A summit starring eight prominent 2020 Democrat presidential candidates on April 1 featured a chant repeating the words of an unrepentant Marxist. She remains a convicted fugitive for killing a state trooper.
Less than half an hour into the We the People conference in Washington, Jamal Watkins, the vice president of civic engagement at the NAACP, told the crowd to repeat after him as he recited the words of Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard.
Shakur was convicted in 1973 of killing a New Jersey state trooper. She escaped prison and fled to communist Cuba, where she was granted asylum. Shakur remains on the FBI most wanted fugitive list.
“I’m gonna actually have you participate with me in repeating some words from a leader by the name of Assata Shakur. So if you could stand up–if you can’t stand, it’s okay–but I want you to repeat after me,” Watkins said.
Watkins then said several sentences by Shakur, stopping several times to let the audience repeat after him.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains,” Watkins said.
After the initial chant, Watkins called on the audience to “take it as loud as we can get it.” He then shouted Shakur’s words as the energized audience chanted back.
The last sentence of the chant is itself an adaptation of a slogan from the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.
“The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Proletarians of All Countries, Unite!” Marx wrote.
While it is unclear if any of the 2020 Democratic hopefuls recited the Shakur’s words, several candidates spoke at the summit, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Texas Rep. Bobby O’Rourke, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)