On April 6, State University of New York in Brockport will livestream an event called the "History of Black Resistance, U.S. Political Prisoners, and Genocide." It features speaker Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, who in 1974 was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder for killing two patrol officers in a 1971 shootout in the Bronx as a member of the Black Panther Party. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with possible parole after 22 years.
"Inviting a convicted murderer to college [and] wanting that individual to speak to their students, frankly, goes against everything I always worked for and believed in," Varrenti stated. "That was enough for me to say I've had enough of teaching at this college."
Varrenti explains that the college has been getting "woke" for a while, and especially antagonistic toward law enforcement. He says it began in 2020 when the college president, Dr. Heidi Macpherson, began disseminating some emails.
"[And in those emails] she drew conclusions about law-enforcement actions that had taken place in the country, and even in Rochester, New York, where she was condemning law enforcement for their actions without having any of the facts," he claims.
Muntaqim has been on parole for about 18 months and is now on a speaking tour. Varrenti argues he shouldn't even be free, much less spreading his anti-police rhetoric around college campuses.
"When you wind up in prison for murdering two people, you're considered a prisoner of the prison system – and that's where you belong," the former police chief stated. "And frankly, in my opinion, [he] should've stayed [there] for the rest of his life."
Muntaqim (also known as Anthony Bottom) was released from prison in October 2020, having served 49 years in prison. He continued his activism while behind bars, organizing what became the National Jericho Movement to Free All Political Prisoners. He claims he was "a political prisoner" during his incarceration.
In an online statement, SUNY Brockport president Macpherson defends the upcoming event:
"We do not support the violence exhibited in Mr. Muntaqim's previous crimes, and his presence on campus does not imply endorsement of his views or past actions. However, we believe in freedom of speech. SUNY Brockport has routinely held speaking events involving controversial speakers from various background and viewpoints, and will continue to do so. These conversations are uncomfortable. They are meant to be. They're about gaining a new perspective.
"Mr. Muntaqim's talk will give those who choose to engage an opportunity to learn about his perspective and what may have contributed to his past experiences. Individuals will have the opportunity to ask difficult questions. They can ask why he chooses to identify as a former political prisoner. They can ask how his life experiences have informed the work he does now."
In that same statement, the school president reports Muntaqim was invited to the campus by a faculty member who was approved for a Promoting Excellence in Diversity grant.