By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
"Eventually, they're going to ask me to work in the factory, and I can't do that," he says. "UNICOR has contracts with the Department of Defense. I'll clean toilets, whatever, but as a Vietnam veteran and as a Puerto Rican, I cannot as a matter of principle work with the military."
Vanyur says BOP is primarily interested in Lopez Rivera's behavior, not his principles. The fact that he's been moved to a step-down unit, "despite what anyone thinks of his political affiliations," proves that the government hasn't singled Lopez Rivera out. But Vanyur concedes that an inmate who refuses to pay fines to the government or work in UNICOR is probably going to have problems getting out of ADX.
"If they're not going to follow this program, if they're not going to be responsible adults, then they're not going to get any reduction of restrictions, regardless of their motivation," he says.
Lopez Rivera and prisoners like him find themselves in a grim twilight zone at ADX. The government doesn't acknowledge that it has any political prisoners, let alone prisoners of war. And since the FALN defendants don't recognize the authority of the government, they refuse to apply for parole, even if they've reached their eligibility date.
Over the years, several independentistas have broken with the POW position and sought parole--usually without success. One, Alberto Rodriguez, issued a statement last year saying that he felt "marginalized" by his years in prison and no longer believed the political stance served a useful purpose. Lopez Rivera understands the sentiment, but he doesn't share it.
"I don't feel marginalized," he says. "I had no romantic notions; I knew precisely what prison would do to me. When I was captured, I knew from that day on I was no longer a protagonist, that I would have no voice in what was to happen. If I had a different attitude, I would have been destroyed by spending eight years in Marion."
Levasseur's situation is remarkably similar. He lost 56 months of "clean time" at Marion over minor infractions--the most serious of which, apparently, involved his refusal to work for UNICOR. Although he's eligible to seek parole, he hasn't applied for a hearing yet because, he says, "I already know what the answer's going to be."
That BOP expected Levasseur--who was convicted of bombing Army and Navy reserve centers and the offices of defense contractor General Electric--to work for the military is one of the stranger ironies of his career as a revolutionary. Raised in a working-class, French-Canadian mill town in Maine, he began his long journey to ADX as a Vietnam veteran turned war protester and union organizer. But his troubles really began after a two-year stint in a Tennessee prison on a 1969 conviction for selling seven dollars' worth of marijuana.
"I went into prison already radicalized," he says. "But I came out a revolutionary. I never considered myself a violent person, but by the time I got out I was more than willing to use violence, not only in a political sense, but on a personal level. I scared myself."
For a short time after his release, Levasseur operated a radical bookstore in Maine and became active in prison-reform efforts. Then he went underground--and stayed there for ten years, making the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for what he obliquely refers to as "clandestine activity."
Prosecutors charge that Levasseur was a member of an organization called the Sam Melville-Jonathan Jackson Unit, which eventually evolved into the United Freedom Front. (Sam Melville was a white prisoner killed by state troopers in the Attica riot; Jonathan Jackson was a black youth who died while attempting to kidnap a California judge in an effort to free his brother, Soledad inmate George Jackson.) The two groups have been blamed for a series of bank robberies and bombings in the Northeast in the late Seventies and early Eighties, including attacks on Mobil Oil, IBM and a South African consulate, in protest of apartheid and U.S. military involvement in Latin America.
Like Lopez Rivera, Levasseur won't admit to belonging to any particular group. Although indicted for an astonishing array of crimes, he's never been convicted of most of them. He bristles at comparisons to the Oklahoma City bombing suspects or the Unabomber, pointing out that no one was injured in any of the bombings of which he was convicted. Left-wing bombers tend to seek publicity, not bloodshed, and the UFF always phoned in warnings to evacuate before the bombs went off.
Still, the bombing campaign was far from flawless. An early SM-JJ blast at a Boston courthouse injured 22 people. (In a communique, the group blamed courthouse security for failing to heed a warning to evacuate the building.) In 1981 two suspected UFF members were charged with the shooting of a New Jersey state trooper, touching off a massive manhunt that eventually led to the arrest of Levasseur and seven others, including his wife, Patricia.
All eight of the UFF defendants went to prison for the bombings or related charges. (One of the convicted killers of the state trooper, Tom Manning, is currently at ADX, serving life plus thirty years.) But the government wasn't through with them yet. In 1986 federal prosecutors heaped additional indictments on the group for racketeering and seditious conspiracy.