Former political prisoner Geronimo Pratt: ‘There's no time to be divided’
By John Parker, Workers World, 24 July 1997
New York—"In 1997 there's another Black man on the loose again, and I'm glad," said one of the many speakers at a July 11 event sponsored by the New African Liberation Front to welcome Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt.
Over a thousand people packed into Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn. They had waited 27 long years to finally hear and see this political prisoner who could not be silenced and whose will to struggle against injustice never wavered.
On May 29, after 27 years, Geronimo Pratt was granted a new trial. Since then he has been touring the country speaking.
"The best and brightest of our freedom fighters are in their jails," said Yuri Kochiyama, an Asian American activist and member of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee. "But they can't keep us quiet.
"Geronimo is a living example of that."
Pratt fell victim to a frame-up that was part of Cointelpro, the FBI's 1960s-1970s domestic program aimed at "neutralizing"--killing, discrediting or imprisoning-- fighters against injustice.
Cointelpro's other targets included Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. This terrorist program resulted in the deaths of many Black-liberation leaders.
Pratt said he would use his freedom to demand a congressional hearing on Cointelpro, and possibly to sue the government. Referring to the Cointelpro tactic of creating disunity and division among Black liberation allies, he remarked that those methods would no longer work against the people fighting for social progress today.
"Our movement is on a new level now," he said.
Pratt exposed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's sinister method of pitting one Black Panther leader against another when he referred to the incarceration of a leading Black Panther member--Huey P. Newton: "They sent Huey Newton, an extremely beautiful brother, to San Quentin for us to kill him. We saw what Hoover had done to us and we were not going to allow any pigs to kill us over some stupid shit.
"There's no time to be divided, and something is on the horizon any time you see divisions."
Thanking Yuri Kochiyama for her remarks, Pratt stressed that unity is of prime importance. He referred to non- African people helping Black Panther struggles in the past. "We can't be so myopic that we forget to support our comrades in arms that are not new Africans," he said. "Many of us wouldn't be here if we didn't have the support of Native Americans like Leonard Peltier."
Pratt said that many successes would not have been possible if not for the Puerto Rican people and the Young Lords' liberation struggles.
"But we're not free yet, as long as there are [people] incarcerated," Pratt said, referring to the many political prisoners still in jail. "My brother Mumia is in hell.
"Death row is hell. I spent 18 months there and I know."
Pratt also mentioned other victims he called "prisoners of war," including Ruchell Magee who has already served nearly three decades. "In a society that imprisons unjustly, the only place for a just person is in prison," said Pratt.
Plans for a demonstration called Jericho '98, calling for the release of all political prisoners, were announced. In addition, plans are being drawn to get young people out on the streets monitoring the cops with cameras to challenge police brutality.
The amazing will of the working class shined through in Pratt's remarks. Despite fallen comrades and his own imprisonment for more than a quarter of his lifetime, what is Geronimo Pratt's attitude?
"We have big plans."
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