the video footage he had taken on the day of his arrest. It offered video proof that the allegations against him were bogus. However, when faced with hard evidence that showed the lie of their charges, the police and the prosecution simply rewrote their case! They changed the location in which they claimed Gregory had resisted arrest, they changed which police officer they claimed had been assaulted, and they implied that trespass law forbids videotaping when in it only forbids people from staying in a private space after clearly being told they must leave.
All of these new claims by police were contradicted not only by multiple witnesses, but by the police’s own original report! However, rather than overseeing a forum where all the evidence could be heard and justice could prevail, the judge refused to let the defense submit the original police report as evidence!
The fact is, Gregory is not a menace or a threat to the public. As many testified, Gregory is a living example of how even the most pushed-down and written off members of this society can rise above the muck and mire, become emancipators of humanity, and connect with and inspire many from other walks of life in this process. In reality, it is precisely for this reason, that the system has thrown the book at him; Gregory’s life and this case contradict some of the very lies behind which this system maintains its legitimacy.
Gregory is a living refutation of the MYTH that the 2.3 million people in prison are all irredeemable monsters. His case is a living refutation of the LIE that everyone in this country receives “equal rights before the law.” The outrageous sentencing is a living refutation of the FABLE that people in this country are not persecuted for their political beliefs.
Gregory’s case is currently being appealed. Yet, as one final grotesque and unjust step in this political railroad, the judge refused to release Gregory on bail as his appeal works its way through the courts. To quote from the recent coverage of this case in Revolution newspaper [http://revcom.us/a/211/grave_injustice-en.html]:
“Jon Burge, the notorious Chicago police detective who tortured many people and sent them to prison and death row based on false coerced confessions, and who was finally convicted this spring—30 years later—of felony lying to a federal agent, is out on bail until his November sentencing.
“By contrast: A young man wrenches himself out of the dog-eat-dog mentality and life into which this system drives so many. In the bowels of the U.S. prison system he questions, he studies, he begins to understand, and live a life based on the fact that, as he put it, ‘the basis exists to emancipate all of humanity from the oppressive relations of class society, and unleash people to flourish in ways undreamed of under the confines of this capitalist system.’ But for Gregory, the person who has inspired many other people with his moral, ethical, and political transformation, the prosecutor and the judge took the extraordinary step of revoking his bail before sentencing [and now, during appeal].”
It is urgent and imperative that Gregory Koger be released immediately and his sentence overturned.
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Sunsara Taylor is a writer for Revolution Newspaper, a host of WBAI's Equal Time for
Freethought, and sits on the Advisory Board of World Can't Wait. She has written on the
rise of theocracy, wars and repression in the U.S., led in building resistance to these
crimes, and contributed to the movement for revolution to put an end to all this. She takes
as her foundation the new synthesis on revolution and communism developed by Bob
Avakian. You can find her impressive verbal battles with Bill O'Reilly and various
political commentary on things from abortion to religion to cultural relativism by searching “Sunsara Taylor”