4 December 2009

Protest Gag Order Against Ray Luc Levasseur

Last month, former Ohio 7 political prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur was vindictively barred from speaking at an event at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, about the notorious 1989 sedition frame-up trial in which he was a defendant. The university library’s invitation to Levasseur was met with a vile slander campaign by the cops and bourgeois press, which tarred Levasseur as “bloodthirsty” and a “terrorist,” while the state senate passed a resolution “roundly condemning” that this opponent of U.S. imperialist terror had been invited to speak.

Bowing to pressure from Massachusetts Democratic governor Deval Patrick and the state Fraternal Order of Police, the university administration canceled Levasseur’s invitation. In response, the Social Thought and Political Economy Program and several academic departments took over sponsorship of the event and reinvited Levasseur. UMass president Jack Wilson admitted he had “no way of preventing a speaking appearance, based on free speech and free assembly rights” (Boston Herald, 11 November). But Levasseur’s parole officer did, denying him permission to leave Maine. Arnie Larson, president of the Massachusetts Fraternal Order of Police, boasted, “We reached out to people in the Justice Department and educated them about our passion here…and they followed through on it” (Boston Globe, 12 November).

When former political prisoner and sedition trial co-defendant Pat Levasseur (Ray’s former wife) spoke in Ray Luc Levasseur’s place, she was met by an ominous display of police bonapartism. An army of over 200 cops from New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts protested the event on the campus with signs reading, “There Is No Such Thing as a Former Terrorist.” This was an echo of the government’s 1987 frame-up of two other Ohio 7 defendants for the killing of a New Jersey state trooper.

Pat and Ray Luc Levasseur were part of the Ohio 7, convicted for their roles in a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings against symbols of U.S. imperialism such as military and corporate offices. Before their arrests in the mid 1980s, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts and their children were kidnapped at gunpoint by the Feds and interrogated. Having already convicted and sentenced them to decades behind bars, in 1989 the Justice Department spent nearly $10 million to vindictively prosecute them again for the same alleged crimes, as part of an effort to rehabilitate discredited “thought crime” sedition laws. Pat and Ray Luc Levasseur as well as another member of the Ohio 7, Richard Williams, were dragged through a ten-month trial for conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government. The defendants were acquitted, though this did not put an end to the government vendetta. Richard Williams died in prison in December 2005 due to medical neglect and abuse during his solitary confinement. Two other members of the Ohio 7, Tom Manning and Jaan Laaman, still languish behind bars. Free Manning and Laaman now!

From the standpoint of the working class, the actions of the Ohio 7 against U.S. imperialism and racist injustice are not crimes, and these courageous activists should not have served a day in prison. Although we do not share their political perspective, we have been outspoken in the defense of the Ohio 7, several of whom have been longtime recipients of the Partisan Defense Committee’s monthly stipend program for class-war prisoners. We noted in “RICO Witchhunt Targets Ohio 7” (WV No. 476, 28 April 1989), “with the seditious conspiracy case of the Ohio 7 this dangerous government is trying to move a big step closer to its police-state dreams of outlawing leftist political views.” Likewise, the censorship of Ray Luc Levasseur and the massive cop mobilization at UMass are intended as a threat to all who would speak out against the ravages of the racist American ruling class. An injury to one is an injury to all!

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 948, 4 December 2009)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.