"There's a ruling class and there's the rest of us..."
1989 Sedition* Trial, Springfield Massachusetts
United States of America vs. Raymond Luc Levasseur, Thomas Manning,
Carol Soucier-Manning, Patricia Gros, Richard Williams, Jaan Laaman,
Barbara Curzi, Kazi Tour.
18 U.S.C. 1962 (d) Racketeering Conspiracy (RICO)
18 U.S.C. 1962 (c) - Participation in a Racketeering Enterprise (RICO)
18 U.S.C. Seditious Conspiracy
18 U.S.C. / 2384
The indictment states: "From in or about 1974 to the date of this indictment [May 1986], at various locations in the District of Massachusetts and elsewhere, the defendants did knowingly, willfully and unlawfully conspire, combine and agree with each other and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury to overthrow, put down and destroy by force the government of the United States, and to oppose by force the authority thereof, and by force to prevent, hinder and delay the execution of the laws of the United States."
MY FIRST OVERT ACT in these conspiracies the government says I'm part of, was being born into a particular class of exploited workers. What I refer to as the laboring class. I can trace my anger back that far. Back to the insufficient wages and working conditions, which I experienced.
THE PROSECUTOR WAS just talking about "Autobiography For My Daughter" which I wrote in 1976. I encourage you to read it in its entirety. I didn't write it for the FBI who seized it. I didn't write it to be used in evidence at trial 14 years later. I wrote it for my daughter.
WHAT'S IN "Autobiography For My Daughter" is what was in my mind and it's all of me. Some of it isn't very pretty, but my life hasn't always been very pretty.
THAT AUTOBIOGRAPHY and other writings such as "Seize The Time", writings about Attica [prison uprising and massacre, September 9-13, 1971], writings to Patricia, are the writings of a worker. They are the writings of a revolutionary.
THEY ARE NOT THE WRITINGS OF A RACKETEER.
THE GOVERNMENT ALLEGES this conspiracy begins sometime in 1974. I don't know when in 1974 because they never made that clear. Maybe it was whenI brought a gun into the Red Star North bookstore [radical bookstore, Portland Maine] and showed people how to use it. When a cop tries to kill you, you should defend yourself.
I SAY THIS CONSPIRACY goes back much farther then that.
BY WAY OF ILLUSTRATION let me say this. There was a time when I was in a prison cell in the Tennessee State penitentiary. I was feeling isolated and God awful lonely. It was like bearing a continuous pain. If you read my writings you'll see that.
IN THAT PRISON cell I met two men. Their names are Sacco and Vanzetti. They were Italian immigrants to the United States. They were working men and they were radicals. They were executed in Massachusetts in 1927 in the wake if a "red scare" in which "foreigners" and those in radical political organizations were persecuted. I met them in the pages of a book on the labor movement.
I WOULD LIKE TO READ to you a brief excerpt of something I read in that cell back in 1970. This is from an item in evidence. It's called, "The Story of George Jackson". If you look here you will see a picture of Sacco and Vanzetti. These are the words I read back then - "The last speech to court by Bartolomeo Vanzetti."
"If it had not been for these things I might have live out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have die, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man's understanding of man as now we do by accident. Our words, our lives our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler - all! That last moment belongs to us - that agony is our triumph."
WHEN I FIRST READ THIS, "the lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler", I started to think, I'm part of this laboring class too. I worked in the mill making shoe heels. I had worked as a farm worker. I had worked on the fish pier. Then I thought, this is part of my history. This is the real conspiracy. The real history of our people. And the isolation and the loneliness eased up a bit.
"THE STORY OF GEORGE JACKSON" [comrade, revolutionary, Black Panther-killed in prison August 21, 1971] is a children's' book. I made it for my kids. It was seized by the FBI. It's part of the material they use to bring prosecution for seditious conspiracy and racketeering. I wrote it. If you want to look inside the mind of who the government says is a racketeer, you should look at all this material.
LIKE HERE, a picture of 13-year-old Hecter Pieterson who was the first Black child to be killed in the Soweto [South Africa] uprisings in 1976.
THE CONSPIRACY is a long one. I have another word for conspiracy. I call it resistance. Go back to the Native Americans. They were the first to resist. They didn't want to die. They didn't want to be killed by the white man. The Native American people were the first victims of North American terrorism. The government maintains, as do history books, that Native American people were the first seditious conspirators.
[Interruption by the court: No, argue with respect to the evidence in this case and what you, yourself, make of it and how it may have influenced you. But there is no evidence of that. Disregard it.]
IT INFLUENCED ME enough to put it in a child's book with pictures of Native Americans and to put in my handwriting, "Native Americans the first to resist," and to show pictures of people who have resisted throughout our history, including pictures of George Jackson, Joe Hill, Fred Hampton, Lolita Lebron. People who have been killed and imprisoned.
MY CO-CONSPIRATORS: Emma Goldman, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and Assata Shakur, those who fight for Puerto Rican Independence. Some were charged with sedition. Some paid for their commitment with their lives.
THERE ARE USUALLY two sides to everything. Had I sided with the rich and powerful I probably wouldn't be here today. I would have been commended and awarded like I was when I was in Viet Nam. Got my little commendations that don't mean anything anymore.
BUT THE WAR CHANGED ME. My values remained the same but my out-look changed. You can't participate in an illegal and immoral war and it not have some impact on a young person. We were turning Viet Nam into a massive graveyard. There are emotional scars to bear from an experience like that. There's much to learn.
RETURNING STATESIDE I began to work with the Southern Student Organizing Committee [southern based, student led radical group]. I brought someone in to testify about that. She got about three sentences in and the judge told her to leave. Apparently they don't think a person's state of mind goes back to Viet Nam or that it effects a person's thinking. Or what I did with my life.
I BEGAN to see issues of poverty, racism, workers' rights and war as being interrelated.
I WILL TELL YOU NOW that I was a soldier at war in Viet Nam and I'm a soldier still at war. I took sides then and I'm taking sides now. I'm not a sunshine soldier. You know, those who only want to soldier when the weather is good. Like our illustrious Vice President Quayle, who's a war hawk during the Viet Nam years but got himself in one of those National Guard units so he don't have to go over there; because he had the money and he's in the university and he's going to be a lawyer.
[Interruption by the court: The comment is stricken.]
THE GOVERNMENT makes policies that directly affect peoples lives. They have to be held accountable for those policies.
THE WAY I SEE IT, there's a ruling class and there's the rest of us. Before I became political and started reading and organizing I used to call the ruling class, the "bossman". That's what we called him on the shop floor. Like Jimmy Reed said in that old blues song, "big boss man, he's just tall, that's all."
THE RULING CLASS and the rest of us. And among the rest of us there's some that got it all right, they got it pretty good. But there's a whole lot that ain't got it so good. Or we ain't got nothing at all.
AND THOSE OF US who don't have anything, we don't have anything in common with the ruling class. I have much more in common with a peasant or a laborer in El Salvador than I do with Ronald Reagan or George Bush or Rockefeller or DuPont. Each laborer has a common bond with others who labor and that bond exists beyond any individual country. It is an international bond.
THE WAY I SEE IT the property of the wealthy is not worth the price of one laborer's life. Not on the factory floor, not on the farm, and not in the fields of any imperialist war. My understanding of class struggle and class conflict comes from my own life experiences. I've worked jobs from can't see in the morning until you can't see at night. Maybe some of you have. I didn't get paid for it too good either.
I'VE BEEN TO THEIR WARS and I've been to their prisons. I know that it takes as much courage to pick up a lunch pail and work in a sweatshop to feed your children as it does to pick up a gun. I know that because I have done both.
IF THE GOVERNMENT wants to consider me a traitor, then so be it. But I'd rather be considered a traitor to my country then to my class. That's honestly how I feel. I didn't feel that way in 1967 when I went to Viet Nam, but that's how I've felt for a long time. I feel that way today.
I DON'T PAY a blind allegiance to a system that kills my own people, whether they're killing them in El Salvador or the streets of New York City; whether they're killing them with lynch mobs, police bullets, asbestos poisoning or pesticides. My commitment is to my class and those who are oppressed.
YOUR PRESENCE HERE is an important reason why I decided to participate in this trial. I still retain a strong belief in the humanity of people, in the basic goodness, which exists in most people and in your sense of justice.
BUT I HAVE NO FAITH in the criminal justice system. None. Judges? Forget it. Prosecutors? Forget it. I don't have any faith in them. Prison administrators? I don't have any faith in anybody who's going to beat me on the head. FBI agents and the police? None.
ANY FAITH I HAVE in any part of this process at this point lies with you people. I've seen this system destroy too many of its victims. I've seen it hurt, abuse, discard, exploit and kill. And I've seen it with these eyes. Sometimes people told me certain things and sometimes I read things, but everything I just said I have seen with my own eyes.
I COULD HAVE SAT out this trial in a prison cell, and I almost did that. I'm in prison anyway. But the more I thought about it the more incensed I became with the government's scheme of trying to criminalize my life with the label of racketeer and corruption.
I ASKED MYSELF, what terrible crimes has this government committed that they fear the voice of one man? What terrible crimes is this government trying to hide that they fear the wrath of the United Freedom Front? [The Seditious Conspiracy alleges "revolutionary, anti-imperialist" acts by the United Freedom Front]
IS IT THE GOVERNMENT tries to hide the existence of political prisoners in this country because we challenge the image that the U.S. is a truly democratic and humane society?
IS IT THAT WITH the use of racketeering and corruption charges against political activists and revolutionaries the government tries to hide its own record of human rights abuses and atrocities?
SO, WHEN FACED WITH TRIAL I decided to do what I've done for over 20 years. Organize. To alert people in our communities and movements to the danger of this type of prosecution; to build support and to raise political and human rights issues presented by a trial of this nature. And this is a political trial.
I WANT TO ADD MY VOICE to those of all people who suffer and die because of this government's foreign and domestic policies. I am not about to let this government take the issue of human rights and denigrate it to an issue of criminality in this trial.
AS LONG AS THIS GOVERNMENT is responsible for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, I'm going to organize and fight them until I don't have any breath left in this life.
[Interruption by the court: Confine your comments to the charges and evidence.]
THEY CAN'T INFLICT ENOUGH PAIN on me or bury me deep enough in their penitentiary cells that I won't raise my voice or my fist in defiance.
YOU MAY RECALL IN MY OPENING I said I would try to present a defense. I would try to present both material evidence and testimony of witnesses. The government's position is a defendant has no right to present witnesses. I found out during the trial, this is true. It's more like a privilege and the judge decided how much of this privilege you're going to get. I brought boxes of material and documents in this trial and offered them into evidence. Material was admitted into evidence. Just a fraction. What did come in was admitted with limitation rulings by the judge which puts a severe restriction on how I can use it, how I can present it to you.
THE GOVERNMENT DIDN'T HAVE this problem. They got 1,500 pieces of evidence in and they presented over 200 witnesses, most of them police; but you never saw most of the witnesses proposed by the defense. Witnesses who could have testified about the colonization of Puerto Rico, counter-intelligence programs of the FBI, clandestinely, the applicability of international law.
[Interruption by the court]
FREEDOM OF SPEECH as it exists in this country gets curtailed at the courthouse door. The witnesses I tried to present disappeared. You never saw them. You never heard them.
THE JUDGE SAYS you are triers of the facts, but his orders severely restrict me and the defense form being able to present you with all of the relevant facts.
ANYWAY, HERE I AM. Each day I've been brought to court in 10 pounds of chains and leg irons to participate in this trial. I've had to endure the indignities of hundreds of strip searches.
THE CHARGES THAT I AM A RACKETEER are a lie. What I call the bright shining lie of government hypocrisy and deceit. I'm not a drug dealer. I'm not an arsonist for hire. I'm not a murderer. I don't engage in extortion. I don't run gambling houses and I don't infiltrate legitimate businesses to corrupt them. That's not me. I've never done anything for my own personal gain or profit in the 21 years I've been politically active. Nothing.
THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS THIS. What's important to them and their own propaganda is a conviction of activists and revolutionaries under the RICO laws. They want to discredit us. They want to criminalize. They want to criminalize those who present a serious opposition to them and their policies. And they want to scare the hell out of a lot of other people.
WE KNOW WHAT THEY DID to the Black Panther Party. We know what they did to the anti-war movement. We know what they did to the Puerto Rican Independence movement. And we know what they did to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
THE GOVERNMENT'S POSITION is you don't even have to step out there into the real world to be convicted of a racketeering conspiracy. You don't have to make a withdrawal from a bank or make an improvised explosive device or put some fire on the police. Just be a member of an organization the government wants to destroy. Be part of an agreement, nod your head. Say "yes".
SEDITION IS A LAW which has always been used to target the political opposition in this country and Puerto Rico, which is a different country. It's own country.
YOU'LL BE TOLD that an overt act in sedition is anything done to further seditious conspiracy. What's that supposed to be? Obtaining a weapon? Buying a box of ammunition? Buying a pair of rubber gloves? Living in a safe house? Getting a piece of identification in a name other than your own, which at least one of you has done sometime in your life.
THAT'S ONE REASON I see so many people in court today. I don't see any empty seats. I see a number of people from various political organizations because they want to know if they're going to be next to be prosecuted under the sedition law. There always has been a next in the history of this country.
[Interruption by the court]
I'M NOT A CRIMINAL. I don't break into people's homes. I don't steal their paychecks. I live by the principle, "Do not take a single needle or piece of thread form the masses."
I DON'T RAPE AND PILLAGE. I don't live my life on the backs of those I'm committed to defend.
I'M A REVOLUTIONARY and everything that means. One thing it means, as Che [Guevara, Cuban revolutionary war hero] said, "it takes great love to be a revolutionary."
IN 1975, in a letter I wrote to Patricia, which the FBI seized and is in evidence, I said, "My love is for the oppressed, Black, Brown, Native American, poor whites, rising women. With me it's the mill workers, shoe shop workers, cleaning women, the millions of under and unemployed laborers whose hands earn their living when they can get it. Woodsmen, those on welfare, in the prison camps, those sleeping in the parks, on the waterfront, burned out, farm workers, laundry workers, food packers."
IN THIS LETTER I also referred to another of Che's statements: "People without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy."
AM I ANGRY? Yes, I am. Can I hate? Yes, I can. I hate poverty and racism and I hate injustice and I'll do whatever has to be done to make some contribution to doing something about it.
I HATE THOSE WHO inflict violence and fear and hunger on the people I love. And it makes no difference whether the victims are peasants in El Salvador or migrant workers in California.
I DON'T FORGET. I can't forget. I can't forget about Comrade George Jackson and I can't forget the Attica Brothers. Atrocities and massacres. And Little Bobby Forsythe who was gassed to death in his prison cell by CN gas which is outlawed under the Geneva Convention. Prison authorities in this country use it and extra stocks are sent to the Israelis to use against the Palestinians.
[Interruption by the court: You cannot argue the truth of matters not in evidence. Disregard that.]
YOU REMEMBER WHEN we moved form the old courtroom to this [larger] courtroom? And you're sitting right here [in the jury box] and there was the clock right there [on the wall] and you were looking at it. You expected to take a break at a certain time. You looked at your watches and they were telling you the truth, what time it was. You saw the clock was wrong and you brought it the judge's attention. The judge said don't pay any attention to the clock, concentrate on the testimony.
DON'T LOOK AT THE CLOCK, right? It's staring you right in the face. You know that it's wrong. You looked beyond the clock for the truth of the matter and you went to resources you have available to do that. In this case it was your own watches and you were right. I'm going to ask you to look for the truth in this case. To look beyond the limitations.
[Interruption by the court: You can't say that. They must take limitations.]
THIS IS LITTLE BOBBY FORSYTHE'S death certificate. It tells you right on here that he was gassed to death in his cell with CN gas. I carried his death certificate around with me since 1974 when I was originally writing to the brothers at McAllister penitentiary where this happened. It was seized by the FBI from my home. I can't forget, it's not that easy.
PEOPLE SAY I DON'T SMILE ENOUGH, but they don't know the inside of me. I've been hurt too many times and I've seen to many others hurt. I don't feel much compassion for the pigs who got the jack boot on the back of our necks. That's a term I use, "pigs". That's what I call people who kill us and brutalize us. When they stop killing us and brutalizing us, then I'll give them a little respect.
I'VE CARRIED THESE PICTURES around with me for a long time. This is Tommy Dotson in Atmore-Holman prison. This is what a young Black man looks like after he's been beaten to death. This [other photograph] is George Dobbins, another brother from Atmore-Holman. This is what he looked like after he was beaten to death. If you want to see what Tommy Doston looked like before he was killed, this is his picture here. A young Black man with an Afro who believed that he had some human rights until Klansmen down there in Alabama decided otherwise. Somebody has got to pay for this.
YOU KNOW, I CAN SMILE. I smile when I see my kids. I can smile when victories are won by the oppressed, like when Walter Sissulu and 7 other political prisoners was released form prison in South Africa last week. I enjoyed seeing that.
I AM CHARGED with membership in the Sam Melville-Jonathan Jackson Unit and the United Freedom Front. I'm here to defend those organizations. I'm here to defend what they are a part of. The actions of the SMJJ and UFF helped bring public attention to the role the U.S. government, its military and certain corporations with headquarters in the United States, have to play in the oppression of our people.
WHAT IS THAT ROLE? Crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined by international law and universally accepted standards of human decency and human rights. These crimes have and continue to take place in South Africa, Central America and elsewhere.
I AM HERE TO RETURN an indictment against the government of the United States and these corporations. I believe the evidence will show the government, in collusion with these corporations, operates a continuing criminal enterprise.
[Interruption by the court: I'm not going to have this. I'm not going to have any return indictment. The government is not on trial here.]
I KNOW FROM MY OWN background there a lot of people in this country who think our government is law abiding and peaceful. That's what I thought of my government before I went to Viet Nam.
THAT'S WHAT I BELIEVED before I went to Viet Nam. What did you do during the war? Any of you? Everybody did something or didn't do something.
IN 1967 I WAS FOREVER having implanted on my mind the faces of those Vietnamese children who were ravaged by the war. This government trained me to kill. I was ordered to kill for America, for all of you, just like other GI's who went to Viet Nam. I didn't question the authority of those above me.
IN VIET NAM soldiers devalued the worth of another human being because of the color of their skin. That was my experience there. Racism made it easier to kill. Made it easier for us to oil the machinery of war. To us, the Vietnamese people were just "gooks" or "dinks". That's what we called them all the time. I'm only using that language now because people have to know. You have to know. I don't think that way now, but that's what was happening then.
[Interruption by the court: I instruct you to confine you remarks to the evidence in this case.]
READ MY WRITINGS, which are in evidence. Read about man's inhumanity to man.
I WRITE ABOUT the bombings [in Viet Nam]. The devastation.
I QUESTION AUTHORITY now. Back then I didn't so I wasn't a problem. Now that I question it, I'm a problem. Now that I don't want to kill for them anymore, I 'm a problem.
WHEN I RETURNED STATESIDE, what was discouraging to me was the reaction of so many people that this was just some kind of conflict in a faraway land, which didn't have much to do with them. That was their attitude. It wasn't their kids being bombed or maimed. They're not doing the bleeding and their homes aren't being destroyed. They had more important things to do.
WHEN I BECAME an organizer for Viet Nam Veterans Against the War, we tried to educate people to the realities of that illegal and immoral war. We tried to do it by utilizing our own experiences. And as I've said before, as with every political organization I was active with, we came under police surveillance and harassment. National VVAW, according to the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] files I've looked at, became a target of COINTELPRO [Counter Intelligence Programs/FBI]. They wanted to destroy our credibility as Viet Nam veterans opposed to the war. But what the government and some corporations did from 1974 through 1984 is a continuation of that lie they tried to pass off as the Viet Nam War.
I BELIEVE THAT the United Sates is today and was between 1974-1984 [the time covered by the indictment] at war in Central America. The United Freedom Front responded.
MAY 11, 1983 THE UFF began a series of bombings carried out against military facilities and corporations, which manufacture and supply weapons used against the people of Central America. The focus of the communiques and other documents in evidence is U.S. involvement in El Salvador and the creation of a so-called "contra" army which is nothing but a group of hired mercenaries, paid killers, trained, armed and financed by the United States, which conducts military operations and acts of terrorism against the people of Nicaragua from their bases in Honduras.
THE CONNECTION IS IMPORTANT. It's one thing to look at atrocities and human rights violations over there somewhere. It's another thing to look at it when your own government is involved in it.
TO BEGIN WITH, this material in evidence shows that El Salvador receives hundreds of millions of dollars in direct military aid and weapons. No other country in Central America gets more. Salvadorian military officers and men are trained in the Untied States at U.S. military bases. This includes the Atlactl Battalion, which was directly responsible for a massacre in El Salvador's Morazan Province in which approximately 1,000 Salvadorian civilians were butchered.
THAT'S WHAT A MASSACRE IS, a slaughter of people on a large scale. They left their M-16 casings lying on the corpses. M-16 casings because they use M-16 rifles supplied to them by the United States. The Atlactl Battalion is accompanied in its operations by U.S. military advisors.
EL SALVADOR IS ALSO the victim of the heaviest aerial bombardment in the Western Hemisphere. The planes they use are American made and supplied, as are the bombs and machine guns on the aircraft. The pilots are trained in the U.S. Before a plane can drop its bombs a reconnaissance plane must first sight the target. Those planes are flown by U.S. military pilots.
I TELL YOU, when I was 19 years old, when I heard something like this - well, first of all I wouldn't have heard it. Second of all, if I happened to trip across it somewhere, I wouldn't have believed it. Not until Viet Nam. These planes are almost identical to the planes we used in Viet Nam. A-37's powered by General Electric engines.
THE VICTIMS ARE OFTEN civilians, as was the case in Viet Nam. Most of them, children, women and old folks who are unwilling or unable to leave their villages. The casualty rates are enormous given the small size of the country. A proportionate number of casualties in this country, compared to El Salvador, would be in millions.
I WANT TO SHOW YOU a document that's in evidence: "A massacre in El Salvador's Morazan Province, December 1981." These photographs are of the peasants at Morazan Province. There are approximately 1,000, which I've' referred to. This is what was left of them after U.S. trained soldiers with U.S. weapons visited these villages.
LOOK AT THIS ONE HERE where they've been decapitated. These are children, they aren't adults. Do any of you know a child that's guilty of anything? Children are innocent, unless they come in the way of U.S foreign policy.
I KNOW THAT THIS IS NOT PLEASANT to look at. And you might say "no", my government can't be involved in something like that. You may want to consciously or subconsciously just not deal with it. But you see, that's the problem I had when I got back from Viet Nam. People didn't want to deal with it. We were Viet Nam veterans. We came back and said this is what's happening but all they wanted to do was train more 19 year old guys how to kill and send them back.
NOW, WHERE DOES THIS information [on El Salvador] come from? It comes from a variety of sources including the New York Times. Here is an article outlining the connection between the Atlactl Battalion and the United States government. [Listed are] the names of the victims that were able to be identified, including their ages. [These are] fetuses, then there are children 30 days old. The death list corresponds with most being children, women, and older men.
MY INCLINATION IS to read this so everybody can hear it, these atrocities, but I'm not going to do that. [However] I want to encourage you to look at this material during deliberations. Consider it when you're think about the purpose and intent of any defendant in this trial. Is it that of a racketeer or racketeering conspiracy?
IT IS ALSO DOCUMENTED here that within 30-40 days after this massacre Ronald Reagan poured millions and millions of dollars into El Salvador.
THERE IS MATERIAL HERE on Archbishop Oscar Romero who at one time held the highest position in the Salvadorian Catholic Church. He advocated the church's involvement in the social welfare of its people. He was painfully aware of the human rights violations that were going on. He went so far as to speak of the right of insurrection to oppose the violence by the military. Archbishop Romero appealed publicly to the Salvadorian soldiers to stop killing their own people. Then he appealed for an end to U.S. military aid. He said, "I beseech you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God, stop the repression." The following day he was murdered while saying mass in his church by one of those death squads that's connected to the CIA and our government.
[Interruption by the court: let me instruct the jury..]
THERE IS A QUOTE in a UFF communiques which says, referring to the people of El Salvador, "Today, the suffering inflicted on our people is another dimension. It is real genocide."
GENOCIDE IS THE DELIBERATE extermination of a national, ethnic, religious or racial group of people. It can include killing, which is usually the favorite form, but is also involves causing serious bodily or mental harm to the people, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction.
IN EL SALVADOR it involves a policy of slaughtering animals, destroying food crops, destroying grain supplies, destroying any resource which can sustain life.
AGAIN, I SAW THIS IN VIET NAM. I saw what they called the "scorched earth policy", designed by some of our higher-ranking officials. It's not pretty at all. It wipes everything right out, whether they're using bombs, Agent Orange, napalm or whatever. There is nothing left. I used to fly in helicopters in Nam. You look down and there's nothing left where people used to be. That's another aspect of it. It creates a country of refugees.
WHILE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of citizens' dollars from this country are poured into the pockets of the rulers of El Salvador, people go hungry. This item is in evidence, "The Hungriest People in Latin America, El Salvador." Look at this picture inside. These are 2 women that have been bound behind their backs. You see their thumbs tied with wire and they've been shot and left on the side of the road by one of the Salvadorian death squads. This is a common method of execution in El Salvador.
I BELIEVE U.S. POLICY in El Salvador is deliberate and calculated. It is directed from the highest levels of the United States government, including our president, who is commander in chief of the armed forces.
WHAT HAS BEEN the response of the United Freedom Front? Look at the communique. For example, the communiqué involving the bombing of General Electric Corporation's offices of the Aerospace Strategic Planning and Aircraft Division in Long Island, New York.
WHAT WAS THE INTENT and purpose of the United Freedom Front? If you look at the communiqué, it says "This action is in response to the vicious escalation of the air war in El Salvador which in recent months alone has caused the deaths of hundreds of Salvadoran civilians, primarily children, women and elderly people who remain in the villages that are bombed".
THERE IS A QUOTE form George Jackson at the end, "People are already dying who could be saved, if you fail to act." and "U.S. out of El Salvador."
I LOOK AT THAT and it tells me the intent of the purpose of the bombing against the General Electric corporation.
[Interruption by the court: I am going to instruct them as to the law]
IS IT THE INTENT and purpose of the United Freedom Front to stop genocide? Is it to stop the slaughter of innocent people? To pull the mask away from the General Electric corporation whose slogan says it "brings good things to life."
GE IS ONE OF THE LARGEST war manufactures in the country. It profits from these people's blood. It's got to stop.
THERE WAS SOME TESTIMONY that in Burlington, Vermont, there is a GE plant that makes machine guns which are [mounted] on the A-37 Dragonfly [aircraft used in El Salvador]. Do you think those workers realize that what they're producing is being used to kill peasants and workers in another country?
YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THE PURPOSE and intent of the UFF. It is not to set up a racketeering enterprise or a racketeering conspiracy or to perpetuate corruption in our society. The purpose and intent is to expose and bring before the American people, the horrendous crimes being committed by our own government and ask that those crimes be stopped.
I WANT TO NOW SAY a few words about Nicaragua. I must be brief because of time restraints.
I FEEL VERY STRONGLY about Nicaragua. I support Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan people.
IN 1979 THERE WAS a revolution in Nicaragua. They threw out a brutal dictatorship under Somoza and the Sandinista government came to power. Somoza left the country with most of the treasury. The Nicaraguan people set out to rebuild their country.
THERE ARE TWO IMPORTANT things to note about the government of Nicaragua compared to U.S. allies in Central American such as El Salvador and Guatemala. One, the Nicaraguan government does not slaughter its own people; and two, Nicaragua is the only one of these countries in which the government directs social services to the poor. They have a literacy campaign. They distribute land to people, which is unprecedented among the U.S. allies there. They have improved health care.
SIMPLY PUT, THE UNITED STATES has set up the contra army, as I said before, that is nothing but mercenaries. They're paid by the United States. They are paid to kill. What they do is attack Nicaragua across the border form Honduras. Their favorite targets are not Nicaraguan soldiers. Their favorite targets are literacy workers, health care workers and farm workers.
I FOUND OUT IN VIET NAM that is the way to terrorize people. To scare people. It's bad enough when you lose someone, your son or brother, who was a soldier. But, at least you feel like he was doing his duty. He was serving his country. Some purpose to it. But when civilians are deliberately killed there is no justification to it.
KEEP IN MIND, Nicaragua is a focus of some of the communiqué. United States involvement with the contras. Ronald Reagan said that the purpose of U.S. foreign policy involving the contras was to overthrow the legitimately elected government of Nicaragua. I don't remember Reagan getting indicted for seditious conspiracy.
THE U.S. IS VIOLATING international law in supplying the contra army and they bear the responsibility for what they're doing.
THE PROSECUTORS have tried throughout the course of this trial to prevent you from hearing about human rights issues in South Africa.
I GET UPSET just talking about this stuff and maybe you're getting a little tired hearing about human rights abuses involving our government. But I must draw your attention to South Africa, which is a major focus of the actions of the Sam Melville-Jonathan Jackson Unit and the United Freedom front.
I CAN UNDERSTAND the government's position. These prosecutors are paid by the government. They take their orders from the government, just like I used to. They're not used to telling their bosses at the U.S. Department of Justice, to go pound sand somewhere. When they're told to do something, they do it.
IT'S A CAREER STEP for them as well. This trial is of incredible political importance. If they don't get convictions in this trial, they're going to be looking for a job somewhere else. The government has put over $10 million dollars into this trial.
[Interruption by the court: That's stricken.]
I'D LIKE TO DRAW your attention to the truth about the U.S. government's role in South Africa. And the role of some of these corporations.
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the United Nations has condemned apartheid as a crime against humanity. The only political system outside of fascist Germany under Hitler that has been so condemned by the UN. The General Assembly has also condemned South Africa's main trading partners, including the United States, for their collaboration with apartheid. The fact is that freedom loving people all over the world condemn apartheid.
AS I SAID IN MY OPENING, U.S. corporations have become the legs upon which apartheid walks. They supply the computers, the technology, the bank loans, the fuel, the military equipment, and the mining operations. Equally important is American political and moral support for apartheid.
I BELIEVE, and maybe some of you do, because it brings us close to the truth, that apartheid for Black people in South Africa is slavery. It is slavery. If you were living in a country where there was slavery, what would you do? What would you have done in this country in the 1800's? Would it make any difference whether you were Black or white? Poor or rich?
I KNOW ONE THING, if people in this country hadn't done something, slavery wouldn't have ended. It's going to end in South Africa, there is no question about that. Just how much blood is going to be spilled before they're free is another question.
BUT WHAT TO DO? What does the SMJJ and UFF do? What was their intent and purpose in attacking the supporters of apartheid?
APARTHEID IN SOUTH AFRICA means African people cannot vote, though they are over three quarters of the population. Every Black person must carry a pass. [Ray holds up a South African pass book from the evidence]. They might change the appearance of it from time to time, but only Black people, African people, must carry this pass. Does that sound familiar? If you know anything about Nazi Germany and the system of identification used for Jewish people, then you know what I'm talking about because they used something very similar. Half the Black population of South Africa has at one time or another been arrested and imprisoned under this identification system.
BLACK PEOPLE ARE ARRESTED and detained without trial. Indefinitely. Torture is widely used against Black people. They have had their land stolen from them and many have been forcibly removed from their homes. In South Africa there are concentration camps known as bantustans.
THAT'S JUST PART OF IT. Remember, deliberately inflicting upon a particular group of people, particularly a racial group, conditions designed to bring its destruction is genocide. Just like what was charged against the Nazis. What was your position then and what is your position now? Do we allow it to happen? What did the SMJJ and UFF do? What was their intent and purpose?
THERE IS WILLING and knowing collaboration between the government of the United States and certain U.S. corporations with apartheid. That subjects them to a liability and it subjects us, as American citizens, to certain moral obligations and responsibilities under international law. To stop these crimes. To take whatever steps are necessary to stop them.
IN 1976 THE Sam Melville-Jonathan Jackson Unit exercised its responsibilities as did another group, which bombed Union Carbide offices in California. The SMJJ action was in response to a massacre, which took place in Soweto, South Africa in June 1976.
THIS IS A PICTURE of Hecter Pieterson, the first person killed in that uprising. Just a child. Soweto is a watershed point in the history of the people of South Africa for their freedom. Thousands of Black students called a strike to boycott classes to protest the forced teaching of what they called the Afrikaans language in their schools. Afrikaans is the language of apartheid. It is the white man's language. To impose that language on African students who were denied using their own language was viewed as another step in destroying their culture. To destroy a people's culture is part of what constitutes genocide.
THOSE STUDENTS were marching peacefully and they were attacked by South African police. Within weeks, approximately a thousand Black people were killed. Most were just school children and many were shot in the back. African students in the cross hairs of fascist police.
[Interruption by the court: Focus on the evidence.]
THIS DOCUMENT I hold high is entitled, "Apartheid: The Facts". The judge says you are triers of the facts. A lot of what's in here is true. It's independently corroborated by other material.
A THOUSAND PEOPLE, mostly children, shot in the back. I ask you, you live in and around Springfield, Massachusetts. Ask yourselves what would happen if a thousand people were killed in this city? If the police opened up on them because they were protesting a particular injustice. What would your reaction to that be? What would you do? Are the lives of people in Soweto, South Africa any less important then the people of Springfield, Massachusetts? I don't think so. I think we're all human beings and we all have a right to live.
AGAIN, I WANT to direct your attention to SMJJ and UFF communique. After the Soweto massacre. The SMJJ communique states this action is done, "to protest the brutal murders of Black people in South Africa". It also states this action is done to "support the struggle of African people in South Africa for basic human rights and self-determination."
DOES THAT SOUND like the goal of a racketeering and corrupt organization? Does it seem like a pattern of racketeering?
IN DECEMBER 1982, the UFF bombed the offices of the South African government in New York City. First of all, what is an office of the South African government doing in New York? It's unfortunate our government lets them operate there with impunity but it does.
WELL THEY PAID FOR IT. They couldn't do business as usual for awhile.
THIS ACTION was in response to other massacres. Read the names, Steven Biko, Emma Sathedgeke and others. There are many others. Did these names mean anything to you before you read this material? The connection between government, corporations and apartheid, what did that mean to you before you read this material?
STEVEN BIKO, at the time of his death was the most influential Black leader in South Africa. That's with all due respect to Nelson Mandela. The most influential Black leader in South Africa was beaten to death in his cell.
THIS IS A PICTURE of Steven Biko [held up to the jury]. There are many articles here: "Biko saw that U.S. policy failed in South Africa." "U.S. policy is a shame." A picture of his funeral. Why did I save them? Because Steven Biko meant something to me. He meant something to the struggle. He meant a great deal to Black people fighting for their rights in South Africa.
YOU WANT TO READ about South Africa and the U.S. connection read this [holding document]. It will tell you how people are being tortured and who is supplying the material. This is an [electric] cattle prod.
THESE CATTLE PRODS used to be used down south [in the U.S.]. Now they use stun guns and they use them up north as well. They've used them on me. Remember the incident you heard about in this courtroom where the FBI agent was testifying how I was chained and shackled and hit with a stun gun. They have 40,000 volts in them. Enough to knock you to the ground. That was only one incident in which the FBI has attacked me in that way.
THESE ARE UNITED NATIONS documents. Read what the UN has to say about repression in South Africa.
"IBM, U.S. COMPUTER exports to South Africa, the arms embargo". This is an extensive analysis on the role of IBM in South Africa. IBM was a target of the United Freedom Front.
YOU KNOW, if people are being put in gas ovens, are killed, the manufactures of those ovens and the suppliers bear some responsibility. If IBM technology, equipment and computers are being used to do the same thing in South Africa, they bear a responsibility for that.
INTENT AND PURPOSE. You've heard me mention the international law and the obligations under it. You heard me mention crimes against humanity and war crimes. I know this law exists, but even if it didn't exist I'd do what I do anyway.
CHE GUEVARA said that "above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary." As a revolutionary, I take this sentiment very seriously. This is the way I think. This is the way I feel. I believe the mind knows only what lies near the heart.
EVERY DAY WHEN I GET UP, when I rise, I feel the suffering of people in South Africa, Central America and on the streets of this country. Every day the violence being inflicted on these people is staggering. The victims are primarily peasants and workers.
I AM THE FACTORY WORKER. I am the farm worker, the prisoner, the veteran, and the unemployed. The person living on the edge of someone else's dream. I want to do everything I can, however small a contribution that might be, to bring this suffering to an end.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. said there is nothing wrong with a traffic law that says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes right through that red light. He added that people all over the world are bleeding to death form deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system. Martin Luther King advocated and participated in civil disobedience and for his commitment, he was destroyed.
I BELIEVE in civil disobedience when the time, place and conditions warrant it but also I believe in civil resistance. By that I mean that we cannot let the illegal and immoral acts of our own government go unpunished, If it takes armed actions or armed resistance to make this government accountable to the needs of the people, then it isn't just should be done, it will be done.
THE JUDGE CALLS YOU triers of the facts. He says you are the constitutional expression of justice. He says your verdict, should you arrive at a verdict, must be just and fair.
TO SEE THAT JUSTICE is served you must also look at the truth. I am already serving a 45-year sentence.
[Interruption by the court: The jury will disregard that.]
[Interruption by the court: I'm striking this.]
[Interruption by the court: I am the one who must instruct and teach us as to the law under our system. Your comments are stricken.]
WELL, I'LL HAVE TO SKIP some things here. But let me say this. Without significant political changes in this country, which will result in the release of political prisoners, the government is going to achieve its goal that I die in prison. I could end up dying of old age or I could die like Comrade George Jackson or the brothers of Attica, swept up in the coming rebellions that are sure to rage through this country's prisons.
IF YOU COLLABORATE with the government, it's a different story. Like Linda Coleman, Felipe Noguera and Joseph Aceto, you get rewarded for being a snitch. You get paid off. Otherwise, you get hurt. The government wants to me bleed. If I'm already in prison, and I have been since November 1984, how are they going to make me bleed? You can only kill someone so many times, right?
[Interruption by the court: No, don't. I instruct..]
LINDA COLEMAN TESTIFIED. She collaborated. One of the reasons she became an informant is she didn't want to do 60 years in prison. She didn't want to be a co-defendant here. How are they going to make me bleed at this point in time? They do that by making Patricia, our children and families suffer. That's been their tactic time and time again. They want to make me bleed that much because of what I've put this government through for the past 21 years.
PATRICIA HAS ALREADY spent 3 and a half years in prison for harboring a fugitive. That was me, the father of our children. She went to prison for 3 and a half years because she wouldn't give me up and she wouldn't set me up.
[Interruption by the court: That's stricken. I instruct the jury to disregard it.]
WHEN YOU DO time in prison, your family and children do time with you.
[Interruption by the court: I instruct you to move on to some other subject.]
I BEAR A LOT of the responsibility for raising a family in the situation I was in. My oldest daughter, who is almost 14, now asked me, why? Why? I told her simply that when she was born and I held her in my arms, I couldn't let her go.
WHY DOES A PERSON who lives in a ghetto or reservation have children? Look at the way you live. What kind of future you got, what are your hopes? Why does a person living in a neighborhood saturated with Crack have children? Sure, it's difficult.
WHY DO PEOPLE have children? Because they love children. And why don't you [keep] them away or give them up for adoption to some rich folks? Because it is too painful.
I THOUGHT I WAS ABLE to protect my family. For many years I did, until I was captured. Then it became open season for the government. The cruelty of this government, evident in so many parts of the world, knows no restraints other that what we the people can put on it.
I NOW WANT TO SAY a few words about informants. I want to say something about the government witnesses. I would like for you to note that the government's number one snitch, Joseph Aceto, never testified in this trial. This is a person in the custody of the government who has allegedly participated in predicate acts in this case.
IF YOU HAD A PERSON who allegedly participated directly in any of the acts in this case, why wouldn't you bring him in to testify? Why would you make a circumstantial case for yourself?
ACETO HAS ALREADY SPENT a lot of time on the government's pay roll. Remember the scenario Coleman testified about. She said Aceto went to the FBI and cooperated with them and in turn the FBI began to pressure Coleman. As a result, Coleman turned on me.
I THINK [the government's] problem is that Aceto can't distinguish between what's real and what his fantasies are. That the government has him a little too doped up with tranquilizers.
[Interruption by the court: I'm instructing the jury not to speculate.]
HE'S A KNOWN government informant. He's testified against others in previous trails. I want you to think about why the government would rely on somebody like Noguera and Coleman when they could bring in a person they say directly participated in something. If Aceto was with me in a bank robbery, why isn't he here talking about it? What's the government trying to hide now? At the very least it seems Aceto's credibility, his market value, has taken a nose dive. If they're not marketable, they lose their importance to the government and they become expendable.
THEN THERE'S FELIPE NOGUERA, the self admitted liar and perjurer. He faced over 100 years in prison for committing perjury until he gave the government what they wanted. Noguera provided information, for whatever that information is worth, which can be used against anyone, including me, and I never saw the guy in my life until the day he walked into court.
NOGUERA SNITCHED on his girlfriend, his best friend Kazi Toure, as well as political associates and organizations including the Black United Front. He's now a pariah in the movement. He has no credibility left. He's a "chota", a known informant.
AND WHEN YOU think about it what was so relevant about his testimony, the government had to break the man the way they did. That he took some license plates? That's real serious business! That he was given a gun? Noguera was given a gun at his own request and was shown how to use it. At a time, according to his testimony that "Black people were being killed everywhere."
I WOULD SUGGEST that part of his testimony is true. Some of the other material in evidence supports this. He didn't want to become another Black person going to an early grave, like Levi Hart. He came to testify against people who had shown him how to defend himself.
THIS IS WHAT FELIPE NOGUERA was concerned about. This is a picture of the Black community in Boston rallying to protest the murder of a 14 year old Black boy shot to death by a Boston police officer. Levi Hart was not armed.
THIS IS A PICTURE of the police officer who shot Levi Hart. He's shown here celebrating with champagne with his wife. He got away with it. They called it justifiable homicide. This is what Noguera was concerned about.
HE WAS SHOWN the basics of how to defend himself. He learned. He was given a gun because he was concerned about being attacked because he was Black and politically active. That's a very volatile combination.
THESE CLIPPINGS I now hold in my hand document the police killings of unarmed Black and Third World people in various parts of this country, although the primary focus is on the Northeast.
THIS IS A GRAPHIC ARTIST'S picture of the killing of Michael Stewart, a young Black man, who was beaten to death by the New York City Transit police for writing graffiti on the walls of the subway. The death of Michael Stewart was raised in one of the communiques of the United Freedom Front, along with the death of our comrade Mytari Sundiata.
THE REAL DAMAGE the government inflicts when it turns people into informants is they destroy the trust upon which a relationship is built and nourished. They drive a wedge between brothers and sisters, parents and children, between neighbors and workers. Did you ever try to organize a union with a company snitch working on the same floor shop? Maybe some of you have had experiences like that.
THE EROSION OF TRUST begins with the seeds planted by the informant. The informant undermines fundamental values of trust, community, solidarity, and respect. In the wake of what the informant does, the government moves in to solicit and recruit. The prosecutor talked about the intent [of the defendants] to recruit Noguera. But who really recruited Noguera? The United States government. They played Noguera like a puppet. They got him in a situation where they could break him, and they broke him. Felipe Noguera is a broken man. Once they broke him, they used him.
LINDA COLEMAN. She was the woman who was going to have her baby in Framingham prison unless she did what the government wanted. This judge [pointing to judge Young] was going to accommodate the government by ordering her in prison during her pregnancy if she refused to testify. You can imagine Linda Coleman pregnant and some nameless, faceless man in a robe is going to order her to prison unless she cooperates.
THAT'S THE POWER of life and death over a person because having a baby in prison is a high-risk ordeal.
LINDA COLEMAN is from a wealthy family. I visited her family home once and one of the dining rooms was large enough to contain the entire apartment that my Ma and Grandma lived in. Linda and I are from different sides of the tracks.
BUT I WAS VERY CLOSE to her at one time. I admired her commitment to work with the poor. When she became involved with SCAR [radical organization of prisoners, ex-prisoners and others based in Maine] and the Red Star North bookstore she knew it was a dangerous time for the organization. She was well aware of that. Remember the circumstances in which she met me - at a demonstration protesting police brutality and the formation of a death squad among the Portland police department.
I TAUGHT HER how to defend herself and I shared organizational skills with her. But when Aceto set her up and the FBI started to press her, she turned on me. She gave me up so she could return to the wealth that she was born into. So she could return to her class and the protection, which that class provides for her. If it was Patricia who decided to give me up, she wouldn't be a defendant in this trial either.
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION was begun when people rebelled against the authority of the king of England. I think that's something we all learned in school. These American revolutionaries believed so strongly in this right to rebel, they wrote it into the Declaration of Independence. They had that right. Though I believe they had the right, the conditions under which they were living were not as severe as the conditions experienced by Native Americans. Or those in slavery, or others as time passed.
YOU ARE ALL participating in a political trial. You are direct participants. I don't disassociate myself from my political beliefs or what I've done with my life, and in that respect there's a good part of my life that's on trial. This trial is important and perhaps it will even make a little footnote in history. You all have to decide which side of history you're going to come down on.
YOU'VE HEARD what the government has to say. You've heard what I have to say. Some of you, maybe all of you, question whether my political commitment involves sedition. That's up to you.
BUT RACKETEERING and corruption, never! We're not even on trial for conspiracy to commit arson or conspiracy to commit bank robbery. We're on trial for conspiracy to commit racketeering. Examine the intent and purpose. I don't think, not in the name of justice, can there be a conviction in this case for racketeering and corruption.
THE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE has been a struggle. A struggle for the removal of the physical and sometimes spiritual oppression that exists among so many of us. I feel I would have failed had I not made a contribution to that struggle. I'll always be glad I did.
Raymond Luc Levasseur
November 1, 1989
Untied States Courthouse
This case began with eight defendants but only three stood trial. All three were acquitted of sedition. The jury could not reach a verdict on the RICO charges against Levasseur and Williams and the charges were dismissed. Gros was acquitted of one RICO count and the second RICO count was dismissed when the jury could not reach a verdict.
Prior to the trial all charges were dropped against Manning, Laaman and Curzi. Toure and Soucier-Manning pleaded guilty to the charge and received sentences from which they were subsequently paroled. Curzi was also released on parole.
Levasseur, Manning, Laaman and Williams remain in prison. At a 1985-86 Brooklyn, NY trial they were convicted and given lengthy prison sentences for action carried out by the United Freedom Front.
(this text was edited for publication)
Ray Luc Levasseur, 10376-016, PO Box 150160, USP Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 30315