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Stop the racist frameups—again!

Published Mar 8, 2007 9:12 PM

From left to right: Kathleen Cleaver,
Panama Alba, Soffiyah Elijah &
Iyaluua Ferguson at March 2 forum.
Photo: Roberto Mercado

A determined crowd of 300 supporters gathered at the New York Community Church on March 2 to defend eight Black activists, former/current political prisoners and former members of the Black Panther Party. Herman Bell, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Henry W. (Hank) Jones, Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom), Richard O’Neal, Harold Taylor and Francisco Torres, the eight ranging in age from 50 to 70, were arrested Jan. 23 and charged with conspiracy for an incident that occurred over 35 years ago—the death of a San Francisco policeman.

California courts dismissed this charge against the Panther Eight in the 1970s because of stark evidence that the defendants had suffered physical abuse and torture from New Orleans police during their original arrests. The state’s alleged new evidence is the same set of coerced confessions thrown out as inadmissible at that time.

At the forum, in a film documentary, “Legacy of Torture: The War Against the Black Liberation Movement,” Bowman, Jones and Taylor describe their torture at the hands of police using cattle prods, slapjacks, suffocating plastic bags and wet wool blankets.

The Eight’s attorney, Gitanjali Gutiérrez, from the Center for Constitutional Rights, compared the treatment of her clients as Black political prisoners to the victims of the U.S. “war on terrorism” who are suffering deprivation and torture at the infamous Guantánamo Bay Prison.

A distinguished panel of speakers eloquently argued for support for the Eight. The panel included former Black Panther Party leader Kathleen Cleaver, now a senior lecturer for Emory University; Soffiyah Elijah, the deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School; Iyaluua Ferguson of the Jericho Movement, an organization that struggles for amnesty and freedom for U.S. political prisoners; and Panama Alba, a former member of the Young Lords Party, who is with the National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights. Representatives from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and National Lawyers Guild were in attendance.

The forum mobilized support for Francisco Torres at his March 6 New York City extradition hearing and for a contingent of former political prisoners and supporters at the upcoming March 17 anti-war march in Washington.

—Anne Pruden