Raleigh: Death Row Prisoners Stage Cafeteria Protest

On July 14th, 2011, a group of ten to fifteen death row inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh staged a peaceful group protest in reaction to the brutal beating of another death row inmate, William Bowie. Bowie was handcuffed, with his hands behind his back, and then beaten by one Sergeant Soucier in front of 25-30 inmates.

During the protest, in a rare sign of unity, prisoners stood up in the cafeteria and gave speeches against the abuse. The following day, officials placed the men on administrative segregation (solitary confinement) as punishment for the protest. 

One prisoner, Morgan Herring, was quoted as saying, “Rather than discipline one of their own, the Central Prison authorities would exact retaliation against those who seek the dignity and respect to which they are entitled under NC administrative codes.”

This protest comes off the back of related protests in US prisons. Recently thousands of prisoners in California entered the fourth week of a massive hunger strike, which has spread to over a third of the state’s facilities, in protest of the torture and isolation of long-term solitary confinement. Prisoners in Indiana’s Wabash Valley Segregated Housing Unit also engaged in group protest last week. Last December in Georgia, the largest prison labor strike in US history, coordinated across vast divisions of race, gender, and religion, spread to over 6 facilities in opposition to a variety of policies including forced work with no pay.

These protests have elicited solidarity actions and demonstrations all over the country, and has even spread internationally from Canada to Turkey. Recently in Greensboro a noise demonstration took place outside the Guilford County Jail to help spread awareness of the strike to North Carolina prisoners.

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