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News :: Human Rights
The million-dollar woman, Cuba refuses to hand over Assata Shakur
by Merle Woo / Steven Argue
27 Jul 2005
Modified: 10:53:27 PM
Not a terrorist but a target.
In fear of the Black socialist program of the Black Panther Party the U.S. government targeted the organization for extermination in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This political repression was organized by the FBI and carried out with the help of local law enforcement and the corporate media.
While the corporate media portrayed the Black Panthers as violent, police forces were under orders to shoot Black Panther Party leaders without provocation. 39 members of the Black Panther Party were murdered. Those who survived attempted murder by the police were subsequently framed up as the aggressors. Others were framed-up for crimes they simply were not even near including recently exonerated Geronimo ji Jaga (formerly Pratt), who did decades of hard prison time for a murder U.S. courts now even recognize he did not commit.
Assata Shakur was also a target of this political repression and was taken as a political prisoner by the U.S. government. It was with the help of the revolutionary direct action of her comrades that Assata Shakur was liberated from bondage and gained her freedom in exile in revolutionary Cuba. Today, despite pressure from the United States, Cuba remains committed to Assata Shakur’s freedom.
Liberation News also supports Assata Shakur and demands that the U.S. government keep their blood stained hands off of her and off of the Cuban Revolution, while demanding Assata Shakur’s right to return from exile without a continuation of political persecution.
The following article on this situation is from the August / September Freedom Socialist Newspaper, which can be found at: socialism.com/index.html
For Liberation News, Steven Argue
The million-dollar woman
Cuba refuses to hand over exiled former Panther Assata Shakur
by Merle Woo
Assata Shakur as she appears in Cuba in 1992.
On May 2, the U.S. added exiled African American freedom fighter Assata Shakur to the FBI’s domestic terrorist list, while New Jersey raised the $150,000 bounty on her head to $1 million. Federal Attorney General Alberto Gonles gave his personal approval for the money to come from the Department of Justice.
Shakur is the victim of a racist political frame-up in which she and Sundiata Acoli were convicted of murdering their colleague Zayd Malik Shakur and a state trooper, Werner Foerster, during a shootout after the three Black Liberation Army members were pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. In 1979, she escaped from prison with the help of the BLA and supporters, Black and white, gay and straight, and in 1984 was received by courageous Cuba as a political refugee.
Not a terrorist but a target. The Bush administration is retaliating against Shakur because she is one who got away. Painted with a government bull’s-eye from the time she was part of the Black Panther Party (BPP), her escape meant she could live to write her inspiring autobiography, Assata, which describes her beliefs and her harrowing torture during incarceration.
Between 1971 and 1973, Shakur was variously charged with murder, kidnapping, and robbery. Each of those charges ended in dismissal, acquittal, or a hung jury until she was convicted by an all-white jury of murdering Zayd Shakur and the patrolman. The verdict came despite evidence proving that she could not have killed Foerster and the admission of trooper James Harper that he killed Zayd Shakur.
Assata hated violence, although she believed that revolution was necessary. And she loved Zayd, her comrade, because he respected women and refused to be part of “that macho cult that was an official body in the BPP,” as she writes in Assata.
The government is hellbent on capturing her in the same way that escaped slaves were brought back to the plantation to be publicly tortured as an example.
After the government branded Assata a terrorist, death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, also framed for killing a cop, said of her: “To label this woman a terrorist is to bleed all meaning from the word. For, during her life as an activist, during her wounding and her arrest, and during her travails as an accused in courtrooms that were more lynching posts than halls of justice, she was terrorized by a system that wanted to punish her for daring to rebel.”
Cuban President Fidel Castro was also adamant in her defense. “They wanted to portray her as a terrorist, something that was an injustice, a brutality, an infamous lie,” he said on May 10. Instead, Castro said, Shakur is a victim of “the fierce repression against the Black movement in the United States” and had been “a true political prisoner.”
Castro suggested that the new moves against Assata are an attempt to distract attention from Washington’s refusal to honor its extradition treaty with Venezuela and give up real terrorist Luis Posada. Among other acts of mass murder and assassination, Posada is wanted for the 1976 bombing of a civilian Cuban jetliner that killed all 73 people on board. (See article on page four.)
“Assata Shakur is welcome here.”On May 26, Councilman Charles Barron called a press conference in New York to unite and take action to condemn the bounty. Recently freed lesbian political prisoner Laura Whitehorn and several rappers, including Mos Def and Talib Kweli, were among hundreds who turned out to support Assata, who was Tupac Shakur’s godmother.
The National Conference of Black Lawyers, meanwhile, demanded “that the U.S. government immediately withdraw the bounty offer, and permanently cease its pursuit of Assata Shakur as such is both illegal and unjustifiable under international human rights laws” (www.blackcommentator.com/140/140_black_lawyers.html).
Mos Def says that growing up he remembers seeing “Assata Shakur Is Welcome Here” posters in Brooklyn neighborhoods (www.allhiphop.com/features/?ID=1075). She became to him and many other young people a “hero of epic proportions.” On the 1997 Feminist Brigade to Cuba initiated by Radical Women, brigade including this writer met with Assata and found her eager to learn about the activism of just such young people.
Among Shakur’s important political contributions is the way she unifies the movements by criticizing what divides them notably racism and sexism, still prevalent among activists as they are elsewhere. In Assata, she writes: “To me, the revolutionary struggle of Black people had to be against racism, capitalism, imperialism, and sexism and for real freedom under a socialist government.”
The Patriot Act: return of COINTELPRO.FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once said that the Black Panthers were the “greatest internal threat to the security of the U.S.” One of his chief tools in combating this purported threat was COINTEL a notorious spying and disruption operation used to “neutralize” Black activist groups and individuals.
COINTELPRO, which originated as an anti-communist program, eventually swept up most of the 1960s-era movements in its dragnet. The dirty tactics it employed, many of them found to be unconstitutional by Congress and the courts, are now finding a home in the Patriot Act, which gives the green light to previously illegal practices.
Again today, the U.S. government is attempting to build a cement wall against the spread of subversive ideas. But like weeds cracking through the pavement, those ideas will not be kept out. The new generation raising its voices in sympathy with Assata Shakur is testament to that.
Merle Woo, a lecturer in Women Studies and Asian American Studies, taught the book Assata for several years. She can be contacted at woogok @ aol.com.
For what you can do to support Shakur,visit Hands Off Assata at www.afrocubaweb.com/hoa.htm or write HOA/Global Exchange, P.O. Box 438731, Chicago, IL 60643.
Freedom Socialist Newspaper:
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