Volume 90, Issue 90

Friday, March 14, 1997



The Hurricane blew into town

By Paul Fruitman
Gazette Staff

The Nietzschian slogan, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger," is often used as a crutch for the downtrodden, but Rubin "Hurricane" Carter is living proof of its truth.

Yesterday in the University Community Centre's McKellar Room, Carter spoke powerfully about growing stronger from experience, the importance of habeas corpus and the danger of succumbing to fear.

"That's our real danger here – fear," Carter said. "Fear feeds prejudices and always clouds one's judgement. When you fear someone, you can justify everything from racism to anti-semitism to revoking constitutional protection."

In 1966 Carter, then the 19-year-old top contender for middleweight championship of boxing, was wrongfully arrested and subsequently convicted of the murder of three white men. Carter, a black male, had no motive and failed to match the description of the perpetrators, yet was presumed guilty because of a witness named Alfred Bellow who lied under police pressure.

"I was accused of murdering three people in a New Jersey bar and I didn't even drink – then. I do now," Carter said with a bold laugh.

As Carter spoke he bobbed and wove the way he once did in the prize- ring. His movements were animated and full of life – far from the actions one would expect from a man so kicked around by life.

All the suffering Carter endured has apparently made him more upbeat and determined to accomplish his goals. Now, at age 60, he now spends his days speaking at universities and high schools across Canada and the United States. He also sits on the boards of several organizations, including the Southern Center for Human Rights, in Georgia.

Many people came to Carter's aid during his stint in prison. Popular figures rallied in support of his cause, including Bob Dylan, who immortalized Rubin Carter in the song "Hurricane" and played a benefit concert in Carter's honour. With the help of a group of liberal Canadians, Carter was finally freed in 1988.

"Habeas corpus isn't just a quaint Latin phrase, it was the key to my freedom," Carter said. "If it hadn't been for habeus corpus, I would have been a no-show [today] due to a previous commitment."

Carter warned the crowd, many of whom were law students, to be weary of the dangers concerning the politics of justice – the same politics which are trying to lessen the power of habeas corpus.

"What is driving the surge to clamp down on personal freedom if not politics?" Carter asked rhetorically. "And what drives the politics if not fear?"

At the heart of Carter's message was a push for people to always keep reaching towards their goals, regardless of the problems they may encounter.

"Keep on pushing and keep on dreaming," he said. "If you see an obstacle in front of you, it's not there to stop you. It's there to make you stronger for the next obstacle that comes around."

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Copyright The Gazette 1997