Gregory Koger -- an Inspiration and Role Model Who Must Be Defended!
What This System Does to the People of the World Is Criminal—Dedicating Your Life to Emancipating Humanity Is Not
A statement by Gregory Koger
The trial was replete with "irregularities," which exposed both the political nature of these charges and the actual functions of the "justice" system as the machinery of enforcing the class dictatorship that it is part of. Then, after spending nearly two months of my 300-day sentence in Cook County Jail, I was released on bond and have been fighting these charges for the last two years. Earlier this year the Appellate Court upheld my conviction and the Illinois Supreme Court recently refused to hear my appeal.
After numerous pronouncements declaring that there is "nothing political" about this prosecution, in the first paragraphs of the Appellate Court ruling Sunsara Taylor is described as a "self-avowed" communist—a description that was not allowed by the judge in the original trial and appeared nowhere in the trial record of proceedings in open court. The courts have tried to have it both ways—refusing to allow us to raise the extremely relevant political nature of the trial, while themselves signaling the political nature of the arrest and charges. In the final move by the prosecution, when they filed a motion to have me sent immediately back to jail, they included the completely irrelevant—but highly political—information that I had once asked the court for permission to travel out of state for matters relating to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund.
A Criminal System of InjusticeMany people who have heard about this case look at the severity of the reaction of the State and think, "Well, there must be something more to this story…" There absolutely is something about this case that the rulers of this system know has tremendous potential to shake this rotten and unjust system to its core—and that is not someone standing silently holding an iPhone attempting to record a political statement, although preventing Sunsara from speaking and her statement from being documented was what precipitated this case.
More and more people of all different backgrounds are becoming aware of, and beginning to stand up in opposing, the historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration in the United States, which proclaims itself the "greatest and freest country in the world" without the least sense of irony. The sheer number of people subjected to the dehumanizing and degrading violence of the State through its injustice system is difficult to wrap your mind around. Nearly 2.4 million men, women and children are in prison at any moment.
As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has pointed out, more Black folks are in prison or under the control of the "justice" system than there were slaves just before the Civil War. There are five times the number of Black men incarcerated in the U.S. than in apartheid South Africa, where a white supremacist colonial regime subjugated the indigenous Black population for decades and is universally considered one of the most racist regimes in the history of the world. Hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino youth in New York City alone are fucked with by the police every year under "stop-and-frisk." Whole families—including young children—who come here from around the world seeking a better future due to the depredations of U.S. imperialism on their home countries are criminalized and locked up in immigration prisons.
And tens of thousands of prisoners every day are held in extreme isolation and sensory deprivation in supermax and segregation units—conditions that amount to torture. As Carl Dix, one of the comrades standing on the front lines of the struggle against the faultline contradiction of mass incarceration and currently facing trial with other Stop-and-Frisk Freedom Fighters, has pointed out, "All this comes down to a slow genocide which could easily accelerate." People who want to get deeper into this should check out "'Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide' Strikes a Visceral Nerve," Revolution #262, March 11, 2012, and "Ask a Communist: There Are 2.4 Million People in Prison in the U.S.—Why? What Do We DO About It? And How Does the Notion of a 'Prison-Industrial Complex' Get This Wrong?," Revolution #259, February 12, 2012.
Becoming Emancipators of HumanityFrom deep within the belly of this monstrous imperialist beast, from the bowels of the torture units and the concrete and steel prison-tombs springing up across the prairies and plains of this country, brothers and sisters that this system has cast off as worthless are beginning to understand the historical and social forces that led them to the point of being locked within these hellholes, and beginning to see the pathway to a radically different future for all humanity. Prison cells designed to destroy human beings are being transformed into universities of revolution, where the tremendous potential of the wretched of the earth is beginning to be unleashed, and prisoners are one of the powerful sections of people beginning to transform themselves into emancipators of humanity.
That potential, and that reality, is the core of what is driving forward my political prosecution and their demands to put me back in jail. Because I am one of those wretched of the earth that this system had no future for. I got involved in a street organization to survive on the streets as a teenager after my family lost our home, and I was serving a long sentence in an adult maximum security prison by the time I was 17 years old. I began to question what brought me and everyone else locked down in those hellholes to be there. And as conditions became increasingly repressive and more inhumane, I was placed into an indeterminate period of segregation—solitary confinement—where I was confronted with surviving for years in a living tomb until my release.
It was there, in those many years of torture that I spent in total isolation from human contact surrounded by crushing State violence on a daily basis, that I regained my humanity through the course of resisting those conditions and beginning to study and understand the world. Among other things I was studying, I began to receive revolutionary literature from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, including a donated subscription to Revolution newspaper. And Revolution presented to me a real analysis of the historical development and functioning of this monstrous capitalist system, a serious strategy for organizing and making a revolution to sweep this system away, and a viable framework in Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism for actually running society after a revolution: to increasingly break down the divisions of class society as people struggle together to create a whole different way of life in which human beings, individually and above all in their mutual interaction, in all parts of the world, can throw off the chains of tradition, rise to their full height and thrive in ways never before experienced or even fully imagined—a communist world.
My thinking and understanding of course did not change overnight. Both before and after my release from prison, I struggled with many questions—from individuality and leadership to the oppression of women—and comrades struggled with me—in making the radical ruptures to becoming a communist. But through the course of that struggle and being involved in many different realms of revolutionary work in building the movement for revolution, I've dedicated my life to serving the people and being an emancipator of humanity.
From oppressed communities under the gun of constant police brutality and repression, to standing with immigrants against demonization and deportation, from discussions in classrooms in high schools and universities to defending clinics and women's right to abortion, from protesting torture and war crimes to demanding liberation for the LGBTQ community—I'm constantly amazed and inspired by all of the places I've been and people I've met and gotten to know while engaged in revolutionary work throughout the course of the few years I've been out of prison.
Political Repression for Serving the PeopleThat is how I came to be at the EHSC on the morning of November 1, 2009, to document Sunsara's statement and then record her talk at the off-site location, as I had done without incident the previous day at that same EHSC. And that is what this prosecution is really about. As Revolution wrote previously, in an article on my sentencing hearing while I was in Cook County Jail:
"Should a whole section of society (there are over 2 million people incarcerated right now in American prisons) be denied the right to participate in the full range of lawful social and political activity by mere virtue of being former prisoners, because the state will use prior criminal convictions to justify political persecution? A message is being sent to intimidate millions of others at the bottom of society, 'Don't even think about raising your head, participating in political activity or protest, much less taking up revolutionary politics, this is what we will do to you.' We cannot allow this message to stand.
"The 'public safety' is hardly threatened by former prisoners stepping forward to take up the big social and political questions of the day, including those who become revolutionary emancipators of humanity. THAT is the life Gregory has chosen, not a 'path of violence,' as the judge asserted. THAT is what is 'volatile,' and threatening to their system, not Gregory picking up an iPhone." (Judge Slams Videographer with 300 Days in Jail: FREE GREGORY!, Revolution #212, September 26, 2010)
My dedication to exposing and opposing the crimes of this system, as part of building a movement for revolution to get rid of this system, is the real reason why they have pursued this political prosecution for three years and are now trying to put me back in jail. It will be a real defeat, and a real injustice, if they are able to do that. These outrages happened in a political prosecution in my case—however, they happen on a daily basis to millions of people herded through the courts into the United States' historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration.
Support Grows and Needs to SpreadOur struggle to defeat these charges has been a small part of the broader struggle against this oppressive system that inflicts monumental suffering on the people, here and around the world. Thousands of people from all different class and social backgrounds, from across the country and around the world, have stood with me through the course of this battle. Many who don't agree with some or even most of my political views have opposed this vindictive prosecution. All of their support has been tremendously important and I've personally found it deeply moving. My defense committee has hosted numerous public discussions about the broader issues concentrated in this case, including speakers such as Bill Ayers and Cindy Sheehan. And this struggle is not over! We are calling on people to sign on to and spread the "Not One More Day in Jail for Gregory Koger" statement—which you can sign at dropthecharges.net. (See box for additional details)
Sometime within the next couple weeks, the court will set a hearing date where they will try to send me back to jail. We will let people know when that hearing is, and we call on you to come out to that hearing and demonstration afterward, if you are able. We will continue to wage a legal and political offensive against these outrageous charges, and put this system—and the real criminals in the ruling class who preside over it—on trial.
Gravediggers of This SystemI want to close by sharing a few words from two letters written by those who are still locked down in the dungeons who are also becoming emancipators of humanity:
- "I was glad that the paper updated us on the predicament with Gregory Koger, by filling everybody in on the details of his case, all the way from the beginning up to this point. After seeing how they played the comrade, I'm even more determined to be about THIS when I get out. They do shit like that to deter muthafuckas like me, but it REALLY only fuels muthafuckas like me all the more so. I've been a rebellious dude my WHOLE LIFE, as I've related to you before. The difference between that being the case my WHOLE LIFE… and NOW, is that NOW I finally been able to put a circle around THAT THING, I've really been shitty at my WHOLE LIFE: CAPITALIST-IMPERIALISM and its whole decadent superstructure."
- "As I conclude these thoughts of mine as I reside in a solitary cell myself, I just want to reiterate how important it is for as many of us as possible to reach out to Gregory in some fashion in order to show our solidarity with him in a meaningful way… By the time he finishes those 300 days in the county jail or wherever he's being held at, he should be able to leave those gates, knowing he did the right thing by leaving prison and choosing to dedicate his life to what this Party and this movement is all about. Conversely, we should send an unequivocal message to the bourgeois state, that they can't indirectly squelch our determination by using legal repression; because in the end, we rally behind ours, and if we do happen to emerge from the repressive arm of its legal juggernaut, it only ends up magnifying our resolve, individually and collectively."