Date: Sat, 14 Mar 1998 00:18:01 -0500
N.J. Bloodhounds on Assata's Trail
By Elombe Brath, NY Daily Challenge, 13–15 March 1998
New Jersey authorities are stepping up their efforts to extradict or "kidnap" Assata Shakur from her 14-year exile in Cuba. New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman announced this week that she would send her State Attorney General Peter Verniero today to hand deliver a letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno demanding that the federal government facilitate whatever ways or means it takes to return Shakur from Havana to face life imprisonment in the U.S.
In a challenge to the African community, Gov. Whitman has bragged that she has put aside $50,000 from her discretionary fund as a reward for the recapture of Assata Shakur who was freed from a New Jersey state prison after being convicted of killing a N.J. state trooper in a Cointelpro ambush on the New Jersey Turnpike on May 2, 1973. The verdict for her conviction by an all-white jury came after she had been acquitted of most of the charges against her as the result of a media campaign of mass hysteria. This occurred despite the fact that it was proven in court that Assata was shot by state troopers while she had her hands up, and that one of her companions, Zayd Shakur was killed on the spot while another, Sundiata Acoli, was later captured and has been in prison for the last 25 years.
Since January the PLC has been warning that there was a new momentum for federal and N.J. state troopers to extradite Shakur.
New Jersey authorities had written to the Pope John Paul II to ask him to appeal to the Cuban authorities during his trip to Havana for the government of Fidel Castro to extradict the former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army leader back to the U.S.
Although most Black activists do not believe that Assata would be extradicted from her sanctuary in Cuba because of its long history of support for Black activists who have faced criminalization in the U.S., many are still concerned that Whitman and her state troopers who consider Shakur's escape and exile "a constant affront to the state of New Jersey," as the governor stated in her letter which was announced Tuesday. The fact that the date that Whitman chose to issue her announcement of her letter to Reno, ironically and coincidentally, also marked the 85th anniversary of the passing of Harriet Tubman the historical figure that most of Assata's supporters consider her inspiration for leadership also raised quite a few concerns.