Early this year, the Black Liberation Front, a hot-eyed batch of pro-Castro New York Negroes, got in touch with some Quebec separatists, an equally odd outfit fanatically dedicated to Quebec's secession from Canada. The Black Liberation boys wanted some dynamite; the Canadians were willing to provide it. From their agreement sprang one of the most convoluted conspiracies since Guy Fawkes schemed in 1605 to blow up the English Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder.
"Damned Old Bitch." According to charges brought by New York police last week, the mastermindif that is the wordof the plot was one Robert Steele Collier, 28, a library clerk who visited Cuba early last summer and returned to organize the Black Liberation Front. Also charged were Walter Augustus Bowe, 32, a onetime trumpet player who used to lead a combo called "The Angry Black Men," but more recently has worked as a $50-a-week New York settlement-house youth leader, and boyish-looking Khaleel Sul-tarn Sayyed, 22, son of an Arab-descended Negro who runs a Brooklyn delicatessen. And then there was husky (6 ft. 1 in., 201 lbs.) Raymond A. Wood, 31, a former Chester, S.C., high school football star.
The plotters were seeking to create a spectacular sort of disturbance that would dramatize the troubles of U.S. Negroes. Bowe, Sayyed and Wood started scouting around last month, visited the 300-ft.-high, 225-ton Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. Obviously, blowing up the Statue of Liberty would be as spectacular an event as anyone could wish for.
Bowe purchased an inexpensive replica of the statue, demonstrated to his colleagues that it would be a simple matter to break the lock on a door leading from the statue's head (where a million tourists annually stare out at the harbor through windows in the crown) into the 42-ft.-long torch-bearing arm, from which the public is excluded. At the statue's shoulder, Bowe reported, the Black Liberation boys could plant a few sticks of dynamite, detonate them with electrical blasting caps, andbang!in one blast the "damned old bitch" would be rendered both headless and torchless.
Enter la Femme. It all sounded so good that Bowe had another idea: "This is so easy we should split up and knock out the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia." Why not? The Black Liberation boys became highly enthusiastic about wrecking U.S. shrines. As long as they were at it, why not the 555-ft.-high Washington Monument as well?
As a first step toward the sabotage, Collier ordered Ray Wood to pick up some planks and nails to make spiked boards for puncturing police-car tires, and gasoline bottles for Molotov cocktails. Collier also began talking about setting up three-man demolition teams to knock out U.S. oilfields and military installations. Early this month, Collier and Wood went to Canada to make final arrangements for bringing in 30 sticks of dynamite. A frowsy, 6-ft. blonde named Michelle Duclos, 26, was to bring the dynamite from Montreal to New York in her car. She is a member of the separatist Rassemblement pour l'lndépendance Nationale, is a sometime performer on Montreal's French-language television station CFTM, and a frequent visitor to New York for dates with African representatives to the U.N.