Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
The Cointelpro Papers by Ward Churchill & Jim Vander Wall
Publicly and sensationally accused by the FBI of being the “revolutionary mother hen” of a BLA cell conducting a “series of cold-blooded murders of New York City police officers,” Shakur was made the subject of a nationwide manhunt in 1972. On May 2, 1973, she, BLA founder Zayd Malik Shakur (her brother-in-law) and Sundiata Acoli (s/n: Clark Squire) were subjected to one of the random harassment stops of blacks on the New Jersey Turnpike for which the Jersey state troopers are so deservedly notorious. Apparently realizing who it was they’d pulled over, the two troopers — Werner Foerster and James Harper — opened fire, wounding Assata Shakur immediately. In the fight which followed, both Zayd Shakur and trooper Foerster were killed, trooper Harper and Sundiata Acoli wounded. Both surviving BLA members were captured.
Assata was, however, charged with none of the killings which had ostensibly earned her such celebrated status as a “terrorist.” Instead, the government contended she had participated in bank robberies, and the state of New York accused her of involvement in the killing of a heroin dealer in Brooklyn and the failed ambush of two cops in Queens on January 23, 1973. She was acquitted of every single charge in a series of trials lasting into 1977. Meanwhile, she was held without bond, in isolation and in especially miserable local jail facilities. Finally, having exhausted all other possibilities of obtaining a conviction, the authorities took her to trial in New Jersey in the death of trooper Foerster. Despite the fact that Sundiata Acoli had long-since been convicted of having fired the fatal bullets — and medical testimony indicating her wounds had incapacitated her prior to the firefight itself — Assata Shakur was convicted of first degree murder by an all-white jury on March 25, 1977. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The travesty imbedded in all this was unmistakable, and Shakur’s circumstances remained the topic of much discussion and debate. This became all the more true on the night of November 2, 1979, when a combat unit of the BLA set the prisoner free from the maximum security building of the Clinton Women’s Prison in New Jersey. It is instructive that this organization of what the police and the FBI were busily portraying as “mad dog killers” appear to have gone considerably out of their way to insure that no one, including the guards, was hurt during the prison break. For her part, Assata Shakur — now hyped by the Bureau as “the nation’s number one terrorist fugitive” despite the state’s failure to link her to any concrete “act of terrorism” — was quietly provided sanctuary in Cuba where she remains today.