Elmer G. “Geronimo” Pratt dies at 63; former Black Panther whose murder conviction was overturned

Geronimo ji jaga (Pratt), a former Black Panther whose 1972 murder conviction was overturned after he spent 27 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, has died at 63

By Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times

Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, left, with attorney Johnnie Cochran in 1998. Pratt, a former leader of the Black Panther Party, spent 27 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

June 3, 2011
Elmer G. “Geronimo” Pratt, a former Los Angeles Black Panther Party leader whose 1972 murder conviction was overturned after he spent 27 years in prison for a crime he said he did not commit, has died. He was 63.Pratt, whose case became for many a symbol of racial injustices during the turbulent 1960s, died Thursday at his home in a small village in Tanzania, said his sister Virginia. The cause was not given.

May, 1980: Edwin Drummond and Stephen Rutherford climb a third of the way up the back of the Statue of Liberty with a protest banner reading, "Liberty Was Framed - Free Geronimo Pratt." Pratt, a former Black Panther, served 27 years in jail before his conviction in a 1968 California murder case was vacated. He was released in 1997.

Pratt’s case became a cause celebre for a range of supporters, including elected officials, activists, Amnesty International, clergy and celebrities who believed he was framed by Los Angeles police and the FBI because he was African American and a member of the radical Black Panthers. Pratt maintained that the FBI knew he was innocent because the agency had him under surveillance in Oakland when the slaying was committed in Santa Monica.”Geronimo was a powerful leader,” Stuart Hanlon, Pratt’s longtime San Francisco attorney, told The Times. “For that reason he was targeted.”Pratt was arrested in 1970 and two years later convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1968 fatal shooting of Caroline Olsen and the serious wounding of her husband, Kenneth, in a robbery that netted $18. The case was overturned in 1997 by an Orange County Superior Courtjudge who ruled that prosecutors at Pratt’s murder trial had concealed evidence that could have led to his acquittal.A federal judge later approved a $4.5 million settlement in Pratt’s false-imprisonment and civil rights lawsuit.

Pratt, who also went by Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, was born on Sept. 13, 1947, in Morgan City, La., a small town about two hours from New Orleans. The youngest of seven children, Pratt was raised as a Roman Catholic by his mother and his father, who operated a small scrap-metal business.

Growing up in the segregated South amid a tight-knit black community had a profound effect on Pratt, he later told interviewers. Continue reading

The Resistance in Obama Time: Over 2,600 Activists Arrested in the US Since Election

May 24, 2011

By BILL QUIGLEY
http://www.counterpunch.org/quigley05242011.html

Since President Obama was inaugurated, there have been over two thousand six hundred arrests of activists protesting in the US.   Research shows over 670 people have been arrested in protests inside the US already in 2011, over 1290 were arrested in 2010, and 665 arrested in 2009.   These figures certainly underestimate the number actually arrested as arrests in US protests are rarely covered by the mainstream media outlets which focus so intently on arrests of protestors in other countries.

Arrests at protest have been increasing each year since 2009.  Those arrested include people protesting US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo, strip mining, home foreclosures, nuclear weapons, immigration policies, police brutality, mistreatment of hotel workers, budget cutbacks, Blackwater, the mistreatment of Bradley Manning, and right wing efforts to cut back collective bargaining.

These arrests illustrate that resistance to the injustices in and committed by the US is alive and well.  Certainly there could and should be more, but it is important to recognize that people are fighting back against injustice.  Continue reading

FBI raids seek to criminalize solidarity work in the Palestinian community

FBI raid in the Midwest

The Electronic Intifada, 15 November 2010

Nora Barrows-Friedman and Maureen Clare Murphy

US activists face new repression as political prisoners fight for justice

For decades the United States government has attempted to criminalize work in the Palestinian community in support of their national liberation cause. But in recent years this repression has increased dramatically. The Electronic Intifada spoke with the daughter of Sami al-Arian and the daughter of Ghassan Elashi — both political prisoners in the US — about the impact this repression has had on their families’ lives.

And in an Electronic Intifada exclusive, Hatem Abudayyeh, an organizer and community leader whose home in Chicago was raided by federal agents on 24 September 2010, spoke to the press for the first time about his family’s story.

The Electronic Intifada spoke with al-Arian, Elashi and Abudayyeh as activists across the United States prepare for emergency demonstrations as the subpoenas for three anti-war and solidarity organizers to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago are being reactivated by the Department of Justice.

The three activists are among the 14 who received subpoenas during and soon after coordinated FBI raids on homes and offices across the Midwestern US on 24 September. The government says that the raids and subpoenas are part of an investigation into “material support” of foreign terrorist organizations but it has not arrested or charged anyone. A grand jury, no longer in use anywhere outside the US, is an investigative tool that allows the government to compel citizens to testify even if they are not suspected of any crime. Continue reading