By TOM ROBBINS, NY Times Magazine
On Oct. 20, 1981, a band of militant zealots armed with automatic weapons tried to rob a Brink’s truck in a shopping mall in Nanuet in Rockland County, N.Y. Before it was over, two armored-car guards were shot and two police officers — one black and one white — were gunned down at a roadblock. The crime was one of the last spasms of ’60s-style, left-wing violence. To the militants, it was an “expropriation” for something they called the Republic of New Afrika, a place that existed mainly in their fevered dreams.
Judith Clark was one of four people arrested that day for armed robbery and murder. She was 31, a veteran of the white left who traveled the radical arc from student protest to the Weathermen to the fringes beyond. A new single mother, she kissed her infant daughter goodbye that morning, promising to be home soon.
No one ever accused Clark of holding or firing a gun that deadly afternoon. But she was there, a willing participant, at the wheel of a tan Honda getaway car. Over the next two years while she awaited trial in jail, Clark became a fiercer warrior than she was on the day of the robbery. During court hearings, she told the judge she was a “freedom fighter” who didn’t recognize the right of imperialist courts to try her. She called court officers “fascist dogs!” when they clashed with her supporters.
Filed under: History