Dying to Live: Cesar DeLeon on hunger strike in Wisconsin prison

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By LUCAS ALAN DIETSCHE

As of December, Cesar DeLeon is the only  confirmed one out of an initial seven prisoners on a hunger strike that started in Wisconsin in June 2016.

Visitors have said he is delirious, underweight, and suffering hunger pains, as well as displaying signs of physical abuse. In letters, DeLeon has also reported on physical abuse he receives from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. He has been in non-compliance with guards who place him in handcuffs and force-feed him through the nose and into the throat.

Samizdat Socialist Prisoners Project (SSPP) and Ex-Prisoners Organizing (EXPO) talked with DeLeon’s sister about his complaints. DeLeon wrote in a letter, “Look, I’m a strong cat. I’m going to keep pushing forth even if I have to ride alone. But I do need yall support. So long as yall make me face of this hunger strike, this movement will continue to move forth because I’ll not break.”

On June 10, in the tradition of no-holds-barred prisoner rebellion, seven prisoners at the maximum-security facilities of Green Bay, Waupun, and Columbia Correctional Institutions went on hunger strike. All of them fought against solitary confinement, inadequate medical treatment, and restriction of communication.

The  “Dying to Live” Hunger Strike brought many groups out in solidarity against solitary confinement, including the Industrial Workers of the World Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), Ex-Prisoners Organizing, and Samizdat: Socialist Prisoners Project. Solidarity rallies in Madison and in Milwaukee, phone zaps, and letter-writing campaigns were some of the main expressions of solidarity. Solidarity banners for the strikers appeared at rallies as far away as in Portland, Ore.

SSPP sent books, letters, and radical literature to the strikers. Due to the high concentration of lead in many prisons, caravans also tried to deliver bottled water to Fox Lake, Green Bay, and Waupun Correctional Institutions.

The August 2016 issue of Socialist Action describes the August solidarity rally at Waupun, where Cesar Deleon and others have struggled. More action coincided with the Sept. 9 start of the country’s largest prison strike, on the anniversary of Attica Rebellion. For over a month, thousands of prisoners around the United States took part in strikes—including hunger strikes—in order to demand economic justice and an end to institutional racism and denial of their civil rights (see our October 2016 issue).

In Wisconsin, from the beginning, the Department of Corrections has been reluctant to release details on the strike. But IWOC did a great job of connecting to striking prisoners. And DeLeon sent inspiring letters to help to keep supporters abreast of the facts. The WIDOC initially tried to defuse the situation by moving some of the strikers to different facilities.

On the anniversary of the Attica rebellion in September, a poetry slam attended by formerly incarcerated persons told of the struggles of solitary confinement, talked about letters from DeLeon, and read poetry. A total of mainly 40 radical youth attended. Subsequent rallies at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility gathered crowds of about 30 to 40 people.