On November 2nd, 1979, Assata Shakur was freed from prison in New Jersey. Assata is a legendary figure within the Black Panther Party and then the Black Liberation Army. Assata was wounded in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike which ended the life of BLA member Zayd Shakur and a state trooper. Assata was shot twice with her hands up and brutally interrogated in her hospital room. Throughout her incarceration from 1973-1979 numerous other charges were leveled against her. Most were thrown out as little evidence supported the claims. Even the surviving trooper had retracted his statement saying he never saw Assata with a gun or fire a gun at him. No fingerprints were found on the gun, nor traces on Assata’s fingers.
The all-white jury was comprised at least 5 members who had familial ties to the police. Shakur was convicted on all eight counts: two murder charges for the murders of the trooper and her fellow activist, and additional six assault charges. Assata has said of her experience,
“In 1979 I was able to escape with the aid of some of my fellow comrades. I saw this as a necessary step, not only because I was innocent of the charges against me, but because I knew that [in] the racist legal system in the United States I would receive no justice. I was also afraid that I would be murdered in prison. I later arrived in Cuba where I am currently living in exile as a political refugee.
At this point, I think that it is important to make one thing very clear. I have advocated and I still advocate revolutionary changes in the structure and in the principles that govern the United States. I advocate self-determination for my people and for all oppressed inside the United States. I advocate an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradication of sexism, and the elimination of political repression. If that is a crime, then I am totally guilty.”
Members of the BPP have served a combined total of more than 800 years as a legacy of the FBI’s Cointelpro War on the Black Liberation Movement.
Assata was accused of being the “bandit queen” of the BLA; the “mother hen who kept them together, kept them moving, kept them shooting.” The BLA’s alleged actions included: assassinating almost ten police officers, kidnapping drug dealers (one of whom turned out to be an FBI agent), and robbing banks from coast to coast. Throughout 1971 and 1972 “Assata sightings” and wild speculation about her deeds were a headline mainstay for New York tabloids. Then, in 1973, Shakur and two friends were pulled over by state troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike. During the stop, shooting erupted. A trooper and one alleged BLA member were killed, another trooper was slightly hurt and Assata-or Miss Joanne Chesimard, as authorities preferred to call her-was severely wounded by a blast of police gunfire. Left to die in a paddy wagon, she survived only to be charged for the trooper’s death and sentenced to life in prison. During the next six years (much of it spent in solitary confinement), Shakur beat a half dozen other indictments. In 1979-after giving birth in prison, only to have her daughter taken away in less than a week Assata Shakur managed one of the most impressive jailbreaks of the era. After almost a year in a West Virginia federal prison for women, surrounded by white supremacists from the Aryan Sisterhood prison gang, Shakur was transferred to the maximum security wing of the Clinton Correctional Center in New Jersey.
There she was one of only eight maximum security prisoners held in a small, well-fenced cellblock of their own. The rest of Clinton-including its visiting area-was medium security and not fenced in. According to news reports at the time, Shakur’s November 2 escape proceeded as follows: Three men-two black, one white-using bogus drivers licenses and Social Security cards, requested visits with Assata four weeks in advance, as was prison policy. But prison officials never did the requisite background checks. On the day of the escape, the team of three met in the waiting room at the prison entrance, where they were processed through registration and shuttled in a van to the visiting room in South Hall. One member of the team went ahead of the rest. Although there was a sign stating that all visitors would be searched with a hand held metal detector-he made it through registration without even a pat-down. Meanwhile, the other two men were processed without a search. As these two were being let through the chain-link fences and locked metal doors at the visiting center one of them drew a gun and took the guard hostage. Simultaneously, the man visiting Shakur rushed the control booth, put two pistols to the glass wall, and ordered the officer to open the room’s metal door. She obliged. From there Shakur and “the raiders” as some press reports dubbed them took a third guard hostage and made it to the parked van. Because only the maximum security section of the prison was fully fenced-in the escape team was able to speed across a grassy meadow to the parking lot of the Hunterdon State School, where they meet two more female accomplices, and split up into a “two-tone blue sedan” and a Ford Maverick. All the guards were released unharmed and the FBI immediately launched a massive hunt. But Shakur disappeared without a trace. For the next five years authorities hunted in vain. Shakur had vanished. Numerous other alleged BLA cadre were busted during those years, including Tupac’s step-father, Mutula Shakur. In 1984 word came from 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The FBI’s most wanted female fugitive was living in Cuba, working on a masters degree in political science, writing her autobiography, and raising her daughter.
The Assata Shakur Case is a attack on all New Afrikan Women – Haki Kweli Shakur August Third Collective NAPLA NAIM 10-2-51ADM