From Thu Aug 24 05:48:27 2000
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 00:58:11 -0400
From: Jonathan D Farley <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Ignore Gore, Bush—Remember Jackson
Precedence: bulk

Ignore Gore, Bush—Remember Jackson

By Jonathan D Farley <>, 11 August 2000

It’s not news. It’s probably not even remembered anymore, except by the principal actors and their families. But at the time, August 7, 1970, it caught people’s attention like the sound of a shotgun blast in a crowded courtroom.

The place: Marin County, California. The Halls of Justice. The person: A 17 year-old whose desire for Life was greater than his desire to continue living, armed with weapons of war and with even more foreboding weapons of truth: the ten-point program of the Black Panther Party. His name: Jonathan Jackson.

In 1970, America was at war. Not only in Vietnam, but in the streets of America—Watts, Rochester, Detroit. And while the embers had cooled from the fires that raged after the Dreamer’s death, the conditions that King had preached against—economic and social inequality—still persisted. The Black Panther Party’s program was the beginning of a solution: free health clinics, free grocery give-aways, free breakfasts for children, independent black schools, and community control of police, in part through the mobilization of legal, armed patrols to curb incidents of brutality, like the episodes we just witnessed in Montgomery, Alabama, and in Philadelphia. (Not to mention the Republican Convention.)

While many blacks, and most whites, feared the militancy of the Panthers, mostly due to the spreading of negative propaganda by government agents, 43% of blacks under 21 had great respect for the Party. It would take a miracle of Biblical proportions for Gore-Lieberman to get such numbers.

The reason was that the Party didn’t merely talk about solving problems: they found answers. Their only obstacle was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who wrongly branded the Panthers the greatest threat to the internal security of the country, and mounted a vicious campaign to disable their leadership. One of these leaders was Jonathan’s brother, George, a Black Panther sentenced for one year- to-life, ostensibly for stealing $70. He, along with other politically active prisoners, was being railroaded to the gas chamber by the authorities.

Jonathan Jackson decided that the roll-call of black martyrs, from Medgar to Malcolm to Martin, to the Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Bunchy Carter, would stop here. He walked into the Marin County courthouse with a .38 pistol and a carbine rifle, saying, All right, gentlemen... I’m taking over now, and demanded the release of Black Panther political prisoners.

The State’s response was as vicious and violent as the Soviet response to the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Jonathan Jackson was shot dead. Angela Davis, falsely linked to the incident by the authorities, went into hiding.

George Jackson, who was himself to die in a barrage of police gunfire a year later, wrote: Terrible Jonathans teethed on the barrel of the political tool, hardened against the concrete of the most uncivilized jungles of the planet—Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco -- tested in a dozen fires.... They will be the first to fall. We gather up their bodies, clean them, kiss them and smile. Their funerals should be gala affairs... We should be sad only that it’s taken us so many generations to produce them.

It may seem strange, even wrong, to pay homage to someone who abandoned non-violence in order to save others’ lives. But is it really? This summer we honored thousands of black veterans who, on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, used violence to advance other men’s aims. We honor Martin, but also Colin Powell, whose Gulf War campaign left 200,000 dead. We should not balk or feel ashamed to remember the sacrifice of a man-child, a revolutionary, who saw that we have to make people organize and resist the ruin of their lives, that the time for talking has ended, the time for acting has begun. A boy who would certainly have become one of the black leaders whose absence we lament today, had he lived. We can praise his passion and his principles, even if we disagree with his tactics.

We should be sad only that it’s taken us such a short time to forget him.