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Free Huey Campaign of the Black Panther Party, Essay Example

Pages: 9

Words: 2344

Essay

Occurrences and Importance of the Free Huey Campaign

Bobby Seale and Huey Newton started the Black Panther Party (BPP) in 1966 in California, following the federal government excluding the black community from their civil rights. The founders identified that unpunished police brutality against the black population in Oakland escalated. Therefore, Seal and Newton formed a small group of African Americans to end police brutality predominantly for this population. Unfortunately, in October 1967, Newton got involved in a shoot-out with two police officers, leaving him injured and one police officer dead. This occurrence led to his arrest for murder. However, BPP rallied around him during his trial and the two years he was in prison, hence the “Free Huey” campaign.

The campaign intended to ensure that Newton would get a just trial and not get executed while also using him as a symbol of what BPP was fighting against and for. Newton served as an example of the blacks’ struggle against white power; the event transpired as the police accused Newton of being a criminal. I chose this event as it had a significant impact on the black power movement and politics of the 1960s and 1970s. The “Free Huey” campaign enabled the group to radical surf tide at the time and gained popularity worldwide. The “Free Huey” campaigns brought great publicity to the BPP. In addition, they also had The Black Panther newspaper that helped spread awareness of the group leading to the creation of more branches in different cities. By the end of the campaign, the group had gained millions of sympathizers, and members of the BPP increased and committed to fighting for African Americans’ rights. The BPP was known for fighting for African Americans’ civil rights. McAdam reckons that the formation of the Black Panther Party was one of the most celebrated events[1]. Therefore, following the “Free Huey” campaign, BPP influenced the Black racial identity and inspired other minority groups facing inequalities to fight for their rights.

“Free Huey” campaign of the Black Panther Party supports Doug McAdams’ findings?

In different ways, the Black Panther rally supports McAdams’ political opportunity structure findings. According to McAdam, the political opportunity structure operates in different stages. In the first stage, the founders identify the structural factors such as the trend of change or political opportunities that allow the movement’s formation[2]. During this stage, the antagonists (government officials) control the political system and develop strategies to control the movement. On the other hand, the group’s participants develop better capacities and gain experience through their struggles. They increase their opportunities through resource mobilization and interact with parties fighting for a similar course. As per McAdam’s findings, The Black Panther Party was formed in 1966 to accomplish different agendas in the cultural politics for the black community, criminal justice, and economic program. BPP was the most influential militant black power party during the era that protected blacks from brutality, challenging law enforcers and politicians.

Movements rebels are majorly a function of political opportunity structure, mobilizing structures, and cultural frames[3]. POS shows the perceived opportunity the movement uses to engage in its reforms. In the Free Huey campaign, their perceived opportunity was the unlawful arrests of black community members. One could tell the political dividedness between the blacks and whites. By the late 1960s, political efficacy had declined, and most insurgent groups faced governments that initiated controlled activities. And the POS is mostly the impact of repression of the movements. Tufekci notes that the constant tactical innovations helped civil rights movements like BPP maintain a high level of activity even when facing regression from government officials[4]. Thus, the Free Huey rally followed the POS, mobilization, and framing based on McAdam’s findings.

Historical Description

During the 1960s, most of the insurgent groups faced repression from the federal government to stop them from participating in social reform movements. McAdam mentions that Black Panther Party was the most celebrated in the era among the black-power groups[5]. They endured increased antagonistic encounters with government officials and the police but never lost their power. Instead, the Panthers abandoned the non-violent forms of direct actions and increased outright opposition of the inequality government officials. Most of the black-power groups were declining in their powers as they could not keep up with the repression they were facing. However, the BPP changed the tactics insurgent groups used in their reforms.

In 1966 the black community remained in poverty as the state was not executing most of their civil rights laws. This minority group lived in poverty-stricken areas in Oakland and the Bay Area cities with high unemployment rates, poor housing systems, crime rates, and chronic health crises. Notably, the white-dominated political state was not addressing the economic inequities that insured African Americans’ low social status or the increased police brutality that spread in the black communities. The Black Panther Party formation in 1966 followed the advancement of different agendas that included cultural politics for the black community, criminal justice, and economic program. It became the most influential militant black power party that protected blacks from brutality, challenging law enforcers and politicians. The founders Newton and Seal were dissatisfied with the civil rights movement’s failures to protect and improve the living conditions of the blacks in the North. They witnessed police brutality against the protesters, which was part of the spreading police violence and the governemnt’s oppression against African Americans. Therefore, they organized the Black Panther Party and included young and disenfranchised blacks. Malcolm X greatly influenced the Black Panthers members and believed liberation movements would improve black Americans’ lives. Malcolm X believed that non-violent protesting could not bring equality and recommended that black Americans defend themselves from the unjust state. Malcolm’s idea was that it might take African Americans to use violence to stop violence, and that was Seal and Newton’s main tactic. His assassination pushed for the formation of the BPP. The party was among the first organizations to aggressively struggle for civil rights and end all oppression occurrences among the blacks.

Although BPP got created to respond to police brutality in Oakland, it also advocated for other social reforms such as free food programs, free health clinics, prison reform, and other initiatives. After gaining several members, the Panthers would carry weapons around, giving the local police department the impression that they could handle police brutality. Markedly, they had armed patrol cars to watch over the black communities. At any point, the local officers would stop an African American citizen; the patrols would intercede to ensure the local police were not violating constitutional rights. The patrols would cite the laws during the confrontation to prove that the citizen was right. Since owning and carrying guns in public was legal, the police could not prohibit these activities, and with time, police brutality incidents against blacks declined. However, police increased harassment against the BPP members. In the late 1960s, there were multiple reported shoot-outs between the Panthers and the police, creating tension.

Although the Panthers faced official repression between 1966 and 1970, they formed defensive stances that transformed their group to developing stronger tactics to defend the organization and community against external threats. The Free Huey rally was one of the significant events that changed the organization’s face. What transpired in the “Free Huey” campaign was the arrest of the co-founder of the BPP in October 1967. There was a shoot-out between Newton and two police officers Herbet and Frey Heanes. As a result, Huey was arrested and was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 1968 September, but after two years, the conviction was squashed on appeal. During the two years Newton was in prison, BPP members formed alliances with activists and students of antiwar and other black power organizations for support. They believed that fighting for Huey’s freedom would be suitable for the party and the black community since he was arrested advocating for the black community’s freedom from police brutality. BPP received invaluable support through the Free Huey campaign, thus saving Huey from facing the death penalty and increasing the group’s popularity. BPP became one of the most visible political organizations in the 1960s and 70s. Fighting for Huey’s freedom gave the black community hope that united them to overcome any obstacle and fight for their rights on things they faced inequality. Most historical assessments of the Free Huey rally focused on bringing the Black Panther Party to light and reaching out to all radical groups.

In 1970, the Black Panthers specified that the BPP stood for revolutionary solidarity with all individuals fighting against racism, capitalism, imperialism, and fascism [6]. The party’s solidarity covered all individuals fighting these evils anywhere in the world. According to McAdam, the federal government’s response to BPP and other social movements in the late 1960s showed that the supportive action it was finally showing was a consequence of the movement’s use of disruptive protests. Although the Panthers had been subjected to various state control efforts such as harassment through arrests for minor offenses, infiltration, and violent confrontations with local police officers at Oakland, they did not abandon their focus. The group’s resilience changed the government’s response to black-power group movements during the late 1960s. The group later dissolved in 1982.

Conclusion

A popular theory of social movement mobilization that McAdams discusses in the Political Opportunity Structure (POS). The POS accounts appear in McAdam’s work stressing the broader political system that brought constraints or opportunities for the movements. For instance, the political regression on the black-power groups like BPP led to the development of black insurgency between the 1930s and late 1970s. McAdams identifies the international condemnation of American racism and the exclusion of black civil rights. Opportunities could arise in different forms, including power struggles among the minorities or new policies or laws that support one group more than another. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, several insurgent groups, including the Black Panthers, were subjected to government’s initiated control activities. McAdam highlights a few of these groups. For example, on April 5, 1968, police raided the Los Angeles office of SNCC as members attended Martin Luther King’s memorial service. In Cleveland, members of a black nationalist group died during a shoot-out with the police after a fake tip that the members were stockpiling weapons for assassination[7]. BPP was not an exception in facing such repression these Black-Power Groups met. Hence, the reason why most insurgent groups opted to use violence. The opportunity could also appear when the movement is perhaps declining in power. Before Huey’s arrest, the BPP’s power and popularity were declining. Few people knew about the group and what they were fighting for. Therefore, after Huey got arrested, the Panthers saw it as an opportunity to free Huey and push for the group’s identification across the globe. They took advantage of the media personnel (The Oakland Newspaper) reporting on the case and an opportunity to attract more members and groups in fighting for their course.

Cognitive liberation is the other theory of social movement that shows the collective recognition of an issue exists and a collection belief that the affected members can fix the problem. Based on this interpretation, the Black Panther Party incorporated their movement’s cognitive liberation. It was a cognitive cue (to fight police brutality) of the party’s formation. The founders of the party had a symbolic value to blacks. Markedly, McAdam and other sociologists use black mobilization as their basis for showing how racism operated in the United States and the necessity of social movements[8]. Despite African Americans and other minority groups living in the US, white Americans did not offer similar social resources and material access. They faced inequalities at work, living conditions, medical health care access, and other social institutions. Oppressed people’s resistance involved fighting for equal rights, not only against police brutality but also in other reforms. Major participant’s grievances, the insurgent’s group was getting excluded from the state-recognized dominant society.

Sociologist Doug McAdam and others note that between 1955 to 1964, crucial movements were fighting for justice to prevail, from bus boycott to protest campaigns[9]. They confirm the importance of social insurgency, especially when a particular group like the blacks gets excluded through created laws and policies. When it is evident that there is a power difference between policy enforcers and the protestors, there is a need for social movement creation that moves against the political structure. For example, the Free Huey campaign by BPP fought for issues directly affecting the blacks within “civil” society.

These theories, especially POS and cognitive liberation, can be applied in the real world to shape social movements. For example, recently, the Black Lives Matter campaign was fighting against police brutality against blacks. Racism had been an ongoing issue affecting the majority of blacks. However, the campaign tremendously grew in the US and across the globe after high-profile police shot an unarmed black innocent man. The BLM founders used the opportunity (POS) to change history against racism and police brutality. These theories allow communities the opportunity to make aware of the issue to the world, come together, and speak against the injustice prevailing. In less democratic countries, these theories are applicable since there could be an expansion of political opportunities through social movements. Political opportunity is vital to the insurgency, even on today’s occasions.

Bibliography

Bracey, Glenn E. “Black movements need Black theorizing: Exposing implicit Whiteness in political process theory.” Sociological Focus 49, no. 1 (2016): 11-27.

Davenport, Christian, Hank Johnston, and Carol McClurg Mueller, eds. Repression and mobilization. Vol. 21. U of Minnesota Press, 2005.

McAdam, Doug. Political process and the development of black insurgency, 1930-1970. University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Tufekci, Zeynep. Twitter and tear gas. Yale University Press, 2017.

[1] McAdam. Political process and the development of black insurgency, P.221.

[2] McAdam. Political process and the development of black insurgency, P. 225.

[3] Davenport, Johnston, and Mueller.Repression and mobilization. P.xiii.

[4] Tufekci, Twitter and tear gas. P. 80

[5] McAdam, Political process and the development of black insurgency, 1930-1970, P.221

[6] McAdam, Political process and the development of black insurgency, 1930-1970, P. 207

[7] McAdam, Political process and the development of black insurgency, 1930-1970, P. 219

[8] Bracey, “Black movements need Black theorizing: Exposing implicit Whiteness in political process theory.” P.12

[9] Davenport, Johnston, and Mueller, eds. Repression and mobilization, P. xiii

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