BROCKPORT, N.Y. — A talk by a former Black Panther who was imprisoned for nearly 50 years for killing two New York City police officers will be moved online to help “mitigate any potential security concerns,” officials at the college that is hosting the event announced.
The planned talk by parolee Jalil Muntaqim “has elicited strong feedback, divergent opinions, and has already spurred protests,” Heidi Macpherson, the president of the State University of New York at Brockport, said in a statement Wednesday. Macpherson said details of the virtual program will be shared when they are finalized.
Muntaqim, also known as Anthony Bottom, was convicted in the 1971 killings of officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini at a Harlem public housing complex. He was paroled in 2019.
The April 6 program titled “History of Black Resistance, U.S. Political Prisoners & Genocide: A Conversation with Jalil Muntaqim” was originally described on SUNY Brockport's website as “an an intellectual conversation on his time with the Black Panthers and serving nearly 50 years as a political prisoner.” The college later clarified that it does not endorse the characterization of Muntaqim as a political prisoner.
Last week, the college withdrew funding for the event, but did not cancel it.
“Academic freedom allows our faculty to invite guests of their choosing to campus to address our students,” said Chief Diversity Officer Damita Davis in a statement.
Davis said a faculty member was awarded a Promoting Excellence in Diversity Grant to bring Muntaqim, also known as Anthony Bottom, to campus. She said the grant was rescinded after the western New York college “received new information,” and the grant program itself has been suspended pending a review and revision of the application process.
An updated event page mentions Muntaqim’s conviction in the deaths of the two officers, which the original announcement did not.
Bottom, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, a violent offshoot of the Black Panther Party, was convicted in the 1971 killings of officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini. Both were shot multiple times after responding to a report of a domestic dispute at a Harlem public housing complex on May 21, 1971.
Prosecutors said it was a trap set by Bottom and a co-defendant.
Bottom was paroled in 2019.
The April 6 program titled: “History of Black Resistance, U.S. Political Prisoners & Genocide: A Conversation with Jalil Muntaqim,” is described on the public college's website as “an an intellectual conversation on his time with the Black Panthers and serving nearly 50 years as a political prisoner.”
The event listing describes Bottom's capture “during a midnight shoot-out with San Francisco Police,” but does not mention the slain New York City officers.
The description is followed by a disclaimer from the college: “Editors Note: SUNY Brockport does not endorse the characterization of this event.”
The president of New York City's police union tweeted that it was not enough to pull funding, and called for the college to cancel the lecture.
“Removing funding from this celebration of a cop-killer is the absolute minimum @Brockport could do. They did not need 'new information' to come to this decision — Muntaqim’s murderous history is no secret,” said Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch.