[sixties-l] Wilkerson of Angola 3 Released

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 15:26:29 EST

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    March 1, 2001
    Workers World


    By Greg Butterfield

    After 29 years in solitary confinement, one of the Angola 3
    political prisoners is free.

    Fifty-eight-year-old Robert King Wilkerson walked out of
    Louisiana's Angola State Penitentiary on Feb. 8. He was
    welcomed with cheers and hugs from supporters and family

    Wilkerson pledged to dedicate his life to winning freedom
    for his Angola 3 brothers, Albert Woodfox and Herman
    Wallace. All three are African Americans.

    "I may be free of Angola," he said, "but Angola will never
    be free of me."

    In 1971 Woodfox and Wallace founded a prison chapter of the
    Black Panther Party. They were determined to build an
    organized resistance to brutal conditions and racism in the
    prison. Wilkerson joined their effort the next year.

    The Angola Panthers campaigned for better working
    conditions, solidarity between Black and white prisoners,
    and an end to the sexual degradation of prisoners encouraged
    by prison officials.

    Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Black freedom fighter on Pennsylvania's
    death row, gave a chilling description of the prison's

    "If ever there was any question of the slave parentage of
    the American prison system, one glance at the massive
    penitentiary known as Angola in steamy Louisiana removes all
    doubt," he wrote.

    "Once a group of slave plantations, it earned its name from
    the southwest African kingdom which was colonized by the
    Portuguese in the 1600s.

    "It was from this region of Africa that a majority of Black
    slaves were taken in chains to people Louisiana's rice
    plantations," Abu-Jamal explained, "and it is here, Angola,
    where the state concentrated its penitentiary and its
    attempt to stifle righteous Black resistance to racist

    The resistance of the Black Panthers was more than Angola's
    modern-day overseers could take. In 1972 Woodfox and Wallace
    were convicted of murdering a prison guard. In 1973
    Wilkerson was convicted of killing a fellow prisoner--even
    though another prisoner confessed and was also convicted.

    All three political activists were put in solitary
    confinement. Through the decades they have always maintained
    their innocence.


    Last year the state's case against Wilkerson collapsed. The
    two prisoners who testified against him retracted their
    testimony and said prison officials had coerced them.

    In December the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a
    ruling that seemed likely to overturn Wilkerson's

    In what Angola 3 supporters are calling a face-saving
    measure, state prosecutors then offered Wilkerson a plea
    bargain. He accepted and was released six hours later.

    Abu-Jamal has called the Angola Panthers "political
    prisoners of the highest caliber who deserve your support."
    In the wake of Wilkerson's release, Angola 3 supporters are
    calling for a stepped-up campaign to free Woodfox and

    Two important lawsuits are pending in their cases.

    The first is an appeal by Wallace, filed in Louisiana state
    courts last September. The appeal presents evidence to show
    how the state suppressed proof of his innocence and how
    witnesses were bribed and coerced by prison officials.

    The other, a civil-rights lawsuit filed by the American
    Civil Liberties Union, charges that the Angola 3's longtime
    solitary confinement is a violation of the constitutional
    protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

    For more information, readers can call the National
    Coalition to Free the Angola 3 at (510) 655-8770 or visit
    the Website www.prisonactivist.org/angola.

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