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Here’s How The Nation Responded When A Black Militia Group Occupied A Government Building February 28, 2018

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Gun Control/Violence, History, Race, Racism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Here, believe it or not, is a true story about  NRA supported Republican sponsored legislation on gun control.  It happened in my and maybe your lifetime; I remember it well.  I guess all things are relatives.  For Republicans and the NRA when oppressed people begin to arm themselves, that is another thing.  In other words, Black Panthers trump (no pun intended) the Second Amendment.  Getting back to the present, unless and until Blacks, Latinos, and Women begin to arm themselves en masse; it’s open season on assault gun sales.  Government tyranny must be addressed; and when the attack begins we will need those AK-15 to mow down as many as we can of those government soldiers, even though, of course, we support our troops.

Huffingtonpost, 01/06/2016 01:38 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2016
Nearly 50 years ago, a group of armed Black Panthers entered the California state Capitol to protest a gun control bill.

When armed militants seized a government building in Burns, Oregon, on Saturday, stating their willingness to “kill and be killed” and promising to stay for “years,” the official response was cautious and restrained. Many onlookers wondered whether this would still be the case if the militants were people of color instead of white people.

If you’re not familiar with the history of protest in the U.S., you might not know that the armed occupation of government buildings hasn’t always been just for white guys. In fact, on May 2, 1967, a group of 30 Black Panthers walked into the California state Capitol building, toting rifles and shotguns and quickly garnering national headlines.

Just to be clear, there are a world of differences between the Black Panthers’ demonstration and what’s happening in Oregon now (although it is noteworthy that you have to go back to 1967 to find an example of black activists doing something even remotely analogous). The two groups employed different tactics, fought for different causes and — predictably — elicited different reactions in vastly different places and times. But the 1967 incident serves as one example of the way Americans tend to respond to black protest — which some say is always likely to be different from the way Americans react when it’s white people doing the protesting.

SACRAMENTO BEE/MCT VIA GETTY IMAGES
Members of the Black Panthers hold guns during the group’s protest at the California Assembly in May 1967.

In October 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense as a small community organization based in Oakland, California. Its members — including the 30 people who would travel to Sacramento the following May — believed that black Americans should exercise their constitutional right to defend themselves against an oppressive U.S. government. At the time, California lawmakers were trying to strip them of that right, and the Black Panthers wanted to tell the U.S., and the world, that they found this unacceptable.

Among other things, the Black Panthers’ agenda involved taking up arms and patrolling their communities to protect against rampant racism in policing. And that’s what they did in the first few months of the party’s existence, carrying guns openly in compliance with California law, driving around their neighborhoods, observing arrests and other law enforcement activity — effectively policing the police. Newton was even known for packing a law book alongside his rifle that he’d recite from when informing an officer that a civilian’s rights were being violated.

The patrols weren’t meant to encourage violence. The Panthers were committed to using force only if it was used against them, and at first, their mere presence appeared to be working as a check on abusive policing. But the Panthers’ willful assertion of their rights — like the day Newton reportedly stood up to a cop in front of a crowd of black onlookers — was unacceptable to white authority figures who’d come to expect complete deference from black communities, and who were happy to use fear and force to extract it.

Don Mulford, a GOP assemblyman who represented Oakland, responded to the Black Panther police patrols in 1967 with a bill to strip Californians of the right to openly carry firearms.

Nobody tried to stop the 30 Black Panthers — 24 men and six women, carrying rifles, shotguns and revolvers — as they walked through the doors of the state Capitol building on May 2 of that year. This was decades before Sept. 11 or the Oklahoma City bombing, and the protesters were, after all, legally allowed to have their weapons. They entered with their guns pointed at the ceiling. Behind them followed a horde of journalists they’d called to document the protest.

As the rest of the group waited nearby, six Panthers entered the assembly chamber, where they found lawmakers mid-session. Some legislators reportedly saw the protesters and took cover under desks. It was the last straw: Police finally ordered the protesters to leave the premises. The group maintained they were within their rights to be in the Capitol with their guns, but eventually they exited peacefully.

Outside, Seale delivered the Black Panther executive mandate before a crush of reporters. This section of remarks, reprinted in Hugh Pearson’s The Shadow of the Pantherstill resonates today:

“Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people. All of these efforts have been answered by more repression, deceit and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalate the oppression of black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods, and increased patrols have become familiar sights in black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of black people for relief from this increasing terror.”

Shortly after Seale finished, police arrested the group on felony charges of conspiracy to disrupt a legislative session. Seale accused them of manufacturing “trumped up charges,” but the protesters would later plead guilty to lesser misdemeanors.

Mulford’s legislation, which became known as the “Panthers Bill,” passed with the support of the National Rifle Association, which apparently believed that the whole “good guy with a gun” thing didn’t apply to black people. California Gov. Ronald Reagan (R), who would later campaign for president as a steadfast defender of the Second Amendment, signed the bill into law.

Although the May 2 demonstration failed to sway lawmakers into voting against the Mulford Act — and may have even convinced some of them that such a measure was necessary — it did succeed in making the Black Panthers front-page news. Headlines ran above evocative photos of armed black protesters, many wearing berets, bomber jackets and dark sunglasses, walking the halls of the California Capitol. And the American public’s response to that imagery reflected a nation deeply divided on the issue of race.

On one hand, such a defiant demonstration of black power served as recruitment fodder for the Black Panther Party, which had previously only been operating in the Bay Area. It grew in size and influence, opening branches in a number of major cities, building a presence on college campuses and ultimately surging to as many as 5,000 members across 49 local chapters in 1969.

The party even attracted a number of radical-leaning white supporters — many of whom were moved by the Black Panthers’ lesser-remembered efforts, like free breakfasts for children in black neighborhoods, drug and alcohol abuse awareness courses, community health and consumer classes and a variety of other programs focused on the health and wellness of their communities.

But it was clear from the moment the Black Panthers stepped inside the California Capitol that the nuances of the protest, and of Seale’s message, weren’t going to be understood by much of white America. The local media’s initial portrayal of the brief occupation as an “invasion” would lay the groundwork for the enduring narrative of the Black Panthers first and foremost as a militant anti-white movement.

SACRAMENTO BEE
The front page of The Sacramento Bee on the night of the protest.

In August 1967, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took steps to ensure that public support for the Black Panthers would remain marginal. In a memorandum just months after the armed protest, he deemed the group a “black nationalist, hate-type organization“ to be neutralized by COINTELPRO, a controversial initiative that notoriously skirted the law in its attempts to subvert any movement that Hoover saw as a potential source of civil disorder. A 2012 report further uncovered the extent of the agency’s activity, revealing that an FBI informant had actually provided the Black Panthers with weapons and training as early as 1967.

As the Panthers’ profile grew in the months and years following the California Capitol protest, so too did their troubles — something that many of the Panthers themselves regarded as no coincidence. Just two months after Hoover put the Black Panthers in his sights, Newton was arrested and convicted of killing Oakland police officer John Frey, a hotly contested development and the first in a series of major, nationwide controversies that engulfed the movement. (Newton ultimately served two years of his sentence before his conviction was overturned in a set of appeals.)

The strength of the Black Panthers ebbed and flowed in the years leading up to the organization’s dissolution in 1982. The party struggled to find a balance between its well-intentioned community efforts and its reliance on firepower and occasional violence to bolster its hardened image. High-profile shootouts with police and arrests of members created further rifts in the group’s leadership and helped cement the white establishment’s depiction of Black Panthers as extremists.

Many white Americans couldn’t get over their first impression of the Black Panthers. Coverage of the 1967 protest introduced them to the party, and the fear of black people exercising their rights in an empowered, intimidating fashion left its mark. To them, the Black Panthers were little more than a group of thugs unified behind militaristic trappings and a leftist political ideology. And to be fair, some members of the party were criminals not just in the minds of frightened white people.

The Black Panther protest in 1967 is not the “black version” of what’s happening in Oregon right now. Those demonstrators entered the state Capitol lawfully, lodged their complaints against a piece of racially motivated legislation and then left without incident. But for those who see racial double standards at play in Oregon, the scope and severity of the 1967 response — the way the Panthers’ demonstration brought about panicked headlines, a prolonged FBI sabotage effort and support for gun control from the NRA, of all groups — will serve as confirmation that race shapes the way the country reacts to protest.

 

This article has been updated to specify that one has to go as far back as 1967 to find black activists — rather than any activists of color at all — participating in a protest similar to the Oregon occupation.

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Gay marriage in the Heartland April 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Human Rights.
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Iowa Rally 

AP Photo/Steve Pope

Shannon Morgan of Minnesota, left, Riane Menardi of Wyoming, and Brittnany Swanson, also of Minnesota, rally in support of the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, on April 3 in Des Moines, Iowa.

 

By Jodi Mardesich

www.salon.com, April 15, 2009

How same-sex unions triumphed in Iowa, and what other states can learn from the victory.

April 15, 2009 | Iowa is known for its sweeping cornfields and pigs, fed by those vast amounts of corn. The landlocked state in the heartland isn’t exactly recognized as cutting edge or socially progressive, though its presidential caucuses do tend to predict the outcome of presidential races, as they did most recently with the selection of Barack Obama.

But with its Supreme Court decision in Varnum v. Brien, making it the third state to legalize same-sex marriage, Iowa is shedding its image as cornfed conservative. After the decision was announced April 3, about 1,000 people rallied in Western Gateway Park in Des Moines to celebrate, and Iowans showed their personality by toting signs, like “Corn Fed and Ready to Wed,” and even nodding to the coast: “This One’s for You, California.”

California, which at one time seemed destined to be the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, meanwhile awaits a decision from its Supreme Court on the validity of Proposition 8. The controversial ballot initiative, passed by a narrow margin in November, outlawed same-sex marriage, which had just been legalized via a California Supreme Court decision the previous May.

In fact, in the space of five days this month, the number of states where gays and lesbians can legally wed doubled, when Vermont and Iowa joined trendsetters Massachusetts and Connecticut. Vermont’s approval of same-sex marriage on April 7 was not surprising. After all, Vermont pioneered civil unions in the U.S. in 2000.

Vermonters have had nine years to observe that allowing gays and lesbians to enter into legally binding partnerships did not herald the end of the world. Fire and brimstone didn’t rain down on the land, plagues didn’t smite their iconic maple trees and most important of all, children in these nontraditional families were just as well-adjusted as their peers with straight parents.

The paths to legalizing same-sex marriage are quite different in Iowa, Vermont and California. Iowa, like Massachusetts in 2004 and Connecticut in 2008, relied on Supreme Court decisions to change the law. Vermont’s law, on the other hand, was voted in by the state Senate and House of Representatives, promptly vetoed by Gov. Jim Douglas, and then overridden by the Vermont Legislature. At first glance, the Iowa Supreme Court’s vote may appear surprising, especially to the-world-revolves-around-me Californians, but Iowa has an impressive history of pioneering civil rights legislation.

Iowa abolished slavery in 1839, 26 years before the passage of the 13th amendment in 1865. Iowa disallowed separate but equal racial segregation in schools in 1868, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of education outlawed it nationally. And in 1873, Iowa again protected racial minorities, extending anti-discrimination to public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court. Iowa was also the first state to allow women to practice law. “I think Iowa’s tradition played a big role in the victory,” said Camilla Taylor, lead counsel for Lambda Legal, which represented the couples seeking to marry in Iowa.

It’s a good thing that laws aren’t always left to the people. In Iowa, if the amendment had been put to a popular vote, as it was in California, it probably would not have passed. According to a University of Iowa Hawkeye telephone poll just before the Iowa Supreme Court vote, 26.2 percent of respondents said they supported gay marriage, and 27.9 percent opposed marriage but supported civil unions, while 36.7 percent opposed both. However, the younger voters were more accepting. Talk about a generational divide — among voters under 30, 60 percent supported gay marriage, and 75 percent supported formal recognition of gay relationships.

California’s position on marriage equality has lobbed back and forth. It has been defined through popular vote (2000’s Proposition 22, which defined marriage as a contract between a man and a woman), a maverick decision (San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s short-lived permission in 2004 for gays and lesbians to marry) and a Supreme Court decision annulling those marriages. And that was just the beginning; in 2008, a Supreme Court decision reversed Proposition 22 and allowed same-sex marriages again. Then came another popular vote — Proposition 8, which reversed the Supreme Court ruling and left about 18,000 couples who wed between May and November of last year to wonder if their marriages are valid.

Despite California’s reputation as freethinking and liberal — it was the first state to recognize domestic partnerships in 1999 — it has its own conservative heartland, the Central Valley, and Republican enclaves like Orange County that tarnish that reputation. Public opinion is divided — some polls show the majority opposing same-sex marriage, while others show the opposite. But polls in Iowa, California and Vermont show that among the younger voters, the majority favor marriage equality. All three states have this in common: They have a history of being on the forefront of civil liberties legislation.

California was the first state to dismantle anti-miscegenation laws in 1948 with Perez v. Sharp, 19 years before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed it in Loving v. Virginia — a very unpopular ruling at the time. The first Gallup poll on the subject, ten years after California’s landmark decision, revealed an astonishing 94 percent of Americans still opposed interracial marriage. Even ten years later, after the federal decision, 72 percent opposed it, according to Marriage Equality USA. Vermont never enacted anti-miscegenation laws, and was the first to abolish slavery.

The decision in Loving v. Virginia relied on the concept of equal protection found in the U.S. Constitution and that of all 50 states. It calls marriage one of the “basic civil rights of man,” and states that “to deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.”

Supporters of same-sex marriage believe it is a civil rights issue, and hope that the courts will enforce existing laws. “It’s not that we need a new constitution,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. “We just need a renewed commitment. Properly enforced, the existing equal protection would require equality.” So what worked in Iowa and Vermont? Activists and legislators made the issue personal, taking a cue from Harvey Milk, who advocated that people tell their stories.

One Iowa, an organization formed in 2006, just after Lambda Legal filed Varnum v. Brien, began holding forums across the state, in big cities and small towns, bringing together same-sex couples, legal scholars and people of faith to talk about the importance of marriage equality. Justin Uebelhor, communications director for One Iowa, said the group recognized the need to build support for marriage equality.

“We needed those folks to contact their elected officials,” he said, which they did, both before and after the vote. Lambda attorneys used a new strategy when they filed the case in Iowa: They included children of the couples as plaintiffs. They also called psychologists. “We took a lot of care in making as complete a record as possible of the social science of gay and lesbian parenting,” Taylor said. In light of the New York court’s 2006 decision against same-sex marriage that relied in part on “intuition” that children would be better off with a mother and a father (how many families lack one of those?), Lambda included statements from child development and other experts to make the case that children of gay and lesbian parents are just as well-adjusted as children of heterosexual parents.

This strategy to make things personal appears to be helping. The National Organization for Marriage launched a $1.5 million advertising campaign that included broadcasting the fear-mongering “The Gathering Storm,” which claims that same-sex marriage will infringe the rights of straight people. The video, denounced by gay rights activists, is intended to encourage Iowans to pass a law to dismantle the ruling.

When the embarrassing audition tapes showed up on YouTube, revealing that the people talking about their fear of the darkness were actors, NOM requested the video’s removal. To undo the Supreme Court’s ruling, Iowans would have to amend their constitution. So far, Iowans have not persuaded legislators to introduce a bill to negate same-sex marriage in the state. In order to change the state constitution, the Legislature must vote on the issue in two separate years. It appears unlikely that the current Legislature, which is about to end its 2008-2009 session, will vote on it, meaning that it could be changed by 2012 at the earliest.

Vermont activists, including an organization called Vermont Freedom to Marry, took a similar approach. “We had frank discussions with people: I am gay and I am your neighbor and I am your farmer and I want the same rights that you have,” said Jason Lorber, an openly gay state representative from Burlington. “In California, I don’t think those discussions took place.” California has a population of 38 million. Vermont, at 600,000, is smaller than San Francisco.

Now, attention is turning back to California, where the state Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling by early June on whether Proposition 8 is valid. The California constitution can be changed in two ways: through amendments and revisions. The amendment process is designed for ordinary changes, and can be done through the Legislature or through a signature collection that leads to a vote of the people. “California has an unusually low threshold for changing the constitution,” Wolfson said.

The California Supreme Court is currently deciding whether Proposition 8 was simply an amendment or a revision that should have gone through a more rigorous process. “It’s hard to imagine anyone considering the idea of equal protection a mere amendment,” Wolfson says. “Writing out the rights of a minority is a revision.” And if it was a revision, it’s invalid, Lambda’s Taylor said. “We firmly believe it is a revision — it redraws equal protection to permit the exclusion of some people from the guarantee of equality based on a simple majority vote.” Yet in a hearing March 6, it appeared that some Supreme Court justices were hesitant to go against the will of the people. Their decision is expected by early June.

Adding to the momentum, this Thursday, New York’s Gov. David Paterson plans to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriages in the state.  “We’ve got New Hampshire coming up for vote, New York and New Jersey. We’ve got momentum on our side, and we’ve got time on our side,” Lorber said. “When you talk to youth, they just don’t even get what the controversy is all about.”

Iowa’s choices in recent presidential caucuses have made it a bellwether of sorts in presidential races — hence the saying, “As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.” The Iowa decision is important precisely because it’s in the heartland, Taylor said. “It highlights for the nation that marriage equality across the country is inevitable. It’s simply a matter of time and we still have some years to struggle, but we’ve turned the corner as a nation.”