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Feds' Bogus Threat of Terrorism to Hunt Down Black Liberation Activist

Labeling Assata Shakur a terrorist is the latest attempt by the government to rewrite the history of radical activists.

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This logic effectively covers up the existence of COINTELPRO and denies the murders, surveillance and false convictions of an entire generation of political dissidents. Many of those who experienced the might of this repression firsthand and could attest to it are now dead, and others, like Sundiata Acoli, are still in prison. Assata is the loose end the state desperately needs to tie up. Her existence and freedom link the FBI’s troubling past to its suspicious, opaque present. “Labeling Assata a terrorist and putting a bounty on her head,” says NLG executive director Heidi Bogoshian, “is a clear attempt by U.S. authorities to hide this chapter in history.”

Even worse, by further criminalizing Assata Shakur, the Justice Department under Obama is lifting up those older chapters of struggle and condemning them in the fearful language of the present, equating radicalism and militancy with terrorism. This campaign of slippery diction has condemned numerous environmental and political activists to lengthy prison terms under new state and federal anti-terrorism laws, and it is the preferred terminology used to entrap and indict Muslims at home and abroad.

Are we to look back at militant and radical labor struggles that gave us the eight-hour work day and call this the work of terrorists? Undoubtedly, this is the road we are going down.

Timing is Everything

“I believe that we have to look at this in the context of what has just happened in Boston,” Lennox Hinds told Amy Goodman. “I think that with the massacre that occurred there, the FBI and the state police are attempting to inflame the public opinion to characterize [Shakur] as a terrorist, because the acts that she was convicted of have nothing to do with terrorism.”

Hinds may be right with his suspicion. But as Trevor Aaronson points out at Mother Jones, the situation in Boston could have been prevented if the FBI had been investigating Tamerlan Tsarnaev more closely and not spending gross amounts of money to entrap and convict innocent Muslim men like Rezwan Ferdaus, who became the FBI’s target after they stopped trailing Tsarnaev in 2011. Rather than devoting valuable resources to apprehending a revolutionary, now in the twilight of her years, the FBI ought to focus its attention and budget on preventing serious attacks that put us all at risk. If there is another attack in the near future, we will be forced to ask: could it have been prevented if the FBI was paying attention where it should have been instead of pursuing Assata Shakur?

For the Next Generation of Activists

Unfortunately, this decision by the FBI is more than a bid to rewrite history. Angela Davis told Democracy Now! that “it seems to me that this act incorporates or reflects the very logic of terrorism,” Davis says. “I can’t help but think that it’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today. Forty years ago seems like it was a long time ago. In the beginning of the 21st century, we’re still fighting around the very same issues — police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison.”

What message does this announcement send to activists who are in communities fighting police violence, stop-and-frisk, police murders like the killing of Kimani Gray in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn or the killing of Manuel Diaz in Anaheim? The persecution of any political activist impacts all political activists and creates a chilling effect.

Lennox Hinds points out that the decision to put Assata Shakur on the Most Wanted Terrorists list is irreversible, and as such, carries the weight of the US government’s support.“There is no way to appeal someone being put on the terrorist list,” he said. The only way to be taken off, according to the FBI’s website, is to be proven innocent in a court of law, or to be proven dead.

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