Lawyers Guild Condemns Racist Arrests of Black Panthers

Evidence Against Men Obtained Through Torture

San Francisco The National Lawyers Guild of the San Francisco Bay Area (NLGSF) condemns the arrests and prosecution of eight men believed to be former members of the Black Liberation Army as an attempt to validate political repression, retaliation and state torture. A court hearing is scheduled for February 14 at 9:00 a.m. at the Superior Court, 850 Bryant Street in San Francisco.

The alleged crime, the killing of San Francisco police officer John V. Young, took place nearly three decades ago. In purposely removing the trial from the context of its time, the prosecution seeks to capitalize on the change in public consciousness surrounding the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and cast the defendants as violent militants. "There has never been any reliable evidence connecting these men to the alleged crime, but times have changed and prosecutors may believe this is the best shot they have," said Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director of the NLGSF. "At the time people were more aware of the violence committed by law enforcement against African Americans and radical political movements."

The state is also attempting to deny its involvement in torturing several of the defendants. As Stuart Hanlon, the attorney for one of the defendants, emphasizes, "people have to understand this is actual torture with cattle prods by New Orleans policemen, where San Francisco policemen were sitting outside the room, obviously knowing what was going on to get information… torture doesn't lead to the truth. It leads to what the torturers want to hear."

The Guild also sees the prosecution of these men as part of a renewed crackdown on activists that comes as law enforcement goes after environmental activists, animal rights activists, and real or perceived anarchists who rarely pose a threat to anyone.

"The government is attempting to prosecute these innocent men for crimes they did not commit on the basis of their political beliefs. We see this as part of a larger government campaign targeting social justice activists on the false premise of combating 'domestic terrorism.' Organizing against racism and police brutality should not make one vulnerable to state retaliation." Said Mel Campagna, Chair of the NLGSF Anti-Racism Committee.

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area has nearly 1,000 lawyer, law student, and legal worker members from Sacramento to San Jose. We seek to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers of America in an organization which shall function as an effective political and social force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.