As we approach the mayoral runoff, which will most surely decide Jackson's next mayor, the rumors are flying fast and furious. One we heard yesterday is that Chokwe Lumumba "killed an FBI agent and got away with it." This is a false assertion. But it surely morphed out of his history as a young organizer with the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), based in Jackson in the early 1970s. As we explain in this article in 2005, the then-racist police department essentially had an angry stand-off with the militant Republic of New Afrika, headed by Imari Obadele, that culminated in an early-morning Waco-esque raid on the group's heavily armed headquarters in west Jackson. (JPD even brought the Thompson tank.)
The resulting gunfight left a police officer dead and an FBI officer injured. The legal battle that followed was complicated, in no small part because Obadele was not present, but local authorities wanted him punished for the crime. There were also state-federal jurisdictional hurdles to scale, but ultimately eight of the "RNA 11" ultimately served time, ironically because lawyers used the precedent set in the federal trial of Klansmen in Neshoba County who conspired to kill three civil rights workers. In the 1960s, a state court wouldn't convict them, but several went to prison for a time under a federal civil-rights conspiracy charge.
RNA member Chokwe Lumumba was not present, did not shoot anyone and did not serve time.