Statement of Sundiata Acoli to Demonstrations Against House Resolution 254

Greetings! Thank you all for coming to the Nation’s capitol to demonstrate your opposition to, anger and disgust at Res. 254 called for the extradition of Assata Shakur from Cuba. The resolution states “Assata and the driver [i.e. me] opened fire with automatic pistols, striking Trooper Werner Foerster

twice in the chest and Trooper James Harper in the left shoulder…then turned Trooper Foerster’s own weapon on him firing an additional two bullets into his head execution style…”

Those are very emotional words, but to any humane person all such deaths are tragic. Zayd Shakur the other passenger and our companion also died from trooper gunfire during the same incident. His death is equally tragic but these tragedies are compounded by Gov. Whitman’s attempt to use Assata and the trooper’s death to whip up hysterics solely to revive her faded-out political career. And its particularly tragic that many Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members meekly went along with Whitman’s charade. Some didn’t and I commend all those who did not.

Those CBC members who did vote for the resolution acted as though they have forgotten the real history of African people in this country or the real way African motorists and other people of color are treated on the New Jersey Turnpike even today. It was worst in 1973 when Assata, Zayd and I were stopped there.

In the same manner, New Jersey State Troopers recently opened fire without provocation, on three basketball try-out students, two Blacks and one Puerto Ricans, in a van: Trooper Harper opened fire on Assata sitting in the car with her hands in the air. Trooper Foerster opened fire on me and shot me in the hand as I struggled to prevent him from killing me. It does not take a rocket scientists to figure that since he fired one bullet into my hand, and his weapon which was recovered at the scene was found to have been fired only twice, that its mathematically impossible for two bullets from his own weapon to be found in his head. They did find two bullets in his head, though, and both were revolver bullets. They only two revolvers on the scene belong to Troopers Foerster and Harper. The other three weapons recovered at the scene and attributed to me and my passengers were each semi-automatic pistols.

The continuing tragedy is the twenty five years of lies, hysterical and cover-up to hide what really happened on the turnpike in May 1973. But truth crushed to earth will rise again. Assata, Zayd and I were only three of many Black Panther Party (BPP) members and other political activists of the 1960s, 1970s and beyond who were targeted by COINTELPRO, then branded as criminals so that we could be hunted down, shot and killed like animals; or if we survived, imprisoned for life. But that is a price many of us willing paid during that era to struggle for our people’s freedom. Its because of the struggle and sacrifices of people like Assata that many CBC members and

other middle-class blacks are where they are today.

Instead of voting for a resolution demanding Assata’s extradition, the CBC should be sponsoring a resolution demanding that the charges against Assata be dropped and calling for a congressional investigation, not only into the 1973 turnpike incident, but also into an investigation of COINTELPRO’s dirty hands in setting up so many political activists of that era: many who are still in prison today and must be freed if we ever to bring a principled closure to the 1960s. Anything less is a sell-out.

And last, Assata has given and gives so much to us. It was recently brought to my attention how little we give back to Assata. So I want your participation in an upcoming national fundraiser to give something back to Assata. The details of this fundraiser will be provided you. The gist of it involves a national fundraiser to provide Assata’s daughter and her family with funds to travel frequently to see Assata and to maintain frequent telephone contact with her when away. I know its a gift that’s dear to her heart and I urge you to give the max so that Assata can see/talk with her children and her grandchild as often as possible. It will make her very happy. I thank you.

Hands Off Assata! Free Mumia and All Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War! Sundiata Acoli 10/3/98