A press statement issued by Senate Democrats about a Minneapolis police officer’s killing of an unarmed black man quoted Assata Shakur, a convicted cop-killer and fugitive who is still wanted by the FBI for murder and domestic terrorism.
The quote came at the end of the statement the Senate Democratic caucus released Friday afternoon regarding the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer who was arresting him kneeled on his neck for about eight minutes, during which Floyd repeatedly said he was unable to breathe. The death triggered protests and riots in Minneapolis for the past three nights, during which a police department precinct building was overrun and set on fire.
At the end of their statement, Senate Democrats included a quote from Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, was a member of a militant group called the Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panthers. The Black Liberation Army was responsible for a series of robberies, murders, bombings and other crimes in the early 1970s.
In 1973, she was involved in a shootout that left a New Jersey state trooper dead, and was later convicted of murder and several other felonies connected to the shootout.
In 1979, Shakur escaped from a federal prison in New Jersey with the help of several Black Liberation Army members who sneaked handguns and dynamite into the prison. She fled to Cuba in 1984 and was granted asylum.
Shakur is still wanted by the FBI, and in 2013, the agency added her to its list of most wanted terrorists. Shakur, who still lives in Cuba, again became an issue when President Barack Obama sought to normalize relations with the communist regime.
Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, D-Tucson, told the Mirror that he discussed the press statement on a conference call this morning, but wasn’t aware of Shakur’s past. The statement was crafted by Josselyn Berry, a spokeswoman for the Senate Democrats, whom he said was also unaware of Shakur’s background.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t know that about that person,” he said.
Response to use of Assata Shakur quote in earlier statement pic.twitter.com/wrtauNmchp
— Arizona Senate Dems (@AZSenateDems) May 29, 2020
In a subsequent statement, the Senate Democrats said they only knew Shakur as an author and “well-known commentator on civil rights,” and didn’t know about her murder conviction and fugitive status. They said they regretted the use of the quote.
“The use of the quote was not intended as an endorsement, but to emphasize issues of social justice and we regret the inclusion of the quote, but stand by the rest of the statement. We remain focused on the murder of Black Americans and finding solutions to address systemic racism in this country,” the statement read.