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.
My heart is at ease after hearing that Sundiata Acoli is free. I was privileged to correspond with Sundiata for several years. In our letters I found him to be caring, kind, innovative and “deeply” family oriented. His concern for his daughter Sunni and his grandson and the joy he espoused over seeing them in visits was all encompassing. His love of Black people and the heartfelt display out of our difficult trials and tribulation living under the “absolute” shadow of death ring true for his genuine concern and apathy for our race which led him to “sacrifice” his very life in “the cause for justice” putting him the events on the NJ Garden State Parkway and the “unfortunate events”. Which led to an incarnation that took him away from his family spiraling into a cage for 49 years. I am happy I got to know him through our letters those years between 2003 and 2010 and sharing my life on paper with him and being an instrument for him to reach out to and sending “life resources” to assist him in those necessary things “ability to send letters” “purchase items from the prison commissary” vital to some small comforts. Free at last. Thank God Sundiata is free at last.
New author of Ruffled Feathers African America Poetry and Prose writing under “pen” name Clara Lee
Is this the same as the January 6th stunt that Trump pulled at the Capital? He didn’t pull the trigger, but officers were killed. Why is he still walking around free. Is there someone capable of doing their job and actually arrest this idiot, who is a total embarrassment to this country?
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