Looks like Fast and Furious may not have been Attorney General Eric Holder’s first experience aiding and abetting armed criminals. According to an article by Charles C. Johnson and Ryan Gidursky, “As a freshman at Columbia University in 1970, future Attorney General Eric Holder participated in a five-day occupation of an abandoned Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) headquarters with a group of black students later described by the university’s Black Students’ Organization as ‘armed.'” The AG had since given varying accounts of the incident (not unlike his recollection of F&F details) and — shockingly — the Justice Department doesn’t have a comment on the story. But the Holder, currently working under a Contempt of Congress citation, does . . .
He’s recently tried to downplay the radical aims of the BSO:
“I was among a large group of students who felt strongly about the way we thought the world should be, and we weren’t afraid to make our opinions heard,” he said during Columbia’s 2009 commencement exercises. “I did not take a final exam until my junior year at Columbia — we were on strike every time finals seemed to roll around — but we ran out of issues by that third year.”
But the BSO’s own web site (since taken down) claimed the occupiers were, in fact, armed when they took over the ROTC offices.
However, Columbia, in the middle of Harlem, refused to establish a Black studies program, even given grant money earmarked to do so. This, coupled with the fact that there was no space for the black students to call their own led to unrest in the black community. In 1970, a group of armed black students seized the abandoned ROTC office on the first floor of Hartley Hall. The students, joined by the then State Senator David Patterson renamed the space the Malcolm X lounge, in honor of a man who recognized the importance of territory as a basis for nationhood. Subsequently, murals were painted on the walls depicting black leaders such as Marcus Garvey and Sekou Toure.
It’s hard not to wonder what might have been if the Columbia administration had the testicular fortitude to prosecute the occupiers.
Though then-Dean Carl Hovde declared the occupation of the Naval ROTC office illegal and said it violated university policy, the college declined to prosecute any of the students involved. This decision may have been made to avoid a repeat of violent Columbia campus confrontations between police and members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1968.
Hovde and Columbia didn’t just let young Eric and his radical BSO thug buddies off the hook, they caved to one of their primary demands: renaming and re-purposing the the university’s ROTC building as the Malcolm X Lounge to “honor honor of a man who recognized the importance of territory as a basis for nationhood.”
Would a weapons charge have affected Columbia’s decision to admit Holder to their law school in 1973? Even so, could a former campus radical with a felony armed criminal action conviction on his record have been confirmed as Attorney General of the United States? Guess we’ll never know.
But this may shed a little light on one of Holder’s first and most controversial decisions – declining to prosecute the Philadelphia New Black Panther Party members who allegedly intimidated white voters outside a polling place during the 2008 election. Some panthers apparently don’t change their spots.