Thursday, April 30, 2009

The SF 8 case as an attempt to rewrite history

Why would the state spend millions to prosecute the San Francisco 8, a 38-year old case that has already been dropped several times?

While there are several aspects to the answer, the activist journalist Dan Berger offers one important response in a recent article: "... the current moment is a pivotal one in shaping how society perceives the history and impact of the black freedom struggle." This case is one that is "being reopened in a post–civil rights world that has seen an immense retreat from racial justice ... these cases constitute spectacular intervention by the state in how the black freedom struggle is remembered".

In other words, the charges are an attempt to rewrite the history of the Black Liberation Movement as a mere criminal conspiracy. With political cases such as this one, "... prosecutions emerge out of pre-existing cooperation between state and federal law enforcement agencies. There does not seem to be any visible social movement clamoring for these men to be incarcerated. ... In the prosecution of black radicals ... black power emerges only as villain."

Get the complete article as a 20 page PDF file: "Rescuing Civil Rights from Black Power: Collective Memory and Saving the State in Twenty-First-Century Prosecutions of 1960s-Era Cases" by Dan Berger in the Journal for the Study of Radicalism, volume 3, issue 1 (Spring 2009).

Tribute to Women of the BPP a great success

Rank-and-file women of the Black Panther Party were honored at a program on April 18, organized by the San Francisco 8 and the Black Student Union of San Francisco State University along with the SF 8 support committee. It was a deeply moving, uplifting, and encouraging event featuring a panel of six Panther women ("there is no such thing as a former Panther," said one) sharing their experiences of the Party.

The photo below shows the women of the panel with members of the SF 8 and supporters.

Photo by Scott Braley

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 24 SF 8 Hearing: wiretaps off limits

At the April 24 (2009) hearing, Judge Moscone denied defense requests to force the release of FBI wiretap surveillance of Black Panther phones in the San Francisco 8 case. In doing so, he accepted the affidavit of an FBI "taint team" which has not been seen by the defense and asserts that no FBI wiretaps include any surveillance of the eight. It was argued that it is hard to believe the FBI’s findings about their own surveillance and even more unbelievable that the illegalities of COINTELPRO (the FBI’s counter intelligence program) would not be relevant in this case. Nonetheless, the ruling makes these wiretaps “undiscoverable at this time,” according to the Judge's ruling.

The prosecution claims not to have any access to these wiretaps either. This assertion is equally incredible given that the FBI always worked with local and state police agencies in conducting its war against the Black Liberation movement. The prosecution also claims that it cannot order the release of FBI files – which is absurd given that the FBI was “involved since day one” according to defense arguments and is borne out by the fact that an early grand jury was called by the federal government in this case.

It was made clear in court today that the FBI made the Black Panther Party the number one target of the FBI at the time and that there is no doubt that this includes these men because of their relationship to the Party. The Judge responded by likening such requests to a defense fishing expedition.

Neither Herman Bell nor Jalil Muntaqim was handcuffed in the courtroom. Lynne Stewart, her husband, Ralph Poynter, and Ward Churchill showed their solidarity with the San Francisco 8 by joining numerous other community members for today’s hearing.

The Preliminary Hearing in the SF 8 Case begins Monday, June 8th. It is scheduled to run Monday-Thursday for 3-4 months. Please check here and the website to sign up for emails, sign the letter to Drop the Charges and organize support!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SF Labor Council stands by their "Drop the Charges" Resolution - supports SF8

Despite attempts at intimidation by the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the brothers and sisters of the San Francisco Labor Council defeated a motion to rescind a February resolution calling for the dropping of charges against the San Francisco 8. (See the resolution here as a PDF file). The final vote on Monday night, April 13th was 45-40. This vote is a tribute to the solidarity of the progressive labor movement in San Francisco and its willingness to value political principles and refusal to endorse a 37-year old prosecution based on statements made under police torture. We thank all the delegates and the rank and file members of the Bay Area unions that voted and signed statements of solidarity - calling for the dropping of charges against the San Francisco 8!

Letter to the voting delegates at April 13, 2009 meeting which was signed by more than 30 SF Labor Council delegates and many other labor and community supporters:

To Our Brothers and Sisters in the San Francisco Labor Council

We, the undersigned union activists, delegates and concerned community members, urge you to uphold the San Francisco Labor Council resolution opposing the unjust prosecution of the San Francisco 8.

As the Labor Council Resolution states, “Therefore be it Resolved, that in the name of fairness, justice and human rights – and to express our outrage that this prosecution based on coercion and tortured ‘confessions’ in this 36-year-old case would be allowed to proceed – that the San Francisco Labor Council calls on California Attorney General Jerry Brown to drop all charges against the San Francisco 8 defendants.”

The resolution was originally passed on February 9th as part of an open and democratic process:

1. Social & Economic Justice Committee discussed the SF 8 case at its Nov.'08, and Jan. and Feb. '09 meetings, and voted unanimously to bring the resolution to the Council.

2. At the February 9th council meeting the Social & Economic Justice Committee introduced one of the SF8 defendants, Richard Brown, who spoke to the delegates, receiving a warm welcome. Under new business, after extensive discussion, the SF8 resolution was amended and then passed resoundingly, with no dissenting votes. No officer or delegate raised any objection to the resolution.

3. The resolution was then posted on the SF Labor Council website, signed by the executive director.

4. At the Feb. 23rd council meeting, delegates approved, without objection, the minutes of the Feb. 9 meeting, signed by the executive director. These minutes reported on the adoption of the SF8 resolution. No officer or delegate present at the Feb. 23rd meeting raised any objection to the resolution.

It was only after a public attack on the resolution by Gary Delagnes, head of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, that five members of the Executive Committee backtracked on the resolution and called for it to be rescinded. The statement by Mr. Delagnes is classic McCarthyism, filled with half-truths and unfounded charges.

The Labor Council has a proud history of standing up for social justice in the face of controversy and intimidation. This is not the time to take a step backwards.

The following labor and community members and more than 30 SFLC delegates urge the San Francisco Labor Council to uphold the resolution opposing the unjust prosecution of the San Francisco 8 defendants:

Senior Action Network (SAN)…School Bus Drivers UTU 1741 delegate Shane Hoff… American Postal Workers delegates Jean Taylor, Alice Lindstrom Davis, Vernelle Hawkins, Richard Stone…APWU delegate & SFLC Exec Ccl member Rosa Faye Marshall…SFLC Vice Pres & Pride at Work delegate Howard Wallace…LCLAA Pres., SFLC delegate & Exec Ccl member Frank Martin del Campo…Carpenters delegate Jim Salinas…SEIU 1021 delegates Maria Guillen, Jonathan Meade, Francesca Rosa, David Williams…AFT 2121 delegates Pablo Rodriguez, Allan Fisher, Warren Mar, Rodger Scott…IAM 1781 delegate and retired President Carl Finamore…SEIU 1000 delegate Tami Bryant…OPEIU 3 delegate & SFLC Exec Ccl member Alan Benjamin…Council of Community Housing Organizations & SF Housing Justice Network organizer Rene Cazenave…Letter Carriers 214 delegates Carl Bryant, Dave Welsh…Media Workers Pres. & delegate Gloria La Riva…Ironworkers 377 delegate Mike Daly…Arab American Union Members Council Pres. Monadel Herzallah… ILWU 10 delegate & Alameda Labor Council Exec Bd member Clarence Thomas…SF Day Labor Program director & La Raza Centro Legal organizer Renee Saucedo…Just Cause Oakland & Black Alliance for Just Immigration organizer Phil Hutchings…Poet and UPTE/ CWA 9119 delegate Nellie Wong…Inland Boatmen’s Union (ILWU) delegate Robert Irminger and member Samantha Levens…ANSWER Coalition…Pride at Work member Wendy Lee…SFLC delegate Denise D’Anne…SF Gray Panthers…Sign Display 510 member David Grace…SEIU 1021 member Linda Ray…US Labor Against the War coordinator Michael Eisenscher…AFT 2121 member Bill Carpenter…Former AFT 2121 president & SFLC Exec ccl member Allan Fisher…ILWU 10 Exec Bd memberJack Heyman… Radio host Kiilu Nyasha…SEIU delegate Kathy Lipscomb… Plumbers 393 Exec Bd member & So. Bay Labor Ccl delegate Fred Hirsch…CUE #3 former president Michael-David Sasson…Retired AFSCME, SEIU & IFPTE union rep Linda “Spike” Kahn…Haiti Action Committee and its co-founder Pierre Labossiere… Retired unionist and California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) activist Mary Magill… ATU 1555 member Gene Pepi…Teamsters member Art Persyko…Health Care for All organizer & union activist Don Bechler…People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) Exec Director Steve Williams…Education not Incarceration organizer mesha Monge-Irizarry…SF senior activist Michael Lyon.

For individual signers, organizations listed for ID only

In addition to the above, the following have passed a resolution or signed an Open Letter urging that charges against the San Francisco 8 be dropped:

Center for Constitutional Rights…Archbishop Desmond Tutu and four other Nobel Peace Prize laureates… Actor Danny Glover…San Francisco Labor Council…Union organizer and civil rights activist Aileen Hernandez…Veteran SF and Bayview grassroots activist Jim Queen…Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney…Metropolitan Community Church of SF senior minister Rev. Lea Brown…SF School Board president Kim-Shree Maufas, vice-presidentJane Kim and former president Mark Sanchez…UAW Southeast Region VP & Local 2320 Jeffrey Segal, Esq…SEIU District 1199 officer Bruce Richards… UCSF Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Jess Ghannam…Global Exchange board & radio host Walter Turner…San Francisco Bay View Newspaper publisher Willie Ratcliff… Author and journalist Ron Jacobs…SF Elections Commissioner & NAACP VP Rev. Arnold Townsend… Co-director Legal Services for Prisoners with Children Dorsey Nunn… International Assn of Jurists attorney Lennox Hinds, Esq…Bay Area radio jazz DJ Art Sato… Black Flight Attendants-Detroit chapter member Shaakira Edison…UC-Santa Cruz professor emeritus Angela Davis…Maranatha Christian Center (San Jose) Associate Minister Rev. Steven Pinkston...Ecumenical Peace Institute coordinator Carolyn Scarr…CSU-East Bay Prof. emeritus Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz…Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility director Gary Brouse…Attorneys Anne Butterfield Weills (Oakland), Nadia Yakoob (SF), Mark Merin (Sacramento), Melinda Power (Chicago), Allison Brown, Annette Ensley, Barry Beroset, Bernida Reagan, Carol Smith, Carol Watson, Chris Ford, Colleen Flynn, Collins Pettaway Jr.,David Addams, Florence Morgan, George Lewis, Gilda Sherrod-Ali, Judith L. Bourne, Kafahni Nkrumah, Kaleema Hadera Al-Nur (JD), Lee Goldstein, Marc Fancher, Marlene Archer, Mimi Ghirmay, Regina Jemison, Roger Wareham, Ron Scott, Roslyn Morrison, Sam Feneque (JD), Sarida Scott, Tara Curtis, Terry A. Price, Thomas Ruffin Jr, Helen P. Arnold and Standish E. Willis(Nat’l Conference of Black Lawyers, Chicago), Ivy Thomas Riley and Jeffrey L. Edison (Nat’l Conference of Black Lawyers, Michigan), Rev. Khalfani Drummer and Ronald Isaac (Nat’l Conference of Black Lawyers, DC Metro)…Professors Sam Green (USF and SF Art Institute), William Crossman (Berkeley City College), Kathleen Densmore (San Jose State), Adjoa Aiyetoro (U of Arkansas-Law), Bernedene Allen (College of Marin), Jose Palafox (UC-Berkeley),Julia Sudbury (Mills College), Leslie Fleming (Merritt College), Ana Lopez (Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY), Lisa Brock (Columbia College, Chicago)…National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn…Cornell University African Studies & Research Center associate Dr. James Turner… Therapist Beverly A. Jones (specializing in prison-related trauma, Berkeley, CA)…Westchester County Peace Action Coalition Exec Director Connie Hogarth… and hundreds more.

For individual signers, organizations listed for ID only