“The citizens of Massachusetts need to be more concerned with the violence of war and poverty,” says Levasseur, “and not with speech that seeks to facilitate discussion and involvement with these issues.”
As of Monday night, UMass has canceled your appearance on campus, but you're saying that the appearance will in fact happen. How did this change in events come about?
The original sponsor of the event — the Department of Special Collections and University Archives — canceled the event after much police pressure to do so. Specifically, Robert Cox, head of Special Collections and University Archives, made the decision. When it became public that Cox made the decision, the Department of Social Thought and Political Economy stepped in and said they’ll sponsor and provide a venue on campus. Since then, the Department of African-American Studies and Department of History have stepped forward to co-sponsor the event.
A similar situation occurred a few years ago when the University of Southern Maine sponsored a showing of paintings by one of your UFF comrades, Thomas Manning. Given that experience, did you expect the controversy at UMass, and did you discuss the possibility with the school's organizing officials?
We expected some controversy. One of the organizers of the current event, who’s now a grad student at UMass, was very involved in the USM art show when he was a USM undergrad. He was very upfront with Cox and others involved in the organizing efforts at UMass about what happened at USM. Given the size and prestige of UMass, it was felt they wouldn’t cave in to police pressure should it manifest itself. Not when it comes to First Amendment/free speech.
Were you surprised that the Boston newspapers were calling you a terrorist?
I haven’t seen the Boston newspapers. It’s never surprised me when corporate media label me as “terrorist” while ignoring the massive violations of life and human rights perpetrated by state terrorism, particularly the USA, its hired henchmen, and proxies, some of whom have been speakers and receivers of accolades at UMass. Given the opportunity to speak, I will address the issue of who are the real terrorists.
What, if anything, do you have to say to the citizens of Massachusetts who might remember the UFF's campaigns from years ago, and therefore fear your return to their state?
In December of 1981, Salvadoran soldiers from a battalion trained, supplied, and armed by the USA entered El Mozote village and slaughtered almost a thousand villagers, all civilians, including hundreds of women and children. In 2005, a team of forensic scientists exhumed the bodies of 271 victims of that massacre. One hundred and ninety-five were children under the age of 12. I was convicted of offenses that were calculated to expose such crimes by our own government and to hopefully bring a stop to them. There has never been a UFF conviction for hurting civilians. That said, I’ve been out five years, spoken widely, visited Massachusetts, never advocated violence at speaking engagements, and am retired from the life I lived underground. I work hard, pay taxes, and am a grandfather. I am currently active with legislation focusing on prison reform. The citizens of Massachusetts need to be more concerned with the violence of war and poverty, and not with speech that seeks to facilitate discussion and involvement with these issues.