BROCKPORT, N.Y. (AP) — A state college withdrew funding Wednesday for an upcoming talk by Jalil Muntaqim, a former Black Panther who was imprisoned for nearly 50 years for killing two New York City police officers.
But the State University of New York College at Brockport said the April 6 event will not be canceled, despite opposition to both the choice of speaker and the portrayal of him on the college’s website as a “political prisoner.”
“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 She said the grant was rescinded after the western New York college “received new information,” and the grant program itself has been suspended pending a review and revision of the application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.
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.