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How The Fbi Attacked The Bpp

How The Fbi Attacked The Bpp image How The Fbi Attacked The Bpp image How The Fbi Attacked The Bpp image
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What follows is continued from last issue s article on how the FBI's Cointel-pro activities were directed against the Black Panther Party throughout the United States. This article originally appeared in Boston 's The Real Paper. LOS ANGELES, 1969 In Los Angeles, William Hynes, a former undercover agent in the IWW, participant in the Palmer Raids of 1919-1920 and a coördinator of pólice infiltration and disruption of the effort to form industrial unions in the Thirties, was named Hoover's man on the scène. Hynes set up a liaison between the LAPD and the FBI devoted to ferreting out subversives in the area. The local Red Squad was superseded in 1 942 by the Metropolitan División of the LAPD (Metro), a more modern, sophisticated vehicle for cooüeratine with the G-Men in conducting the war against the enemy within. After the Watts riots of 1965, one of the first urban conflagrations of the Sixties, Metro was expanded from 90 agents to over 200. The LAPD also established a new intelligence unit, the Criminal Conspiracy Section (CCS), that would almost exclusively deal with the new black militant organizations. The previous links were maintained between the FBI and the local intelligence forces, with the FBI supplying information on radicáis and encouraging suggestions on how to elimínate them. More often than not, local pólice departments served as the operational wing of the FBI program. They, too, wasted no time. On January 17, 1969 a meeting took place on the UCLA campus to determine who the Black Student Union would appoint as its director. There was considerable acrimony between the competing factions, one led by Black Panthers John Huggins and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter and the other headed by Ron Karenga of US (United Slaves), a group that saw the revival of African culture as the salvation of American blacks. When the Karenga-sponsored nominee for the BSU post was turned down by a majority vote, garnered by the effective leadership of Huggins and Carter, US activists pulled out guns and killed the Panthers. Five US members were indicted for murder and conspiracy and three of the five were ultimately apprehended and convicted of second degree murder. But the basis of the feud was not as apparent as it seemed. By all outward appearances the origin of the conflict seemed to be ideological: "cultural nationalists" arrayed against "revolutionary nationalists." But Ron Karenga's shaved head, dashiki dress and Swahili incantations were an external mask; Karenga was a voodoo witchdoctor for the secret pólice. The Wall Street Journal reported, "A few weeks after the assissination of Martin Luther King...Mr. Karenga slipped into Sacramento for a private chat with Governor Reagan, at the governor's request. The black nationalist also met clandestinely with Los Angeles Pólice Chief Thomas Reddin after Mr. King was killed." According to a former undercover agent for LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy División, Louis Tackwood, Karenga was financed, armed and encouraged in the attack on the Panthers by the pólice. Tackwood claims that he acted as the liaison between CCS and Karenga's United Slaves. "I contacted Ron Karenga and gave him I orders to the effect that was given to me," Tackwood states in a book based on his confessions, "The Glass House Tapes," "that he was to curtail the Panther Party's growth no matter what it cost." Tackwood's gations were confirmed in a lie detector test conducted by Chris Gugas, a past president of the American Polygraph Association, who prominently displays an autographed picture of J. Edgar Hoover in his office. (Karenga lost whatever support he had built up after the murder of the UCLA Panther leaders. He was recently arrested for torturing two black women who he said were trying to poison him, convicted and sentenced to one to ten years in prison.) The deaths of Huggins and Carter did not stop Panther organizing in Los Angeles. Various community programs were started in Watts despite the intense level of pólice harassment. But then the level of harassment grew even more intense. Four days after the raid on Fred Hampton's apartment, on December 8, 1969, at 3 am, the Special Wea: pons and Tactics Squad (SWAT) stationed themselves outside of the Central Avenue Panther headquarters in Watts. The SWAT squad, armed with AR-1 5 automatic rifles, was supported by one hundred policemen, sniper squads carefully perched on nearby buildings and an armored personnel carrier. At 5:30 in the morning the assault began. The Panthers who were sleeping in their offices, returned the fire of the pólice and a four-hour battle ensued. The pólice dumped dynamite on the roof of the headquarters, lobbed in tear gas and kept up a steady stream of Kunfire. At 9:45 am the Panthers poked a white flag out of a window and surrendered; six of the thirteen who emerged from the battered building were wounded. Among those arrested was a 42-year-old ex-convict. Meivin "Cotton" Smith, number three in command of the Panther chapter, resident weapons expert and keeper of the arsenal. Cotton Smith was a CCS agent. Like William O'Neal, Smith had been placed in a sensitive position of security within the organization. The web of undercover pólice activity was also extended in Los Angeles to entrap supporters of the Panther defense effort in alleged criminal activity. Two leaders of the Friends of the Panthers in Los Angeles, Donald Freed, playwright and author ("Executive Action"), and Shirley Sutherland, actress and then wife of movie actor Donald Sutherland, were arrested in 1 969 for allegedly illegal possession of hand grenades. The hand grenades had been delivered in a wooden box to Freed's house by a member of Friends of the Panthers, James Jarrett, who had introduced himself to the group as a Vietnam veteran disaffected with the war and racism. Later disclosures in the case substantiated Jarrett's claim but not his motive. In Vietnam he had been a CIA operative, leading political assassination teams into the countryside to dispose of National Liberation Front cadres. Jarrett had also plied his trade in neighboring Cambodia and Laos. Upon returning from Indochina, he served as a trainer of the LAPD SWAT squad, the shock troops in the assault on Panther headquarters. The case against Freed and Sutherland was eventually dropped after two years of convoluted legal wrangling. By then Jarrett had faded back into the intelligence netherworld and the LA Panthers had been fragmented into bitterly contesting and dispirited Cleaver and Newton factions. The time from the LA raid to the LA Panther trial (almost two years) was a period of constant FBI and pólice action against the Panthers throughout the country. A selective chronology illustrates all too well the relentless nature of the government program. SEATTLE, 1970 The first major raid of 1 970 against the Panthers was aborted by Mayor Wesley Uhlman of Seattle. On February 8, Mayor Uhlman stated that the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Tax Unit of the Internal Revenue Service had requested Seattle pólice participation in a raid on local Panther headquarters. Uhlman denied the request, because, he said, it "smacked of Gestapo type tactics." IRS Commissioner Randolph W. Thrower verified Mayor Uhlman's statement. In the spring of 1970, Seattle became the scène of one of Cointelpro's more bizarre outings. According to The Los Angeles Times, Alfred Burnett, a man charged with felonious violation of his parole, was inducted into the FBI inner sanctum as an informer. Burnett served inside the Seattle Panthers until the FBI and the local pólice apparently decided that in order to show that they could solve a wave of bombings, they would set off a bomb themselves and catch a patsy. Burnett placed a bomb in a real estáte office, notified the pólice, but forgot exactly where he had put the explosive. He swore in an affidavit that he then offered $75 to Larry Ward, a black veteran only two weeks back from Vietnam with no previous political record, to find the bomb. Ward agreed and Burnett deposited him at the real estáte office. The pólice closed in on Ward, who started to run; they opened fire with shotguns, killing him. The majority of a grand jury ruled that the killing of the unarmed Ward was unjustified homicide, but the authorities refused to prosecute. To do so would have unveiled the intricate Cointelpro program. BALTIMORE, 1970 On May Day, 1970, in Baltimore, 150 pólice descended on the local Panther headquarters and arrested 1 0 people. Baltimore Pólice Commissioner Pomerleau publicly declared that the raid was undertaken because he had received important data from the FBI. J. Edgar Hoover, in one of his periodic papal bulls, stated on May 9th that the bleeding hearts were wrongly accusing the pólice of harassment, particularly insofar as the raids on the Black Panthers were concerned. The Director's judgment was rendered: the Panthers were ranked somewhere below Dr. Martin Luther King in his pantheon of anti-Christs. SAN FRANCISCO, 1970 Meanwhile, the FBI was drafting a scheme to plant a phony doublé agent in the Panthers. A Cointelpro document discloses that the FBI had approached the San Francisco pólice department to arrange for black policemen to befriend top Panther leaders. The policemen were to appear enraged with this pólice experience and offer to supply the Panthers with important inside information and plans. In fact, the supposedly dissatisfied cops would be agents feeding the Panthers false information that would sow división within the organization and give the pólice that much more of a jump on the situation. The ingenuity of the FBI lay in its disengenuous methods. PHILADELPHIA, 1971 The National Committee to Combat Fascism (NCCF) was a group set up by the Panthers specifically to raise the issue of the pólice raids and arrests. The NCCF was to attract all of the assorted groups and tendencies on the left and coalesce them around the single most vital issue for the Panthers. The Panthers were planning a gathering of these diverse groups under their aegis for the fall of 1970 in Philadelphia. Late in the night of i ber 1 , Philadelphia pólice led 1 bv Chief Frank Rizzo. i ed Panther headquarters. The Panthers were pushed into the street, ordered to j strip, and lined up facing a dirty brick wall. Fifteen people were arrested and 14 held on 5100,000 bail. They were charged i with assault to kill and J various weapons lations, but no one was ever convicted. There is no doubt of the FBI role in Philadelphia. In ƒ Marchot'1971, 1 radicáis turned the tables on the FBI and raided one of their offices located in the sleepy f M. dia, Pennsylvania. The Media , fice was ƒ me t-tsi coordinating point J for the phia área. Cont. on i pg. 22 I HowtheBPP Rebuilt Themselves continued from page 13 ple of what could and should be done. "We are feeding hungry children," says the Panther paper, and it is not mere rhetoric. "We are clothing ill-clothed bodies. We are searching out the ill and diseased and administering to them. We are caring for and protecting the elderly. We are educating the young to serve. We are bringing loved ones to the incarcerated. We are exposing the horrors that are America's prisons and voicing the demands of our imprisoned sisters and brothers. In each of these efforts, among those we serve, we expose the failure of the established institutions of this land to provide these most fundamental of needs. We are daily raising consciousness to higher and higher levéis of understanding that only by taking the institutions of this land into their own hands can the people secure their future and the future of their children." The Panthers are far from being a perfect organization. They are a long way even from their immediate goal of speaking for the black community of Oakland, and they are still too dependent on the wisdom and survival of one admittedly extraordinary man. But if these are not the deeds and words of dedicated revolutionaries, then I fail to understand what revolution is.