Police battle inmates of Russian prison
Eight riot police officers have been injured in an attempt to suppress a two-day prison riot over what inmates claim to be the inhumane conditions of Russian prisons. Protesters outside the facility were also seem to have been beaten.
On Saturday, visiting day inside Penal Colony No. 6 in Kopeisk in the Chelyabinsk region, hundreds of prisoners walked out. They demanded relaxed conditions and the immediate release of some inmates unjustly held in solitary confinement. Relatives awaiting visitation rights outside the prison joined the protest also. Banners hung from the roof that read “We have a thousand on hunger strike” and “Help Us!”
Investigators had been called in to examine the prisoners’ demands. Following a brief investigation, special riot police units were summoned to the prison to restore order, while the city of Kopeisk was locked down. Police officials stated:
“During an operation to restore order in the prison, eight Chelyabinsk Police OMON [riot police] officers received injuries.”
The police claimed self-defense after they detained around 39 of those who had sided with the prisoners. People outside the detention center – even simple passersby unrelated to the riot – claimed they had been attacked and injured by the police. Activist Valeriya Prihodkina observed:
“Saturday was supposed to be a visitation day. People started gathering in the morning – some have come from far away – for the long visitation hours. They were all stopped at a door without any explanations. It then became clear that something was going on inside… Suddenly OMON, special riot police appeared, and other services, including fire trucks. That is when the relatives started panicking.”
Members of the Public Oversight Commission also appeared but were refused entry, Prihodkina explained – adding that once they left, “the carnage began.” She stated:
“The police attacked us with sticks, without any distinction.”
Human rights activists claim that the number of prisoners participating in the protest is far greater than the official estimate, and could be as high as 1,500 inmates. According to human rights campaigner Dina Latipova, the rioters shouted that they are “tired of enduring torture, abuse, beatings and confinement as a way of punishment for the slightest offense.”
There is a long history of prisoner abuse in Russia. In May 2008, twelve new inmates were brutally beaten by 18 wardens inside Colony No. 1 in Kopeisk. Four died from their injuries. During the investigation into the incident, prison officials told the inquiry that the inmates had attacked them. In May 2011, eight were sentenced to various jail terms while the others received suspended sentences. Russia has numerous problems with its prison system, ranging from overcrowding to unsanitary conditions to police brutality. One of the most famous scandals is the case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. He died in police custody from a number of medical conditions after he was prevented from receiving treatment.
LLCO stands in solidarity with the inmates of Penal Colony No. 6 in Kopeisk. No one is free until everyone is free. Under capitalism, prisons are about profit and preservation of inequality. Leading Lights stand against all oppression, including unjust incarceration. Communists, like Mao, always prefer using education and persuasion, even on class enemies and counter-revolutionaries, when possible. When incarceration is necessary, it should not be about retribution. Rather, it should be about education, politics, and reform through labor. Maoists sought to rehabilitate people if they came to admit and understand their mistakes. Prison should only be for hardened criminals (rapists, murderers, war criminals, fascists, etc.). Capitalism must be destroyed in order to truly be free from the corrupt judicial and prison systems that exploit and oppress the people everyday.
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