Neutralize their activities: The footprints of COINTELPRO from the Black Panther Party to the MOVE Organization and beyond
by Uhuru Baraka Rowe
In the spirit of the MOVE conference held May 5-7 in Philadelphia to educate the public about the MOVE organization, I will like to expound on the U.S. government sanctioned attacks on MOVE within the larger context of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) campaign of harassment, murder, frame-ups and imprisonment of Black revolutionaries during the radical ‘60s and ‘70s, and even today, in an effort to thwart the realization and actualization of Black unity, Black power and Black liberation.
The MOVE Organization, founded by John Africa, a former Black Panther, is a militant Black liberation “back-to-nature” communal organization, which, like the Black Panthers, advocated armed self-defense. This stance put the MOVE organization – like the Black Panther Party – unwittingly in the cross-hairs of the federal government.
I will attempt to draw a connection between the tactics used to attack, dismantle and destroy the Black Panther Party and disrupt the Black Liberation Movement and the attacks on the MOVE Organization and the assassination and imprisonment of its members in 1978 and 1985 as being directly related to former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal counterintelligence program, although this program was discontinued in 1971. More broadly, COINTELPRO spied on, framed and outright murdered innocent American citizens deemed subversive. This included those in the Communist, Civil Rights, Human Rights, anti-war, anti-imperialist movements and ESPECIALLY those in the militant Black Liberation Movement.
The MOVE Organization, founded by John Africa, a former Black Panther, is a militant Black liberation “back-to-nature” communal organization, which, like the Black Panthers, advocated armed self-defense.
Less than one year after Dr. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) in West Oakland on Oct. 22, 1966, Hoover labeled the BPP the “the greatest threat to internal security of the country.” This one statement represented a declaration of domestic war against the BPP.
According to an August 1967 FBI internal memorandum, the stated goals of COINTELPRO during this period were to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist hate-type organizations and groupings.” This memorandum was distributed by Hoover to every FBI field office in the country with specific instructions to not “make this program public” or “tell anybody it exists.”
COINTELPRO spied on, framed and outright murdered innocent American citizens deemed subversive. This included those in the Communist, Civil Rights, Human Rights, anti-war, anti-imperialist movements and ESPECIALLY those in the militant Black Liberation Movement.
The goals of COINTELPRO were achieved by Hoover via illegal tactics like spying, infiltration, wiretaps, entrapments, frame-ups, fomenting and instigating conflicts and animosities between various Black nationalist groups, and outright assassinations. More than 240 out of 290 COINTELPRO actions were directed against the BPP.
During 1969 alone, over 400 Black Panthers were profiled, stopped and arrested; over 20 BPP offices nationwide were illegally raided without search or arrest warrants. By the end of 1971, 40 members of the BPP had been assassinated by the police.
The most notable and well-known COINTELPRO responsible assassinations were of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, Lil’ Bobby Hutton on April 6, 1968, Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and John Huggins on Jan. 17, 1969, Fred Hampton Sr. and Mark Clark on Dec. 4, 1969, and Carl Bernard Hampton on July 26, 1970.
There were the attempted COINTELPRO assassinations of Black Panthers on Dec. 9, 1969, at their Los Angeles chapter headquarters on 41st and Central, where the gestapo SWAT unit was deployed for the first time in Amerikkkan history. Assassination of the leadership of the Republic of New Afrika as attempted on Aug. 18, 1971, in Jackson, Mississippi.
The goals of COINTELPRO were achieved by Hoover via illegal tactics like spying, infiltration, wiretaps, entrapments, frame-ups, fomenting and instigating conflicts and animosities between various Black nationalist groups, and outright assassinations.
The last COINTELPRO action was reportedly the 1971 frame-up convictions of Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, also known as David Rice, for the August 1970 bombing murder of an Omaha police officer. Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa died in the Nebraska State Prison on March 11, 2016. Ed Poindexter remains entombed in a prison cell after 47 consecutive years.
The illegal and clandestine COINTELPRO was exposed and forced to shut down in 1971 when radical white activists broke into the FBI office in Media, Penn., and retrieved what came to be known as the COINTELPRO Papers. They released copies of it to various corporate news agencies across the country.
The point I want to make clear is just as the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865 did not prevent the reconstruction of neo-slavery here in the 21st century in the form of the criminalization and mass incarceration of Black people, the dismantling of COINTELPRO in 1971 has not prevented the continued frame-up arrests, convictions and assassinations of those fighting for the liberation of Black and oppressed people by the Amerikkkan government through the FBI, Homeland Security etc.
The footprints of COINTELPRO-like operations can be seen in the Aug. 8, 1978, military assault on the MOVE organization in Philadelphia. On this day, MOVE’s Powelton Village compound was surrounded and shot up by approximately 600 Philadelphia cops, who had such an uncontrollable lust for blood, they killed one of their own officers in the process.
The following nine MOVE members were framed up for the officer’s death and sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison: Merle Africa, Janine Phillips Africa, Debbie Sims Africa, Janet Holloway Africa, Delbert Orr Africa, William Phillips Africa, Charles Sims Africa, Edward Goodman Africa and Michael Davis Africa. They have since become known as the MOVE 9.
The dismantling of COINTELPRO in 1971 has not prevented the continued frame-up arrests, convictions and assassinations of those fighting for the liberation of Black and oppressed people by the Amerikkkan government through the FBI, Homeland Security etc.
The footprints of COINTELPRO can be seen on the frame-up conviction of former Black Panther, journalist and MOVE supporter Mumia Abu-Jamal, for the December 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.
They are undeniably seen on the May 13, 1985, assault on MOVE by the Philadelphia Police Department and the FBI, this time at their Osage Avenue compound. When the well fortified walls of this compound could not be penetrated by police bullets, they dropped a bomb on the roof from a helicopter resulting in an inferno which burned 11 MOVE members to death, including five children and decimated an entire Black neighborhood.
This bombing was eerily similar to the 1921 bombing of a prosperous Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, dubbed Black Wall Street. Firefighters on the scene of the 1985 bombing reported that the Philadelphia Police Department and the FBI prevented them from extinguishing the blaze and even shot at MOVE members attempting to flee the fire. When it was all over, only Ramona Africa and 13-year-old Birdie Africa survived.
If COINTELPRO was allegedly dismantled in 1971 after being exposed as a secret domestic war strategy against the Black Liberation Movement and other liberation movements which used blatantly illegal means to murder, frame, harass and imprison Black Freedom Fighters, then how does one explain the events from 1971 onward, especially the two assaults on the MOVE organization?
The answer is simple: Even though the FBI dropped the name, COINTELPRO is still alive and well, and is busy stifling dissent by imprisoning, discrediting, harassing and even killing those brave enough to radically oppose this corrupt american government which, since 1492, has bathed in the blood of millions, perhaps billions of innocent people all across the planet.
Even though the FBI dropped the name, COINTELPRO is still alive and well, and is busy stifling dissent by imprisoning, discrediting, harassing and even killing those brave enough to radically oppose this corrupt american government.
It was in the spirit of COINTELPRO that MOVE 9 members Merle Africa and William Phillips Africa and former Black Panter Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa died in prison in March 13, 1998, Jan. 10, 2015, and March 11, 2016, respectively, under highly suspicious circumstances.
It is the spirit of COINTELPRO that the remaining MOVE 9 members and former Black Panthers like Ed Poindexter, Herman Bell, Seth Hayes, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom), Sundiata Acoli and several others remain entombed in prison cells and are repeatedly denied parole for obviously political reasons.
It was in the spirit of COINTELPRO that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, at the behest of the vindictive Philadelphia Fraternal Order of the Police, continued its original mission to legally lynch Mumia Abu-Jamal by denying him medical treatment for his advanced Hepatitis C infection until forced by the court.
It was in the spirit of COINTELPRO that the FBI, on May 2, 2013, placed Assata Shakur on the ‘Most Wanted Terrorist” list with an offer of a $1 million reward for information leading to her capture and return. This award adds to the $1 million reward already offered by the New Jersey state government.
It is in the spirit of COINTELPRO that the Los Angeles Police Department, in collaboration with the FBI, has since 1996 embarked on a campaign to harass, frame, imprison and even assassinate members of the Black Riders Liberation Party. The Black Riders is a New Generation Black Panther Party for Self-Defense founded by former gang banging youth-turned-revolutionaries in a youth gang prison as a vehicle to end gang violence and Black-on-Black violence, build “bulletproof Black-on-Black love and unity” and organize against capitalist white supremacy and police brutality.
It is in the spirit of COINTELPRO that the corporate media, in collusion with right wing government officials and various police departments, have attempted to discredit, slander and vilify the Black Lives Matter movement as a bunch of anti-government, anti-police and white-hating extremists who advocate the killing of police officers, government officials and white people. This strategy used against the Black Lives Matter movement was also used against the BPP in an effort to discredit them in the eyes of broader society, especially in the eyes of potential white sympathizers.
This strategy mirrors Goal No. 4 of Hoover’s COINTELPRO: “Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining respectability by discrediting them … to the white community, both the responsible community and to ‘liberals’ who have vestiges of sympathy for militant black nationalist (sic) simply because they are Negroes.”
And so, what remains is that it is in the spirit of the revolutionary ‘60s and ‘70s that we must resist the racist power structure, the repression of the New Black Liberation Movement and the continued unjust imprisonment of political prisoners and prisoners of war.
So what is to be done? A simple protest? Not if we desire real change and to end our oppression once and for all. Protests often flare up, sometimes after being popularized on social media and, after a short period of time, they fizzle out, and with them, the energy, rage and enthusiasm of The People. The purpose of protest (in my opinion) should not be an occasion to simply show up and voice our opposition against a specific oppression or injustice and then fade back into obscurity once concessions are promised but not given.
What remains is that it is in the spirit of the revolutionary ‘60s and ‘70s that we must resist the racist power structure, the repression of the New Black Liberation Movement and the continued unjust imprisonment of political prisoners and prisoners of war.
The purpose of protest, i.e. struggle, should be not to seek concessions but to FORCE complete change. And if we only succeed in gaining crumbs from the table of the oppressor but fail to force complete change, then capitalist oppression and racism will do what they have always done when confronted with protests: slither like a snake behind closed doors, reorganize and reconstruct themselves, then arise anew.
We’ve moved from chattel slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration; from Black codes to felony disenfranchisement laws; from lynchings and Ku Klux Klan terror to police killings of unarmed Black people; from fugitive slave catchers to police officers – modern day slave catchers – patrolling and occupying Black communities seeking to capture Black bodies.
The only way the We the People can break this cyclical reorganization and reconstruction of racist and capitalist oppression is by forcing COMPLETE change – utilizing whatever force is necessary to accomplish this task – or by completely dismantling the current system and building a new one in its place.
The only way the We the People can break this cyclical reorganization and reconstruction of racist and capitalist oppression is by forcing COMPLETE change or by completely dismantling the current system and building a new one in its place.
In this era of multiracial class solidarity among the oppressed people on the planet, and savvy social media organizing, especially among the youth, we certainly have the capacity to do either. The question is do we recognize our potential and if so, when are we going to MOVE?
Free ALL political prisoners and prisoners of war!
Send our brother some love and light: Uhuru Rowe, 1131545, Sussex 2 State Prison, 24427 Musselwhite Dr., Waverly VA 23891.