After thwarted visit last year, Levasseur poised to appear in Valley next month
September 25, 2010
By James Lowe, staff writer
NORTHAMPTON - Protests and parole restrictions thwarted Raymond Luc Levasseur's last planned visit to the Pioneer Valley, but won't prevent his next.
Released from parole in March, Levasseur now is free to travel whenever and wherever he wants. Levasseur and organizers of the Rosenberg Fund for Children 20th anniversary gala, which he will keynote next month, said they don't anticipate protests this time.
There was an outcry from local and national police groups when Levasseur was scheduled to speak last November at a University of Massachusetts symposium on social movements. Next month's event, in contrast, is focused on children of radicals like Levasseur, and is not at a publicly funded venue.
Many in law enforcement strongly objected to Levasseur speaking at the state university, citing Levasseur's actions with the militant activist group the United Freedom Front.
The person with whom Levasseur formed the United Freedom Front, Thomas Manning, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for the death of New Jersey State Trooper Philip Lamonaco in 1981.
The United Freedom Front was active around the Northeast from 1976 to 1984, carrying out 19 bombings or attempted bombings at government buildings, courthouses and corporate offices, as well as 10 bank robberies. Although the group called in warnings ahead of its bombings, one blast at a Boston courthouse in 1976 injured 22 people.
Group members carried out their actions in protest of the apartheid system in South Africa, atrocities in Central America and what they perceived as U.S. involvement in both.
Levasseur was sentenced in 1986 to 45 years in prison in connection with some of the bombings, but released early on parole in 2004.
Last year, after Levasseur was uninvited by the UMass libraries, a separate group of faculty invited him to speak at a different event revisiting his 1988 trial in Springfield on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.
Levasseur said he had been approved by his parole office to travel to Massachusetts for the event, but that his permission was revoked at the last minute. Police groups pressured the parole office to do so, he said.
The event went on without him, but still drew hundreds of angry police protesters.
Asked how he responds to those who criticize his actions and those of his group, Levasseur said, "I've always said history will absolve us."
"In terms of blood and pain, I think it's the activist community that's paid a far higher price than police have," he said.
James F. Lowe can be reached at email@example.com.
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