Former Political Prisoner Geronimo Pratt Dies - by Stephen Lendman
Reporting his death, AP said:
"Former Black Panther Party leader Elmer 'Geronimo' Pratt" died at age 63 in a small (Tanzania village) "where he had lived for at least half a decade, a friend of Pratt's in Arusha, former Black Panther Pete O'Neal, said."
He lived a peaceful life in Tanzania, O'Neal explained, adding:
"He's my hero. He was and will continue to be. Geronimo was a symbol of steadfast resistance against all (he) considered wrong and improper. His whole life was dedicated to standing opposition to oppression and exploitation....He gave all that he had and his life, I believe, struggling, trying to help people lift themselves up."
His lawyer and longtime friend, Stuart Hanlon, who spent years working for his release, also announced his death, saying:
"What happened to him is the horror story of the United States. This became a microcosm of when the government decides what's politically right or wrong. The COINTELPRO program was awful. He became a symbol for what they did."
He had southern, rural roots, and hardworking parents who sent all their kids to college. "He (went) to the military, (fought) and (was awarded two Bronze Stars, a Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts) in Vietnam, (came) home, (and became) a football star in college. That would be an American hero. It was different because he was black and he became a Panther and then the road went the wrong way."
Calling Pratt one of his closest friends, Hanlon said his case "defined me as a lawyer."
David Hilliard helped recruit Pratt to provide leadership for the Los Angeles Panther chapter. "He symbolized the best human spirit," he said. "His spirit of endurance, his strength, his service to his people. He (was) very positive and a real example for young people who want to look into the direction of Che Guevara, Malcolm X and the leader of our party, Huey P. Newton. He (was) one of the true heros of our era. He dedicated his life to (serve) his people. There is nothing more honorable than that."
On June 3, Los Angeles Times writer Robert Lopez headlined, "Former Black Panther whose murder conviction was overturned dies at 63," saying:
He became "a symbol of racial injustices during the turbulent 1960s....a cause celebre for a range of supporters, including elected officials, activists, Amnesty International, clergy and celebrities, who believed he was framed by Los Angeles police and the FBI" because he was Black and a Panther member.
In fact, he was under FBI surveillance in Oakland when the murder he was convicted of happened in Santa Monica, hundreds of miles south. Nonetheless, he was unjustly framed and served 27 years until freed.
In 1970, he was arrested and falsely charged with Caroline Olsen's murder, a Los Angeles teacher. In 1968, she and her husband Kenneth were attacked on a Santa Monica tennis court by two Black men. Three years later, Kenneth said Pratt was one of the assailants, pressured to name him after first identifying three other suspects from LAPD photos. In 1972, he was falsely convicted.
In fact, Pratt was framed, victimized by LAPD authorities working with the FBI's illegal COINTELPRO counterintelligence program against political dissidents, including communists; anti-war, human and civil rights activists; the American Indian Movement; and Black Panther Party members, among others.
In their book "Agents of Repression," Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall said: