David Gilbert - North America

American radical organizer, author and prisoner
David Gilbert (b. 1944) was a founding member of
Columbia University Students for a Democratic
Society and member of The Weather Underground
Organization. Following eleven years underground
he was arrested with members of the Black
Liberation Army and other radicals following a
botched armored car robbery in 1981. He is now a
well-known prisoner serving time in upstate New
York.

David Gilbert grew up in a Jewish family in
Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.
Inspired in his teens by the Greensboro sit-ins and
other events of the American Civil Rights Movement,
he joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
at age seventeen. He entered Columbia University
in 1962. In his junior year he helped to found the
Independent Committee Against the War in Vietnam
[ICV] and later the school’s chapter of Students for a
Democratic Society. He travelled regularly to Harlem
while working as a tutor, and saw Malcolm X speak
at Barnard College in February 1965, experiences
he describes as formative. Known by the late ’60s
primarily as a young theorist, publishing articles in
New Left Notes and other movement publications,
he went on to play an organizing role in the April-
May 1968 Columbia student strike.

As Columbia SDS grew during the Spring 1967
term, Gilbert tended to return to the Columbia
campus only to offer a “radical education” counter-
course for Columbia SDS freshmen and
sophomores in a lounge in Ferris Booth Hall. Most
of his activism was centered downtown at the New
School for Social Research or at the New York SDS

Abdul Majid - North America

Abdul Majid is a native of Queens New York
and has been imprisoned for two decades. In
the 1960s, he worked in the Grass Roots
Advisory Council, an anti-poverty program. In
the late 60s Abdul joined the Black Panther
Party and the Republic of New Afrika. Abdul
was involved in many of the community-
based programs of the BPP including the free
health clinic, free breakfast for children
program, and efforts to decentralize the public
schools and the police department.
After the BPP was destroyed by the FBI’s
COINTELPRO program, Abdul worked as a
paralegal at Bronx Legal Services.

Abdul Majid #83-A-0483
Elmira Correctional Facility
PO Box 500, 1879 Davis St
Elmira, New York 14902-0500
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Regional Office.

Gilbert’s father was a liberal Democrat who worked
as a manager in a toy company and Gilbert was still
just a left-liberal Democrat, politically, when he
entered Columbia College in the fall of 1962. But by
the fall of 1965, Gilbert was speaking on the sundial
against the war in Viet Nam at ICV rallies, was a
revolutionary communist and New Left radical on a
political level, somewhat bohemian culturally and very
intellectual, morally passionate and earnest. He
always seemed to be in a pleasant and enthusiastic
mood. He also seemed to be one of the New Left
activists around campus who knew the most about
any politically relevant subject. As an orator and
agitator, Gilbert was also quite good. And as a day-to-
day organizer, Gilbert was very hardworking.

After graduating from Columbia College in June 1966,
Gilbert spent most of his days and evenings during
the fall of 1967 downtown attending grad school at
the New School, building an SDS chapter there or
attending meetings at the New York SDS Regional
Office. He and other New York Regional SDS
activists were both working to build SDS and
attempting to build an “adult,” non-student Movement
for a Democratic Society [MDS] of ex-student radical
professionals who had left the campus scene, for
meaningless off-campus 9-to-5 jobs. In addition,
Gilbert spent his spare-time studying Marx’s Das
Kapital book and writing New Left theoretical papers
on imperialism and U.S. domestic consumption,
consumerism and “the new working-class.” In
October 1967, Gilbert looked somewhat like Marx,
himself, having grown a long beard.

In 1969 SDS split into different ideological factions
and the Weathermen emerged, its purpose being to
build up armed struggle amidst young white
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Americans in support of the Black Panthers
and other militant groups and also oppose the
war in Vietnam via actions that “Bring the War
Home”. Gilbert joined this group in 1969 with
his friend Ted Gold, who in early 1970 would
die in the infamous New York City townhouse
explosion that killed three Weather members.
The group’s participants went into hiding at
this point, and the organization was renamed
the Weather Underground.

Exactly what Gilbert did in the Weather
Underground between 1970 and the group’s
demise around 1975 is not known. Not on the
group’s coordinating committee (the Weather
Bureau) he did act as a regional leader,
spending at least some of these years in
Colorado. The Weather Underground
committed several bombings and actions in
this period against government and business
targets. As support for the group began to
wane on the left the pace of actions lessened
and some members of the Weather
Underground reemerged. Most were not
proscecuted or did not serve time in prison
despite having been sought by the police for
years; police misconduct was the cause of
many charges eventually being thrown out of
court (see: COINTELPRO). Gilbert did not
emerge, however; he and his partner Kathy
Boudin remained active even following the
birth of their son Chesa Boudin in August 1980.

In the late 1970s or early 1980s Gilbert and
other white activists took the name RATF
(Revolutionary Armed Task Force), declaring
their solidarity with the Black Liberation Army
(BLA). In 1981, this group participated along
with several members of the BLA in an

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attempt to rob a Brinks armored car at the Nanuet
Mall, near Nyack, New York. While Gilbert and
Boudin waited in a U-Haul truck in a nearby parking
lot, armed BLA members took another vehicle to the
mall, where a Brinks truck was making a delivery.
They confronted the guards and immediately began
firing, almost severing the arm of guard Joe Trombino
and killing his co-worker, Peter Paige. The four then
took $1.6 million in cash and sped off to transfer into
the waiting U-Haul. The truck was soon stopped by
police, who were looking for black, not white,
perpetrators, and therefore did not suspect Gilbert
and Boudin. Officers questioning the couple were
then attacked by BLA members who emerged from
the back of the vehicle. Two police officers, Waverly
L. Brown and Edward J. O’Grady, died in the
shootout. Gilbert fled the scene with other RATF and
BLA members but was later caught by police, tried,
and sentenced in 1983 to 75 years for three counts of
felony manslaughter. His extremely long sentence for
participating in this action (especially when compared
to Kathy Boudin’s 20-years-to-life, from which she has
been paroled) may be due to his decision not to
participate in his trial, not recognizing the authority of
the state to try him.

Gilbert co-founded an inmate peer education program
on HIV and AIDS in the Auburn Correctional Facility in
1987, and a similar more successful project in Great

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Meadows Prison in Comstock following his
transfer there. He has published book reviews
and essays in a number of small/independent
newspapers and journals which were collected
into the anthology No Surrender: Writings from
an Anti-Imperialist Political Prisoner (Abraham
Guillen Press) in 2004. He has also published
longer single pieces on the topic of misleading
AIDS conspiracy theories and white working
class political consciousness. The 2003
documentary The Weather Underground
featured interview segments with Gilbert,
raising his profile beyond those in the small
political prisoner support network who have
been following his progress since his
incarceration. The DVD release of The
Weather Underground features a longer
interview with Gilbert as an extra.

He has served time in numerous upstate New
York prisons, and is currently at the Clinton
Correctional Institution in Dannemora NY.

David Gilbert
#83-A-6158
Clinton Corr. Facility
P.O. Box 2001
Dannemora, NY 12929
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