Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gary Freeman Released!

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan

After 4 years of imprisonment and physiological ordeal for him and his family, Gary Freeman was finally released on probation in the U.S. on March 7th. The black librarian was arrested by Toronto cops in 2004 for his suspected involvement in the 1969 shooting of a Chicago Police officer. After spending 4 years in Ontario prisons, he agreed to be extradited to face trial in Chicago in early February.

At the time of the shooting, black liberation and other revolutionary organizations in the US were being exterminated by the FBI. Chicago itself had the reputation of having the most corrupt and brutal police force in North America. John Knox, the cop that attacked Gary in 1969 (forcing Freeman to shoot in self-defense), had headed a squad that illegally infiltrated dozens of legal political organizations. Freeman fled to Canada because he feared he would be killed in prison after being wrongfully identified as a Black Panther and being convicted by an all white jury of shooting Knox.

Had he been found guilty of attempted murder in February, Freeman would have faced 30 years of imprisonment in the Chicago Cook County jail. This is the same prison where 65 black inmates were tortured, resulting in multi-million dollar lawsuits. Fortunately, the court only charged Freeman for aggravated battery as part of plea bargain, and sentenced him to a month in jail and 2 years probation in the U.S. Freeman must also pay $250,000 to a police aid fund.

This has been a remarkably positive outcome for the situation, and Basics extends our congratulations to Gary Freeman and his family. However, while some are celebrating Freeman’s release as proof that the racial and political situation in the US has improved since the 60’s, the reality is that social and political conditions remain deeply oppressive for the majority of Black and poor Americans. Today, a Chicago cop shoots a civilian every 10 days, and across the U.S., black people (13% of the population) make up 60% of the prison population. The fight to and end to systematic racism and police brutality in the US and Canada continues.