We are observing the anniversary of two very sad events.

Yes, not only has it been 20 years since 9/11, but also the 50th anniversary of the rebellion of prisoners at Attica state prison in western New York state and the slaughter of almost 40 prisoners and staff by New York state police.

Prisoners at Attica rose up on Sept. 9, 1971, against the inhumane living conditions they were forced to endure. A list of demands and a hunger strike by inmates in previous weeks were ignored. They took 40 guards as hostages so they could communicate and negotiate with prison and state officials about problems such as improving medical care, increasing religious freedom, ending brutal segregation policies and having education and training opportunities. These are basic rights that we expect every human being, including those incarcerated, should have today.

Sadly, the state of New York stopped negotiating on Sept. 13, 1971. State police who were brought in opened fire randomly, killing 10 hostages and 29 unarmed inmates and wounding scores more. State officials claimed that prisoners had killed the hostages, but all 39 died from police bullets, according to the state medical examiner.

The massacre is a sad story of police brutality, still mostly censored from the public even 50 years after the event. But, it was also the beginning of movements among the incarcerated for humane treatment.

Let us remember Attica as a lesson that each human being, including those accused or convicted of a crime, must be treated with rights and respect. It is how we can achieve justice for all.

Larry Dansinger

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