Former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member Herman Bell was released from a prison in upstate New York, after spending 45 years incarcerated.
Bell's support group issued the following statement upon his release: “We hope that Herman's release will be a source of inspiration for more changes. Herman feels very honored and grateful for all the expressions of trust and support, but out of respect for the feelings of the relatives of the victims, he will not make public statements. We welcome you.”
Bell was released, on Friday, after a judge had rejected a petition from a police union organization, Benevolent Patrol Association, to have his parole blocked. The ex-activist, who is credited for mentoring thousands of young people during his time in prison, had a record of excellent behavior while in prison.
After the decision was made to release the former Black Panther member, the New York State Supreme Court was charged to dismiss a lawsuit to stop the action, after qualifying that the parole board “did not act irrationally or outside its bounds.”
A police spokesperson told The Intercept that the decision would be appealed.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was among those who wrote to the parole board to urge the commissioners to not release Bell. But weeks before Bell's release, CBS New York ran a public poll, on support for the parole board’s decision, which resulted in 86 percent of the over 6,000 participants being in favor of Bell's release.
The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, some 160 advocacy groups and other organizations, as well as the son of one of the slain officers, advocated for his release.
The officer's son wrote to the parole board in support of Bell’s freedom and condemned the “media-fueled hysteria” surrounding his release.
Bell was sentenced to 25 years and life in prison for killing two New York City police officers in 1971.