[News] The Next Battle of the Social War: Nine Black Panthers and state repression

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 24 08:53:11 EST 2007

Wednesday, January 24 2007 @ 05:49 AM PST

The Next Battle of the Social War: Nine Black Panthers and state repression


Tuesday, January 23 2007 @ 08:25 PM PST
Contributed by: Anonymous
Views: 89

January 23, 2007 should be a day that lives in infamy within the 
movements for social justice in North America. On that date, the 
nearly four decades long war on the Black Panthers was shown to still 
exist. Nine individuals, most identified as being members of the 
Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, were charged with 
murder or murder related crimes by officials in California. The 
incident in question involved the killing of a police officer inside 
the police station in which he worked in 1971. Over 35 years later, 
the struggle that the killing of the officer symbolizes is alive and strong.

By 1971, the resistance movements of the late 1960's had started to 
go underground. A large scale low intensity war was being fought by 
armed clandestine militants against the mechanisms of state and 
capitalist power. One of those groups was the Black Liberation Army.

The Black Liberation Army was formed by former members of the Black 
Panther Party that had left the Party due to a variety of reasons. 
The members of the BLA saw the Party being torn apart from 
infiltration, state sponsored chemical warfare (the purposeful influx 
of drugs by the government to black communities), infighting caused 
by CoIntelPro, and power struggles amongst the leadership of the Panthers.

The BLA came to represent some of the most committed of the Black 
Panther Party, with members including Sundiata Acoli, Assata Shakur, 
Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and Ashanti Alston. The BLA existed to continue 
the fight the Party had started.

A feeling pervaded amongst the membership of the BLA that they had to 
go underground even to survive. With pressure coming from sectarians 
active within the Black Panthers on one side, and the government on 
the other, the BLA went underground in 1970.

On August 29, 1971, according to police reports, several men crowded 
into the Ingleside Police Station in California and fired a shotgun 
through a hole in the counter glass. A civilian file clerk was 
wounded, while Sgt. John V. Young was killed.

Later in 1973, among thirteen black militants arrested for the crime, 
Black Panthers John Bowman, Ruben Scott, and Harold Taylor would all 
be targeted as being the men that had killed Sgt. Young. In New 
Orleans, the three would be arrested. San Francisco police officers 
that were working with the FBI to solve the killing, Frank McCoy and 
Ed Erdelatz, were flown to New Orleans to aid in the questioning of 
Bowman, Scott, and Taylor.

The three Panthers refused to cooperate with the investigation. They 
then faced days of torture at the hands of New Orleans police 
officers, including physical abuse and mental and emotional 
manipulation. In 1975, when the matter finally went to court, a 
federal judge threw out the charges citing that all the evidence 
against them had been extracted through the use of torture.

In 2003, the case was reopened with the use of a grand jury. The two 
SFPD police officers that had been responsible for the torture of the 
three Black Panthers were put back in charge of the investigation. 
They were deputized by the federal government and started to work 
side by side with the FBI on the investigation.

When the original grand jury had ended with no indictments, the State 
of California opened another one in 2005, bringing five former Black 
Panthers to be questioned. Hank Jones, Ray Boudreaux, John Bowman, 
Harold Taylor, and Richard Brown all resisted the grand jury and were 
eventually jailed and released.

Now, in late January of 2007, all of those that appeared before the 
jury, save John Bowman who died of liver cancer on December 23, 2006, 
are among the nine militants now being charged with the killing of 
Sgt. Young. The others being charged in the case are Herman Bell and 
Jalil Muntaqim (both currently imprisoned political prisoners on 
charges of killing a different police officer in New York), Francisco 
Torres, Richard O'Neal, and Ronald Bridgeforth. Bridgeforth is 
currently the only suspect not in custody and his whereabouts are 
unknown to the government.

Just as in December of 2005 when over a dozen environmental 
resistance movement members were arrested and indicted on charges 
related to "Operation Backfire", the movements of social justice are 
under attack. We must view these new arrests in the historical 
context in which they were conducted.

In the 1960's and 1970's the U.S. government waged an open war on the 
resistance movements that had grown against White Supremacy, the war 
in Vietnam, Patriarchy, and the entire capitalist system. Using many 
tactics, the government was able to destroy and subdue most of the 
organizations and factions involved within these movements.

Fast forward three decades later to 2007, where a rising tide of 
anti-capitalist momentum in the form of organizing and movement 
building is flooding the world. From Oaxaca to Olympia, organized 
social movements are again gaining strength and taking the state and 
global capitalism head on. As public opinion shifts strongly against 
the "War on Terrorism", and new forms of social resistance are 
starting to rise, we've seen an increased attack on members of 
resistance movements in the U.S.

The U.S. government would not have reopened this case if it did not 
intend on sending a message to all those who resist. As we've seen 
with Operation Backfire, the arrests in Auburn, California, FBI 
harassment of members of the Great Plains Anarchist Network in 2004, 
and in many operations in the last ten years, the government is 
trying to send a clear message. "Don't dare stand up."

As cases like that of Eric McDavid and Brendan Walsh illustrate, we 
have not handled ourselves well as a movement under this type of 
attack. The former has been languishing in a prison cell for over a 
year awaiting trial, and the latter is a young anti-war militant who 
has been imprisoned and nearly forgotten for the last three years.

Add to these incidents the sudden news that all of the remaining 
captured defendants of Operation Backfire have pleaded guilty, and we 
start to see that we need to come up with better ideas of how to 
support members of our movements when they are attacked by the state.

For years, prison struggle and prisoner issues have been on a back 
burner within the larger anarchist milieu. Small groups of anarchists 
have done what little they knew how to support political prisoners 
and those reeling from repression. We cannot afford to ignore these 
issues as a larger movement any longer. We are under attack. If we 
don't defend ourselves now, with innovate new methods, then we will 
falter and we'll just watch as nine more comrades are imprisoned.

Our movement has to go beyond signing petitions, raising legal funds, 
and calling prison administrators and government officials. We have 
to create a movement based on real revolutionary solidarity. When the 
government attacks, we need to be offering support to families of 
those they have attacked. We need to be organizing with community 
leaders in those communities that are targeted to link our mutual 
struggles. We need to be ready to "turn up the heat" and intensify 
what may already be intense local efforts.

For a movement short on answers, I don't have many either. This has 
been an issue I've been grappling with for years, trying to figure 
out what more I can do to help those that are imprisoned or are 
facing prison. One thing has been blindingly clear, however: our 
current models don't work. Pressure on economic and political 
interests that comes from a community social movement will always 
work better than trying to fight our battles through petitions and 
courtrooms. So what the hell does that mean exactly?

The answers seem so much easier when you are reading a book about 
social movements in the 1970's that hijacked helicopters or broke 
into prisons to free their captured comrades. Now in 2007, those 
options seem so far removed from the reality of our movement that is 
still healing after going into near extinction following September 11th.

One thing is certain in this era of unanswered questions: we must 
place the struggle to free these Panthers, Eric McDavid, Brendan 
Walsh, and all other political prisoners at the forefront of our 
work. We must learn how to connect the new and old generations of 
political prisoners with the work we're doing in the streets. We need 
to make sure that every damn person in our cities knows who these 
people are. We need to ensure that when we are organizing against the 
war, we are also organizing to free those that resisted war. We need 
to ensure that when we're working to save the earth, we are working 
to free those that have been imprisoned fighting for it.

We have to be able to view our movements in the context of a history 
of social movements in the U.S. that dates back to at least 1492. We 
need to ensure that we do not leave people like Eric McDavid to sit 
in a jail cell for a year without massive actions demanding his 
release. We need to ensure that we don't allow them to imprison these 

We need to ensure that we don't act like we always have, and forget. 
We as a movement have forgotten those that fill the prison cells and 
those that face them. Let's remember. And never forget. Let's never 
leave those facing imprisonment hanging ever again. When they face 
those cells, let them face them with a strong movement beside them.

Freedom for the Panther 9! Freedom for all political prisoners! For 
the abolition of all cages!

Dave Strano
Kansas Mutual Aid
Jan. 2007

For more information:

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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