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‘COINTELPRO 101’: an interview wit’ filmmaker Claude Marks

March 17, 2011

Attend a screening – March 18 and 22 in Berkeley, March 30 and April 2 in San Francisco

by Minister of Information JR

In “COINTELPRO 101,” you’ll hear Fred Hampton’s rallying cry in his own voice: “You can jail a revolutionary, but you can’t jail a revolution!”
“COINTELPRO 101” is a recently released documentary that takes a long hard look at the deeds of the U.S. government under the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program. We are featuring this interview because it was the government’s program to crush resistance that led to the deportation of Marcus Garvey, the assassinations of Malcolm X, George Jackson, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr., Bunchy Carter, Filiberto Rios and others, the incarceration on trumped up charges of Mumia Abu Jamal, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, the Angola 3, the MOVE 9, the Omaha 2, Veronza Bowers, Mutulu Shakur, Oscar Romero, Leonard Peltier and others who are still languishing in this country’s concentration camps.

Our people are not taught this history in colonial elementary schools or high schools, although acts by the government under this program have greatly affected the quality of life of people who are oppressed in Amerikkka by killing, falsely imprisoning and harassing our grassroots leaders in our resistance movements.

So we took it up ourselves, at the Block Report and the SF Bay View, to give you a little education on the subject. Read the exclusive interview with Claude Marks, the filmmaker of “COINTELPRO 101” …

M.O.I. JR: Before we get into the movie, what is the Counter Intelligence Program aka COINTELPRO?

Claude: COINTELPRO may not be a well-understood acronym, but its meaning and continuing impact are absolutely central to understanding the government’s wars and repression against progressive movements. COINTELPRO represents the state’s strategy to prevent movements and communities from overturning white supremacy and creating racial justice.

COINTELPRO is both a formal program of the FBI and a term frequently used to describe a conspiracy among government agencies – local, state and federal – to destroy movements for self-determination and liberation for Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous struggles, as well as mount an institutionalized attack against allies of these movements and other progressive organizations.

M.O.I. JR: What inspired you to do a movie on this topic?

Claude: After making “Legacy of Torture,” which focuses on the Black Panther Party and the SF 8 case, it made sense to expose COINTELPRO in greater detail and look at the broad and seeping nature of government repression. So in “COINTELPRO 101” we look at examples of how the government’s attacks are consistent with the history of genocide and settler colonialism.

M.O.I. JR: What have your personal run-ins been like with COINTELPRO?

Claude: I was a participant in a conspiracy to break a Puerto Rican political prisoner out of Leavenworth. The plan was infiltrated by the FBI and was unsuccessful. This resulted in a multi-year pursuit by the FBI and ultimately with imprisonment.

M.O.I. JR: What is the documentary about? Who does it feature?

Claude: The story of COINTELPRO is mainly told by activists who experienced it.

Interviews in the video include:

  • Muhammad Ahmad (Max Stanford), founder of Revolutionary Action Movement and professor at Temple University.
  • Bob Boyle, attorney representing many activists and political prisoners targeted by COINTELPRO.
  • Kathleen Cleaver, former leader of the Black Panther Party, now professor of law at Emory and Yale Universities and an expert on COINTELPRO.
  • Ward Churchill, just-removed professor at the University of Colorado who has written extensively about COINTELPRO.
  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, long-time Native American activist and educator.
  • Priscilla Falcon, long-time Mexicana activist and professor whose husband was assassinated for his leadership in the Chicano struggle.
  • Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt, former leader of the Black Panther Party who was falsely imprisoned for 27 years in a COINTELPRO case.
  • Jose Lopez, director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Chicago and long-time advocate of Puerto Rican independence.
  • Francisco “Kiko” Martinez, long-time Chicano/Mexicano activist and attorney.
  • Lucy Rodriguez, Puerto Rican Independentista and former political prisoner.
  • Ricardo Romero, long-time Chicano/Mexicano activist and Grand Jury resister.
  • Akinyele Umoja, African American history scholar at Georgia State University.
  • Laura Whitehorn, radical activist and former political prisoner who was targeted by the federal government.

M.O.I. JR: What has the response been like?

Claude: As we take the film on the road, it is especially rewarding to see the response from young students. They are amazed that none of this history is taught in their schools. So the impact is powerful by pushing people to think more openly today about the ways that governments and police agencies act with impunity in our communities; how “terrorism” is defined to suit their needs and criminalize conscious resistance; how Islamophobia and anti-immigrant campaigns function to support racism; how public education is targeted for demise while prisons are bursting at the seams.

M.O.I. JR: Why do people need to know about COINTELPRO specifically?

Claude: The conflicts we face with a powerful government that does not serve the people, rather represents the elite and corporate interests, has historic roots. By understanding this history, we can learn from the mistakes of the past but, more importantly, take inspiration from the legacies of resistance. It is up to us to fight for a more just and humane world – one where we can insure that everyone has basic human rights, that our communities are embracing future generations rather than locking them up.

M.O.I. JR: After people educate themselves, what do you recommend they do to fight it?

Claude: There are many different ways to address what goals we have. Self-determination varies from community to community, but we can’t expect that those in power will reach a moral epiphany and restore justice, end discrimination and suddenly commit their resources to ending wars. That is up to us to organize and win.

M.O.I. JR: When can people see the movie again in the Bay?

Claude: Many showings are being planned. The best way is to check our website, http://www.freedomarchives.org/Cointelpro.html. The next showings are

  • Friday, March 18, 5:30 p.m., at the UC Berkeley Student Union
  • Tuesday, March 22, 7 p.m., at Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar St., Berkeley
  • Wednesday, March 30, 7 p.m., at CIIS, 1453 Mission St., San Francisco
  • Saturday, April 2, 4 p.m., USF Human Rights Film Festival, San Francisco

We also have a page of suggested resources for people interested in more in-depth materials as well as ideas for how to teach and take the film into schools and communities. The suggestions can grow with input from the community.

DVDs will be available starting in April.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com.

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