From email@example.com Sat Mar 25 06:08:10 2000
Police account raises more questions than answers: Former Black Panther: ‘I'm innocent of shooting charges’
By Dianne Mathiowetz, Workers World, 30 March 2000
At an appearance in Federal Court in Montgomery, Ala., on March 21, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin--formerly known as H. Rap Brown--declared that he is innocent of the charges that he killed a sheriff and wounded a second deputy in Fulton County, Ga., on March 16.
Al-Amin, a respected leader in the Muslim community of Atlanta for close to 25 years, had reportedly fled after the incident on March 16. He was the subject of a nationwide hunt led by the FBI until he was captured four days later in Lowndes County, Ala.
Al-Amin is being represented by C.L. Chestnut, a famed Black civil rights attorney and one of the first Black lawyers in Alabama. Chestnut will fight the order to extradite Al-Amin to Georgia.
An army of about 150 FBI and other police agents, aided by tracking dogs and an infrared radar helicopter, arrested Al-Amin in White Hall, Ala., a small town between Montgomery and Selma.
Al-Amin has a long history with the Black community of Lowndes and its neighboring counties. That is where, in 1965, he spent his first years as an organizer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) registering Black voters.
At the time, this area was a stronghold for ardent segregationists who ruled with a violent fist against any who challenged the status quo. In response, a mass rally of sharecroppers and farmers formed the Lowndes County Freedom Organization and took the black panther as its symbol.
Over the years, Al-Amin has returned many times to Lowndes County.
Al-Amin's old civil rights associates, as well as many of the residents of White Hall, expressed disbelief in the police charges. He is regarded as a hero for standing up to the entrenched racist hierarchy 35 years ago and as a friend who still works to better the condition of the majority Black population.
Many of today's Black elected officials, including White Hall's local sheriff and mayor, credit Al-Amin for making their elections possible.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?
With each day since the shooting, the details released by the authorities in Atlanta have changed, raising more questions in the minds of many about what really happened on March 16.
Officials said that that the Fulton County sheriff and deputy were serving a warrant on Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.
The arrest warrant was issued following the failure of Al- Amin to appear in a Cobb County court on charges arising from a traffic stop on May 31, 1999. At that time, police charged him with driving without proof of insurance, and theft by taking and impersonating a police officer.
But these charges would not have been difficult to address. Al-Amin reportedly had bought the car a few months before. And the badge that the cop saw in his wallet was issued to him as an auxiliary police officer in White Hall, Ala. The badges were given to civilians who assisted at events like parades or football games.
The police version of the events on March 16 is as follows. The sheriff and deputy went to the address on the warrant at about 10 p.m. The community store that Al-Amin has operated for years was locked and no one there, so they got back in their car and drove around the block. When they returned, a black Mercedes was parked at the corner near the store.
Police claim that when they ordered the occupant to get out of the car and to show his hands the person began firing a .223 caliber assault rifle. Although the two sheriffs were wearing bullet-proof vests, each was shot several times in the lower body and extremities. They fired their guns at least 10 times.
Investigators discovered a blood trail leaving the scene and followed it to an abandoned house a couple of blocks away. Meanwhile, the Mercedes was reportedly driven away by an unknown person.
Police asserted that the shooter had been wounded. Yet paramedics examined Al-Amin on March 20 and found that he had no injuries.
Immediately after the March 16 shootings, the 4-square block area surrounding the scene was cordoned off. More than 100 police began a house-to-house search. Helicopters with search lights circled overhead throughout the night. SWAT team members and police with attack dogs roamed the streets.
This area is home to more than 100 Muslim families who have settled in the West End community since Al-Amin founded a mosque there in 1976.
POLICE, MEDIA DEMONIZED AL-AMIN
The very first news stories described the incident as an ambush by a gunman who "had a vendetta for police officers." Al-Amin, despite being a respected community leader and Muslim cleric for almost 25 years, was immediately labeled as violent and dangerous by Atlanta law enforcement spokesmen. Following the death of one of the officers, the inflammatory rhetoric escalated.
Every newscast and newspaper story identifies Al-Amin as a former Black Panther Party member, complete with 1960s images of H. Rap Brown in dark sunglasses and black clothing.
While this demonizing is an obvious attempt to sway public opinion against Al-Amin, it makes clear that it is his central role in the Black Power movement which shook the racist foundations of this country that has earned him the undying hatred of the ruling class.
Born in 1943 in Baton Rouge, La., Al-Amin attended Southern University from 1960-1964. His experiences growing up in segregated Louisiana served to fuel his passion to fight injustice and in 1965, he became an organizer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in Alabama. He later became its chairperson.
Along with Kwame Toure--known then as Stokely Carmichael-- and other young Black activists, Al-Amin developed a revolutionary analysis of both domestic and foreign issues.
Throughout the colonized countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, national liberation movements were fighting to free themselves from economic and political domination by the U.S. and European powers.
During that period of time, the U.S. was actively involved in suppressing popular struggles for independence and freedom through military intervention and assassination. >From Guatamala to Iran to the Congo, U.S. foreign policy was set to preserve the control of the rich few. The Vietnam War with its daily "body counts" and massive air assaults was escalating.
In the U.S., the civil rights struggle against Jim Crow segregation, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was being met by murder, bombings, arson and beatings. Organized racist thugs, such as those in the Ku Klux Klan, operated openly--often in collusion with local police authorities.
It was in this context that Al-Amin and others formulated the demand for "Black Power" and advocated the right of armed self-defense against attack. His oft-quoted statement that "violence is as American as cherry pie" is an accurate commentary, then and now, about government policy.
The Black Panther Party for Self Defense had drawn the wrath of the government with its community organizing against police brutality, the infusion of drugs into Black neighborhoods and the low-level of social services provided for Black people.
Al-Amin was made an honorary member of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and named a Minister of Justice.
Political and social unrest was sweeping the country. Al- Amin and others were targeted by the police as part of the infamous COINTELPRO. Thousands of anti-war activists, leaders of Black, Native, Latino, and Asian liberation organizations and civil rights advocates were arrested and jailed, often on bogus charges. False and planted evidence, coerced and phony testimony, and set-ups tainted their convictions by police informers and provocateurs.
Al-Amin was charged with inciting riot and arson in 1967 in Cambridge, Md. Following a speech he made at a rally, he was shot and wounded by an unknown assailant. A rebellion broke out in the community and a number of buildings burned down.
Brown went underground before his trial on the incitement to riot charges. A nationwide hunt was launched. He was arrested in 1971 in New York City near the scene of a bar hold-up.
While serving five years in prison for robbery, he converted to Islam and took the name Jamil Abdullah Al- Amin.
He moved to Atlanta in 1976 after being paroled from prison. Al-Amin opened a grocery and community store in an area of Atlanta devastated by poverty and drugs. A leader of the Atlanta Community Mosque, Al-Amin became a powerful force in the neighborhood against drug dealers, slum landlords, brutal cops and neglectful city agencies. He is widely credited by the residents of having saved the community from these criminal and anti-social elements.
Although no longer identifying himself as a political revolutionary, Al-Amin advocated the teaching of the Islamic principle that it is righteous to resist tyranny and oppression. He continued to assert the right to self- defense.
In 1995, Al-Amin was arrested by members of the FBI Anti- Terrorist unit and ATF agents along with Atlanta police for shooting a man in the leg in West End Park. The case fell apart after the victim asserted that he had never identified Al-Amin as the shooter, but that he had been coerced by the police to name Al-Amin.
Police have publicly complained in Atlanta about the lack of cooperation they are receiving from the West End community. Many neighbors have been quoted as saying the police version of events does not square with the man they have known almost 25 years.
Muslim leaders throughout the city have urged the media not "to accuse, try and convict Imam Jamil Abdullah Al- Amin."
Al-Amin only had a brief moment to speak to reporters at his Montgomery hearing. He stated that his arrest was the result of a "government conspiracy."
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