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Assata Shakur: Wanted Dead or Alive in New Jersey

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Mar 23, 2012 - 10:06:51 AM

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This reward poster provided by the New Jersey State Police, announces the federal reward of $1 million for the capture of Joanne Chesimard in West Trenton, N.J., May 2, 2005. Chesimard, who now calls herself Assata Shakur, was convicted of the murder of Trooper Werner Foerster but escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba under the protection of Fidel Castro’s government. Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron on Tuesday, May 24, 2005, is calling on the United States to rescind the $1 million bounty for Chesimard, describing her as an innocent victim of racial bias. Photo: AP Photo/New Jersey State Police
( - One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and so goes the story of Assata Shakur. To many around the world, Assata Shakur is a freedom fighter that escaped the chains of oppression to Cuba where she has been living in exile since 1984.

The FBI doesn’t see it that way and classified her in 2005 as a domestic terrorist and offered a $1 million reward for assistance in her capture.

New Jersey’s Attorney General Jeffery S. Chiesa announced in February with the support of New Jersey’s State Police that they want to add Ms. Shakur (born Joanne Chesimard) to the FBI’s Top Ten and the Top 25 Most Wanted Terrorists lists plus increase the reward for her capture from $1 million to $5 million.

“Adding Chesimard to your Top Ten list and the Top 25 Most Wanted Terrorists lists would very much aid local New Jersey law enforcement in their efforts to finally bring Joanne Chesimard to justice,” wrote New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez to FBI Director Robert Mueller.

“Given that law enforcement has worked collaboratively on this effort for nearly 33 years, I feel these final steps are necessary to ensure that Chesimard is captured and returned to the United States to serve her sentence.”

On March 10, in Newark, the New Black Panther Party rallied ‘In Defense of Assata.’

“We are pathetically living in an era where the U.S. government’s foreign policy is crippling the world with its doctrine of ‘Regime Change,’” explained an angry Zayid Muhammad, a longtime friend and supporter of Shakur and organizer of the rally.

“This new attack is highly provocative and is not only a renewed threat on Assata’s life, it could be a real, election year opportunistic, threat to the national sovereignty of Cuba.”

Mr. Muhammad is concerned that in an economic crisis raising the reward is provocative and might encourage people interested in the money to respond militarily against Cuba. He told The Final Call, “This is a threat to peace. People should be warned that Cuba would defend itself if attacked.”

“This is a matter of principle. She’s our sister, our freedom fighter. I’m one of her cubs. This is a propaganda campaign to further demonize her. When the devil acts up the righteous have to do what we have to.”

The year is 1973 and an incident of what would now be called “racial profiling” takes place on the New Jersey Turnpike. Ms. Shakur, actively involved in the Black Liberation Army, is traveling with Malik Zayad Shakur (no relation) and Sundiata Acoli. State troopers stop them, reportedly because of a broken headlight.

The three are made to exit the car with their hands up. All of a sudden, shots are fired.

That much everybody seems to agree on.

When all was said and done, State Trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were dead. Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were charged with the death of state trooper Foerster.

The trial found them both guilty.

“I was shot with my arms in the air. My wounds could not have happened unless my arms were in the air. The bullet went in under my arm and traveled past my clavicle. It is medically impossible for that to happen if my arms were down,” Ms. Shakur told The Final Call in a 2002 exclusive interview in Cuba.

“I was sentenced to life plus 30 years by an all-White jury. What I saw in prison was wall-to-wall Black flesh in chains. Women caged in cells. But we’re the terrorists. It just doesn’t make sense.”

She spent six and a half years in prison, two of those in solitary confinement. During that time she gave birth to her daughter Kakuya.

In 1979 during a daring escape that continues to infuriate the New Jersey State Troopers, she was freed. There was a nation-wide search for her. In 1984 she went to Cuba and was united with her daughter.

“I felt it was important for me to be there,” Gail Walker, Executive Director of Pastors for Peace that coordinates humanitarian aid to Cuba told The Final Call.

“The rhetoric and vitriol about her is still so high. It’s amazing,” she said. “Ironically someone so physically and emotionally disconnected from her family for all of these years still gets this kind of publicity.”

“For those of us who have traveled to Cuba and understand the role she’s played and Cuba’s role in social issues have to be supportive. She’s an inspiration.”

Related news:

Response To $1 Million Bounty on Assata Shakur (, 05-16-2005) One-on-One Interview with Assata Shakur (FCN, 06-11-2002)