Assata: The stakes are raised
By Nisa Islam Muhammad
Staff Writer, FCN
Updated May 16, 2005, 09:55 am
in exile is hard. I miss my family and friends. I miss the culture,
the music, how people talk and their creativity. I miss the look
of recognition Black women give each other, the understanding we
express without saying a word.’
(FinalCall.com) - The 32nd anniversary of the death of New Jersey
State Trooper Werner Foerster was commemorated by the state placing
a $1 million bounty on Assata Shakur, who was convicted of his murder,
but later escaped from a New Jersey jail. She now lives in exile
State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes told
reporters at a May 2 press conference that he hopes the sweetened
reward will encourage someone to come forward with information leading
to the capture of Ms. Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard,
according to Newsday.
“We have pretty long institutional memories,”
Col. Fuentes said. “This is a debt that she owes to the residents
of the state of New Jersey for the crimes she committed.
On the same day, the Justice Department added her
name to the FBI’s domestic terrorists list.
“Anyone of the mindset that would execute
a police officer once they were on the ground is dangerous enough
to be considered a domestic terrorism threat,” Col. Fuentes
Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, according to
Newsday, personally approved the money from the Justice Department.
It will be paid for information leading to her safe capture, but
not if she is killed in the process.
“The goal is to bring a fully functional,
no-assembly-required fugitive back home to New Jersey, so she can
finish out her term of imprisonment,” Col. Fuentes said.
Would Ms. Shakur be concerned that her name is
now on the U.S. terrorists list? This writer doubts it. Here is
what she said in 2002 in an exclusive interview with The Final Call
“When I was in the Black Panther Party, they
(United States) called us terrorists. How dare they call us terrorists
when we were being terrorized? Terror was a constant part of my
life. I was living under apartheid in North Carolina. We lived under
Racial profiling circa 1973
The time is 1973 and an incident of what would now be called “racial
profiling” takes place on the New Jersey Turnpike. Ms. Shakur,
actively involved in the Black Liberation Army (BLA), is traveling
with Malik Zayad Shakur (no relation) and Sundiata Acoli.
State troopers stop them, reportedly because of
a broken headlight. A trooper also explains they were “suspicious”
because they had Vermont license plates. The three are made to exit
the car with their hands up. All of a sudden, shots were fired.
That much everybody seems to agree on. When the
smoke cleared, state trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were
dead. Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were charged with the death of state
The trial found them both guilty. The verdict was
no surprise, but many questioned the racial injustice by the all-White
jury and admitted perjury by the trial’s star witness.
“I was shot with my arms in the air,”
Ms. Shakur told The Final Call. “My wounds could not have
happened unless my arms were in the air. The bullet went in under
my arm and traveled past my clavicle. It is medically impossible
for that to happen if my arms were down.”
Ms. Shakur has long maintained her innocence in
the death of state trooper Foerster.
“What happened afterward (the shooting) was
typical in the era of COINTELPRO—the FBI’s crooked,
covert operation intended to destabilize Black movements and their
leaders—and out-and-out racism,” wrote columnist Tonyaa
Weathersbee on blackamericaweb.com.
“They found her guilty in spite of the fact
that forensics experts testified that she was shot when she was
in a position of surrender and that no evidence existed to show
that she had fired a weapon.”
She added, “I doubt that Shakur killed Foerster.
The forensics testimony, as well as the context of the times, is
what makes me dubious.”
The height of hypocrisy
The offer of $1 million for the capture of Ms. Shakur has already
interested bounty hunter Louis Faccone. He told Newsday, “I’m
going to jump on it.”
Mr. Faccone explained that he could have a two-man
team launched toward Cuba from the Florida Keys within hours of
getting reliable information about Ms. Shakur’s whereabouts.
“Some bounty hunter in Florida said he plans
to try and capture Shakur,” wrote Ms. Weathersbee. “I
hope he fails. I hope he fails, not only because I believe that
Shakur was wrongly convicted, but because I believe it is the height
of hypocrisy for the Bush administration to put her on the same
terrorist watchlist as Osama bin Laden.”
“It is also hypocritical because, right here
in the United States, we are harboring a number of fugitives and
murderers from other countries. And it’s sheer political lunacy
to compare Shakur to bin Laden; she hasn’t killed 3,000 people,
nor does she have the capability of carrying out terrorist attacks
against the United States.”
After Ms. Shakur’s conviction, she was sentenced
to life plus 30 years. She spent six-and-a-half years in prison,
two of those in solitary confinement. During that time, she gave
birth to her daughter Kakuya.
In 1979, she was liberated by comrades in a daring
escape that continues to infuriate the New Jersey State Troopers.
There was a nationwide search for her. In 1984, she went to Cuba
and was united with her daughter.
What is it like to live in exile? What is it like
to be away from family and friends?
“Living in exile is hard. I miss my family
and friends. I miss the culture, the music, how people talk and
their creativity. I miss the look of recognition Black women give
each other, the understanding we express without saying a word,”
“I adjusted by learning to understand what
was going on in the world. The Cubans helped me to adjust. I learned
joys in life by learning other cultures. It was a privilege to come
here to a rich culture.”
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