[News] Former Black Panthers considered terrorists under Patriot Act

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 29 11:20:13 EST 2005

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Former Black Panthers considered terrorists under Patriot Act

Group wants torture used against American citizens to cease

Undaunted by what they call "unconstitutional" methods used under the 
guise of the Patriot Act, three former Black Panthers are touring the 
country to bring awareness to their recent interrogation by 
anti-terrorist law enforcement.

Former Black Panthers members John Bowman, Hank Jones and Ray 
Boudreaux held a forum, Dec. 8, at the Washington, D.C. office of 
Trans-Africa. They have in common the suffering they endured in 1971 
under interrogation concerning a police shooting in San Francisco.

They were indicted by a grand jury, but the court rendered a decision 
stating the methods used to obtain information were unlawful and the 
Panthers members were freed from jail.

Thirty-four years later Bowman, Jones and Boudreaux along with many 
Black Panthers members once again faced their interrogators from the 
'70s who are now serving as agents with the Anti-Terrorist Task 
Force, a special division formed under the Homeland Security agency 
to apprehend suspected terrorists.

"I was quite surprised when I opened the door to see the same two 
detectives involved in beating me [34 years earlier] standing there. 
It brought back memories that I will never forget," said Bowman, the 
former Panther organizer. "This is very difficult for me to discuss in public."

According to Bowman,  in 1973 he was stripped naked and beaten with 
blunt objects, wrapped with blankets soaked in boiling hot water, 
shocked with electric probes in his "anus and other private parts," 
punched, kicked and slammed into walls by investigators. The process 
lasted until investigators got the murder confessions they wanted.

"These stories are not available in the public domain. These stories 
are hidden in the framework of the American justice system. We want 
to put this in the forefront of the public dialogue and let people 
hear the truth about what is happening," said actor and human rights 
activist Danny Glover, who was on hand to stress the importance of 
exposing the covert tactics being used by the Bush administration to 
interrogate and arrest law-abiding citizens by labeling them as "terrorists."

"We must talk about the current attempt to reopen these cases against 
those members of the Black Panther Party who were tortured more than 
30 years ago," said Glover, who also serves as chairman of the board, 
Trans-Africa Forum.

The detectives, Frank McCoy and Edward Erdelatz, retired members of 
the San Francisco Police Department, now special agents with the 
Federal Prosecutor's Office, Anti-Terrorist Task Force have 
repeatedly interrupted the lives of many former Panthers to gain 
notoriety with the Bush administration by targeting individuals 
labeled as "terrorists" who were never convicted of wrongdoing.

"Once upon a time, they called me a terrorist, too," explained 
Boudreaux. "To expedite something in the system, they put a 'terror' 
tag on it and it gets done. Terror means money. These people 
[government] have a budget and they are working it."

Bowman said when he watched the World Trade Center towers come down 
in New York on September 11, somehow he knew the government might 
approach him as a suspect after listening to the language being used 
to describe the investigation.

"This is a broad general investigation going on under the current 
COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence of the FBI) grown up into the USA 
Patriot Act, an extension of what was going on back then. The same 
violations of our human and constitutional rights, totally unjust - 
done in secret and quietly. We've chosen not to be quiet about this," 
said Jones. "They are destroying democracy with this Patriot Act. 
It's not just confined to us. It's other activist organizations as well."

Jones pointed out that under '70s FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover all 
civil rights organizations were under major surveillance. The Black 
Panther Party was considered by Hoover as the "greatest threat of 
national security to the nation."

Trans Africa President Bill Fletcher expressed the forum's concerned 
about the erosion of civil rights. "It is ironic that instead of 
having a press conference in which apologies are being offered to the 
individuals who were tortured and the many other victims of 
COINTELPRO, instead we are to call attention to the prosecution of 
people who were freedom fighters and continue to be."

A coalition of well-known intellectuals has also joined the Forum and 
the defense committee to enlighten the public about the covert 
activities being used by agents authorized by the Patriot Act.

"We condemn the persecution transpiring against these individuals. We 
wish to bring it to light when the word "terrorism" is in the air," 
said Ron Daniels, executive director of the Center for Constitutional 
Rights. "The anti-war movement and the civil rights movement had 
effectively checked the national security state in relationship to 
surveillance. Many of the forces particularly on the extreme right 
had been bristling and eager for an opportunity to impose new 
measures. The Patriot Act had already been on the drawing board. The 
terrorist attacks provided an opportunity for them to impose them." 
Daniels adds that "Before former Attorney General Ashcroft left, he 
issued a broad ranging edict that all the cases that involved any 
incident where a police officer had been killed and the case had been 
closed be re-opened...And if these men and women can be indicted or 
harassed, it sends a chilling effect," said, Daniels.

Professor Charles Ogletree, founder and executive director of Charles 
Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard law 
School, said the community should protect the rights of these 
individuals with their lives.

"These gentlemen, Ray Boudreaux, Hank Jones and others have been 
victims of the most vicious forms of American terrorism and torture," 
said Ogletree. "It takes a village to protect its elders. We tell 
them today, through our presence here and through our commitment that 
we will provide a protective blanket over them. They will not come in 
this village and take these elders, except over our dead bodies."

Founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in Oakland, Calif., 
the Black Panther Party grew to at least 5,000 members with chapters 
in more than half the country.

{For more information, visit the history section of the Afro American 
Newspapers under Black Panther Party at www.afro.com.}

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