In May of 1973, Shakur was in a car that was pulled over by police on the New Jersey highway. A shootout occurred, resulting in the deaths of her companion and fellow activist Zayd Malik Shakur and State Trooper Werner Foerster. Assata Shakur was wounded in the gunfight, having been shot twice. Accounts of what happened that night differ greatly — surviving Trooper James Harper (also wounded) claimed that Zayd Malik Shakur began firing when they asked him to step out of the vehicle whereas Assata Shakur attests that the police fired first, even after she had her hands in the air.
Shakur was convicted of Foerster’s murder and sentenced to a life in prison. In 1979, with the help of allies, she was able to escape from confinement and flee to Cuba where she still lives and calls herself a “20th century escaped slave.” Read more »
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My name is Assata Shakur, and 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 US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.
I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.
In 1978, my case was one of many cases bought before the United Nations Organization in a petition filed 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, exposing the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treatment they receive in US prisons. According to the report:
‘The FBI and the New York Police Department in particular, charged and accused Assata Shakur of participating in attacks on law enforcement personnel and widely circulated such charges and accusations among police agencies and units. The FBI and the NYPD further charged her as being a leader of the Black Liberation Army which the government and its respective agencies described as an organization engaged in the shooting of police officers. This description of the Black Liberation Army and the accusation of Assata Shakur’s relationship to it was widely circulated by government agents among police agencies and units. As a result of these activities by the government, Ms. Shakur became a hunted person; posters in police precincts and banks described her as being involved in serious criminal activities; she was highlighted on the FBI’s most wanted list; and to police at all levels she became a ‘shoot-to-kill’ target.”
I was falsely accused in six different “criminal cases” and in all six of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts, that was certainly not the case. It only meant that the “evidence” presented against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident. This political persecution was part and parcel of the government’s policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges.
On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a “faulty tail light.” Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became “suspicious.” He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Foerster was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Forester. Never in my life have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me to get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life, trying to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the gun that killed trooper Foerster was found under Zayd’s leg, Sundiata Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths. Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial We were both convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis. In 1977, I was convicted by an all- white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison. In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life. Read more »
Filed under: CIA, COINTELPRO, Colonialism, FBI, Government Repression, History of anti-imperialist/revolutionary movements, Imperialism, International, Internationalism, Media, Police,Political Prisoners, Political Prisoners, Prisons, Racial Profiling, Racism, Slavery, slavery,Solidarity, U.S., US Wars, WAR CRIMES, Women, Women | Tagged: escaped slave, ex-political prisoner, freedom fighter | 7 Comments »
Control unit facilities cannot be allowed to exist,” writes Russell Maroon Shoatz in a piece called “Death by Regulation.” “They serve no purpose other than to dehumanize their occupants. Our collective welfare demands that we do everything within our power to bring about an end to this form of imprisonment and torture.”
Shoatz, a former Black Panther who will turn 70 years old in August, has been held in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania prisons since 1983. His only time in the general prison population in the last 30 years was an 18-month stint spent at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth that ended in 1991.
Maroon has had only one misconduct since 1989. His most recent violation was in 1999, when he covered a vent in his cell that was blowing cold air in an attempt to stay warm.
From 1995 until the end of last month, Maroon had been held at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Greene in southwestern Pennsylvania. Without warning Maroon was transferred on Thursday, March 28 to SCI Mahanoy in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.
A growing grassroots national movement had been mobilizing to win his release into the general population. This transfer appeared to be a response by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to the gathering legal and political pressure. (more…)
Filed under: FBI, History of anti-imperialist/revolutionary movements, Political Prisoners, Prisons, Racial Profiling, U.S. | Tagged: pennsylvania department of corrections, pennsylvania prisons, pensylvania prison, plitical prisoner, Russell Maroon Shoats, solitary confinement, torture | Leave a Comment »
The Angola 3- who are they?
Voices from Solitary: The Louder My Voice the Deeper They Bury Me
A Defined Voice
They removed my whisper from general population
To maximum security I gained a voice
They removed my voice from maximum security
To administrative segregation
My voice gave hope
They removed my voice from administrative segregation
To solitary confinement
My voice became vibration for unity
They removed my voice from solitary confinement
To the Supermax of Camp J
And now they wish to destroy me
The louder my voice the deeper they bury me
I SAID, THE LOUDER MY VOICE THE DEEPER THEY BURY ME!
The Angola 3 – Herman Wallace (left), Robert King (centre) and Albert Woodfox (right). This is the only photo in existence of the three of them together.
Free all political prisoners, prisoners of war, prisoner of consciousness.
Who are they -Reprinted from Wikipedia
The Angola Three are three men, Robert Hillary King (born Robert King Wilkerson), Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, who were put in solitary confinement for decades in Angola Prison, Louisiana after the death of a prison guard.
While inside prison, contact with members of the Black Panthers led to the creation of a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1971. The men then organized prisoners to build a movement within the walls to desegregate the prison, to end systematicrape and violence, for better living conditions, and worked as jailhouse lawyers helping prisoners file legal papers. They organized multiple strikes and sit-ins for better conditions. Woodfox and Wallace were convicted of the 1972 stabbing murder of 23-year-old prison guard Brent Miller. King was said by authorities to be linked to the murder but was not charged.
The three men were taken out of the general prison population and were held in solitary confinement after Miller’s murder in 1972. They remained in solitary confinement until former black panther member Malik Rahim of Common Ground Collective, and a young law student, Scott Fleming, in 1997 discovered that these men were still locked up. They began investigating the case, questioning the facts of the original investigations at Angola and raising questions about their original trials.
Robert Hillary King was released after 29 years in solitary confinement after his first conviction was overturned and he pleaded guilty to a lesser conspiracy to commit murdercharge. Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox are still prisoners in Angola prison and are working to get released. In March 2008 they were moved, after 36 years, from solitary confinement to a maximum security dormitory.
Albert Woodfox has had two appeal hearings (one in November 2008 and one in May 2010) which have resulted in his conviction being overturned and him being granted full habeas corpus. Both appeals were overturned. Immediately after the first in November 2008, both men were moved out of the dormitory, separated and placed back in isolation and in March 2009, Wallace, along with a group of 15 inmates from Angola, was moved to Hunt Correctional Centre where a closed cell isolation tier was created for the first time. In November 2010, Albert was moved to David Wade Correctional Center which is seven hours north of his family and supporters, and stripped of his phone and visiting rights.
A third hearing is due in Spring 2012, and the two men are also bringing a civil case against the state of Louisiana, which is due to take place in Autumn 2012.
Both men, whose sentences for their original crimes have long since passed, suffer from a range of different medical issues – some due in part to their conditions of confinement and their enforced sedentary lifestyle.
Amnesty International is calling on the Louisiana authorities to end the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Woodfox and Wallace, and to remove them immediately from solitary confinement.
Their cases have gained increased interest over the last few years. Since his release, Robert Hillary King has worked to build international recognition for the Angola 3. He has spoken before the parliaments in the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Indonesia, Brazil and Britain and about the case, and political prisoners in the U.S.. King was received as a guest and dignitary by the African National Congress in South Africa, and has spoken with Desmond Tutu. Amnesty International has added them to their ‘watch list’ of “political prisoners” / “prisoners of conscience.”
They have a pending civil suit ‘Wilkerson, Wallace and Woodfox’ vs. the State of Louisiana which the United States Supreme Court ruled has merit to proceed to trial based on the fact that their 30+ years in solitary confinement is “inhumane and unconstitutional”. The outcome of this landmark civil case could eliminate long term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.
They are the subject of 2010 documentary In the Land of the Free, directed by Vadim Jean and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The film features Robert King, telephone interviews with Woodfox and Wallace, and interviews with attorneys and others involved with the cases – including the widow of Brent Miller, who believes the men are innocent of her husband’s murder.
They were also the subject of a 2006 documentary film 3 Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation and of a music video produced by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics in protest of the incarceration of the Angola 3 and featuring Saul Williams, Nadirah X, Asdru Sierra, Dana Glover, Tina Schlieske, Derrick Ashong and Stewart.
Herman Wallace is the subject of an ongoing socio-political art project entitled “The House That Herman Built”, in which artist Jackie Sumell asked Wallace what his dream home would be like, and documented his response in various media. In 2012, the film “Herman’s House” was released.
- “Doubts Arise About 1972 Angola Prison Murder”. NPR. 2008-10-27.
- “Lawyers call for release of ‘Angola 3,’ nearly 36 years after guard’s murder”. Times Picayune. 2008-03-17.
- ‘Angola 2’ Leave Solitary Cells in La. After 36 Years March 27, 2008
- Angola 3 TV music video
- The House that Herman Built
- Herman’s House