When a series of disturbances and insurrections erupted across state prisons nationwide in 2016 on the anniversary of New York’s 1971 Attica prison riots, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) danced around acknowledging whether a set of incidents that had occurred in the Sunshine State were related to the nationwide movement.
But after Florida prisoners announced #OperationPUSH, a monthlong work stoppage beginning on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past Monday, the state prison system has so far claimed no disturbances or strikes have taken place.
Activists both online and speaking to New Times say that’s not the full story. Multiple labor organizing groups, civil rights organizations, and prisoners’ rights advocates said yesterday that in the weeks leading up to the strike, the FDOC preemptively began throwing protest organizers into cells that are basically solitary confinement.
“We’re finding out now that over the past several weeks, they’ve been pulling any organizers they can ID and either relocating them or putting them in ‘close-management’ units, which is the equivalent of solitary confinement,” Panagioti Tsolkas, an activist with the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, one of the groups promoting the protest, told New Timesyesterday evening. “There have also been shakedowns to take peoples’ independent means of communications, like any networks of cell phones on the inside.”