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Complicity in Neoslavery: Chris Hedges Calls Out Corporate America for Exploiting Prison Labor

StoryOctober 26, 2015
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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, activist and Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges, whose latest book is “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle,” spoke Saturday at New York’s “Rise Up October” rally and march to end police violence. In his address, Hedges spoke about the effects that police violence and mass incarceration has on families. “There are husbands and wives severed, sometimes forever, from their spouses,” said Hedges. “There are sisters and brothers that have been torn apart, but this morning we remember most the children, those whose mothers and fathers are locked behind bars or whose parents will never come home again, whose tiny lives have been shattered, whose childhoods have been stolen, who endure the painful stigma of loss or of having a mother or father in prison and cannot comprehend the cruelty of this world.”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Among those who addressed the crowd was the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, Chris Hedges who wrote for The New York Times for over 15 years, 20 years a Middle East correspondent covering war. His latest book is Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt.

CHRIS HEDGES: I’m Chris Hedges. I’m a writer. I teach in a prison in New Jersey, and have for many years. I’m also a Presbyterian minister.

And at this moment, I’d like to ask us to pray for the loved ones we’ve lost and the loved ones who rot in cages across this country. Oh, God, in the name of the prophets, in the name of Jeremiah and Moses and Jesus, in the name of the holy prophet and messenger from God, Muhammad, peace be upon him. In the name of our martyrs, Martin and Malcolm, in the names of all who have risen up to fight the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed, we implore you to take into your hands the grief, the loneliness, the suffering and the pain inflicted on our brothers and sisters who have lost loved ones to police violence, who are trapped in cages, and to empower us to struggle until we bring justice to the streets of our cities and let our captives go.

There are mothers and fathers among us whose sons and daughters have been swallowed by this great monstrosity of mass incarceration or whose lives have been cut short. There are husbands and wives severed, sometimes forever, from their spouses. There are sisters and brothers that have been torn apart. But this morning we remember most the children, those whose mothers and fathers are locked behind bars or whose parent will never come home again, whose tiny lives have been shattered, whose childhoods have been stolen, who endure the painful stigma of loss or of having a mother or father in prison and who cannot comprehend the cruelty of this world. And we say to all these people, and especially these children, we as a society have failed you, and we will fail you no more.

We cry out today for all those who have become invisible, those who have disappeared behind prison walls, those who have become prey—rape, torture, beatings, prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, racial profiling, chain gangs, forced labor, rancid food, inadequate medical care, children imprisoned as adults, prisoners forced to take medications to induce lethargy, little or no heating and ventilation, decades-long sentences for nonviolent crimes and endemic violence—and we damn the state that perpetuates this abuse.

We say to all those who have turned mass incarceration into a business—the commissary companies; key supply companies; the phone companies, Global Tel Link; the food service companies, like Aramark; the private prison companies, like Corrections Corporation of America; their lobbyists, who write the laws that ensure long sentences, full prisons and huge recidivism rates; and our politicians who pass these laws in exchange for campaign contributions in our system of legalized bribery—we are not deceived. We call out the corporations that exploit underpaid and bonded prison labor for their complicity in neoslavery: Chevron, Bank of America, IBM, Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Eddie Bauer, Wendy’s, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Pierre Cardin and Target. We say to all those who oppress the poorest and most vulnerable among us that what you do is sinful and evil in the eyes of God.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, speaking at this weekend’s Rise Up October. Thousands protested police brutality. Eleven people were arrested at the rally.

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