After the police roundup at New Bethel Church, a section of the RNA decided to move its operations to Mississippi. Richard Henry, now known as Imari Obadele, led a group south to begin acquiring land settling on a farm in Jackson, Mississippi. Milton Henry, now Gaidi Obadele, stayed behind in Detroit.
Following the New Bethel incident, the FBI had stepped up its monitoring of the group. The RNA’s Mississippi farm was threatened and raided, and in August 1971 the FBI and the Jackson Police Department attacked with arms, tear gas, and a tank. A shoot-out between the RNA and the police ensued. One Jackson police officer was killed, and another patrolmen and an FBI agent were wounded. Eleven RNA members, including President Imari Obadele (who was not at the farm during the shootout), were arrested, and the police began to brutalize the suspects, including one of the women who was pregnant. The defendants were paraded half-clothed through downtown Jackson.
A neighbor phoned RNA Minister of Justice Chokwe Lumumba back in Detroit. Fearing what would be done to the people in custody, Lumumba frantically called Representative Conyers’s office to ask the congressman to intervene. According to Lumumba, Conyers’s office “got back to us immediately” that they had gotten assurances from the Justice Department that the suspects would be humanely treated. Lumumba found out later that it was Rosa Parks who had acted so quickly: “She intervened and really saved their lives.” Conyers corroborated Lumumba’s account.
Eight members of the RNA were convicted of murder; a year later, Obadele, who became one of the first American political prisoners who case was to be taken up by Amnesty International, was convicted of conspiracy and served more than five years of a twelve-year sentence. Obadele later said that during his five years in prison Parks would periodically call the prison to check on his well-being, being clear that this was “Rosa Parks calling” and informing prison officials they were being watched.
Related primary source: National Lawyers Guild ‘Resolution in Support of RNA Citizens Unjustly Held in U.S. and Mississippi Prisons. Courtesy of www.freedomarchives.org