It was with true sadness that , on August 13th, I received the news
that legendary California prison activist Hugo Pinell, was killed in
a California prison. This is Jaan Laaman, your political prisoner
voice and let me share a few thoughts about the life and death of
this extraordinary man.
I never personally knew Hugo Pinell. The simple reason for that is
because Hugo Pinell was locked up in California state prisons for 50
years! That is insane. It is hard to wrap you mind around the
reality of someone being held captive for 50 years. Even more
insane, for most of those years he was held in isolation-segregation
Hugo was just released from segregation and it is being reported that
he was killed by two white prisoners. There was a serious uprising
or riot that also took place at this time.
Hugo Pinell spent decades teaching, advocating and struggling for
Human Rights, justice and dignity for prisoners. He taught and
fought for racial and revolutionary unity among all prisoners.
Locked up in 1965, like many other prisoners at that time, Hugo
became politicized inside the California prison system. In addition
to exploring his Nicaraguan heritage, Hugo was influenced by
activists like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, as well as his comrades
inside, including George Jackson. His leadership in combating the
racism and brutality of prison officials made him a prime target for
retribution and Hugo soon found himself in the notorious San Quentin
While in San Quentin, Hugo and five other politically conscious
prisoners were charged with participating in the August 21, 1971
rebellion, which resulted in the assassination of George Jackson by
prison guards on that day. Hugo Pinell, Willie Tate, Johnny Spain,
David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo and Luis Talamantez became known as the
San Quentin Six. They had a very public 16 month trial. The San
Quentin Six became a global symbol of unyielding resistance against
the prison system and its violent, racist design. Hugo spent decades
in segregation, but continued to work for racial unity and human
rights for prisoners.
Personally, I am of course upset that a brother like Hugo was killed,
by what I have to assume were some reactionary fascist minded
prisoners. But truly what I mainly feel is sadness, profound sadness
at this news.
Hugo Pinell is gone. His bid, his sentence is now ended. After 50
years of captivity, that is not a bad thing. Even as an elderly
person, in his 70's, Hugo Pinell died in the struggle. The hands that
struck him down, it is reported, were prisoners, but the actual force
that killed him was the capitalist police state prison system that
holds 2.2 million men, women and children in captivity.
Hugo Pinell, we will remember you brother and your strong life long
example of resistance. We will continue this resistance and this
struggle for Freedom.
This is Jaan Laaman.
4struggle | August 24, 2015