Former Black Panthers considered terrorists under Patriot Act

Former Black Panthers considered terrorists under Patriot Act

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}

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