The Panthers used to ride around and follow the police.
So the cops would pull over some sorry black person, and get ready to rough him up, but then there were the Panthers right behind them. Watching, armed to the teeth, and citing legal statutes. It’s inspirational.
Bring it back.
Bring this back.
That’s why the FBI broke them up, isn’t it ?
That among other community initiatives. They had weapons training, self defense, their free breakfast program and ran a newspaper. They raised money to pay for bail and legal funding for people. And they used to notify the community of their rights and encourage people to know the laws and protest the one which were unjust. That type of shit irked the local police and damned sure struck a nerve with the FBI. They were taking back the streets and providing the protection the police were never interested in bringing to their neighborhoods from the very start. So it’s always fuck the FBI for me.
Also let’s be starkly clear about this: under COINTELPRO the FBI raided the homes of Black Panthers and outright murdered them. They conspired with local police forces to harass, assault, and concoct false evidence against anybody affiliated with the BPP. And they didn’t keep their operations confined to the black community directly. When a white woman working in civil rights was killed by the KKK (they were aiming at her black passenger) the FBI excused the KKK by claiming that she was a communist and slept with black men. They refused to accept the reports of white agents who said that the BPP were no threat and demanded that the agents falsify information to paint the BPP as violent domestic terrorists. The FBI was determined to quash revolutionary black movements that were chiefly devoted to community protection and development and they stopped at nothing in their attempts to reach this goal.
One thing we don’t talk about even in our own retellings and reclaimings of BPP history is that a large part of the reason the government worked to break them up wasn’t because of armed action, but because they provided so many necessary social services and programs: free breakfast for children, walking the elderly to and from banks safely to cash their social security checks, free medical centers, door-to-door sickle cell testing, blood drives, raising money for bail, clothing donations, legal aide, busing people to and from prisons to visit, commissary for prisoners. Not only did they fight back against state violence in their confrontations with police, but also by resisting the forced conditions of poverty, criminality and scarcity created by the state to further destroy their communities. J. Edgar Hoover genuinely wrote in an FBI memo that:
“The Breakfast for Children Program B represents the best and most influential activity going for the BPP and, as such, is potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities B to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for.”
When I need a good example of the antiblackness that is fundamental to this country’s history and how it persists even now, I remember that the BPP were viewed as a threat to national security, not because they were armed, but because they wouldn’t allow black children to die from starvation and malnutrition.
You know what’s really instructive? Take a gander at the FBI’s own records on COINTELPRO at their website. There are thousands of pages. Just a quick look at the first two pages about the Socialist Workers’ Party indicates that the FBI’s first instinct was to disrupt a fundraising bazaar by writing a letter to the Better Business Bureau to expose the SWP as the organizers of the bazaar and the intended beneficiaries. And then take a look at the first of 23 vaults about Black extremist counter intelligence programs the FBI organized - right there in the beginning the writer lays it all out: that the groups they intend to monitor, disrupt, and disband are black nationalist and hate type groups, that they should be exposed to public ridicule, and include groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Or, maybe read up on the Palmer raids of 1918-21 the FBI carried out against Communists, Anarchists, unionists, and immigrants. Famously, Emma Goldman was deported to the USSR after being caught up in one of them. Churchill & Vander Wall’s Agents of Repression have a great introduction to the FBI’s days as the Bureau of investigation that details how the Palmer raids formed an integral part of the Bureau’s history. In their introduction, Vander Wall and Churchill make quite clear how to deal with the State and its efforts to silence, intimidate, and repress.
It Did Happen Here: Recollections of Political Repression in America, edited by Bud and Ruth Schultz, gives us recollections by American activists about State repression throughout the 20th century. They provide some good reading about the State’s intelligence gathering efforts as well as good suggestions for further reading.