On the 45th anniversary of New York’s Attica Correctional Facility riots, a group of Gainesville residents protested inmate mistreatment.
Waving signs outside of the Wal-Mart on Waldo Road, about 35 people attended a rally held Friday evening by the Gainesville chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World.
Protesters denounced prison slavery, which they described as the corporate use of prisoner labor with little or no compensation. They also spoke out about poor living conditions in prisons.
The rally, held in conjunction with prison strikes across the country, took place at Wal-Mart because protesters said the company benefits from prison labor.
Gainesville resident Logan Glitterbomb, 26, said she attended the rally to show solidarity with prisoners and to commemorate the 1971 riots, when inmates of a New York prison held guards hostage, pushing for reforms like improved health care.
Joined by other members of the Gainesville IWW, Glitterbomb held a sign that read “Working class solidarity against prison slavery.”
She said the average person may be unaware of what goes on inside prisons, which she said motivated her to lend them her voice.
“We’re here because (the inmates) asked us to be,” Glitterbomb said. “It is a literal case of slavery.”
Joseph Spillane, a UF associate professor in the Department of History, said prison conditions have not improved significantly since the Attica riots.
“It did not change much for the better,” Spillane said.
Like the inmates who began protesting Friday, Spillane said one of the key issues of the Attica riots was the use of prison labor without proper compensation.
During the uprising, the prisoners compiled a list of grievances, which included inadequate health care and prison guard brutality. Following the riot, which left more than 40 people dead, prison authorities complied with some of the prisoners’ demands, but adequate reforms were never enacted, Spillane said.
“It is very difficult — almost impossible — for inmates to have their voices heard,” he said.