Last week nine Black men were charged with the alleged 1973 Black Liberation Army assassination of police sergeant John V. Young in San Francisco.
Charged were former Black Panther Party members and supporters Harold Taylor, 58, of Panama City, Fla.; Francisco Torres, 58, of Queens, New York; Richard Brown, 65, of San Francisco; Ray Michael Boudreaux, 64, of Altadena; Henry Watson Jones, 71, of Altadena; as well as Black Liberation Army prisoners of war Herman Bell, 59, and Jalil Muntaqim (s/n Anthony Bottom), 55, both of whom are currently incarcerated in New York State.
As one can see by the above paragraph, these are not young men. Rather, they are movement veterans, many of whom have devoted the greater part of their lives to their communities. Which is not unconnected to why the State is hounding them now.
Some background to the “crime” in question, from an article by Dave Srano of Kansas Mutual Aid on the infoshop website (if it is down click here as i have mirrored it on Sketchy Thoughts):
By 1971, the resistance movements of the late 1960’s had started to go underground. A large scale low intensity war was being fought by armed clandestine militants against the mechanisms of state and capitalist power. One of those groups was the Black Liberation Army.
The Black Liberation Army was formed by former members of the Black Panther Party that had left the Party due to a variety of reasons. The members of the BLA saw the Party being torn apart from infiltration, state sponsored chemical warfare (the purposeful influx of drugs by the government to black communities), infighting caused by CoIntelPro, and power struggles amongst the leadership of the Panthers.
The BLA came to represent some of the most committed of the Black Panther Party, with members including Sundiata Acoli, Assata Shakur, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and Ashanti Alston. The BLA existed to continue the fight the Party had started.
A feeling pervaded amongst the membership of the BLA that they had to go underground even to survive. With pressure coming from sectarians active within the Black Panthers on one side, and the government on the other, the BLA went underground in 1970.
On August 29, 1971, according to police reports, several men crowded into the Ingleside Police Station in California and fired a shotgun through a hole in the counter glass. A civilian file clerk was wounded, while Sgt. John V. Young was killed.
Later in 1973, among thirteen black militants arrested for the crime, Black Panthers John Bowman, Ruben Scott, and Harold Taylor would all be targeted as being the men that had killed Sgt. Young. In New Orleans, the three would be arrested. San Francisco police officers that were working with the FBI to solve the killing, Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz, were flown to New Orleans to aid in the questioning of Bowman, Scott, and Taylor.
The three Panthers refused to cooperate with the investigation. They then faced days of torture at the hands of New Orleans police officers, including physical abuse and mental and emotional manipulation. In 1975, when the matter finally went to court, a federal judge threw out the charges citing that all the evidence against them had been extracted through the use of torture.
This last word – “torture” – is worth fleshing out, as liberal Amerika so often assumes that the testimony of racism’s victims is just hyperbole. Bowman, Scott and Taylor were stripped to their underwear, handcuffed to a chair, and beaten for hours on end. Shocked with a cattle prod on their genitals, suffocated with a plastic bag over their heads – this was the State in all its ugliness.
And then – thirty years later – the same cops get deputized, and show up at their victims’ homes. Telling them they’re not done with them yet.
It’s the same old shit on rerun. Yet another painful proof that the forces for liberation are scattered and on the defensive, that the State feels confident in revisiting even its most outrageous crimes.
As Wanda Sabir has written in the San Francisco Bay View (mirrored on this blog as that site seems down at the moment):
Fast forward to 2005: 34 years later each man is called before a state grand jury on the same charges. Of course, they all refused to cooperate and were thrown in jail. They were later released when the grand jury expired Oct. 31, 2005. The men were warned that “it wasn’t over.” In June of 2006 they were served with a DNA subpoena during the early morning hours. Richard Brown said they swabbed the inside of his mouth.
There they were: FBI and policemen standing on the Panther veterans’ doorsteps – some of these officers the same men who were present during their tortures in New Orleans. John Bowman, who died just last month, told attorney Soffiyah Elijah that he’d never had a good night’s sleep since. All the trauma came back.
When I asked Richard Brown if he was worried about the open-ended prosecution spread over 36 years now, he said: “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. It was just our turn. We were next on the list.”
When asked where the case was now, Brown laughed. “As far as I’m concerned, they don’t have a case. They are going forward. They plan to indict us, convict us and sentence us. They’ve been telling us this for the past three years: ‘Don’t get comfortable, because we’re coming after you.’
“Thirty-six years if they had any kind of case, they would have arrested us by now. I haven’t been officially charged.”
“Yes, this case bothers or worries me because they never let the fact that they didn’t have a case stand in their way. They can come up with something tomorrow – evidence they found, people that have a hundred years’ sentence that they will let go home if they testify correctly. They can come up with this.
“They can just manufacture a case. They do that. If they want us, they can come up with something to take to the DA. It’s a different time now. They don’t want to go to trial with nothing, hoping that racism will pull them through.”
So here we are. Yet again witnessing injustice, and wondering well-just-what-can-we-do-about-this.
There has been a Committee for the Defense of Human Rights set up, and they have a mailing list you can subscribe to for updates. They need money (make that check out to CDHR/Agape and mail to CDHR, P. O. Box 90221, Pasadena, CA 91109) and are asking that people write to the nine accused, letting them know that we support them. (Addresses, as well as biographies of the nine accused, all on the CDHR website.)
Finally, the Freedom Archives just released a short movie all about the torture some of these men suffered at the hands of the cops in 1973, as well as details about the ongoing harassment up until late 2006. This film – Legacy of Torture – contains powerful testimony by some of the same men who are now being prosecuted. This could be an important tool in mobilizing people around this case.
(That’s right, there was a film already made about the torture and harassment before last weeks’ arrests… like i said: the enemy has no shame in revisiting its crimes!)
Copies of the DVD of Legacy of Torture are available for $15.00 plus $5.00 postage from Kersplebedeb. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or else click on the payment button below to place your order via paypal:
For more on the film Legacy of Torture see the Freedom Archives site.
i will be trying to keep you posted…