Sunday, July 15, 2007

Civil Liberties and the 1981 Brink's Case: A 1991 `Downtown' Inquiry--Part 7

Downtown asked Attorney Tipograph in 1991 why she thought legal establishment groups like the American Bar Association or the ACLU didn’t act to protect the civil liberties of the Brink’s Case defendants.

“It was a very hot case. The case was so controversial that you were painted by the broad stroke if you became involved. So people incorrectly avoided getting involved and refused to discuss the civil liberties question in a rational way,” said Tipograph. As a result of her own involvement as an attorney in the Brink’s case and the unfavorable way the Establishment media tried to portray her, Tipograph received a number of personal death threats, herself.

Downtown also asked the now-deceased Kunstler in 1991 why legal establishment groups didn’t step in to prevent the civil liberties violations?

“They couldn’t do anything because the courts are the enemy of the people. It’s not just in Bull Connor’s area now. It’s nationwide. They sanction civil liberties violations like anonymous juries and they influence the press,” Kunstler replied.

Although Gilbert has been treated as a common criminal by New York State since his arrest on Oct. 20, 1981, he thinks that people who regard the Brink’s Case defendants as criminals have “a ridiculous position that goes and flies in the face of all the facts of the history of the people and what the group was about. And it’s because certain people don’t want to admit that armed struggle can be part of political struggle, an important form of political struggle.

“We all had long, long Movement histories and no criminal histories…I went on my first Civil Rights picket line in 1960 when I was about 15 years old. I was involved in the Civil Rights and anti-war movement, in SDS, Weather Underground, for years and years. I’ve never been charged with so much as shoplifting a candy bar for personal use or criminal purposes or involved in drugs or anything like that…

“People tend to forget that there was a campaign of annihilation against the Black Liberation Movement in this country, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where literally scores of Panthers and other militant Black activists were assassinated and many more were put in jail and many mass organizations were destroyed. It was only in response to that type of attack that people felt that they had to develop an ability—that the Movement as a whole to survive, to develop, had to have an ability—to have clandestine and even military forms of struggle. Any serious revolutionary movement in the world in history has developed that.”

Gilbert, Clark and the deceased Kuwasi Balagoon received sentences of 75 years-to-life in September 1983. According to Gilbert, there were two reasons for the severity of his sentence:

“One is that it was police who were killed. To the System that’s the most heinous crime. People who would rape children or kill little babies or something would get out a lot sooner than people who fire back at police. So, really, even in nonpolitical cases—to be honest—they give `the max’ when it’s police who are killed. And then, in addition to that, in all political cases of revolutionaries against the System they’ve given out extraordinarily high sentences. When you look at other cases, political people—by which I mean people who fight against oppression, who fight against racism, who fight against U.S. intervention in Third World countries—they’ll get, like Linda Evans [who was finally released in early 2001], 35, 40 years for one count of possession of a gun. Whereas other people in the same jurisdiction, like the Ku Klux Klan who got busted with a boatload of guns, got out in three to ten years. So there’s a tremendously disproportionate sentencing for people who are revolutionaries.”

Gilbert is currently serving his sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. Clark is currently serving her sentence in Bedford Hills State Prison in New York. Unlike Clark and Gilbert, Boudin chose to conduct a legal defense before finally copping a plea in 1984 in exchange for a lesser sentence of 20 years-to-life [and she was finally released on parole in 2003]. Despite becoming an informant, Brown was still sentenced for his part in the Oct. 20th events, but Gilbert doesn’t know where Brown is today [in 1991] because Brown is in protective custody.
(end of part 7)

Next: Civil Liberties and the 1981 Brink’s Case: A 1991 Downtown Inquiry—Part 8