The biggest secrets about what happened at Attica in 1971 are still kept hidden.

In 1971, a thousand inmates in an Attica, New York, prison took a stand. Their message continues today.

There's not much around the town of Attica except for tiny rivers, hills, and woods.

There is, however, a prison that held 2,200 inmates in 1971, mostly African-American and Hispanic. The guards were all white.


Aerial view of Attica Correctional Facility. Image from New York State Library.

On Sept. 9, 1971, a thousand inmates took over the prison and held it for four days — until the state governor used 600 state troopers and members of the National Guard to put the action down with guns blazing. When it was over, 10 guards and 29 prisoners were dead.

What happened during and after those four days is often misrepresented by traditional media and by the prison system itself.

What Attica is actually about is much more interesting — and, dare I say it, radical — than the standard narrative.

While the full story won't be told until next September, when historian Heather Ann Thompson's "Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy" comes out with Pantheon Books, here is what is already very clear: Attica's prisoners had every reason to rebel.


Image via The Nation.

Inmates of the Attica prison were living in deplorable conditions, and no one would help them.

Horrid prison living conditions, rampant abuse by guards — especially acute for the African-American and Hispanic prisoners — and the restriction of political rights such as the right to read what they wanted were the key elements that had the prisoners angry.

The inmates wrote to Department of Corrections Commissioner Russell Oswald multiple times. They also tried to gain the interest of a state senator to no avail. During the 1960s and early 1970s, right alongside movements by African-Americans to gain equality and respect in cities and workplaces around the country, similar movements were happening in prisons.

However, the people who could have actually paid attention to the concerns of inmates at Attica instead ignored their grievances, thinking it was simply agitators who would quiet down, soon enough.

This was a grave mistake.

Image via The Nation.

The day the guards lost control of Attica, things had come to a boil.

On Sept. 9, guards decided to lock prisoners back in their cells after breakfast instead of them getting their usual recreational time. Why is unclear — some report an altercation between a white and black inmate, some say a guard was harassing a single inmate by keeping him in his cell rather than letting him eat, which angered his friends. It doesn't really matter; what we do know is the place exploded.

Eventually, about 40 prison guards and civilians were taken hostage by inmates. And then, during the next four days, the leaders of the inmate movement attempted to negotiate with the state and governor.

The demands of the prisoners were pretty straightforward.

The original five were called the "Declaration and 5 Demands of Attica." They included such things as these:

"1. We want complete amnesty, meaning freedom from all and any physical, mental and legal reprisals.

2. We want now, speedy and safe transportation out of confinement to a non-imperialistic country.

3. We demand that the Federal Government intervene, so that we will be under direct Federal Jurisdiction.

4. We want the Governor and the Judiciary, namely Constance B. Motley, to guarantee that there will be no reprisals and we want all factions of the media to articulate this."





The 5th item was a list of people they wanted to come and negotiate for them, and then it ended with this:

"We guarantee the safe passage of all people to and from this institution. We invite all the people to come here and witness this degradation so that they can better know how to bring this degradation to an end. This is what we want."

Image via The Nation.

They later added "The 15 Practical Demands," asking for several more things that sound an awful lot like basic rights.

They included the right to legal representation at parole hearings (which they did not have), a change in medical staff to eliminate the racist and incompetent doctors that were there at the time, an end to denying prisoners the right to read political newspapers and books, the right of prisoners to form labor unions, an end to physical and mental brutality at the hands of prison staff, and much more.

Even things like adequate food and access to regular showers (and even soap!) were demanded.

The primary sticking point for the state was the first in the five original demands, which included "freedom from physical, mental, and legal reprisals."

Given that physical and mental abuse of prisoners was a key element of how the system at Attica functioned, there was no way that would ever be accepted by the prison or state officials.

That sticking point — amnesty — ended negotiations for the state of New York. On the morning of Sept. 13, 1971, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller sent in 600 state troopers and National Guardsmen, guns blazing.


Image via The Nation.

Then, the National Guard dropped tear gas — and still, the guns were firing. In total, 4,500 rounds of ammunition were expended. As the prisoners' attorney, Elizabeth Fink, put it:

“Absolutely every procedure established on any kind of armed assault was intentionally not followed at Attica, because what was wanted was a massacre. That's what they wanted … and that's what they got."

The gunfire cut through hostages and prisoners alike. When it was all over minutes later, 10 hostages (mostly prison guards) and 29 inmates were dead. 89 others were wounded.

All but three of the inmates and one of the hostages who died did so at the hands of the state troopers — not the inmates.

Image via The Nation.

All clues point to the fact that the governor wanted a massacre.

Gov. Rockefeller was planning to run against Nixon in the primaries, and he'd constantly been fighting a charge that he was a "hopeless liberal." He desperately wanted to show that he was not soft on crime, so he refused to give an inch at Attica.

In fact, afterward, Rockefeller was so boastful about how it all went down, he told Nixon on the phone immediately following the incident that "They (the troopers) did a fabulous job. It really was a beautiful operation." This was when he assumed that the dead were "only" prisoners.

Lastly, because one of the guards had been killed by some rogue prisoners during the first days of the uprising, state troopers wanted retribution.

I spoke with professor Heather Ann Thompson of the University of Michigan.

Thompson has been writing her definitive history of the Attica uprising for the last 10 years.

“One of the reasons this has taken 10 years to write has everything to do with the fact that the official records are not accessible to the public," she told me.

Why would that be? I asked.

"There is a dual legacy from Attica." She continued. "On the one hand, and after a brief moment of implementing some pretty important reforms, corrections officials used Attica to argue that prisoners needed to be clamped down on even more. And, indeed, because they told so many lies about what had happened at Attica, many ordinary Americans bought this. But the other crucially important legacy of Attica was that prisoners never stopped resisting that kind of draconian treatment."

“Frankly," she said, "what Attica shows is that there's a very long history of covering up for police misconduct. And that misconduct includes the abuse and killing of our nation's most disenfranchised and marginalized citizens. It also speaks to the lengths that officials will go to not take responsibility for their actions."


A memorial to the guards and inmates killed during the uprising stands at Attica State Prison. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Learning the real story of what happened at Attica is ongoing.

Although the state of New York has worked hard to keep Attica's history hidden, it has not succeeded entirely. While many of the stories by prisoners themselves were hidden or their accounts were purposefully destroyed, some are coming out now.

When portions of a sealed report called "The Meyer Report" were released this year, it contained a lot of the abuse and denial of medical treatment that occurred before and after the uprising. It's been sealed since the early 1970s, and there is a good deal that is still sealed — for now.

As more people clamor for the release of the full report with other documentation coming to light from Attica's prisoners and guards — and with Thompson's soon-to-be-released book — perhaps one day we will see the full real story.

The ghosts of Attica are still with us today.

When police actions end in the deaths of African-Americans, such as on the streets of Ferguson or New York City or Cleveland, and the official story immediately starts to change until nobody really knows what happened, Attica serves as a lesson to not let those official narratives be the only ones.

Seeking the truth before passing judgment on events like Attica that happen in our lives is something I will always strive to do.

We can respect the legacy of Attica by attempting to do the same. In the following video from The Nation, listen to the first-hand stories of prisoners and guards and explore their perspective.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

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"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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