From Michael Brown to Assata Shakur, the Racist State of America Persists

Protesters confront police following George Zimmerman's acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Protesters confront police officers following George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Photograph: Zhao Hanrong/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Those who resist are treated like terrorists – as in Ferguson this year, and as I and other black activists were in the 60s and 70s

By Angela Davis

The Guardian, UK

Nov. 1, 2014 – Although racist state violence has been a consistent theme in the history of people of African descent in North America, it has become especially noteworthy during the administration of the first African-American president, whose very election was widely interpreted as heralding the advent of a new, postracial era.

The sheer persistence of police killings of black youth contradicts the assumption that these are isolated aberrations. Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, are only the most widely known of the countless numbers of black people killed by police or vigilantes during the Obama administration. And they, in turn, represent an unbroken stream of racist violence, both official and extra-legal, from slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan, to contemporary profiling practices and present-day vigilantes.

More than three decades ago Assata Shakur was granted political asylum by Cuba, where she has since lived, studied and worked as a productive member of society. Assata was falsely charged on numerous occasions in the United States during the early 1970s and vilified by the media. It represented her in sexist terms as “the mother hen” of the Black Liberation Army, which in turn was portrayed as a group with insatiably violent proclivities. Placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, she was charged with armed robbery, bank robbery, kidnap, murder, and attempted murder of a policeman. Although she faced 10 separate legal proceedings, and had already been pronounced guilty by the media, all except one of these trials – the case resulting from her capture – concluded in acquittal, hung jury, or dismissal. Under highly questionable circumstances, she was finally convicted of being an accomplice to the murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

Four decades after the original campaign against her, the FBI decided to demonise her once more. Last year, on the 40th anniversary of the New Jersey turnpike shoot-out during which state trooper Werner Foerster was killed, Assata was ceremoniously added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Terrorist list. To many, this move by the FBI was bizarre and incomprehensible, leading to the obvious question: what interest would the FBI have in designating a 66-year-old black woman, who has lived quietly in Cuba for the last three and a half decades, as one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world – sharing space on the list with individuals whose alleged actions have provoked military assaults on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria?

A partial – perhaps even determining – answer to this question may be discovered in the broadening of the reach of the definition of “terror”, spatially as well as temporally. Following the apartheid South African government’s designation of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress as “terrorists”, the term was abundantly applied to US black liberation activists during the late 1960s and early 70s.

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In Travesty of Justice, Rasmea Odeh Found Guilty Despite History of Israeli Torture

Supporters of community activist Rasmea Odeh hold up signs. (Photo via Samidoun.ca)

Supporters of community activist Rasmea Odeh hold up signs. (Photo via Samidoun.ca)

Thanks to Mondoweiss Editors

The following statement was issued by the Rasmea Defense Committee:

In a travesty of justice, Rasmea Odeh today was found guilty of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization.  For over a year, Rasmea, her supporters, and her legal team have been battling this unjust government prosecution, saying from the start that the immigration charge was nothing but a pretext to attack this icon of the Palestine liberation movement.  And although there is real anger and disappointment in the jury’s verdict, it was known as early as October 27th that she would not get a full and fair trial.

On that day, Judge Gershwin Drain made a number of rulings that made her defense virtually impossible.  The government’s indictment stated that she had unlawfully gained U.S. citizenship because she had allegedly answered a number of questions falsely on her visa application in 1995 and her naturalization application in 2004.  She had been in this country as a lawful permanent resident for almost 20 years, and a citizen for over nine, when she was arrested on October 22nd, 2013.

The main basis for the arrest a year ago was that she had allegedly falsely answered “No” to a question asking whether she had ever been arrested or imprisoned.  The government claimed that she failed to disclose that she had been convicted by the Israelis of participating in bombings in 1969.  This conviction in a military court was the result of a false confession made after she was viciously tortured and raped by Israeli military authorities for weeks.  There is no due process in Israeli military courts, which “convict” over 99% of Palestinians who come before them, and “evidence” from these should not be accepted in a court in the U.S.

But Judge Drain did allow the conviction in Israel to be entered into evidence; and even though he suggested that Rasmea’s assertion that she faced torture and sexual abuse at the hands of her Israeli captors was “credible,” he still ruled that it could not be brought up in the course of her trial.  So her attorneys had to scrap plans to call to the stand an expert witness, clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Fabri, who has decades of experience working with torture survivors, to testify that the allegedly false answers on the immigration forms were the result of Rasmea’s chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The judge also rejected Rasmea’s selective prosecution motion, even though it was clear that the case against her grew out of the investigation of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis, who were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in 2010.  Make no mistake.

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