Date: Thu, 20 Jun 1996 08:54:42 -0500
> S * IN ACTIV-L --> Database ACTIV-L, 6219 hits.
> print 06183
25 Years Behind Bars: Interview with Imprisoned Black Panther
By Ben Farr, Workers World, 13 June 1996
Supporters of imprisoned veteran Baltimore Black Panther Party leader Marshall Eddie Conway have called a June 8 demonstration here to protest the governor's blanket denial of parole for anyone serving a life sentence.
Conway has been imprisoned for 26 years in what his supporters see as a classic police frame-up. On April 25, 1970, Conway was arrested and charged with the fatal shooting of a Baltimore City police officer and the attempted murder of two other cops. His case is similar to the widely publicized frame-up of revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Conway's supporters maintain that he was the target of a covert FBI COINTELPRO action to destroy the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party.
At that time, Conway was denied the lawyer of his choice and forbidden to defend himself. The state's case relied on the testimony of a paid jailhouse informant and a police officer.
The informant claimed that Conway confessed to the shootings to him while they were cellmates. The injured police officer picked Conway's picture out of two stacks of photos.
Conway's face was the only one in both stacks. There was no physical evidence linking Conway to the scene of the crime and there were no other witnesses.
Conway, who was not even present for most of his trial, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
He seemed a likely candidate for parole until Maryland's Democratic Gov. Paris Glendening eliminated all parole for state prisoners sentenced to life. In response, supporters have called for a city-wide march, June 8, to demand that he be freed.
INTERVIEW WITH EDDIE CONWAY
Workers World interviewed Marshall Eddie Conway via telephone from the Maryland House of Corrections in Jessup, Md., where he is incarcerated.
WW: Why did you join the Black Panthers?
Eddie Conway: I was in the army for three years stationed in Europe. I experienced massive institutionalized racism. The assassination of Malcolm X was also a factor.
In `67 when I returned home I participated in the civil- rights struggle to integrate Sparrows Point Steel Mill. All these events convinced me of the need for self-defense of the Black community.
WW: What were you doing when you first learned of the incident you were charged with?
EC: In the space of 18 months from 69 to 70 attacks [police and FBI] occurred against different BPP chapters. The entire secondary leadership of the organization was imprisoned or driven into exile. The primary leaders, of course, were already in jail. Many of the people are still prisoners.
WW: What do you think of the huge growth in prisons that has taken place in the last 15 years?
EC: There are no jobs in America. Many people get involved in illegal activities just to eat. ...
I fear the genocidal trends in the U.S. government, particularly in conjunction with the rise of the right-wing militias. Look at Germany or Turkey--incarcerating a target population is the first step to eliminating them.
WW: Baltimore police have killed 18 people in the last 16 months. There has been a growing movement from within the community to fight back against police repression, particularly around the case of Preston Barnes. What is your message to this movement?
EC: I encourage them to intensify their struggle. Demand community control of the police ... not some rubber-stamp committee appointed by the mayor, but actual complete community control.
WW: In the bourgeois election this year do you feel there is any difference between the Democrats and Republicans?
EC: There is no fundamental difference. They both represent the huge corporations. The only difference is one of style-- the Democrats pretend to be more humanitarian. The both have the same master.
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