by THANDISIZWE CHIMURENGA, Counterpunch
It’s kind of fitting that police officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, murderers of Mike Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, were cleared of criminal wrong-doing in the last several weeks. The eruption of protest, activism and organizing in response to the (bad) decisions of legal bodies to not hold these officers accountable for their crimes has occurred at a time of special significance for the legacy of the Black Panther Party (BPP).
October 15th saw the 48th anniversary of the birth of the BPP in Oakland, CA. Originally named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the BPP had a self-defense strategy against the brutal terror of the police. The strategy unashamedly and unapologetically maintained that Black people have human rights that are to be respected, including the right of armed self-defense, and BPP members had a right to intervene with those arms if necessary when law enforcement – those touted as the ones whose job was allegedly to protect and serve – violated those rights. In Los Angeles, the month of October also saw the deaths of Ronald and Roland Freeman, brothers who were co-founders and leading members of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party. Ronald and Roland, who were born one year apart and died one week apart, were also survivors of the Dec. 8, 1969 shootout with the Los Angeles Police Department’s SWAT team on 41st Street and Central Avenue. The pre-dawn attack, the SWAT team’s first major engagement, lasted 5 hours and saw 13 members of the BPP stand trial for attempted murder of police officers. All 13 of the Panthers would eventually be acquitted of all charges in December, 1971 due to the illegal actions of the LAPD.