Monday, July 7, 2014

The Black Panther’s, Vintage Sights & Sounds

The Black Panther Party was a 1960’s black militant group that enjoyed a meteoric rise and a fast flameout in the later stages of that decade. I recently came across a couple of vintage video clips about them that pricked my interest so I did a little research. While they still exist as a social advocacy organization it was their start as a group known for trying to secure their right to bear arms that put them in the crosshairs of the highest levels of government.
It was October of 1966 when Bobby Seale and Huey Newton began the Black Panther Party as a community self help organization. In addition to programs like feeding children they also advocated for armed community patrols to “shadow” local police interactions with community residents. At that time in California it was legal to carry loaded rifles and shotguns as long as you didn’t point them at someone.

Naturally this was very distressing to the powers that be and a bill was introduced to prohibit the public from being armed in public. This sets the stage for the first protest against gun control laws. So on May 2 ,1967 while Ronald Reagan was outside hosting some eighth graders at the state capitol building inside the legislature was debating a bill to change the law. All of a sudden on to the scene comes more than three dozen armed Black Panthers. Bobby Seale reads a statement and then when the group tries to enter the spectators area they are arrested.

The Panther’s grabbed the attention of the national media for the first time. The bill passed and the Panthers got notice from more than the media as youths began to flock to their cause. They also were under intense scrutiny from law enforcement officals nationwide. There followed a series of gun battles that resulted with both police & Panther deaths. In 1969 the full force of the F.B.I. was unleashed on the militants as J. Edgar Hoover made the Panthers the primary focus of his COINTELPRO program. This was a domestic counter insurgency program designed to "neutralize" what the FBI called "black nationalist hate groups" and other dissident groups.

Local police forces aggressively pursued the group wherever it operated. Meanwhile the party was infiltrated by federal agents to sew dissension. These operations were both successful by the early 70’s many members were dead or incarcerated while the remaining party members dissolved into factions warring among themselves. By the early 1980’s the group had for the most part disappeared.
This second video features more vintage footage, the original ten point plan and some recent interviews with surviving members. Including White Panther Party leader and one time manager of the MC5 John Sinclair.

On a side note the Panthers also had an R&B band to help them spread the word.

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