Activists Meet to Denounce FBI

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Members of the radical environmental movement Earth First! and the Black Panther Party accused the government of conspiring to frame them during a packed, two-hour event last weekend.

The activists, speaking at the Berkeley nightclub Ashkenaz, said members of their disparate movements should overcome their differences to unite against an alleged government conspiracy to put them in jail. They said the FBI's counterintelligence program, which they nicknamed COINTELPRO, used illegal espionage to destabilize black political movements and later applied these same tactics to fight the environmental movement.

Former Black Panther leader Geronimo ji Jaga, who spent 27 years in prison before his murder conviction was overturned, accused the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department of pitting black civil rights groups against each other in order to undermine their political power.

"They gave each other medals for the murder of beautiful, young warriors who were out not to rob, not to rape, but to feed beautiful children - and they bragged about it," he said.

Ji Jaga, also known as Geronimo Pratt, was convicted in 1972 of the murder of a Santa Monica schoolteacher. At the trial, ji Jaga said he was at the Oakland Black Panther headquarters at the time of the murder and that FBI wiretaps that would have proven his innocence were never admitted as evidence.

Represented by attorney Johnnie Cochran, who is famous for his work in the O.J. Simpson case, ji Jaga won a new trial when documents confirmed that the main witness against him was secretly working as a police informant.

Speaking Friday amid signs that read "UC Regents: the blood is now on your hands" and "Democratize the Regents," Ji Jaga said he hopes to educate youth about the Black Panther movement and the 1960s struggle for civil rights.

"The feds ain't joking with this COINTELPRO psychological warfare thing," he said. "We have enough evidence, but this upcoming generation might not have been listening."

He said Black Panthers must unite with Earth First! and other radical political movements to fight against the government.

"It's important that we understand the connections with all our struggles," he said. "We are dealing with an enemy that is very unified. We can't allow our interconnections to become an obstacle in our progression to victory."

Earth First! members accused the FBI of using the same underhanded strategy against them, nearly 20 years after the peak of the Black Panther movement.

Environmental activist Karen Pickett accused the FBI and the Oakland police of complacence in a car bombing of two Earth First! leaders. Supporters denounced the bombing as an "assassination attempt" by still-unknown terrorists and accused the government of focusing their probe on the bomb victims, not on the real perpetrators.

"The dark age of spying and covert action against progressives has never ended," she said. "The FBI targets and continues to target our most effective warriors in the movement."

In 1990, a car bomb seriously injured Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney. Environmental leaders accused the FBI of ignoring other leads and of manufacturing evidence to make it appear as if the activists had bombed themselves.


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