(Editors Note: The following was a speech read at the local Assata Shakur Liberation Day event held on November 2nd in Richmond, Virginia. In honor of Assata and all homeland revolutionaries who have committed to the necessity of armed struggle to destroy the white settler-colonialist state.)
Honor Comrade Assata Shakur by continuing her work today
On May 2nd, 1973 Assata Shakur, who at that time had a background of years of work in the leading organizations of the Black Liberation Movement, was arrested by New Jersey State Police following an armed confrontation on the New Jersey Turnpike.
By that time she had already become the target of a nationwide manhunt and psychological warfare campaign by the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI who sought to demonize her as personally responsible for the military operations of the Black Liberation Army (BLA) including multiple ambushes of police officers.
The opening statement of her 1976 trial for allegedly “kidnapping” a heroin dealer alongside Ronald Myers and Rema Olugbala Shakur noted the following:
“The idea of a Black Liberation Army emerged from conditions in Black communities. Conditions of poverty, indecent housing, massive unemployment, poor medical care and inferior education. The idea came about because Black People are not free or equal in this country. Because 90% of the men and women in this country’s prisons are Black and Third World. Because 10 year old children are shot down in our streets. Because dope has saturated our communities preying on the disillusionment and frustration of our children. The concept of the B.L.A. arose because of the political, social and economic oppression of Black people in this country. And where there is oppression there will be resistance. The B.L.A. is a part of that resistance movement. The Black Liberation Army stands for freedom and justice for all people.
While big corporations make huge tax-free profits, taxes for the everyday working person skyrocket. While politicians take free trips around the world, those same politicians cut back food stamps for the poor. While politicians increase their salaries, millions of people are being laid off. This city is on the brink of bankruptcy and yet hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on this trial. I do not understand a government so willing to spend millions of dollars on arms to explore outer space, even the planet Jupiter, and at the same time close down day care centers and fire stations. ”
Shakur was ultimately convicted on a variety of charges and received a life sentence. Like the great majority of political prisoners in the United States then and today she spent her time in prison subjected to isolation conditions tantamount to torture.
On November 2nd 1979, a unit of the Black Liberation Army successfully freed her in a raid upon the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey . Many people including Marilyn Buck, and Silvia Baraldini were to pay a high price for this successful operation in the form of legal retaliation by the state.
Following her escape she fled to Cuba where she received political asylum and remains to this day. In 2013 she was placed upon the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” list. This is only one of many examples of the drive by the US to continue the attack against the remaining legacy of the revolutionary movement of the 60’s and 70’s. The objective of which is to secure our compliance and passivity through terror in the present day. The only crime the bourgeois state can never forgive is the ideological one of negating the legitimacy of its right to rule and exploit.
The ongoing campaign of the state against Shakur is not directed only against her. It is aimed at every single one of us who refuses to submit to the dictates of the ruling class. The struggle which resulted in Shakur’s arrest in 1973 is not a relic of the past but a urgent necessity of the present. The conditions of national and class oppression which drove her generation to rebellion have not abated. If anything they have intensified. Rebellion was justified in 1973, it remains justified in 2014 and shall remain justified in perpetuity till every trace of a social order which has caused the needless death of more than four million black people since the Second World War alone is utterly wiped out of existence.
Today we are gathered to celebrate for the interests of the people the release of a combatant from the hands of the exploiter’s state. This release was not secured by petitions, lobbying, voting or any of the other accepted means of political participation offered by our enemies. It was secured by armed force.
The message as to the type of power we need in order to bring about the new order for which Shakur and countless others have sacrificed their comfort and their lives could not be more clear. The desperate conditions of the present are bound to bring forth a new generation of partisans from amongst us and it will be their task to crown the sacrifices of the past with the victories of the future.
Hands off Assata!
Free All Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War!
– Maoist Communist Group (Richmond Branch)