Bob Fitrakis
March 31, 2013

First, we were desensitized to water-boarding at Gitmo and electrical shocks to the genitalia at Abu Ghraib. Now torture has trickled down to elementary schools in the U.S. with the “body sock” for autistic kids.

Recently, Naqis Cochran, a ten-year-old autistic child, was restrained with a device known as a “body sock” at Columbus’s South Mifflin Elementary School. The Sock served as Naqis’ punishment for laughing during class. This restraining device is made of stretchy, purple lycra material that is zipped to cover a child’s arms, legs and head. While zipped inside the Sock, the autistic boy fell on his face and knocked out a permanent front tooth, requiring two emergency root canal surgeries.

The teacher told WCMH-TV in Columbus that she instructed Naqis not to move with the Sock on. Again, Naqis is autistic and asthmatic, a point stressed repeatedly by his parents Asad Shabazz and Amatullah Shields on my radio show last Wednesday. Just like with water-boarding, any person would tend to panic when their head, arms, and legs are encased and zipped into a physical restraining device.

Imagine your reaction if somebody put you into the equivalent of a straight jacket with a hood completely covering your face. The last time I heard of similar techniques is when I was monitoring the torture of dissidents by the fascist government of El Salvador in the 1980s and early 90s.

When the parents made a lawful request for public records related to the incident, the South Mifflin School principal told them that no such documents had been filed. Neither was there a record related to Naqis’ injury, nor was the emergency squad called after he fell and knocked the tooth out. His mother stated on the radio that her child is not violent and, due to his autism, would have a difficult time defending himself in any way.

“It doesn’t make any sense to put a restraining device on my special needs child,” she stated, “I feel it is child abuse.”

Naqis’ father noted that neither he nor his wife had authorized use of the body sock and were completely unaware of it. “It was not in Naqis’ IEP [Individual Education Plan],” Amatullah said. “They never told us that he did anything that required restraint.”

Another Columbus City School student’s mother has a similar story: “My son attended Winterset Elementary School and they put him in a similar body outfit that restrained his arms. I was not scheduled to visit but had to drop something off for my other son when I found him in that restraining suit. The teacher said that she had to restrain him because he goes after her coffee. Unbelievable. My son has a seizure disorder as well.”

Dennis Spisak, a 20-year school principal, elected member of the Struthers City Board of Education, and the father of two autistic children, pointed out that “Such devices require specific training and many autistic children, including his son, recoils from being touched. The use of any such device with his son would be unacceptable.”

Spisak stressed that if the child is falling over in a body sock and knocking out his teeth, it is clearly negligent supervision.

Columbus City Schools are currently under fire for two major scandals: the altering of students’ achievement records to improve the district’s rating and corruption charges involving No Child Left Behind tutoring centers. In recent years, the Columbus School Board moved its meeting time to hours during most people’s normal work hours making it difficult for parents to attend. They also banned people from speaking on any issue unless it is an issue to be voted upon at that meeting. One well-known school activist, the late Jerry Doyle, was arrested for trespassing at the podium after they granted him permission to speak and failed to notify him of the new policy. He spent 90 days in jail and subsequently a week without his diabetic medicine, which caused a leg infection and amputation prior to his death shortly after.

Putting kids in body socks is unacceptable even for the Orwellian school administrators in Columbus. It is an outrageous, overreaction to a child’s behavior, unless you’re conditioning them for accepting torture from an authoritarian regime.

In this perfect storm of casual torture, burgeoning ranks of autistic kids, and cover-ups by the Columbus City School system, it remains clear that parents and the public need to demand that the practice of using body socks immediately stop.

Our tax dollars should not be spent on torturing kids. Special needs kid must get the services they require, not child abuse they don’t deserve.

Bob Fitrakis is editor and publisher of The Free Press.

March 27, 2013

Contact: Bob Fitrakis

Green Party endorses public financing and end to the Nationwide Arena tax bailout in Columbus
The Franklin County Green Party officially and unanimously endorsed the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government’s initiatives to end the tax bailout for the Nationwide Arena and to create public financing for Columbus city elections on March 21, 2013.
Franklin County Green Party Co-Chair Bob Fitrakis stated “It’s about time we end the public subsidies and wealthfare checks to four of the richest families in the Columbus area.” Columbus voters have five times rejected public money bailouts of private sports teams and arenas. “This current scheme to funnel money to the rich happened after only a 15-minute debate at Columbus City Council. The one-party machine that runs Columbus City Hall is fundamentally corrupt and compromised,” said Fitrakis.
The current at-large system requires at least a quarter of a million dollars to run an electoral campaign city-wide. “There is no candidates other than the one-party incumbents, who traffic in political favors, that can raise that kind of money to run in a city-wide election,” explained Fitrakis, “The public campaign financing will take the tainted special interest money out and replace it with public matching funds.”
The Green Party, whose 2012 presidential candidate Jill Stein qualified for federal matching campaign funds, is a long-time supporter of removing private interest money from the campaign process. The Franklin County Green Party calls upon the citizens of Columbus to participate in the petition drive to place the initiatives on the ballot this November.
For more information go to:

Hello Free Press supporter,
I have been working with Staughton and Alice Lynd and a group of people from all over the state of Ohio to organize the “Re-Examining the Lucasville Uprising Conference” at Columbus State Community College which will be held April 19-21, 2013.
As you may know, the Free Press has been following some of the prisoners’ stories who were present at the Lucasville prison before and during the 1993 uprising. Facts reveal that prison conditions seemed to be intent on instigating a riot, and the state of Ohio used the “riot” as an excuse to build the Supermax prison in northern Ohio soon after.
We’ve been working with the Lynds to expose what many activists believe is a gross injustice done to the five men now on death row, and others still imprisoned, as a result of the uprising. Details also reveal that the five men responsible for helping negotiate during the uprising were leaders among prisoners and were singled out to be charged with murders, based on snitch testimony, and have been on death row since.
It has been 20 years since the Lucasville prison uprising, the longest prison uprising in U.S. history, and the prison industrial complex has only grown larger and more insidious. The U.S. has now incarcerated nearly a quarter of the people on the planet. Conditions in prisons are worse than ever, sentences are longer, prisons have been privatized, and states like ours still employ the death penalty.
I would like you to join us on the 20th anniversary of the uprising for all or part of the conference in April. The conference is free, open to the public, includes a number of experts and the voices of the Lucasville prisoners, and will cover a multitude of prison-related issues. We will examine new revelations that authorities involved in the Lucasville prisoner’s cases admit that they do not know who committed the murders for which the five men were convicted.
You can register for the conference at:
It’s important to register so we know how much food to provide for the Saturday lunch.
Donations are encouraged. We also have a program where you or your organization can advertise. If you represent a nonprofit group, we will have tabling space available at the conference as well. There are two fliers attached to this email. Details follow.
Hope to see you there!
Bob Fitrakis
What: Re-examining the Lucasville Uprising conference
When: Friday, April 19, 7 to 9 pm
Saturday April 20, 9 am to 10 pm
Sunday April 21, 9 am to 12 noon
Where: Columbus State Community College
Cost: Suggested donation, $10-50, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
The event will begin Friday night with the screening of a short documentary film by Derrick Jones, including footage from the uprising and interviews with activists and government officials. This includes an interview with then state prosecutor Daniel Hogan, who admits he does not know and thinks they will never know who actually killed hostage Officer Vallandingham, a crime for which he and other prosecutors sent four men to death row.

Attendees will then hear from some of those men and from others who have been held in solitary confinement since the uprising. Jason Robb, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Bomani Shakur (also known as Keith Lamar) and Greg Curry will speak from the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) on Friday night.
On Saturday, the conference will dig into a close examination of the uprising. Men who were incarcerated at SOCF in April of 1993 will share their stories. Prominent Ohio lawyers and other experts will unfold the layers of injustice the State of Ohio engaged in to secure convictions following the uprising. Advocates and experts from across the US will connect the Lucasville Uprising with nationwide prison issues.
∙ Attorney Mark Donatelli, who represented defendants after the New Mexico prison uprising in 1980, will discuss the horrendous conditions that preceded the disturbance and contributed to successful plea negotiations.
∙ Attorney Niki Schwartz, who represented prisoners in concluding a peaceful settlement of the Lucasville uprising, will speak about the prosecution’s failure to abide by some of its most important provisions.
∙ Attorney Rick Kerger, who represented Siddique Abdullah Hasan in state court until taken off the case by the trial court judge, will speak about the struggle to provide unbiased and effective representation for individual defendants.
∙ Attorney Phyllis Crocker, dean at the Cleveland Marshall Law School, chairperson of the 2007 Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Team of the American Bar Association, and currently serving on the task force appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to examine the death penalty, will describe the changing scene with regard to the death penalty in Ohio.
On Sunday, attendees will participate in an interactive strategy session and will be invited to take action, joining the struggle for the Lucasville Uprising Prisoners. Conference organizers believe that a critical examination of the Lucasville Uprising will expose deeply unjust and inhumane practices that the Ohio prison system continues to engage in today. The Lucasville Uprising Prisoners continue to fight these injustices, and they hope the conference will broaden support, not only for their struggle, but for the struggles of all Ohioans who are targeted by this system.
Media representatives who would like to interview conference organizers or prisoners should contact Ben Turk at 614-704-4699 or More information about the uprising, including radio interviews with some of the prisoners can be found online at
See full schedule below for details.
Friday, April 19, 7 to 9:30 p.m., Chairperson, Bob Fitrakis
Derrick Jones, documentary film, The Great Incarcerator: Part 2, The Shadow of Lucasville
Lucasville Uprising Prisoners speak
Saturday, April 20, 9 to noon, Chairperson, Alice Lynd
9:00 – 9:55 a.m., two skits drawn from transcripts:
The Making of a Snitch,” Highway Patrol interview with man who became an informant;
“The Death-Qualified Jury,” exclusion of potential jurors
10:00 – 10:55 a.m., Survivors of Lucasville, Conditions at Lucasville before the Uprising
11:00 a.m. – noon, Struggle in the Courts
Attorney Vicki Werneke, Capital Habeas Unit, Federal Public Defender, on complicity and obstacles in habeas representation
Staughton Lynd, attorney and author of Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
Saturday, April 20, noon to 1 p.m., Lunch, to be provided
Saturday, April 20, 1 to 3 p.m., Layers of Injustice, Chairperson, Staughton Lynd
Attorney Mark Donatelli, represented defendants after New Mexico prison uprising
Attorney Niki Schwartz, represented prisoners in Lucasville negotiations
Attorney Rick Kerger, represented Hasan in state court until taken off case by trial court judge
Dean Phyllis Crocker, Cleveland Marshall Law School, chaired ABA panel on death penalty in Ohio, member of task force appointed by Ohio Supreme Court to examine death penalty
Saturday, April 20, 3 to 5 p.m., breakout sessions
Bonnie Kerness and Ojore Lutalo, art work and video “Sneak Peek” on isolation as a political tool in New Jersey prison
Central Ohio Prisoner Advocates (COPA) and Redbird Prison Abolition, current conditions in Ohio prisons
Others to be announced
Saturday, April 20, 7 to 9:30 p.m.
Derrick Jones, documentary film, The Great Incarcerator: Part 1, Dark Little Secrets
Entertainment Open Mic Poetry and Music
Sunday, April 21, 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Building Support, Chairperson, Ben Turk
Noelle Hanrahan, Prison Radio: Mumia Abu Jamal support campaign
Wide-ranging discussion about strategy and possible future actions
Contact: Ben Turk,, 614 704 4699

Bob Fitrakis
March 18, 2013

A bipartisan Ohio election panel released its recommendations for “voting reforms.” An early indicator of how bad these “so-called” reforms came when Ohio’s controversial Secretary of State Jon Husted immediately endorsed the panel’s proposals.

“A lot of the reforms that are in there are things that I have long advocated for,” Husted said.

The Ohio Association of Election Officials responsible for the recommendations is comprised of equal totals of Democrats and Republicans, but they are 100% party regulars, causing some activists to refer to them as the Ohio Association of Political Hacks. Under Ohio law, the two major parties get to appoint the top election officials in the state’s 88 counties.

These party regulars agreed to eliminate Ohio’s “Golden Week” of voting. During that week, voters were both allowed to register to vote at the Board of Elections and also cast an early ballot on the same day. Apparently the efficiency of such a system that made it incredibly convenient for voters to participate in the democratic process had to go.

Now, voter registration will close the day before early voting begins. Despite the success of Wisconsin which allows same day registration and voting even on Election Day, Ohio has chosen to separate registration from voting, even though they would have been done at the same building.

The reason cited by the panelists for the ruling is that they wanted to remove all uncertainty from the registration and voting process. They added certainty by making it more difficult for Ohio voters to vote.

As the Ohio Association of Election Officials Executive Director Aaron Ockerman told the Columbus Dispatch, “Uncertainty is really, really, really bad for the elections process.”

In an attempt to squash uncertainty, the panel wants the voting hours to certainly be shorter. Instead of embracing Ohio’s successful 35-day early voting period inaugurated by reform-minded former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, the panel will now restrict early voting to two weeks.

The voting centers which Husted limited to one site per county, as contrasted with the five sites Brunner allowed in 2008, would only remain open on weekdays and only the two Saturdays before the election from 8am-2pm. In the 2012 presidential election, up to 5-hour lines existed at the sole early voting sites in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

The panel failed to grasp that far more people, many without transportation, live in cities as opposed to rural areas. So whether you’re Holmes County, Ohio with 11,000 voters or Cuyahoga County, Ohio with 1.3 million voters, the panel embraced the concept of equality – one early voting site per county.

Also, voting hours are limited on the two Sundays before the election, from 1-5pm. This was predictable since the black churches have been running massive and successful “souls to the polls” campaigns on the Sunday prior to Election Day. These large numbers of people voting while black have caused concern among the overwhelmingly white Ohio Republican Party, but white Democratic politicians in counties like Cuyahoga, Columbus, and Cincinnati. There has been a growing tendency, particularly in Cleveland, for black candidates who challenge the white Democrat-controlled counties to do well due to high black voter turnouts.

Another interesting reform requires that all voters will be mailed an absentee ballot and that voters will be responsible, as they always have been, for postage. What the panel failed to recommend is an ongoing problem with mailed absentee ballots where, for example, in Franklin County (Columbus, Ohio) absentee ballots that required two stamps only had one spot preprinted on the return envelope. In the 2008 election, the Free Press broke the story that there were 10,000 absentee ballots being held up for lack of postage.

An actual reform would have required county election officials to weigh the absentee ballot and envelope and put the proper postage spot preprinted on the envelopes.

The panel managed to ignore the most pressing voting problem in Ohio. In 2012, more than 1.1 million voters were purged from the voting rolls, with the vast majority coming from Ohio’s urban areas. In 2008, the figure was even higher at 1.25 million voters purged. In a computer era, in a state that requires various forms of ID at the polls, it makes no sense to purge voters.

So once again, voter repression masquerades as voting reform in Ohio. The Democrats capitulated to the racist and class-based voter suppression enthusiastically embraced by the Republican Party.

Free Press Free Movie – “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

7:30pm. “Long Distance Revolutionary” focuses on Mumia Abu Jamal’s career as a prolific writer and journalist from the depths of prison. The film chronicles his life and work as a journalist, writer, and philosopher –a public intellectual who has spent thirty years in a Pennsylvania prison, twenty nine of them in solitary confinement on death row.

The film tracks Mumia’s early work in journalism as a writer for the Black Panther newspaper (at age 15) through his promising and emerging career as a reporter for National Public Radio. After Mumia is convicted for the murder of Philadelphia patrolman Daniel Faulkner, the story then exposes Mumia’s battles with the American judicial system(prisons & courts) to
continue his journalism and radio broadcasts from behind bars– a battle he continues to wage to this very day. The film evolves into an exploration of his impact on social and political discourse both in the United States and around the world.

The film features exclusive and rare prison interviews with Mumia as well insights from Cornel West, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Ruby Dee, Rubin Hurricane Carter, Amy Goodman, Dick Gregory, Peter Coyote, Giancarlo Esposito, Tariq Ali, Michael Parenti, Ramsey Clark, M1 (Dead Prez), Dave Zirin, Aya de Leon, Frances Goldin, Ramona Africa, as well as many others. Ultimately, the film ushers the audience behind prison walls and exposes the horrors of the American gulag. The audience experiences this journey with Mumia… a journey that and BLACK CENTRAL.

Parking. The attached Marconi Parking Garage has ample parking for meetings and events. The covered parking garage and walkway are well lit, secured and handicapped accessible to the Arena Grand’s facilities. And with a reduced garage rate, everyone can save. Parking starts at just $1 per car, up to 4 hours. Bring your parking stub into the theater for validation.

Arena Grand Movie Theatre, 175 W Nationwide Blvd, Columbus, Ohio 43215

Bob Fitrakis and Connie Gadell Newton discuss the upcoming Free Press movie, a film about ALEC the American Legsislative Exchange Council, provisional ballots, fracking activists arrested in Ohio and Bill Moss

Free Press Second Saturday Salon
Saturday, March 9
1021 E. Broad St., east side door, parking in front or rear

Welcoming progressive friends with refreshments, music, art, networking, presentations, and socializing.
Presentations on Re-examining Lucasville conference, efforts to reform Columbus City Council and more., 253-2571

Green Party Presiodential Candidate Jill Stein At Ohio Statehouse

Green Party Presiodential Candidate Jill Stein At Ohio Statehouse

Free Press Second Saturday Salon
Saturday, March 9
1021 E. Broad St., east side door, parking in front or rear

Welcoming progressive friends with refreshments, music, art, networking, presentations, and socializing.
Presentations on Re-examining Lucasville conference, efforts to reform Columbus City Council and more., 253-2571