Black Panther activist Assata Shakur was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. According to Shakur, she was pulled over by the New Jersey State Police, shot twice, and then charged with murder. She spent six and a half years in the maximum security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey under what she calls “brutal circumstances” before escaping in 1979 and moving to Cuba in 1984.
The FBI itself has admitted that COINTELPRO—a Counterintelligence Program launched in 1956 to disrupt Communist Party activity that was later expanded to include domestic groups like the Black Panther Party—was "rightfully criticized by Congress and the American people for abridging first amendment rights and for other reasons." The FBI has also admitted to enlisting the cooperation of local police departments to disrupt and "neutralize" the Black Panther Party. With micro- and macro-government vendettas against prominent black activists (which is still very much alive today), how could Shakur rely on the U.S. Department of Justice to give her a fair trial?
She writes on her website that she’s a “20th century escaped slave”:
Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government's policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it "greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.
In 2015, musician Common was pulled from a commencement speech at Kean University because of police complaints against “A Song for Assata.” Also that year, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza wrote: “When I use Assata’s powerful demand in my organizing work, I always begin by sharing where it comes from, sharing about Assata’s significance to the Black Liberation Movement, what its political purpose and message is, and why it’s important in our context." Today, there’s even a Chicago-based collective of radical Black women called Assata’s Daughters.
Earlier this year, Obama said Cuba had agreed to “help resolve the cases of several U.S. fugitives living in Cuba,” including Shakur, the Independent reported.