Thursday, November 29, 2007

Daniel McGowan on the Legacy of the Black Panther Party

The legacy of the Black Panther Party

by Daniel on November 9th, 2007

On November 30th, there will be an event in New York City celebrating
the legacy of the Black Panther Party and in support of the San
Francisco 8. We will be co-sponsoring the event along with the
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, NYC Anarchist Black Cross, SEIU Local
1199, The Jericho Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the
Free Mumia coalition, and more local political prisoner
organizations. If you are in the NYC area, it’s important you
attend this event and show your solidarity with the 8 former Black
Panthers. Let me back up and give some perspective on who these men

The San Francisco 8 are former, original Black Panthers, and
sympathetic community activists ranging from 56 to 72. Three men were
arrested on January 23, 2006 on charges related to the killing of a
cop in San Francisco in 1971. The original three were indicted on
these charges in the early 70’s and the charges were dropped,
because torture was used to extract confessions. I’ll repeat that
— and mind you, I’m not using rhetoric: they were tortured in
ways analogous to the torture committed by the U.S. abroad, in the
so- called “War on Terror.” Six of the defendants, due to intense
legal advocacy and community support, are now out on bail awaiting
trial– set to start, I believe in the Spring. Two of the defendants
are ineligible for bail, as they have been serving a NY state
sentence for over 30 years on similar charges. (Some speculate that
these men, Jalil Muntaquim and Herman Bell of the NY3 were included
in this indictment to destroy their chances of their getting parole
in NY state. Parole was a hope given a new governor and perhaps, a
parole board would grant parole).

As I said, the charges were thrown out due to torture by
investigators– a detailed account of which is presented in the
informative documentary Legacy of Torture (available from the Freedom
Archives) including cattle prods used on genitals, beatings, sleep
deprivation, being taped to chairs and simulated drownings, aka
waterboarding. This is the process Attorney General nominee Michael
Mukasy will not condemn in which plastic is pulled over someone’s
face and water is poured producing the terror associated with
drowning. Sometime in 2002, interest was reignited in the case
(perhaps after former Attorney General Ashcroft’s statement about
cleaning up old political cases) and some of the men received grand
jury subpoenas which they resisted and were subsequently jailed for

At that point, supporters of the grand-juried men and animal
liberation activists facing their own federal grand jury joined
forces and held large rallies against the grand jury. The website was started and reported on resistance to the grand
juries nationwide. This collaboration was exciting and gave me great
hope. It was a multi-generational, cross-movement display of
solidarity and opened each group to each other’s perspectives.

That dynamic, of older and younger generations from the Black
Panther/ anti-Vietnam war and people’s movements of the 60s/70s and
the younger, anarchistic and eco/animal liberationists mixing and
providing mutual aid to each other captivated me. It also reflected
work I had been engaged on in NYC with the Jeff Luers freedom
campaign working with the Jericho Movement and former political
prisoners. (In fact, I wrote about these ideas in the 2008 Freedom
for Political Prisoners Calendar, which I highly recommend you get a
copy of). My goal then was two-fold:

1)To help secure the release of political prisoners of previous
generations by infusing their freedom campaigns with what we have to
offer: youthful energy, online tactics and organizing, fundraising,
and exposing their cases to a new generation of punks, anarchists,
and anti-globalization activists.

2)To learn from older activists– about their experience, access to
their lessons and to increase the legitimacy of our prisoners in the
broader PP/POW support community.

Many have been working on these efforts and I hope they bear fruit.
In NYC, there are good signs including a new NYC Anarchist Black
Cross focusing on supporting Green Scare political prisoners and
political prisoners from the Black liberation movement. There has
been a greater coordination on the part of PP groups in the NYC area,
leading to this SF8 event on November 30th.

So, if you are against torture, vindictive prosecutions trying to
destroy the legacy of the Black Panthers and think that the Green
Scare is COINTELPRO-lite, this is an event you should come to. Some
of the defendants will be there as will their lawyer Soffiyah Elijah,
and performers. It’s 7pm, on November 30th at the Martin Luther
king, Jr. Labor Center, 310 West 43rd Street (between 8th and 9th

I’ve used the name “SF8″, but these are real people we are
talking about. They are:

1)Herman Bell
2)John Bowman*
3)Richard Brown
4)Henry W. (Hank) Jones
5)Jalil Muntaquim
6)Richard O’Neal
7)Harold Taylor
8)Francisco Torres

*John Bowman died of terminal cancer on December 23, 2006 after being
imprisoned for refusing to talk to a grand jury.

For more information:

Regarding the N30 event: NYC Jericho Post Office Box 1272 New York,
New York 10013
CDHR: Post Office Box 90221 Pasadena, California 91109
Freedom Archives: 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, California 94410

1 comment:

Break the Chains said...

One error in Daniel's otherwise excellent piece is his identification
of John Bowman as one of the SF8. Although John was one of the grand
jury resisters, and one of those originally tortured and charged, he
had passed by the time these indictments came down. The eighth member
of the SF8 is Ray Boudreaux. Ray was one of the resisters,
providentially had left New Orleans before the '73 arrests and
torture (and so was not himself tortured), and has been active in LA
for the past several years along with co-defendant Hank Jones in
exposing the links between COINTELPRO and the USA PATRIOT
Act/Homeland Security.

An another note about the legacy of the Panthers -- four leading
members of the LA-based Black Riders Liberatiion Party, a
new-generation Black Panther Party for Self-Defense type organization
-- General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalists Out), sister Aryana,
sister Nadia Shakur, and comrade Stress -- who have been active
around the case of the SF8 and in building street level Black-Brown
unity, as well as in bringing revolutionary consciousness to street
organizations around California -- were recently arrested in
coordinated raids in northern and southern California. TACO, Aryana
and Stress are due in court in Los Angeles on Monday, December 3 on
charges of conspiracy to possess automatic weapons, the same day the
SF8 must appear in court in San Francisco. This is no coincidence.
The state is freaked about the revolutionary example of the elders
and the revolutionary potential of the youth in the Black liberation
struggle, and about the kind of unity the Black Riders built in
opposing the racist anti-Mexican Minutemen in Los Angeles recently.

One lesson of the 60s and 70s is that we must use a political based
defense of political prisoners as part of an effort to regain a
political offensive and build a base of resistance.

Many of us who have been working around these issues will be
attending the ABCF event in LA Saturday night to discuss the BRLP

Send support to the Black Riders Liberation Party at P.O. Box 8297,
L.A., CA 90008. For more information about local organizing in L.A.
and vicinity, call Jericho L.A./(ARA-LA) at 310-495-0299