Advocates Rally on Political Prisoner's Birthday

Advocates Rally on Political Prisoner's Birthday

 Baltimore native, Thurgood Marshall, argued more cases before the US Supreme Court than any other attorney in American history. His cases included, the 1954 landmark trial: Brown v Board of Education. Thirteen years later, he ascended to position of Associate Justice to the highest court in the land.
His statue is positioned at the intersection of Pratt and Sharp streets, behind the Garmatz Federal Courthouse Building. On Saturday, April 23rd, 2011, it served as a rally’s backdrop, for ex-Black Panther Party Baltimore Chapter Member, and political prisoner, Marshall Eddie Conway.

Story By: Ron Kipling Williams

Audio History By: Corey Reidy

On Conway’s 65th birthday, advocates rallied for him in solidarity. He has been incarcerated for over 40 years. Allegedly, he’s imprisoned for: on April 23rd, 1970, killing Baltimore Police Officer, Donald Sager; and for the attempted murders of: Officers Stanley Sierakowski and Roger Nolan.

“We’re putting the issue back out into the media, that we need to get Eddie either pardoned or paroled,” said the rally’s organizer, former Baltimore Chapter NAACP President and current Baltimore Chapter National Action Network President, Marvin ‘Doc’ Cheatham.

The Rally:

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Two years ago, Cheatham introduced a resolution, in support of Conway’s pardon or parole, to the National NAACP Convention in New York, which was subsequently passed.
 “The Baltimore Branch of the NAACP stands tall with all organizations that are fighting for this cause,” said current president, Tessa Hill-Aston.

At the behest of organizations, such as: the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), All People’s Congress, youth-led Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, the Baltimore Black Think Tank, and the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition – all of whom were present at the rally – certain elected officials have been pushing for the review of Conway’s case to have him either pardoned or paroled.
Ten years ago, the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking for then Maryland Governor, Paris Glendenning, to pardon Conway. The governor refused. That same year Maryland State Delegate, Clarence ‘Tiger’ Davis, pushed his colleagues for a similar measure.
Advocates have been pushing for Governor Martin O’Malley to review Conway’s case. According to Cheatham, O’Malley has not reviewed any pardon and parole requests, since he took office in 2006.

"It is just an outrage that this man has spent his entire life in prison, for a murder he did not commit - an all too familiar tale, with our alleged criminal justice system,” said Maria Allwine, member of the SCLC Baltimore Chapter, Pledge of Resistance, and the Maryland Green Party.

During the rally, the names of political prisoners: Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and the Cuban Five (Gerardo Hernández, René GonzálezAntonio GuerreroRamon Labañino, Fernando González) were also raised.
“We say,  ‘Free all political prisoners!’ ,” said Sharon Black of All People’s Congress.

The Black Panther Party was one of several organizations targeted by the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). coordinated by director: J. Edgar Hoover, during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

As a result, many were accused of criminal activity and incarcerated.  A number of Black Panther Party members were either murdered or forced into exile.
“Dissent is not valued in this country,” said Allwine. “It is routinely squashed. People are put in jail for doing it. I can list so many activists who have gone to jail simply for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Allwine has personally been involved in three groups that were spied upon by the Maryland State Police. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) uncovered the state law enforcement agencies’ actions in 2008.
“For someone like Eddie Conway, who has been sacrificed on the altar of criminal injustice, I have to be here today just to raise my voice for him,” Allwine said.
Recently, Conway advocates have reached out to Maryland Black Caucus chair: Catherine Pugh, Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulsi, and US Attorney General Eric Holder, to review Conway’s case.
“Everybody goes to jail, or nobody goes to jail,” said Baltimore Times columnist Gregory Kane, who charged that the FBI’s tactics to eliminate organizations, like The Black Panther Party, were illegal and should have been punishable by law.

The veteran journalist used examples to illustrate federal law enforcement’s culpability, like: the murder of Black Panther Party Illinois Chapter Deputy Chairman, Fred Hampton, Sr.  - and the false conviction of Black Panther Party Leader, Geronimo Pratt, who served 27 years in prison.
A federal judge approved a civil settlement of $4.5 million for Pratt after his conviction was vacated in 1997.
“Governor O’Malley’s got to do one of three things,” Kane said. “He’s got to either parole Eddie Conway, pardon Eddie Conway, or if he leaves Eddie Conway in jail, he’s got to stand-up in front of the people of Maryland and say, 'Eddie is in jail for political reasons only and nothing else,'.”
Currently, Conway is being held at Jessup Correctional Institute, in Anne Arundel County. On April 4, 2011 – the anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  – Conway released his autobiography, Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther.

“We are not going to stop fighting,” said Cortly CD Witherspoon, president of the SCLC Baltimore Chapter. “We’re going to continue to hold up the blood-stained banner, even if it’s unpopular. Even if our opinions are different from the mainstream and from the status quo, we will not stop fighting - because we know the position that we have is right.”

 

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Next action item to stand in solidarity with Eddie Conway and his struggle:

Tomorrow, Friday, April 29th, 2011 -- 7pm

The 2640 Space - 2640 St. Paul Street

 for

The Baltimore release party of Eddie Conway's autobiography, Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther! Featuring readings from the book by Bashi Rose and WombWorks Productions, a talk by Pam Africa on the Mumia Abu-Jamal case, and a performance by the incomparable Lafayette Gilchrist! Catering will be provided by Neutral Grounds.

$5-10 sliding scale donation requested. 

This event will be in the Sunday Room- please enter at the 27th Street door!

 

At the rally, John Duda, from Red Emma's, spoke about the importance of this book.

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