On April 22, 1976, Edmund Narine was picking up paperwork at the Suffolk County Courthouse when a bomb blew off his left leg. In the 33 years since, Narine has dealt with the aftermath: lingering injuries, a lost marriage, and years wasted on a fruitless attempt to get compensation.
Tonight, hundreds are expected to protest a forum at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which was scheduled to feature Ray Luc Levasseur, a leader of the United Freedom Front, the group that claimed responsibility for bombing the courthouse. Instead, Levasseur’s ex-wife and former fellow front member, Pat Levasseur, will speak.
Now the man most affected by the Freedom Front’s attack in Boston is speaking out, saying that he feels justice hasn't been done in the Levasseurs' case, but, at the same time, they still have a right to speak.
"They have a right to a public forum if they want to talk about their activities, but still there should’ve been more justice,” he said.
“I think the public can learn from someone who’s carried out these sorts of heinous acts,” said Narine, 72, who is now a writer in Mission Hill. “It’s important for us to hear why they did it, what motivated them… It’s good for all of us to hear that, especially professionals, because it might help them to take preventive action in the future.”
Levasseur said Wednesday he was humbled by Narine’s comments.
“I think that’s a tremendous thing for him to do. And I appreciate it given what he’s been through," said Levasseur, 60, a carpenter who now lives in Maine. Levasseur is on federal parole after serving 18 years of a 45-year prison sentence for bombings in New York in the 1970s and 1980s. He said he had never intended to hurt innocent civilians.
Controversy has been swirling since news broke that Levasseur had been slated to speak at the university. Last week, UMass canceled Levasseur's lecture amid pressure from state officials. But on Monday a small group of faculty independently reinvited him. Governor Deval Patrick and UMass leaders lashed out at the professors' decision Tuesday.
On Wednesday night, Levasseur said he would not speak, obeying parole orders to stay in his home state of Maine. The event is still on, though, featuring Levasseur’s ex-wife and three defense attorneys from the former couple’s federal sedition trial.
On that fateful April morning, Narine was waiting for a document in a second-floor courthouse office when a knapsack carrying about 15 sticks of dynamite detonated just after 9 a.m., injuring him and 21 other people.
“I was there for about 10 minutes; then the whole world seemed to turn,” said Narine. “I thought maybe I was dreaming … then I tried to move, but my body wouldn’t respond.”
Narine spent the next four months hospitalized, recovering from his injuries: burns, broken bones, and the removal of his left leg and left elbow joint. “The arm is held together by ligaments,” he said.
Years later, he mounted a campaign for compensation, a quest that has yet to yield one cent, he said.
In 1985, he was awarded $1.5 million in a civil suit he and six others brought against courthouse commissioners for not taking full action to protect the public on the day of the bombing.
“When I was walking into the courthouse, there had already been a call from the bombers,” Narine said. “But they did not warn the public.”
But two years later, the state Supreme Judicial Court overturned the ruling and Narine’s award. And efforts in the State House and City Council to give Narine a fraction of his initial award have since failed, according to Globe reports.
In 1989, Narine testified in another case against Levasseur, a federal sedition trial in Springfield, where he was cross-examined by Levasseur, who was representing himself.
“I had a lot of mixed feelings about it, but it was something I had to do,” Narine said. “He was six or eight feet from me, asking me questions. But I had questions whether he was, in fact, guilty – I give everyone the benefit of the doubt.”
Narine said he lost his faith when Levasseur testified in the case, which charged him with a conspiracy to overthrow the government that plotted 10 bank robberies and 18 bombings in Massachusetts and other states.
“He was asked, ‘What do you say to Edmund Narine?’” Narine recounted. “And he said that in war, you have collateral damage. That’s when I was convinced it was him.”
The trial at the US District Court in Springfield, billed as the longest and most expensive in state history, is the topic of the forum at UMass tonight, 20 years after it ended. A federal jury acquitted the Levasseurs and codefendant Richard Williams of sedition conspiracy charges but could not reach a verdict on the trio’s racketeering charges, ending the 10-month case in a mistrial.
The trial “is fascinating. It really is amazing,” said Pat Levasseur, 60, now a legal worker in Manhattan. “We were fighting for our lives. We were not bad people. We made some errors in judgment perhaps, but the foundation of it wasn’t mean or evil. We didn’t mean for people to be hurt.”
The lecture is slated for 7:15 p.m. at the UMass Isenberg School of Management.
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