Imprisoned marijuana seed seller and political activist Marc Emery has many things in common with Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning: both have been subjected to solitary confinement in the U.S. prison system, and both have sacrificed their lives in an attempt to protest injustice and government corruption.
Manning is currently on trial in a military court. In a brave hour-long statement he made earlier this year during a hearing, Manning eloquently outlined why he used his job as a U.S. Army military intelligence analyst to access a treasure trove of military and diplomatic data that revealed the lies and criminality of U.S. military operations and foreign policy.
The young soldier talked of being sickened and morally offended by cockpit video and audio from a U.S. attack helicopter as it hovered above and blew away journalists, Iraqi citizens, and children as shown in the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video.
Manning said he felt U.S. forces were violating the U.S. Constitution, and creating needless suffering and death in countries the U.S. had invaded. He saw stark evidence that the U.S. government was lying to the world about U.S. wars in the Middle East. He believed Americans needed to know what their government was really doing.
That’s why Bradley Manning allegedly delivered government data to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. The U.S. government claims that anyone who provides military whistleblower data to a journalist can be accused of espionage, which carries the death penalty. And that the journalist can also be prosecuted, just for exposing government misdeeds.
In fact, current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is right now facing criticism for claiming a journalist was potentially guilty of espionage. The journalist was doing what journalists do: trying to get information that the public has a right to know. But Holder authorized a secret search warrant of the journalist’s phone records, and implied that a journalist who publishes information the government wants kept secret could be guilty of “aiding and abetting the enemy.”
This is the same “legal theory” the government has used to attack Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. In today’s government surveillance world, telling the truth is a crime.
After Manning was jailed, he was put into solitary confinement for many months. Human rights groups documented that Manning’s confinement conditions constituted torture as defined by international law, and he was eventually freed from solitary confinement.
Marc Emery is a political prisoner being held in a federal prison in Mississippi after being arrested in Canada by the DEA in 2005. His crime: selling marijuana seeds and spending millions of dollars in cannabis seed sale profits to fund worldwide marijuana legalization activism.
Emery wasn’t arrested just because he sold marijuana seeds to Americans. He was arrested because the U.S. government wanted to end his ability to fund pro-marijuana activists. The DEA explicitly stated that was one of their motivations.
Abandoned by his own government, Emery was extradited to the U.S. and sentenced to five years imprisonment. It is a testament to his mental, spiritual, and physical strength that Emery has survived and even thrived in prison. He’s formed a rock band in prison, and counts on visits from his wife: politician, marijuana activist, and businesswoman Jodie Emery.
Marc Emery has been put in solitary confinement before. He endured three weeks of it in 2010. In early June, 2013, he was again place in solitary confinement. The reason: prison officials approved Emery’s request to have photos taken of him and his prison rock band, but when the photos were distributed to the media, prison authorities claimed Emery violated prison policies, and locked him and other band members in small cages. Emery explains what happened to him in a blog that you can read here.
Let’s face it…authorities don’t like the fact that Emery and his wife are high-profile bloggers and media figures who routinely criticize prison conditions and the war on marijuana.
Putting Emery in solitary confinement again is—like his original arrest—a form of political persecution and extrajudicial punishment rather than a reasonable and necessary action. Emery’s life was endangered when another inmate lit a fire in the solitary confinement unit and as it began filling up with smoke, Emery thought he was going to suffocate and die.
He was released after spending a full week in the tiny cage, and Jodie Emery says it should have been clear from the start that her husband had committed no violation of prison rules.
“I’m so relieved to know Marc has been released from solitary confinement after being forced to stay locked in a small cell for a full week,” Jodie Emery said. “I was worried sick every hour of every day, not knowing anything about his safety or how long he would be there for. The reason he was put in solitary confinement was grossly unfair and unjustified. We know solitary confinement is considered a form of torture with serious negative health effects, so of course I’m grateful Marc is no longer enduring that, but tens of thousands of other people are being put through the same kind of abuse and torture for months, years, even decades at a time. Putting a prisoner through solitary confinement is extra punishment heaped on top of already-harsh conditions, but it doesn’t just affect the inmate. Wives, parents, siblings, and children all suffer greatly from the stress and worry that comes with having their loved ones forced to endure such barbaric conditions.”
I admire Marc Emery for having the nerves of steel, and considerable willpower, to endure the indignity of being imprisoned and tortured for a non-crime. Imagine what it feels like to be in federal prison for selling plant seeds. Really, we can all see it’s ridiculous that any government thinks it has the right to make plants or plant seeds a crime.
Imagine being ripped from your home country with no protection from your own government. Given a sentence longer than sentences received by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who pled guilty to war crimes. A longer prison sentence than U.S. bankers who stole billions of dollars from the world banking system. A longer prison sentence than those given to child molesters and murderers.
In Vancouver, where Emery ran his seed selling and political empire, he had a good life, including having a young, beautiful wife half his age, tons of friends, the finest whole marijuana and extracts (such as budder, bubblehash, and wax), his businesses to run, and most importantly…freedom.
In solitary confinement, you’re trapped like a lab animal in a small cage, for 23 hours a day. They leave the lights on so you can’t sleep. Sometimes the guards harass you or even beat you. Solitary confinement can cause PTSD and long-lasting physical harm. It’s a tool for adding punishment on top of the loss of freedom that prison already creates.
Some people view Bradley Manning as a traitor, and Marc Emery as a drug dealer. But anyone with a brain and conscience recognizes that Marc Emery and Bradley Manning are freedom fighters who helped the world. Their actions had no criminal intent. They’re idealists who should be applauded and freed…not tortured in solitary confinement.
Manning is a whistleblower who has already been punished more than soldiers who harmed or killed innocent civilians. He faces a potential death penalty. Emery the marijuana seed seller is locked away and subject to arbitrary extra punishment such as solitary confinement…while violent criminals, BP executives, and others who’ve done actual harm walk free. It’s outrageous.
Write marijuana prisoner Marc Emery: MARC EMERY #40252-086, FCI YAZOO CITY – MEDIUM E-1, P.O. BOX 5888, YAZOO CITY, MS 39194