| Ruchell Magee is chained in court following the Marin County Courthouse Rebellion | MR Online Ruchell Magee is chained in court following the Marin County Courthouse Rebellion.

Ruchell Magee wins his release after 67 years in shackles

Originally published: Peoples Dispatch on July 21, 2023 by Natalia Marques (more by Peoples Dispatch)  | (Posted Jul 24, 2023)

Black liberation fighters across the U.S. rejoice with the news that the longest-held political prisoner in the U.S., Ruchell “Cinque” Magee, who fought bravely behind bars in the 1960s and 70s liberation movement, will be released.

“We must be clear that Ruchell has been the main driver of his own release. This release will allow him to spend the rest of his life outside of prison walls, with his loved ones,” writes the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee.

We in the Coalition hope that this monumental victory will inspire increased commitment to the release of all of our political prisoners. We reaffirm our support for justice for all political prisoners across the U.S., and we will not give up the fight.

For most of his 83 years, Ruchell “Cinque” Magee has been struggling under brutal oppression. As a victim of the Jim Crow U.S. South, he was imprisoned under racist “aggravated attempted rape” charges of an older white woman when he was only 16—the same year that Emmet Till was lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman. As a result, he toiled in slave-like conditions in the plantation-turned-prison dubbed Angola (the Louisiana State Penitentiary) for eight years. Upon release, he was disinherited from his property, and moved to Los Angeles, where he would enjoy only six months of freedom before being once again arrested over a dispute over USD$10 of marijuana. He would remain in prison until this day.

But Magee’s life has not been characterized by misfortune. Magee is a symbol of resistance for political prisoners worldwide. While incarcerated, he came down hard against the racist legal system, fighting so intensely that the court saw fit to chain and gag him on multiple occasions. Most memorably, he participated in the Marin County Courthouse Rebellion, characterized by a fellow Black prisoner as a “slave rebellion”. It is this act that is the crux of the reason Magee is the longest held political prisoner in the U.S.

“With the longest held political prisoner in the world coming home, it can be an inspiration for the Black liberation struggle to continue the struggle and inspire others to not give up and keep fighting back,” Harold Welton, a lead organizer with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee, told Peoples Dispatch. Welton was also an active member of the Black liberation movement of the 19060s and 70s, having joined the Black Panther Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in his youth.

In Magee’s words,

You have to deal on your own tactics. You have a right to take up arms to oppose any usurped government, particularly the type of corruption that we have today.

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