Thursday, August 1, 1974

"All the way, with the BLA!"

(1974-08, by F. Dzerzhinsky, YlPster Times)
Early in 1971, the Black Panther Party divided in two. The faction headed by Huey Newton insisted that survival programs, consisting mainly of giving away free chickens at Panther Campaign Rallies, should be the exclusive program of the BPP. Any discussion to the contrary was counter-revolutionary, any support of armed struggle was treason. Huey Newton became the Supreme Commander of the Black Panther Party. All collective decision making was abandoned. Black capitalism, the Black Church, and the Democratic Party were all embraced. Any chapters that refused this change in direction were expelled. Major opposition came from the New York and Los Angeles BPP, and the International Section of the BPP in Algiers. All these sections were expelled from the BPP. The revolutionaries in these chapters, including the N.Y. Panther 21, chose a course of underground armed struggle. They established cells, fled into exile, went underground, began laying the groundwork for a guerrilla organization that still exists today. That organization is the Black Liberation Army. This is their story:
From the time a group of Weatherpeople bombed the home of Panther 21 Judge Murtagh, a police guard had to be kept at his home, and at D.A. Frank Hogan's house. Three months after the trial was over, on Malcolm X's birthday, the cops at Hogan's house left duty on a coffee break. Two blocks away they were both killed when "unknown persons" tore their car apart with machine gun fire. A phone call to the New York Daily News later that night gave credit to the Black Liberation Army. The cops and the media reacted cautiously, not wanting to make this thing any bigger than it already was. And no one knew how big that was. All the cops knew was a lot of Panthers, a lot of community workers were disappearing.
Two weeks later, a Mafia heroin distribution center on 125th St. in Harlem was held up by 5 armed guerrillas. An off-duty cop and a Mafia security guard were both worked over. The cops, noticing the steady stream of business which characterizes such places had ended, surrounded the place and fired in tear gas. Three of the guerrillas escaped, but Richard Moore (Dharuba) and Ed Josephs, both of the Panther 21, both of whom were thought to be in Algiers, were busted for attempted murder, armed robbery and possession of dangerous weapons.
Police boasted, for the first but definitely not the last time, that they had "broken the back" of a terrorist conspiracy. But this became questionable as other elements in the BLA responded with 3 bank robberies, an armed assault on a San Franscisco police station that left one cop dead, a shoot-out in Los Angeles, an attempted bazooka attack on a cop car in Queens, and the successful grenading of another cop car in Queens which killed the 2 cops inside. 
At the same time, 2 Atlanta Panther leaders were sprung from jail, escaping through a police roadblock in South Carolina, leaving one cop dead. FBI wanted posters were issued for over 10 people, warning that they were HEAVILY armed and EXTREMELY dangerous. While all of this was happening, George Jackson was murdered. Angela Davis was in jail, and the Attica Rebellion was crushed. 
White radicals here never have been up against a situation where our most active leaders and organizers have been systematically hunted down and murdered by cops and secret police the way Black and Chicano movements have. But there's been a steady attrition of BLA members too hunted or too clean to be allowed to come to trial. The BLA has a long history of being ambushed by cops, of being shot while trying to escape, of being killed in their sleep, or murdered in jail. 
In December of 1971, three ex-N.Y. Panthers, suspected by the cops of being BLA members, were set up for an assassination try. A group of Red Squad detectives burst into a restaurant and opened fire on the three men. Two were killed instantly, the third one managed to pull his gun out, wound the cops and escape into the streets. 
BLA retaliation was swift—it had to be. As urban guerrillas, they knew the oppressor had to pay, as a deterrent. In such a situation, the urban guerrillas take the offensive. 
In the next 3 days station houses in every borough in New York came under sniper and bombing attacks. Four cops were killed and 6 were wounded. Two cops were killed on the Lower East Side; one black, one white. 
The mass media and the cops attempted to divide the Black Community from the BLA by saying that the BLA was waging a murder campaign only against Black cops. To disprove this, and up the ante, they shot two white cops the next night. Even though it was New Year's Eve, a police leaves were canceled. Police stations resembled fortresses. Cops wore body armor, carried rifles, shotguns, even grenade launchers. They traveled four in a car. Mocking this whole offensive, the BLA hit up a bank for funds, netting $75,000. 
Police assassination continued, in places where the BLA wasn't able to strike back. In Florida, 20 FBI agents surrounded a motel. They burst into a room firing and killed Frank Fields, wanted for one of the 1971 bank robberies. In St. Louis, five FBI agents ambushed Ron Carter, a suspected BLA member, killing him. 
In New York, Dharuba was given 25 years for armed robbery. Three BLA women guerrillas responded by ambushing two cops, wounding them both. And in the middle of January, the BLA issued a communique announcing that Mark Essex, the New Orleans Howard Johnson's sniper, was a member of the BLA. The mass media chose to overlook this, not wishing to panic people into believing that a "national conspiracy to assassinate policemen" did exist. 
In 1973, the BLA suffered some heavy setbacks as did the Uruguayan Tupamaros, the West German "Red Army" and Chilean and Palestinian guerrillas. The ruling class press, which had never quite made up its mind whether the BLA did exist, now loudly trumpeted its death, as did the FBI, the New York Police, the Huey Newton Democrats and apathetic radicals who woke from their burn-out long enough to mumble, "The BLA? Oh, they've been wiped out, yawn." 
In fact, going through our sources of information in the mass media, we found no less than 5 articles which announced that once and for all the mastermind, the key leaders, the wanted gunmen of the BLA were all dead or in jail. The BLA was becoming a remarkable creature. It was repeatedly buried, but somehow always re-emerged, more audacious and together than before its "death." 
This growth and militancy stood in direct contrast with so many white radicals, who having made their decision to work for McGovern, or plant organic veggies, or "organize da workers" (seeing any kind of armed struggle as a threat to bring back the days of 1970 when white radicals had to worry about going in front of grand juries and other torturous things), refused to lift a finger as Brazilian-type police terror came down on the Black Community, and the BLA in particular. 
In the early part of 1973 another Mafia nightclub was knocked over by BLA people. Two cops were wounded in an ambush. In San Francisco three BLAers were arrested trying to shoot at a cop car with an AK-47 that jammed. One of them was carrying the service revolver of the white cop killed on the Lower East Side. Later that month, a BLA hide-out was raided in New York, with 2 people arrested for possession of explosives. Another person busted was "released under police protection"—an informer. 
On May 2nd, Zayd Maylik Shakur was killed, and Joan Cheismard and Clark Squire were captured after a shoot-out between them and what became 10 cops on the New Jersey Turnpike. What exactly went down is still unclear, but basically: 
The BLA car was pulled over by a N.J. State Trooper, who radioed in for a back-up unit at the same time. When the back-up patrol car arrived, a shoot-out erupted. Zayd Malik Shakur was killed or, the spot, but Joan and Clark escaped, both wounded, after leaving one cop dead. It's unclear whether the cop was even shot by them or merely caught in a crossfire. Joanne Cheismard was discovered 1/4  mile away, and was beaten while being brought to the Essex County Hospital, and again in the hospital. Clark Squire was not caught until the next day, after 700 state troopers, helicopters, dogs and armored personnel carriers were brought in. 
In Harlem, 10,000 people turned out for Zayd Malik Shakur's funeral, chanting support of the BLA. Less than a month and a half later this same neighborhood was to erupt into guerrilla warfare after a cop killed a ten-year-old Black kid by shooting him in the back. 
New York police again boasted that all top leaders of the BLA had been captured, that the backbone of the BLA had been broken. Clark Squire responded to this in a letter from jail saying, "Every time the oppressor says he has broken the back of the Revolutionaries, of the BLA, more Brothers and Sisters will rise to make him gag, strangle and choke on his own lies, suffocate in the vomit of his own greed ..." 
On June 2, a cop was killed in an ambush on New York's Upper West Side. The BLA took credit. The next night another cop was wounded in a subway ambush. Victor Cumberbatch was busted in a hospital and charged with being the gunman in both cases. 
The next night over 100 N.Y. cops and FBI raided a BLA hideout and killed 2 people they found inside. The night after another subway cop was killed. Two more BLA hideouts were sprung, with several FBI fugitives captured. After this brief week-long struggle, everything was quiet. 
Several more cop murders were blamed on the NA, but it's impossible to say if they did them or not. Abandoning the policy of denying the BLA's existence, the police brass and mass media were creating BLA crimes where they weren't even involved. Every bank robbery involving a Black gunman, every cop killed or assaulted, was labeled BLA. 
At the same time cops were telling the people not to panic, that it was only a few isolated, paranoid bands, soon to be rounded up. Both exaggerations missed the point. With over 25 people in jail, and over 20 dead, the BLA had been hurt; but not killed. A few months to regroup, re-arm, to plan where to strike next and... 
On September 27, Henry Brown, who was being held on multiple counts of murder and bank robbery, escaped from his guards outside the Brooklyn House of Detention. A waiting car carried him away. This upset the police and prison brass very much, beczuse a week before, Brown told his fellow prisoners and guards, that as long as the BLA existed, no prison could hold him. A week later, betrayed by an informer, he was captured.
Two weeks later, 3 BLAers—Avon White, Melvin Kearney and Bob Hayes—were busted in a raid conducted by Transit Authority cops, N.Y. Police sharp-shooters, and FBI agents. They were charged with attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms. Avon White, after "questioning" decided to squeal, and became a star witness at virtually every BLA trial being held.
In early December, Joanne Cheismard and Clark Squire went on trial in New Jersey for the Turnpike shoot-out. Naturally, they had an all white jury, a white judge. Reading material for the jury allowed into the jury room included Asst. Police Chief Robert Daley's Target Blue, which devoted 4 chapters to slandering the BLA, labeling them nihilistic murderers and marijuana peddlers.
During the trial over 100 BLA supporters were expelled from the court room, over 20 arrested. And the judge allowed members of the American Nazi Party in as "observers." Joanne and Clark were eventually removed from the courtroom. Joanne was separated from the trial and Clark Squire was sentenced to life in prison.
On April 17 of this year, a BLA team of at least 4 people smuggled an acetylene torch, several pistols, and an automatic weapon into the Tombs, where most BLA members are being held. They disarmed, handcuffed and gagged the guards on duty, and used the acetylene torch to melt down a door that separated them from the prisoners. Unfortunately, the torch ran out of oxygen before the job was completed. But it still was a major coup for a supposedly "dead" BLA.
There are rumors, sparked by the fact that there have been close to 100 escapes of other prisoners from New York jails, that some guards with BLA sympathies may have helped smuggle the weapons and torches in. The 4 people involved slipped out of the Tombs without being captured. Two of the four identified by prison officials were captured May 3 in New Haven after robbing a bank and several other places, and engaging in a running gun battle with several dozen cops. 
These latest actions show that the BLA's latest "death" is again premature. Indeed, the ranks of urban guerrillas in America have been swelled since last June by the August 7th Revolutionary Movement, which has taken credit for shooting down a police helicopter in Oakland, executing several heroin pushers in Chino, Ca., and murdering a prison guard known to be particularly sadistic towards prisoners. And of course there's the Symbionese Liberation Army. Even a few cells of the Weather Underground have pulled off actions. Despite the curtain of silence or slander pulled over urban guerrillas in America by a frantically paranoid radical movement, despite the execution and railroading of many revolutionary fighters, despite a secret police machinery that still operates Watergate or not, urban guerrilla warfare will continue. 
The latest news of a United Front of North American guerrillas—the "United People's Liberation Army"—shows that a whole strata of political activists has turned away from the parochial organizing of the liberal, Stalinist Left toward revolutionary violence, and those who dismiss them all as CIA figments are full of shit. As Joanne Cheismard said: "There is, and there always will be, until every black man, woman and child is free, a Black Liberation Army."