May 11, 2013

Black NJ: People's Organization for Progress on the FBI & NJ State Police attack on Assata Shakur

FBI/NJ State police put up a new billboard advertising their call for an extrajudicial hit against our sister Assata Shakur
This past week, many movement activists were shocked when our sister, Assata Shakur, was suddenly placed atop an until then unknown FBI "terrorist" list. In response, at noon on Friday May 10 People's Organization For Progress, the New Black Panther Party and a host of allied organizations and individuals held a press conference in at the Rodino Federal Building in Newark, NJ. The statement that follows was read by Lawrence Hamm, NJ state chairman for POP:
Take Assata Shakur off the Terrorist List

The People's Organization For Progress (POP) calls upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to remove Assata Shakur (Joanne Chesimard) from its Most Wanted Terrorists List.  She does not belong on the list because Ms. Shakur was never charged nor convicted of an act of domestic or international terrorism.

To place her on such a list is fundamentally unjust. It is a perversion of justice and involves the ex post facto application of terrorist laws and definitions of terrorism that were not in existence or applied to her case at the time of her arrest and conviction.

Furthermore, she did not commit the crime she was accused of.   She was placed on the list because her conviction connected her to the murder of a police officer. However, evidence in her case shows that she could not have shot and killed that officer.  She became a fugitive because given the circumstances of her case, the atmosphere of repression, and the racism of the criminal justice system she could not get justice in this country and to remain here may have cost her life.

The move to place her on the list and the doubling of her bounty to $2 million has little to do with justice and everything to do with politics. It is an opportunistic attempt to use the criminal justice system to score political points in this highly charged post Boston bombing environment.

Placing Assata Shakur on the terrorists list when she was not convicted of a "terrorist act" is in essence falsely accusing her of a crime that she did not commit. It is the abandonment of the law in the name of enforcing the law.

Like the war in Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, preemptive strikes, and the abandonment of international law, it is the establishment of a false premise as a rationale for violent action, which has no legal basis but for which political support may be imagined or conjured up.  Placing Assata Shakur on the terrorists list sets a dangerous precedent.

With the false premise established what will be next?  Will Cuba be given the ultimatum to give up Shakur like the Afghanistan government was told to give up Osama Bin Laden before the US invasion of that country?  Will there be a drone strike of Shakur's supposed residence in Cuba?  Will Navy Seal Team "7" be sent on a covert mission to assassinate Assata Shakur who is an American citizen?
Zayid Muhammad of the New Black Panthers introduces Newark elder Amiri Baraka, who also spoke eloquently at the press conferenc 
By identifying Shakur as a terrorist the FBI is taking the terrorists list and making it a "political enemies" list, which is an instrument of state terror. And why not?  This fits in perfectly with unjust and illegal trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, extraordinary renditions, black site secret prisons in foreign lands, torture, assassination of US citizens, military courts, secret trials, Guantanamo, elimination of habeas corpus, indefinite detention, government domestic spying, arbitrary arrests, police brutality, racial profiling, stop and frisk, mass incarceration, school to prison pipeline, suppression of dissent, COINTELPRO type operations, ignoring the Constitution, trashing the Bill of rights, and trampling upon our civil liberties.  

And let's look at her accusers. Who is calling her a terrorist?  The FBI who spied on Dr. Martin Luther King. The FBI whose Director J. Edgar Hoover made it his mission to destroy Dr. King. The FBI who engaged in acts of state terror that included assassination against people and organizations in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.

And the New Jersey State Police who shot up Newark and killed innocent people during the rebellion. The New Jersey State Police who for years engaged in the worst forms of racial profiling.  The New Jersey State Police, a department so rife with racism that the federal government had to put it under a "master" to force it to reform its racist ways.

With this precedent the rights of all Americans are placed in greater jeopardy. Now, anyone can be deemed a terrorist, not because this was proven in a court of law but by fiat, proclamation or declaration by the President, US Attorney General, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, or some other agency of the federal government.

And this can be done not just for transgressions of the present. It can be done retroactively for sins of the past, ten, twenty, thirty, and forty years ago. If the government doesn't like someone just put them on the terrorist list.
Of course, this exercise of twenty-first century US democracy would not be complete unless accompanied by the economic incentive that American capitalism can provide. In this age of robber billionaires a $1 million dollar bounty on the head of Assata Shakur was not enough. It has been doubled to $2 million.

Who are the $2 million pieces of silver for? Are they for enterprising US citizens? No. Assata Shakur has been given political asylum in Cuba. This pot of gold is to entice elements within Cuban Society to violate the laws and policies of the Cuban government.

The FBI and company hope that in Cuba there are corrupt persons within the police, or criminal elements, or people opposed to the government who will take the bait and do this bit of subcontracting work and keep some of the heat off the bosses in the US.

They hope that there are Hamid Kharzais in Cuba who would like to have bags of money delivered to them on a monthly basis. "Bring Assata Shakur to us and you to can be a millionaire." Dead or alive has not been specified.

The placing of Assata Shakur on the terrorist list while portrayed as a noble act in the attempt to get justice for a slain police officer is in fact a shameful act of revenge, opportunism, political manipulation, and authoritarianism.  It is part and parcel of a corrosive trend eating away at the democratic processes and institutions in our country for half a century and which has accelerated since 9/11.

Assata Shakur should not be on the terrorist list. She should be removed from that list just as Nelson Mandela was removed from that list several years ago. When the threat of terrorism and the terrorist label is misused in this manner the victims of real acts of terror are dishonored.
(Fire on the Mountain thanks POP Corresponding-Secretary Ingrid Hill for her photographs from the press conference/picket at the Rodino Office Building)

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