"Supporters rally for defendants in '71 San Francisco cop slaying." By Marcus Wohlsen, Associated Press Writer. Excerpted from SFGate January 28, 2007
Lawyers and civil rights activists rallied support Sunday for eight former black militants arrested in the 1971 slaying of a police officer, saying the men were tortured during an earlier investigation of the murder.
(Photo: Scott Braley)
At a news conference held before the premiere of a documentary detailing the decades-old abuse allegations, supporters described last week's arrests as part of a law enforcement vendetta against the Black Panthers and other black liberation groups that has lasted 40 years.
"The case began in torture. It's now moved into fabricated evidence," said Stuart Hanlon, a lawyer for one of the men ... Three BLA members, including Taylor, were indicted in 1975 for killing Young. The case was eventually dismissed because the men had allegedly been tortured by police officers during interrogations.
In Legacy of Torture, a documentary that debuted Sunday, Taylor described being beaten, shocked and suffocated by New Orleans police before being questioned by two San Francisco police detectives investigating the case. "I followed their whole script. Everything they told me to say, I said it," Taylor said in the film, claiming torture was used to coerce him into making a false confession.
Wayne Thompson, a legal investigator for a San Francisco law firm representing one of the men charged in 1975, said Sunday he interviewed the men while they were being held in the New Orleans jail and saw clear signs of physical abuse. "This government has continued to hound these men and continued to seek to persecute" them, Thompson said. "It's a very sad day for me..."
The four men were also jailed briefly in 2005 when they refused to answer grand jury questions regarding the case. After they were freed, they went public to protest their treatment, speaking to activist and community groups and gaining the support of Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree and actor Danny Glover
By Judy Greenspan, San Francisco, February 1, 2007.
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 January 28 support rally is any indication, the Bay Area progressive community will not tolerate this outrageous attack on the Black liberation movement.
On January 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 Muntaqim (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 January 28 a local activist media collective, Freedom Archives, premiered their latest expose 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.
(Photo: Scott Braley)
Soffiyah Elijah, a New York-based attorney who has defended many Black freedom fighters, spoke briefly at [the] 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. ...
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. ...
Copyright 2007 Workers World. Excerpted from www.workers.org.