The strike halted all railways, subways, and buses. Bumper-tobumper traffic flooded the narrow streets of Paris, and walking became the fastest way to travel. The grey beauty of the Seine felt soothing that December morning as I walked by the river looking for number 19 Quai Bourbon, the law office of Roland Dumas. It was only Friday, but so much had happened that week, my head was spinning. It felt like the time I first met Dumas, back in the seventies.
Eldridge Cleaver and I, among hundreds of other revolutionaries, lived clandestinely in Paris then, and Dumas was our lawyer. A deputy in the French Assembly at the time, he petitioned the government to legalize Eldridge's presence when he was a fugitive Black Panther leader facing imprisonment in the United States.
Cities were still going up in flames after Martin Luther King's assassination that night Eldridge was arrested with eight other Panthers following a gun battle with the Oakland Police in 1968. Once his parole was revoked it looked as though he would spend his next four years in prison regardless of how the shoot-out trial ended. But to everyone's astonishment, he won a habeas corpus petition that June, and was out on bail a week after Bobby Kennedy was killed in Los Angeles. Eldridge was the presidential candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party and the author of the best-selling Soul On Ice, and thousands of people turned out to hear him speak. He claimed over and over that the San Quentin guards would murder him if he ever returned to prison, and I believed it. When the appellate court ordered him back to prison, Eldridge fled to Cuba, and later to Algeria, where I joined him in 1969. Four years later we reached France, where Dumas's legal effort failed to win asylum, but our friendship with him remained alive for years.
Cleaver, Kathleen Neal
"Mobilizing for Mumia Abu-Jamal in Paris,"
Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities: Vol. 10
, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlh/vol10/iss2/2