Dear Ragstaff, Austin MDS & SDS, Akwasi, and others,
The link above goes to the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, established in response to the recent arrest of 8 (former) Black Panther Party members (two of them already imprisoned but due for parole after 30 years) on re-hashed charges from 1971, regarding the murder of a San Francisco policeman. Three of the Panthers, arrested in New Orleans in 1973, gave torture-induced confessions to police there — supervised by San Francisco cops — which were later thrown out, and the charges dismissed, when they proved that their confessions (and their implication of other Panthers in the course of these confessions) had in fact been beaten out of them with near-suffocation, electrical shocks to all those sensitive places, blackjacks, and good old fashioned kicking-the-shit-out-of.
Now, over 30 years later, new charges have been filed, for conspiracy in the 1971 murder case, and numerous other activities between 1968 and 1973. (Actually there were 10 Panthers police say were involved, but one is dead and one has not been seen for over 30 years.)
There is all the information you might want* about the case, and the San Francisco 8 (Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim [Anthony Bottoms], two of the “New York 3”, are being extradited to California), and I don’t want to repeat it here. Suffice it to say that all of these elder Panthers, even the ones in prison, have been involved in their communities, and worked in ways large and small for a better world, through all the intervening years. And so they are targets now.
In looking back at the 1960s and 70s, we’ve come to understand a little, at least, the extent to which the anti-war movement, and SDS, were targets of COINTELPRO (see this), and the effectiveness of COINTELPRO’s tactics of disruption and discord. We cannot forget that the black liberation movement was the first of COINTELPRO’s targets, and the BPP its most consistent one, and the one most viciously pursued. I believe 3 things must be learned from this particular past in order not to repeat it:
1. If we ever threaten the status quo, the status quo will let us know by trying to kill or discredit us.
2. When black leaders are attacked, if that attack is allowed to succeed, white leaders are next on the list of targets.
3. No Revolutionary Left Behind.
Freedom Archives, a radical history organization in San Francisco which is involved in the defense group, had just completed a video, “Legacy of Torture”, documenting the original case and subtitled, “The war against the Black liberation movement”, when the new charges were filed. I’d like for MDS and SDS to show this video in Austin. I’d like to show it at the Millennium Youth Center in East Austin, on the UT campus, and ? ? ? ? wherever else we could. We should also have someone talk a little about the whole thing; set the scene before; bring it up to the present day (Q&A) after. (I have in mind two Panthers in particular.) I’d like to publicize it REAL GOOD, with advertising, posters, press releases, personal arm-twisting, und so weiter.
People around the country are showing the video at house parties and other venues to raise funds for the San Francisco 8’s defense and to raise consciousness about the past AND THE PRESENT. My goals would be to encourage formation of a local group — independent, part of MDS, part of already existing group(s) concerned with justice; doesn’t matter to me — which would undertake to continue educating and informing our community about this case and its implications, contribute to the SF8 defense effort, and, most urgently, begin to develop the structure and mechanisms of an ongoing, local, movement defense committee, able to respond to whatever needs may arise. I would hope that some of our semi-retired movement attorneys might be interested in this, hopefully mentoring some younger attorneys and law students as time goes by. I would personally hope I could skate on attending a lot of meetings, and that younger folks with fewer commitments and/or more strength would pick up this need and carry it forward. If we are gonna organize our way out of the wet paper bag that is AmeriKKKa today, it would be smart to be a little bit better prepared!
Please check out the CDHR website — that’s http://www.cdhrsupport.org — and respond to this proposal — including all y’all Ragstaff who are elsewhere; would still like to hear what you think; if anything about this case is going on in your area; etc. Who else should we get in on this right away?
* The website is excellent, lots of activity, lots of updates, option for e-mail updates.