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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Drug War
The Killing Fields: East Oakland, the Panthers, and the CIA
The Killing Fields: East Oakland, the Panthers, and the CIA
Long before Edward Snowden revealed the secrets of the NSA and the federal government, another man revealed that the CIA was directly responsible for flooding the US with cocaine in the 1980s. His name was Gary Webb. In 1996, after publishing his three part article “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind The Crack Explosion” in the San Jose Mercury News, Gary was subjected to criticism, censorship, and was forced to quit his job. His employers at the Mercury News retracted the story and destroyed the CDROMS that had been created by the paper to spread the basic information of the CIA’s conspiracy. Despite his thorough and professional research, the mainstream media ignored his findings and Gary remained unemployable until his suicide on December 10th, 2004. This article is dedicated to his memory and to all those who died in the drug wars.
The Whole Story
Huey Newton used to climb up from the flats of Oakland and rob houses in the hills. He carried guns when he was a teenager and wandered the streets looking for something to get into, much like people do today. In 1966, he happened to meet a man named Bobby Seale. A few conversations led to them creating the Black Panther Party, a group that instantly became famous when they stormed the state capitol building in Sacramento carrying guns. Dressed in cool leather jackets, black hats, and sun glasses, the Party drew black people across the country towards their 10 Point Program.
1: WE WANT FREEDOM. WE WANT POWER TO DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES.
The Party quickly grew out of North and West Oakland and spread throughout the black neighborhoods of the city and the country. At first the Party only concerned itself with self-defense, monitoring the police, and distributing its newspaper. But once Huey was charged with murdering a cop and sent to prison, the effort to free him caused more Party chapters to form. In the first months of 1969, the Party launched its Free Breakfast For Children Program, an effort that drew the attention of the FBI.
2: WE WANT FULL EMPLOYMENT FOR OUR PEOPLE.
Along with the food program came free health clinics, schools, clothing stores, and self-defense classes. The Party was very strict regarding drugs in their neighborhoods. One of their most famous pamphlets was titled “Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide.” They did not allow pushers to openly deal or operate within their neighborhoods. Young black men and women were able to put their energy towards a liberatory project that promised them freedom from the toxic capitalist empire.
3: WE WANT AN END TO THE ROBBERY BY THE CAPITALISTS OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES.
The words of the 10 Point Program and the actions that followed from them terrified FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and then governor of California Ronald Reagan. These men feared a black uprising above all else. Reagan famously triggered unrest on the Berkeley campus by refusing to let Party member Eldridge Cleaver speak. He also had Angela Davis fired from UCLA for her militant political beliefs. While the governor did everything to keep black militants from finding an audience, Hoover and the FBI applied their Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to the Party, using thousands of methods to spread chaos and death within the organization.
4: WE WANT DECENT HOUSING, FIT FOR THE SHELTER OF HUMAN BEINGS.
Before the autonomous black communities in the US could expand even further, the federal government began an assault on their infrastructure, sending local police to shoot out various chapter headquarters, assassinate specific members, and arrest whomever they could. Only a few of the chapters survived the first attack, an offensive that came from every direction, even from within. The FBI created false conflicts within the group by sending phony letters to prominent Party members and using infiltrators to spread gossip and create beefs. By 1973, several Panthers had murdered each other, the two male leaders had split apart, and many chapters had disappeared.
5: WE WANT DECENT EDUCATION FOR OUR PEOPLE THAT EXPOSES THE TRUE NATURE OF THIS DECADENT AMERICAN SOCIETY. WE WANT EDUCATION THAT TEACHES US OUR TRUE HISTORY AND OUR ROLE IN THE PRESENT-DAY SOCIETY.
The Oakland chapter of the Party remained active throughout the mid 70’s, kept alive largely by Elaine Brown. They continued to run school and food programs, ran Party candidates for city council, and helped elect Oakland’s first black mayor. The Panther Liberation School was the culmination of their original efforts, teaching hundreds of black youth about their history and future. However, during this time period, Huey Newton’s addiction to cocaine began causing him to act paranoid and erratic. The Oakland chapter increasingly became involved in petty crime and soon enough Panthers were killing each other again, Elaine Brown resigned, and by the 1980’s the remnants of the Party had all but disappeared.
6: WE WANT COMPLETELY FREE HEALTH CARE FOR All BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE.
From 1976 to 1977, George H.W. Bush was the director of the CIA. In this position, he was able to oversee the flow of drugs from Columbia to Panama and then to the US, all of it facilitated by his agency. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the GOP nomination and selected Bush as his Vice President. This long time enemy of the black movement became president in 1981. With his ex-CIA conspirator, Reagan developed a plan to simultaneously attack communist guerrillas in Central America and neutralize an area of domestic radicalism: the black community.
7: WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND MURDER OF BLACK PEOPLE, OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR, All OPPRESSED PEOPLE INSIDE THE UNITED STATES.
During Reagan’s first year in office, the CIA created the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguens, a fascist guerilla army that fought the Sandanista rebels in Nicaragua. In order to generate funds for the army, the CIA allowed a known drug smuggler named Juan Norwin Meneses Cantarero to set up shop in San Francisco and coordinate the largest cocaine network on the West Coast. Overseen by the CIA, cocaine was flown from Columbia to Texas and then brought to South-Central LA where the infamous Rick Ross sold it on the streets. The money generated from these transactions was used to buy more weapons for the fascist army in Nicaragua.
8: WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO ALL WARS OF AGGRESSION.
Unable to break into the upper class market for cocaine, Ross began selling his product to crack dealers at low prices, saturating the streets with cheap product. Up north in Oakland, the heroin market was majority controlled by a man named Felix Mitchell, the leader of the East Oakland based 69 Mob. The use of crack did not become common in Oakland until 1984, and when the CIA product arrived the 69 Mob and a few other organizations distributed it. Across the Bay, in his expensive San Francisco home, Juan Cantarero met with CIA agents and conspired about their continuing operation. In 1985, Felix Mitchel was sent to federal prison for life where he was later stabbed. His incarceration and death did not hinder the CIA conspiracy; they simply found other purchasers for their cheap cocaine. But in East Oakland, his death triggered a war that continues to this day.
9: WE WANT FREEDOM FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE NOW HELD IN U. S. FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY, CITY AND MILITARY PRISONS AND JAILS. WE WANT TRIALS BY A JURY OF PEERS FOR All PERSONS CHARGED WITH SO-CALLED CRIMES UNDER THE LAWS OF THIS COUNTRY.
Huey Newton attended the funeral of Felix Mitchell. Under the control of the 69 Mob, the streets of Oakland had seen a minimum of gang violence. Huey Newton’s own use and sale of drugs had encouraged the younger generation to strengthen themselves with guns and drug money. Mitchell had kept the massive area of East Oakland united and limited the strife on the streets. Once he died and his organization fell apart, smaller gangs began to war with each other over drug turf, murders increased, crack use exploded, and East Oakland started to ferociously destroy itself. The pop-culture glamorization of murder, drugs, and fancy cars began, and by the time George H.W. Bush was president, gang culture was firmly established in black neighborhoods across the US.
10: WE WANT LAND, BREAD, HOUSING, EDUCATION, CLOTHING, JUSTICE, PEACE AND PEOPLE'S COMMUNITY CONTROL OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY.
Nearly all of the major industrial jobs in East Oakland vanished by the 1980’s. The white residents fled, the Eastmont Mall was deserted, and the vast geographical area became the killing fields. Thousands of black men and women have gone into prison forever, tens of thousands more have cycled through periods of incarceration, and hundreds have died on the streets. The control mechanism crafted by Reagan, Bush, and the CIA is still functioning, although now it autonomously propels itself, fueled by the desire for fame, money, and capitalist prosperity. The dream of autonomy for all oppressed peoples is slowly recovering and gathering strength, but the killing fields of East Oakland persist.
At the center of the Party is a commitment to building what is necessary to survive and live autonomously. Until we begin to build the material infrastructure necessary for healthy and autonomous communities, the nightmare of our enemy will continue to spread. The Party that started in Oakland has taught us what we should not repeat, how we can build, and what to look for as we move forward. Memory is a weapon. Let the Party remember itself.
For more information see: http://www.narconews.com/darkalliance/drugs/start.htm