[Ppnews] Hands Off Assata Campaign official statement
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 13 16:22:57 EDT 2005
HANDS OFF ASSATA CAMPAIGN
OFFICIAL STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO MAY 2, 2005 ANNOUNCEMENT OF
$1 MILLION BOUNTY OFFER FOR THE RETURN OF ASSATA
SHAKUR AND LISTING HER AS A DOMESTIC TERRORIST
On May 2nd the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey Troopers
publicly announced a $1 million bounty for the capture of Assata
Shakur. May 2nd also marked the 32nd anniversary of the fatal shootout on
the New Jersey Turnpike that resulted in the deaths Trooper Werner Foerster
and Zayd Shakur, and left Assata Shakur and Sundiata Acoli wounded.
For years the New Jersey Troopers have held an annual commemoration
ceremony for Trooper Werner Foerster in early May. Each year the local New
Jersey papers print several stories about the events of May 2, 1973 that
took place on the New Jersey Turnpike. Periodically various New Jersey
officials have issued different statements sometimes accusing Assata and at
other times accusing her co-defendant, Sundiata Acoli, of killing
Foerster. Sundiata at age 68 continues to languish in prison 32 years
later, having been denied parole repeatedly.
Assata Shakur is a mother and grandmother, author and artist. She is
politically astute and intellectually sharp. She is warm, humble and
spiritual. Years ago, the FBI labeled Assata "the heart and soul of the
Black Liberation Army". They issued all sorts of defamatory statements
about her. As a result she was hunted like an animal by law enforcement
agencies all over the country, as were many other Black Panther Party and
BLA members. She has been used by the FBI as a symbol in various ways to
further their political objectives.
Convicted of murder for the death of a New Jersey State Trooper in 1977,
Assata has been living in exile in Cuba. She is not convicted for any other
incident or crime. In 1998 the New Jersey Troopers petitioned Pope John
Paul II as he prepared for his historic visit to Cuba and meeting with
President Fidel Castro. They wanted him to pressure President Castro to
return Assata to the United States. The Pope flatly turned down their
request but did advise then President Clinton that the United States needed
to end the senseless and inhumane blockade against Cuba.
Former New Jersey Governor, Christie Todd Whitman, curried political favor
with the state's police when she announced a bounty of $25,000 for Assata
and later doubled it to $50,000. She was duly rewarded by President Bush
who appointed her in 2001 to be the head of the Environmental Protection
Agency. The bounty was quietly increased by the FBI to a million dollars
as it crept around the country looking for relatives, friends and
associates to enlist in its scheme to kidnap Assata and return her to the
United States. Time and time again, the FBI offered them a million dollars
for their services. To some, they stated that there was no limit to how
much they would pay for Assata's return.
The obsession shared by the New Jersey State Troopers and the FBI for
Assata is highly unusual unless you examine the larger political picture
and international affairs. Since the victorious Cuban Revolution in 1959,
the United States has engaged in an ongoing campaign to assassinate
President Castro and overthrow the Cuban government. No fewer than 23
assassination attempts have been documented. Then in 1961 the failed Bay of
Pigs attempt by President John F. Kennedy to invade and overthrow President
Castro brought international embarrassment to the United States. The Bay
of Pigs debacle was one of many government attempts to bow to the wishes of
the powerful Miami based Cuban exile community. This is the same power
base that Florida Governor Jeb Bush answers to and his brother, George W.,
is beholden to for the 2000 and 2004 "election" results.
Since the rise to power of Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez in 1998, the
United States has greedily watched as political links developed between
Cuba and Venezuela. What does Venezuela have that the United States wants?
Oil! What does Cuba have that the United States wants? It occupies a
strategic geographic location that would enable the United States to
militarily control the Caribbean. Of course Cuba also has the tenacity to
show the people of the world that there is another way to exist. It is
possible for education and health care to be guaranteed to every citizen.
It is possible for every citizen to have a home and most importantly, hope
for the future. It is a sovereign nation with the right to grant asylum
whenever it sees fit. Equally important is that the majority of the Cuban
population is of African descent. The significance of this fact is not
lost on the other Third World nations around the globe.
The United States' CIA has boldly intervened in Venezuelan affairs and
aided in the failed coup there in 2002. Bitter to admit defeat, the United
States continued to look for ways to provoke a confrontation with President
Chavez. They found it in Luis Posada Carriles. In fact, Posada provides
Bush with a two for one shot at Chavez and Castro. For many years Posada
has been a CIA operative. He is wanted in Venezuela for his role in the
1976 shoot down of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 civilians including the
national fencing team. He escaped from prison there. In 1998 he claimed
responsibility for planning attacks on various Cuban establishments
including the 1997 bombing of a tourist hotel that resulted in the death of
an Italian tourist and the wounding of 11 others. In 2000 Posada was
arrested in Panama for plotting to murder President Castro during the
Ibero-American summit being held in that country. He was convicted and
sentenced to eight years. In November 2004, the outgoing Panamanian
President, Mireya Moscoso, pardoned Posada allegedly in exchange for $4
million paid by a Cuban American. Money talked and Posada walked,
disappearing from public view for several months.
In March 2005, he surfaced in Miami. His lawyer, Eduardo Soto, admitted a
few weeks later that Posada was in Miami as he filed his petition for
political asylum. House of Representative William Delahunt (D-Mass) stated
recently, "I can't imagine how one could defend a terrorist where there
exists overwhelming evidence that he was responsible or a co-conspirator in
blowing up a civilian airliner." To many the revelation that Posada is in
the country is shocking. But they were apparently unaware that his
co-conspirator, Orlando Bosch, has been living comfortably in Miami for at
least the past two years. The revelation of Posada's presence in the United
States set off a tidal wave of international and domestic criticism
including accusations of political hypocrisy. President Castro called on
President Bush to return Posada to Venezuela. Many demanded that the
United States not allow Posada to remain in the country.
But the role of Bosch and Posada as terrorists is indisputable. They
plotted, murdered, bombed innocents and bragged about it. So what could
Bush do? He tried denying that Posada was in the country but Posada's
lawyer had already said that he was. Things went from the sublime to the
ridiculous. Roger Noriega, the top State Department official for Western
Hemisphere affairs, claimed he didn't know if Posada was in the United
States. That revelation didn't impress many people.
Meanwhile President Castro issued a series of statements about Posada's
presence in the United States and accused Bush of harboring of a
terrorist. His comments grabbed the attention of the local media and hit a
sympathetic nerve. It was impossible to explain Posada's presence in the
United States after the numerous public statements Bush had made about
terrorists. Perhaps the most memorable of these is "If you harbor a
terrorist, you are a terrorist." Things were getting very ugly very fast
However, the timing couldn't have been better since the anniversary of the
New Jersey Turnpike incident was fast approaching. Here was an opportunity
to "save face" and take another stab at Castro. A miserably transparent
attempt to deflect attention from the political embarrassment of Posada's
presence developed overnight.
In the blink of an eye, Assata was suddenly placed on the domestic
terrorist list. How very convenient. Now Bush could aim a similar
accusation at Castro, harboring a terrorist.
Turning back to Assata and her 1973 chance encounter with Trooper Foerster
on the New Jersey Turnpike, it can hardly be labeled a terrorist act or
plot no matter how you characterize the facts. No doubt she and her
companions did not plan on the events of May 2, 1973. They didn't plan or
provoke any encounter with the police nor did they brag about Trooper
Who defines a terrorist? What actions define a terrorist? Is it a
politically manipulated designation used to further the agendas of the
present administration? While there is certainly no agreed upon definition
of 'terrorism' even the U.S. State Department's self-serving definition
that it involves "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated
against non-combatant targets" rules out the incident on the NJ Turnpike
which was - by all accounts - initiated by the troopers in a state
notoriously known for racial profiling on the Turnpike.
Assata stands convicted of one criminal act, the murder of Trooper
Foerster. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs
reports that the FBI identified 785 assailants in the killing of law
enforcement officers between 1993 and 2002. Should we expect that the next
political announcement will be that those 785 individuals have also been
placed on the domestic terrorism list? Is murder of a police officer the
criteria? If so, then should we expect the list to increase by at least 785?
Perhaps, the commission of a heinous act makes one a terrorist. That would
certainly get Bosch and Posada on the list, so it can't be that. What about
the joint team of FBI agents and Chicago police that murdered Black Panther
leaders, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, in their sleep during in a pre-dawn
raid at their apartment? Will they be named as terrorists? When now,
Reverend, then Mayor, Wilson Goode ordered the bombing of the MOVE
headquarters located at 6221 Osage Avenue in Philadelphia in 1985 that
killed 11 people including 5 children, and resulted in the destruction of
the entire neighborhood, including 62 homes, was that an act of terrorism?
Can we expect to see his name added to the list? Were the New York City
Police Officers who shot and killed the unarmed grandmother, Eleanor
Bumpers, during an apartment eviction, terrorists? They murdered her. Maybe
the members of New York's finest that fired 41 bullets at unarmed immigrant
Amadou Diallo will have their names added to the list of domestic
terrorists. Will the names of the convicted abortion clinic bombers be
added to the list? Were the officers who beat, assaulted and sodomized
young Abner Louima terrorists? What about the soldiers who shot unarmed
detainees in Guantanamo?
In this political era we find the terrorism label abused and manipulated.
It is an outrage that this government would offend the sensitivities of the
American public by labeling Assata as a terrorist.
In 1976 the Senate Select Subcommittee headed by Senator Frank Church of
Utah issued its report on the activities of the FBI's Counter Intelligence
Program (COINTELPRO). That Program was aimed at destroying any political
dissent in the country. Among its targets were Rev. Martin Luther King,
Kwame Ture' (f.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party,
the Black Liberation Army, the New Left, the Weather Underground, the
American Indian Movement, the Puerto Rican independence movement and the
Communist Party. Led by J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI left no stone unturned
and no dirty trick untried. Part of this campaign was to criminalize
legitimate political movements and individuals. The FBI maimed, murdered
and imprisoned hundreds of political activists. The Report concluded that
"Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society
even if all the targets had been involved in violent activity, but
COINTELPRO went far beyond that." The condemnation of the FBI practices
temporarily limited its activities.
However, in 2001 the FBI was able to publicly reinstitute all the
previously condemned COINTELPRO practices under the guise of the Patriot
Act. Increased surveillance of political organizations and individuals
began. Harassment, arrest, incarceration and intimidation of political
activists have once again been restored as "acceptable" police practices.
This recent labeling of Assata as a terrorist is done as part of the
broader campaign to demonize and criminalize political dissent and
resistance. This agenda was begun by the previous United States Attorney
General, John Ashcroft. All over the country FBI agents started questioning
and harassing past and present political activists. In courtrooms and
filed documents, the FBI and U.S. Attorneys began referring to domestic
political activists as terrorists. The label has far reaching
implications. The First Amendment is in serious danger and so is anyone
who dares to exercise their rights under its protections.
The convergence of Posada's entry into the United States and the otherwise
inexplicable labeling of Assata as a terrorist fit well into a much broader
politically motivated scheme. Her name must immediately be removed from
the list and the bounty offer rescinded.
hoa at afrocubaweb.com
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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