In a scandalous example of leftwing dominance in higher education, a public university in New York will hold an event next month featuring a convicted cop killer promoted by the taxpayer-funded institution as a “political prisoner.” The April 6 event at State University of New York (SUNY) at Brockport is titled “History of Black Resistance, U.S. Political Prisoners & Genocide: A Conversation with Jalil Muntaqim” and the school’s announcement conveniently omits Muntaqim’s crimes, though it mentions he “was an avid educator” in prison. Formerly known as Anthony Bottom, Muntaqim was convicted for the murder of two New York Police Department (NYPD) officers in 1971. At the time he was a member of the radical Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army.
Muntaqim and two of his Black Liberation Army comrades ambushed and killed the officers, Waverly Jones, who was black, and Joseph Piagentini in Harlem. The officers were on foot patrol in a public housing complex. As they returned to their police vehicle, the three suspects attacked them from behind and shot them. Jones was killed instantly after getting shot in the back of the head. Piagentini was shot multiple times and died on the way to the hospital. One of the cop murderers died in prison, the other was granted parole in 2018 and Muntaqim was paroled in 2020, after being denied parole 11 times and serving nearly five decades. Piagentini’s widow was rightfully outraged that her husband’s murderer was freed, saying this in a local news report: “My husband, they shot him, there were 22 bullet holes in my husband, and Bottom [Muntaqim] just kept on shooting,” she said. “My husband looked at him, turned and said ‘I have a wife, I have children,’ but he continued to shoot.”
The media has downplayed Muntaqim’s crimes, instead celebrating him as an author, activist, and local civil rights organizer who is featured in a documentary released just weeks ago. In a review of the film, titled “Conversations: The Black Radical Tradition,” one media outlet describes the film as “first-hand accounts of Black resistance in America in the 20th and 21st centuries from more than a dozen activists, scholars, politicians, writers, and others involved in resistance and community-building movements.” In the article Muntaqim says “there has been an unbroken history of resistance against white supremacy, institutional racism, and capitalist exploitation of our communities, but the engagement in activism has at times gone dormant. So it’s important for us to understand the history and resurrect that tradition of resistance.” Another newspaper article describes the cop killer fondly: “During his incarceration, Muntaqim became a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a mentor, a scholar, a several-times-over published author and a faith leader.”
SUNY Brockport was actually going to compensate the felon to appear at the upcoming event, but public outrage forced university officials to revoke the payment. They have however, refused calls to cancel Muntaqim’s appearance, which is being billed by the school as an “intellectual conversation” about his time with the Black Panthers and as a political prisoner. In a letter published by a local news outlet in the aftermath of the public outrage, SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson explains that Muntaqim was invited by a faculty member who was approved for a “Promoting Excellence in Diversity” grant. “We do not support the violence exhibited in Mr. Muntaqim’s previous crimes, and his presence on campus does not imply endorsement of his views or past actions,” Macpherson, writes, adding that his appearance will provide an opportunity to learn about his perspective and what may have contributed to his past experiences. Macpherson assures individuals will have the opportunity to ask difficult questions such as “why he chooses to identify as a former political prisoner.”
At least one New York state legislator blasted the university, issuing a statement saying that it is incredibly inappropriate and downright wrong to give Muntaqim a platform at a taxpayer-funded institution. “What type of message would we be sending to young college students to call someone who played a role in the assassination of two members of law enforcement a “political prisoner?” What message does it send to criminal justice majors on campus? What message does it send to our law enforcement?” Academic freedom and diversity are important, the lawmaker, Assemblyman Josh Jensen writes, but “granting this opportunity to a convicted cop killer is wholly misguided.” In its promotional material, the university portrays Muntaqim as a civil rights hero, stating that he was a teen activist for the NAACP and Black Panther Party at age 18. The school further describes him as a “grandfather, father, mentor to many, and loving human being.”