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.
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
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
c/o Ramparts, 301 Broadway,
San Francisco, Calif.
Douglas Fitzgerald Doud
Rosalyn Sherman Drexler
Edgar Z. Friedenberg
Charles V. Hamilton
Conor Cruise O’Brien
Marcus G. Raskin
Nathan H. Schwerner
Mrs. Betty Shabazz
John J. Simon
Sally Kempton Starr
Reise Lopez Tijerina
Arthur W. Wang
Pat Cooper and 25
members of The Open Theatre.
May 9, 1968