June 15, 2010 COINTELPRO Examiner
by Michael Richardson
Red Emma’s independent bookstore in Baltimore, Maryland recently had a book release event but without a book signing. Fifty people crowded into Red Emma’s to listen to the author they could not see talk about a secret government program, Operation COINTELPRO.
Marshall Eddie Conway, former Minister of Defense for the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panthers, is one of the longest imprisoned targets of Operation COINTELPRO. Jailed forty years for the 1970 murder of a Baltimore policeman. Conway called Red Emma’s bookstore in Baltimore from his cellblock to talk about his new book, The Greatest Threat.
Conway has been confined four decades since his arrest while at work at the Post Office. Conway was charged with the shooting death of a policeman on the basis of a photo identification by another policeman who allegedly saw Conway in the distance at the crime scene the night before his arrest.
No physical evidence linked Conway to the shooting and his primary accuser ended up being an informer cellmate who bought his own freedom by claiming Conway confessed to the crime. Conway has consistently maintained his innocence and objected to his cellmate fearing subsequent perjured testimony
The Greatest Threat details the heady days of revolutionary spirit and the rise of the Black Panthers that led to the subversion of justice by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, led a personal secret war against American political activists and targeted the Black Panthers as the most dangerous group in America. Hoover prodded field agents to “disrupt” the Panthers and break the organization by attacking its leadership.
Hoover’s COINTELPRO campaign was national in scope and eventually became a major priority of the police agency--all in secret.
Conway’s controversial trial resembled a farce with Conway denied his own attorney and often not present in the courtroom. The court-appointed attorney, not of Conway’s choosing, only met with Conway for two brief meetings as part of trial preparation. Conway kept a defiant posture when he was in the courtroom and his fate was sealed with a life sentence.
Conway was able to speak with the Red Emma’s audience for the better part of an hour reflecting on his time in prison and answering questions. Several times the call-in lecture was interrupted and Conway had to call back in from the medium-security cellblock where he is imprisoned.
Proceeds from the sale of the book go to Conway’s legal defense fund.
Eddie called in from prison to a 50 person crowd at Baltimore's Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse - May 21st, 2010. All proceeds from the book go to Eddie's legal defense fund.
Listen:More info on the struggle to free Eddie
by Marshall ‘Eddie’ Conway
In 2009, we started a mentoring project known as Friend of a Friend at the institution where I’m now housed. The last seven months of 2009 were spent training 20 prisoners to be mentors. Eighteen of these men graduated with the help of the American Friend Service Committee’s Peace with Justice Program in Baltimore. We are currently training 25 new mentees. Our goal: Through our shared skills, experience and knowledge we will produce prisoners that are critical thinkers and able leaders. This will go a long way in changing the direction of the prison system and the communities from which these young men come.
During our initial training process, we worked with a local Baltimore production group, WombWork Productions. Together we presented a play for the general population entitled “The Birth of Peace.” The success of this collaboration can be measured by the feedback we got from the general population here.
The men crave these types of activities because they help them overcome the boredom and monotony of incarceration, and this in turn helps to reduce the violence. We have a lengthy waiting list for new mentees and our current mentees are very enthusiastic about being a part of Friend of a Friend. The play was about finding a peaceful resolution to conflicts between the various street organizations in our communities. We intend on presenting this play again.
As the years have rolled by, my concern for my family has grown significantly. Too many of my young family members are growing up and I am missing out on being there for them or experiencing their progress. For example, some of my grandchildren are now going to school and others are going to college. These are memories I’m only able to experience from afar. My older family members – in particular my mother Eleanor – are experiencing some minor health issues. The fact is many of us are just getting old. Personally, I’m still struggling with high blood pressure, but I believe it is under control. Gaining my freedom will correct most of these things.
“The Greatest Threat” examines the plight of the Black Panther Party Political Prisoners/POWs and the role of the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program in their imprisonment. It is my belief that we need to examine this phenomenon and how it has impacted anti-establishment activities and dissent. This book is my attempt to put into political perspective the system’s response to any form of social discontent.
To help in our fundraising drive we are giving a copy of “The Greatest Threat” to anyone who donates $20 to the legal defense fund effort. Anyone who can pledge future contributions, please contact Erica Woodland at (410) 908-9865 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information. Thanks for your continuing support.
Send our brother some love and light: M. Eddie Conway, 116469, Jessup Correctional Institution, P.O. Box 534, Jessup MD 20794.
“Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther,” by Marshall “Eddie” Conway is his autobiography. Release is anticipated in February 2011 by AK Press.
In 1970, the feds framed Eddie Conway for the murder of a Baltimore City police officer. He was 24 years old. They threw him in prison, took him away from his family, his friends and his organizing and tried to relegate him to a life marked by nothing but legal appeals, riots and lockdowns, transfers from one penal colony to the next. But they failed.
Forty years later, still incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, Eddie Conway continues to resist. “Marshall Law” is a poignant story of strength and struggle. From his childhood in inner-city Baltimore to his political awakening in the military, from the rise of the Black Panther Party to the sham trial, the realities of prison life, escape attempts, labor organizing on the inside and beyond, Eddie’s autobiography is a reminder that we all share the responsibility of resistance, no matter where we are.