IN THE MONTH of August, the Santa Monica promenade is a mecca for pleasure seekers and the curious. Its bricked sidewalks are crowded with Angelenos gawking at the antics of mimes, jugglers, break-dancers and other entertainment wannabees who put on a good show that is also free. Last week, taking a Saturday evening stroll with my wife along this walkway, I was given the serendipity of seeing one of Bill Clinton’s famous pardons in action -- outside of prison and back on the streets.
The last time I saw Linda Evans was thirty-two years ago in Berkeley, in a packed hall of student radicals at the University. In those heady times, Linda was one of the leaders of a vanguard organization known as Weatherman and had come to the university with fellow militant Ted Gold to recruit others to the cause. In the style of new left revolutionaries, Weatherman had taken its name from a Bob Dylan line (“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”), but its substance was very much that of older Leninist factions of the time. The Weather Bureau (which was the name adopted by its Central Committee) knew what was good for the rest of us. Its icons, Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers had been elected to the leadership of SDS in 1968, and had promptly trashed its headquarters and announced the end of the organization. They explained that SDS -- until then the largest student radical organization, was in fact “the pig” itself, which in those times was the symbol of the political enemy. SDS was an organization hooked on its “white skin privilege,” they said, and thus too cowardly to launch the necessary war against the imperial monster, Amerikkka.
Evans and Gold had come to Berkeley to recruit troops for the global race war they believed was already taking place. The “only” role for white radicals in this war, they told the student audience, was to serve as a Fifth Column of saboteurs and terrorists in the “belly of the beast.” White radicals were needed to blow things up, sew social chaos, and hasten Amerikkka’s destruction. “Vietnam is burning,” Evans screamed at the audience. “It’s only white skin privilege that prevents Amerikkkan cities from being burned too.” Everyone present knew what this meant. Berkeley deserved to be put to the torch; only our racism stopped us from lighting the match.
To their credit, most of the New Left radicals present were appalled by these Weather ideas and agendas, but no one spoke out against them. It was fascinating to see how tongue-tied the denouncers of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were when individuals from their own ranks proposed criminal acts.
The year was 1969. A few months later, Evans and Gold disappeared from sight and into what their “war communiqués” identified as the “Weather Underground.” Speaking for her comrades, Bernadine Dohrn issued a formal “Declaration of War Against Amerikkka.” Shortly thereafter, three Weathermen terrorists were blown up in a Greenwich Village townhouse, while making a bomb filled with roofing nails which they intended to detonate at a dance at Fort Dix. Ted Gold was one of them. Months later, Linda Evans was arrested for transporting weapons and explosives in Detroit, and for crossing state lines to incite a riot. The charges were eventually thrown out on a technicality because the wiretaps that identified her had been unauthorized.
On her release, Evans resumed her anti-American activities as a self-styled fighter against “racism/white supremacy and Zionism” and as a supporter of Communists movements in Central America. In a profile found on a “political prisoners” support website, her activities in these years are described as “working to develop clandestine resistance, capable of conducting armed struggle as part of a multi-level overall revolutionary strategy.” On May 11, 1985, she was arrested again, charged and then convicted of acquiring weapons, fake IDs and safe houses, and of terrorist actions. Her targets included the U.S. Capitol Building, the National War College, the Navy Yard Computer Center, the Navy Yard Officers Club, Israeli Aircraft Industries, the FBI and the New York Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. In her possession were 740 pounds of dynamite. Evans was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
But then her Clinton patrons intervened. The agent of her mercy was the blimpish, New York congressman Jerry Nadler, one of President Clinton’s staunchest defenders during the impeachment process and one of Senator Clinton’s chief supporters during her election bid. Nadler appealed to Clinton and Clinton responded. As the last hours of the Clinton era expired, Linda Evans was freed. It was 24 years shy of her full sentence.
The serendipity that brought me into Linda Evans’ presence a second time, was a glance into the window display of the Midnight Special Bookstore, a radical haunt on the Santa Monica promenade, which featured anti-Bush posters and Noam Chomsky tracts, along with choice events on the progressive calendar.Among the books in the display, I noticed an announcement that Evans would be presenting a film and talk that evening about “political prisoners.”
When my wife and I entered the store, we saw that about thirty people had seated themselves on folding chairs in the back to watch the film, which was now almost over. At its conclusion Evans took a seat herself and asked the audience to form a circle. I had remembered her as a small, firey, blond woman, with a pretty face hardened and flushed by revolutionary fervor. She was softer now, actually teary-eyed from watching the film of her “comrades” (as she called them) who were still in prison. As she wiped her tears, and apologized for her emotion, I noticed that the years had piled flesh on her petite frame giving her a roly-poly look, and making her seem softer still. There was no hard edge in her voice as she began to explain how people were oppressed in prison and oppressed in America, and how their oppressors were white racism and imperialism. I wondered to myself how the other listeners computed this dark picture with the carnival of Saturday night revelers that was going on outside. But Evans gave no thought to this cognitive dissonance at all. Instead she pursued her tales of social woe, speaking about one of her prison comrades who had been denied even the ability to attend her pottery classes because of “the arthritis in her hands,” as if this were yet another injustice inflicted by the System.
Her soft speech and solicitous presence suggested a help group for the victims of unspeakable crimes that nobody else dared to care about. In addition to the most famous “political prisoner” on her list, Mumia Abu Jamal, she mentioned three comrades, in particular, who were in need of people’s support. These were Kathy Soliah (aka Sara Jane Olson) Jamil Al-Amin (aka H. Rap Brown) and Kathy Boudin.
The very first questioner asked what it was that these individuals had done to be singled out for such punishment. Evans seemed a little uncomfortable with the question – as though the fact that they were “political” prisoners should have said enough. She chose to talk about Olson and Brown because both had trials scheduled for the fall. Olson, she said, was accused of attempting to “fire bomb” a police car, hesitating over the words “fire” and “bomb” as though it was still an effort for her to lie about these things. In fact it was pipe bombs that Olson had randomly planted under two police cars, which would have killed the occupants if they hadn’t malfunctioned first. “It didn’t even go off,” Evans whined, as if to cover that particular base with anyone in the audience who may still have had doubts.
The effort was hardly necessary, but Evans continued. The oppressor was so intent on prosecuting a woman who had lived an exemplary life these last 25 years as the wife of a doctor that the court was charging her with all the crimes of the Symbionese Liberation Army whose partisan she had been. Sara Olson’s attorney, Shawn Chapman, who was conveniently in the audience, rose to second these observations. What neither woman got around to explaining was that the SLA had assassinated the first black superintendent of Oakland’s public schools and had murdered an innocent bystander in the course of a bank robbery, and that Sara Olson had embraced the SLA and its crimes in the name of “social justice.” If prosecutors had evidence linking her to the conspiratorial organization that planned such acts, it was perfectly legitimate to charge her for their consequences.
Evans then talked about H. Rap Brown, whom she pointed out was an “Imam” in his Moslem temple in Atlanta, a community worker who helped the drug addicted and the poor. She indicated that this was the reason the police had targeted him. “There was a shootout,” she said, introducing the events that led to his arrest. Two police officers had gone to Brown’s home at night with a warrant for traffic tickets. “Who arrests people at night for traffic tickets?” Evans asked in the most suspicious tone she could muster. One of the officers was killed in the “shootout” that followed. The surviving officer had reported that the fleeing gunman had been wounded and was bleeding. But when police tracked Brown three days later to another state, Evans said, he had no wound. Key facts that Evans omitted were that both officers were black, that they had not anticipated trouble and consequently were not wearing vests, and had been ambushed with a firearm that was found in Brown’s possession and identified as his. Evans did not attempt to explain why an innocent man should flee for three days until a massive manhunt tracked him down, or why the Atlanta police force, whose chief was a black woman and which served a liberal city whose mayor was also black would want to murder or falsely imprison a community holy man named H. Rap Brown.
When an elderly man in a straw hat sitting near me asked Evans how she defined “political prisoners,” she answered, “every prisoner in American jails is a victim of political circumstance.” I immediately thought of the Night Stalker, a psychopath who had raped and murdered forty men, women and children, or the fugitive who had recently killed his whole family with a knife. In Linda Evans’ eyes, the twin devils white racism and corporate capitalism made them do it. Thus are the guilty made innocent, while innocents who happen to have the wrong skin color (white), or the wrong nationality (American) or the wrong gender (male), or the wrong income status, are damned as guilty before the fact.
The inability of leftists like Linda Evans to recognize their own deeds was made vivid in a recent New York Times story on the parole appeal of political prisoner Kathy Boudin. The Times had run a series of stories on Boudin, which did everything possible to create sympathy as her appeal date approached. Like Sara Jane Olson, Boudin proposes herself as a “changed woman,” who has been incarcerated (or in Olson’s case prosecuted) almost as a matter of mistaken identity. Commented the Times: “Today, her supporters say, Ms. Boudin is a different woman. During her 20 years in prison she has helped to create several innovative programs for AIDS victims, incarcerated mothers and inmates seeking to take college courses. As part of its promotional effort on Boudin’s behalf, the Times even ran a 3,000 word feature on her graduation from the college program she had created, which was funded by actress Glenn Close and Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler among others. Boudin’s boosters include The Nation magazine, numerous organizations advocating prisoner rights and “social justice,” and the socially prominent and influential mandarins of the “progressive” elite.
Like her comrades, however, Kathy Boudin remains -- despite all the cosmetics of social uplift -- a lifelong enemy of American democracy and a committed terrorist. She was part of the Weatherman team constructing the anti-personnel bomb whose explosion in the New York townhouse killed three of the guilty and prevented the loss of innocent lives. Far from renouncing her communist and terrorist past, Kathy Boudin now embraces the same radical support network that fuels Linda Evans’ seditious projects as an integral part of the permanent revolution both signed onto in the 1960s. In the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter was in the White House, Kathy Boudin joined a gang of black criminals calling themselves the “May 19th Communist organization” and became part of the getaway team in a $1.6 million robbery of a Brink’s armored vehicle. The funds would have been used to finance a revolution that would carve a “New Afrika” out of the United States.
In the botched robbery attempt, an innocent Brinks guard and two Nyack police officers were killed. Nine children ranging in age from two months to twenty-one years were left without fathers, and with permanent wounds that are beyond the powers of the courts or Kathy Boudin to heal. One of the murdered officers was the first black policeman on the Nyack force, whose hiring was the result of a lengthy civil rights struggle undertaken by blacks and whites in the Nyack community. Yet, here is how Kathy Boudin explained her collusion in the cold-blooded killings of these men to a New York Times reporter: “I went out that day with a lot of denial. I didn’t think anything would happen; in my mind, I was going back to pick up my child at the baby-sitter’s.”
Like Linda Evans and Sara Olson, Kathy Boudin is, in fact, part of a community of political monsters. These are not prisoners of conscience. They are prisoners without conscience, incapable of even a minimal accounting of what they willed and did twenty or thirty years ago, or what they are attempting to do right now. It is not just that their deeds are monstrous. It is that their evil is masked by a false idealism and deceptive goodwill, and they have consciously concealed their agendas behind an aura of vulnerability and innocence that allows them to manipulate real institutions power in American society, even the highest office of the land, making the unsuspecting abettors of their malign intent.
For forty years, Linda Evans and a sinister network of political comrades have inhabited an alternative reality that makes innocence seem criminal and their own criminality like nobility itself. They are supported in their delusions by an academic industry in anti-white, anti-capitalist, anti-male, anti-American ideologies and screeds. As in the days of Weatherman, the support network for their unholy war is recruited from college campuses and supported by journalists themselves captivated by the “progressive” worldview. Three thousand benighted activists attended a conference this year at the University of California to protest the “prison-industrial complex.” The event was organized by long-time Communist Party activist professor Angela Davis. In New York, a similar rally demanding the right of felons to vote was organized by the mis-named Center for Constitutional Rights and was addressed by speakers like Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and TV pundit Arianna Huffington.
The ideas behind this movement are the ideas of the anti-American, anti-globalization left. Their agenda is to attack legitimate law enforcement and to defame American justice as a system of racial oppression and – though they do not reveal it to outsiders -- to enlist the anti-social and the violent as a military vanguard. “Like the military/industrial complex, the prison industrial complex is an interweaving of private business and government interests. Its twofold purpose is profit and social control…. This monumental commitment to lock up a sizeable percentage of the population is an integral part of the globalization of capital.”These sentences are taken from a pamphlet written by Linda Evans and her lover Eve Goldberg under the title: The Prison Industrial Complex and the Global Economy.
As their pamphlet makes clear, the new radicalism is the old Weatherman race war brought up to date (if a reactionary religious fanaticism can ever be said to be “up to date.”) Globalization is depicted as the white man’s aggression on the non-white races of the world. It is American capitalism vs. Third World victims. The prison networks, the “social justice” organizations, the anti-globalist protesters are the Fifth Column vanguards envisaged by Weatherman, declaring war on the Empire and plotting to tear down its walls from within. “Tear Down The Walls” is actually the name of the next big mobilization of Linda Evans’ army, an “International Human Rights Conference on Winning Amnesty For U.S Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War [Mumia Abu Jamal, Kathy Boudin and H. Rap Brown of course among them].” The majority of the “political prisoners of war,” as the brochure for the conference explains “are Black/New Afrikan…. These political prisoners of war are women and men incarcerated because of their involvement in political activities which challenged the unjust nature of the U.S. socioeconomic system and its hegemonic policies around the world.”
The conference will be held seven months from now at the end of March, 2002, in the Mecca of the revolutionary faith which is – so fittingly – Fidel Castro’s Cuba, one of the last surviving Communist police states, whose sadistic, tyrant (and the conference host) has turned his unhappy nation into an island prison.