[sixties-l] Ruchell Cinque Magee and the August 7th Courthouse Slave Rebellion.

From: radtimes (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Aug 28 2001 - 23:11:21 EDT

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    By Kiilu Nyasha, kiilu1@mindspring.com

    "Slavery 400 years ago, slavery today, it's the same but with a new name".
    -- Ruchell Cinque Magee

    I first met Ruchell Cinque Magee in the holding cell of the Marin County
    courthouse in the Summer of 1971. I found him to be soft-spoken, warm and a
    gentleman in typically Southern tradition. We've been in correspondence
    pretty much ever since. In fact, I received a letter last week with Ru's
    suggestions on how we might save BLU Magazine.

    I had just returned to California from New Haven, Connecticut, where I had
    worked as an organizer and a member of the legal defense team of three
    Black Panthers, including Party Chairman Bobby Seale, on trial for murder
    and conspiracy. The second trial resulted in a true people's victory, May
    24, 1971. We had kept the New Haven courtroom jam-packed throughout the
    joint trial of Seale and Ericka Huggins that resulted in a hung jury. But
    the obviously racist judge had to dismiss it due to the enormous publicity
    and state expense incurred due to huge crowds and tight security.

    In my correspondence with George Jackson, author of the bestseller, Soledad
    Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, he had advised me to seek a
    press card in order to visit him at San Quentin. In so doing, I wound up
    working for The Sun Reporter, a local Black newspaper (byline Pat Gallyot),
    and covering the pretrial hearings of Angela Davis and Magee.

    Already familiar with courtroom injustice, racism and bias against Black
    defendants witnessed in two capital trials, it didn't come as a surprise
    that Ruchell was getting a raw deal in the Marin Courtroom where he was
    frequently removed for outbursts of sheer frustration.

    By 1971, Ruchell was an astute jailhouse lawyer. He was responsible for the
    release and protection of a myriad of prisoners benefiting from his
    extensive knowledge of law, which he used to prepare writs, appeals and
    lawsuits for himself and many others behind walls.

    Now Ruchell was fighting for all he was worth for the right to represent
    himself against charges of murder, conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and
    conspiracy to aid the escape of state prisoners.

    Although critically wounded on August 7, 1970, Magee was the sole survivor
    among the four brave Black men who conducted the courthouse slave
    rebellion, leaving him to be charged with everything they could throw at

    "All right gentlemen, hold it right there.we're taking over!" Armed to the
    teeth, Jonathan Jackson, 17, George's, younger brother, had raided the
    Marin Courtroom and tossed guns to prisoners William Christmas and James
    McClain, who in turn invited Ruchell to join them. Ru seized the hour
    spontaneously as they attempted to escape by taking a judge, assistant
    district attorney and three jurors as hostages in that audacious move to
    expose to the public the brutally racist prison conditions and free the
    Soledad Brothers (John Clutchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Jackson).

    McClain was on trial for assaulting a guard in the wake of Black prisoner
    Fred Billingsley's murder by prison officials in San Quentin in February,
    1970. With only four months before a parole hearing, Magee had appeared in
    the courtroom to testify for McClain.

    The four revolutionaries successfully commandeered the group to the waiting
    van and were about to pull out of the parking lot when Marin County Police
    and San Quentin guards opened fire. When the shooting stopped, Judge Harold
    Haley, Jackson, Christmas, and McClain lay dead; Magee was unconscious (See
    photo)and seriously wounded as was the prosecutor. A juror suffered a minor

    In a chain of events leading to August 7, on January 13, 1970, a month
    before the Billingsley slaughter, a tower guard at Soledad State Prison had
    shot and killed three Black captives on the yard, leaving them unattended
    to bleed to death -- Cleveland Edwards, "Sweet Jugs" Miller, and the
    venerable revolutionary leader, W. L. Nolen, all active resisters in the
    Black Liberation Movement (BLM) behind the walls. (Others included George
    Jackson, Jeffrey Gauldin (Khatari), Hugo L.A. Pinell (Yogi Bear), Steve
    Simmons (Kumasi), Howard Tole, and the late Warren Wells.).

    After the common verdict of "justifiable homicide" was returned and the
    killer guard exonerated at Soledad, another white-racist guard was beaten
    and thrown from a tier to his death. Three prisoners, Fleeta Drumgo, John
    Clutchette, and Jackson were charged with his murder precipitating the case
    of The Soledad Brothers and a campaign to free them led by college
    professor and avowed Communist, Angela Davis, and Jonathan Jackson.

    Magee had already spent at least seven years studying law and deluging the
    courts with petitions and lawsuits to contest his own illegal conviction in
    two fraudulent trials. As he put it, the judicial system "used fraud to
    hide fraud" in his second case after the first conviction was overturned on
    an appeal based on a falsified transcript. His strategy, therefore,
    centered on proving that he was a slave, denied his constitutional rights
    and held involuntarily. Therefore, he had the legal right to escape slavery
    as established in the case of the African slave, Cinque, who had escaped
    the slave ship, Armistad, and won freedom in a Connecticut trial. Thus,
    Magee had to first prove he'd been illegally and unjustly incarcerated for
    over seven years. He also wanted the case moved to the Federal Courts and
    the right to represent himself.

    Moreover, Magee wanted to conduct a trial that would bring to light the
    racist and brutal oppression of Black prisoners throughout the State. "My
    fight is to expose the entire system, judicial and prison system, a system
    of slavery.. This will cause benefit not just to myself but to all those
    who at this time are being criminally oppressed or enslaved by this

    On the other hand, Angela Davis, his co-defendant, charged with buying the
    guns used in the raid, conspiracy, etc., was innocent of any wrongdoing
    because the gun purchases were perfectly legal and she was not part of the
    original plan. Davis'lawyers wanted an expedient trial to prove her
    innocence on trumped up charges. This conflict in strategy resulted in the
    trials being separated. Davis was acquitted of all charges and released in
    June of 1972.

    Ruchell fought on alone, losing much of the support attending the Davis
    trial. After dismissing five attorneys and five judges, he won the right to
    defend himself. The murder charges had been dropped, and Magee faced two
    kidnap charges. He was ultimately convicted of PC 207, simple kidnap, but
    the more serious charge of PC 209, kidnap for purposes of extortion,
    resulted in a disputed verdict. According to one of the juror's sworn
    affidavit, the jury voted for acquittal on the PC 209 and Magee continues
    to this day to challenge the denial and cover-up of that acquittal.

    In any case, Ruchell is currently on the mainline of Corcoran State Prison
    doing his 39th year locked up in California gulags - many of those years
    spent in solitary confinement under tortuous conditions. Nearly 40 years!
    In spite of having committed no physical assaults or murders. Is that not

    If you would like to contact Ruchell, please write to him at the following
    address: A92051, 3A 02 204, P.O. Box 3461, Corcoran, Ca. 93272
    The article above was written for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. You
    can access the Bay View at http://www.sfbayview.com. But there's a photo
    spread that might only be available in the newspaper itself. Feel free to
    distribute widely in keeping with "Each one teach one."

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