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Rally supports arrested Panthers

Published Feb 1, 2007 9:54 PM

Five of the indicted Panthers are on cover of
new DVD, “Legacy of Torture: The War
Against the Black Liberation Movement.”
From left, Hank Jones, John Bowman
(deceased), Ray Boudreaux, Harold Taylor
and Richard Brown.
Photo: Scott Braley 2006

On the same day that U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that people do not have a constitutional right to challenge their imprisonment, eight former Black Panther Party leaders and community activists were indicted for something that happened over 35 years ago—the killing of a San Francisco policeman.  

But if a Jan. 28 support rally is any indication, the Bay Area progressive community will not tolerate this outrageous attack on the Black liberation movement.

On Jan. 23, after a two-year witch hunt by local, state and federal police, six former Bay Area Black Panther Party organizers were arrested: Richard Brown, Richard O’Neal, Francisco Torres, Ray Boudreaux, Hank Jones and Harold Taylor.

Two well-known political prisoners, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqin (Anthony Bottom), part of the New York Three who were falsely accused and convicted of killing two New York City policemen, have also been accused and indicted. John Bowman, the ninth target of the two-year-long grand jury witch hunt, died in December.

Why did the government indict this group of Black freedom fighters now? Why has the government relentlessly pursued these activists more than 35 years after the alleged “crime” was committed?

On Jan. 28 a local activist media collective, Freedom Archives, premiered their latest exposé of racism and injustice in this country, “Legacy of Torture: The War Against the Black Liberation Movement.” The new DVD documents the torture of several of the arrested activists—Bowman, Jones, and Taylor—at the hands of the New Orleans Police Department in 1973.

Several of the men were incarcerated for refusing to testify before a grand jury. The video also captures the level of police brutality, assassinations and abuse suffered by the Black community during the 1960s and 1970s.

According to the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), a group devoted to exposing human rights abuses against progressive organizations and individuals, 13 Black activists were arrested in New Orleans in 1973 and tortured for several days in a manner similar to today’s torture at Guantánamo Bay and Iraq’s Abu Ghraib.

In “Legacy of Torture,” Bowman, Jones and Taylor graphically describe being stripped naked and beaten by slapjacks and blunt objects; probed by cattle prods in their genital areas; and nearly suffocated by plastic bags being placed over their heads and wet wool blankets wrapped tightly around their bodies.  

The government failed in the early 1970s to bring any of these men to trial for the killing of San Francisco policeman John Young. In fact, California courts deemed all the coerced false confessions from New Orleans inadmissible due to the physical abuse and torture suffered by the men.

Brown, who has spent the last 30 years working with young people in this city’s African-American community, denounced the government’s violence against the Black liberation movement in an interview with the SF Bay View newspaper. “I was named as a participant in 1971 in the murder case. All Panthers were targeted. If we were doing something constructive, we were singled out. They killed Bunchy Carter, arrested and imprisoned Geronimo [Pratt]. It was just our turn. We were next on the list,” Brown stated.

Soffiyah Elijah, a New York-based attorney who has defended many Black freedom fighters, spoke briefly at today’s program, which drew so many people to the Roxie Theater that the film had to be shown twice. “In the wake of 9/11 and the Patriot Act, the government is now resurrecting its Cointelpro actions. Homeland Security is merely an extension of that effort,” Elijah said.

Cointelpro was the domestic government program used to undermine, disrupt and assassinate the leadership of domestic liberation movements, revolutionary organizations and progressive groups in this country that were protesting government policies in the 1960s and 1970s.

John Bowman says in “Legacy of Torture,” now dedicated to his memory: “I am sick of these people trying to destroy our community.” The support at today’s program echoed this sentiment as hundreds of people signed up to become involved in the defense effort.

A large crowd attended John Bowman’s memorial at the African American Art and Culture Complex following the film showing. A bail hearing for the imprisoned Black activists is scheduled.

For more information about how to support these activists or purchase a copy of the new video, write to [email protected] or visit www.freedomarchives.org. “Legacy of Torture” is available at www.leftbooks.com.