I would like to address a few remarks to this court and its government.
You have judged me “guilty” and have labeled me a “criminal” and also “dangerous.” I have been found “guilty” by a “jury of my peers.” On this I will have more to say later.
Now – let me examine what I have been found “guilty” of doing and saying:
I have been found “guilty” of agitating against the conditions that my people are forced to live under in New York and all over the country.
I have been found “guilty” of protesting the murder – yes, murder – or legal lynching, whatever you choose, of James Powell by Thomas Gilligan, a New York policeman.
I have been found “guilty” of organizing the Harlem community against police brutality that has been occurring in the Black ghettos for hundreds of years. I have been found “guilty” of standing up for the right of all men to be free – to be free from the system of exploitation of man by man.
I have been found “guilty” of proclaiming that capitalism is an oppressive system and that socialism is the only solution for mankind to live in peace and humanity.
I have been found “guilty” of demanding that the U.S government take its troops out of Vietnam and stop its genocidal war against the Vietnamese people.
I have been found “guilty” of asking the question of Black boys and men, “What are you doing in the U.S. Army fighting your colored brothers around the world who are engaged in battle against the same government that is oppressing you?” and “Is it in your interest to kill and be killed to support a racist government?”
I have been found “guilty” of being an outspoken critic of the U.S. government and its paramilitary police force.
I have been found “guilty” of publicly advocating socialism to cure the ills of the Black people of the country and the workers in general.
And finally – I have been found “guilty” of being a communist – and a Black one at that!
If these are the “crimes” that I have been found “guilty” of committing, then I am “guilty” a thousand times over. In fact, I will be “guilty” of these “crimes” as long as the conditions exist, and I will fight against these conditions as long as there is a breath in my body!
For that matter the State (and in this case I mean New York State) didn’t have to waste the taxpayers’ money on this trial – money that is needed to employ the unemployed, to build new houses for the poorly housed, schools that are sorely needed in the ghettos, hospitals that are needed for the sick and aged, recreation centers for the youth and cultural centers to raise the cultural level of the people.
You didn’t have to use all of these policemen to follow me, tap my phone, join our organization, “bug” our offices and homes and harass our members when they should have been out arresting slumlords and those people who are bringing narcotics to Harlem – and they know who they are.
You didn’t have to expose, for the world to see, how desperately you are afraid of dissent. No – you didn’t have to do any of this. All you had to do was ask me and I would have told you.
What did we do?
Did we put out various leaflets, offered here as so-called “evidence,” against police brutality that is committed against the Black and Puerto Rican people? Yes, we did!
Did we put out leaflets calling for more and better schools in Harlem, and in the city in general? Yes, we did!
Did we put out leaflets demanding more and better houses in Harlem, and in the city in general; with the rents averaging 10 per cent of a worker’s income? Yes, we did!
Did we put out leaflets protesting the brutality that was committed against the “Harlem Six” and in their defense? Yes, we did!
Did we protest the fact that these courts denied them the right to have lawyers of their own choosing? Yes, we did!
Did we issue leaflets demanding jobs for the unemployed and the under-employed? Yes, we did!
Did we issue leaflets and speak out against racism in this country – from the U.S. government on down? Yes, we did!
Did we help organize the Harlem Defense Council to protect the people of Harlem? Yes, we did!
Did we call for a Peoples’ Police Control Board over the activities of the Police Department? Yes, we did!
Did we issue the Gilligan Wanted for Murder poster? Yes, we did!
Did I write articles exposing the U.S. government’s role in the rape of the Congo? Yes, I did!
And do I support the Congolese people in their struggle to regain control of their country? Yes, I do!
Did I speak and agitate on the streets of Harlem, and all over the city, for a better way of life for the people of this city and country? Yes, I did!
Did I help to organize the people of Harlem around specific demands during the “police riots” of July 1964? Yes, I did!
Did I write an article The Negro Question and the Right to Revolution that came out in its final form entitled Black Self-Determination? Yes, I did! It can be purchased on many newsstands in this city and around the country.
Did we distribute a Draft Strategic Program that also appeared in its final form in Progressive Labor magazine that presented our position on the problems facing the American people and what we consider the solution to be? Yes, we did! This copy of the magazine can also be bought on the newsstands for fifty cents. You don’t have to “infiltrate” an organization to get a copy.
If the District Attorney’s office, the Bureau of Special Services and the FBI consider this the activity of a “secret” organization, then they are blinder and stupider than their mildest critics would even imagine!
And – If you ask me, am I a communist? – the answer is yes, I am!
You didn’t have to have a trial to “prove” these things. All you had to do was ask me and I would have told you – Yes! There’s no problem – There’s no secret – whatever we write and publish we sign with our name, address and phone number. We are willing and not afraid to put out ideas in the public view.
Did you, at any time, think that we would deny what we do and have done? Did you think that we would deny what we hold to be true and what we believe in? Do you think that all people in this country have been so “brain dirtied” and have been so thoroughly corrupted that they are afraid to express an independent thought – to stand up for what they believe and fight for it? Well, there are people in this country who are governed by ideas that do not come out of the pages of the Times and the Daily News, and their numbers grow every day. And I am sure that this so-called “trial” has opened up many more eyes.
Whatever we do and whatever we believe in – we do and believe that it is in the interest of the people of this country; And yes – we are proud to have done it and to be doing it and we stand behind our actions four-square!
Are public expressions opposed to the government “conspiracies”?
Now, we ask:
Is this system and government attempting to deny us the right to our political views and deny us the right to express these views openly, publicly and honestly? If this is what they are attempting, we shall refuse to give up this right. We will not be intimidated into giving up our rights to speak openly and freely and we will fight to maintain this right.
In referring to the U.S. Attorney General’s order forbidding certain classes of foreign visitors from speaking in this country, Alexander Meiklejohn stated, which holds true in this case also:
“Why may we not hear what these men from other counties, other systems of government, have to say? For what purpose has the Attorney General imposed limits upon their speaking, upon our hearing? The plain truth is that he is seeking to protect the minds of the citizens of this… nation of ours from the influence of emotions, of doubts, of questions, of plans, of principles which the government judges to be too ‘dangerous’ for us to hear. He is afraid that we, whose agent he is, will be led astray by opinions which are alien and subversive. Do We, the People of the United States, wish to be so mentally ‘protected?’ To say that would seem to be an admission that we are intellectually and morally unfit to play our part in what Justice Holmes has called the ‘experiment’ of self-government. Have we, on that ground, abandoned or qualified the great experiment? In our discussion of public policy at home, do we intend that ‘dangerous’ ideas shall be suppressed? Or are they, under the Constitution, guaranteed freedom from such suppression?”
That is the question that this court and the government should address itself to instead of finding in our “opinions” and ideas a “conspiracy.” Because, by the logical extension of the State’s case, public expression of “opinions,” ideas, writings and speech, if they are opposed to the government, are a “conspiracy” and a “crime.”
Our political views and our program are just as valid as those of any other political party or any other group. I say further that our views and our program are more valid than other political parties because we have a program that has a solution to the many problems that confront the people of this country. And that means, in the final analysis, that it will bring world peace, because this is the country, with its capitalist system, that is waging war and aggression all around the world and threatening world peace. (And who can deny that these wars are being waged against the colored peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America?)
If we write these articles, distribute these leaflets, organize the people against oppression and for a redress of their grievances, organize against the genocide committed against the Vietnamese people and against the Congolese people, and publicly expound our views and do all of this in a perfectly legal manner, then why am I on trial? Why was I found “guilty” and why do I stand here about to be sentenced?
“…first the communists, then the Jews, then everyone else…,” Hitler said.
We offer that the U.S. government stands naked before the world for what it is – an imperialist, racist government. And since it is in this position it must guarantee its home base, silence dissent and whip its own people into line.
We know how this works. We saw it happen in Germany during that country’s rise to fascism. The German people said that, “It’s only those Jews and communists that they are killing and jailing.” But we know what the end result was. It may have started out “only” being the Jewish people and the communists, but when it ended, a whole nation was enslaved.
Is that a clear example? We think so. Because today, in this country, people may say, “Well, it’s only those niggers and Puerto Ricans and communists.” And as sure as I am standing here, they will include the Jewish people and then, as in fascist Germany, the entire country will be enslaved.
Today it is Bill Epton and the Progressive Labor Party that has stood on trial for our political views and our political activities. This is just the opening shot. Tomorrow it will be other militant voices of dissent – the militant and active student movement, the peace movement, the college professors and teachers who are sincerely becoming more active and outspoken against the government’s policies at home and abroad and the intellectual community, who see the contradiction in what the government says it is and what it does in fact. And, of course, as it has always been, the pressures on the Black people will increase because they are on the bottom and have the least to lose in fighting against the system. And, as we have seen in the past, when the white workers begin to struggle for their just demands and a better way of life, they will also be violently suppressed.
It is important that the students, intellectuals, and the workers unite to stay the hand of this government before it is too late, and in the same light, the Black people must organize themselves for the right of self-determination and for their liberation.
I say here, openly and publicly, that the Black people will not walk into the concentration camps, the furnaces and the gas chambers. We would sooner die fighting before we allow this to happen to us. To those who take this lightly, I say, if a government uses concentration camps (misnamed “strategic hamlets”), gas and fire against the Vietnamese people, what’s to prevent them from carrying out the same policy here? If a government uses fascistic methods to suppress others, it is only one step removed from using the same methods against its own people.
And we say to white America: Where will you be? Will the world ask the same question that the world is now asking the German people, “Where were you? Where were you when your country was being taken over by the industrial-military complex?” That same industrial and military complex that even Eisenhower was moved to warn this nation to beware of when he left the White House in 1961 – even though he helped to pave their way. The point is that even he saw the monster emerging as the dominant force in this country – which it is today. This is the same type of industrial-military complex that brought Hitler to power and supported him.
When the future equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials take place, it will not be Bill Epton standing in the docket, but it will be the Johnsons, the McNamaras, the Bundys, the Dirksens, the war-mad industrialists, who make war for profit, and their agents, who will be tried for crimes against humanity – the crimes against humanity that the nazis, their politicians, the industrialists, the military, those who made and carried out the “laws” to support that system and their subordinates were accused of and brought to trial and convicted. These are the same crimes being committed against humanity that their counterparts in the U.S are committing today and have been committing.
We say, here and now, that they should not harbor the illusion that the people here in the United States, and the people of the world, will not wake up as they always do eventually – and bring them to justice.
We, as communists, will fight against fascism as we have always done – no matter how it disguises itself. We will fight against it united with all those democratic forces who truly love and want peace. We will not be cowardly! We will continue to fight for peace and a better way of life for the American people openly and publicly! And we will fight for it as Marxist-Leninists! We have a right to be open and public Marxists. We will not give up and we will not allow this government, this court or any of its agencies to force us into taking any other position.
You have people in jail all over this country – mainly Black, Spanish-speaking and poor whites. This system, U.S. capitalism – a system where a few exploit the many – a system where the real criminals sit in high places and hold lofty positions – have the audacity to judge these people criminals: This system that forces these people to act the way they did and rebel in the way that they rebelled. This capitalist system completely de-humanizes mankind – particularly our own citizens – in jails where a man is turned into nothing else but a caged animal; in ghettos, in factories they call schools, in a moral climate where dissent is called a crime, where terror, mass murder, submission and racism has come to be known as the American Way of Life. And you have the nerve to call them criminals – the thief crying “stop, thief!”
Who are the real criminals?
We ask you, who are the real criminals? Who completely, through planned acts of genocide, destroyed the great Indian nation that once inhabited this continent? Who are the criminals? The criminal is the U.S. capitalist system.
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who raped Mother Africa to enslave and murder 60 million Africans to build this nation with their bodies, sweat and tears with almost 250 years of free labor?
Who are the criminals? The criminal is the system that lives on greed, corruption and the exploitation of man by man. That system is the U.S. capitalist system!
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who murdered, destroyed the language, culture, the religion, and, in some cases, the dignity of the Black men who were brought over here as slaves?
Who are the criminals? The criminals are the system that puts maximum profits over and above the lives of men. That system is U.S. capitalism!
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who, through military power and under the slogan of “manifest destiny,” colonized the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico and parts of other countries and reduced South America to nothing but a source of raw materials with its people among the poorest in the world? The criminal is the United States government.
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who is attempting to reduce this nation to nothing but robots to parrot their racist and pro-fascist policy? The criminal is a system that parades around as the “most democratic” and the leader of the “free world” and the strongest military power in the world today, but who really has feet of clay because it must silence any voice of dissent That system is the U.S. capitalist system!
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who, in their drive for world domination and to cower the world at its feet, massacred nearly 150,000 civilians with two bombs, one on Nagasaki and the other on Hiroshima? That dastardly act was committed by the U.S. government!
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who makes “laws” and when their same “laws” make it possible to dissent, turn around and either re-write them or ignore them? Who persecuted and attempted to destroy the trade unions in the name of “national security”? Who jailed those people who dared speak out against their oppressive system? Who framed and murdered the Rosenbergs in the true tradition of Hitlerite Germany? This was all done by the United States government!
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who is attempting to colonize the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America with a policy of overthrowing and destroying their governments, e.g. Guatemala, Santo Domingo, Venezuela, the Congo, south Vietnam, Laos, Brazil, British Guiana and the list goes on and on? These acts are being committed daily by the U.S. government and its parrots at home and abroad!
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who has systematically poured jellied gasoline over the Vietnamese people? Who has used chemical warfare and gas against the Vietnamese people? Who is attempting, through sheer military power and mass murder, to either bring the people to their knees or totally annihilate them under the slogan of “national security”? The answer is clearly the United States government!
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who are the criminals who have taken it upon themselves to become the police force of the world; to suppress any movement for freedom and national liberation in Asia, Africa and Latin America? The most dangerous and very criminal system is the U.S. imperialist system!
We ask you, who are the criminals? Who supports, militarily and financially, every fascist and pro-fascist clique in the world? Yes, again, it is the U.S. government!
And, we ask you, who stands alone, with increasing isolation in the world, as the arch-enemy of the people of the world? I will tell you who it is, it is the criminal U.S. government that is considered the most dangerous by the people of the world!
I have ‘dangerous’ thoughts – ideas of Freedom!
Now you have called me “dangerous.” In order to be “dangerous” one must be “dangerous” to someone or something. Since you have called me “dangerous” I must ask to whom am I “dangerous” and to what am I “dangerous”?
If ideas are “dangerous” then I am “dangerous” because I have ideas. I have ideas for a new system of government and society. Those ideas I have are called socialism. Socialism – a system where there will no longer exist a basis for the exploitation of man by man; a system of government where people – all people, without reservation – will be able to grow and develop into full human beings, where love will replace hate, where men, all men, can develop to their fullest potential.
Yes, I have these ideas and they are “dangerous,” to that small minority of people that presently exercises control over the people of this country. The idea that man should, can and will be free from this exploitation is “dangerous” and repugnant to them.
The ideas that we have are not “dangerous” to the workers, they are not “dangerous” to the tenant farmers and sharecroppers, and they are surely not “dangerous” to the Black people.
This notion that you have put forth of my being “dangerous” was also put into practice by the city administration by deliberately falsifying and conducting a fraudulent election in the district where I ran for State Senate. If my ideas were not so “dangerous” to them, then why didn’t they give the people a fair chance to make their choice at the ballot box?
Yes, we have these ideas and we will continue to spread them. And when that day comes when the American people realize that their government is a lie, and has lied and exploited them for years, they themselves – with their own hands – will dismember it, chase out the rascals and set up a government of their own choosing and liking. This is as inevitable as the sun rising and no matter what U.S. imperialism does, it cannot stop this historical process and its own inevitable doom.
The truth was not allowed to be presented!
We have also been accused of being anarchists. Yes, we communists have been accused of being anarchists, because what else does the charge mean? It says that we were conspiring to commit “criminal anarchy” and the “jury,” by its finding, in essence, did say we attempted to do this and, in fact, “we did it.” Of course, anyone who has one ounce of political sophistication knows that a communist, who believes in the highest form of organized government – after the revolution – is not an anarchist and has been an opponent of this doctrine since its inception. But, as we have so graphically seen it demonstrated in this court, the truth was not allowed to be presented.
When Professor Wilson from Princeton University, one of the nation’s leading scholars on Marxism and anarchism, appeared to testify as a defense witness, in order to clarify to the “jury” and the public that the documents presented here (or so-called “evidence”) were not documents of an anarchist or an organization that represents anarchy, those who were present in court at that time watched that transparent blindfold, that justice is supposed to be wearing, ripped off – and Professor Wilson was ordered to leave the stand and not testify!
If this building, with all sorts of quotes engraved into its wall, is supposed to represent justice, is supposed to be an “impartial third person” whose function it is to hear and bring out the truth, if this building and its inhabitants claimed that they performed this function, we ask, why was Professor Wilson not allowed to testify?
I don’t think that we need any crystal balls or magic lanterns to discover the truth. Professor Wilson was not allowed to testify because he would have put the lie to the various assertions that this was not a political trial. He would have exposed, as a truly impartial authority, that nothing in this indictment of the so-called “overt acts” had the remotest connection with anarchy, and, he would, from an expert point of view, with no ax to grind, have laid bare this sham.
Every so-called “overt” act was guaranteed us under the First Amendment of the Constitution – the right to speak freely, to express our ideas publicly, to criticize public officials, and especially the government, to organize and to peacefully assemble without interference from the State. Justice Holmes had said, and I quote:
“If, in the long run, the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorships are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces in the community, the only meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way.”
Why are we being denied our “chance”? The answer is that this system, with all its pretences of being strong, is a house built on sand and, in order for it to continue its rule, it must suppress its own Constitution or ignore it – especially the First Amendment – because it is afraid that we are “destined to be accepted by the dominant forces” of the country, which are the workers.
I quote again:
“The First Amendment was not written primarily for the protection of the intellectual aristocrats who pursued knowledge solely for the fun of the game, whose search for truth expresses nothing more than a private intellectual curiosity or an equally private delight and pride in mental achievement. It was written to clear the way for thinking which serves the general welfare. It offers defense to men who plan and advocate and incite towards corporate action for the common good. In behalf of such men it tells us that every plan of action must have a hearing, every relevant idea of fact or value must have consideration, whatever may be the danger which that activity involves. It makes no difference whether a man is advocating conscription or opposing it, speaking in favor of a war or against it, defending democracy or attacking it, planning a communist reconstruction of our economy or criticizing it. So long as his active words are those of participation in public discussion and public decision of matters of public policy, the freedom of those words may not be abridged.”
So said Professor Alexander Meiklejohn, who was one of the country’s most noted authorities on the First Amendment and, no doubt, if he had appeared here to testify, his eloquent words would have also been suppressed by the court.
Do you wish to jail me? I am sure you do! And that’s not very difficult for the richest industrial country in the world and one of the most powerful military countries that ever existed. No, it’s not very difficult for you to jail me, it’s not very difficult. But, does this mean you have proven your strength or does it mean you have displayed your weakness? I suggest that you have shown to the world and the American people the depth of your weakness.
Your greatest weakness is yourself.
Why are you weak? First of all, you spend billions of dollars on propaganda telling your people and the world what a great “democracy” you have. You tell them you have no political prisoners. You say that all political ideas have freedom of expression and on and on. If your form of democracy is so great, why are you afraid of political ideas that are so different? Why do you attempt to suppress them? If you are so sure of your form of democracy, why don’t you open the flood gates and allow all ideas and ideologies to contend? That’s a sign of strength. But you are afraid – therefore you are strategically weak!
Secondly, only the most naive, racist and weak are not conscious of the Harlem Rebellion of July 1964. They are the only ones that do not know, and if they do know they are afraid of its meaning, so they look for a scapegoat instead of digging to find the cause. They are the ones that don’t know that the people were fighting against the police terror, unemployment, housing that doesn’t provide warmth in the winter nor coolness in the summer, houses that are infested with rats, roaches and other disease-carrying vermin, an educational system that doesn’t teach, one hospital that doesn’t care for the sick and the diseased, unemployment that is among the highest in the country, and the highest rate of drug addiction of any community in the country. These are among the reasons that the people rebelled.
And we all know – and the world knows – that the spark that set it off was the cold-blooded murder of James Powell by Thomas Gilligan of the New York Police Department.
Who can deny these facts but a blind man as a liar?
Would a weak government, as a strong government, admit that it created the conditions for that type of outbreak to occur? A strong government would, but a government like this one, which, on the surface, appears to be strong, would do exactly what you are doing – ignore the conditions, buy off some of the “respectable” leaders, find a likely scapegoat and put the blame on him. I knew and everyone else in Harlem knew, that I was going to be the scapegoat so that the government could wipe its hands clean and duck all responsibility. Why was I the likely candidate? It’s very simple. While the other so-called leaders were hiding and meeting and telling the people “things were fine,” we were organizing the people to present their grievances to the city. We exposed the Police Department to be the terroristic organization that it is in Harlem. We were in the streets giving the leadership and we would not be bought off. And, of course, I am a communist!
You have also displayed your weakness because the apparatus of the state of New York, in conjunction with the Federal government, has fabricated a case (and not a very good one, as even your District Attorney admitted in his summation) against one man. Even if you say that there were six so-called co-conspirators, are you foolish enough to believe that six people could plan to start, start and continue a “riot” in Harlem and then miraculously shift them to Brooklyn? If you have worked yourself up into believing this nonsense, then, with all of your spies, stool pigeons, cops and so-called leaders, you still don’t have the slightest knowledge of the Black communities.
Is it just Bill Epton that you want to jail or is your long-range objective to try to destroy the Progressive Labor Party? As we have said earlier, it’s no problem for the tremendous U.S. government to jail Bill Epton. But you cannot destroy the Progressive Labor Party, because the Progressive Labor Party is an organization that has ideas like mine. You can jail people, but since recorded history no idea has ever been jailed – and don’t think it hasn’t been tried by other governments before yours came into existence!
No matter haw many of us you put into your jails you will never be able to destroy or jail the ideas that we hold, that thousands of other Americans hold, the dominant ideas in the world today, the ideas of freedom, national liberation and socialism.
You see, this system is caught on the “horns of a dilemma.” It is so rich, so corrupt and so involved in its own lies that it believes that the individual is everything. That by building up or tearing down an individual they can control the masses of the people. This entire concept is in the history of this country arid permeates its thinking – that individuals make and determine the course of mankind. Thus they jail dissenters and what happens? – dissension grows, and more are jailed and the process continues. It will continue until that section of the Walter-McCarren Act that provided for the setting up and use of concentration camps will be utilized. For those who doubt, read the Nation magazine that has detailed where these camps have been set up.
Was Bill Epton in Watts, Chicago, Rochester, Birmingham…?
What else do they do under this misapprehension that by jailing or killing individuals they can stop the course of history? They have assassinated Patrice Lumumba, but, the national liberation movement continues to exist and grow. They assassinated Malcolm X and that hasn’t stopped the upsurge of the Black people here for national liberation. They have jailed and finally caused the death of Albizu Campos – the great leader of the Puerto Rican people – but the Puerto Rican people are still fighting for, and will win, their independence. There are numerable other examples.
Now we know, we Marxists know, that history is not made by individuals but by the masses of the people – the great restless mass of people who are fed up with being oppressed. So you jail and assassinate, but somehow the struggle against oppression continues. I ask you, was Bill Epton in Watts, Los Angeles?
Just like in New York they buried their heads in the sand. Instead of jailing Police Chief Parker, they set up a commission headed by the arch-criminal, former head of the CIA, John McCone. And just like in Harlem, they are not going to solve the problems of the people. They will look for another scapegoat and blame it on “outside agitators” because “our niggers are good and peaceful niggers.”
This system can only be done away with – not reformed
This system cannot solve the problems that confront the Black people in this country nor can it solve the problems of the workers in general. You may have been successful so far in buying off some of the so-called leaders, but can you buy off the 16 million near-starving people that live in the mountains of Appalachia? No, you can’t unless this system is changed!
Can you continue to buy off the hundreds of thousands of Black tenant farmers and sharecroppers who barely subsist in the Black Belt? No, you can’t without a basic policy of agrarian reform, and this system will not institute such a policy!
Can you continue to buy off those Black people that you have built a color-class barrier around in the ghettos across the length and breadth of this land? No, you will not be able to!
Can you continue to buy off the modern day slave, commonly called “migrant farmers” who travel around the country with all their earthly belongings in a cardboard box? No you can’t!
Just as the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee saw the light, so will others. I quote from their statement of January 6:
“We believe the United States government has been deceptive in its claims of concern for the freedom of the Vietnamese people, just as the government has been deceptive in claiming concern for the freedom of colored people in such other countries as the Dominican Republic, the Congo, South Africa, Rhodesia and in the United States itself.
“We, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, have been involved in the Black people’s struggle for liberation and self-determination in this country for the past five years. Our work, particularly in the South, has taught us that the United States government has never guaranteed the freedom of oppressed citizens, and is not yet truly determined to end the rule of terror and oppression within its own borders.
“We ourselves have often been victims of violence and confinement executed by United States governmental officials. We recall the numerous persons who have been murdered in the South because they demanded their civil and human rights, and whose murderers have been allowed to escape penalties for their crimes.
“The murder of Samuel Younge in Tuskegee, Alabama, is no different than the murder of peasants in Vietnam, for both Younge and the Vietnamese sought and are seeking, to secure the rights guaranteed them by law. In each case, the United States government bares a great responsibility for their deaths.
“Samuel Younge was murdered because United States law is not being enforced. Vietnamese are murdered because the United States is pursuing an aggressive policy in violation of international law. The United States is no respecter of person or law when such persons or laws run counter to its desires.
“We question, then, the ability and even the desire of the United States government to guarantee free elections abroad. We maintain that our country’s cry of ‘preserve freedom in the world’ is a hypocritical mask behind which it squashes liberation movements which are not bound and refuse to be bound by the experiences of United States Cold war policies.
“We take note of the fact that 60 per cent of the draftees from this country are Negroes called on to stifle the liberation of Vietnam, to preserve a ‘democracy’ which does not exist for them at home.
“We ask, where is the draft for the freedom fight?”
Our patience is great; but even great things wither away…
Do you think you will always be able to throw a few crumbs to our people and say, “Okay, everything is fine.”? I think not! Are you laboring under the illusions that Black mothers will continue to see their babies die before they are able to walk and not fight against the system that makes their death possible?
Are you laboring under the illusion that Black people will continue to allow their loved ones to cough and spit their lives away with tuberculosis without realizing that this is happening because they are living under a system that regards them as sub-human?
Do you have the illusion that people who are constantly, and, in many cases, permanently unemployed, will not say, “We have had enough; either you give us jobs or we’ll get a system that will!”?
Do you think that you can continue to sell this phony electoral system to the people when all they see is one fraud after another? When they see the Georgia Legislature deny a Black man his seat because he is opposed to the war in Vietnam – why aren’t they calling for the ouster of the murderers who sit in Washington, who advocate and are planning on dropping bombs on everyone who doesn’t agree with them – and who are doing it?
Do you think that you can suppress the young people, both black and white, who have no fear of McCarthyism (and its now more subtle form)? No, you can’t. Because they have very few illusions about the system and they hate it
Will mothers begin to realize that their children are being cheated from realizing their full potential because of an educational system that has no intention of educating them? When these mothers become fully aware of this, they themselves will begin to tear at this rotten system. When the full realization reaches the Black people that dope is brought into their communities to further subjugate them, they will know then that it is a system that makes profit off of their misery that is their real enemy.
Will the American people not organize against this system when it becomes obvious to them, as it is now obvious to the Black people, that the police all around this country will be the stormtroopers that will be used against them when they protest their conditions? The Black people know that the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, the White Citizens Council and the John Birch Society find their most ardent recruits and supporters within the police departments around this country.
And when the full realization hits the people of this country, that their taxes and productive capabilities are being used to finally destroy them in a nuclear holocaust, and is not being used in their interest, they themselves will bring down this system with a vengeance never before seen in the history of mankind.
Who was this ‘jury of my peers’…?
I said earlier that I would discuss the question of the 12 jurors that were supposed to have been my “peers.” I will now address a few remarks to that subject.
I must say that I only feel deep sorrow for them. I do not accuse them of any crime except the crime of being products of this system. They were sold a “bill of goods” and they bought it!
I am sure if we asked most of them, in the quiet of their home, what they found me “guilty” of, they would not be able to tell us. And if we ask them if they were “objective” in their deliberations, they would say yes.
If we were to ask them, as we did during the jury selection, if they have any prejudices against communists, they would say no, most emphatically!
If we were to ask them if they have any prejudices against Black people, they would say no, also, most emphatically! And we could go on and on with these questions and they would give “right answers.”
Were they dishonest? I don’t know if we could say that, but let’s examine the facts and then draw our conclusions.
First of all, we live in a country where racism and the ideology of white supremacy is synonymous with the American Way of Life. Where, since 1619, and one time written in the Constitution, the Black man has not been considered a real man.
We live in a country where racism has deep roots!
We live in a country where the main communication media spews forth racism – racism is everywhere! To boil it all down, there are very, very few white people – and yes, some black people also – who are not affected by the ideology of white supremacy.
But in so-called “liberal” New York, racism is not supposed to exist, so it is not admitted, and, for that matter, how many white people in New York will publicly admit that they are racists?
Secondly, we also live in a country whose government, for at least twenty years, has carried out a systematic anti-communist campaign. They have hunted and looked for communists in every nook and cranny. They have persecuted and jailed communists, those who might have sympathized with them, and those people who have genuine liberal views. They have accused communists of every dastardly crime imaginable, and even invented new ones.
In fact, good honest people who had no politics at all were even afraid to use the word communist in public without looking over their shoulder. And, at the same time, the government and its puppets were saying, as they were locking communists into their jails, that “every man has a right to his political views.” What hypocrisy!
And, again – in “liberal” New York, most people will publicly say, “every man has a right to his political views,” they say this because this is what they are supposed to say in a so-called democracy.
Now, these jurors, both Black and white, being products of the system, went to the schools, read the newspapers and magazines, watch the movies and television, and listen to the radio. These jurors are supposed to come into this court with an open mind and with no preconceived ideas or judgments and with no prejudices. That’s what those 12 people said. Again we ask the question, were they honest?
I pose another question. During the jury selection there were people who came forth and quite honestly said, “I have read the newspapers,” and “I have an opinion.” Were these the honest people or were these the hypocrites? They were the honest people, and, as a result, they could not sit on the jury.
I submit that every man, woman and child in this city had an opinion on the “police riots” in Harlem of July 1964!!
I ask you, how could those 12 people, who, in many cases did not understand the language of the ghetto, did not understand the Marxist terminology, cannot, in their wildest dreams imagine the filth and poverty that the people in Harlem are found to live in – how could they really understand what we were talking about? How could this “jury of my peers” therefore judge me and my conduct?
This “jury” of my so-called “peers” saw fit to find me “guilty” of a crime that many of the best legal minds in this country have said they can never understand, as you yourself have admitted – a crime that, in essence, doesn’t even exist – “criminal anarchy!” In fact, judging from the questions they asked during their deliberations, they didn’t have the slightest idea as to what “criminal anarchy” meant.
And yet, they still found me “guilty” of non-existent offenses.
This further exposes the sad condition that many people of this country are still in.
And finally – after everything is said, we must boil this discussion on the jury down to its bare essentials. What were the choices they had? The choice was to free Bill Epton – a Black man and a communist – on the one hand, and the State on the other. To acquit me on these charges, no matter how wild and absurd they may sound, would have meant that they would have condemned the U.S. government, the State government, the City government and the New York Police Department.
Yes, they would have to condemn this entire system. That’s the choice they had and in spite of the fact that more people in this country are becoming conscious of the role their government is playing, the majority still believe that sick slogan “My country – right or wrong.”
I offer you the following which will best illustrate what we are saying. If I, Bill Epton, an open, known, public communist, were brought before this court and charged with driving a herd of wild buffalos through Times Square on New Year’s Eve I would have been found “guilty.”
Every people has Judas’ and Black people are no exception
This brings us back to the basic question – what was I found “guilty” of? I was found “guilty” of having a political view that is not popular or acceptable in this country today – it’s as simple as that!
Now a few words about the State’s star witness. I will not dwell too long on this subject because, in the final analysis, it has very little importance.
I can only offer pity for Adolph Hart – pity as a human being, as a man, and, most of all, as a Black man.
In the history of mankind there have always been traitors and stool pigeons who have sold out their people for “20 pieces of gold,” and, in his case, it was for less. I very well understand that he is a sick man. Who else but a sick man would swear allegiance to a government and a system that has enslaved his people, murdered and raped his women, attempts to poison the minds of our children and make them into the image of Adolph Harts? Yes, only a sick man is capable of committing such a horrible act.
One can see as a perfect example a Jewish person or policeman, living in Germany during the reign of terror against the Jewish people, whose function was to betray and inform on his people to the nazis. But we know that history, and the people that make it, are the final judges of these modern-day quislings.
It makes me wonder about these people who have no friends except their fellow betrayers, who are not trusted by anyone because no one trusts a rat – not even those who hire them. They are loathed by society and are probably held in disdain by their own families.
It’s really not that important and I didn’t intend to use so many words on a non-entity, and to end this I must say that there have been many traitors before him and there will be many after him, but, if my knowledge of history and development of societies is correct, a traitor to his people has never stopped the march of his people to freedom and liberation.
He sleeps the sleep of a drugged man!
And now, I, Bill Epton, stand before the court – found “guilty” of being a communist, judged a “criminal” because I dared to fight back and called “dangerous” because I have ideas.
I told you what I have done, and yes, I have done all of these things proudly. I shall now tell you what I have not done and I am equally proud of that.
My hands are clean… can the U.S. Government say the same?
I have not murdered or enslaved 60 million African people!
I have not killed or enslaved one Cuban, one Puerto Rican, one Venezuelan, one Costa Rican or any Latin American!
I have not dropped an atomic bomb on any city! I have not used poison gas, napalm or weapons of genocide against the Vietnamese people!
I have not committed atrocities all over the world!
I have not used the Ku Klux Klan, the Minutemen or other such paramilitary organizations to carry out bombings, murders, terror and all kinds of atrocities, that equal nazi Germany, against the Black people and their allies!
I have not stuffed Black people into ghettos to live under inhumane conditions!
I did not create the condition in Harlem where tuberculosis maims and kills my people!
I did not create the condition in Harlem where the infant mortality rate is the highest in the state!
I did not create the condition in Harlem where children are graduated from school and are unable to read!
I did not create the condition in Harlem where rats bite children and run rampant!
I did not create the conditions in Harlem where one of the major business enterprises is the sale of narcotics with the connivance of the government and the Police Department!
I did not create the condition where the life expectancy of the Black man is at least seven years less than that of the white man!
I am not responsible for the high rate of unemployment and under-employment among my people!
I did not create police crime, corruption and terror in Harlem!
I have never taken the life of a white man or a Black man!
I have never taken any man’s life!
I have never committed one act that was not in the interest of my people!
I am what I am. I believe in what I believe and nothing will change that!
My hands are clean. I have no blood on them! Can the U.S. Government and its agents make these same statements?
You may put me in your jail, but you cannot stop the march of my people towards freedom and liberation, and in the final analysis, when the last and most important voice is heard – it will be the voice of the people who will make the ultimate judgment – not on me, but on the U.S. government and those who carry out its policies.