AG Jerry Brown, the San Francisco 8, and the Big Chill: Represent Our Resistance
By Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD
“This racial dilemma poses a serious problem for white America…And the entire dark world is watching, waiting to see what the American government will do to solve this problem once and for all.” (Malcolm X, “America’s Gravest Crisis” October, 1963)
Democrat Jerry Brown and rock star Linda Ronstadt were the flower children of the media during Brown’s term as Governor of California. This was back in the day, 1975 to 1983. Jerry Brown is still around, without Linda, of course. In fact, back here in the Midwest, I was surprised when I was told Brown is, as of this year, the Attorney General of California. Of course this is not news to folks in California, particularly people in Oakland, since Brown served as Mayor there from 1998 to 2006. The point is – Jerry Brown is still around and, as Attorney General of California, he has focused his office’s attention on the San Francisco 8.
In 1992, Brown, running for president (third time) against Bill Clinton, according to Time Magazine, ran an “anti-establishment crusade” campaign against big-money. Brown seemed to the “vessel of protest against big-money politics” (Time April 6, 1992). The article continues, “Brown – who, even his fondest admirers admit, is a political changeling constantly taking on new personas – has finally embraced a cause that returns him to his political roots as a post-Watergate clean-government crusader in California.”
Well, it seems Jerry Brown has changed again. Brown, the ex-Flower child, ex-boyfriend of Linda Ronstadt, ex-Rock star politician is now very much the ESTABLISHMENT.
What’s Brown up to as California’s Attorney General? Well, ask any ex-Black Panther. He’s hunting them down from New York to California. Brown took office as AG this year and immediately had the ex-Black Panthers and supporters known as the San Francisco 8 arrested and imprisoned in January, 2007 for the 1971 murder of Police Sgt. John Young.
Keep in mind that, as Ron Jacobs in The Case of the San Francisco 8 reports, the “federal court ruled in 1974 that both San Francisco and New Orleans police had engaged in torture to extract a confession (see the Legacy of Torture video), and a San Francisco judge dismissed charges against three men in 1975 based on that ruling.”
In 2003, however, the U.S. Department of Justice re-opened the case, “using funds set aside for the Department of Homeland Security,” according to Ron Jacobs. Grand juries convened over the coming years, resulting in not a single prosecuting attorney willing to pursue the case. Again in 2005, a Grand Jury was convened with no further evidence and this Grand Jury expired in October 31, 2005. DNA was taken from the men in 2006 and they were subpoenaed. “We refused to speak,” Richard Brown, one of the San Francisco 8, told me. “We were held in contempt of court. I was in jail for six weeks.”
But then came 2007 and Jerry Brown was sworn in as Attorney General of California. Round-e-up Jerry Brown has no qualms with confessions obtained through torture in 1971. He’s all about law and order in the new era of COINTELPRO. The case of the San Francisco 8 is “green-lighted,” said Claude Marks, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. According to an affidavit from the AG’s office, Brown threw his weight behind a multi-taskforce comprised of the San Francisco Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, California Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Attorney’s Office, and ordered the arrest of Richard Brown, 65, Ray Boudreaux, 64, Hank Jones, 70, Richard O’Neal, 58, Harold Taylor, 58, and Francisco Torres, 58, on January 23, 2007. Herman Bell, 59, and Jalil Muntaqim, 55, already in prison for the last 30 years, were re-arrested for this case. The men arrested were held until recently because they refused to cooperate with these Kangaroo kourt proceedings – still with no new evidence. According to Steve Zelter, San Francisco Labor Planning Committee member, “if this case were up to the city of San Francisco, this wouldn’t happen.” Brown’s office, Zelter added, is “going along with the Federal government” on this case. The man who was a “vessel of protest against big-money politics” is on the side of “big-money politics” now and against those willing to protest injustice and inequality.
Let’s remember what Martin Luther King, Jr. said a year before he was gunned down:
It’s not merely a struggle against extremist behavior toward Negroes. And I’m convinced that many of the very people who supported us in the struggle in the South are not willing to go all the way now. I came to see this in a very difficult and painful way in Chicago… And I came to see that so many people who supported morally and even financially what we were doing in Birmingham and Selma, were really outraged against the extremist behavior of Bull Connor and Jim Clarke toward Negroes, rather than believing in genuine equality for Negroes. And I think this is what we’ve gotta see now, and this is what makes the struggle much more difficult. (“The Other America” April 14, 1967)
And it has become difficult. The corporate-controlled media compels us to look at the face of an “extremist”: Blacks looting and shooting for control of valuable city turf, Latino men reclaiming U.S. soil by taking jobs or raping little girls, and Muslims planning to attack local malls everywhere. In gated-communities, white America hears the message: They are conspiring against you.
We are distracted, once again, with a simplistic debate about skin color as if the clocks have been turned back and we have not covered this ground before. The word “prejudice” re-surfaces and it is criminal, anti-American to discuss in any significant way the very real collective striving of white Americans, Republican or Democrat, right wing or liberal, toward the dominance of white supremacy. The dominance of white supremacy is an absurd concept in a world populated by people of darker hue. “You and I haven’t realized it, but we aren’t exactly a minority on this earth,” Malcolm told an audience in 1965! The word “equality” precipitated the “big chill” and scared some whites into running back to the ideals of their parents, who in turn, knew that the only solution to the idea of equality (social, economical, and political) required more than just shooting Black, Latino/a, and Native American leadership.
Consciously or unconsciously, they co-opted King’s “beloved community” and got to work, securing safe places (gentrification and sub-prime loans), securing the economy and employment (outsourcing for wealthy corporations), and educational opportunities (charter schools), along with promoting a war on drugs and a war on terror to contain domestic and foreign danger outside the “beloved community.”
White liberals and even notable Republicans have expressed “outrage” at the extreme behavior of King George, Darth Vader, and the Neo-Cons who are the Bull Conners and Jim Clarkes of today, but these same whites are still unwilling to consider racial equality.
Brown shows him a flag. “It looks like an original flag from Castro’s July 26 movement,” said Marc Cooper, as he sits in the car of then Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, California (“Mayor Jerry, Take II, The Nation, March, 2002).”You got it,” says the Mayor. “It was given to me by Che Guevara’s widow one night after I spent eight hours talking to Castro. I’m taking it home from my office to keep it in a safe place.”
Brown’s focus, writes Cooper, “seems to drift inward for a moment.” And Cooper hears Brown say quietly: “That was a long time ago,” and Brown, Cooper writes, “starts the car and drives out of the City.”
Yes, that was a long time ago and for a very short time, as William Hurt’s character said in the 1983 film, The Bill Chill. It was a long time ago when we knew one another – whites and Blacks – and Malcolm and then King galvanized Blacks and whites to protest against war and poverty. It was a long time ago and it did not last long because the idea of equality, human rights for all must be felt in a personal way, not just by the oppressed, but by the would-be supporters of human rights as well. Campaigning for Mayor of Oakland, Brown vowed to work on reducing crime, re-vitalizing downtown, and establishing more charter schools. As mayor, he talked about “the flow of capital” following the “rules of capitalism,” insisted that his job was to assure investors that they were making right decisions in their efforts to gentrify West Oakland where the majority population was Black. According to Cooper, when Brown was asked about the criticism by Blacks and others displaced by the “rules of capitalism,” Brown responded that he “no longer” knew what “they mean by gentrification.” He “no longer” knew! Such innocence!
Today, white liberals like Brown, along with the Neo-cons, talk about “crime,” building more corporate-operated detention centers, and conspiracies. “Now we can see it was part of a larger plan to kill cops,” said David Druliner, prosecutor for the Office of the California Attorney General, referring to the San Francisco 8 case. Attorney General Brown is determined to enforce the federal prosecution of the San Francisco 8.
“Since when did you get so friendly with cops,” Hurts’ character in The Big Chill asked the character played by Kevin Kline. The answer, when there was a huge summerhouse, wife, and children to protect. He couldn’t do it alone. And who would expect those Blacks left to sort out the mess after the killings of Malcolm, Evers, King, and COINTELPRO executions and imprisonment of Black Panthers and their supporters. Did anyone say it was “conspiracy” that wiped out the Black leadership?
Jerry Brown will be Jerry Brown. We must call for justice! Along with the International Call for Justice (November 30, 2007) by Nobel laureates including South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu, we must call for charges against the San Francisco 8 to be dropped. Contact freethesf8.org (the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, P.O. Box 90221, Pasadena, California 91109).
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer, for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola University, Chicago. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.