OUR COMMON GROUND Special
HANDS OFF ASSATA
Why a Revolutionary Is Being Labeled a Terrorist ?June 8, 2013
LIVE and Call-In
Join us on Saturday, June 8, 2013 in a presentation of the struggle and journey of Assata Shakur and a discussion about the political and foreign affairs shift that places her on the FBI’s Most Wanted List with a $2M bounty on her head.
“Like most poor people in the United States, I have no voice. The Black press and the progressive media, as well as Black civil rights organizations, have historically played an essential role in the struggle for social justice. We should continue and expand that tradition. We should create media outlets that help to educate our people and our children, and not annihilate their minds. I am only one woman. I own no TV stations or radio stations or newspapers. But I believe that people need to be educated as to what is going on and to understand the connection between the news media and the instruments of repression in America. All I have are my voice, my spirit and the will to tell the truth. But I sincerely ask those of you in the Black media, those of you in the progressive media and those of you who believe in truth and freedom to publish my story.’ -Assata Shakur
Assata Shakur is a former member of the Black Panther Party in New York City. That organization, which advocated community control and self-determination in the Black community, was the chief target of the FBI’s infamous counterintelligence program known as “COINTELPRO”. According to documents released in the 1970’s, COINTELPRO’s stated goal was to “expose, misdirect, destroy and neutralize” Black political organizations and their leadership. The illegal and unconstitutional program resulted in the police murder of scores of BPP members, including Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago, and the frame-ups and wrongful convictions of many others, such as Geronimo Pratt and Dhoruba Bin Wahad, both of whom spent two decades in prison before their frame-ups were exposed. Many former Panthers remain in prison today.
Labeled by law enforcement as a leader of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), by 1973 Assata was listed as a suspect in virtually dozens of acts where a Black woman was thought to have been involved. After her May 2, 1973 arrest, she was tried repeatedly for armed robberies and assaults, and each time was either acquitted or the charges were dismissed.
Her May 2, 1973 arrest and conviction were the product of a New Jersey State Police “stop” for an alleged traffic infraction. Police opened fire, killing Panther leader Zayd Malik Shakur. As trial evidence showed, Assata raised her hands but was shot once in the front and again in the back. She was left to die on the road. Another Panther in the car, Sundiata Acoli, was wounded, was able to escape, but was captured a few days later. Assata was charged with felony murder on Trooper Forrester, who also died in the shootout. She was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to life. She escaped custody in 1979 and thereafter went to Cuba. In the 1980’s that government, after concluding that Assata faced political persecution in the United States, granted her full asylum in accordance with international law.
The determining factor in labeling Assata Shakur a “terrorist” was the FBI’s assertion that she continues to espouse radical, revolutionary and “anti-U.S.” ideology. This candid observation by the FBI is in accordance with its continuing COINTELPRO operation. According to a 1969 FBI document, one of COINTELPRO’s goals was to insure that “the Negro youth and moderate must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.” The FBI’s action is an attack on Assata Shakur. But it is also an attack on all those who believe in and advocate for fundamental change in the social order in the United States. Advocating for freedom, human rights and self-determination and against racist police attacks is not terrorism. It is a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment and international law.
Why, after so many years, would the FBI decide to place a 65-year old activist on it’s most wanted terrorists list? People are asking this question about Assata Shakur, a former Black Panther who has been able to evade authorities for the last 40 years. Her conviction for allegedly killing a police officer and wounding another has long been called into question and she has garnered a tremendous amount of public support, particularly within the black community.
Assata: In her own words
My name is Assata (“she who struggles”) Olugbala ( ”for the people” ) Shakur (“the thankful one”), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.
Every Black person, activist of Justice and Freedom, strugglist for Liberation must know the story, the struggle and the ties of Assata Shakur to your Black self.
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