San Francisco 8

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL — Hank Jones and Ray Boudreaux spoke before the Pasadena ACLU May 12 to tell the story of the “San Francisco 8,” former members and/or associates of the Black Panther Party who have been charged with the 1970 killing of a San Francisco police officer. The case against the men, initially dismissed in 1975 because confessions from some of them had been based on torture, was reopened in 2007.

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL — Hank Jones and Ray Boudreaux spoke before the Pasadena ACLU May 12 to tell the story of the “San Francisco 8,” former members and/or associates of the Black Panther Party who have been charged with the 1970 killing of a San Francisco police officer. The case against the men, initially dismissed in 1975 because confessions from some of them had been based on torture, was reopened in 2007.

At first glance, the SF8 are just another case of police abuse and the corrupt criminal (in)justice system. Our sympathies are with them, as they are with Mumia and Leonard Peltier and hundreds of other political prisoners, but no lasting movement has developed with the kind of strength to affect the outcome of the trial and end their persecution. The community knows the cops are a daily obstacle and are even dangerous, but the community has not seemed ready to get behind a campaign to end it.

There seem to be three models of resistance to police. The first model, which members of the SF8 ascribed to was the Black Panther model. It involved outflanking the police by building community support and conducting armed patrols of neighborhoods to monitor police.

The second model is the “police accountability” model that has been adopted by the Coalition Against Police Executions (CAPE), a coalition of Oakland non-profit organizations. This aims at reforming the police but essentially leaving them as they are, with some minor changes such as sensitivity training an extra layer of bureacracy in the form of citizen review boards.

The third model is the spontaneous eruption of anger and desperations by those members of the community that deal most directly with the police. Young black and brown men and boys from the hood that are unemployed and involved in informal markets often through gangs have shown what their response to police abuse is: riots and “cop killing.” While these responses are barely worth considering as “models” they are inform the analysis, especially considering that they are the most hotly sought after constituency for both reform organizations such as the non-profit sector (see Ella Baker Center’s “Silence the Violence Campaign”) AND militant community organizers (like the Panthers).
Instead of repeating the same sob story about police “terrorism,” and boring folks with legal details from the case, can we pose this question to working class black and brown communities: out of these three  strategies – militant direct action community organizing, liberal compromising non-profit coalitions, random acts of violence – which approach is the most effective? When they answer that the militant direct action community organizing (panther) model is best, can we pose a follow-up question: who’s going to build such an organization to do that work?

Instead of imploring people to act in sympathy for these innocent old men, we should present them with the opportunity to act on their own behalf in these old men’s righteous example.

San Francisco 8 Members Blame Murder Charges on Police Corruption

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One response to “San Francisco 8

  1. Im feeling the three models you have laid out here. These do seem to be the outlets for trying to challenge the police, and I believe in the first model for organizing a militant group that can challenge the whole system. BUT I have a problem with the way you characterized the third model, where’s the womyn?

    It seems that when people are characterizing police or state violence it seems to be something that only happens to black and brown men, and us black / brown womyn only factor in as sympathetic members of the community, but that is just flat out wrong. Womyn are terrorized by the police all the time, but our stories are never reported with the few stories that are reported at all about police / state oppression.

    Womyn also suffer from the sexualized nature of this violence. Cops rape and assault black and brown womyn in the streets and in prison, and myths of wild black female sexuality seem to back up this terror. These myths also seem to back up the extreme amount of violence black female sex workers face. They are the targets of extreme police violence; eventhough they make up about 15 % of the entire sex worker population, they make up 80 to 90 % of all sex workers that are incarcerated.

    But it’s not just sex workers who are targeted. A few years ago Kathryn Johnson, a 92 year old womyn, was shot 6 times and killed by police who broke into her home without a knock or a warrant. Shelia Stevenson was pulled over for riding her bike on the street. Once they handcuffed her she was repeatedly punched in the face while on the ground. There is video of her on youtube yelling “why are you hitting me, Im handcuffed.” LaTanya Haggerty was shot dead after being pulled over for double parking, the cop supposedly confused her cell phone with a gun. Caroline Sue Botticher, another unarmed black womyn, was killed after being shot 22 times when her car failed to stop at a police checkpoint.

    SO why is it that when a black man, such as Oscar Grant or Sean Bell, is killed by the police the whole community is up in arms. I am not saying they shouldn’t be, but where is the sense of injustice when these womyn I mentioned above are assaulted and killed. We need to break this myth that it is just our men that our brutalized and start rioting and supporting our sisters too. State and police violence kills us all.

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