Coinciding with the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising and a national prison work strike to raise awareness about inhumane conditions, political prisoner Chelsea Manning, 28, has begun a hunger strike, citing lack of proper medical treatment and “high-tech bullying.”
Manning’s act of resistance begins one week after political prisoner and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, 62, was denied lifesaving medical treatment for his hepatitis C.
Manning was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to a 35-year sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas for blowing the whistle on vast human rights violations orchestrated by the U.S. government and carried out by the U.S. military.
While working as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning, then known as Bradley, downloaded and shared with WikiLeaks videos of the 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike, 500,000 Army reports that would later make up the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary, and 250,000 American diplomatic cables. All of which, the US military hoped to keep hidden from the public eye.
Manning, who is transgender, began hormone therapy for gender dysphoria in 2015 and has not received all the medical treatment that she needs. In September of 2014, Manning sued the Department of Defense. The lawsuit, filed on her behalf by the ACLU, stated that “gender dysphoria intensifies over time. Incarcerated individuals, particularly male-to-female transsexuals like [Manning], are at a particularly high risk of engaging in self-harm including self-castration when treatment is withheld.”
Manning attempted to commit suicide in July of this year, and she believes that this latest denial of medical treatment is in retaliation.
Manning's statement reads in part:
“I need help. I am not getting any. I have asked for help time and time again for six years and through five separate confinement locations. My request has only been ignored, delayed, mocked, given trinkets and lip service by the prison, the military, and this administration.”
“Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me. I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.”
Read the full statement here.
This dehumanizing and life-threatening treatment of political prisoners is routine.
Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence in prison for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, has continued to be denied lifesaving medical treatment for his hepatitis C. He has always maintained his innocence, and his original death sentence was commuted after it was determined that his constitutional right to a fair trial was denied. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Mariani denied an injunction that would have allowed Abu-Jamal to receive treatment, while simultaneously finding that Pennsylvania’s hepatitis C protocol for prisoners fails to meet constitutional standards.
Protesters gathered in front of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday to fight back against what is being described as the legal lynching of Abu-Jamal.
“We’re out here to let people, official and unofficial, know we’re not going to let the government plan, plot and conspire to kill our brother Mumia,” said freedom fighter Ramona Africa, a MOVE member and survivor of the 1985 police bombing that killed 11 MOVE members and left hundreds of people homeless.
“The government hasn’t abandoned their plan to kill Mumia,” continued Africa. “They’re just doing it in a different way.”
Manning’s hunger strike begins on the same day that prisoners around the country, in solidarity with prisoners in Alabama and Texas, begin a work stoppage and protest to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising.
Read more about the national prison work strike here.