Death threats in NYC City Council

New York City Council member Charles Barron is demanding an investigation following death threats made against him on a website frequented by police officers. The site contains a message board called “NYPD Rant” in which two posts called for Barron to be shot in the head. Barron says he believes the posters are in fact members of the NYPD, and that the website should be shut down.

Coming to Barron’s support is the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, who are calling for charges to be filed in the case. “We demand that these individuals are identified, arrested and prosecuted, and if they are found to be members of the law enforcement community they should be immediately terminated,” said Marq Claxton of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement. Members of the group are filing a complaint with the police department’s Internal Affairs. The NYPD says they are looking into the case. (NY1, June 4)

The threats come after a heated Council debate over a proposal to rename a section of Brooklyn’s Gates Ave. after the late Black nationalist community leader Sonny Abubadika Carson. Barron, a former Black Panther, led the campaign for the street renaming. The 51-member Council rejected the proposal by a 25-to-15 vote May 30. (Gothamist, Amsterdam News, May 31)

After the vote, Barron’s chief of staff Viola Plummer assailed Queens Councilman Leroy Comrie, one of the Black members who abstained on the proposal, saying, “If it takes an assassination of his ass, he will not be borough president of the borough in which I live.” Comrie was assigned police protection on the way home. But Barron dismissed the affair as an “absurd” joke, saying: “He knows Viola. She said his political life is over. He didn’t need any police protection. That’s silly.” The New York Post ran an editorial June 2 entitled “‘Assassination’: No Joke.” We shall see if they are will be as concerned about the far less ambiguous death threats now levelled against Barron.

A New York City Council member was assassinated as recently as July 2003.

  1. The “New Afrikan” connection…
    It was only a matter of time before this came to light in the city’s yellow press. Grace Rauh writes for the New York Sun, June 5:

    According to the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism’s “Terrorism Knowledge Base” Web site, which provides research and information on terrorist groups, domestic and international terrorism, and terrorist incidents, Ms. Plummer and eight other members of the New Afrikan Freedom Fighters were surrounded and arrested by more than 400 New York police officers and federal agents in October 1984.

    The organization, now listed as inactive, used a “k” instead of a “c” in Africa, following in the tradition of early African linguists.

    She and seven of the other members arrested were later dubbed “The New York Eight” and charged with conspiring to free two activists jailed for their involvement in the 1981 robbery of a Brink’s armored car, in which two police officers and a guard died. At the end of the trial at Federal District Court in Manhattan, Ms. Plummer was convicted of falsely identifying herself to the police and sentenced to community service, the site says.

    When asked about the comments directed at Mr. Comrie and her appearance on a terrorism database, Ms. Plummer declined to comment.

    “I’m not a press person,” she said. “I don’t do interviews and the like. I don’t mean to be rude, but you have exactly what I said or didn’t say and that’s the end.” When pressed on the matter, she said, “I cannot answer, respond, to any Web site and I’m not going to do that.”

    Mr. Barron said he would not respond to the mention of his chief of staff on the terrorism site and added: “She’s not a terrorist.”


    A human rights lawyer and a defendant in the federal trial with Ms. Plummer, Roger Wareham, said he and the other defendants were not New Afrikan Freedom Fighters.

    “I don’t even know if there was a group such as that,” he said. “There was no group like that that we belonged to.”

    This account does not quite make clear that the case against the “New York Eight” was an abject failure. Here are the salient facts from the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base page on the case that the Sun fails to mention:

    The prosecution described the New York Eight as “a highly organized, dedicated cell of armed bandits… Their goal: robbery of armored trucks and liberating their confederates from prison.” (quoted in the Associated Press, 10/22/84) The jury, however, saw things differently, and acquitted all 8 defendants of conspiring to free [Kuwasi] Balagoon and [Sekou] Odinga and to commit grand larceny. Coltrane Chimurenga, Roger Wareham, Robert Taylor, Yvette Kelley, Ruth Carter and Clay Omowale were all convicted of possessing illegal weapons, and Viola Plummer was convicted of falsely identifying herself to the police. All seven were sentenced to community service. The eigth defendent, Jose Rios, was acquitted of all charges.

    In short, the case was a farce. The federal prosecutor in the failed case, by the way, was none other than Rudolph Giuliani (which MIPT fails to mention, perhaps to protect Rudy’s creds).

    We do wish Viola and Charles would state their positions a bit clearer here. What needs to be said is that MIPT and the Sun are dangerously dumbing down the definition of terrorism. The Brinks heist Balagoon and Odinga were implicated in may have been adventurist, but was it terrorist?

    The heist was carried out in the name of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), which emerged as a radicalized faction of the Black Panthers after the assassinations and “dirty tricks” campaign of the FBI’s COINTELPRO—of which the bogus New York Eight case can be seen as a last gasp.

    The “anti-terrorist” crowd also howled in 2003, when Kathy Boudin, a former member of the Weather Underground also imprisoned in connection with the Brinks heist, was granted parole. Editorials against her release used lurid headlines like “Terrorists Among US” (The New American, September 2003)—even though (as The Nation noted) Boudin had honestly repudiated the “ends-justify-the-means ethic” of the armed left, while still (refreshingly) remaining true to her commitment to fighting against racism and for social justice.

    Also forgotten was the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force siege of entire communities in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx when the New York Eight were arrested in October 1984—even subduing young children at gunpoint. This, as was recognized in progressive circles at the time, was state terrorism. But today we’re not supposed to talk about that…

  2. Departing Cuomo grants clemency to David Gilbert

    On his final day in office, Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted clemency to one of the gang members behind the infamous Brink’s armored truck robbery in 1981. Gilbert was the getaway driver in the politically motivated ambush at the Nanuet Mall in Rockland County that left two officers and one guard dead. Cuomo said he believes 40 years in prison have changed and rehabilitated Gilbert, but some members of law enforcement and political leaders are outraged. The Police Chiefs Association of Rockland County called the commutation of Gilbert’s sentence “horrible, disgraceful and unforgivable.” 

    Gilbert’s son, Chesa Boudin, lobbied Cuomo for his father’s clemency. Boudin is San Francisco’s district attorney, and he was just a toddler when both of his parents went to prison. His mother, Kathy Boudin, was paroled in 2003 for her role in the murders. (WABC)

  3. David Gilbert to be released on parole

    Former Weather Underground radical David Gilbert has been granted parole after 40 years behind bars for his role in a deadly 1981 Brink’s robbery, the New York state corrections department said Oct. 26.

    Gilbert, 76, became eligible for parole only after his 75 years-to-life sentence was shortened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August, hours before he left office.

    Gilbert appeared before the state parole board Oct. 19 and was subsequently granted parole. He will be able to leave Shawangunk Correctional Facility in the Hudson Valley next month. Supporters—including his son, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin—lobbied to have Gilbert join other defendants in the case who have been released. (AP)