And the saddest thing is that so many have spent decades locked down in those hell-holes as a result of similar nonsensical charges!!
-----Pete O'Neal, former leader, Kansas City Chapter, Black Panther Party, from Tanzania
This is a story that is more than forty years old, but didn't come to the light of day until this week.
I remember when I was under investigation, under indictment, and in prison for a bombing Conspiracy in Kansas City back in the 70s watching with a certain degree of humor the obvious competition and jealousy between various federal and state law enforcement agencies. At the federal level it was the ATF, FBI, and even the Marshal Service who seemed to resent each other almost as much as they hated the likes of us. Everyone wanted the glory. Everyone wanted to be seen as THE agency. Everyone wanted the TV program to be about them.
It seemed funny.
It wasn't though, not really.
Now, we learn that the ATF in a bid to outdo the FBI and become the big cheese in bombing cases in the summer of 1970 tried to create out of the air a giant conspiracy involving various Black Panthers from across the Midwest, from Missouri, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa. The Midwest 22 were to be the show trial for these guys.
It didn't happen.
We learned about this from research and a subsequent disclosure to the Examiner of an old case file from the ATF on April 14th of this year.
The Midwest, like every other part of the country at the time (1970) had been the scene of numerous bombings, mostly unsolved. ATF blamed the Black Panthers. Amongst those targeted were Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa from Omaha (These two men, the Omaha Two, were eventually charged with an Omaha bombing and have been sitting in prison unjustly - as all the evidence shows - for more than forty years now). Others targeted included Pete O'Neal and Tommy Robinson from Kansas City, Archie Simmons and Charles Knox from Des Moines, a sixteen year old from Minneapolis and many others.
Supposedly the case never reached an indictment because of "a trend in the judiciary...away from major complex conspiracies." Maybe, the fact that the case was a figment of the imagination of a bunch of agents (led by ATF goons in Omaha) also had something to do with it. Perhaps, the fact that by 1972 when it was decided not to prosecute the Midwest 22 too much had been made public about just how nefarious the State had been in its war on dissent. Perhaps, the Justice Department figured out they were going to spend a lot of money, get a lot of bad publicity themselves, and convict no one had something to do with it as well. We will never know.
What we do know is that many, many other fighters for Black Liberation were indicted, were jailed, and still are. We do know that. We also know that many were murdered. We also know about COINTELPRO. We also know that no one who was responsible for this massive assault upon the Panthers (and others involved in the struggle for Black Liberation, in the struggles of other people of color, and even, holy white skin privilege Batman, some white radicals and revolutionaries) has really ever faced justice themselves. That is the crime here.
Ted Glick wrote of COINTELPRO's aims and its targets,
"COINTELPRO" was the FBI's secret program to undermine the popular upsurge which swept the country during the 1960s. Though the name stands for "Counterintelligence Program," the targets were not enemy spies. The FBI set out to eliminate "radical" political opposition inside the US. When traditional modes of repression (exposure, blatant harassment, and prosecution for political crimes) failed to counter the growing insurgency, and even helped to fuel it, the Bureau took the law into its own hands and secretly used fraud and force to sabotage constitutionally- protected political activity. Its methods ranged far beyond surveillance, and amounted to a domestic version of the covert action for which the CIA has become infamous throughout the world.
The most intense operations were directed against the Black movement, particularly the Black Panther Party. This resulted from FBI and police racism, the Black community's lack of material resources for fighting back, and the tendency of the media--and whites in general--to ignore or tolerate attacks on Black groups. It also reflected government and corporate fear of the Black movement because of its militance, its broad domestic base and international support, and its historic role in galvanizing the entire Sixties' upsurge. Many other activists who organized against US intervention abroad or for racial, gender or class justice at home also came under covert attack. The targets were in no way limited to those who used physical force or took up arms. Martin Luther King, David Dellinger, Phillip Berrigan and other leading pacifists were high on the list, as were projects directly protected by the Bill of Rights, such as alternative newspapers.
The Black Panthers came under attack at a time when their work featured free food and health care and community control of schools and police, and when they carried guns only for deterrent and symbolic purposes. It was the terrorism of the FBI and police that eventually provoked the Panthers to retaliate with the armed actions that later were cited to justify their repression.
In fact, according to a PBS documentary on Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton of the 295 documented actions taken by COINTELPRO to disrupt Black organizations, 233 were directed against the Black Panther Party.
We learned about Cointelpro, by the way after a number of activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania looking for draft records and the like, and made off with loads of documents. They discovered that amongst the documents were those that revealed this massive abuse of power.
The following is from The Final Call.