Black Panther Party

Black Panther Party

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In the beginning of 1968, after selling Mao's Red Book to university students in order to buy shotguns, the Party makes the book required reading. Meanwhile, the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, begins a program called COINTELPRO (counterintelligence program) to break up the spreading unity of revolutionary groups that had begun solidifying through the work and examaple of the Panthers; the Peace and Freedom Party, Brown Berets, Students for a Democratic Society, the SNCC, SCLC, Poor People's March, Cesar Chavez and others in the farm labor movement, the American Indian Movement, Young Puerto Rican Brothers, the Young Lords and many others. To destroy the party, the FBI begins with a program of surgical assassinations; killing leading members of the party who they know cannot be otherwise subverted. Following these mass killings would be a series of arrests, followed by a program of psychological warfare, designed to split the party both politically and morally through the use of espionage, provocatures, and chemical warfare.
On April 6, 1968, in West Oakland, Bobby Hutton, 17 years old, is shot dead by Oakland police. In a 90 minute gun battle, an unarmed Bobby Hutton is shot ten times dead, after his house is set ablaze and he is forced to run out into a fire of bullets. Just two days earlier, Martin Luther King is assasinated, after he had begun rethinking his own doctrines of non-violence, and started to build ties with radical unions. Two months later on the day of Bobby's death, Robert Kennedy, widely recognised in the minority commmunity as one of the only politicians in the US "sympathetic" to the civil rights movement, is also assasinated.
In January, 1969, the first Panther's Free Breakfast for School Children Program is initiated at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland. By the end of the year, the Panthers set up kitchens in cities across the nation, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school.
A few months later, J. Edgar Hoover publicly states that the Panthers are the "greatest threat to the internal security of the country". In Chicago, the outstanding leader of the Panthers local, Fred Hampton, leads five different breakfast programs on the West Side, helps create a free medical center, and initiates a door to door program of health services which test for sickle cell anemia, and encourage blood drives for the Cook County Hospital. The Chicago party also begins reaching out to local gangs to clean up their acts, get them away from crime and bring them into the class war.

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The Parties efforts meet wide success, and Hampton's audiences and organised contingent grow by the day. On December 4th, at 4:00 a.m. in the morning, thanks to information from an FBI informant , Chicago police raid the Panthers' Chicago apartment, murdering Fred Hampton while he sleeps in bed. He is shot twice in the head, once in the arm and shoulder; while three other people sleeping in the same bed escape unharmed. Mark Clark, sleeping in the living room chair, is also murdered while asleep. Hampton's wife, carrying child for 8 months, is also shot, but survives. Four panthers sleeping in the apartment are wounded, while one other escapes injury . Fred Hampton was 21 years old when he was executed, Mark was 17 years old. According to the findings of the federal grand jury, Ninety bullets were fired inside the apartment, 1 came from a Panther Mark — who slept with a shotgun in his hand. All surviving Panther members were arrested for "attempted murder of the police and aggravated assault". Not a single cop spent a moment in jail for the executions
In the summer of 1969, the alliance between the Panthers and SNCC begins ripping apart. One of the main points of dispute is the inclusion of whites in the struggle for minority liberation, a dispute which is pushed into an open gun fight at the University of California in Los Angeles against the group US, led by Maulana Karenga, which leaves two Panthers dead. In September, in the government's court house, Huey Newton is convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 2 to 15 years in prison; by 1970 the conviction is appealed and overturned on procedural errors. On November 24, 1968, Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver flee the US, visit Cuba and Paris, and eventually settle in Algeria. Earlier in the year Cleaver published his famous book Soul on Ice. By the end of the year, the party has swelled from 400 members to over 5,000 members in 45 chapters and branches, with a newspaper circulation of 100,000 copies.
In 1969 Seale is indicted in Chicago for protesting during the Democratic national convention of last year. The court refuses to allow Seale to choose a lawyer. As Seale repeatedly stands up during the show trial insisting that he is being denied his constitutional right to counsel, the judge orders him bound and gagged. He is convicted on 16 counts of contempt and sentenced to four years in prison. While in jail he would be charged again for killing a cop in years past, a trial that would end in 1971 with a hung jury.
In March, 1970, Bobby Seale publishes Seize The Time while still being held in prison, the story of the Panthers and Huey Newton. On April 2, 1970, in New York, 21 Panthers are charged with plotting to assassinate police officers and blow up buildings. On May 22nd, Eight members, including Ericka Huggins, are arrested on a variety of conspiracy and murder charges in New Haven, Connecticut. Meanwhile, Chief of staff David Hilliard is on trial for threatening President Richard Nixon. The party does little to separate its legal and illegal aspects, and is thus always and everywhere under attack by the government. In 1971, the Panther's newspaper circulation reaches 250,000.
On Huey Newton's release from prison, he devotes more effort to further develop the Panther's socialist survival programs in black communities; programs that provided free breakfasts for children, established free medical clinics, helped the homeless find housing, and gave away free clothing and food.
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