[News] 10 Racist Tactics the US Government Used to Destroy the Black Panthers

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 20 19:44:17 EST 2015

*10 Racist Tactics the US Government Used to Destroy the Black Panthers*

January 20, 2015 | Posted by Nick Chiles


Forty-five years ago, on Dec. 4, 1969, a unit of 14 Chicago police 
officers, under the direction of Cook County State’s Attorney Edward 
Hanrahan, executed a predawn raid on a West Side apartment that left 
Illinois Black Panther Party (BPP) leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark 
dead, several other young Panthers wounded and seven raid survivors 
arrested on bogus attempted murder charges. Though Hanrahan and his men 
claimed there had been a shootout that morning, physical evidence 
eventually proved that, in reality, the Panthers had only fired a single 
shot in response to approximately 90 shots from the police. A multitude 
of evidence shows that the FBI, which is charged by law with 
investigating crimes and preventing criminal conduct, itself engaged in 
lawless tactics and responded to deep-seated social problems by 
fomenting violence and unrest to take down the BPP. Much of the 
following evidence was drawn from the website of a former Panther, 
Assata Shakur.

J. Edgar Hoover’s Spies

Chicago Black Panther Party Chief of Security William O’Neal was a paid 
informant for the FBI. When a group of lawyers working at the People’s 
Law Office on a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of the Hampton and 
Clark families and the survivors of the Dec. 4 raid, the group 
subpoenaed the Chicago FBI’s Black Panther Party files. In response, the 
FBI produced a small number of documents that included a detailed floor 
plan of the BPP apartment specifically identifying the bed where Hampton 
slept, which O’Neal had supplied to Hanrahan before the raid by way of 
his FBI control agent. The last volume produced by the government was 
O’Neal’s control file. In it was yet another smoking gun: a memo from 
the Chicago office to FBI headquarters requesting a $300 bonus to reward 
O’Neal for his information, which the memo asserted was of “tremendous 
value.” A return memo from headquarters approved this request.

Destruction Recognized by Supreme Court

In April 1979, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the FBI and 
its government lawyers had obstructed justice by suppressing the BPP 
files. The Court of Appeals also concluded that there was substantial 
evidence to support the conclusion that the FBI defendants, in planning 
and executing the raid, had participated in a “conspiracy designed to 
subvert and eliminate the Black Panther Party and its members,” thereby 
suppressing a “vital radical-Black political organization.” The court 
further found there to be convincing evidence that these defendants also 
participated in a separate post-raid conspiracy to “conceal the true 
character of [their] pre-raid and raid activities,” to “harass the 
survivors of the raid” and to “frustrate any [legal] redress the 
survivors might seek.” The next year, this landmark decision withstood a 
challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. It stands today as judicial 
recognition of outrageous federal and local criminality and cover-up.

Setting Blacks Against Each Other

Although the claimed purpose of the Bureau’s COINTELPRO spying operation 
on Black leaders was to prevent violence, some of the FBI’s tactics 
against the BPP were clearly intended to foster violence, and many 
others could reasonably have been expected to cause violence. For 
example, the FBI’s efforts to “intensify the degree of animosity” 
between the BPP and the Blackstone Rangers, a Chicago street gang, 
included sending an anonymous letter to the gang’s leader falsely 
informing him that the Chicago Panthers had “a hit out” on him. The 
stated intent of the letter was to induce the Ranger leader to “take 
reprisals against” the Panther leadership. In Southern California, the 
FBI launched a covert effort to “create further dissension in the ranks 
of the BPP.” This effort included mailing anonymous letters and 
caricatures to BPP members ridiculing the local and national BPP 
leadership for the express purpose of exacerbating an existing “gang 
war” between the BPP and an organization called the United Slaves (US). 
This “gang war” resulted in the killing of four BPP members by members 
of US and in numerous beatings and shootings.

Harassing Interviews

The FBI also resorted to anonymous phone calls. The San Diego field 
office placed anonymous calls to local BPP leaders naming other BPP 
members as “police agents.” According to a report from the field office, 
these calls, reinforced by rumors spread by FBI informants within the 
BPP, induced a group of Panthers to accuse three Party members of 
working for the police. The field office boasted that one of the accused 
members fled San Diego in fear for his life. The FBI conducted harassing 
interviews of Black Panther members to intimidate them and drive them 
from the Party. The Los Angeles office claimed that similar tactics had 
cut the membership of the United Slaves (US) by 50 percent.

Inciting Evictions

FBI agents attempted to convince landlords to force Black Panther 
members and offices from their buildings. The Indianapolis Field Office 
reported that a local landlord had yielded to its urgings and promised 
to tell his Black Panther tenants to relocate their offices. The San 
Francisco office sent an article from the Black Panther newspaper to the 
landlord of a BPP member who had rented an apartment under an assumed 
name. The article, which had been written by that member and contained 
her picture and true name, was accompanied by an anonymous note stating, 
“(false name) is your tenant (true name)”. The San Francisco office 
secured the eviction of one Black Panther who lived in a public housing 
project by informing the Housing Authority officials that she was using 
his apartment for the BPP Free Breakfast Program.

Breaking Up Marriages

The Bureau also attempted to undermine the morale of Panther members by 
attempting to break up their marriages. In one case, an anonymous letter 
was sent to the wife of a prominent Panther leader stating that her 
husband had been having affairs with several teenage girls and had taken 
some of those girls with him on trips. Another Panther leader told a 
Committee staff member that an FBI agent had attempted to destroy his 
marriage by visiting his wife and showing photographs purporting to 
depict him with other women.

Driving Wedge Between Newton and Cleaver

In March 1970, the FBI initiated a concerted program to drive a 
permanent wedge between the followers of Eldridge Cleaver, who was then 
out of the country, and the supporters of Huey P. Newton, who was then 
serving a prison sentence in California. An anonymous letter was sent to 
Cleaver in Algeria stating that BPP leaders in California were seeking 
to undercut his influence. The Bureau subsequently learned that Cleaver 
had assumed the letter was from the then Panther representative in 
Scandinavia, Connie Matthews, and that the letter had led Cleaver to 
expel three BPP international representatives from the Party. Encouraged 
by the apparent success of this letter, FBI headquarters instructed its 
Paris Legal Attache to mail a follow-up letter, again written to appear 
as if Matthews was the author, to the Black Panther Chief-of-Staff, 
David Hilliard, in Oakland, California. The letter alleged that Cleaver 
“has tripped out. Perhaps he has been working too hard,” and suggested 
that Hilliard “take some immediate action before this becomes more serious.”

Turning White People Against Panthers

The FBI’s program to “neutralize” the Black Panther Party included 
attempts to deter individuals and groups from supporting the Panthers 
and, when that could not be accomplished, often extended to covert 
action targeted against those supporters. The Bureau made a series of 
progressively more severe efforts to destroy the confidence between the 
Panthers and one of their major California supporters, Donald Freed, a 
writer who headed an organization of white BPP sympathizers called 
“Friends of the Panthers.” In July 1969, the Los Angeles Field Office 
sent the local BPP office a memorandum bearing Freed’s name and address 
to “Friends of the Panthers.” Written in a condescending tone and 
including a list of six precautions whites should keep in mind when 
dealing with Panthers, the memorandum was calculated to cause a “rift 
between the Black Panther Party and their assisting organizations.” A 
few days later, the Bureau had leaflets placed in a park near a 
BPP-sponsored national conference in Oakland, California, alleging that 
Freed was a police informant.

Outing Hollywood Celebs Like Jane Fonda

Famous entertainment personalities who spoke in favor of Panther goals 
or associated with BPP members became the targets of FBI programs. When 
the FBI learned that one well-known Hollywood actress had become 
pregnant during an affair with a BPP member, it reported this 
information to a famous Hollywood gossip columnist in the form of an 
anonymous letter. In June 1970, FBI headquarters approved another 
anonymous letter informing Hollywood gossip columnist Army Archerd that 
actress Jane Fonda had appeared at a BPP fund-raising function, noting 
that “It can be expected that Fonda’s involvement with the BPP cause 
could detract from her status with the general public if reported in a 
Hollywood ‘gossip column.’” The wife of a famous Hollywood actor was 
targeted by the FBI when it discovered that she was a financial 
contributor and supporter of the BPP in Los Angeles. A caricature 
attacking her was prepared by the San Diego FBI office. A famous 
entertainer was also targeted after the Bureau concluded that he 
supported the Panthers. The Bureau also contacted the employers of BPP 
contributors. It sent a letter to the president and a vice-president of 
Union Carbide in January 1970 after learning that a production manager 
in its San Diego division contributed to the BPP.

Shutting Down Free Breakfast Program

One of the Bureau’s prime targets was the BPP’s free “Breakfast for 
Children” program, which FBI headquarters feared might be a potentially 
successful effort by the BPP to teach children to hate police and to 
spread “anti-white propaganda.” In an admitted attempt “to impede their 
contributions to the BPP Breakfast Program,” the FBI sent anonymous 
letters and copies of an inflammatory Black Panther Coloring Book for 
children to contributors, including Safeway Stores, Inc., Mayfair 
Markets, and the Jack-In-The-Box Corporation. When the coloring book 
came to the attention of the Panthers’ national leadership, Bobby Seale 
ordered it destroyed because the book “did not correctly reflect the 
ideology of the Black Panther Party…” Churches that permitted the 
Panthers to use their facilities in the free breakfast program were also 
targeted. When the FBI’s San Diego office discovered that a Catholic 
priest, Father Frank Curran, was permitting his church in San Diego to 
be used as a serving place for the BPP Breakfast Program, it sent an 
anonymous letter to the bishop of the San Diego Diocese informing him of 
the priest’s activities. It also placed three telephone calls from 
“parishioners” protesting Curran’s support of the BPP program to the 
auxiliary bishop of the San Diego Diocese. A month later, the San Diego 
office reported that Father Curran had been transferred from the San 
Diego Diocese to “somewhere in the State of New Mexico for permanent 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
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