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May 2013, Week 3

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Letter to President Obama Concerning Assata Shakur

May 15, 2013
By 
Published by Portside (May 10, 2013)

&quot;We ask that the FBI be directed to publicly produce documentation to support these claims, and that until and unless this is done, its officials be directed to withdraw these assertions. The FBI’s accompanying actions should also be immediately withdrawn for the following additional reasons.&quot;

Friday, May 10, 2013

	President Barack Obama
	The White House
	1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
	Washington, DC 20500

	Dear President Obama:

	We write to urge you to overrule the FBI’s decision to put Assata Shakur, aka Joanne Chesimard,
	on the “Most Wanted Terrorists List, with $1 Million FBI Reward Offered for Information
	Leading to Her Capture and Return,” as phrased by the FBI’s May 2, 2013 announcement. This
	$1 million combines with the $1 million bounty already offered by New Jersey. We know of no
	support for the claims by the FBI in making that announcement that Ms. Shakur has used her
	asylum in Cuba to "promote" "terrorist ideology” and espouse "terrorism." We ask that the FBI
	be directed to publicly produce documentation to support these claims, and that until and unless
	this is done, its officials be directed to withdraw these assertions. The FBI’s accompanying
	actions should also be immediately withdrawn for the following additional reasons.

	President Obama, commenting on the Boston Marathon bombings last month, you declared
	"Anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror." This is consistent
	with the generally accepted view of terrorism as "the calculated use of violence or threat of
	violence against civilians for the purpose of intimidation or coercion or changing government
	policy." There is no evidence that Ms. Shakur has taken part in any violence or threats of
	violence against civilians to intimidate or coerce changes in government policies. Going back 40
	years, the May 1973 incident, which led to her only criminal convictions, was initiated by the
	New Jersey State Police. They pulled the vehicle she was in off the highway based on an
	allegedly defective tail light. This type of police action was consistent with tactics used to harass
	Black people generally, particularly Black males; and, sometimes provoke incidents particularly
	against members of Black militant organizations during that period. The loss of life on both sides
	ensuing from that stop was clearly regrettable; and, we do not intend to retry here her
	controversial trial and conviction before an all white jury. We know that there were serious
	questions of fairness sufficient to draw international attention and for Ms. Shakur to be granted
	political asylum in Cuba nearly 35 years ago, although Cuba has returned some others wanted by
	U.S authorities.
We believe putting Ms. Shakur’s name on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorist List,” and
	increasing the $1 million bounty to a total of $2 million, 40 years after the fact, only makes sense
	in light of recent press reports regarding your administration’s consideration to take Cuba off the
	U.S. list of nations that allegedly sponsor terrorism – a designation which is so unfounded that it
	has become an embarrassment to our country. Opponents of steps towards normalization with
	Cuba have seized on this aged and disputed case in what we view as a transparent attempt to
	recast this history into today’s fears, using Assata Shakur as a pawn in their political
	maneuvering.
	
	The FBI’s participation in this political maneuvering by joining with New Jersey to offer a $2
	million bounty is a dangerous act, encouraging someone to try to kidnap her, breaking Cuban
	law as well as being a violation of International Law. Should the offer be taken seriously by
	someone, the foreseeable result would be bloodshed, if not also a major international incident.
	The FBI’s stated rationale for these actions is also regrettable and dangerous because it equates
	radical beliefs favoring fundamental social and economic change, with “terrorism.” These serve
	to intimidate and chill others who dare to speak out against United States’ domestic and
	international policies. In this regard, these actions directly undermine the protections given all
	citizens under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

	Finally, this decision continues to racialize the United States criminal punishment system, a
	system that since the enslavement of African peoples has targeted Africans and African
	Americans for harsher punishments than those given particularly to similarly situated whites.
	The accusation of terrorism has fallen prey to this continuing travesty of making the color of
	“crime,” now the color of “terrorism,” black. One needs only recall the early reports of who was
	suspected of the Boston Marathon bombing to support this conclusion: the first reports were of a
	darker-skinned male, possibly African American. This message scrolled continuously on CNN
	for a number of hours and then “African American male” was deleted, leaving darker skinned
	male. But the alleged perpetrators were far from “darker skinned.”

	In conclusion, we ask that you stand behind the statements made by Attorney General Holder
	when he became the Attorney General in 2009 in addressing assistant United States attorneys
	and make these statements applicable to the FBI: “Your job is in every case, every decision you
	make, to do the right thing. Anybody who asks you to do something other than that is to be
	ignored.” The FBI’s recent actions are far from the “right thing” for this country and we urge
	you to reverse them.

	Please reply to:
	Law Office of Arthur Heitzer
	633 W. Wisconsin Ave., Suite 1410
	Milwaukee, WI 53203 USA
	414-273-1040, ex. 12; fax 414-273-4859

	Sincerely,
Rabab Abdulhadi
	Vanessa Agard-Fones
	Adjoa A. Aiyetoro
	Cathy Albisa
	Abdul Alkalimat
	Adisa A. Alkebulan
	Bettina Aptheker
	Iván Arenas
	Anjali Arondekar
	Sara Atlas
	William Ayers
	Paola Bacchetta
	Ajamu Baraka
	Fr. Luis Barrios
	Ellen Barry
	Susannah Bartlow
	Crista Bell
	Alisa Bierria
	Martha Biondi
	Carl Bloice
	Lisa Brock
	Prudence Brown
	Margaret Burnham
	Lucy Burns
	Judith Butler
	Linda Carty
	Monica J. Casper
	Frank Chapman
	Piya Chatterjee
	Patricia A. Clark
	Cathy J. Cohen
	Marjorie Cohn
	Brittney C. Cooper
	Dara Cooper
	Gary L. Cozette
	Kimberlé Crenshaw
	Lisa Crooms-Robinson
	Otis Cunningham
	Rev. Dan Dale
	Angela Y. Davis
	Nicole Melanie Davis
	Michael Dawson
	Gina Dent
	Cindy Domingo
	Barbara Engel
	Evalyn Tennant
	Mireille Fanon-Mendes
	Kenyon Farrow
	Roderick Ferguson
	Bill Fletcher
	Rhone Fraser
	H. Bruce Franklin
	Jane Franklin
	Regina Freer
	Rosa Linda Fregoso
	David Gespass
	Angela Gilliam
	Stephanie Gilmore
	Pat Gleason
	Danny Glover
	Van Gosse
	Jaime Grant
	Herman Gray
	Kia Green
	Farah Griffin
	Alexis Pauline Gumbs
	Beverly Guy-Sheftall
	Jeff Haas
	Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler
	Sarah Haley
	Rev. Dr. Lora. F. Hargrove
	Cheryl Harris
	Mark Harrison
	Arthur Heitzer
	Linda J. Holmes
	Cheri Honkala
	Byron Hurt
	Rev. Dr. Nozomi Ikuta
	Nicole Nicolette Ivy
	Lynnette A. Jackson
	Ricardo Jimenez
	Joseph F. Jordan
	Adam Juranishi
	Robin D. G. Kelley
	Alice Kim
	Saul Landau
	Rev. Phil Lawson
	Lisa Yun Lee
	Heidi R. Lewis
	R. L’Heureux Lewis-
	McCoy
	Tamura A Lomax
	Ana Lopez
	José E. López
	Toussaint Losier
	Wahneema Lubiano
	Saba Mahmood
	Graciano Matos, Sr
	Tracye A. Matthews
	Erica Meiners
	Jodi Melamed
	Bernadine Mellis
	William Minter
	Roberta Meet
	Chandra Mohanty
	Alejandro Luis Molina
	S. Mandisa Moore
	Michelle Morales
	Premilla Nadasen
	Mark Anthony Neal
	Alondra Nelson
	Prexy Nesbitt
	Bruce D. Nestor
	Camille Odeh
	Cheryl Johnson-Odim
	Cara Page
	Iris Dawn Parker
	Tianna S. Paschel
	MaryLouise Patterson
	Charles Payne
	Ted Pearson
	Imani Perry
	Rev. Chris Pierson
	Erin Polley
	Gordon Quinn
	Ahmad Rahman
	Carlos Ivan Ramos
	Inez Ramos
	Barbara Ransby
	Raka Ray
	Shana L. Redmond
	Ronald Reosti
	Beth E. Richie
	Omar Ricks
	Lynn Roberts
	Jamala Roders
	Michael Rodriguez
	Charo Mina Rojas
	Jada Russell
	Luis Sanabria
	Melissa Santana
	Ora Schub
	Raquelle Seda
	Azadeh N. Shahshahani
	Aishah Shahidah Simmons
	Gwendolyn Zoharah
	Simmons
	Montague Simmons
	Che Rhymefest Smith
	Michael Steven Smith
	Karen Sotiropoulos
	Robyn C. Spencer
	Pamela Sporn
	Jill Stein
	Neferti Tadiar
	Heather Laine Talley
	Salamishah Tillet
	Leti Volpp
	Alice Walker
	Dan S. Wang
	Eligan G. Ward
	Sali Vickie Casanova-
	Willis
	Standish Willis
	Dr. Jeremiah Wright
	Charles Wynder, Jr.
	Rebecca Zorach
	Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
	International Association of Democratic Lawyers
	National Boricua Human Rights Network
	National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL)
	National Lawyers Guild

	cc: Mr. Eric H. Holder

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