The name Eddie Hatcher is widely known and respected by the people. It is hated by the system. For Hatcher, a Tuscarora Lumbee Native, along with his fellow Tim Jacobs, brought national attention to the plight of Native and African Americans battling local governmental corruption in Robeson County, North Carolina, when they occupied offices of the Robesonian newspaper, demanding that the governor investigate a string of murders and suspicious deaths of Indians and African Americans there in 1988.
The occupation, an act of desperation on the two Tuscaroras’ part, marked them both for government vengeance. Hatcher, after a full acquittal of federal charges arising from the takeover, was improperly and illegally re-indicted on state charges, despite their presumed double jeopardy rights, and convicted of kidnapping, sentenced to eighteen years in prison.
Recently, Hatcher has learned he is HIV positive. His fight for freedom has become, in a real sense, a fight for his very life. Several years ago, Hatcher and the Robeson Defense Committee, fought for the right to decent health care and justice for an African American prisoner who suffered from AIDS, James Hall Jr. Now, the bitter barrel spins and Hatcher finds he is HIV positive. There are few things in life that can make such undeniably bad news even worse, and that’s probably for one to be HIV positive and in prison, for people who, like Hatcher, are HIV positive, face denial of medical treatment, abominably poor medical treatment, vicious discrimination, and constant abuse from staff and prisoners alike.
Eddie Hatcher’s principled actions in occupying the offices of the Robesonian were reflective of courage and caring, not criminality. He acted to draw the light of exposure upon a county rank with corruption, which denied the Black, the red, and the poor of Robeson County the barest hint of justice. How many of us would have born the injustices in silence? Before Hatcher and Jacob’s dared act, how many did? Hatcher’s federal acquittal and subsequent state prosecution for the same acts shows the rapid political character of his case.
Eddie Hatcher, like former prisoner Dr. Alan Berkman, Bashir Hameed of the New York Three, and Silvia Baraldini, is a political prisoner fighting for his very life. And like Dr. Berkman, the efforts of many may help Hatcher make parole, thereby extending a good life of service to others. Every day is vital. Please write to the Robeson Defense Committee, Post Office Box 1389 Pembroke, North Carolina 28372 for more information. Help make Hatcher’s dream of a long productive life a reality.
From death row, this is Mumia Abu Jamal. For more information about my case, racism and the death penalty, and what you can do, contact Equal Justice USA at 301-699-0042.