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Opinion: Free the Pendleton 2, Indiana political prisoners

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By THE DEFENSE COMMITTEE TO FREE THE PENDLETON 2

On Feb. 1, 1985, a Ku Klux Klan splinter gang of prison guards named the Sons of Light sparked a prisoner rebellion at the Indiana State Reformatory (now Pendleton Correctional Facility) when they brutally beat a defenseless prisoner named Lincoln Love, aka Lokmar Abdul-Wadood.

Lokmar was an admired and well-respected jailhouse lawyer. Prior to the incident, Lokmar, in tandem with other inmates in his unit, was making demands against the unsanitary conditions of the prison, including the denial of cleaning supplies. What occurred next was retaliation for such demands.

According to a lawsuit filed at the time, the Sons of Light, armed with illegal billy clubs, mace and tear gas, “maliciously held him [Lokmar] down and unmercifully stomped and kicked the inmate all over his body and hit the inmate upon and about his upper body and head with nightsticks.” As Lokmar was dragged faced down out of his cell, his fellow prisoners called for the assistance of John “Balagoon” Cole and Christopher “Naeem” Trotter, who led a politicized group of fellow inmates called the Black Dragons.

At this point, Lokmar was beaten unconscious inside the captain’s office. The order from the guards was to “kill the son of b**ch.” In an attempt to save Lokmar’s life, the concerned prisoners peacefully demanded to see Lokmar but predictably the Sons of Light did not respond kindly to this demand either. As the Black Dragons attempted to push past the guards, a melee broke out. Armed with mace, billy clubs, hammers and a shotgun, the Sons of Light began attacking the prisoners. As a result, the Black Dragons were forced to fend for their lives.

The Sons of Light tried to corner the Black Dragons in the infirmary. To escape their inevitable death, they took several guards hostage at knifepoint as they rushed to occupy cell house J. By putting the attention on themselves, they had successfully saved Lokmar’s life and other prisoners in the infirmary who the white supremacist guards had told were next in line for the same fate as Lokmar.

Once in the cell house, Indiana State Police, Indiana Department of Corrections administrators, National Guard and media arrived at the prison. Ultimately, all lives were spared. Prisoners issued a series of demands for humane conditions and respect. Inmates demanded that “the prison establish a grievance committee, set minimum wages for inmates, allow prisoners to be politically active without intimidation or reprisals and end censorship of all letters, magazines and newspapers.” The rebellion ended peacefully after negotiations, but the persecution did not.

During the trial, the leaders of the rebellion, Balagoon and Naeem, faced an all-white Madison County jury who the prosecution and judge openly fraternized with. ISR guard Michael Richardson, who eventually exposed the Sons of Light, was questioned by the defense about them and violent prison, but the judge would not allow for any questions on these matters to go forward, thereby granting every objection to the prosecution.

Consequently, Balagoon and Naeem were sentenced to 84 and 142 years in prison. Since their conviction, Balagoon and Naeem illegally spent 32 and 20 years in solitary confinement, respectively. At the time of the rebellion, Balagoon only had 3 1/2 years left on his original sentence while Naeem had even less time with only three months remaining. Nevertheless, they sacrificed their freedom to save a human life. As a result, they are now the Pendleton 2 — political prisoners punished not only for the day of the rebellion but marked as examples of what happens to prisoners when they actively resist the state’s racist violence.

The Pendleton 2 needs our help. Both gentlemen are now senior citizens with deteriorating health in a prison system rampant with medical neglect (Lokmar, the fellow inmate they saved, died inside a prison in 2020 due to COVID-19). The state of Indiana has blocked nearly every avenue for them to receive a fair trial. Please sign the letters to the governor and Madison County’s prosecution office for clemency and a sentence modification. If you want to become involved, please attend the Black August events and join the Defense Committee to Free the Pendleton 2. Free the Pendleton 2!

The Defense Committee to Free the Pendleton 2, a group of friends, family and comrades of Indiana political prisoners John “Balagoon” Cole and Christopher “Naeem” Trotter, works to raise awareness around the case of the Pendleton 2 and push for their release from the Indiana Department of Correction.

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