1969: “Panthers & Pigs”

This article by Sheila was printed in the April 10, 1969 edition of the SDS New Left Notes:

Panthers & Pigs: New York
by Sheila Ryan
Liberation News Service

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (LNS) — “SMASH PANTHER BOMB PLOT!* “COPS: CUBA HELPS PANTHERS PROWL,” and “SEEK PANTHER LINK TO STOLEN YOUTH FUNDS” displaced the headlines of the previous week describing a city in disintegration— hospitals being closed because adequate funds were denied by the city and state governments, welfare appropriations cut so that clients would be hard-put to survive, the City College president resigning because the legislators had cut the budget below minimum, high school students in a state of rebellion.

The man who pulled the biggest media put-on of the year is District Attorney Frank Hogan. Immediately following Hogan’s announcement that a Grand Jury had indicted 21 members of the Black Panther Party on charges of conspiracy, the Panthers were convicted in the newspapers and TV news broadcasts.

Hogan scheduled his news conference at 11:00 a.m., a time carefully selected to push Hogan into the evening TV programs and headlines—and his remarks were shrewdly chosen to present the District Attorney as the savior of New York City on the very eve of its. destruction.

Sinister Panther Plots

For according to. Hogan, a 5:00 a.m. round-up that morning had thwarted a Black Panther plot to blow up various parts of the city on the following day.

Macys, Alexander’s, Korvette’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Abercrombie & Fitch would have been bombed, newspaper readers and TV viewers were told, had not Frank Hogan and the Police Department acted fast. New Yorkers were thereby prevented from being burnt to a crisp as they bought their Easter finery—and just at the time, sacred to Columbia trustee Hogan, when the stores were making lots of money. In an odd twist, the indictment Hogan obtained also accused the Panthers of having plotted to sabotage a section of New Haven Railroad track. So sinister was the Panther plot, according to Hogan, that they were not going to leave undisturbed even the early spring flowers—as a final perverse gesture, the Panthers were going to dynamite the Bronx Botanical Gardens. In fact, the indictment charged, cops had observed them making “practice bombing runs* on the greenhouses.

The New York Times and the New York Post observed the niceties in their conviction, referring only to “alleged” plots, but the Daily News said just what it wanted people to believe: “SMASH PANTHER BOMB PLOT!*

“All this is designed to insure a fair trial, since none of the jurors will have seen it, of course,” said one of the Panthers’ lawyers in bitter irony.

The Daily News said the Panthers’ plentiful funds are believed to come mainly from Red Cuba, but the Post had it that their money is actually from Communist China, and only funneled to the Panthers through the Cuban Mission to the United Nations. The Post also cited pigs as saying that they were “studying” the possibility that some of the $2.7 million allegedly stolen from the Youth Corps funds went into Panther coffers.

But for all the income from suspect sources which the bourgeois press attributed to the Panthers, 15 of them are in jail (and 6 others are being sought), unable to meet with the ransom totalling $2,100,000 for the 21.

The court refused to lower the bail for the Panthers in a hearing on April 4. Attorneys for the Panthers—William Kunstler, Jerry Lefcourt, and Arthur Turco and others—plan legal action on April 11 to have frs bail reduced to a reasonable level.. They will also try to get the men who have been arrested held in one location: in a systematic attempt to hamper the attorneys’ access to the indicted Panthers, the authorities have scattered them throughout the city, 3 defendants each’ in jails in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan.

Typical Round-up

Other aspects of the round-up of the Panthers, too, are characteristic of the “extra-legal” harassment Panthers have faced from the District Attorney’s office and the cops in the past months. At least four Panthers not named in the indictment were picked up by the cops at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, and then disappeared from sight for two and a half days. Their disappearance was ominous, in view of the severe beating of a 19-year-old student nurse and Black Panther last month during the 19 hours she was held by cops between the time of her arrest and when she was actually charged. After their arrest, the missing Panthers were arraigned two and a half days later on weapons charges,.

On the Lower East Side, two Puerto Ricans.one 15 and the other 16, were arrested when the cops found them in the apartment of the indicted men. But the case against them was dismissed Friday, on the motion of the prosecution.

The indictment of the 21 Panthers is only the latest in a series of spurious charges which have been levied against ‘the New York Panthers. There have been over 60 charges against the New York Panthers in the last ten months, but not a single conviction has been obtained. Thus far, the police anr’ prosecution have been able to assuage their disappointment at acquittals, or being forced to drop charges for lack of evidence, by bringing new felony charges, often against the same people. No matter how absurd the charge, New York courts have set impossibly high bails, which keep Panthers in jail for months at a time.

But this time, the New York pigs have attempted a death-blow at the Panthers—they have named a substantial portion of the Panther leadership as “bomb plotters”. And they have created the most lurid phantasmagoria yet, pandering to the racist fears of white New Yorkers in an obvious effort to stir up rage and retribution at the “mass murder” that never occurred.

The persecution of the Panthers in New York must be seen in the context of the attacks on Panthers across the country—the jailing of Huey Newton, the forced exile of Eldridge Cleaver, the murders of Panthers by cops in the Bay Area, and police-instigated assassinations in Los Angeles, the gratuitous inclusion of Bobby Seale in the indictments ensuing from the Chicago Convention, raids on Panther offices in many cities….If there is any conspiracy associated with the indictment of the 21 Panthers, it must be that of the repressive forces of the Justice Department and the New York City prosecutor’s office and police.

In the first few days following the indictment, however, all indications are that Hogan and the cops have not succeeded in completely isolating the Panthers. Several hundred people, a substantial portion of them white radicals, picketed the court Wednesday during the hearing on reduction of bail. They shouted “No more Panthers in jail” and a refrain of “Off the pigs!” The proceedings in the courtroom were delayed for 15 minutes when the judge first ordered all standees out of the court, forcing out the Panther supporters who stood four deep around the aisles, and then specified that only one person might sit in each seat, excluding a hundred or more others who had doubled up. The hundreds of demonstrators returned friday morning, for the hearing at which charges against the two Lower East Side teenagers were dismissed.

— From “Panthers and Pigs“, found in the SDS New Left Notes archive at 1960s-counterculture.org.


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