Conscience Calls A 1970s Radical To Face Her Past
AFTER surrendering in Boston suddenly last Wednesday to face a murder and bank-robbery charge from 23 years ago, former campus radical Katherine Ann Power sits in jail awaiting her first of two sentencing dates on Sept. 24.
Over the weekend, policemen who knew the victim, officer William Schroeder, Sr., expressed concern that Ms. Power not receive a light sentence. While Power continued her life, working and becoming a mother, Mr. Schroeder's widow was left to raise nine children in a housing project.
``I am prepared to accept whatever consequences the legal system will impose,'' Power said in statement released through her Boston attorney, Rikki Klieman. ``Leaving my son, my husband, and friends to enter prison is not easy. But I know I must answer this accusation from the past, in order to live with full authenticity in the present.''
She said a condition of clinical depression prevented her from giving up before. She said she is now free of the condition. A federal law-enforcement official suggests Power will serve from five to 10 years.
Living in Lebanon, Ore., with a companion who became her husband, Power was known as Alice Louise Metzinger, now the mother of a 14-year-old boy. She is one of a dozen or so campus radicals who were on the FBI's most-wanted list in the 1970s for criminal acts while protesting the war in Vietnam.
She was wanted for her involvement in the robbery of a Boston neighborhood bank in September l970. She and four other radical Brandeis University students, two of whom were ex-convicts, robbed the bank to buy weapons for the Black Panther party. During the robbery, Schroeder was shot in the back and killed.
Just before the robbery and murder, Power was a 21-year-old college senior. She attended Brandeis on a four-year scholarship. In an 1970 interview with the Monitor in her dormitory room four months before she drove the getaway car at the robbery, Power said, ``If the political tactics people use now don't work, either they will become apolitical, and not work at all, or they will find other tactics.''
Last Wednesday, Power said that although her tactics 23 years ago ``seemed the correct course, they were in fact naive and unthinking.'' She called them, ``outrageously illegal acts.''
While her husband and parents looked on, Power plead guilty in a state court to manslaughter and two counts of robbery.
With Power's surrender comes all the political and emotional echoes from the Vietnam War that polarized the country. In explaining her actions, she referred to the Vietnam War era as a time in which the ``law was being broken everywhere,'' from the president ``who defied international law'' and the ``intentions of Congress'' to ``young men [who] defied the draft.''
She said her acts were prompted by her ``philosophical and spiritual'' commitment to stopping the war ``regardless of the consequences to oneself in comfort or security.''
Like tens of thousands of other students, Power was protesting a war that had taken the lives of nearly 40,000 young American soldiers by September 1970. The killing of four students and wounding of nine at Kent State University by the National Guard had happened four months earlier, and Lt. William Calley was on trial for the killing of 567 Vietnamese at My Lai, Vietnam.
``In the turmoil and maelstrom of protest activity that was happening then,'' says attorney Klieman, ``there was a conscientious, thoughtful effort of millions of people to end the war. After the death of the students at Kent State, many students became radicalized, and some of them who were as naive as Katherine went over the edge.''
Ms. Klieman says she was first contacted by Power in l990 through an Oregon attorney, Steven Black. She contacted the authorities soon after. Negotiations went on for months with state and federal authorities. ``Katherine never waivered in her commitment to go through with it,'' Klieman said, ``but at one point, I broke off negotiations for many months, and went back later until we had an agreement I felt I could advise her to take.''