In 1973, Shakur was arrested during a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. A shootout left Assata injured with multiple wounds, the driver, Zayd Shakur, dead, and a state trooper dead. In 1977, after numerous trials, she was convicted of first degree murder of the officer. And in 1979, Shakur escaped and fled to Cuba, where Fidel Castro granted her asylum.
“Assata was falsely charged on numerous occasions in the United States during the early 1970s and vilified by the media,” said scholar and activist Angela Davis in a recent commentary in The Guardian. Davis added Shakur “was charged with armed robbery, bank robbery, kidnap, murder, and attempted murder of a policeman. Although she faced 10 separate legal proceedings, and had already been pronounced guilty by the media, all except one of these trials – the case resulting from her capture – concluded in acquittal, hung jury, or dismissal.”
“Under highly questionable circumstances, she was finally convicted of being an accomplice to the murder of a New Jersey state trooper,” she added.
According to the National Lawyers Guild, who represented Shakur in her final trial, the proceedings were plagued with constitutional violations, including an all-white jury of 15 people, including five jurors who had personal connections to state troopers. A state Assemblyman spoke to jurors while they were sequestered, urging them to convict.
“The judge cut funding for additional expert defense testimony after medical testimony demonstrated that Ms. Shakur—who had no gunpowder residues on her fingers, and whose fingerprints were not found on any weapon at the crime scene—was shot with her hands up and suffered injury to a critical nerve in her right arm, making it anatomically impossible for her to fire a weapon,” the Guild said in a statement.
Moreover, evidence proved Shakur was targeted and framed by the covert and illegal FBI COINTELPRO program. The baby of J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO was designed to monitor, infiltrate and destroy social justice movements seen as a threat to national security, including civil rights and antiwar groups, the Black Power movement and the Young Lords. Some of the stated goals of the program in an FBI memo were to “prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups,” to “Prevent the RISE OF A ‘MESSIAH’ who could unify…the militant black nationalist movement,” to “Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining RESPECTABILITY, by discrediting them to…both the responsible community and to liberals who have vestiges of sympathy…,” and to “prevent the long-range GROWTH of militant black organizations, especially among youth.”
As a result, black leadership was decimated, either assassinated—as in the case of Dr. King, Malcolm X and Fred Hampton—or thrown in prison with the key thrown away. Assata Shakur, who fled to Cuba, was the last woman standing, so to speak. And apparently that is embarrassing to someone in the FBI, so they want to make an example of her as a so-called “domestic terrorist.” That is why last year, 40 years after the shooting, the FBI made the politically-motivated move of placing Shakur on their Ten Most Wanted Terrorists list, making her the first woman and second U.S. citizen on that list. If you listen to the FBI, you’d think the ten most dangerous people on Earth are essentially nine Al Qaeda operatives and—Assata Shakur.
...as the U.S. removes Cuba from the terrorist list, it needs to remove Shakur from the list as well.