I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Left-wing Activists, Police, and Academic Freedom: U-MASS.

This came from the Jericho Movement's list-serve. What follows is a series of messages that circulated aroundUMASS this week regarding the cancellation of a upcoming lecture by one of the Ohio 7 defendants, Ray Luc Levasseur. Really unfortunate, because this guy is remarkable. Links to his prison writings are near the bottom of the entry.

Anyone who remembers the 80s should remember that we had a madman in the president's office then, wreaking havoc in the world. What is often lost in the history books, though, is that social movements didn't die in the 70's and radicals didn't go out with the Weather Underground. There was active resistance to most of Reagan's polices, including US government and corporate investments in South Africa, Israel, the death squads and Contras we trained and unleashed in Central America, and several small invasions, coups, and engineered elections we were behind. Basically, we were a monster then, too, and a handful of those who resisted took up arms. Some became professors in prominent liberal universities and wrote books about their once-radical lives. Others kept up their resistance until they were caught, and went to prison for 20 years or more. Levasseur is one of the revolutionaries who went to prison. He should have been a professor.

Ironically, by the way, the cops are out at the AZ Capitol today, protecting the rights of Neo-Nazis to demonstrate their hate. Yet it was the cops who mobilized massive resistance against allowing Levasseur to speak on something that has a lot to do with protecting the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

So, my question for all the cops and right wingers who predictably harassed UMASS into their pitiful, pathetic retreat from hosting this talk: Is it the 1st Amendment that matters, or it is just getting out your own message?



Hello to fellow community members at UMass and beyond,

The lecture "Ray Luc Levasseur: Defendant in the Great Sedition Trial of Western Mass", scheduled for next Thursday November 12 in the UMass Campus Center was canceled today by UMass Amherst Libraries.  It is still unclear to me who made the final call to cancel, and what higher authorities within the university system and state government may have influenced this decision, but I will keep you posted. 

UMass has successfully hosted plenty of controversial speakers in the past, from war criminals and right-wing activists to leftist radicals, but this may be the only one in recent history to be shut down under pressure from police organizations and members of the far right, who have been blasting the offices of the Chancellor and Library Special Collections Director Rob Cox for the past week and a half, and have in the past couple days also fixed their sights on the Governor. 

Some of us who have been involved in organizing this event from the beginning are planning to host an alternative event, hopefully during the same time slot as the originally planned lecture; possibly a panel discussion on Academic Freedom in the Post-911 era.  We will get back in touch with you soon with more information.

Here is a link to the official press release announcing the lecture's cancellation:

For more information on the event and the controversy it generated, please see the thread of messages below.

Best Regards,

Dan Chard
M.A. Candidate
UMass Amherst Department of History


Dear Colleagues,

The New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police (NJ FOP), now joined by New York and Massachusetts-based far right media outlets, have launched a campaign to shut down an event co-sponsored by the UMass History Department, which is scheduled to take place next Thursday, November 12 at 7pm in the Amherst Room on the 10th floor of the Campus Center.  The event is entitled, "Ray Luc Levasseur: Defendant in the Great Sedition Trial of Western Mass Returns After Twenty Years...", and it is part of the annual Colloquium on Social Change hosted by W.E.B. Du Bois Library Special Collections.

Police and several unidentified callers, mostly from New Jersey, but from Massachusetts and other states as well, have been barraging the offices of  Chancellor Holub and Special Collections Director Rob Cox (who is also a History Dept. faculty member) for the past week, expressing their disapproval of the lecture.  Now they are demanding that the lecture be canceled, and they are taking their demands to Gov. Patrick's office.  Today, the New York Daily News and local right-wing radio personality Michael Graham (who himself raised controversy with a Young Republicans' sponsored lecture at UMass last year) announced their outrage at the event, meaning that right-wing extremists will likely be joining police officers in calling and emailing the chancellor, the governor, and Rob Cox tomorrow.

Opponents of the event are upset about the criminal records of Levasseur and his co-defendants.  Levasseur was convicted in 1986 for his involvement in several bombings of corporate and military offices in New York State during the early 1980s that had been claimed by a clandestine anti-imperialist organization called the United Freedom Front (UFF) in protest of U.S. support for South African apartheid and right-wing dictatorships and paramilitary groups in Central America.  No one was hurt in any of these bombings.  His co-defendant, Tom Manning (who remains incarcerated), was also convicted of murder for the 1981 death of a New Jersey State Trooper killed in a fire fight while the former was being pursued as an alleged member of the UFF.  Levasseur was not on the scene of this shooting, and has never been accused or charged with any  involvement with it.  Levasseur's personal, political, and legal histories are immensely complicated, but these are the basics.

Universities are some of only the places in American society where people can openly, publicly, and intelligently discuss difficult but crucial contemporary topics such as terrorism, political violence, and the morality of U.S. foreign policy.  Though we may think that we enjoy freedom of speech and academic freedom at UMass, and although Chancellor Holub has thus far remained supportive of our right to hold this event, we should not underestimate the power and determination of the extreme right-wing forces that are currently mobilizing against it.  Rob has offered the NJ FOP a forum for expressing their views on Levasseur and the 1989 Springfield Sedition Trial earlier in the day on November 12.  He has also invited the judge and lead prosecutor of the trial to introduce Levasseur's lecture.  Though we have yet to hear from any of these parties, it seems fairly clear that the police and right wing groups mobilizing against this lecture are not interested in participating in academic debate; rather they are determined to stifle it.

Below I have attached the original press release for the event, as well as annotated links to recent news articles on the upcoming lecture and the controversy surrounding it.  I have also included some links containing more  information about Levasseur and his past political activities, in addition to  attachments of the event's flier and talking points that I drafted for PR  purposes a couple weeks ago.

Please take some time to inform yourselves on this issue, as I suspect you will  be hearing more about this in the media in the upcoming week, and will want to  be prepared to intelligently discuss it with others.  Meanwhile, if you feel  inclined to express your opinions to Chancellor Holub or Governor Patrick,  please do so.


Dan Chard
M.A. Candidate
Umass Amherst Department of History


News links

Fairly "neutral" Springfield Republican article containing factual inaccuracies (Levasseur served 20, not 18, years in prison, 15 of them in solitary confinement):

"News" with severe right-wing slant:

A 2004 article on Levasseur, featuring an interview, and background on his case:

Recent Bangor Daily New article on Levasseur's involvement with proposed Maine legislation banning long-term solitary confinement.

Levasseur's prison writings:


Thursday November 12


7pm, Amherst Room, 10th Floor, Campus Center, UMass Amherst. As part of the Fifth Annual Colloquium on Social Change, the Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, UMass Amherst, sponsors a talk by Ray Luc Levasseur, with opening remarks by Bill Newman, the Director of the of the Western Regional Office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

In 1989, Ray Luc Levasseur, along with his comrades Pat Levasseur and Richard Williams, stood trial here in Springfield on Federal charges of seditious conspiracy. After ten months of deliberation, in the most expensive trial in Massachusetts history, a jury found all three not guilty of conspiring to overthrow the US government through armed force.

In his first public address in the Pioneer Valley in 20 years, Levasseur will reflect on the past and present significance of the Springfield sedition trial. He will also discuss his life experience as a French-Canadian youth growing up in a Maine mill town; as a Vietnam veteran; as an anti-imperialist revolutionary active in the Civil Rights, antiwar, and prison reform movements; as a prisoner arrested with other members of the Ohio 7 and incarcerated for twenty years for his involvement in a series of bombings carried out to protest U.S. backing of South Africa's racist apartheid regime and Central American right-wing death-squads; and his 2004 release and ongoing involvement in movements for social justice.

Levasseur's prison writings and his closing statement from the Springfield sedition trial are available at and http://home. earthlink. net/~neoludd/ statement. html. Info: Robert Cox, 545-2780,; http://www.library.

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