interviewed by JR.
Update on the San Francisco 8
by Kiilu Nyasha
It’s not often the Movement can celebrate a victory. So I’m delighted to report that we’ve won the release on bail of four of our six elders eligible for bail -- with two more expected to be out within days. Richard O’Neal and Richard Brown were first, out August 29 and 30th respectively, followed by Ray Boudreaux and Harold Taylor, September 11 and 12th. Hank Jones and Francisco “Cisco” Torres should be out by the time this paper appears.
The generation gap took a big hit on September 11 when the two Richards, dressed in suits and ties (instead of orange jumpsuits and chains) warmly embraced supporters outside the Department 23 courtroom before the hearing. Joining the largely elder group of supporters for a joyous and spontaneous celebration in the hall were 20 10th-grade students from Met West High School in Oakland.
Unfortunately, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (aka Anthony Bottom), previously known as the New York 3, are not eligible for bail having spent 34 and 36 years, respectively, in New York prisons. They are eligible for parole and both will go to board again in 2008. Since this case has been partly responsible for their continued incarceration, if it’s thrown out (as it should be for lack of evidence), a significant barrier to their being granted parole would be removed. For more information on the NY3, click here.
On August 22, to a courtroom filled with supporters and three rows of police and FBI agents including the infamous torturer, Detective Erdelatz, Judge Moscone announced, “No one is going to be pleased by everything that happens.” That said, he reduced the bails of all six brothers, virtually ignoring the Attorney General’s call for the original bails to apply. The prosecution wanted bail raised from $3 to $5 million each!
For example, in reducing Harold Taylor’s bail to $350,000, he cited the dismissal of this same charge in 1975; the acquittal in the so-called “L.A. shootout” in 1976 (John Bowman, Ray Boudreaux and Harold were fired on by police and shot back in self-defense); Harold’s employment for 21 years or until his medical condition prevented him from working any longer, as well as his community service.
The judge also noted Hank Jones’ honorable discharge from the U.S. Marines (Jones is a veteran, along with Boudreaux and Torres.), Richard O’Neal’s Commendation from the S.F. Fire Department for rescuing two people from a fire, and Boudreaux’s 30-year marriage and 25 years of employment as an electrician for L.A. County.
The Bail Hearings:
During the bail hearings, defendants’ attorneys described these elders’ community service. Hank and Ray were founders of the Black Student Union at S.F. State University that achieved organizing the first Black studies programs in colleges and universities nationwide. Richard Brown, 66, spent 23 years mentoring countless young people in the Western Addition, worked 20 at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, has been a good father to his 11 children and raised five more, received awards from the Ca. State Senate and Legislature, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.
Richard O’Neal, who lost his wife to random homicide in 1979, raised his son and another child alone, was employed by the City for 35 years. The judge received 60 supportive letters from O’Neal’s friends, neighbors and coworkers. One such friend of 45 years, Fannie Sanders, testified that Richard had purchased two burial plots when his wife died; more recently, a friend couldn’t afford one for his deceased loved one so O’Neal gave him his plot.
Francisco Torres’ attorney described how Cisco, father of two, has been the primary caretaker of his severely disabled son who has sickle cell anemia. Having seen the video Exhibit, the judge commented on how his son, 34, “looks 14.” Known for his activism with Vietnam Vets Against the War and his mentoring of troubled youth, Cisco is loved and highly respected in his neighborhood.
More information about all eight defendants is available at the Free The SF 8 website.
We must not forget that all these elders were either members of the Black Panther Party or active supporters, committed to serving and defending Black and other oppressed people for life. And their lives are living testimony to that commitment. But it also subjected them to all the dirty tricks of the FBI’s vicious counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO. Over 37 Panthers were killed and no one has been held accountable! Not to mention countless others still suffering incarcerations of up to 40 years.
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