[Ppnews] From Assata to Emmitt
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 5 08:54:12 EDT 2005
From Assata to Emmitt, Timing of Old Cases New Emphasis Questioned
Date: Wednesday, May 04, 2005
By: H.R. Harris, BlackAmericaWeb.com
From offering $1 milllion to apprehend former Black Panther Assata Shakur
for the killing of a New Jersey police officer in 1973 to exhuming the body
of 14-year-old Emmett Till 50 years after he was lynched in Mississippi,
the Justice Department has spent this week reopening a painful chapter in
U.S. history for blacks.
But Rev. Jesse Jackson and other civil rights activists question the timing
and the motives of the Bush administration's efforts, maintaining that when
it comes to the nation's priorities. there are more pressing issues to be
It is interesting how they are exhuming these old cases, Jackson told
BlackAmericaWeb.com Wednesday afternoon. While they are planning to exhume
Emmitt Till's body to find the killers 50 years later, they are refusing to
deal with current issues -- like a five-year-old being handcuffed in St.
Petersburg or a man shot four times by the police in Chicago.
The Justice Department announced last year that they had planned to reopen
the case of Emmitt Till, who was buried in a Chicago cemetery after his
body was found in the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi weighed down by a
cotton gin fan that had been tied around his neck with barbed wire.
Till, who was raised in Chicago, was abducted from his uncle's home in the
tiny town of Money, Mississippi on Aug. 28, 1955, reportedly for whistling
at a white woman at a grocery store. His mutilated, unrecognizable body was
found by fishermen three days later. His mother, Mamie Till Mobley, was
only able to identify the teenager because she recognized a ring on his finger.
On Monday, the Justice Department revisited the case involving Assata
Shakur, whose ordeal with the police began around midnight in 1973 when a
busted tail light prompted a trooper to pull over a Pontiac she and two
others were traveling in on the New Jersey State Turnpike.
In 1977, an all-white jury convicted Shakur of the murder of New Jersey
State Police officer Werner Foerster, who was mortally wounded in the
freeway shootout. Malik Zayd Shakur, Shakur's uncle, was also killed, and
Sundiata Acoli, also in the car and injured in the altercation, was also
convicted of murder.
In an open letter published by the Afrikan Frontline News Service in 1998,
Shakur talked about how her case was one of many brought before the United
Nations by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Alliance
Against Racist and Political Repression and the United Church of Christ
Commission for Racial Justice.
In an obvious effort to prevent us from being tried by a jury of our
peers, the New Jersey courts ordered that a jury be selected from Morris
County, New Jersey that was only 2.2 percent black and 97.5 percent white,
Shakur wrote. "The trial was latter moved back to Middlesex County
tried by an all-white jury.
In 1979, after serving six years and having a baby behind bars, Shakur
escaped, only to show up in Cuba in 1987 after Cuban President Fidel Castro
granted her political asylum. Shakur would go on to write an autobiography
about her experience and until recently lived openly in Cuba, granting
interviews and writing.
But Shakurs open life changed on Monday when New Jersey Attorney General
Peter Harvey, who is black, said that a $1 million reward poster, written
in English and Spanish, would be circulated through out the U.S.,
Caribbean, South America and Europe in the hopes that someone would
apprehend Shakur and bring her to the United States alive.
Trooper Forester gave his life bravely in the line of duty, Harvey said
in a prepared statement. He was brutally murdered two years and 10 months
into his service as a Trooper. This reward will help bring his killer to
Captain Al Della Fave of the New Jersey State Police told
BlackAmericaWeb.com that we could not accept the fact that she could live
out her days on the sandy beaches of Cuba while the family of this trooper
and present day troopers live day to day with the thought of him being
executed on the side of the road.
New Jersey governors and other state officials have gathered intelligence,
worked diplomatic channels and even wrote to John Paul II asking his
intervention to get Shakur from a country that has no diplomatic ties to
Shakur had a open response to the late pontiff that she read on Pacifica
Network News in 1998.
After being shot with both arms, held up in the air and then shot again
from the back, I was left on the ground to die, and when I did not, I was
taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten and tortured,
In 1979, Shakur, with help from several people, escaped from prison and was
granted political asylum by Castro. I saw this as a necessary step," she
wrote, "not only because I was innocent of the charges against me but
because I knew that in a racist legal system
I would receive no justice.
Shakur, a former Black Panther and member of the Black Liberation Army, has
been telling her story for years. She also had her story told in the 1997
documentary, Eyes of the Rainbow.
Malik Zulu Shabazz, a Washington D.C. trial lawyer, activist and head of
the New Black Panther Party, told BlackAmericaWeb.com that he wasnt
surprised that federal officials raised the reward for Shakurs capture.
I see this as the continuation of the policies of the counterintelligence
program," he said, "and the government still saying that we will hunt you
down 30 years later.
Fave said the country has come along ways since the 1970s in the area of
diversity and inclusion, but this still is a nation of laws.
We applaud people in the civil rights movement, but those who did didnt
do it in a violent manner. We cant condone violence as a war cry. We have
to send a strong message that you cant kill a law enforcement officer and
get away with it.
On the issue of Shakur being classified as a terrorist, Fave said, She
supports the overthrow of the United States. Anyone who would pull a
trigger and kill a police officer in our minds is just as dangerous as any
But critics of the country's new emphasis on her capture question the
merits of elevating Shakur to the ranks of Osama Bin Laden and other
international mass murderers.
Dr. Paula Matabane, associate professor of communications at Howard
University, is not surprised at how Shakur is being placed on the terrorist
watch list with names like Bin Laden and other members of the Al Qaida network.
Through the history of America, black women have been some of the most
wanted criminals: Harriett Tubman, Angela Davis and Joanne Little, who was
convicted of killing a Sheriff in North Carolina who raped her in jail
after she was arrested for shop lifting, Matabane said.
Matabane said the 1970s were a violently unique period for the country,
and many blacks acted out aggressions that stemmed from the Vietnam War and
being victims of institutional racism.
For black people, it was about being on the defensive mode," she said.
"People felt like that had to defend themselves. The popular saying was,
'We are fired up, and we are not going to take it any more.'
Jackson maintains that, while the reopening Till case is important, it
comes down to the issue of priorities.
We cant even meet with officials in the Justice Department to talk about
the extension of the Voting Rights bill and the current challenges to civil
rights, Jackson said. I just see this as a pattern of grandstanding.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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