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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 1 Aug 97 12:57:49 CDT
From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@ix.netcom.com>
Subject: !*First report on Australia From Bro. Komboa
Article: 15550

)>>Date: Thu, 31 Jul 1997 09:27:38 -0400 (EDT) )>>From: Lorenzo Komboa Ervin <komboa@mindspring.com> )>>Subject: Re: First report on Austrailia

First report on Australia From Bro. Komboa

By Brother Komboa, 31 July 1997

Hello Sister Marpessa:

I wanted to drop a little letter to you so that you could get from me my reasoning for going to Austrailia, the contacts I made with Indigenous Aboriginal peoples, Black folks from Africa and America living there, and a few other things as they come to me. This is just off the top of my head at this minute, and will problably just reflect that rather than any in-depth political report.

For over 20 years, I have had contact with Black Austrailian activists.(And let me point out that they proudly and fiercely call themselves Black people of the disapora, more precisely Blackfellas--both the men and women). When I was a political prisoner in the American federal system during the 1970's and 80's, activists from the Aborigine community had contacted me about Black Panther Political Prisoners in the USA. They had heard of my case from the Anarchist Black Cross, a group called the HAPOTOC ( Help A Prisoner, Oppose Torture Committee), my defense committee in Chicago,and of course from the Black Panther newspaper.

Sam Watson and Denis Walker (the latter a political prisoner now) had come to America and talked to Huey P. and other leadership of the party in California. They had been trained and given materials which made it possible to start a BPP of Austrailia. The group only had a three-year lifespan because of severe police repression and political sellouts by Uncle Toms who had penetrated the group, wrecking it. But like many of us, even with the death of the party, they stayed active. One such struggle which was raging was a land struggle and protests against the death of Aborigines in police custody, which continues to this day in the Outback and in the cities as well now. In the mid-70's this land struggle had actually turned into virtual guerrilla war, with Aborigine tribes in the Outback having to pick up guns to defend themselves and advance the struggle. I remember vividly receiving a newspaper which contained a photo of a brother leading a gun crew, which had a 30 cal. machinegun jutting out the back. That same issue had an article saying that my case, and that of Assata's and Sundiata's were being used to launch a campaign for the freedom of BPP political prisoners in Austrailia. Denis Walker was instrumental in all this, and it was his work which raised the amnesty struggle to one supported by all segments of the Left-wing there. I can honestly say that there were Free Lorenzo movements in 17 countries, but none stronger than in Austrailia.

Even after I was released in 1983, they doggedly continued to write me in America, maintaining personal friendship and political alliances through a variety of organizations we both were part of. I'm just saying this so you will understand that I am maybe one of the few Black activists from these shores who have managed to contact and unite our struggle here with other Black revolutionary movements in that part of the world, not just Africa or the Carribean, primarily because of these personal ties. In fact, my trip to the country had been discussed for years, but because of financial considerations and my legal status, I could not realistically plan to come until getting my passport in 1994, after a ten-year battle with the US State Department. After doing so, a variety of individuals and groups in Austrailia started organizing for me to come and speak about my years as a 1960's Black activist in the South, political prisoner, and my contemporary activities with Black Autonomy, anti-racist struggles and battles against police brutality. Mainly, the idea was a hook-up of an international alliance against colonialism, racism, and government repression (capitalism for short).

After a six-week tour of the UK and Europe, I then came home for a few days and flew from here to Sydney. It took me 30 hours to actually get there, since you lose a day when you go over and believe me you feel it! The severe jet lag will eat you up. I left on July 2nd and arrived on the morning of July 4th in Sydney. Went through Customs with no hassles, and then the next day went to Brisbane, in Queensland State. It is here where my troubles began. An attack was launched by David Ettridge, chief of staff of a newly-elected white racist politician, Pauline Hanson, whose political party, ONE NATION, has been called a fascist, Hitler-ite party. Ettridge and Hanson launched a media attack in the right-wing press, which called me a terrorist, gunrunner, and hijacker of aeroplanes. The lapdog media repeated this without further inquiry and screamed that I was in Austrailia to lead a Black revolution and other ferment among the Aborigines, implying that White folks lives were in danger. This was intended to have me cowed and ready to head for the border, as many of Hanson's political victims apparently do. Of course, you all know me better than that, and I began to return fire, even labeling the media Pauline Hanson's press agency...yellow journalists, lapdogs and so on. But the most effective response was to say on an Austrailian Broadcast Company national radio show that country's media was the worst I had seen in any country I gone into, was unprofessonal, and a mere right-wing, government-controlled press corps. This had the effect of shaming and splitting them off and against each other, with the immediate effect of moderating their approach from attack to inquiry. I was no longer that well-known terrorist, but now a Black activist whom they had to treat with a modicum of respect.

A few days later after all this raged on in the Queensland media, John Howard, the Prime Minister, gave a public statement that he was horrified that I had been let into the country and to cover their ass claimed that I had falsified documents to sneak past security. I was able to prove this was a lie by merely presenting my passport which had my name, and demanded a hearing to prove my innocence. But this was not what Howard wanted, he had me arrested and put in prison. He would not even let my attoneys have the documents on which this decision was based, instead repeating as mantra...the Minister has decided, there is no appeal. They tried to make me spare myself imprisonment, and sign a consent form so they could ship me out that day. I refused and was dragged off to prison, where I was stuck in a maximum security jail. I was given rough handling to make me change my mind, including slamming my face in the wall and dragging me bodily by the handcuffs to a strip cell. You all know this from press reports, so I won't repeat it.

The truth is that I knew I would be going to prison and had made up my mind to challenge the government decision from the beginning. A Black barrister originally from South Africa, Darryl M. and Terrie Fisher, my solicitors had discussed all of this in advance. They had promised to fight all out, and reasonably thought they could win. Win, they did! After I had been in jail three days, the High Court made a precedent-setting ruling which severly embarrased John Howard's government and changed the agenda in a big way. It silenced both Hanson and Howard, and inadvertenty made a national celebrity and anti-racist hero out of me. It was amazing to me, and I took it all in stride. I didn't seek it or really accept it, but here it was anyway. The press followed everthing I did or said, and all the while I made severe criticisms of the government and even openly thumbed my nose at them. The majority of the people, even the press, began to see my case as a free speech fight, and many began to flood newspapers and the mailboxes of government officials with angry letters demanding that they leave me alone.

Most importantly of all is how Black people responded to this. They had been outraged over the fact that the white government and especially that racist Pauline Hanson was deciding for them who they could and could not speak to. After all, this was their country, not the white man's and they demanded my release and freedom to speak. They joined with the Anarchists, Socialists and other radicals in mass demonstrations in all the major Austrailian cities, especially in Brisbane, where the streets almost erupted in civil rebellion. Hundreds of people confronted the cops, invaded the High Court chambers and demanded my release in the most bitter terms. The heads of the airline and shipping unions swore that they would take action to prevent my being taken aboard any national airline, ship or foreign craft, and would shut the country down with a general strike if I was deported. So this was very serious, a deep national crisis which had split the government and people of Austrailia. It had Black people severely worked up.

In addition to the internal protests, there was the international protest that you all led in the United States, along with those in Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Sweden, France, Holland, Germany, Norway, Belfast-Northern Ireland, and Africa, (Senegal and South Africa) as well as protests in Japan, New Zealand, Papua-New Guinea, Tonga, and other Oceanic countries. In all, I was told that some 17 countries had demonstrations within two days of my arrest! This effected the outcome of everything!

When I was released on the morning of the 11th of July, I immediately denounced the Howard-Hanson government and demanded an apology for my unjust imprionment. Not because I expected to get it, but because I wanted to rub their noses in their defeat and expose them for their base motives: racism. Black people especially began to laugh at Hanson and the newspapers started talking about the Perils of Pauline, and repeating my statements that she was an Austrailian verson of Senator Joe McCarthy, the old anti-Communist from the 1950's, and that One Nation was an Austrailian Nazi party. For the first time that anyone can remember, she came in for severe criticism from the media, and the Howard government was lampooned for my arrest. Newspapers openly called Howard an idiot and weakling, who mishandled the whole affair. Even conservatives were angry over the stifling of free speech, and promised to punish Howard at the polls.

Originally the White newspapers had said that the Aborigines did not want to meet with me, and kept trotting out an old Black stooge to repeat this, Neville Bonner, but more and more this was exposed as a lie: I had garnered tremendous love and repect from the Black community for fighting Howard and Hanson, and expressing my support for the Aboriginal struggle. Even the Asian community, who had long been silent supported me, and raised thousands for my legal defense. The high point for all this came when I was released and spoke to 7,000-10,000 people at Musgrave Park during the annual black celebration, NAIDOC, which was held that week. I was asked to speak by Sam Watson even though that Uncle Tom had been the one who had moderated the event originally, and the oupouring of love, respect and support could no longer be hidden or distored by the government and its Black flunkeys. It was overwhelming, and I confess I started crying right along with the crowd, both from relief of having been released and by the support of the people. I promised to always stand next to them, and that our Black people in America and other parts of the world were standing up with them, and backed their call for a Black-led boycott of the Olympic Games, and joint actions in the future. We can do a lot, the whole Black world looks up to us, rightly or wrongly. It's our responsibility to support Black revolutions world wide, not just behind national borders.

I will write more about all this in my next letter, and begin to discuss the boycott, the abject conditions of the Aborigines and other first-hand accounts.

Love and struggle,