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Violence in Oakland

To the Editors:

We believe your readers will be interested in the following information about the recent attack on Black Panther Party members in Oakland, California.

Seven black men are now imprisoned in Oakland, California following a confrontation with the police on Saturday, April 6, in which one black youth was killed and two other blacks wounded. The dead youth is Bobby James Hutton, seventeen-year-old member of the Black Panther Party. One of those wounded and now jailed in solitary confinement is Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther Minister of Information, author of the recently published book Soul on Ice, and a staff writer for Ramparts Magazine.

These men were victims of an attack by Oakland police, who for ninety minutes machine-gunned and tear-gassed a house in which the group had taken refuge. The Panthers state that they did not attack the police; they did defend themselves, as is their policy. After the house was set on fire, the men inside announced they would come out. Hutton emerged first, with his hands in the air and unarmed (as the police later admitted); he was shot dead in a volley of bullets. Cleaver was also shot, although also unarmed and holding his hands in the air.

The imprisoned men have been charged with assault with intent to murder a police officer and are being held on $40,000 bail apiece, except for Cleaver, a parolee, whose bail status is uncertain at this time.

The attack was only the most recent example of continuous harassment and intimidation on the part of the Oakland police force against the Black Panther Party, whose leadership that force seems determined to exterminate. The Party is an influential political group working in the black ghettos of the Bay area. It has opposed spontaneous and aimless violence; it maintains the right and need for self-defense. The Panthers have established a coalition with the Peace and Freedom Party (an independent party now on the state ballot for upcoming elections) for the basic purpose of freeing Huey Newton, Black Panther Minister for Defense and a Peace & Freedom candidate for Congress.

In protest against the events of April 6, a statement has been signed by a number of writers, editors, and other citizens. The text of that statement follows, together with a partial listing of those who have signed it.

Ron Hobbs
Elizabeth Sutherland

We, the undersigned, view the events of April 6 in Oakland, Calif, as further evidence of the continuous oppression of black people. We particularly condemn the murder of Bobby James Hutton and the wounding of Eldridge Cleaver as acts of violent white racism.

We are deeply concerned for the lives of Eldridge Cleaver and the other black men now imprisoned. We condemn the exorbitant bail placed on them. We demand that the state of California guarantee their safety and full rights. We further demand that these men, as victims of persecution for their militant position on black liberation, be freed.

We condemn the repressive actions against the Black Panther Party and demand that a full investigation of the Oakland police be initiated by an independent group of citizens.

We condemn the California Adult Authority (the state agency supervising paroless) for having colluded with the Oakland police department in brutalizing and denying counsel to Eldridge Cleaver. We demand that Mr. Cleaver’s parole status, which was revoked although he had not been convicted of any crime, be reinstated.

Supporters are urged to send a telegram to:

Henry W. Kerr, Chairman
California Adult Authority
413 State Office Building No. 1
Sacramento, California
demanding that Cleaver’s parole status be reinstated. Contributions for the defendants’ legal expenses are also urgently needed and should be sent to: Eldridge Cleaver Fund
682 Sixth Avenue, New York
N.Y. 10010

or

c/o Ramparts, 301 Broadway,
San Francisco, Calif.

Cyrilly Abels


David Amram
Aaron Asher
James Baldwin
Richard Baron

Sally Belfrage
Larry Bensky

Robert Brustein
Hortense Calisher

Angus Cameron
Emile Capouya

Shirley Clarke
Robert Crichton

Barbara Deming
Douglas Fitzgerald Doud
Rosalyn Sherman Drexler
Martin Duberman

Donald Duncan
F.W. Dupee

Jason Epstein
Jules Feiffer

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
James Forman

Joseph Fox
Edgar Z. Friedenberg
Richard Gilman
Barbara Garson
Maxwell Geismar
John Gerassi
Ivan Gold
Jesse Gray
John Gunther
Charles V. Hamilton
Elizabeth Hardwick
Curtis Harnack
Tom Hayden
Margot Hentoff
Nat Hentoff
Warren Hinckle
Jane Jacobs
Paul Jacobs
LeRoi Jones
Ron Karenga
Alfred Kazin
Stanley Kauffmann
Murray Kempton
Hans Koningsberger
Andrew Kopkind
Stanley Kunitz
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Julius Lester
Sandra Levinson
Staughton Lynd
Dwight Macdonald
Norman Mailer
John Marquand
Julian Mavfield
Alice B.Mayhew
Carey McWilliams
Jessica Mitford
Ashley Montagu
Larry Neal
Jack Newfield
Conor Cruise O’Brien
Grace Paley
Marcus G. Raskin
Richard Schechner
Robert Scheer
Nathan H. Schwerner
Mrs. Betty Shabazz
Richard Seaver
Wilfrid Sheed
John J. Simon
Susan Sontag
Gilbert Sorrentino
Terry Southern
Sally Kempton Starr
Gloria Steinem
Marc Stone
Paul Sweezy
Reise Lopez Tijerina
Harold Taylor
Arthur W. Wang
Arthur Waskow
Jack Youngerman
Pat Cooper and 25
members of The Open Theatre.
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