SUNDIATA ACOLI Credit: Bring Sundiata Home Alliance photo

On Wednesday, May 25, Black Panther activist, Sundiata Acoli (slave name Edward Clarke Squire) was released from South Woods State Prison in Cumberland County, N.J. after being incarcerated for nearly half a century for the 1973 murder of a N.J. State Trooper. Two weeks earlier, in a 3-2 verdict, a N.J. Supreme Court determined “there was no substantial evidence” to keep him imprisoned any longer and overturned an Appellate Division ruling from 2019 which previously prevented his release.

“Sundiata Acoli walked out of prison into the arms of his family and loved ones,” read a statement from the Bring Sundiata Acoli Home Alliance, who also said he’s not granting any media requests.

“As you can imagine, after 49 years, Mr. Acoli is finally able to spend time with his family and we want to make sure we respect these precious moments.”

Despite opposition by N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy and various law enforcement agencies, as well as having consistently been denied parole eight times since becoming eligible for it in 1993, the courts finally determined that the 85-year-old former Black Liberation Amy activist was no longer a threat to the general public. His health has been deteriorating in recent years, and he also battled COVID-19.

Although convicted for a state crime, he served much time in federal facilities. Reportedly, he was received by several friends and relatives, and is staying with his daughter at a New Jersey residence.

“He is beginning the process of becoming his own man,” his attorney, Bruce Afran explained.

Just prior to 1 a.m. on May 2, 1973, Black Liberation Army comrades Acoli, Assata Shakur (S/N Joanne Chessimard) and Zayd Shakur (S/N James Costan) were pulled over by State Trooper James Harper, for an alleged broken taillight, near the New Brunswick exit while driving on the N.J. Turnpike. When backup trooper, Werner Foerster, arrived minutes later, a shootout ensued resulting in the deaths of Zayd and Foerster, and serious wounding of Acoli and Assata. They were convicted for the trooper’s murder in 1974 and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

“However despised Acoli may be in the eyes of many because of the notoriety of his crime, he too is entitled to the protection of the law, and to the fair and impartial administration of justice,” noted Justice Barry Albin. He added that Acoli acquired a formal education, as well as vocational skills, and has remained infraction-free for two decades, plus, “has renounced violence as an acceptable way to achieve social change.”

Assata was liberated from New Jersey’s Clinton Correctional Facility for Women, on Nov. 2, 1979, by fellow BLA comrades, and has resided in Cuba for several decades in political exile.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.