September 24, 2020.- One of several Black liberation radicals incarcerated for decades in the wake of political and racial upheaval in the 1960s and 70s, Jalil Muntaqim won his decades-long struggle for freedom after a New York parole board ordered his release.
Muntaqim, formerly known as Anthony Bottom, has been in unbroken custody for nearly half a century after being arrested and convicted for the murder of two Harlem police officers in 1971.
During his parole hearing earlier this month—his tenth appearance since becoming eligible for parole in 1998— the parole board determined that he would be released from the maximum-security Sullivan corrections facility in Fallsburg, New York, by October 20.
At the time of his murder of officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones—who believed they were responding to a domestic dispute call when they were ambushed and shot—Muntaqim was a clandestine member of the underground wing of the Black Panthers, the Black Liberation Army, having joined the armed group at 18 years old.
Although Muntaqim’s release has been vehemently opposed by both the New York police union (PBA) and the widow of Piagentini, Muntaqim has said that he has matured his political position since 1971 yet remains committed to racial equality and justice.
“I now take the ‘r’ off the word and make it ‘evolutionary.’ Revolution for me is the evolutionary process of building a higher level of consciousness in society at large. I’m an evolutionary revolutionary,” he said to The Guardian during a filmed interview in 2018.
While the number of Black liberation leaders locked up since the heyday of the Black Panthers is dwindling—with the surviving seven members of the Move 9 in Philadelphia having all been released on parole in the past two years—many, such as Edward Poindexter, who marked his fiftieth year in prison this August, still remain.
Muntaqim’s two co-defendants for the 1971 Harlem police killing were Albert “Nuh” Washington and Herman Bell, who each received sentences of 25 years to life. The former died in prison in 2000, whereas the latter was released on parole in 2018.
Featured image: Jalil Muntaqim