Saturday, July 14, 2007

Civil Liberties and the 1981 Brink's Case: A 1991 `Downtown' Inquiry--Part 6

Within the African-American community, the post-Brink’s robbery/expropriation violation of civil liberties was more intense than it was in white radical political circles, according to Eve Rosahn, a 1990s anti-imperialist activist who had also previously participated in the 1968 Columbia University Student Revolt.

“The BAAANA [Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America] clinic was pretty well-crippled by the police and F.B.I. A tremendous amount of force and violence was used by the State which produced a crippling effect, by example. Mtayari Sundiata was killed. Sekou Odinga was beaten and tortured. In March, 1982, the F.B.I. raided a farmhouse in Mississippi and arrested two women and twelve children in a tremendous military raid,” Rosahn recalled. “This level of force probably had a greater effect than anything else in pressuring people not to ever speak in support of armed revolutionaries.”

The BAAANA clinic in Manhattan was crippled by the police and F.B.I., according to Rosahn, because “the clinic, in addition to being an acupuncture clinic, was also a center of revolutionary Black nationalist education,” which also “exposed the collusion of both police and the U.S. government in aggravating the entrance of drugs in the Black community.”

“The institute was visible in support of the B.L.A. and the Brink’s defendants. And the government had had a 10-year campaign to close down the clinic. Since the government was attempting to isolate the Brink’s Case defendants, any public or political support needed to be quashed. BAAANA could have been used to build political support,” noted Rosahn. For this reason, according to Rosahn, the government labeled BAAANA a “terrorist” and “criminal” enterprise, as a pretext for finally succeeding in closing it down after the Oct. 20th events.

Rosahn’s own civil liberties were personally affected by the Brink’s Case. She was falsely identified as being involved in the Brink’s robbery because “the government didn’t do the investigative work” that would have readily indicated that she was not involved, and the government “only took the time necessary to go through a process of incorrect identification,” before falsely arresting her.

A week after the Oct. 20, 1981 events, Rosahn was arrested and held for a week on criminal charges. Then, after the criminal charges were dropped, she was incarcerated for civil contempt for refusing to collaborate with a grand jury investigation, released on bail on Dec. 31, 1981, and then re-imprisoned for 15 months because of her refusal to cooperate with the Grand Jury investigation.

Recalling how she felt when she was erroneously arrested on Oct. 27, 1981 for being involved in the Brink’s robbery, Rosahn told Downtown in 1991:

“I think, in part, it was frightening—since I had just been a public political activist—to suddenly see 12 F.B.I. agents with guns come to arrest me in a friend’s apartment. They picked the lock, opened the door, and took me up to the F.B.I. office. At no point did they read me my rights. Then they swept me up to Rockland County Jail. I knew people had been seriously beaten there and I went fully expecting to get beaten, myself.”

In the car on the way up to Rockland County Jail from Manhattan, the F.B.I. agents attempted to get Rosahn to talk with them, although she was not allowed to speak with a lawyer until a day after she had been placed in Rockland County Jail. In Rockland County Jail, she was held in segregation, after being arraigned in the same kind of armed camp atmosphere that surrounded the arraignment of the people arrested on Oct. 20, 1981. When the criminal charges against her were dropped on Nov. 3, 1981, Roshan was moved back to Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center [MCC] prison and held for non-collaboration with the Grand Jury.
(end of part 6)

Next: Civil Liberties and the 1981 Brink’s Case: A 1991 Downtown Inquiry—Part 7