Top US academic and political activist Angela Davis talks to VIEW editor Brian Pelan

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Above: VIEW editor Brian Pelan with US political activist Angela Davis in Belfast today

By Brian Pelan

Angela Davis, a radical black feminist, political activist and academic, told a packed audience in Belfast City Hall today of the struggle ahead to oppose the policies of newly elected US President Donald Trump.

Ms Davis was in Belfast for an event organised by Reclaim the Agenda on International Women's Day.

At a news conference in the Ramada Encore hotel in Talbot Street, I asked Ms Davis about her views on prison reform.

Ms Davis said: "I have been involved in campaigns around prison issues for virtually all of my life. I like to see myself as involved in a movement we call the abolition movement rather than prison reform. If one looks at the long history of the prison as an institution you will see that it was invented as the dominant mode of punishment. Its entire history has been one of reform efforts and none of those reform efforts have been successful. We need to imagine other forms of addressing harm and the myraid  of reasons why people go to jail. The vast majority of inmates in the US, which has the largest prison population in the world, are not there because they have been convicted of violent crimes, but because of a whole range of issues such as property crime, etc."

"We see the challenge as creating a world where it no longer needs to rely on creating prisons for security. That means having a very different way of addressing harm and having a very different justice system. A transformative justice system that would be capable of addressing the social reasons why so many people go to jail."

I also asked Ms Davis about her views on the housing crisis in the US and elsewhere and what should be done to tackle the huge number of evictions that take place.

"There is a connection between the lack of housing and the large prison population in the US," said Ms Davis.

"If one wants to understand why almost two and a half million people are behind bars on any given day, one has to address the housing issue. Homelessness is a consequence of the inaccessibility of housing. Housing and education, which has become increasingly privatised, are some of the main challenges of this era. It's important to see issues of housing, education and healthcare within the context of the increasing commodification and privitisation within the context of capitalism."

I asked Ms Davis is the re-election of the Democratic Party the solution to tackling the many social problems in the US.

"We have great challenges ahead during the Trump period and hopefully it will not last for four years. But the very election of Donald Trump demonstrated that the Democratic Party has become bankrupt. It is tied to capitalist corporations in the same way as the Republican Party. What we need to do is to think about having an independent political party that is based in the labour movement, that is anti-racist, that supports feminism. and  is capable of addressing all of the issues that neither the Democratic Party and the Republic Party effectively addressed during the recent election."

• VIIEW is organising an event on March 20 at 7pm at the Conor Lecture Theatre at Ulster University York Street, Belfast. Erwin James, author of Redeemable: A Memoir of Darkness and Hope, was the first prisoner in British penal history to write a regular column for The Guardian whilst he was still in jail serving a life sentence for murder. He will talk about the concept of redemption and prison reform. For more details go to http://viewdigital.org/2017/03/07/viewdigital-event-erwin-james-double-murderer-newspaper-columnist/

Angela Davis speaking at Belfast City Hall

Angela Davis speaking at Belfast City Hall

 

A packed audience at Belfast City Hall

A packed audience at Belfast City Hall

 

A new mural in Belfast city centre of Angela Davis

A new mural in Belfast city centre of Angela Davis

 

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