Overcrowded, sick and starving, a group of prisoners at New York;s Attica prison decided in the summer of 1971 that they had had enough. Naming themselves the ‘Attica Liberation Front’ they sent a letter to the commissioner of prisons describing how the administration and prison officials “no longer consider or respect us as human beings,” and demanding 28 reforms. The state’s reaction was to punish anyone found in possession of this manifesto with 60 days in solitary and to tighten prisoner conditions overall.
This sparked an immense struggle by the prisoners. Traditional factions among racial and religious lines were breaking down, the men instead forging a new solidarity.
On September 9th a riot broke out and the prisoners took over the institution. Although they were violently pushed back, they held an exercise yard for four days before the occupation was smashed by state forces with extreme brutality.
Their struggles revealed the conditions of prisoners to the world, and recast themselves as agents resisting the situation. This radical history inspires resistance to the violent and appalling prison system that still exists around the world today.