The New York City public school system honors JoAnne Chesimard

JoAnne Chesimard: BLM unashamedly embraces her and, recently, the New York City school system decided to incorporate her so-called wisdom into its curriculum. Therefore, it is more imperative than ever to shine a bright light upon the life, times, and accomplishments of one JoAnne Deborah Chesimard, a.k.a., Assata Olugbala Shakur.

If you are, like me, of a certain age and grew up or lived in New Jersey during the 1970s and 1980’s, the name JoAnne Chesimard invokes an instant response. Without that background, while you may have heard the name, you might know very little about this woman and the domestic terrorist organization that, for a time, she led. Worse, if you’re young, it is highly likely that the only thing you know about her is that she was allegedly the godmother to the late rapper, Tupac Shakur. However, she is so much more than just Tupac Shakur’s “aunt.”

For openers, Chesimard is an actual “Domestic Terrorist.” She earned the “Most Wanted Terrorist” designation from the F.B.I. because of her role in the “Black Liberation Army” or BLA, for short. The BLA arose from the Black Panthers and after splintering, was responsible for numerous reprehensible and extremely violent criminal acts, mostly centered on ambushing and assassinating police officers from about 1970 into the early 1980s.

One of the group’s trademarks was to take the murdered officer’s service weapon as a trophy. Although members of Black Panthers and BLA attack and murdered multiple police officers in cities across the country (and a few were convicted for those crimes), some of the more infamous examples of Chesimard’s and the BLA’s handiwork took place in and around New York City, where Chesimard was raised. 

Two murders garnered national attention. In 1971, BLA members ambushed and murdered two NYPD patrol officers, Waverly Jones (who was African-American) and Joseph Piagentini, when they responded to a set-up call. Then, in 1972, BLA claimed responsibility for the ambush and murder of two more NYPD officers, both Vietnam veterans, Gregory Foster (who was African-American) and Rocco Laurie. As the officers walked their patrol, four men who passed them on the sidewalk shot them in the back.

In addition to being cold-blooded assassins, BLA members found time to commit more ordinary crimes, such as armed robbery. In October 1981, the BLA staged the armed heist of a Brinks armored car in Nyack, NY. One Brinks guard and two Nyack police officers were killed. One of the officers was shot in the back. Several other guards were wounded. Law enforcement did recover some of the $1.5 million dollars stolen.

Chesimard’s direct contribution to the bloodshed occurred on Wednesday, May 2, 1973, near milepost 83.1, southbound, on the New Jersey Turnpike. At 12:45 a.m, Trooper James Harper saw “an early 1960 [white] Pontiac, 2-door” with Vermont tags and a broken tail light. Clark Squire was driving the Pontiac, JoAnne Chesimard (by now, a wanted fugitive for her BLA associations and other crimes) was in the front passenger seat, and James Coston sat in the rear.

Harper asked Squire to step out of the vehicle as there was an issue with the vehicle registration. When Harper asked for the female passenger’s name, Squire gave Harper a false name. Foerster arrived as back-up and proceeded to perform a permitted pat-down search on Squire during which, he discovered a loaded semi-automatic handgun clip in Squire’s pocket.

When Foerster announced his find, Chesimard, who was still inside the Pontiac, produced a handgun and began firing at Harper, striking him in the shoulder. At this point, Coston emerged from the vehicle firing his pistol at Harper. Harper was able to shoot and wound both Chesimard and Coston before being wounded himself.

Foerster, in the meantime, had become engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with Squire. Chesimard, despite being wounded, shot Foerster multiple times in the chest and arm. Ultimately, while lying wounded on the ground, Chesimard used Foerster’s own service weapon to shoot him twice in the head, execution-style. Chesimard’s jammed semi-automatic handgun was discovered next to Foerster’s body.

The three killers got back in the Pontiac and drove approximately five miles before abandoning the vehicle. Within half an hour, the New Jersey State Police arrested Chesimard. They found Coston dead near their vehicle and, 40 hours later, found Squire, alive, within a mile of the car.

Ultimately, Chesimard and Squire were convicted of the attempted murder of Harper and the murder of Forester. In 1979, Chesimard escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women when members from various domestic terror groups held two guards hostage during an armed assault of the prison.

Chesimard eventually made her way to Cuba, where Fidel Castro granted her asylum. She remains today as an honored guest of the Communist regime under the alias, “Assata Shakur.” (One of those who honors her is Rep. Maxine Waters.) This is just but a small taste of some of the life’s work of JoAnne Chesimard, the woman whom BLM now lionizes and New York City’s school system deems worthy of being an inspiration for its students. Sadly, on both accounts, it is not surprising. 

As a side note. In 2016, when former President Obama announced plans to travel to Cuba to make nice with Fidel Castro, politicians from both parties, as well as every level of law enforcement urged him to use the opportunity to secure Chesimard’s extradition to New Jersey to finish her sentence for the murder of Trooper Foerster. Obama refused.

The general account of the shooting and the aftermath was compiled from several sources: New Jersey State Troopers, 1961-2011: Remembering the Fallen, Chapter entitled, “Shootout with the Black Liberation Army” by John E. O'Rourke (2012) (citing police investigation, other source material and interviews); a May 2, 2019, News Release by the New Jersey State Police, entitled, “New Jersey State Police Remembers Trooper Werner Foerster on 48th Anniversary of His Murder” and an FBI Newark Office Press Release, dated May 2, 2013, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the murder, adding Chesimard to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists List and announcing a $1,000,000 reward for information leading to the capture and return of Chesimard.

IMAGE: JoAnne Chesimard. Public Domain.