Hamja Ahsan (left) whose brother Talha Ahsan has been
Racial profiling, torture, solitary confinement and decades in prison fighting for justice. These may be signatures of the US-led war on terror but such practices have been in motion for a long time. Robert King, one of the ‘Angola 3′, knows first-hand what it meant then as much as it does now and discusses his thoughts with CagePrisoners.
“…if you got a life sentence for a crime you didn’t commit, you will never get out of prison, what can be more terrorizing than this? You’re in a cell 23 hours a day, a 6x9x12 cell, so terror has always been a part of imprisonment. I have always seen it as terror. So I can see how people around the world can say that being in prison, what’s going on in prison, is tantamount to terrorism. And it is. And it’s nothing new. It didn’t start with Guantanamo Bay, not to minimize, the same people who ran Guantanamo Bay, they started in America. It began there, and it expanded out. And that’s why it’s so important that people in America, people around the world, need to get on board with what’s going on…”
The Angola 3 – Robert Hillary King, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace – met in Angola Prison in Louisiana. The three men were politically radicalized after they were introduced to members of the Black Panther Party, and subsequently founded a local prison chapter of the Panthers. The men organized strikes and sit-ins – they were “troublemakers” – and perhaps as a result, in 1972 Albert and Herman were convicted of a murder that few people believe they committed, the stabbing of 23-year-old prison guard Brent Miller. Robert was not even at Angola Prison at the time, but was still investigated for involvement in the murder. Even Miller’s widow doubts that that the Angola 3 are responsible for her husband’s murder. There was no physical evidence against them, and some people have said that the prosecution’s star witness, Hezekiah Brown, agreed to testify in exchange for cigarettes, TV, birthday cakes, and even a potential pardon.
Each member of the Angola 3 was placed in solitary confinement in 1972, spending 23 hours a day in 6×9 foot cells. Robert remained there for 29 years, after being convicted for the murder of another prisoner in Angola by an all white jury. His conviction was overturned in 2001, but Albert and Herman are still locked up.
AS: You were born in 1942. What was it like growing up as an African American in that time in the States?