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Angela Davis on Prison Abolition, the War on Drugs and Why Social Movements Shouldn’t Wait on Obama

For more than four decades, the world-renowned author, activist and scholar Angela Davis has been one of most

influential activists and intellectuals in the United States. An icon of the 1970s black liberation movement, Davis’ work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements across several generations. She is a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a fugitive on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list more than 40 years ago. Davis, a professor emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz, and the subject of the recent documentary, "Free Angela and All Political Prisoners," joins us to discuss prison abolition, mass incarceration, the so-called war on drugs, International Women’s Day, and why President Obama’s second term should see a greater wave of activism than in his first. Watch Part 2 of this interview.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The struggle to overhaul the criminal justice system in the United States has reached a pivotal moment. From the Obama administration’s push to reform harsh and racially biased sentencing for drug offenses to the recent decision by New York state to reform its use of solitary confinement, there is a growing momentum toward rethinking the system. But new battles have also emerged, like the fight over Stand Your Ground laws in states like Florida, where a number of recent court cases have highlighted the issue of racial bias in the court system. Marissa Alexander, an African-American woman of color who fired what she says was a warning shot into a wall near her abusive husband, is facing up to 60 years in prison at her retrial. Michael Dunn, who shot and killed an African-American teenager in a dispute over loud music in the same state of Florida, is facing a minimum of 60 years for attempted murder, but the jury failed to convict him of the central charge in the case: the murder of Jordan Davis, a case that, for many, recalled the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about these issues, we spend the rest of the hour with the world-renowned author, activist, scholar, Angela Davis, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz. For over four decades, she has been one of the most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States. She’s speaking here in New York on Friday at the Beyond the Bars conference up at Columbia University.

It’s great to have you here, Angela.

ANGELA DAVIS: Thank you, Amy. Thank you. Thank you, Juan.

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