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Miami arrests seen as racist entrapment

Published Jun 29, 2006 12:48 AM

What is behind the FBI arrest of seven Black men on June 22 in this election year, barely a year after thousands of Black and poor white residents were left to die in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

Five of the men arrested in Miami are African-American, and two are Haitian. Lyglenson Lemorin was arrested in Atlanta, where he had moved. The men, who range in age from early 20s to early 30s, are charged with conspiracy.

Patrick Abraham, one of the Haitian men, had already been in the custody of immigration officials since May for staying in the United States past his visa date. Stanley Grant Phanor was in custody for weapons charges. The other men are Narseal Batiste, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin and Rotschild Augustine. The men had tried to start a construction company.

According to the federal grand jury indictment, Batiste recruited the group to set up an “Islamic Army” to wage a “jihad” in the United States and then contacted an FBI agent, who was posing as a member of Al Qaeda. Batiste allegedly gave the agent a list of necessary equipment and asked for $50,000.

However, although several buildings are said to have been searched, no evidence was found, other than a reported list and several photos of Miami buildings that the men supposedly gave to the government-paid informant who helped set the trap. The men were not found to have any of the materials they were said to have requested. The claims that they had sworn allegiance to Al Qaeda are farfetched as well. The only person who ever claimed to have any contact with Al Qaeda was the undercover agent.

At a June 23 news conference, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole stated that the defendants’ “conspiracy” was “more aspirational than operational.”

Yet on the day of the arrests, the capitalist media ran the story far and wide. The next day, pictures of the men were front page, with sensational captions. One would think that Osama Bin Ladin, Al Zarqawi and Jack the Ripper had all been caught together.

The treatment of these men and this case exposes racism, not only in the media, and not only in Florida, but in the United States.

The case highlights how severely reactionary the ruling class’s government has grown.

‘No weapons, no explosives’

Howard Simon, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Florida branch, said: “We’re as puzzled as everyone else. There’s no weapons, no explosives, but this major announcement.”

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admitted that the men had no means or money to commit any act. Yet, he said, “We took action when we did because we believe we have an obligation to prevent America from another attack here.”

Rotschild Augustine’s lawyer Nathan Clarke said, “This thing took place over eight months, according to the indictment, and at the end of the indictment it says that this thing became disorganized and nobody had ever done anything or did anything.”

Albert Levin, the court-appointed attorney for Patrick Abraham, said that it is a clear case of entrapment. Most of the talking was done by the paid informant. The defendants mostly listened.

No one in the neighborhood felt the men were any threat. A man named Bro ther Corey, an associate of the other men, said that the group the men allegedly belong to—Seas of David—mixes Islamic and Christian beliefs.

Family members and residents of Liberty City, location of the warehouse where the men live and work, said the men were quiet and well mannered. Marlene Phanor, Stanley Phanor’s sister, said, “All they was doing, was trying to do, was clean up the community.”

Liberty City is a poor working-class neighborhood where almost half of Miami-Dade County’s over 500,000-strong Black population lives. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, in a city with a 30-percent poverty rate.

It is also where a rebellion sprang up in 1980. In 1979, cops were charged with beating to death a Black motorcyclist, Arthur McDuffie. The cops were acquitted by an all-white jury. One of the cops involved testified that McDuffie crashed his bike, and when the cops reached him he was okay. But one of the cops took off McDuffie’s helmet and beat him to death, then put the helmet back on his head and said that he received the injuries in the accident. The coroner’s report contradicted the cops’ original story, but, even with one of the cops testifying as to the real events, the jury still acquitted.

Residents in the area rebelled.

U.S. funds real terrorism

The case of the seven men is indeed one of entrapment. It shows how far authorities are willing to go to demoralize communities of color and activists. This is reminiscent of the FBI counter-intelligence program known as COINTELPRO, which was used in the 1960s and 70s to break up the Black Panthers and other militant Black organizations, the Amer ican Indian Movement, and Chicano organizations, and also to spy on a few socialist parties.

However, the difference is that today the movement is not at the same point as during COINTELPRO. But the message is clear. The ruling class is becoming more reactionary, and is trying to prevent a militant movement in the streets, especially one arising from the most oppressed.

There are terrorists in Miami-Dade—but it’s not these men. The real terrorists have waged a war against the revolutionary government of Cuba for nearly 50 years. They have been funded and trained by the CIA and they operate in the light, not bothering with any sort of shroud.

These terrorists have launched hundreds of attacks against the Cuban people, attacks that have led to many deaths and injuries. One of their ilk, a man reportedly responsible for blowing up a jetliner and killing 80 people, is being held on immigration violation charges, but the United States refuses to extradite him to Venezuela, where he escaped prison. This man is Luis Posada Carriles.

Posada Carriles and the other terrorists in Miami wage their war of terror in cooperation with a government that openly plans for the takeover of the Cuban government after Fidel Castro dies. So terrorists in the U.S. government’s employ are okay, as long as the terror is in the ruling class’s interest.

The case of the seven men begs the question: What would five Black men and two Haitian men have against the United States, since Alberto Gonzales announced that the men “view their home country as the enemy”? If one took Florida itself—from the decimation of Native peoples and slavery, to the Rosewood massacre and Jim Crow, and flash forward to the 2000 elections when Black votes were suppressed, to the killing of Martin Lee Anderson—there is plenty to despise.

The ruling class has the idea to squelch the desires of working people, poor people and the oppressed, and so the movement must see this case for what it is: a threat to organizations of people of color and activists and revolutionary organizations demanding real, deep change.