On the evening of October 15 1977, Tom Henehan, a member of the political committee of the Workers League, the forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party, was supervising an activity sponsored by the Young Socialists, the party’s youth movement, held at the Ponce Social Club in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York.
Toward 1 a.m., two men, later identified as Edwin Sequinot and Angel Rodriguez, started a disturbance near the entrance to the hall by attacking another Workers League member, Jacques Vielot. As Tom rushed to Vielot’s aid, he was shot five times by a third assailant lying in wait, a professional gunman named Angelo Torres.
When Vielot sought to help Tom, Torres turned to him, put the pistol to his head, and pulled the trigger. When the gun did not go off, he slugged Vielot with the gun butt. Sequinot also pulled out a gun and shot Vielot, severely wounding him.
The injured Vielot rushed Tom to Wyckoff Heights Hospital. Although he was bleeding profusely, Tom was still conscious. However, he was left in the emergency room and no attempt was made to operate to stop his internal bleeding, though this is standard medical practice. Tom went into shock and died at 2:45 a.m. on October 16, approximately 90 minutes after arriving at the hospital. He was 26 years old.
Tom Henehan was the victim of a political murder—an attack aimed at eliminating a young cadre of the Trotskyist movement and intimidating the party’s struggle for socialism in the American and international working class.
Though I'm sure most of you have, I had never heard of Tom Henehan until today. I was living in San Francisco when the Brooklyn murder happened. I believe I was photographing a band on tour so I was on the road. But that was like a six or eight week gig. And then I was home.
I can't imagine the death not registering considering that I am left and that I hung out with lefties. But I don't recall ever hearing of it. (Some are saying, "Yes, Kat, but we know your memory" Yes, I do forget. But when reminded, I remember. I have no memory, even after reading two articles at WSWS this evening, of Tom Henehan.)
Back then, we didn't have the web. So it would have been in one of our underground papers. Possibly the San Francisco Chronicle or Examiner might have covered it (we had two major daily papers back then). But I doubt it. It would have been the underground press.
And it probabl would have taken a few weeks to reach us from the east coast.
But I never heard about it until today.
David North's WSWS article contains photos as well as this:
Tom Henehan was only 26 years old when he was assassinated in New York City. When we who were his contemporaries look at the photographs of Tom, having ourselves aged by 20 years, we are able to appreciate today, more profoundly than in 1977, how very young he was at the time of his death. We have a better sense today of how much more he could have and would have accomplished had he not been murdered. To this day we feel an enduring sense of loss, but not of waste and futility. The 26 years of Tom’s life were far too short, but they were not short of purpose and enduring meaning.
Had Tom not died in October 1977, had he been privileged to live another 20 years and were he still with us today, he would certainly have experienced and accomplished more than what was possible in the space of 26 years. But the essential course of his life would have proceeded along the lines that were set down when he decided, in the spring of 1973, on the eve of his graduation from Columbia University, to join the Workers League and devote his life to the cause of the working class and the struggle for international socialism.
Tom was, in the best and positive sense of the word, an idealist. He believed passionately in justice, equality and the solidarity of mankind. But he did not join the Workers League in a fit of thoughtless youthful exuberance. Tom matured amidst the social and political convulsions of the 1960s and early 1970s, and he was politically radicalized by the Vietnam War, the violent struggles in the cities, and the obvious inability of liberal reformism to fashion any viable solution to the problems of poverty and oppression in the United States. Like many others of his generation, he was drawn to the conclusion that the cause of the social ills that plagued American society was capitalism.
And Tom Henehan looks a very young 26 in the photos. I didn't know about it in real time. I can't change that. But I can at least note it at the space I have online. His assassination has still not resulted in any arrests all these years later.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"