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Protests ensue at SUNY Brockport against controversial speaker


Horns blared and dozens of “thin blue line” flags waved in the wind as protesters gathered on Holley Street to protest a convicted murderer’s invitation to speak on campus. 

News spread like wildfire, across the state and even nationally, about Jalil Muntaqim being scheduled to speak at SUNY Brockport. Muntaqim, previously known as Anthony Bottom, has been known as a “convicted cop killer.” Muntaqim was a teen activist for the NAACP and joined the Black Panther Party when he was 18 years old. On Aug. 28, 1971, he made a 9-1-1 call to the New York City Police Department.  

Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones showed up at the address given at a public housing project in Harlem. When they got there, both officers were ambushed by Muntaqim and two of his accomplices. Piagentini was found dead on the street with 22 bullet holes from his spine up to his head — bullets from Jones’ own service revolver. Muntaqim spent nearly 50 years in Attica prison for the murder of the two officers. He was denied parole 12 times from 1996 to 2019, but in 2020 he was granted parole and released shortly after.  

SUNY Brockport counseling education professor Rafael Outland invited Muntaqim to be a guest speaker on campus. The event description refers to him as a “political prisoner.” Prior to this week, the college provided funding for Muntaqim to speak, which they later rescinded after receiving backlash from the community. 

Protesters gathering outside President Heidi Macpherson’s house (Photo Credit: Cambrie Eckert)

The local community is infuriated by the college’s invitation of who they refer to as “the cop killer.” Protesters are expected to organize on Holley Street outside President Heidi Macpherson’s house every other day leading up to the event. 

Protesters, like local resident Charles D. Frank, said the invitation is an outrageous action and should be canceled immediately.  

“This is a cold-blooded murder that he conducted…to have somebody like him that killed, murdered, executed 22 shots, I felt that one,” Frank said. 

Protesters waving “thin blue line” flags on Holley Street (Photo Credit: Cambrie Eckert)

Another resident, Marcus C. Williams, says the “misrepresentation” of Muntaqim as a “political prisoner” by the college is problematic.  

“This is false representation of the truth when you (Muntaqim) try to present yourself as a political prisoner when you were there for the murder that you committed intentionally, and it was premeditated,” Williams said. “You went to jail and you come out and you’re saying you’re a political prisoner?” 

Williams says if Muntaqim still comes to the college, he should not be identified as a political prisoner but should instead directly take a more proactive stance against his past actions.  

“The message that he needs to be coming out with is that what he’s been saying is not the truth,” Williams said. “Maybe you did what you did and maybe he really believes that what he did was right, which I completely disagree with. But him saying it and stating it in a manner that is completely false is wrong and misrepresentation, and that’s my issue.”

Jim VanBrederode protesting on the SUNY Brockport campus Monday, March 21 (Photo Credit: Cambrie Eckert)

Former Gates Chief Police Jim VanBrederode believes Outland must have wanted to create shock value. 

“I think this was just intentionally done for shock and awe,” VanBrederode said. “And I tell you what, it’s not appropriate right now because our city (is in bad shape). One murder a week if not more, it’s just not a good time to do this. There’s lots of families that are grieving right now. I just think it’s really insensitive.” 

In response to defining Muntaqim as a “political prisoner,” SUNY Brockport released a statement stating: 

“The description of the event that is seen on our website’s events calendar was submitted by the faculty member who invited Mr. Muntaqim to campus. Our past practice has been to lightly edit calendar listings for spelling and grammar, without altering the content of the description. Our processes around managing the events calendar in the future is currently under review. SUNY Brockport does not endorse the characterization of this individual as a political prisoner. However, we recognize the right of the faculty member to characterize him as such.” 

SUNY Brockport also said the college upholds the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech and the right to assemble peacefully. Therefore, faculty have the right to choose the speakers they invite to campus.  

The college still intends on Jalil Muntaqim speaking online on April 6 at 6:30 p.m.  

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