I opposed the Handschu settlement alluded to in this piece while still in prison precisely because I foresaw how the NYPD would circumvent it and the Panthers and political prisoners’ cases would suffer. However, the predominantly white attorneys and members of the class were hot to settle.
As a member of the class action, I was given a brief court hearing on the issues and shuffled back to jail.
By the way, the Handschu, which was named after the lead plaintiff, was settled in 1985. At that time, the city agreed to “extraordinary new limits in the investigation of political organizations,” according to one report. With this settlement, the city accepted the creation of an oversight panel with one civilian appointed by the mayor. In order for the police to investigate groups, they had to have specific information that a crime was being planned. A restriction was placed on the sharing of information between agencies, as well as the number of officers who could be assigned to such investigations.
My concern? There was no real probing into the nexus between local law enforcement and the federal government’s COINTELPRO collaboration. The Church Committee stopped short of probing into this nexus.
Though it’s not mentioned, the driving force behind the Handschu suit that (temporarily) reined in the NYPD’s Bureau of Special Services-related constitutional violations was the Panther 21 acquittal.
The pathetic part about all this is that it has been going on ever since-not just over the past decade. Many a Black community activist has been played out of pocket by this covert “war on us” police intelligence strategy. They have painted themselves into the “human landscape.”
Police intelligence units needed to identify potential resistance and neutralize that resistance by transforming mass revolutionary potential into reformism and protests. These activists, along with Black politicians and shoe polish lip talk show hosts spouting the conventional wisdom of the “‘hood,” have rendered ordinary African-Americans-already benumbed by pop BET-style culture-incapable of coherent political analysis and unified action.
While Black and Latino political prisoners languished in prison-their plight marginalized by the same individualism and mindset that abandoned the concept of Black self-defense and community resistance to tyrannical police power in favor of an “escape the ghetto” philosophy-the national security state reduced Black communities to occupied territory under the watchful eye of the political police.
So-called Muslim clergy are little better. Muslims in our communities are self-righteous in the notion that making “hijra from the dunya” (isolating their communities), rather than serving as beacons of resistance in the broader community to racial and class injustice, is the correct response to oppression. Many have collaborated with the police under the pretext of abiding by the law, literally painting themselves into a corner. This is especially true of the immigrant Muslim community, which has little or no historical understanding of the true nature of the ethos of American-Christian white supremacy. Such Muslims have mystified the flame of resistance within Muslim youth and have caused them to revel in static Islamic culture as an alternative to the noxious culture of instant gratification personified by modern consumer capitalism.
Indeed, the mosques are full but devoid of community leadership. Now that “all the Jacks are in the boxes” and a Negro is in the White House, there still is no scent of resistance to the excesses of the police state and no credible challenge raised against the political power of the police and their arrogant, smug attitudes of power.
When Cynthia McKinney was on the Hill, some Black activists proposed to her that the issue of the unfinished business of the Church Committee be taken up by the CBC. She agreed, but the CBC shot that proposal down.
Maybe Jesse Jackson was running for the HNIC mantle at the time, and re-examining all the excesses under the pit bull Hoover administration would seem less than patriotic. God forbid a Black man appear less than patriotic!
Ironically, this is the same attitude of the current HNIC ensconced in the White House when it comes to the excesses of the Bush regime. “No investigation, no right to criticize!”
We ultimately get the leaders we deserve and the legacy we ignore. Maybe the next time around we will be more considerate of those who gave their lives to defend us from the excesses of the state-if there is a next time. Who was it that said during the rise of the Nazis, “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the night”?
Well, homeboy, it’s nighttime in America!