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Assata Shakur:  Radical, Woman, Exile, Mother

(photo from


    ASSATA SHAKUR is an African-American woman. She is a social justice
activist, a poet, a mother and a grandmother. She has lived in Cuba since the early 19XOs.
During the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s, she found herself a victim of
both racial profiling and political targeting. After being spotted on the New
Jersey turnpike on May 2, 1973, because she is black, it was discovered that
she and her two companions were known members of the Black Panther Party and
the Black Liberation Army. Like Martin Luther Ring, Jr. Malcolm X, Leonard
Peltier and many members of the Civil Rights and American Indian Movements,
Assata and her companions had been watched, their- phones tapped, their
families monitored, their organizations infiltrated, and widespread disinformation
campaigns waged against them. They were like many activists of
the day -targets of the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).. In
fact, Assata was wanted, not for anything she had actually done, but for a
variety of crimes that government and state officials were trying to pin on
her. This was common in the 1970s: discredit the voice of activists by
painting them as criminals, trumping up indictments, tying them up in courts and if
possible jailing them. In the mid 1970s, The Church Committee of the Senate
Select Committee to Study Government Operations and the Domestic Intelligence
Subcommittee, headed by Senator Walter Mondale, provided incontrovertible
documentation of a government sponsored conspiracy against the civil and human
rights of all sorts of political activists.

    THUS ON THAT DAY IN MAY Assata was a marked woman. And after police stopped
them, a shoot out occurred. When the smoke cleared one police officer, and one
of Assata's companions, Zayd Shakur lay dead. Assata, shot in the back
and dragged from the car, lay wounded. only belatedly taken to the hospital,
Assata was then chained to her bed, tortured and questioned while injured. In fact,
she never received adequate medical attention even though she had a broken
clavicle and a paralyzed arm. Nonetheless, she was quickly jailed, prosecuted
and incarcerated over the next few years for the series of trumped up cases.
interestingly, in five separate trials, and with largely white juries, charges
were dismissed because of lack of evidence or she was acquitted of all charges
ranging from bank robbery to murder. As the manager of one bank said at trial
;- she is just not the one who robbed my bank. only in the final trial in
1977, where she was charged with the Turnpike killings, was she found guilty. This
even though forensic evidence taken that day showed that she had not tired a
weapon. She was sentenced to life + 33 years in prison. In 1979, and after
nearly six years behind bars, she escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility
for Women in New Jersey and some time later emerged in Cuba where she applied
for and received political asylum. Since being in Cuba. she has continued her
college education, published an autobiography, and writes on global issues
facing women, youth, and people of color.

    DURING THE 1990S, rightist politicians and police bodies - this time in
conjunction with conservative members of the Cuban-American community -
reinvigorated their attempts to pursue Assata Shakur. They did this even
though Assata has not tried to re-enter. the United States and is, according to
international law, a political exile who should be left alone. Linking
"fear of crime" rhetoric with anti-Cuban sentiment, New Jersey governor Christine
Todd-Whitman issued a bounty which is now up to $ 100,000, on the head of
Assata Shakur. She even went as far as to announce her bounty on Radio Marti,
the US government radio station which beams anti-Castro propaganda into the
Caribbean. To do such a thing put Assata in danger because it is tantamount
to encouraging any opportunists to kidnap and/or kill her for pay. In
addition, in 1998, Congressmen Franks and Menendez from New Jersey and Ros-Lehtinen and
Diaz-Balart of Florida introduced and got passed - House Resolution 254 -
which calls for- the Cuban government to extradite Assata Shakur as a condition to
normalization. US-Cuba Relations. Interestingly, while Assata and Cuba are
portrayed as ''criminal",. a terrorist bombing campaign - thought to be
sponsor-ed by ultra-rightist forces in the United States - has been launched
against Cuba, killing and injuring Cuban citizens and foreign tourists alike.

Hands Off Assata Campaign/Global Exchange
P.O. Box 438731
Chicago, IL 60643