Calls for the pardoning, or paroling, of political prisoner Marshall “Eddie” Conway were heard loud and clear in downtown Baltimore April 23, as groups collaborated to bring justice to his case.
The former Baltimore Black Panther’s minister of defense received a welcoming 65th birthday present as various community organizations and leaders showed their unified support in calling on Gov. Martin O’Malley to either pardon or parole Conway, who has sat behind bars for the past 40 years based solely on his participation and leadership in the Black empowerment organization. A victim of the J. Edgar Hoover created COINTELPRO operation that sought to either incarcerate, or kill, members of Black pride groups that differed from the message being sent out by the government; “Eddie” became a force beyond government control throughout the late ‘60s.
Conway, then a United States postal worker, was a target of the Baltimore City Police Department, as well as the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations, when he was arrested for the murder and attempted murder of two Baltimore City police officers – coincidentally happening the day of his 24th birthday. After a bogus trial that was based on a corrupt court which allowed a questionable line-up identification to be introduced, as well as the testimony of a lying and coerced jail-house informant; never allowing his boss to testify as to his presence at work during the time of the incident, while being declined to allow Conway his choice of attorney, instead having a state appointed lawyer represent his interests that did not perform a pre-trial investigation and never even met Mr. Conway. He was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison, along with co-defendants Jackie Powell and Jack Johnson.
Appeals for release have been made on behalf of Eddie Conway, from his current imprisonment at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, by such prominent members of the legislature such as the former Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, as well as a resolution passed by the entire Baltimore City Council in February of 2001.
However, after recent articles have been written by prominent Baltimore journalist Gregory Kane in the Baltimore Times and legislation advocated this year led by Delegate Curt Anderson, that the governor take action in paroling and/or pardoning multiple individuals currently incarcerated, and recommended for such release by the parole commission (board). “The governor needs to do one of three things in the case of Eddie Conway,” stated Kane. “He either needs to parole him, pardon him or explain to the public exactly what the political reasons are that are keeping this innocent brother behind bars?”
Other supporters’ comments regarding this effort were less directed toward the governor, as they were to just doing what is right. “How can we honestly expect our children to do the right thing, when the so-called governmental leaders we have representing us cannot seem to do what is right,” questioned long-time political and community activist and current President of the Baltimore Branch of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Cortly ‘C.D.’ Witherspoon. “We must continue to hold up the blood-stained banner of injustice while fighting for the freedom, justice and equality of all political prisoners, especially that of Brother Conway.”
The rally was organized by multiple freedom fighting organizations and their members such as SCLC, as well as the Baltimore Branch NAACP, Sharon Black and the All People’s Congress, brother David Anthony Wiggins and the Grand Jury Movement, brothers from the Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle who gave a rousing spoken word piece created for the occasion, as well as various elected officials and supporters, many of whom never showed though they were on the agenda to speak. The support and appearance of newly elected Baltimore Branch NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston raised eyebrows among some such as former NAACP 3rd Vice-President Joe Armstead, who questioned the branch’s deafening silence on quite a few incidents that have happened throughout the city, under the new administration.
“Come on now, we’re at a rally in support of a Baltimore leader and icon, yet the former NAACP president, and the current branch president, both of whom I believe are under indictment for allegedly stealing from the branch, are calling on someone else’s freedom?” questioned Armstead. “They better be worried about their own freedom if found guilty of the multiple charges being investigated by the national .”
President Hill-Aston, and former President Cheatham refused to comment regarding the charges levied against them, however, Tessa did say in her comments to the crowd that “the Branch is ready to support efforts anytime the former President Cheatham calls upon the branch to do such!”
Hassan Giordano is the Baltimore Independent Political Examiner and owner of GCOMM Media Co. He can be reached at email@example.com.