In February 2007, I was removed from Auburn Correctional Facility
and transferred to San Francisco County Jail, a place I had not been since
1972. I was immediately placed in a segregated isolation unit, the last of
five cells next to the shower, no windows, no ventilation, and celled next
to a prisoner mentally unstable - talking 18 hours out of 24 hours a day.
The other three prisoners were either detoxing from drug addiction or void
of social skills, requiring them to be isolated from the general jail population.
Every time I moved from the isolation unit, I was placed in handcuffs, waist
chain, and leg shackles, visiting over a phone separated from my visitor
by a thick pexiglass window.
Now, imagine that less than 8 hours before, I had been enjoying going to the yard every day, watching TV and cooking my own meals (I was housed in the Honor Block in Auburn), having access to the phone every day, and being allowed contact visits. Talk about a major psychological challenge, and I admit it was not easy to adjust. For the first several weeks, I had trouble sleeping, I felt like I was losing it. I decided to begin sleeping on the floor close to the gate to get a little bit of air from under the security door outside the isolation unit.
Now, imagine every Saturday, having the opportunity to sit in a room with my comrades and lawyers for several hours, facing them and dealing with all of the issues we were collectively confronting. Imagine the fighting spirit of serious warriors, of committed men and woman (lawyers), ready and prepared to do battle against a formidable foe. The foe was not just the State of California; there were also federal government agents, and unseen government forces that had targeted us. But from the very beginning, we knew we would be victorious, especially considering the degree of support from the S.F.8 Support Committee.
The S.F.8 Support Committee put their hearts and souls into building the support to have the charges dropped. They not only organized the entire Bay Area activist community to support us, they got the Berkeley City Council, S.F. City Council, Unions, Clergy and international support to demand the charges be dropped. In fact, someone placed a giant sign on a San Bruno mountain to be seen by all motorists driving into San Francisco. That was huge! (postscript: someone needs to cover the Hollywood sign in support of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers). It was this kind of encouragement, this tenacity, this determination that I needed to keep me strong during that trying period. So, once again, I want to thank all of you for your support and sacrificing your time, energy and resources to ensure our collective victory.
The S.F.8 victory is a prime example of what can be achieved when activists are focused, united and determined to win. As one famous maxim teaches, “know your enemy, know yourself, a thousand battles, a thousand victories,” and there is no doubting that the S.F.8 Support Committee knew their capability and capacity to organize support to influence the entire political dynamic we were confronting. It was a triumphant accomplishment!
To every member of the S.F.8, I wish to thank you for all I have learned, my personal growth and development, from an 18 year old militant to a 62 year old great grandfather (Ha!), surviving the madness of 42 years of imprisonment. However, for Richard O’Neil, I have one question, why didn’t they have all of these singing competitions on TV when we were singing Do-Wops as teens? No doubt we would have won (Ha!)
Have a wonderful celebration, it is well deserved!!!
Jalil A. Muntaqim