Legendary activist, scholar, author and former political prisoner Angela Davis (pictured left), who is currently a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is still speaking truth to power, specifically as it pertains to revolutionary freedom fighter, Assata Shakur (pictured right).
In an interview on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and Juan González, Davis said that the FBI placing Shakur on its “Most Wanted Terrorists” list, the first woman to be so designated, “reflects the very logic of terrorism.”
“It seems to me that this act incorporates or reflects the very logic of terrorism,” Davis says. “I can’t help but think that it’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today. Forty years ago seems like it was a long time ago. In the beginning of the 21st century, we’re still fighting around the very same issues — police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison.”
Davis was joined by Lennox Hinds, Assata Shakur’s attorney since 1973 and professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University, who also said the act is politically motivated:
“This is a political act pushed by the state of New Jersey, by some members of Congress from Miami, and with the intent of putting pressure on the Cuban government and to inflame public opinion,” Hinds says. “There is no way to appeal someone being put on the terrorists list.”
Shakur, formerly Joanne Chesimard, was a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, and the first woman placed on the “Most Wanted Terrorists” list. Shakur, the godmother of slain Hip-Hop artist, poet, actor and activist, Tupac Shakur, is only the second person from inside the United States to be placed on the list. In an unexpected move, the state of New Jersey announced it was adding $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture.
Though the politically accepted version of events vilifies Shakur, please read below for the facts.
Shakur was falsely convicted of having killed an officer on May 2, 1973. While driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, Assata, Zayd Shakur, and Sundiata Acoli were stopped by state troopers, allegedly for having a “faulty taillight.” A shootout ensued where one state trooper killed Zayd Shakur, and another trooper, Werner Foerster, ended up dead. Shakur was charged with both murders, despite the fact that the other trooper, James Harper, admitted he killed Zayd Shakur.
Assata had been, following police instructions, standing with her hands in the air, when she was shot by Trooper Harper more than once, including a bullet to the back. Trooper Harper lied and said he had seen Shakur reach for a gun, a claim he later recanted. He also claimed she had been in a firing position, something a surgeon who examined her said was “anatomically impossible.” The same surgeon said it was “anatomically necessary” for her arms to have been raised for her to receive the bullet wounds she did. Tests done by the police found that Shakur had not fired a gun, and no physical or medical evidence was presented by the prosecution to back up their claim that she had fired a gun at Trooper Harper.
While she was in trial proceedings, the state attempted to pin six other serious crimes on her, alleging she had carried out bank robberies, kidnappings and attempted killings. She was acquitted three times, two were dismissed and one resulted in a hung jury.
Shakur was put on trial in a county where because of pre-trial publicity 70 percent of people thought she was guilty, and she was judged by an all-white jury. Without any physical evidence to present, the prosecution had to rely totally on false statements and innuendo aimed at playing on the prejudices of the jury pool against Black people, political radicals, and Black revolutionaries in particular. Finally, after years behind bars, the state secured her conviction for the Turnpike shooting.
In 1979, Shakur escaped from jail and fled to Cuba where she received political asylum and has lived ever since.
She once wrote, “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 U.S. government’s policy towards people of color.”
Watch Democracy Now’s interview with Lennox Hinds and Angela Davis below:
It speaks to the hypocrisy of the United States that there are police officers who have not only killed unarmed, innocent people, but are roaming free and lauded for their bravery. Based on the criteria, there are certain police departments who should be characterized as domestic terror cells. But instead, the FBI is going after a 65-year-old revolutionary who isn’t even guilty and — by international law — has the right to seek political asylum.
It is amazing — and pathetic — how swiftly the FBI felt compelled to frame the domestic terrorism conversation around a Black revolutionary living in Cuba, instead of two White men from Boston.
Timing is everything — and the timing of this travesty of justice speaks volumes.
To show your support and say Hands Off Assata Shakur, sign the Change.org here.