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Stop the War Against the Black Liberation Movement: Support the SF8

May 11, 2007


This past January 23rd, eight Black Panther Party veterans, were indicted and arrested for charges relating to the killing of a San Francisco cop in 1971. California courts dismissed this charge against some of these same men in 1975, when it was revealed that police in New Orleans had brutally tortured them during their original arrests.

These brothers – elders, are Richard Brown, Richard O’Neal, Francisco Torres, Ray Boudreaux, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor, and two well known political prisoners, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqin (both of whom have been in prison for over 30 years). These life long revolutionaries, social justice and Human Rights activists range in age from their late 50’s to 70 years old.

Soffiyah Elijah, deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, recently said, “the case against these men was built on torture, just like the history of this country and it’s commonplace for law enforcement to claim that they don’t torture people, but in the end we always find out that they’re lying.”

In 1973, New Orleans police employed torture over the course of several days to obtain information from members of the Black Panthers who were stripped naked, beaten, covered in blankets soaked with boiling water, and had electric probes placed on their genitals. In 1974, a court ruled that both the San Francisco and New Orleans police engaged in torture to extract information, and a San Francisco judge dismissed all charges in 1975, based on that ruling.

Speaking on this matter, former political prisoner Kazi Toure said, “this government has used these same tactics under different names, they used to call it COINTELPRO, today they call it the Patriot Act. These atrocities are just another attempt to silence people, to intimidate activists and to distract the public from the atrocities the U.S. government also commits abroad.”

This is an extremely important case for at least several reasons and it truly needs our attention and active support. First this clearly is a political case based on the Bush government’s war strategy of legitimizing torture of “enemy combatants” in the “war on terror”. The government now seeks to expand this to historical events and issues and struggles that have no connection to 9/11/01.

Secondly there are innumerable unresolved incidents in the past 40 years, stemming from the popular struggles against racism, war, protection of our environment, social and economic injustice and in particular the just national liberation efforts of Black people, Indigenous Native people, Puerto Ricans and Chicano/Mexicano people. If the government succeeds in railroading these brothers in this case, this may open the door for who knows what more.

Finally every case where political activists face government repression, trials and huge prison sentences, is a human tragedy for the women and men involved, for their families and children, their friends and community. In this case we are talking about men who literally have devoted their lives to the Freedom Struggle of their People. I’m honored to say I personally know some of these brothers. I know them as genuine and compassionate men, as highly principled, selfless, wise and good human beings who are still hopefull about freedom, justice and a beter world, after all these years.

There is no question that the Black Panther Party was the most dynamic and influential revolutionary organization in modern U.S. history. It had so much impact because most of its members and activists were truly dedicated and principled people. Long after the demise of the BPP, many of its cadres have continued to struggle for the rights and survival of Black people and other revolutionary causes. These 8 elder brothers represent the best of the Panthers then and the ongoing Freedom Struggle today. Now in their hour of real need, we all should actively reach out and support them however we can.

For more information on the San Francisco 8 check out:

Jaan Laaman
Anti-imperialist political prisoner

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