Cops across the nation have faced increased scrutiny over the past decade, and the death of George Floyd in 2020 has only further increased the divide between a nation where the radical left calls for stringent police reform and the extreme right calls for more support for the men in uniforms. But even as the debate seems to have waned off a bit, the topic is once again gaining traction tying into public education — another US sector faced with opposing beliefs. On April 6th, a convicted murderer charged with killing two cops is scheduled to speak at The State University of New York Brockport, and it has caused one professor to quit his job at the college.
Daniel Varrenti was a longtime adjunct professor for criminal justice at the SUNY Brockport campus. He is also the former police chief in the city. Varrenti told Fox News that he resigned from his position at the University when he learned that Anthony Bottom, who now goes by Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, was invited to be a guest speaker. Muntaqim is a convicted murderer charged with the killing of two New York Police Department patrolmen in 1971. He was also a member of the Marxist political group, The Black Panthers.
The invitation extended to the convicted murderer was said to be the last straw in guiding Varrenti to part ways with the higher ed institution. Varrenti told Fox & Friends that he held prior contempt at SUNY Brockport dating back to 2020 when the school’s president sent out a school-wide email that he said condemned law enforcement as a whole. He said the invitation “goes against everything I’ve always worked for and believed in,” he told Steve Doocy of Fox. Furthermore, Varrenti believes the now free Muntaqim should have remained in prison for life for his murders.
Jalil Abdul Muntaqim served nearly five decades in prison before being released in 2020. In 1971, he joined the Black Panther Party at the young age of 16. In 1974 he became a convicted murderer charged with taking the lives of NYPD officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini. He was sentenced to life in prison with possible parole after 22 years. He became eligible for parole in 1993 but was denied 11 times before being released from prison in 2020.
Muntaqim shows up on Brockport’s events calendar as being a guest speaker on campus on April 6th. The event will host the convicted murderer virtually as the school held concerns regarding the security of the event. The speech is being titled under a portion of the History of Black Resistance, and Muntaqim will likely speak about his time as a member of the Black Panther political party during the civil rights movement. Brockport not only has received backlash for the event because of Muntaqim’s conviction, but also because of how the school is touting the event: as being a speech given by a “political prisoner.”
Much like when Muntaqim was first released from jail, people are strongly divided on whether or not the convicted murderer should have been set free. Varrenti, like most police officers, has condemned the school for allowing Muntaqim to speak. But those like the officials in charge of Brockport see it differently. Brockport’s local News10, who reached out to school officials, reported that the school doesn’t necessarily endorse Muntaqim’s previous actions, or call him a political prisoner, however, they do believe in freedom of speech, and the need for controversial discussions to gain new perspectives. In preparation for what is sure to be a tense day in Brockport, New York, the school has set up a web page to answer questions for those concerned about the event.