Blog #14: The Handshake

On June 27, 2012, the Queen of England shook hands with the former Commander of the Irish Republican Army, Martin McGuinness. Martin McGuinness was alleged to have been in command of the IRA when an IRA unit killed Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, Earl Mountbatten. The armed struggle of the IRA against British colonial rule in Northern Ireland left many Irish revolutionaries dead, imprisoned and exiled, not to disregard the many British soldiers and loyalists who were killed during “The Troubles.”

Watching the historic handshake between Queen Elizabeth and Martin McGuinness, I began to reflect on the revolutionary movements in this country in the late Sixties and early Seventies. It brought to mind the advent of the FBI’s 1967 implementation of its Counter Intelligence Program that declared war on the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army and various other revolutionary groups. The FBI’s COINTELPRO actions resulted in over 40 deaths of BPP/BLA members, such as Bunchy Carter in Los Angeles, Lil Bobby Hutton in Berkeley, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago, Frank Fields in Florida and Twyman Meyers in N.Y.C.; the exiling of revolutionaries like Assata Shakur, Nehanda Abibun, the late Donald Cox to name a few, and the imprisonment of hundreds.

I thought about how the Senate Church Committee in 1975 conducted Senate hearings on the FBI COINTELPRO actions and concluded the FBI’s actions were unconstitutional. However, the Senate Church Committee failed to create remedies for those who were victims of the unconstitutional FBI COINTELPRO actions. So, 30 to 40 years later we still have COINTELPRO victims in exile, and at minimum, 100 political prisoners languishing in prisons across the country.

I remembered in 1978, the Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, made the political blunder of telling the truth on a mission in Paris, answering a question asked by a journalist that perhaps the United States had thousands of political prisoners. Because of his truthfulness, then President Jimmy Carter had Andrew Young resign his U.N. post.

The historic handshake in Belfast made me reflect on the historic handshake between Nelson Mandela and W.P. Botha leading to Mandela’s presidency after 27 years of imprisonment. Such historic events in South Africa gave way for Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu to conduct the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a process to heal the country’s turmoil.

Yet, here, despite acknowledging the FBI COINTELPRO actions were unconstitutional, 100 victims of COINTELPRO languish in prisons 30 to 40 years later. Dr. Mutulu Shakur, stepfather of the late Tupac Shakur, has been calling and petitioning for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission here in the U.S., as he and other political prisoners languish in prison.

Our struggle during the same period as the IRA struggles in Ireland and the ANC struggles in apartheid South Africa, has not been similarly acknowledged, as the U.S. continues to deny the existence of political prisoners.

Therefore, no one here is prepared to shake hands and grant amnesty, releasing our imprisoned COINTELPRO victims. To learn more about U.S. political prisoners, visit

Jalil Muntaqim, Attica, NY, July 2012