Black activist's visa revoked


By Helen Cunningham and Marina Cameron

Immigration minister Philip Ruddock cancelled the visa of US Black Panther activist Lorenzo Kom'Boa Ervin on July 25. Ervin was arrested in Brisbane and held in solitary confinement earlier this month after Pauline Hanson and John Howard both publicly attacked his presence.

The government was later forced to release Ervin and give him time to provide evidence that he was of "good character" and should be allowed to stay. Ervin was given until July 25, but failed to meet the deadline because a further extension of time to obtain evidence and documents from the US to back up his claim was refused.

Ruddock stated that the government's decision had taken into account Ervin's convictions for air piracy and kidnapping, and assaulting a corrections officer, and had formed the view that Ervin was never granted "executive clemency" or a pardon for his convictions.

Ervin left Australia on July 24 to prevent authorities arresting him again, but the government's decision means that he no longer holds a visa to come to Australia. He said, "I have no desire to leave before the period of my original visa, but the reality is a gun is being put to my head. I will leave, but I'll leave under protest."

In the meantime, Ervin continued with his speaking tour last week and his plans to meet with members of Melbourne's Aboriginal community.

Ervin addressed a packed Collingwood Town Hall on July 23 about Australian politics, the history of the black activist movement and the Black Panther movement. Ervin, who spent nine years in solitary confinement, spoke inspiringly about the inalienable right of people to protect their rights, including the right to free speech.

In pointed humour, Ervin thanked John Howard and Pauline Hanson for making his tour so popular. He said the immigration authorities had arrested him, beaten him and locked him up, only to release him later to an alerted Australian public.

Ervin stated, "Pauline Hanson thinks she's got a clean reputation internationally, but overseas she's seen as someone who invokes violence — she's creating a fascist movement. Fighting her, you are fighting for a new society."

Ervin shared with the audience many of the atrocities that US blacks were subjected to while fighting a repressive regime, including the hateful tactics of the KKK. He also talked of how the FBI infiltrated, assassinated and imprisoned activists in the Black Panther movement, some of whom are still imprisoned to this day.

Ervin pledged that on his return to the US he would embark on a campaign for trade sanctions against Australia and an international boycott of the Olympic Games, in protest over the treatment of Aborigines.